Ongoing Dialogue With David: ON SALVATION (and stuff...)

Continuing a great conversation with my friend from George Fox Seminary, David Manning.

David Said:
And my belief in the vision of Christ and the Kingdom of God is real enough that it doesn't hinge on anything but itself.

If your belief is a real thing in itself, and doesn't have to signify anything beyond itself, then in what sense can you and I—we both being Christians—be said to share the same faith? I can see how the phrase "we both believe X" has meaning if we both have a similar belief that corresponds to a thing exterior to us both, but if the correspondence to something objective isn't important, how can two individuals be said to belong to the same faith?


The Cross and Resurrection illuminated Christ and illustrated salvation. They did not invent, define or limit them (imho).
This seems to assume that there is *something* out there that corresponds to the idea of salvation. What sort of thing is it? On what basis is it founded? Whatever it is, why is it a more acceptable basis for salvation than the historical Incarnation?

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This is a GREAT question: “can you and I… be said to share the same faith?”
David, I would answer that, by the grace of God, yes.
But qualitatively? Maybe not really...

Just as I believe that our faith in God, through Christ, is made whole and complete through the grace of God that reaches out and meets us, I also believe that our faith -- our conception of God -- and our feeble attempts at understanding Divinity, “aiming” toward truth and responding appropriately -- are inevitable failures in and of themselves. So I would say, David, we share the same faith because we share the same wholehearted, authentic desire to follow God, through Christ, although our understanding of what that means is divergent. But David, wouldn’t you agree that even if you and I used the exact same language, and had no identifiable differences in our theological constructs, our psychology/neurology, personality, and even our minor geographic and cultural, differences would all contribute to hugely dissimilar internal meanings for all those constructs? I think so. If any of us is ever on the same page, it’s only momentary, and even then we’re on different paragraphs.

This is why I’m also willing to call my neighbors from other faith traditions “sister” and “brother,” and why I call my time with my agnostic friends “fellowship.” We are on parallel paths, although our language is different. I don’t believe I am endangering or sacrificing my salvation or theirs by dropping my need (and it used to be a very strong need, indeed!) to self-differentiate.

Love your question about salvation, too. I’m a universalist, and my language on salvation gets me into trouble, because I call myself an evangelical too, and sometimes I get myself trapped! Part of that is because I haven’t worked through all of the intricacies of what it means to be a liberal, evangelical, universalist (+douchebag) and part of it is because I believe that there are inherent tensions in these identifiers that cannot be resolved. And perhaps should not be.  And as I’ve said before, I’m an evangelical for cultural reasons as much as any other factor.

So, I believe that God is an inherently salvific being, and that creation is in a process both of being created and saved, and of being maligned and destroyed.  I believe creation wins, on the long arch "that bends toward justice," but it doesn't happen by magic.  It happens by the steady, deliberate march of the people of the Kingdom of God.

I believe that Christ, as the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, Co-Equal with the [Gender-Neutral] Father, and the Spirit, demonstrated on earth the Divine nature of God and what human beings were capable of in perfect spiritual submission: forgiveness, unconditional love, subversive, counterintuitive Kingdom economics/politics (I’d rather not get into all that here).
I believe that the inevitable response of Principalities and Powers to the nature of God (true, pure, goodness) is to destroy it. I also believe that, often, the response of those oppressed by Principalities and Powers is to lash out against the “other” victim, when the system exerts itself elsewhere. This is self preservation.  So something I dealt with (briefly) in this Banned Questions book is that arguing about whether or not Christ’s crucifixion was a “requirement” of atonement by God has been an unnecessary theological exercise. Not right or wrong (necessarily) but not necessary.  Probably inevitable, in that we like to explain everything, and put God behind the reins, but I don’t believe humanity needed “atonement.”

Do I believe in sin? Absolutely! Do I believe sin distances us from God? Well, I believe sin is dysfunction and lack of health, so when we are unhealthy we have a harder time connecting to Divinity – of course. But I do not believe God needed recompense, or to be “satisfied,” or that Satan had to be paid ransom. This is more than simply “moral influence,” because I choose to believe Christ was God, and that God revealed Divine nature, Divine will, Divine Mercy and Humility, Divine love – Divine desire and intent – through Christ’s Theophany. It showed MORE than what humankind was capable of. Christ shows us what God is up to…

So I believe that the process of salvation has been in operation since the Big Bang (pow!) and that God is mysteriously, subversively (frustratingly-slowly, imho) wooing all of creation toward redemption. That salvation is working its way through every society, culture, and religious tradition, not necessarily making any of them salvific in and of themselves, but all of them marked with the presence of the Holy Spirit.

I could go on and on, and as I re-read what I've written, all of the "I believe's" strike me as more than a tad narcissistic.  But so is blogging, in general.  David, again, you asked, "Whatever it is, why is it a more acceptable basis for salvation than the historical Incarnation."  I hope that I've demonstrated that the historical Incarnation actually is my basis for what salvation is.  I simply don't believe that the historical Incarnation is the matrix in which salvation exists, or that it serves as a boundary or limitation for salvation's identity.  The Incarnation is a window through which we view something much larger - ultimately incomprehensible.

RE: CHOOSING Belief... Responses from Friends

In response to my post the other day on choosing belief, some good comments.
(excerpts)

David Manning said:
Do you wake up every morning with the option to be a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu, etc. and just decide to choose one over the other as a fiat of sheer will? Could you really choose in a single instant to stop believing in the resurrection, the Virgin Birth and the Hypostatic Union? ... That brings me to my real problem with what you said: you don't want to be told what it means to be a Christian ... But if no one is allowed to ever say what it means to be a Christian, why should anyone think that being a Christian means anything at all? ... Good theology has always been linked with good praxis. That's the main reason the Church started worrying over theological questions to begin with. The Church has to instruct its members in what it means to be a Christian. Lines like "one substance, three persons" and "honor your father and mother" create a space in which might be formed the sort of person who is able to have belief in God (in sense of praxis) from one moment to the next. Definitions were never meant to be ends in themselves. Affirmation of the creedal truths was never the point. That's why most of the creeds are apophatic in nature. The point is that the affirmation of Christian creeds and adherence to the regulation of the Church allows for the formation of the sort of person one calls a Christian. In that way, the Church and the creeds and Scripture do determine what it means to be a Christian. It isn't a term open to individual, or even generational redefinition... Sometimes I get a sickening feeling that we're only really interested in the brand name.

David, lots of great stuff here, and yes, I did manage to "slog through" it ;)  Myself, I don't literally wake up every morning with the personal capacity to be a Christian, Muslim or Hindu.  The option?  Sure. We're at least free to practice and cognitively change our beliefs.  I'm just arguing that - for example - I'm not 100% convinced that the resurrection is historical reality.  I don't expect I ever will be.  But I AM a Christian.  To briefly skip to the end of your comment: I don't want or intend to be a Christian merely by "brand name," so I deliberately and self-consciously subscribe to belief in the resurrection.  If I were picking and choosing, as you seem to be critiquing, I would be buffet-style throwing out the things I don't want.  Instead, I'm saying, "if these are the fundamental dogmas of Christianity, then as a Christian, I'll affirm them.  Don't ask me to pretend to blindly believe all of them, but I see no real value in tossing them out either.  I still find PLENTY of latitude, by the way, to toss out the stuff in Christianity that isn't dogma that I find really destructive (for example, biblical inerrancy, gender complementarianism, anti-gay rhetoric or hellfire-exclusivism).

Maybe I didn't communicate myself well in the last post, but picking and choosing is not at all what I was trying to articulate.  Instead, I want to convey a means of embracing a relatively traditional, (albeit socially-liberal, in my case) liturgical Christianity that does not reject or omit supernatural/mystical aspects of the faith in an attempt to capture cultural relevance, but instead simply acknowledges the precariousness of any faith claim, the ambiguity of any supernatural questions or answers, and the inability of religion to settle these questions.  Rather, religions role should be to ask these questions with fervor, excitement, cynicism, humor, and perhaps apophatic enthusiasm (!) and invite corporate participation in the whole process.  I don't believe it's reasonable to ask modern people to suspend disbelieve.  I believe this leads to denial, and worse, forced ignorance.  Instead, I think the best we can do is pray, "Lord, help my unbelief..." and "slog through."

PDXAndrew said:
Some people seem to talk about faith-belief like it's something that we can switch on and off ... My old pastor (Lutheran) would say that we don't choose to accept Christ/God - that would put us in a position of power. For example, do I accept this job applicant, or that one... do I accept this gift, or that one... Doing so reduces God's sovereignty (so he said). Rather, Christ comes to say "You have been saved. You are reconcilled to God. God loves you, even in lieu of sin. So sin no more. And all you really can do is believe..." Of course, belief can be interchanged with trust I suppose...

PDXAndrew, this is so true.  I can't simply say, "Okay, I believe in the literal Virgin Birth."  What I can say, instead, is: "The Virgin Birth is a vital, foundational part of Christianity's understanding of who Jesus Christ is.  It is in that context that I have come to understand who Jesus Christ is.  Do I think it's possible that Jesus was miraculously born of a virgin?  Absolutely?  And I think it's a beautiful statement about who God is and how Christ's Epiphany manifested.  But I am not certain about the Virgin Birth.  I can't even tell you I think it was likely.  I simply choose to believe it.  I think your comment, PDXAndrew, on putting ourselves in a position of power is poignant, and I wonder what that says about my choice.  I believe, however, that my "fight" for choice here is not a fight for the "virtue" of choice, but rather a fight for us all to ADMIT that WE ARE ALREADY MAKING THESE CHOICES (it just sounds impious when we say it out loud).    Still, I think there's a lot to this notion of undermining God's sovereignty.

Benjamin Verble said:
I've been reading about Ecclesiology for class and have been wondering if my individualism has gotten a bit out of control. 

Again, I want to reiterate here that I'm not advocating for a "MY-BRAND-OF-CHRISTIANITY" Christianity.  This is not just a pick-and-choose argument (although I have made that argument before, it's been more related to social issues and interpretations, not dogma).  I'm simply saying I'd like to be a little more open and honest about the stuff many of us aren't so sure about.  

I think if Christians were willing to acknowledge that we might be wrong about a few fundamental things (and that, that's okay) that inevitably leads to more understanding, more grace, and more healing between folks of other faiths, cultures and traditions.  The death of extremism begins with the death of my own extremism.  


BELIEF: Can You CHOOSE, or Are You REQUIRED?


As you can see from the prominent ad on this website, or on facebook if you’ve friended me, a book I’ve contributed to is coming out in June. 

The book explores a series of questions, most of them disconnected, except for the fact that they are all “hot-button,” ones many folks feel afraid to ask Christians about directly (for fear of judgment, condescension, or other negative responses).  A group of writers, academics, and theologians (a dozen of us, or so) took turns responding to these questions, and this book is the edited collection of those responses in all their variance, harmony and dissonance.  I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product.

The role I found myself taking seemed to consistently gravitate toward this conclusion, regardless of the question: I believe because I choose to believe, but I do not have to believe, and neither do you, and we are probably wrong about a lot, and it is the act of choosing to believe in what is unknown that is fundamentally an act of faith.  Otherwise, it’s beliefism…

Perhaps it would be fair to articulate this: The correctness of one’s theology is less important than the humility of one’s spirituality.  That is not to suggest that I am a particularly humble person (yes, go ahead, you can call bullshit).

In terms of the supernatural, I carry a lot of cynicism.  In terms of Orthodoxy, it’s the same.  It’s not that I don’t choose to believe in a robust Christian faith, replete with supernatural wonders, miraculous events and godly intervention.  It’s not that I want to see religion stripped of everything extraordinary…

I just don’t want to be told that I HAVE to believe something to be a Christian.  I don’t like requirements on this journey.  Hmmm… that doesn’t sound very humble, now, does it?  How about this:  I’m willing to CHOOSE to believe something, acknowledging it is possible that it might not be true.  I believe that is faith.  I am not willing to FORCE myself to believe something, hinging my salvation or religious system on its inherent truth.  I won’t do that with the literal resurrection.  I won’t do that with the virgin birth.  I won’t do that with the Doctrine of the Trinity, the Hypostatic Union or any other fundamental Christian doctrine.  I affirm these.  I choose to believe them.  But my faith in God does not rely on them.

I am convinced that an emergent, postmodern, existential faith must honestly acknowledge this deliberate, cognitive paradigm of affirmative belief if it is to reach the emerging culture-at-large.

Strangely, I’m not seeing this articulated clearly anywhere.  Are you?
(please point me in the right direction if I’m missing it!) 


Most liberals, like Marcus Borg, or perhaps Rudolf Bultmann, for example, would not likely claim to choose “belief in” the miraculous nature of Jesus’ resurrection.  They would ascribe supernatural, spiritual “meaning” to it, and find value in it.  But this is something different. 

Isn’t it even possible that the supernatural occurs?  I argue that if it’s possible, I can be humble enough to choose to believe it’s possible.  That’s not certainty.  It’s not supposed to be.

What do you make of this conversation?  What do you make of faith, of the nature of certainty and doubt?  Do you need to feel certain of anything?  Do you have non-negotiables?  

RE: Governor of Alabama - Some of us have different "definitions" of "family"...

I'm not sure what your definition of "family" is, but I have a hard time imagining familial ties requiring acknowledgment or affirmation to be validated.  Family is family, right?  I'm not sure what particular theology Governor Bentley subscribes to (yes, yes, some brand of conservative Baptist), but parents don't need their children to call them mommy and daddy to love them.

I don't need my sisters and brothers to do or say anything for them to deserve my love.  I want to sit at the same Thanksgiving table...


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Alabama governor touches off controversy with Christian comments 
        By: CNN Political Unit
       
(Update: The governor later apologized) 
(CNN)  Alabama Republican Gov. Robert Bentley is kicking off his first term in office with a bit of controversy, telling a church audience Monday that he only considers Christians to be his "brothers and sisters."
"Now I will have to say that, if we don't have the same daddy, we're not brothers and sisters," he told parishioners at a Baptist church in Montgomery Monday shortly after being sworn in. "So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."
"There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit," Bentley also said, according to the Birmingham News. "But if you have been adopted in God's family like I have, and like you have if you're a Christian and if you're saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister."
Rebekah Caldwell Mason, Bentley's communications director, was not immediately available for comment but told the Birmingham News that Bentley "is the governor of all the people, Christians, non-Christians alike."
Bentley also celebrated the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. in his speech and said he will govern in accordance with King's teachings.
'I was elected as a Republican candidate. But once I became governor ... I became the governor of all the people. I intend to live up to that. I am color blind," Bentley also said.

*     *     *

But I must confess, again, because it bears repeating, that I have made demands of loved ones and strangers.  I have required conversion before I called neighbors "brother" and "sister."  I cannot criticize Governor Bentley for his exclusivism and arrogance without first owning my own past.  I have committed these sins.  I am sorry for it.  I can still do better.  All of us can.  Thanks be to God that there is grace for me and for Governor Bentley and for Sarah Palin and Jeremiah Wright.


My sisters and brothers are Muslims and Hindus and Southern Baptists and Atheists.

Facebook Fundamentalism Revisited: Adam said...

I just wanted to repost a great little comment from my friend Adam because it so succinctly speaks to the underlying problem with Christians who refuse to acknowledge our own corporate/historical sins:

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Wow, I'm a little late to the party on this. I know your whole point is that it's a stupid game to play (and I'm with you), but claiming that Muslims are more violent due to body count is just dumb. If he's saying 10,000 deaths, then he's counting bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan which really boil down to internal power struggles by people who identify as Muslim.

Apply that same criteria to Christians and it doesn't look so good. You don't have to go back to the crusades. Heck, some of the worst massacres in recent history have been perpetrated by people that identify as Christian; the Rwandan genocide easily taking the cake.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Rwanda
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwandan_Genocide
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosnian_Genocide

Oh well. I'm beating a dead horse, preaching to the choir, and mixing metaphors all at the same time. I think I'm just tired of sentiments that demonize others. That and too many mosques have been torched in my town.

*      *      *

The horse isn't dead as long as these conversations keep coming up, Adam.  We need these reminders.  Sadly, the very conversation I was having is indicative of the very problem inherent in extremist religion.  Angry Christians, demonizing Islam for extremism, were refusing to acknowledge the sins and shortcomings of their own religion.  If we can't even get past THAT very initial step in interfaith dialogue (that's like Step 2, after, "Hi, my name is Pete...") then we're pretty much doomed.


I grabbed some text from the links you provided.  On the Rwandan Genocide: "Though religious factors were not prominent (the event was ethnically motivated), the Human Rights Watch reported that a number of religious authorities in Rwanda, particularly Roman Catholic, failed to condemn the genocide at the time. Some in its religious hierarchy have been brought to trial for their participation by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and convicted. Bishop Misago was accused of corruption and complicity in the genocide, but he was cleared of all charges in 2000. The majority of Rwandans, and Tutsis in particular, are Catholic, so shared religion did not prevent genocide."


On Religion in Rwanda: "The Rwandan government reported on November 1, 2006, that 56.5% of the Rwanda's population is Roman Catholic, 26% is Protestant, 11.1% is Seventh-day Adventist, 4.6% is Muslim, 1.7% claims no religious affiliation, and 0.1% practices traditional indigenous beliefs." 


So while religious factors may not have been "prominent" in that event, the events and atrocities were committed by a population over 90% Christian.


On the Bosnian Genocide: In 2001, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) judged that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre was genocide. In the unanimous ruling "Prosecutor v. Krstić", the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), located in The Hague, reaffirmed that the Srebrenica massacre was genocide, the Presiding Judge Theodor Meron stating:




By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the forty thousand Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity.
The Serbian population is predominantly Orthodox Christian.  Unless we're still unwilling to accept that someone from "our own tribe" is capable of evil.




Adam, thanks for these tragic, poignant and illustrative reminders that Christians can and do commit atrocities, even in modern times, and that religion is never a deciding factor as to the potential for evil a human being or society carries.  We need to keep these conversations moving forward, and the only way forward is for us to own our own sins.  Modeling this, I pray we can invite our neighbors to feel safe enough to do the same.

RESIST THAT GREEN DRAGON! YEAH! RESIST IT JAMES DOBSON!

Wow.  It's not just James Dobson.  Lot's of conservatives apparently want you to be literally afraid of any Christian efforts to care for God's creation.

Just in case you thought there was something generally good that most people - even conservative Evangelicals - could largely stand behind, don't get too optimistic.

An Evangelical group called "The Cornwall Alliance" has a website, movement, 12-part DVD series, and all sorts of fear-mongering to go with it, under the name RESISTING THE GREEN DRAGON.

Watch!  Enjoy!  Lots of different fonts!  Lots of experts!  Lots of close-ups of nature!  Close-ups on babies!  Words like "worldview!" White men (a.k.a. "Leading Christian Experts!").  It just doesn't get any better!



The Huffington Post writes:

The hyperbolic accusations spewed throughout the video give it the appearance of a ridiculous parody, calling environmentalism "deadly," a "cult" and a "spiritual deception." Unfortunately, the comical PSA is anything but a joke.
In the video, David Barton, founder of WallBuilders, attests that environmentalists' "false assertions are based more on their own morbid pessimistic fears, not on any good science," while the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Dr. Richard Land, says, "Environmentalists have a long history of believing and promoting exaggerations and myths" -- statements both so steeped in irony that they are hardly worth parrying.
Not surprisingly, James Dobson and many of his Focus on the Family cronies are behind this effort.



Honestly, whether you're theologically liberal or conservative should have no bearing on this issue.  It's not a political question.  It's not an economic one.  The politicization and monetization of stewardship and earthkeeping is simply deplorable and unconscionable - a violent recontextualization of anything canonical in regards to Creation.  To argue against Christian stewardship isn't a tenable position for us within the Church.  That is a position for capitalists, corporatists, and perhaps imperialists.

We may as well be arguing against peace, compassion, alms and charity... Virtues which are too-rapidly being swallowed by the contemporary zeitgeist of fascism and plutocracy.

Facebook Fun(damentalism) - Xtranormal Fuzzy Animal Synopsis

Okay, here it is: my creative interpretation of -- or perhaps -- my "homage" to the FACEBOOK FUN(damentalism) of the last week.

My friend Adele was just telling me she can't handle reading this stuff -- it's too frustrating.  I totally hear you Adele!  Like I said, my stomach was unsettled over the confrontation all week long.  Watching the fuzzy Xtranormal animals provide synopsis should be a little easier to swallow...


FACEBOOK FUN(damentalism)! - Part 4 (Finale)

It ends with what I can only characterize as anger, though one can never be certain when dealing strictly with text.

I thought over and over about different "finale comebacks."  Yes, getting in a last dig would have felt great!  I'm sure you can think of plenty.  But I didn't.  What would be the point?  In fact, now I'm invisible to these folks on Facebook - thanks to the block list.  Not because I'm scared of posting this material to their "faces," or worried about further conflict, but because we all have to recognize boundaries, limitations and - ultimately - futility.

Now I just hope that you and I can glean something more from the conversation.

I realize that, based on my online persona (especially my e-persona) I probably come off as brash and cocky, generally ready for a fight.  The truth is, I obsessed over the interactions I've posted here in the last few days.  Silly and trite as it may seem (certainly not healthy) I had knots in my stomach over the impending responses I would receive for my comments and questions.  I didn't want to kick the hornets' next.  I wanted to convince them that they were - in fact - hornets.  I cared enough about the possibility of softening the attitudes of these acquaintances that I was willing to keep at it.  The exchange lasted about four days.  Here's how it finished, and how I left it:

*          *          *
Me:

Alfonso, to say that "a Christian does not" promote perverse doctrine is wholly false and dangerously naive. If you believe (as I assume you do) that Christians are capable of sin, then the church itself is comprised of sinful people (saved, forgiven, but sinful). Christianity is not some ethereal, esoteric concept. Christianity is manifest as the Body of Christ. Therefore Christianity is what the Followers of Christ demonstrate it to be.

Throughout this string, repeated assertions have been made to the effect that, "real Christianity wouldn't such-and-such," or that "true Christianity doesn't..." do such-and-such sin. But that simply isn't true, because real Christians DO do those things.

I have to question, again, your motives in demonizing Islam, here. What exactly do you hope to gain by it? Do you think you'll win more converts by systematically proving that Muslims are bigger pricks than Christians? That's all this conversation appears to be to the outside world. Believe me, I've seen this play out dozens of times in secular circles... What's your motivation?

Randy:
Peter. A Christian is a follower of Jesus. You are correct when you say 'Christianity is manifest as the body of Christ.' Beyond that, you could have said that there is middle ground in dealing with Satan. Islam is not Christian, but anti-Christ. Their god is Allah who is Mohammad's family familiar, the moon god. Jesus is not manifest as the moon god. Mohammad and the followers of Islam promote war against non-Muslims. They will babble 'Allah Akbar' while cutting your throat. A Christian promotes quite another thing, even while walking in the sins of this world. A church promoting suicide is not a Christian church even when Jim Jones said it was. You wrote, 'Christianity is what the Followers of Christ demonstrate it to be.' That's correct, and that's what I'm saying even if you don't understand it. Christians demonstrate the idea of eternal life with the Lord and does not find middle ground with evil. Islam promote quite another thing, an after life with their moon god, and forty virgins all because of the claim of a man.
You mentioned African Christians pouring acid down children's throats. Have you been there? I have, in more than one country. You have no idea. Christians don't pour acid down children's throats. If a man does pour acid down a child's throat, he is no Christian. I doubt if Muslims will pour acid down the throats of their children, but they will beat or slay their daughters for looking upon the face of a non-Muslim.
Muslims are taking all of Africa one nation at a time with machetes, and they are the rebels you read about. The same thing is true in S.E. Asia. Have you been there? I have. Actually, you can neglect Christianity or even Islam in these countries if you wish to study with another bias. Their problems are of a tribal nature (read the history of Monrovia). Yet, you can't neglect Islam in those places very long, because Islam thrives in tribal countries.

Another thing about compromising with anyone that wishes to remove Gods gifts of Liberty. They don't think like you do, they don't value things the way you do. I think you are well meaning, but are naive about many things concerning people of this world. If you compromise with evil, before you know it, you will have become, in part, evil. Which of their fruits, even Islam, would you choose to adopt?

This is far more than I have intended to deal with your idea of compromise. So, I'll leave you to your own devices and say goodbye.

*          *          *

I never DID get "Randy" or anyone else involved in this exchange to articulate WHY they felt the need to convince anyone of the evils of Islam.  As I've said, I have plenty of guesses, and I'd imagine, most of them are right (after all, I grew up a fundamentalist) but it's telling (and terribly problematic) when fundamentalists won't ADMIT their motives.

A little later today I'll be posting a video of some cute, furry, animated animals rehashing some of this conversation for your enjoyment.  


FACEBOOK FUN(damentalism)! - Part 3


 Part III of the Facebook Wall conversation that inspired the recent Top Ten Sins Christians Didn't Commit Video.  


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Randy:
I personally haven't studied the Koran, and can't speak to it as any kind of expert. I do know that there are very contradictory sayings of Mohammed, some urging restraint and peace, and others urging its followers to find pagans and believers in the book (the bible) and subdue, cut off their hands, feet, or kill them. When you have verses that so plainly call it's followers to act out in violence, it's no wonder that we have the problem with terrorism that we see in the world today. As far as the last 2000 years of Christianity goes, I cannot defend church history. I believe that a lot of politically minded people have used the church as a means to get what they want. I cannot defend those actions, but I can defend the scripture; nowhere in scripture does Jesus ask us to take arms against unbelievers as a means to convert them to truth, or punish them for unbelief.

Alfonso:
About middle ground in conversation concerning muslims: take a trip through Africa, middle east, around the Maylay Archapelligo, then offer middle ground for conversation. There is no middle ground. Jesus came to take the punishment of all who claim Him. Mohamad came in Madina claiming his god was the family moon god. He founded Islam by knocking off a few caravans then set seige upon Mecca. Jesus says to love you neighbors. Islam says to slay those who reject Islam. Jesus says to love the man but not the sin. Islam says subject man in servatude, voluntary or involuntary; and they will be happy to cut your throat.

A hike through their lands will be enough of a study of their Koran, because the fruits tell of their nature. The one thing that people forget about Islam is also tribalism. Find a friend in the Ivory Coast and he will point out the 'bad boy, bad boy.' First recognition for them is tribal. You've got to study history to understand that, and that has no necessary connection with any religion.

Me:
Until you're willing to look at the Old Testament and Christian history with the same scrutiny you're willing to look at Islam with, this dialogue is pointless, because Western Christendom is guilty of just as much (if not more) bloodshed. That's not opinion, it's World History 101. Moreover, the Old Testament is rampant with genocide and warfare in the name of YHWH.

I am a lifelong Christian, and a committed seminary student, so I'm not taking cheap potshots hear from the fringe. The faith is precious to me. But I see no value whatsoever in defending Christianity from sins it is clearly guilty of, or from attacking other religions for dysfunction endemic to humanity (Christians included), not a particular sect or religious group.

Self-validation is not a fruit of the spirit.

Alfonso:
Compromising to middle ground with murders is no fruit of the Spirit either. I try to seperate the church organization from that of simply being a Christian. A Christian will follow Jesus even when it conflicts with church doctrine, or a prince. Jesus never promoted murder of non-believers. Peter, as you study, don't pass off on tribalism. It is a breading gound for Islam. Most of what you have heard from africa and other places where rebels are active, are Muslim. The pirates you read about, are Muslim. They promote it. A Christain does not, no matter what the church, or prince, does. Therein is why there is no middle ground of compromise.

Randy:
I think one of the major differences between the modern Christian, and the historical Christian is the readiness of the Word. The bible wasn't translated into a common language until fairly recently in Church history. Before Martin Luther translated scripture into German, you needed to be a scholar in a historical language in order to search the scriptures as Paul commended the Bereans. The ability of a ruler to manipulate the people in the name of the God of the Bible was much easier to do 1000 years ago than it is today, and I think history testifies to that. I agree that war and murder are the fruits of man's selfish ambition, not of the Spirit. That is why I cannot defend church history, but I also understand Peter's point how the world has difficulty in separating the difference.


...

(to be continued)

FACEBOOK FUN(damentalism)! - Part 2

This is Part II of the Facebook Wall conversation that inspired the Top Ten Video I recently posted.

*      *      *

Amanda:
"Perverted Christianity," I like that, Peter, and find it interesting.  While I understand what you are saying and rather agree with it, I believe that there is no such thing as a "manifestation" of the Christian religion, at least not in the sense you are trying to convey.  What you are describing is more or less the same description for "mutation," a changing within one's own religion.  We all know that Gods word is the truth and is steadfast.

I believe it's a manifestation of evil, of the Devil that has unfortunately grasped the weakest in some of us. The devil has been with man since the beginning of time, there is no lie in saying that large groups of people within the Christian religion have faltered,no lie in that at all. However it is not due to perversity from the religion it's due directly to Satan. So I get what you are saying I just want others to know and grasp that just because something was done a certain way in the past doesn't make it right today or even then, know what I mean? The word means what it means and unfortunately to many people have taken it to mean that it's open to all interpretations.

Unfortunately I have not read the Quran in depth but I do know that it does call people to kill in the name of Muhammad as well as show mercy in the name of Muhammad. That is something I shall have to remedy :)

Alfonso:
If you believe Jesus promoted problematic, violent acts, then blame the same on those who follow him problematic and violent, there is a problem. The problem is not Jesus, nor is it a problem of Christianity.

Amanda:
John 16:1-3 is a good answer~

"These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended."

John 16:2 "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service."

John 16:3 "And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me."

Me:
There's no real room for conversation with the last couple of comments. If one is convinced of the 100% rightness of one's particular religious manifestation, then there is little if any room for moderation, middle ground or ecumenism. It strikes me that this is the incubating temperature for the extremism we're dealing with in today's religious climate: no one recognizing the plank in their own eye (personal, or corporate/theological).

I don't believe Jesus promoted problematic, violent acts, but 2,000 years have demonstrated that his model is not consistently interpreted, which is a parable in itself.

We can do better. Self-defense is not the starting point for doing better. It strikes me that "taking up my cross" does not have anything at all to do with self-validation, self-promotion, self-assertion or self-defense. If I follow Jesus, I die for my enemies, not to prove them wrong, but to prove them loved; to to prove them enemies, but to prove them sisters and brothers.

...


(to be continued)

FACEBOOK FUN(damentalism)! - Part 1

This is Part I of the Facebook Wall conversation (you won't find it if you go looking for it) that inspired the Top Ten Video I recently posted.  The names have been changed to protect the angry ;)

*      *      *


Randy:
Over the last couple of months I have heard several comparisons of terrorists to Christians killing abortion doctors. Both acts are terrible, but did you know that in 2010, there were 1987 jihad attacks in 46 nations resulting in 9,175 deaths and 17,436 injuries. Compare that with In the U.S., violence directed toward abortion providers has killed at least eight people in the last 20 years... I'm not intending to throw stones but rather correct a somewhat common misconception.

Me:
But Randy, what is the end point you want to make? That Christians kill FEWER innocent people? So Christians "win" as the lesser evil?

It doesn't seem like much of an argument. My non-Christian friends aren't impressed, which is why I find so little value in these types of conversations - throwing stones at other religions.

Amanda:
Actually,if I may. The men that killed the abortion doctors may have claimed to be Christian but they were far from it. Anybody can commit violence and claim it in the Lords name. It's known as blasphemy.

Randy:
Good comments all around.

Peter, I guess my reason for posting this was to make the point that there is no comparison in the two different events. Not only from a pure numbers angle, but as Amanda pointed out, just because someone claims to be Christian doesn't mean that they are representing the hart or teachings of Christianity when they act out in violence. Christianity does not call believers to kill people in the name of God. I'm just surprised that I have heard several comparisons in the last couple of months, and it honestly baffles me.

Me:
Sadly, that's only one interpretation of Christianity, however. And it's an enlightened one. One I absolutely agree with. But there are schools and sects of Christianity that believe in holy wars and intifadas too. We don't get ourselves off the hook by saying "that's not really Christianity," because it darn well is the religious institution, in many cases. We have 2,000 years of history filled with this stuff - these aren't random anomalies.

Similarly, Islam has adherents who will vehemently decry everything violent and abhorrent we read about in the papers. There isn't a real Islam and a fake Islam.

While I believe that peaceful, loving Christianity is "true" Christianity, I don't believe it's accurate to say that violent, hateful Christianity ISN'T Christianity. It's perverted Christianity, to be sure. But it is a perversion of the Christian religion, and so it is a manifestation of the Christian religion. To deny calling it the Christian religion becomes impractical, and patronizing to the intellectual sensibilities of the world around us. The world knows very well what the church is propagating, and what it is responsible for. I don't think we deserve the luxury of being morally "outraged" when someone blames Christianity for - say - systemic misogyny, or sex abuse, or racial discrimination, because in recent history it has been within and through the Christian church that these sins have been systemically propagated.

The Christian Canon calls people to kill people in the name of God. It also calls people to show mercy in the name of God. The killing is primarily in our Old Testament...

The Quran may call people to kill in the name of God, but it also calls people to show mercy in the name of God. Do you know enough about the Quran to know the context of those verses?

‎(And I don't know enough about the Quan to know the context... I just know our own Canon is full of enough problematic, violent content that we don't have a lot of stones to throw from a textual standpoint, either).

...



(to be continued)

Fundie News Flash: Christians Don't Sin! (So You Should Convert!)

Over the next couple of days I'll recount all the joy, drama, ridiculousness (perhaps on my part as well?) and childlike fun of mature religious debate (did I just type that?) as enabled by the wonders of the FACEBOOK WALL!

I thought I'd begin with the end, however: my conclusion, extracted from that fun little exchange.  That is: 

CHRISTIANS ARE INCAPABLE OF BEING ASSHOLES
...
or perhaps...

IF YOU ARE ONE, YOU AREN'T ONE!

Hope you enjoy, and keep reading.
Peter

Synchroblog: Epiphany Outside Theophany (Outside Christianity)

Forgive me, fellow Synchrobloggers, friends, and blog readers, I'm feeling a little feisty as I approach this month's Synchroblog project:
This month’s synchroblog’s theme is inspired by the season of Epiphany which begins on January 6 and ends the day before Ash Wednesday. The word “epiphany” is rich in meaning. Epiphany is derived from the Greek epiphaneia and means manifestation, shining forth, revelation or appearance. In a religious context, the term describes the appearance of an invisible divine being...
In a specifically Christian context, epiphany is a reference to the Theophany or manifestation of God in Jesus Christ.

But I've been arguing all week with several Christians who were not only hell bent on demonizing Islam for purposes I could not get them to admit (I assume evangelistic -- the worse THEY look, the better WE look?  Apparently?) but who also refused to admit Christianity was capable of manifesting anything evil, false, untrue... even going so far as to state that anyone who would teach or practice "unchristian things" was "not a true Christian."  For example: the prosperity pastors in Africa pouring acid down children's throats for money, to "eradicate witchcraft," weren't really Christians.

How convenient.  The pedophile priests were probably Hindu, but I digress...

I'll be blogging a lot more about this in the coming weeks because I feel a huge desire to repent for all of the sins I've committed as a Christian, and for all of the sins my faith-of-origin has committed through the last two thousand years in the name of Christ (overcompensation tends to be in my nature).  Also because I have a lot of built-up schtick I need to utilize.

Meanwhile, I wanted to spend a little time in this exploration of Epiphany, thinking about the Epiphany of God outside the boundaries of Christendom and Christian jargon.

I'm always first reminded of a friend of mine who is an agnostic.  He's kind, good-natured, and infinitely fair-minded.  I won't name him since he drops in on this blog from time to time and I don't want to embarrass him.  The point is, I wish Christians broadly behaved the way he does.  The church would be a gentler, humbler, warmer, more loving, compassionate place.  The church would look like Jesus, because that friend of mine -- that agnostic, who doesn't worry about heaven or hell, theology or church -- behaves more like Jesus than most Christians I know.  He's an epiphany without a label or a sinner's prayer.

Second, I'm reminded of an article a friend sent me a week ago: Muslims serve Christmas Eve dinner to 300.  He wrote wryly: "those damn Muslims, doing what Jesus told US to do.  Terrorists."  The article describes how a local Muslim group in Montreal decided to reach out to their local community by donating, and serving food at the Christmas Eve dinner at a mission in town.  As an aside, the fundamentalist man I was arguing with today (very angry) had said, "Muslims will babble 'Allah Akbar' while cutting your throat!" And ranted on about how superior Christian morality is.  But I see Christ wherever the Fruits of the Spirit are manifested in the world.  I don't need a fish on the bumper for permission to approve.  And I've certainly had my throat cut by more than one Christian in my life, yelling "Praise Jesus"... well, we Christians stab in the back more typically don't we?  Ah, but I'm getting off track again.  You'll have to forgive me.  These are posts to come and I'm just too darned excited!


In my view, the service of that Islamic group on Christmas Eve in Montreal is an epiphany.


Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."  He didn't give a lot of stipulations.  And he didn't ask for a code word.


Finally, as I've written about the Tao Te Ching and Rumi many times before, my wife bought me The Gift by Sufi master poet Hafiz for Christmas this year.  The beauty of the words, and the universality of the truth I find here, is an epiphany:


E V E R Y W H E R E

Running
Through the streets
Screaming,

Throwing rocks through windows,
Using my own head to ring
Great bells,

Pulling out my hair,
Tearing off my clothes,

Tying everything I own
To a stick,
And setting it on
Fire.

What else can Hafiz do tonight
To celebrate the madness,
The joy,

Of seeing God
Everywhere!



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I hope you'll read all of the other participants in this month's Synchroblog!


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