began posting long exerts from a conversation that had recently taken place between Anne Rice, myself, and several other people, on an Amazon forum. Here's Part III of the conversation. It rambles a bit, and may be hard to follow at times -- topics change abruptly, and focusing on the dialogue between Rice and myself, I unfairly cut other posters out, yet sometimes refer to their comments. Still, I think readers will find a lot of interesting stuff here: a snapshot of a mind in the continued process of seeking. Throughout much of this part of the conversation, I am trying to draw Rice into a dialogue, which she resists, for reasons she evantually gives. Towards the end, while still in marked disagreement on many subjects, we can at least wish one another a Happy Thanksgiving. But more political disagreement follows, a little more storm before final calm.
Anne Rice: One reason I started this thread: I see the moral battle today as a battle against revealed religions. I see people everywhere favoring family values and individual rights against the dark and immoral forces of religions. And I feel strongly that the concept of Jesus, the person of Jesus, belongs to those fighting religion today as surely as He ever belonged to any religious group. He is in fact not the property of anyone.
We can reclaim Jesus from the moribund theologies of the past, the dark disease of atonement theory, total depravity, hellfire etc.
We can reclaim him from the foundational documents of the very churches that used Him to enforce immorality for centuries.
The real battle is a moral one. We must fight the immorality of those who claim to own Jesus and own the Bible and own the "source" of morality, as they preach immorality everywhere.
It takes courage to be moral, but it does not take genius.
Morality is rooted in family values, in love of one's neighbor, in the support of just and enforceable laws, in the support of a humane justice system. It is rooted in the lives we live.
It has never been something abstract belonging to a moribund clergy who are indifferent to the death of children by starvation and neglect, indifferent to the killing of gays by rabid mobs in Africa, or indifferent to the dying of women in Catholic hospitals at the hands of doctors who will not intervene to save their lives as long as they detect a fetal heartbeat.
But it does take courage to say so, to speak up to corruption, to stop calling religion "good" when it is in fact bad, to stop believing that the bible is a guide to behavior when it is a book that sanctions slavery, murder, the abuse of women and the morbid idea that the world is going to end any minute.
Courage. That's what we need to hasten the demise of revealed religions,as a new and beautiful embrace of Jesus becomes possible.
DM: "To stop believing that the bible is a guide to behavior when it is a book that sanctions slavery, murder, the abuse of women and the morbid idea that the world is going to end any minute."
I'm not an inerracist: for Christians, the Bible should be interpreted through Jesus, not in a vacuum. But it's peculiar to set Jesus against the Bible, as Anne seems to do, here. Especially since she was complaining, a little while ago, that Christians supposedly dismiss the wonderful, beautiful, Jewish religion -- which gave us that Bible. She seems rather conflicted.
But it seems that in fact, nothing has done more to undermine slavery than the Bible:
And if you follow (my) detailed series of blogs entitled, "How Jesus has liberated women," it is clear that the liberation Jesus brings begins with the Gospels themselves, which are our only access to him, historically.
No doubt the Bible is complex, and its influence and the Christian tradition more complex, still. No doubt reforms were and still are needed. But Anne seems to be having a very difficult time separating baby from bathwater, here.
AR: This is from the website, Shattered Paradigm:
A Brief History of "Roman Catholic" Anti-Semitism
Year 306: The Roman Catholic Church's "Synod of Elvira" banned marriages and all contact between Christians and Jews.
Year 315: Constantine made Christianity the "state" religion. His Edict of Milan extended religious tolerance to Christians, but Jews lost many of their rights. The edict also declared that Jews were no longer allowed to live in Jerusalem.
Year 325: The Council of Nicea separated the celebration of Easter from the Jewish Passover. Its subsequent edict stated, "For it is unbecoming beyond measure that on this holiest of festivals we should follow the customs of the Jews. Henceforth let us have nothing in common with this odious people... We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with Jews... our worship follows a ... more convenient course ... we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews ... How, then, could we follow these Jews, who are almost certainly blinded."
(Remember what Genesis 12:3 says about the consequences of cursing the Jewish people.)
Year 337: Emperor Constantius made the marriage of a Jewish man to a Christian punishable by death.
Year 339: Converting to Judaism became a criminal offense.
Year 343-381: The Laodicean Synod approved Cannon XXXVIII: "It is not lawful [for Christians] to receive unleavened bread from the Jews, nor to be partakers of their impiety."
Year 367-376: St. Hillary of Poitiers referred to Jews as a perverse people whom God has cursed forever. St. Ephroem refers to synagogues as brothels.
Year 379-395: Emperor Theodosius the Great permitted the destruction of synagogues if it served a "religious purpose." Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire at this time.
Year 380: The Bishop of Milan was responsible for the burning of a synagogue; he referred to it as "an act pleasing to God."
Year 415: St. Augustine wrote, "The true image of the Hebrew is Judas Iscariot, who sells the Lord for silver. The Jew can never understand the scriptures and forever will bear the guilt for the death of Jesus."
Year 418: St. Jerome, who created the Vulgate translation of the Bible, wrote of a synagogue: "If you call it a brothel, a den of vice, the devil's refuge, Satan's fortress, a place to deprave the soul, an abyss of every conceivable disaster or whatever you will, you are still saying less than it deserves."
Year 489-519: Christian mobs destroyed the synagogues in Antioch, Daphne (near Antioch) and Ravenna.
Year 535: The Synod of Claremont decreed that Jews could not hold public office or have authority over Christians.
Year 538: The Third and fourth Councils of Orleans prohibited Jews from appearing in public during the Easter season. Cannon XXX decreed that "from the Thursday before Easter for four days, Jews may not appear in the company of Christians." Marriages between Christians and Jews were prohibited.
Year 561: The Bishop of Uzes expelled Jews from his diocese in France.
Year 613: Jews were given the options of either leaving Spain or converting to Christianity. Jewish children over six years of age were taken from their parents and given a Christian education.
Year 692: Cannon II of the Quinisext Council stated: "Let no one in the priestly order nor any layman eat the unleavened bread of the Jews, nor have any familiar intercourse with them, nor summon them in illness, nor receive medicines from them, nor bathe with them; but if anyone shall take in hand to do so, if he is a cleric, let him be deposed, but if a layman, let him be cut off."
Year 694: At the Seventeenth Council of Toledo, Spain defined Jews as the serfs of the prince. This was based, in part, on the beliefs of Chrysostom, Origen, Jerome, and other Church Fathers, i.e. that God punished the Jews with perpetual slavery because of their responsibility for the execution of Jesus.
Year 722: Leo III outlawed Judaism; Jews were baptized against their will.
Year 1050: The Synod of Narbonne prohibited Christians from living in the homes of Jews.
Year 1078: Pope Gregory VII decreed that Jews could not hold office or be superiors to Christians.
Year 1078: The Synod of Gerona forced Jews to pay church taxes.
Year 1096: The First Crusade was launched. As the soldiers passed through Europe on the way to the Holy Land, large numbers of Jews were challenged: "Christ-killers, embrace the cross or die!" In the Rhine Valley alone, 12,000 Jews were killed in the First Crusade.
Year 1099: The Crusaders forced all of the Jews of Jerusalem into a central synagogue and set it on fire. Those who tried to escape were forced back into the burning building.
Year 1205: Pope Innocent III wrote to the archbishops of Sens and Paris that "the Jews, by their own guilt, are consigned to perpetual servitude because they crucified the Lord ... As slaves rejected by God, in whose death they wickedly conspired, they shall by the effect of this very action, recognize themselves as the slaves of those whom Christ's death set free ..."
Year 1227: The Synod of Narbonne required Jews to wear an oval badge, a requirement re-instituted during the 1930s by Hitler, who changed the oval badge to a Star of David.
Year 1233: The Medieval Inquisition began. Later, in 1252, Pope Innocent IV authorized the use of torture by the Inquisitors.
Year 1236: Pope Gregory ordered that church leaders in England, France, Portugal and Spain confiscate Jewish books on the first Saturday of Lent. In 1242, thousands of such books were publicly burned in Paris.
Year 1259: A synod of the archdiocese in Mainz (Germany) ordered Jews to wear yellow badges.
Year 1267: The Synod of Vienna ordered Jews to wear horned hats. Thomas Aquinas said that Jews should live in perpetual servitude.
Year 1347: Rumors circulated that Satan was protecting the Jews from the Black Death and that they were paying back the devil by poisoning wells used by Christians. (A smaller percentage of Jews than Christians caught the disease; Jewish sanitary and dietary laws probably had protected them.) The solution was to torture, murder and burn the Jews.
In Bavaria, 12,000 Jews perished; in the small town of Erfurt, 3,000; in Rue Brul'ee, 2000 Jews. Near Tours, a large trench was dug and filled with blazing wood; in a single day, 160 Jews were burned. In Strausberg, 2,000 Jews were burned; in Maintz, 6,000 were killed; in Worms, 400.
Year 1431: The Council of Basel forbade Jews to go to universities, prohibited them from acting as agents in the conclusion of contracts between Christians, and required that they attend church sermons.
Year 1453: Capistrano, a Franciscan monk, persuaded the King of Poland to terminate all Jewish civil rights.
Year 1478: The Spanish Inquisition was established by Ferdinand And Isabella of Spain to detect insincere conversions. Laws were passed that prohibited the descendants of Jews from attending university, joining religious orders, holding public office, or entering any of a long list of professions.
Year 1492: Jews were given the choice of being baptized as Christians or banished from Spain. Three hundred thousand left Spain penniless.
Year 1497: Jews were banished from Portugal; twenty thousand left the country rather than be baptized as Christians.
Year 1555: A Roman Catholic Papal bull, "Cum Nimis Absurdum" required Jews to wear badges, and live in ghettos. They were not allowed to own property outside the ghetto.
DM: I see a problem right away. Christianity did not become the "state religion" in 315. One worries about a historical time-line that gets that wrong.
AR: The problem of rescuing Jesus from the immorality of much of Christianity is enormous simply because it has been so easy over the centuries for just about anyone to highjack Jesus for persecution or hatred. The original texts, being filled with contradictory passages, make this sort of thing very easy.
On the one hand, Jesus says take a sword to the Garden of Olives, in another place he preaches "love your enemies." In one place he says, "I come not to bring peace but a sword," and in another he says, "Blessed are the meek." In one place He says He came to draw all to Himself, in another he says the way is narrow, etc.
And so forth and so on it goes.
So religionists have never had much of a problem finding Scriptural passages to justify persecution, blatant cruelty, torture, bloody execution, or war.
How can Jesus be rescued from all this?
Frankly, I don't know.
The only way I see to do it, based on what I've learned in the last 12 years, is to question the foundational documents.
Begin by being frank about their contradictions.
Really scrutinize the passages being used to justify violence or bigotry.
But this is certainly not going to be easy. And I'm not particularly optimistic about it. We can all pray to the Jesus in whom we personally believe. Maybe that is what everybody does. And what everybody has always done.
Maybe it is religion that cannot be rescued from immorality and immoral theologies. Not Jesus.
Maybe it's a matter not of rescuing Jesus but of finding Him. And the text has never been the way. Surely the text of the N.T. is the fullest primary source of info about Jesus; but it is a dangerous and deeply flawed collection of documents. And one must approach it with discernment and caution.
In the meantime, I think every conscientious person can stand up to religion when religion teaches immorality and promotes cruelty, bigotry, persecution, etc. That is our moral obligation.
DM: There is such a thing as a main point. The NT emphasizes love hundreds of times. The sword passage is an anomaly, and so obviously should be taken as (a) practical self-defense traveling across a dangerous environment, see Paul's troubles as a missionary in II Corinthians, for example; (b) a symbolic reminder of the fact, also proven empirically, that preaching the Gospel will instigate opposition. (Though how to respond to that opposition is given in numerous places, turn the other cheek, etc.) (c) There is a time for everything, including both armed opposition to evil, and disarming evil through gentleness. Both can be observed in Jesus' life: there is no conflict between the two.
Life being complex, I see no difficulty in finding complexity and ambiguity in Christian moral teachings, nor does it need to be easy to figure out how and when to apply them.
AR: I think one of the most dangerous things about Christianity is --- how easy it is for someone to project onto "Jesus" what they want him to be and do for them. We see this all the time in these threads. "Jesus" has become for these Christians, a buddy, a friend, a savior, a person who uplifts them and helps them to stop sinning, the meaning of life, the light in the darkness et al.
This would be fine in itself if embracing "this figure" without any psychological distance or self criticism didn't lead to so much bigotry, hatred and aggression towards others.
Christians in America right now are really pushing against the separation of Church and State. They have so damaged the Republican Party in the last few years that the present slate of candidates is a joke. They are pushing to teach their "intelligent design" theories in schools, or out and out "creationism," seeking to stop American women from getting contraceptive medicine, and even seeking to deny American women life saving abortions.
They are spending millions to persecute Gay Americans and to spread lies about Gay Americans.
In some cases, they want to right to beat an infant with a switch because of the writings of Michael and Debi Pearl and their insistence that their methods in "How to Train Up a Child" are biblical. (Three deaths have been connected to the Pearls' book).
They home school their kids which raises some serious questions about what is actually happening with those kids. They are engaged in a culture war with traditional American humanism, American tradition, and American values. They aren't winning really. But they are doing a lot of harm. And all of us have to be vigilant against them and what they are doing.
They are a real threat in America today.
DM: You're really being unfair, again.
"Christians in America right now are really pushing against the separation of Church and State."
Which "Christians?" All of us? Most of us? A few wing-nuts? And what do you mean, "separation of Church and State?" Where do you find this formulation in the Constitution, and if you don't, why do you cite it as if it were an authoritative motto?
Some Christians are actively involved in politics, on both sides. Does that trouble you, for some reason? Do you think America would be a better place if Christians had not mixed in politics for the past 400 years? (One of the slogans of the American revolution was "no king but King Jesus." Should those patriots have stayed home?)
"They have so damaged the Republican Party in the last few years that the present slate of candidates is a joke."
The frontrunners are Mitt Romney, a Mormon who was elected governor and proved effective at it in America's most liberal state, Newt Gingrich, a history prof who served as Speaker of the House and seemed to accomplish quite a bit there, and a businessman who turned several companies around and brings a positive, boyant attitude to leadership. Which of them is less qualified than the Democratic candidate four years ago, to run the US government, and why?
"They are pushing to teach their "intelligent design" theories in schools, or out and out "creationism."
I have subbed in many classrooms, and have seen no such thing. I HAVE seen left-wing propaganda about US history and world religions, anti-Christian propaganda, and Al Gore's ridiculous AGW propaganda flick. Your fire is, again, highly selective.
"seeking to stop American women from getting contraceptive medicine, and even seeking to deny American women life saving abortions . . . In some cases, they want to right to beat an infant with a switch because of the writings of Michael and Debi Pearl and their insistence that their methods in "How to Train Up a Child" are biblical."
So killing millions of infants, including some five minutes before birth, is cool, protected by the Constitution, and righteous, but if some idiot somewhere spanks the same infant a few months later, he stigmatizes the same Church that fights against the killing of that infant a little while earlier?
Anne, you really need to try a little harder at being fair.
AR: I have nothing to add, David. Thank you for your response.
DM: Yes, I know you won't engage me or defend your more outlandish assertions against my criticism. Blessings on you, anyway: I do appreciate you.
AR: No, I won't engage you. You're too unpleasant. And you won't take responsibility for your own ignorance.
I should not have to tell you that you can find online any number of newspaper articles about the matter of Intelligent design and groups who have pressured to have this taught in public school class rooms. You ought to know this. You ought to know a lot more about a lot of things.
Your education is your responsibility. Your remarks about women, contraception, abortion et al are flippant, arrogant, ugly.
You come off here as pompous.
You do not deserve serious engagement.
DM: Philip, et a: I haven't seen any of Anne's posts that I think should be deleted. I think Amazon probably has some software that deletes some stuff automatically, or in response to complaints. I never swear, threaten violence, or do much harm to Amazon guidelines, but I've been occasionally deleted, too. It would be pretty hard to manage all the comments in these forums without taking a few shortcuts. I think they try their best, and usually do pretty well, all in all.
DM: You call me "ignorant" because I address your comments about ID in schools by pointing out the heavy anti-Christian or anti-conservative bias I myself have seen in schools in which I have personally taught? This is a strange way to respond to direct, eyewitness testimony.
As for "unpleasant," considering the nasty comments you repeatedly make about Christians in this forum, and about Christianity, and my relatively mild response to them ("please be fair"), I have to say I think this looks like projecting. In this case, for instance, I say "I appreciate you," then say I don't think Amazon should have deleted any of your comments, and you cast stupid aspersions on my education and character in response. I have been far kinder, and fairer, to you than you have been to me, or to Christians in general. (And my skepticism about your claims is not, your silly pretense to the contrary, because I am poorly educated.)
Nor is there anything the slightest bit "flippant" in my remarks about partial birth abortion. If you slander conservative Christians in general on the basis of some idiot who thinks we should spank babies, do you speak out against liberals of all sorts who think we should kill the same babies five minutes before birth -- and have done so? We are comparing crimes that are orders of magnitude worse. Please take the beam out of your own eye first, Ma'am.
I think the record of our interactions suggests a very different explanation for your refusal to engage my arguments: you can't. In some cases, you know in your heart that your comments have jumped the tracks. I get the impression you may be struggling within yourself against the very bigotry and injustice you rightly declaim elsewhere. That reality may, indeed, be "unpleasant" to you. Sorry if I misread you on this, but you're kind of wearing your heart on your sleave, here.
AR: I still believe in a God who can hold all of it in his Mind. I believe this.
I can't deny it. But I certainly can't prove to anyone that such a God exists.
I believe in a God for whom nothing is impossible. And I hope that when we die we will have the answers we have sought in vain in this life.
AR: Mark, what really finally undid me was simply the bible. I was devoted to the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount, the Jesus who says from the Cross, "Father, forgive them...." But this is only one Jesus that can be drawn from Scripture, only one. And the more I read the bible and the more I studied it, and the more I made it part of my life, the less I could ignore the passages that jarred so violently with the Sermon on the Mount, and the less I could ignore the Jesus of the Gospel of John arguing with the Jews in the temple, telling them their father is the devil, a murderer from the beginning, etc. Or the Jesus who was so harsh with the Canaanite woman; or the Jesus who cursed the fig tree; or the Jesus who said that not one stone would be left unturned (we know now that a substantial part of the temple foundation was not destroyed down to the last stone and is in fact the Wall in Jerusalem that I have personally visited twice.)
Oh, I know all the standard commentary on just about every passage. I've read it over and over, from brilliant believers like Craig S. Keener to D.A. Carson to N.T. Wright and on and on through the nasty critics, etc. But in the end, based on the bible, I can't make sense of Jesus.
Not at all. I can only embrace and love the Son of God as the being who gave us the Sermon on the Mount, and said to all, without reservation: This is my Body; this is my Blood.
It gives me chills when I read the passage in John where He says that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, etc. It gives me chills and I feel almost transported when I contemplate those words.
But I cannot believe at all in a Catholic Jesus who supposedly founded a male priesthood of anointed men with special powers passed on by the laying on of hands --- the only ones supposedly who could work the "Transubstantion" et al. I can't believe this at all.
Year after year I went to Communion in Catholic churches, loving it, loving the whole congregation united in this ritual in which we focused entirely on taking Christ into ourselves, in being with Him in this unique and beautiful way, without words, beyond words.
But in my heart of hearts, I no longer believed you needed an anointed priest to preside over such a ritual! Preposterous. Two old women in the desert could celebrate the Lord's supper. Or two children in a burnt out city. or any group coming together in His name.
And I cannot believe in the Protestant Jesus who believes that faith alone is all that matters, not after reading Matthew 25, or the Protestant Jesus who damns billions to Hell for their "unbelief." This is horrible. But the kind, loving and "judge not" Jesus is just a cliche as well.
I have to confess my Jesus is just a partial Jesus based on some of the texts --- those that move me and speak to me, and take root in my soul, and change my life day in and day out. And frankly, I don't know anybody else who's Jesus is any more than that either, no matter how they protest.
I love Him and but I can't give a coherent argument for why the other texts aren't valid, or historical,or accurate, except that I can't accept them. And that's what everybody does who picks and chooses, everybody!
And so what am I left with: the same thing so many many others are left with: the Jesus they can understand.
DM: I respect your comments in this post, though I have more confidence in the gospels than you seem to. Here, you seem to be talking from the heart, and most of what you say seems fair. Though I would like to comment on some of it:
"But I cannot believe at all in a Catholic Jesus who supposedly founded a male priesthood of anointed men with special powers passed on by the laying on of hands --- the only ones supposedly who could work the "Transubstantion" et al. I can't believe this at all."
Not being a Catholic, I don't place a lot of stress on either. Though I would argue, indeed have argued at length, that the Gospel has brought liberation to women more than anything else in human history (please follow this series of six threads [cited above] for the full argument).
"Two old women in the desert could celebrate the Lord's supper."
"And I cannot believe in the Protestant Jesus who believes that faith alone is all that matters, not after reading Matthew 25, or the Protestant Jesus who damns billions to Hell for their "unbelief."
And as a "Protestant," I happen to agree with you fully! In seminary, I went through the NT verse by verse, and came to the conclusion that much of Reformation thinking on this subject was just wrong. And I am not afraid to argue that in Protestant churches where I speak; nor do many people there seem to take me for a heretic, which of course I am not.
"But the kind, loving and "judge not" Jesus is just a cliche as well."
A cliche, but a true cliche. Check a standard concordance, and you'll find hundreds of references to "love" in the NT. No more than miracles, this really can't be expunged from the NT.
"I love Him and but I can't give a coherent argument for why the other texts aren't valid, or historical,or accurate, except that I can't accept them. And that's what everybody does who picks and chooses, everybody! And so what am I left with: the same thing so many many others are left with: the Jesus they can understand."
This, too, seems honest, and is well-said. I am writing a book on the gospels right now, in which I will try to explain the historical, as well as emotional, validity of such subjective senses of meeting Jesus there.
AR: Here is more quoted material from Phil Zuckerman's excellent article, WHY EVANGELICALS HATE JESUS.
I urge all here to google the entire article online. Easy to do. Here's the quoted material:
"And this is nothing new. At the end of World War I, the more rabid, and often less educated Evangelicals decried the influence of the Social Gospel amongst liberal churches. According to these self-proclaimed torch-bearers of a religion born in the Middle East, progressive church-goers had been infected by foreign ideas such as German Rationalism, Soviet-style Communism, and, of course, atheistic Darwinism. In the 1950s, the anti-Social Gospel message piggybacked the rhetoric of anti-communism, which slashed and burned its way through the Old South and onward through the Sunbelt, turning liberal churches into vacant lots along the way. It was here that the spirit and the body collided, leaving us with a prototypical Christian nationalist, hell-bent on prosperity. Charity was thus rebranded as collectivism and self-denial gave way to the gospel of accumulation. Church-to-church, sermon-to-sermon, evangelical preachers grew less comfortable with the fish and loaves Jesus who lived on earth, and more committed to the angry Jesus of the future. By the 1990s, this divine Terminator gained "most-favored Jesus status" among America's mega churches; and with that, even the mention of the former "social justice" Messiah drove the socially conscious from their larger, meaner flock.
"In addition to such historical developments, there may very well simply be an underlying, all-too-human social-psychological process at root, one that probably plays itself out among all religious individuals: they see in their religion what they want to see, and deny or despise the rest. That is, religion is one big Rorschach test. People look at the content of their religious tradition -- its teachings, its creeds, its prophet's proclamations -- and they basically pick and choose what suits their own secular outlook. They see in their faith what they want to see as they live their daily lives, and simultaneously ignore the rest. And as is the case for most White Evangelical Christians, what they are ignoring is actually the very heart and soul of Jesus's message -- a message that emphasizes sharing, not greed. Peace-making, not war-mongering. Love, not violence.
"Of course, conservative Americans have every right to support corporate greed, militarism, gun possession, and the death penalty, and to oppose welfare, food stamps, health care for those in need, etc. -- it is just strange and contradictory when they claim these positions as somehow "Christian." They aren't."
DM: "According to these self-proclaimed torch-bearers of a religion born in the Middle East, progressive church-goers had been infected by foreign ideas such as German Rationalism, Soviet-style Communism, and, of course, atheistic Darwinism."
Funny, some of those are the same complaints Richard Wurmbrand, the Jewish Lutheran pastor and philosopher made from a prison cell in Romania. Also Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the great Russian Nobel-Prize winning historian of the Gulag.
"Charity was thus rebranded as collectivism and self-denial gave way to the gospel of accumulation. Church-to-church, sermon-to-sermon, evangelical preachers grew less comfortable with the fish and loaves Jesus who lived on earth, and more committed to the angry Jesus of the future. By the 1990s, this divine Terminator gained "most-favored Jesus status" among America's mega churches; and with that, even the mention of the former "social justice" Messiah drove the socially conscious from their larger, meaner flock."
What a stupid thing it is, to generalize about "megachurches." It is like announcing, "I know nothing whatsoever about the subject I am about to pontificate on."
Megachurch designates a CHURCH SIZE, and no more. (Note: Hartford Institute for Religion Research finds 1600 Protestant churches that average at least 2000 in attendance. They are of many denominations, theologies, races, and emphasizes – I know this, from having visited the websites of more than half, and having visited or spoken in some of those churches.) Many large churches are highly conscious of the need to help the poor, and do so, as I have seen. Others fit Zuckermann's stereotype more closely.
"Religion is one big Rorschach test . . . And as is the case for most White Evangelical Christians, what they are ignoring is actually the very heart and soul of Jesus's message -- a message that emphasizes sharing, not greed. Peace-making, not war-mongering. Love, not violence."
Clearly, Zuckermann was talking about himself, when it comes to Rorschach tests. Neither life nor the gospel is so simple as "love, not violence," or any such slogans. Jesus didn't talk like the back bumper of a Volvo: he recognized the actual complexity of life.
"Of course, conservative Americans have every right to support corporate greed, militarism, gun possession, and the death penalty, and to oppose welfare, food stamps, health care for those in need, etc. -- it is just strange and contradictory when they claim these positions as somehow "Christian."
Life is so simple for one such as Zuckerman. What is "supporting corporate greed" supposed to mean? Do we do that by buying a Big Mac at Mcdonalds? He does not seem to dare to actually think, and therefore express his thought in anything but the most vacuous liberal slogans. All political choices are clear and obvious, and people who disagree with him are obviously not only wrong, but immoral.
I might agree with some of Zuckermann's specific proposals, if he made any. And I do recognize a danger of wedding American democratic tradition, including yes the 2nd Amendment, too closely to the Christian faith. But his apparent tendency to see political and social choices in such stark, simple, black-and-white shades, and demonize those who disagree with him, I find both troubling and repellent.
AR: Phil ZuckermanProfessor of Sociology, Pitzer College in Claremont, CA.
Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus
Posted: 03/ 3/11 10:06 AM ET
This article was co-authored by Dan Cady is an assistant professor of history at California State University, Fresno. He publishes on the history of the American West, music, and religion.
"The results from a recent poll published by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life(http://www.pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/Tea-Party-and-Religion.aspx) reveal what social scientists have known for a long time: White Evangelical Christians are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus. It is perhaps one of the strangest, most dumb-founding ironies in contemporary American culture. Evangelical Christians, who most fiercely proclaim to have a personal relationship with Christ, who most confidently declare their belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, who go to church on a regular basis, pray daily, listen to Christian music, and place God and His Only Begotten Son at the center of their lives, are simultaneously the very people most likely to reject his teachings and despise his radical message."
DM: "White Evangelical Christians are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus."
Because Jesus was a Democrat, as proven by the fact that he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Buddha was a Republican, because he road an elephant -- until he was enlightened. :- )
Anne, honestly, I've read so many left-wing interpretations of Jesus, they become a blur of caricatures, after a while. What most people don't realize is that the inspiration for the Jesus Seminar was more political than religious or historical. Funk makes this clear in his Honest to Jesus, as do other Jesus Seminar fellows at various times. In fact, I have a friend who was invited by Funk to join the seminar, whose views are fairly evangelical, exegetically, but who is politically liberal.
This is another way of expressing what I said earlier. It seems that conservatives find it easier to say to liberals, "You're wrong, but I understand and respect your motives," than the other way around. Perhaps if you came to realize that we really and truly believe Big Government harms the poor, you would consider our reasoning on the issue, rather than just questioning our motives, and end up (who knows?) changing your own mind a little.
Have you ever read Arthur Brooks?
DM: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I'm thankful that it finally stopped raining, three days after getting off the airplane here in Seattle . . . I'd better go running quick, I see a big new system moving in on radar, across the Olympics and from Vancouver Island. Need to make room for all that pumpkin pie! (Grew some nice little sugar pumpkins this year. My wife may also make one blackberry pie, from my stash in the freezer. When it comes to frozen produce, though, I'm most thankful of all for the mountain blueberries, picked in September and early October at the 5000 foot level, from a clearcut area, big, fat, sweet, and juicy, also anti-oxidant and ready to hop into muffins and pancakes on notice.)
AR: Happy Thanksgiving to you David, and to everyone here. It is a beautiful sunny day here in the California valley where I live. And we will be having our family feast with good friends, early in the afternoon.
I am truly thankful for so very much in this world. I am brimming with gratitude. And this day always makes me especially grateful for my family and my friends.
If anyone wants a sticky delicious old fashioned Southern Ambrosia, here's the way my mother-in-law makes it:
Get canned fruit cocktail and canned mandarin orange slices;
Chill them in the refrigerator. Open and drain.
Mix with heavy cream (whipping cream) that has not been whipped, and add sugar to taste. Fold in a lot of shredded coconut which will help you get the consistency you want.
Before serving fold in lots of tiny marshmellows.
A little goes a long way especially with those who aren't from the south.
AR: Yes, you are. I have identified as a secular humanist, but for me that has never meant that I do not believe in God. I believe completely in God and in Jesus Christ. And my conversation with God is central to my life. Seeking His direction in what I do is central to my life.
What is so hard to take in this discussion thread is that for some here --- there is only one way to God, and that is their way. And often it's a very simple distinctly Protestant formula --- and I don't believe in that formula or in the theology that developed it.
And the people who do believe in it, well, they assume ---- apparently ---- that there is no other path to God, but their own. That excludes most of the people in the world, sadly. Yet that is their belief.
It's tragic really.
AR: Of course our nation works and of course we will survive the battle. That is certain. But we are in a period where the Right Wing is "Christian" and the resistance to civil rights is supposedly based on the bible, and there is a major push from Right Wing religionists to introduce biblical sharia in ways that has not been done in the past.
We have three people running for president right now who each claim to have been called by "God" to run.
The cure for intolerance is law abiding and legal resistance: not complacency ---reminding the Right Wing in no uncertain terms of the provisions of the Constitution of the United States and that this is a constitutional democracy.
Vigilance is as important to the United States of America has optimism and patriotism.
We are a work in progress. And the word "work" there is as important as the word "progress."
Tolerance has never meant putting up with religious bigotry. Quite the opposite. Catholic codes cannot be forced on a nation which includes people of all religious background. Protestant codes cannot be forced on a nation which includes people of all religious background. And "biblical warrant" for such codes is no justification for the push to translate them into law.
We arrive at our laws through reason. And the Christian Right Wing must be actively resisted through reason. And it will be, I'm quite sure.
DM: Do you really think the US Constitution forbids the people to make laws protecting the unborn? It's not the Constitution we take issue with, it's the dishonest pretense that the Constitution mandates such cruel and immoral practices as late-term abortion that causes us disgust, both for the cruelty, and for the blatant dishonesty. (And, again, hypocrisy, given that you recently also tried to stigmatize Christians because of some fruit-loop who thinks we should merely SPANK babies, not kill them.)
Christianity has almost always opposed the abuse of the helpless and the young, from the ancient Greco-Roman empire, to 19th Century Africa, India, and China, to 21st Century America.
Again, you simply refuse to consider the possibility that conservatives, and Christians, have principled reasons for maintaining their positions.
DM: Anne is sometimes kind and sometimes grossly unfair. I respect the contradictions; let's not oversimplify them.
AR: David, this statement by you is false: "Again, you simply refuse to consider the possibility that conservatives, and Christians, have principled reasons for maintaining their positions."
I have never doubted that Christians and conservatives have "principled reasons" for their positions. I have asked over and over again in this thread for tolerance and allowing others their good intentions.
There is simply no basis for this statement by you.
DM: But many of your posts DO seem to assume that we lack such principles, including the post I was responding to.
AR: David, I am more familiar with the principles of the Religious Right than I care to admit. I have never knowingly implied the Religious Right were without principles. That sort of cynicism I deplore. They must be opposed on their principles.
DM: Joe: Are you saying that Anne has the right to attack Christians on the abortion issue, but they have no right to respond? Are you saying that if Christians see the killing of the unborn as immoral, they have no right to try to prevent it? If so, I disagree.
Christians have been working to protect the oppressed for two thousand years. This work often provokes a response, as it did during the abolition movement, and even when Baptist missionary Timothy Richard encouraged railroads to central China to prevent starvation. That is part of our calling. To set aside this calling from God to help and protect "the least of these," is to betray the calling of Jesus Christ.
The Constitution says nothing that can honestly be interpreted as preventing the people from making laws against the killing of the unborn. It is not only dishonest, it is an affront to the genuine validity of the Constitution, to pretend to find such ephemeral and imaginary "rights" in the US Constitution.
No one is hiding. Attack if you like. The goal, though, is not "theological righteousness," but to protect the weak, which is one proper role of government, in the Christian conception that informed the origins of the American republican.
AR: This is one very strong point of view.
You know very well what the counter arguments are.
American women do not cease to be citizens of this country when they conceive a child. They do not sign away the right to their bodies. They do not become the chattels of the unborn.
And you are well aware of how complex these issues are. David,your posts do not come across to me as honest. They have an edge. They seem combative, designed to confuse or throw the opposition off base. I think you know perfectly well what the arguments are in this country in favor of American women having the right to control their own bodies. I think you are probably very familiar with all this.
And I think you also know that Christianity has certainly not protected the oppressed for two thousand years. The idea is patently absurd. Again, you know this. You're probably as familiar as anyone with the dark and ugly side of Christian history.
Again, your posts come across to me as deliberately combative.
DM: You focus on the side of the abortion argument that you see as the stronger, and I focus on the side that I think stronger. Why is my opinion "dishonest," when yours is often presented with no more nuance, or even less? That seems rather unfair. My comments are in response to your own initial comments, which also "have an edge," and do not much reflect the "complexity" you now admit.
Christianity certainly has protected the oppressed for 2000 years. Yes, Christians have often committed acts of oppression, too. But I would argue that in the light of human nature, oppression is more the norm, and liberation is more the radical innovation. (Not that other religions are merely oppressive, though -- the "dawn of light" suffuses almost all ideologies to some extent, as Clement of Alexandria recognized.)
My posts may sometimes appear "combative," but they are no more so than the posts to which they respond. Do you recognize that your own posts are often extremely one-sided?
DM: Stein: I don't think Anne is a "witch." She's been trying to figure some difficult issues out, and she's a little emotional in how she approaches some of them, and I disagree with her about a whole lot of things, but I think I rather like her. The Christian church can stand to have a few critics; we have nothing to worry about from anything they can dish out.
AR: Appreciated, David.
I do become impatient and I have certainly at times become emotional. Truly I am sorry for having offended people here with my shortcomings. But I love the Forum, and this thread continues to give me something every day. I've learned more here perhaps than in any other thread. I'm thankful I can come here and ask my most troubling questions, and get feedback from honest and interesting and often generous people. They have taught me much.