Dear Reader, I was prepared to write this week about a really bad Abortion Argument on Salon.com. But it seems that stupid arguments must alas trump bad arguments. Self-proclaimed “thought leader” Steve McSwain decided to vent his frustration with American Christianity by posting “6 Things Christians Should Just Stop Saying” at the mixed-bag that is Huffington Post. This particular post follows his other attempts at criticism such as “I Wish Christian Preachers Would Just Shut Up“ and “Why Christianity is Dying but Spirituality is Thriving.”
As I read through McSwain’s commentary I was struck with what I hope is righteous indignation but I’m humble enough to admit is probably my sin nature bathed in deep and cultivated sense of sarcasm. My friends, there are some things that people say with such thoughtless disregard for both decency and logic, that perhaps the only appropriate response is sarcasm.
Douglas Wilson has defended the use of sarcasm in Christian commentary with his book, A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking. He points out several examples of the use of satire in the Bible. When Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal who were desperately trying to make a altar burn, I smugly imagine he was feeling the way I was when I read McSwain. Before I launch into my snark, I would like you to know that I have thought and prayed over how to respond to McSwain’s post. I even sought council from several Godly people to make sure I wasn’t simply wallowing in angst or just trying to make a name for myself. After seeking their council, they agreed: Continue reading …
I have to admit, this started out to be a very different blog than it ended up. Like many, I was discouraged at the results of the election. Yes, I know that God is in control and uses even government for His purposes but sometimes those purposes are to punish His people or the nations in which His people dwell and they suffer as well. To be perfectly honest I am not a big fan of suffering.
I know that politics is messy business and corruption abounds in the hallowed halls of Congress and the White House. Special interest groups are working hard to persuade the Federal Government to use the club of legislation to beat down the opposition. But that is how government works in a Democratic Republic. We vote for candidates that most closely align with our worldview and values and trust they will at the very least protect us from those who have a different view. Continue reading …
I have been asked numerous times about the movement called Liberation Theology. What is it and where did it originate? Is it helpful or harmful? Or maybe somewhere in between? This movement actually sprung up in the 1960’s as some Latin American scholars attempted to address poverty and oppression perpetuated by dictatorial governments in various parts of the world especially in Roman Catholic countries in South America.. It certainly sounded like a good cause. Could social change be facilitated and people liberated out of poverty through social justice and personal empowerment helped along by Bible verses? These ideas were introduced in the United States through the writings of Gustavo Gutierrez, ( Dictionary of Christianity in America, pages 648-650). The sad fact is that Liberation Theology Continue reading …
We’ve all seen it. The bumper sticker on the Prius that says:
I never knew the history of this particular piece of philosophic driving literature. Jeremy Jackson at Enoch Magazine is the first person I’ve seen to ask: “Who’s behind this idea?” The short version is that the design originated as a submission by a Polish designer for a contest promoting tolerance and understanding at the unique Museum on the Seam in Israel which displays art and design that centers around international political and social issues. Jackson explains that what happened after that was not so tolerant at least for the designer:
Piotr Mlodozeniec combined symbols for the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths in the word and intended it to be used to promote religious tolerance – 2001. The symbol was then popularized on the global Vertigo tour of rock icon, U2, in the early part of the past decade. According to a published report, no one from the band had requested permission to use the symbol from its creator. The museum claimed rights. The legality of its use by U2 was in question. Subsequently, a company was quickly formed in Indiana that used the same design with trademark rights requested in 2003 and granted in 2005. Though Coexist LLP profited from the t-shirt sales immediately, it had not been granted permission from the artist who created the design and was actually strongly opposed by Mlodozeniec. Coexist LLP went on to sue numerous other vendors who did not have the rights to the design but were nonetheless selling products with the design.
There’s irony in there somewhere I just know it. Of course, there are problems with the idea of coexistence. As this parody illustrates.
The clear “villain” here is Islam. It goes without saying (but of course must be said) that this is a gross oversimplification about the desires of the fastest growing religion. Not all Muslims want the same things. And neither do all Christians, pagans etc. But as with all satire, there really is a deeper point. All religions are not created equal. Coexistence is a problem not just because of violence but because of logic. Contradictory claims cannot all be true. All religions make some mutually exclusive claims about reality. They cannot all be correct. So coexistence faces a very real problem in that religions cannot simply be “different paths to the same thing,” as some Wiccans would have us accept. In response to Jeremy Jackson’s post about Coexist movement, one Wiccan wrote: “As a Wiccan I respect both of your blogs, and in it the truth of the Love for all [sic]. Of the message of Peace[sic]. I do believe in Christ and his teachings. Thank you for your point of view and sharing it.”
The difficulty with this Wiccan concept of love for all is that it is easy to simply ignore those teachings of Jesus that we don’t like or that destroy our cute little bumper sticker. Christianity is a proselytizing religion. It seeks to convince others that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. While peaceful, Christianity is not ideologically tolerant–if by tolerant we mean simply, “Hey you have your religion and I have mine, now let’s ignore both of them and concentrate on the kind of peace and love that can fit neatly on a bumper sticker because its all good.”As those often irreverent and sometimes profound folks over at Radio Free Babylon illustrate with their Coffee with Jesus web comic:
While Islam has its moderates, they are usually Muslims who deny the fundamentals of the Koran. Those who hold to strict interpretation of the Koran are usually the ones who are intolerant. This is, to my mind, a major difference between Islamic fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists (however you define it). I don’t care how fundamentalist you read the New Testament, you will not find authority to burn gay people, forcibly baptize Jews, or wage war on others to make them Christian. Even though all of those were done in the name of Christ they were done inconsistently with the fundamental teachings of the New Testament. On the other hand, no matter how liberally you read the New Testament you will not find a Jesus who “lives and lets live.” To the contrary you will find a Jesus who dies violently in order to show that he is the only way to know God. That is either a masochist or a savior. There is no “peaceful” third option. Next week I’ll talk a little bit about what actual coexistence looks like. Until then, I invite your comments on bumper stickers, fundamentalism, and coexistence.
Last week I commented on President Obama’s use of Psalm 46 at the memorial at ground zero. But sitting presidents aren’t the only ones who want to use scripture and theology. Wanna Be presidents do as well. So this week we look at two different quotes by Rick Perry, the GOP saint or a cross between a knuckle-dragging ape and the prince of darkness depending on who you ask. Perry has caused a bit of a stir when he proffered a of C.S. Lewis’ “Lord-Liar-Lunatic” argument when he said:
Many want to recognize Jesus as a good teacher, but nothing more. But why call him ‘good’ if he has lied about his claims of deity?”
Well, this got all the blogs atwitter (pardon the pun). Would Perry alienate Continue reading …
I was talking with my partner in crime, Jonathon Miles, about this week’s blog and he mentioned a quote that C.S. Lewis had made about having first things first. In my trolling the Internet in search of the quote I stumbled across something that combined the quote with issues of social justice at, of all places, First Things.
Over on Catholic World News, a fellow who goes by the name of Uncle Di reflects on the way that clerics in recent decades have abandoned revealed truth and saving souls in favor of sundry causes of social justice. He recalls a 1942 essay by C.S. Lewis, “First and Second Things.” Lewis wrote: “To sacrifice the greater good for the less and then not to get the lesser good after all–that is the surprising folly. . . Every preference of a small good to a great, or a partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice was made. Apparently the world is made that way. If Esau really got his pottage in return for his birthright, then Esau was a lucky exception. You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.”
Ultimately, that is the dilemma Continue reading …
Just for fun, let’s put Crossan’s method to work on Mark Twain’s book, Huckleberry Finn. If we merely read the book at face value, we will easily understand that it is the story of a boy that floats down the Mississippi River on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim. But once Crossan illumines Twain’s book with his postmodernist “searchlights,” Huckleberry Finn becomes the tale of a Japanese automaker who goes on an African Safari. Which story line would you think the author intended? The one that comes by a plain reading, or the convoluted, deconstructed one that comes out of an overactive imagination? If you believe the “Safari tale,” it certainly wouldn’t be Mark Twain’s fault, but your own, for putting some other person’s interpretation above the book itself. We might shorten it up a bit and call it a “fari tale.” “Fari tales” are for children . . . adults should just read the book for themselves.
The above quote comes from our 1998 MCOI Journal article The Hysterical Search for the Historical Jesus and is a tongue-in-cheek attempt at demonstrating the need to read literature in its historical grammatical context. John Dominic Crossan Continue reading …