Leftish Christian Ranter

The occasional theological disputation on feminism, leftish politics, environmentalism and the media. A thinking Christian with an agenda - and a heart.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Annoying Chain E-mails

I had great fun responding to the following chain e-mail:

>>> > In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a> little different: This is not intended to be a joke, it's not funny, it's> intended to get you thinking.> >> Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson> asked her "How could God let something like this happen?" (regarding the> attacks on Sept. 11).> >> Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said "I> believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've> been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and> to get out of our lives.> >> And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can> we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He> leave us alone?"> >> In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I> think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body> found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and> we said OK.> >> Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school ... the Bible says> thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as> yourself. And we said OK.> >> Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they> misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might> damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an> expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.> >> Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they> don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill> strangers, their classmates, and themselves.> >> Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I> think it has a great deal to do with "WE REAP WHAT WE SOW."> >> Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the> world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but> question what the Bible says.> >> Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire> but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice> about sharing.> >> Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through> cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and> workplace.> >> Are you laughing?> >> Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on> your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they> WILL think of you for sending it. Funny how we can be more worried about> what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.> >> Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one> will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back> and complain about what bad shape the world is in!> >

Typical Americans to think that...
- spanking their children
- implementing literalist readings of the Bible in school
- imposing a particular religion on school children
- passing on reactionary e-mails
...will solve the problems of the world!

Yes, O daughter-of-Billy-Graham, you do "REAP WHAT YOU SOW".

Sow a global order based on cultural and economic imperialism and what do youexpect? Interact with the world with a gung-ho sumpremicist mindset and why onearth are you surprised that people want to bomb you? Try to reinstatepatriarchy and 1950's family values and you wonder why "the world has gone tohell"? WWJD? Invade Afghanistan? Refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol?

God is probably not laughing.

I have my own list of "funny hows". Funny how people think God is an American.Funny how they probably think he's white, and male on top of it all. Funny how"He" is apparently incredibly interested in how we pay lip-service to him inschools but not at all interested in global politics, or the way in which weare destroying the planet.

Funny how you'll probably label me a raving Leftist. Funny that, cos I'mprobably Right of Jesus. And rumour has it, Jesus is to the Right of God... :)

Let's stop trying to create the Lord in our own image. You can be ALL FOR JESUSand all against this type of reactionary drivel! Pass THIS on, why don't you

People who long for "original" Christianity

To me, the very idea of an "original" or "pure" religion is misleading. For example, take the common conception of Christianity - it is incredible how many people (Christians included) who assume that Jesus and his disciples had the "correct" version of Christianity, and that it was subsequently "distorted" to a less or greater extent by generations of religion. While I do not dispute the negative effects of bureaucracy and power (which certainly do "distort"), I think that we should actually go further and reject the idea of their being an "original" form of any religion at all.

Just looking at the history of Christianity (once again, a mere case-in-point) in Paul Johnson's A History of Christianity, for example, we see that even the disciples and apostles did not have the "same" set of beliefs. It is evident that even when Christianity "began" there was no agreement on what it all "meant". It was only through institutions and dogma that Christianity was made into a single set of beliefs and practices.

I'm sure the same applies for other religions, too. We should not long for the "original" or "undistorted" religion; perhaps what is really needed is a change in attitude - to one that is open and able to deal with real difference (in opinion, belief, cultural outlook, etc). I for one am "Christian" but I think that person in every situation has to earnestly strive to make sense of what being "Christian" means for that particular place and time - I'm sure Jesus did the same thing.

For me, that means accepting absolutely that there is no point in believing in absolutes - not in any simplistic fashion anyway. For example, I do not think we should be judging issues such as homosexuality by referring to 1st-Century understandings of "Christian ethics" (as we find in the Bible). Rather, we should be reinterpreting our understanding of these things.

Oooh you're so open-minded!

I'm not entirely sure that this "open-mindedness" - however well-articulated - cannot also be taken beyond reasonable limits. It often verges on expressing the sentiment that "all religions are essentially the same at the end of the day", which sounds like willful insistence on sameness rather than true tolerance of difference.

What I've always thought is that God, or even just "reality", whatever it may be, is surely going to be bigger than the understanding of any single person. That should be enough to engender an attitude of humility towards the big questions; and calm arrogance to assume our understanding is the correct one.

This doesn't mean, however, that an ultimate Truth doesn't exist.

It seems right to me to chastise those who arrogantly impose their understanding on others, but I think we go too far if we deny people the right to passionately believe and to want to show others what they believe to be true. I have a problem, for example, with trying to hold Buddhism and Christianity as merely two "approaches" to the same spiritual goal. (I personally find enormous value in both religious traditions, by the way, but follow my argument here.) Buddhism and Christianity are quite radically different. They provide not only a totally contradictory cosmology (what the world out there is supposedly like) but they also provide totally inconsistent approaches to Being as well. Any attempt to synthesize the two must use some major mental gymnastics: how, for example, is the Love of God compatible with a doctrine that there is ultimately no self (an-attah)? There are many other points like this at which the two "religions" are comparing apples with oranges, so to speak. Only the most facile level of thinking could make them complementary.

Why Rant?

Because I am Christian but many of the things justified under "Christianity" piss me off immensely. Because many of these things I object to precisely because I am Christian.

I rant not because I want to discredit Christianity, but because I want to uphold it.

I am not special, nor do I have more "authority" than the people whom I may occasionally criticise. I am simply an individual, and the individual's point of view - expressed freely, thoughtfully articulated - stands a good chance of saying something worthwhile. And something worthwhile that is read by others may make worthwhile changes. It may encourage like-minded individuals to articulate their own views better, or opponents to justify their own views better. At the very least, we get to talk about these things openly, and think about what we believe.