Sunday, August 20, 2006

Tears among the Wheat

I have been battaling extreme fundamentalists on a cretian messag board for a couple of weeks. As stated in my previous peice, they condmed me as "the sapwn of satan" and "a wolf in sheep's clothing" because I said the passage where Paul forgot his coat was not inspried. Why would God inspire Paul to forget his coat? Or the one where he forgot who he baptized. But these authoritarian types keep at it. They eventaully put up a post declairing that all the great thinkers are in hell. Of course it's evil to use the mind. They are trying to scare the atheists on the bard by showing (show how? by asserting) that the figures they admire as thinkers ar in hell. What an aburd tactic. But Extreme authoritarian Christiantiy is more than just a few cranks on a message board. They are an army of brown shirts, and thier Republican orgnaizing has helped Republicans win all but two elections since 1980. Every four years they do their bit to hand over the governement to extremist factions. Now they are even asserting their true natures as brown shirts:

Hughes for America

the scourge of Christian Fundamentalism

Kansas University religious studies professor Paul Mirecki - a critic of Christian fundamentalism who had until recently intended to teach intelligent design as mythology - was beaten yesterday morning by two men who had been following him in a pickup truck. Mirecki said that his attackers "made references" to his recent notoriety. "I didn't know them," he said, "but I'm sure they knew me."

We've arrived at a scary destination in America. Fundamentalist Christians, holding an overwhelming majority, are in control of the federal government. Their myriad representatives dominate the airwaves. Their churches engulf entire communities. Couple that with a remarkably insane persecution complex and you've got a smoldering tinderbox of raw religious fervor, a powder keg poised to explode.

There's a good article by Michael L. Westmoreland-White which sets up an analaysis of three kinds of religion.

Westmoreland-White decides that labels such as "fundamentalist" and liberal are not that useful, so he constructs typologies based upon authority structure of the many groups.

The three types are:

(1) Mystical/ecstatic

Little social structure, sometimes communal. Examples would be Dorothy Day's commune in up state New York. Early American Quakers, or Catholic monastics of the middle ages. But this type also tends to be very individualistic.

(2) Authoritarian

Top down hierarchical. This is not necessarily dependent upon a Bishop or an elaborate high church structure,. Low church structures can also be authoritarian. Authority rules by fear.

(3) Prophetic.

Power flows form the people up to the leader who is empowered by consent to be governed.

The article is called "reclaiming the Prophetic type of Religion" so clearly that's the structure he prefurs.

By nature, this form of religion is exclusionary. Orthodoxy ("right teaching") is defined very narrowly. Differences of opinion are tolerated, if at all, on only a very narrow range of topics and only within a small degree. Thus, adherents in an authoritarian religion will have impassioned debates over distinctions that outsiders have a hard time telling apart.

No matter how much the official doctrine of this form of religion speaks of "grace," "mercy," "forgiveness," or "eternal security," the underlying ethos is one of fear: fear of heresy, fear of breaking the rules, fear of science, fear of social change, fear of other religions, fear of forms of its own religion which are NOT authoritarian, fear of secularism, fear--ultimately--of God. (A person I know who holds to this form of religion has created clothing with the slogan, "I Fear God" and cannot figure out why they won't sell!)

It is clear to me that the U.S. Religious Right, composed of Protestant Fundamentalists and the far-right fringe of U.S. Catholics, is a form of authoritarian religion. That is why its political allies are profoundly anti-democratic and engage in the politics of fear and secrecy. A democratic republic with separation of powers, checks and balances, real participation by the people is too messy. So, more and more power is invested in the Executive, laws are changed to allow more secret decisions, the legislature is turned into a rubber stamp for the Executive, and steps are taken to undermine an independent judiciary. The forms of voting are still allowed, although all kinds of tricks are used to disenfranchise groups likely to vote for another agenda. But real power is invested in plutocratic oligarchy.

Another excellent article, one that says that fundametnalism is a distortion of ture rleigion, by Lloyd Geering, Presbyterian mniister. Gerring takes on fundamentalism of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

So fundamentalism may be described as a modern religious disease, for it distorts genuine religious faith in the same way as cancer distorts and misdirects the natural capacity of body cells to grow. Instead of bringing spiritual freedom and the realisation of a spiritual goal, as all sound religion should, fundamentalism imprisons people into such a rigid system of belief that they find it difficult to free themselves. Fundamentalism takes possession of human minds and blinds them to the realities which most others accept as self-evident. Fundamentalism fosters a closed mind, restricts the sight to tunnel vision, hinders mental and spiritual growth, and prevents people from becoming the mature, balanced, self-critical persons they have the potential to become.

My sentiments and style of religion tend to be 1 and 3. So there is a deep philosophical rift that cuts across the board. I'm not sure it is even the same religion. There may be no way to go but to split. I'm sure that will happen eventually.

The problem is many think they are defending one type when they really defend another. The authoriatian types have some prophets but that doesn't make the prophetic. The liberals have an authoritarian structure but that doesn't make them authoritarian.

The prophetic type of religion has always been the enemy of the concentration of power. Scholars have long played out the dialectical relationship between the prophetic and the priest in old testament Hebrew society. The prophetic type seeks to apply the anointing of the Spirit for the moment to a human situation, while the authoritarian seeks to subjugate the whole social scene to its own reading of the ideal. The authoritarian is the example of what St. Agustine speaks about when he says that that temporal power can never be the City of God. The authoritarian forgets this fact,a and mistakes his own sincere belief for the idea of the Spirit itself, thus considers conformity to his reading to be conformity to the ideal and to the Spirit. But the prophetic types understands that there must always be a radical break between temporal and sacred, and thta impossition of the sacred for the moment can never change the end and destiny of the city of man.


LoieJ said...

If someone is preaching that we are saved by our right beliefs or by our theology or by what we don't believe/think, then that person is preaching that we are saved by something other than the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. In other words, we are saved by our actions/thoughts. Works righteousness, not grace.

So what does it mean to be a Christian? I thought it meant being saved by the actions of God in Jesus when He walked on this earth.

Perhaps there are quite a number of groups that claim the name of Christian which are not truly Christian. However, I would leave it to God's judgement to decide. I'm not telling God who to include in His flock.

To say God can and can't do this or that is to say that we have a God controled by humans or human understanding. It is limiting God. It is believing in a small God that can truly be understood by the human mind.

However, the God of the Bible turned conventional human wisdom upside down. He did what was prophisied in the OT but the people didn't recognize it. The spiritual leaders knew the scriptures. But they missed the Christ. So much for literal interpretation.

God sent his Son as a baby, which isn't what they expected. He saved humans from the sins they committed by His own sacrifice. That was certainly new in its own way. And He rose again. So that was unexpected and certainly outside human wisdom and expectation.

So if God did all that once He can do it again. He can do anything He wants to.

So lets not limit God by declaring that God can't do such and such. Or lets not tell God who is going to hell. etc. etc. etc.

Don't bother too much arguing with those people. They don't understand that God gave them their minds. They want to ignore the gift that God gave them. Oh well. Too bad for their children.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is inspiring. The combination of the mind and faith is usually a very difficult balance to attain. Elegantly put Dr. I am one would agree with you 100 percent on your perceptions of relgion and the fundamental problems in the American Church today. People are missing God, they search for him in the phophetic or the law but they do not understand His words, the heart of God. If you ask any phophetic minister of todays teaching, what is better to know the Bible or to have the mantle place of the prophetic, every single one will tell you to know the Bible. Truly the two are as one.

Thank you for sharing, I am book-marking your blog. Also I would suggest checking out a writter who was the head pastor of westminister chapel for 25 years, DR. R.T. Kendell, his books offer some profound insight to the issues that you are addressing.

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

Thank you. you are obviously very intelligent and perceptive. ;-)

Anonymous said...

The other day I was surfing on TV and came across a piece on the History Channel where some learned theologians and historians were discussing the controversy of the perpetual virginity of Mary. It held my interest for about 30 seconds before I turned it off and then I stopped to ask myself the question of what difference does it make to me or anybody I know on planet earth whether or not Mary remained a virgin after she gave birth to Jesus? I thought long and hard about it and the correct answer seemed to be that it didn't affect my life one way or another as far as I can tell. Whether I believe this or not tomorrow will confront me with the same difficulties and challenges I am faced with today and if my belief on the subject affects my dealings with those problems I can't see how.

I would say the same thing about Paul's coat and whether or not God inspired him to forget it or God inspired him to write that he forgot it or whatever. You can say it's important because it goes to the heart of the doctrine of the inerrancy of scripture to which I would say see above for how much I care about these things. All I know is that in the year 2006 I have a book called the Holy Bible that I hold in my hands and read for inspiration. I go to church and the preacher preaches out of this book. Sometimes I am amazed at the importance of things that seemed unimportant when I read them. Maybe someday I will hear something about Paul's coat that might also amaze. Or maybe not.

As for the doctrine of inerrancy, I don't care. As far as I can tell it's just something to fight about by those prone to fighting about such things.

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

there you go!

LoieJ said...

I've always wonder if the in-errants think that the Bible is inerrant in the things it leaves out...such as, did Jesus and the disciples ever have to relieve themselves? There are thousands of things apparently left out of the Bible. Does this mean that the things in there are supposed to be super important or just that they were what was thought of at the moment of writing.