A recent series of posts written by a blogging friend of mine raises some serious questions. In it, he discusses ways in which many of us who mean well go completely wrong. We live in a post-Christian society, but we carry over aspects of religiosity of which we may not even be consciously aware. In seeking to be Good Liberals™, we reveal our indebtedness to the same relative framework, one held also by our ancestors. Before I introduce my larger point, I need to assert here that I am not arguing that anyone ought to hold racist ideas or that doing so is acceptable. Rather, I’m critiquing the means by which we often resort to eradicate them. Here is the first.
Jul 21 2011
Jun 30 2011
My father’s mother was raised in an extremely religious family. Her father, a minister in a Pentecostal church that I would best describe as Holy Roller, believed in demonic possession. Sadly, my Grandmother was stricken with a variety of physical maladies that left her constantly ill and often bedridden. Following the teachings of her upbringing, his mother dragged my father to one church after another, all in the hopes that someone could cure her. Taking the miracles of Jesus as literally true, she was certain that someone out there possessed the ability. This belief was so strong that she sometimes gave money to televangelists who promised to do the very same thing.
Mar 11 2011
I think I read the first ten pages of the late fifties UK classic The Comforters about ten times over before I really got it. As it turns out, my reaction was not uncommon. The reader is supposed to be initially confused. Spark’s novel deliberately scorns omniscient narration, opting instead for a grand experiment in Bretchtian allegory. We learn about each character, each interaction, and each conversation as though we were observing it all passively, with no foreknowledge, like some persistent fly on the wall. As the novel progresses, a basic skeletal framework gradually develops into something grander, and within the concise space of two-hundred pages, Muriel Spark’s book reaches its conclusion. The effect deliberately mimics the creative process.
Jan 31 2011
I have watched the violence and the revolt in Egypt with a heavy heart. On one hand, I am overjoyed to see a people long held in shackles struggling to attain freedom. I hope this sentiment will someday encircle the world, so that, as it is written, the wolf and the lamb will live together. As a pacifist, however, it causes me much distress to see police out in the street, blazes set alight, and the familiar signs of overheated passion. In observing everything from a distance of thousands of miles, I am forced to confront my own beliefs. It may be that physical force alone can bring needed reform and change. But, as others far wiser than I have noted, war and warlike impulses are easy, but peaceful solutions are difficult.
Nov 30 2010
Brian Clegg has posted a review of Martin Bojowald’s new book about loop quantum gravity at the Wall Street Journal, but Mr. Clegg might have just as well spared himself the trouble of writing an intelligent summary of a very difficult book for Rupert Murdoch’s ultra-right-wing rag, because almost all the readers’ comments came from dim-witted creationists whose only interest in anything about science is denouncing Charles Darwin.
You cannot prove by any means that the central concept of one living God is untrue. Stop trying.
But why did reader Charles Sullins post this touching declaration on a thread about loop quantum gravity? God only knows, and it quickly got worse, as the pseudo-Christian spokesperson Keith Beveridge initiated a general attack on “secular Darwinism.”
By definition a world view should be balanced, practical, not too simple, not too complex, and match up fairly well with the world at large. Secular Darwinism fails on many of these accounts, most notably in my opinion in its self referential claim to truth in the face of its fundamental claim that there really is no truth, just molecules in motion.
And then it was God this and God that, for more than 100 comments on an article about loop quantum gravity!
But since you can read any number of articles and comments on those articles about almost any other subject except science in the WSJ without ever encountering the word “God” in any of them, I decided to ask Rupert Murdoch’s pseudo-Christian readership a couple of salient questions.
Nov 17 2010
The celebrity gossip website TMZ has published an immature tirade/flame war involving two of Sarah Palin’s daughters, Willow and Bristol. In it, both Palin daughters frequently exchange profanities with other posters and Willow, aged 14, uses a homophobic slur. This exchange, carried on over Facebook, was in response to a poster’s criticism of their mother’s new TLC show. The whole story would be little more than the softest of soft news, unless their mother had not set herself up to be the eventual leader of the party which claims sole rights over morality. There is a certain gotcha, gutter journalism quality to this story, in keeping with many Palin revelations, but it also fits well within the canon of what we already know about their mother.
Nov 15 2010
A year or so ago I wrote a post that referenced the Sleater-Kinney song “Sympathy”. I return to it here for a slightly different reason. Its poignant, profound lyrics are written from the perspective of a mother whose newborn son’s survival hangs in the balance. In her desperation and fear, she calls out to God.
Nov 01 2010
2010 has been granted the dubious honor as the year of the angry voter. Unfortunately, far too much of that anger has been bolstered by means of a religious appeal. Tea Party members, for example, have been quick to justify what they believe by using pseudo-intellectual, reductionist conceptions of Christianity. A quick survey of signs held aloft at rallies will find many who display pure hatred, then cite a verse of Scripture at the bottom. One sees this also at anti-abortion rallies or those challenging same-sex marriage rights. A God which always agrees with us no matter what the issue or the circumstance is not God at all. Christianity may find more of an audience among conservatives, but the gross distortions of many continue to damage its reputation.
Oct 18 2010
Some have postulated before if there is, in fact, a strictly biological component to faith. For example, many scientists, mathematicians, and left-brain dominant individuals are Atheists. They see no role for a higher power, since the scientific process and deductive reasoning can reduce the unexplainable to mere coincidence or chance. To them, the universe is as neat and orderly as an algebraic equation. Taking delight and contentment in perfection, the same formula or theorem always works the same way and always produces the same result. I never doubt the constant need for people whose ways of looking at the world are so different than my own, but they also present significant challenges. Getting on the same page without confusion is not the least of these.
Oct 06 2010
The 1961 Luis Buñuel film, Viridiana, concerns the pious exploits of a young nun who lives in a small village. Meaning to do good in imitation of Jesus’ ministry, Viridiana leaves the convent and decides to take charge of the moral education of the village’s paupers. Despite her best intentions, she finds herself exploited, abused, and taken advantage of at every possible turn. Efforts undertaken to educate the village paupers in morality are an exercise in futility, a clear example of throwing pearls before swine. After the combined shock of multifarious trauma, Viridiana (Latin for Green) seemingly succumbs to the sin of the world by the film’s conclusion. Noted reviewer Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote at the time: “The theme is that well-intended charity can often be badly misplaced by innocent, pious people. Therefore, beware of charity.”
Sep 23 2010
What follows is something that has been weighing on me heavily this morning. Discussing the act of vocal ministry, a Friend noted that, while in the act of sharing a message, we aren’t just God’s mouthpiece, we are God. This makes me uncomfortable to contemplate. I would never wish to even come close to hinting that my mortal self was anything near to the Divine. While I do seek that which is God in others, I am far more comfortable emphasizing my own mortal self. Due to lots of soul-searching I know where my place is in the cosmos, and I would never grasp for a mantle that is not mine to embrace. Moreover, I would not take it on if I could, because I do not possess the human strength to bear the burden.
Sep 09 2010
One of the most famous passages in the entire biblical canon begins this way.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
And yet, wanting more, desiring more, being fearful that what we have will soon leave us, these anxieties are responsible for so much evil in the world. The myth of scarcity influences our decisions in so many ways. The reality is that we live in a world packed full of abundance, both for good and for bad. And yet, when we believe otherwise, then we respond in ways that are frequently irrational and rarely beneficial. Leaders have a knack for making the nonsensical seem plausible and justified, appealing to the worst parts of ourselves. When we are obsessed with our own demise rather than delighting in the gifts laid before us, we neglect an opportunity to build community with others. This conflict is so integral to the human condition that one can see examples of it everywhere, especially where power and acquisition are of paramount importance.