Wake Up Call to Christians

I can’t stress enough the importance of reading this article at Exploring Our Matrix. He outlines what is wrong with the religious “right” in far more generous terms than you’ll find from the left. Civility is called for and his voice is it. A foretaste:

What is wrong with being on the right? There are voices in our time that seem to be leaning further and further in that direction, even though they would claim to abhor what Hitler did. Yet all it takes for history to repeat itself is a nation leaning in that direction, a leader willing to use the language of Christianity and conservativism to manipulate the populace and exploit their faith and enthusiasm, and a failure to care when those we disagree with are persecuted and punished. The spirit of the far right is absolutely antithetical to the heritage and foundations of American democracy. And it is precisely that democracy that protects Christianity as well as all other religions to present their case, to make their appeal, to urge any and all who will listen to follow their lead and adhere to their values and convictions – whether they are about abortion, social justice, or the editing of Veggie Tales on NBC.

It is only a faith that is insecure that wants to force itself on others through legislation, because of a lack of trust in the persuasive power of the message itself. It is only the faith of the proud that claims absolute certainty, as opposed to humility and absolute trust in God as the only one who truly knows with certainty.

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12 thoughts on “Wake Up Call to Christians

  1. Essential reading as you say. And it goes far beyond nationality or politics. Dr McGrath is writing from a US perspective, but the human tendency to pick out what suits us in order to further our own comfort or power is universal.

    For Christians and their sympathisers, like me, Christ’s message is uncompromisingly radical. And yet it has been used to under-pin all kinds of tyrany.

    Were I a Christian, I would have to find any government over the centuries which invoked the name of Christ as the basis of its values and purposes, guilty of blasphemy.

    And then we look to ourselves. How are we doing? Against those impossibly high standards? Not well I would think. In cultures which claim, or have claimed, to be based on Christianity, even some evidence of those radical aspirations, or evidence that mankind is supposed to aspire to divine love, which is all-embracing, would make such claims stand for a little more than some fine buildings, language and music.

  2. Conscientious,

    I think for Americans, there is a very tempting tendency toward equating loving our country and believing we have some sort of Manifest Destiny to conquer the world. This is very close to the thinking that Mr. McGrath describes in his post and very dangerous. Once you start believing that your government is divinely sanctioned then you can excuse all sorts of behaviors. I think there’s a very fine line though and the temptation is to throw out the patriotic baby with the bathwater as some on the shrieking political and religious left have also done. Both sides are so polarized that they’ve ceased listening to the other and that’s unfortunate.

  3. And all this makes so little sense when the over-riding injunction to the christian is supposed to be: “love one another”. surely that should give people pause in the midst of polarised screaming.

  4. Reading this, it strikes me that we can all take refuge in a kind of “knowing” which lends truth to what we would like to believe. So an answer to the question “What’s wrong about being right?”, might be “knowing you’re right to be right, or knowing you’re right to be left”.”

    Now this doesn’t mean that I’m in favour of a world in which
    “The best lack all conviction”
    but, as professor McGrath says, we are not entitled to ignore the plight, or disregard the humanity of those we disagree with, as if we had the monopoly of all righteousness, or as if they were a lower order of being.

    Supposing we arrived in some after life and, instead of that crown of gold or all those virgins, God said:
    “insofar as you did this to one of these my children, you did it to me”. OOPS!

  5. Reg,

    Good point about the afterlife, if there is one. I think all this hullabaloo about believing the right dogma is misguided at best and dangerous at worst as I said previously. Those who don’t toe the party line are just out of luck.

  6. I’m not so sure I agree with the idea that their faith is insecure. Rather, I think it has to do with how people are categorized. If your faith includes the belief that you are on the side of Light, Truth, Justice, and all things that are Right, and there are people not on your side, then what category do those people fall into? They are the blinded ones, the ones who pursue evil, the ones who actively rebel against God.

    And if you truly believe that the others are rebelling against God, then why wouldn’t you work to push certain legislation on the people? Since they are on the side of Good, then any legislation they want is also Good. The other side is obviously not good, since if it were Good, the other side would in fact be on their side.

    Is it really a matter of trusting the power of the message when part of that message says that people prefer works of darkness to works of light?

  7. OSS, yes this verily puts the cat among the pigeons doesn’t it – the faith of others seen through the prism of our own (if any).

    To me, the only sure seat of faith is the conscience, and yet the human conscience is so clearly suspect. How should I view my own faith? For example if I believed that my faith happens to make me a beneficiary of God’s selective grace, while Jews or homosexuals were outcasts, should I not look into my heart and ask myself if that is not perhaps just a little too convenient in meshing with my particular prejudices?

    Of course I can’t speak for what others should do, and it’s clear that I agree so much with Prof McGrath because his views happen to mesh with my kind of faith. This would be summed up by “love one another”, not “love one another, except people I happen to dislike”. And that is why sensible people like the Founding Fathers of the USA sought to keep religion and politics separate, lest some zealous lobby was able to convince enough people that some group identified as the source of all society’s woes could be justly persecuted because God hates them too. This is too scary, and leads me to conclude that faith-based legislation could all too easily be the basis of a theocratic tyrany, as in the case of the sincere faith of Islamic fundamentalists given legal expression.

  8. OSS,

    You asked: “If your faith includes the belief that you are on the side of Light, Truth, Justice, and all things that are Right, and there are people not on your side, then what category do those people fall into?”

    Can there not be different sides to being Right? When one group feels that their interpretation of the bible is Right and there are clear answers to be seen, the group not on that side claim the same thing. When both groups claim to be Right or at least one claims absolute Right and the other claims Right with qualifications, then they are both acting according to conscious from a clear understanding and spiritual insight of what they believe God is telling them. Does one side have to be wrong or working for “darkness?”

    I’m uncomfortable with the absolute dichotomy of Light and Dark in the bible and in religions in general. We all know there are no clear works of Light and Darkness because there are invariably shades of gray and nuances and circumstances and even then no one can agree about those.

    I would think the more honest stance would be to admit that we could all be right and work toward the solution that condemns no one but ourselves. We should push for legislation NOT because we believe anyone rebels against God, because those are always debatable, but because we believe people should be respectful of the life and property of other people. To me that’s the basis of law. God may be the principle behind the law, but to make God the law invites theocracy and its purveyors toward abuse. History has shown this.

    Excellent points as always, OSS!

  9. Britishreg,

    **To me, the only sure seat of faith is the conscience, and yet the human conscience is so clearly suspect. How should I view my own faith?**

    Oh, yes. Humanity excels at the ability to soothe one’s conscience over all sorts of acts, and justifying the act itself as something good.

    I think even using a measure of conscience can be tricky, though. One of the things I find fascinating about the Religious Right is the types of sins they focus on battling: sex-sins, in the arena of homosexuality and abortion/birth control. We don’t hear as much about the other sins, such as ignoring the poor, gluttony, being cruel to one’s neighbor. I feel that has a lot to do with the Religious Right’s mindset — in theory, they’ll never be troubled with homosexuality or need an abortion, and so those sins are much easier to go after. It’s a lot easier for your conscience to be okay with a method of attack when you’re attacking something you’ll theoretically never have to face.

    MOI,

    In many areas, I think there are different modes of right. For instance, in politics. I think the right path for the United States is a mixture of systems — both free market, and regulation. There are shades of grey to both.

    I just don’t think that type of mindset lends itself to shades of grey. Perhaps that’s due to the nature of Light itself? You can’t really have nuances or grey areas in Light. There’s no room for it. You can really only have grey areas when light is muted, or partially blocked. The very definition and nature of Light doesn’t lend itself well to subtitles.

  10. OSS, good point about a natural tendency to focus on those sins to which we do not ourselves feel vulnerable when in condemnation mode. So we can add the warm glow of personal righteousness to the relief of knowing that God shares our prejudices.

    This is not,of course, to slag off people of faith in general, many of whom have made an enormous contribution to Humanity. It merely points out that any human activity carries with it attendant dangers – in this case the joy of having someone to look down on.

    As to the nature of light, as a blind person I’m veryfamiliar with not knowing what physical light is, but it seems we all have a similar difficulty in arriving at a common definition of the nature of spiritual light as well. That’s why I’m with the Quakers on the individual search for their own inner light.

    The only way I can make any sense of that in view of my previous comments is to say that the impact of that light in the world can be judged by its fruits, and by principles such as “love one another” selfless giving, the potential for generosity in the human spirit ETC.

    Yes I know all that is laughably vague and in no way amenable to rigorous examination, but I don’t think faith is either, and it’s the best I have right now to steer by.

  11. In case I wasn’t clear there, I was thinking about how we react to other people’s version of light.

    If someone else’s version of faith-driven conviction (light) makes them feel entitled to exterminate, injure, disenfranchise or spurn others, then I can’t accept it as coming from the same unconditional source which represents the best towards which poor screwed up humans like me can aspire. I don’t feel called to sign up to something because it makes me a beneficiary. It’s aiming towards unconditional loving and giving, not obeying rules to get a reward in Heaven.

  12. Britishreg,

    Well said and I couldn’t agree more. Most of us tend to gravitate toward those things that are beneficial to us in some way, including religions.

    OSS,

    Excellent point about going after sins one doesn’t necessarily have to deal with. I wonder why that is? Easy to do? And you are right, the Religious Right has no shades of gray, but I wouldn’t say it’s because they are in the right light. Supposedly the chief evil one himself can masquerade as an “angel of light.” then what? Thanks for commenting as ever! 🙂

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