Sunday, August 14, 2005

Let's keep our eyes on the ball

There's lately been a good deal of relativist hooey claiming that while we play whack-a-mole with Islamists we're overlooking the rise of a "Christian Taliban."
Yes the “Christian Taliban” is diligently working toward an America where we will be forced to worship their concept of God or face the consequences of their tactics of terror. We will live in a nation where Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu children will be forced to pray to a vengeful and hard-hearted God who will proclaim that they will burn in the fires of hell because a loveless and cruel concept of Jesus is not their personal savior. We will live in a nation where genuine Christians who are the true believers who know that both God and Jesus are the purest form of love will be forced to deny a loving Christ and worship a false ‘Jesus’ who represents oppression, punishment, revenge, hate, and bigotry.

Homosexuals, human rights activists, environmentalists, women’s rights advocates, and others will be persecuted, jailed, and perhaps eventually executed because they will refuse to believe that God is cold-hearted and filled with hate instead of love.

chtalibOh, brother.

Now I regard all religions as obstacles to good, inasmuch as they rely on the denial of reason, and reason is the shortest route to achieving what is good. Nevertheless, I am going to grit my teeth and attempt to debunk the paranoiac fantasy of the Christian Taliban. If it seems in part a defense of Christian philosophy, so be it. The priests had me doing Catholic calisthenics every Sunday for more than twelve of my early years; perhaps I'm brainwashed. Christians don't scare me.

Granted, I would have been plenty scared of Christians if I'd been born a half a millenium earlier, especially if I'd been born Jewish or anywhere in Central or South America. So let me first take that argument off the table: That was then, this is now. Yes, Christians had their bloodthirsty and bellicose stage, but it came to an end centuries ago. No, the Nazis don't count--they were not driven by Christian ideology, but by nationalism, anti-Semitism, and a freaky cult of personality. Hitler saw the clergy as an enemy to be subverted or dominated, not as an ally. And the odd anti-abortion fanatic running around the backwoods with a sniper rifle and a backpack full of C4 has as much to do with Christians as Jeffrey Dahmer had to do with gay-rights groups. Terrorism in the name of Christ does exist today, but it is rare enough to qualify as an anomoly. Even Catholics in Northern Ireland seem to have outgrown their desire for bloodshed, and their cause was a mix of nationalism and religion anyway. I doubt they would have been appeased if Britain had given Belfast to the Vatican.

Then there's the old argument that the Bible is full of prescriptions for violence against unbelievers. True, but that's the part that Christians call the "Old Testament," and its message is tempered by, if not abrogated by, the teachings of Christ outlined in the "New Testament." That's why they call themselves "Christians."

And then there's the issue of Christians in America making themselves more active in government of late. I agree that this is troubling, but our government is a democracy. If our nation's citizens elect officials who act on the evident desire of the majority that our tax dollars not be spent on recommending abortion to pregnant African women, that's democracy. Those who argue otherwise apparently would rather have an enlightened despot who knows better than the church-going masses, or perhaps they want to segregate the nation's populace into two distinct regions--"dumb" and "dumber"--and then divide it in two.

Christians around the world appear to be seeking reconciliation of the differences that have divided them in the past. Catholics and Anglicans recently took steps toward resolving their ancient dispute over the absurd questions of whether Mary was conceived without sin and whether she got to take her 70-year-old body with her to heaven. The way the rapprochment is described in Roderick Strange's opinion piece in the Times of London makes it seem more like Christians have simply grown weary of debating such idiotic crap, the way a bunch of stoners watching the sun rise on a night-long argument over why boats float might feel.
Dogmatic definitions articulate the mysteries of faith but do not exhaust them. What we believe is more profound than the way it is expressed. Definitions call for respect; they should not create anxiety. The reality of the faith shared is what matters. So Anglicans may recognise that what has been defined is what they already hold, while Roman Catholics should recognise that they need not fret over formulaes.

We seek our reunion by deepening our faith.

"Dude, the boat floats ... cool ... let's just drop it."

The most interesting part of this blather is Strange's assertion that "[d]efintions ... should not create anxiety." What a nice conceit, and it is already true for the vast majority of Christians on earth. I just learned today that in the year I was born, the thousand-or-so inhabitants of the Caribbean island I call home were obliged to attend weekly mass. Well, no one has come knocking on my door on any Sunday morning since I arrived, so I guess the Christian Taliban decided to give us a pass--or maybe they don't exist.

Getting back to the loopy assertion I quoted at the beginning of this post, "Homosexuals, human rights activists, environmentalists, women’s rights advocates, and others will be persecuted, jailed, and perhaps eventually executed." Yes, that is undeniably true, but you got the verb tense wrong. They are being persecuted, jailed, and executed, along with apostates, democracy protesters, and--interestingly--Christians.

Ironically, Strange himself would earn a fatwa calling for his death if he had published his essay in any number of Muslim nations. This line alone would make him guilty of heresy: "... the Mother of Jesus is proclaimed as the Mother of God." Whoops. Say that in Yemen or Malaysia, then wait for the anxiety to set in.


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