Unless you’ve been hiding in a spider hole, you know that the reports of the rapture have been greatly exaggerated. No one left the planet in any way other than the usual way. There was a small earthquake somewhere but nothing apocalyptic. The only person of note to leave the planet was a former professional wrestler. Like many, I watched all of it with the fascination of a train wreck. You just can’t look away. I’m sure many of you get tired of explaining that not all Christians are like Harold Camping and despite the name Family Bible Reading Fellowship is a lot like the First Church of Christian Science (there is neither a Christian nor a scientist in the whole place.) You may not know that there were hundreds of devout followers of Camping that gathered in places like Vietnam and a few in Times Square to await the revelation of Jesus Christ. The scoffers scoffed. The pundits . . . (punditted?) and the comedians had lots of great material. But what wasn’t seen was the tremendous spiritual damage that was done by Camping’s theological gymnastics. Over the last few days, I’ve been reading through a forum that discusses Camping’s teachings called Depart Out. Initially my reasons were voyeuristic. Continue reading …
When New York artist Andres Serrano plunged a Qur’an into a glass container of his own urine and photographed it under the title Urine for the Qur’an, he said he was making a statement on the misuse of religion.
Controversy has followed the work ever since, but reached an unprecedented peak on last week when it was attacked with hammers and destroyed after an “anti-blasphemy” campaign by French Islamic fundamentalists in the southern city of Avignon.
The violent slashing of the picture, and another Serrano photograph has plunged secular France into soul-searching about Islamic fundamentalism and Nicolas Sarkozy’s use of religious populism in his bid for re-election next year.
It also marks a return to an old standoff between Serrano and the religious right that dates back more than 20 years, to Reagan-era Republicanism in the US.
The photograph, full title Urine for the Qur’an, was made as part of Serrano’s series showing religious objects submerged in fluids such as blood and milk. In 1989, rightwing senators’ criticism of Urine for the Qur’an led to a heated US debate on public arts funding. Republican Jesse Helms told the senate Serrano was “not an artist. He’s a jerk.”
Serrano defended his photograph as a criticism of the “billion-dollar terrorism-for-profit industry” and a “condemnation of those who abuse the teachings of Mohammed for their own ignoble ends”.
The photograph had been shown in France several times without incident. For four months, it has hung in the exhibition I Believe in Miracles, to mark 10 years of art-dealer Yvon Lambert’s personal collection in his 18th-century mansion gallery in Avignon. The show is due to end next month, but two weeks ago a concerted protest campaign began.
The Muslim Brotherhood, a lobby group that says it aims to re-Islamize France, launched an online petition and mobilised other fundamentalist groups. The staunchly conservative Imam of Vaucluse, called Urine for the Qur’an “odious” and said he wanted this “trash” taken off the gallery walls. Last week the gallery complained of “extremist harassment” by fundamentalist Islamic groups who wanted the work banned in France.
Lambert, one of France’s best known art dealers, complained he was being “persecuted” by extremists who had sent him tens of thousands of complaint emails and bombarded the museum with spam. He likened the atmosphere to “a return to the middle ages”.
On Saturday, around 1,000 Islamic protesters marched through Avignon to the gallery. The protest group included a regional councillor for the extreme-right Front National, which recently scored well in the Vaucluse area in local elections. The gallery immediately stepped up security, putting plexiglass in front of the photograph and assigning two gallery guards to stand in front of it.
The above account is true but the religion has been changed to make a point. Continue reading …
World War I had not only ruined a great deal of European real estate, but it had also left the man-centered theologies and philosophies of the Western world in a shambles. It was time to clear away the rubble and rebuild. A man-centered disaster called for a man-centered reconstruction. And so, in the wake of the Great War:
The trend in Protestant thought which attracted the most attention was what was variously known in one or another of its aspects as the theology of crisis, dialectical theology, and neo-orthodoxy. In large part it was at the outset a product of a state of mind induced by World War I and its aftermath. Especially in Germany and the land immediately around it, men were impressed with the tragedy of life. They saw themselves caught in gigantic forces which were sweeping them to destruction and with which individuals and even nations were unable to cope. They felt themselves powerless in the colossal agony of the years. Sin and evil became real. Did life have meaning? If so, what was it? Where was it to be found? Yet helpless though the individual was to alter the vast and demonic currents about him, he must make decisions. He must say “yes” or “no.” He could not be content with abstract, disinterested speculation which had no immediate effect upon him. He could not merely be a spectator. He must make choices between alternatives, between “either” and “or.” Those choices might mean for him the difference between life and death.
[Kenneth Scottt Latourette, A History of Christianity Volume II: A.D. 1500-A.D. 1975, (San Francisco, CA, USA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1975), 1381-1382.] Continue reading …
The early 20th century’s Social Gospel was a cocktail of ideas achieved through the blending of Enlightenment philosophy and Socinian theology. The Enlightenment had promised an egalitarian society founded on human reason. The post-Reformation heresy known as Socinianism had proclaimed a human-centered salvation, also founded on reason. Together they proved to be a potent tonic for the relief of liberal anxiety over society’s huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
But not everyone was drinking it. Continue reading …