Sunday, April 29, 2007

by request

I was asked by a reader/friend to talk about an issue that's been near to him recently...apparently a couple of local pastors have been preaching about it lately.

Apparently it appears to them that Christianity is "under attack" in the United States. Citing examples like the "battle over Christmas" and the teaching of evolutionary theory in schools they preach to their congregants that the whole of American society is "out-to-get" Christians and to tear down their value systems and destroy their faith.

To which I must strongly disagree.

Christianity is under attack in places like the Sudan...or anywhere else in the world where Christians are murdered and tortured regularly. But poltical policies, business policies, or social norms that are differentiated from one particular religious groups narrow ideology does not constitute an attack.

For example, the "battle over Christmas" is about the desire to affirm all religious traditions and their holidays, instead of just one. But some people are offended when they hear "Happy Holidays." And there's a reason for it. It doesn't fit into their own narrow ideology. It doesn't validate their agenda by completely denying all others. They claim they're being attacked because they're not given superiority. This is a major problem. If your faith is so shallow and weak that it is threatened by the presence of other faiths, then what's the point in even having it at all? If your faith is dependent upon everyone else agreeing with you and you getting your way then your faith is hopelessy doomed to meaninglessness.

Let me explain something: other faith groups (besides Christianity) are present in the United States and they're here to stay! They're not going away! Pay attention and you might learn something from them, and they, in turn, from you. Coexist! This problem also seems to be very regionalized to the great plains area, I've noticed. These types of preachers have very little presence in the highly populated and highly diverse areas of the country (or at least there are a lot fewer of them). In areas, like NYC for example, where people of many different religions all have to live together in close proximity to each other, tolerance is necessary in order for survival. People of different faith groups rely on each other. And people do learn from each other. And the work of God begins to happen.

Let me ask this question: If you're presenting something as truth, but in order to do so you feel you must convince everyone else of their incorrectness and make them submit to your correctness, how true is it really to begin with?

If you demonize everyone who disagrees with you, then you're afraid of most of the population most of the time. So you wind up with a religion of fear. If you make enemies with everyone who doesn't let you have your way all the time, you're going to be an enemy of every single person in the world. So you wind up with a religion with an agenda of dominance by force. I'm thinking some of these people wouldn't mind if the Crusades were revived. If you claim victimization every time something doesn't go your way, then you wind up with a religion of victimization...which eventually will deteriorate further into a religion of either vindictiveness or of self-denegration.

And by the way, if people upset about evolutionary theory being taught in schools they have two choices...come up with a more viable theory (Creationism in its popular form is not a scientifically viable theory) or home school their kids. People wanting to understand the "how" of God's creation of the world and us are not necessarily attacking Christianity. Is science by nature opposed to faith? Or can the two be understood hand-in-hand? If your faith is threatened by science, then you don't have a solid faith to begin with.

One of the best things about God is how mysterious God is. The person who claims to have all the answers, who claims to have the monopoly on God, is the single most dangerous type of person on the planet.

If you want good reading to help you think through these issues, let me suggest the following:

Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter

Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell

Christ in a Pluralistic Age, by John B. Cobb, Jr. (if you're in the mood for a heady read)

Just about anything by John Hick.

Or for good group study: Saving Jesus From the Christian Right, from the Living the Questions series.

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