Monthly Archives: January 2012

Pious and Stoic

Larry Tanner responds to a kitschy graphic being passed around on Facebook depicting a beautiful cherub of a girl praying for a solution to such little-girl concerns as high gas prices, low employment, and separation of church and state.

Then let me be serious and straightforward: go away with your fake prayers and your god-bothering. You want America’s problems to disappear magically. You want it all fixed, but without any cost to you or your friends. Most of all, you want to appear pious and stoic.

via Textuality: Inspiration? No, Thanks..

It is somewhat ironic that some adult, pondering this array of real world grown-up concerns, didn’t put any effort into working for a read solution but instead created a graphic of a child asking someone else to do any real work that might be necessary.

Gods Made The First Humans From Scratch

Pete Enns writes that the Genesis creation account wasn’t written at the creation of the world, but during the creation of the Israelite people. It’s purpose therefore wasn’t to break scientific ground on the question, “How did people get here,” but instead on the social, cultural and political question, “How did we get here as a people?”:

Ancient peoples assumed that somewhere in the distant past, near the beginning of time, the gods made the first humans from scratch — an understandable conclusion to draw. They wrote stories about “the beginning,” however, not to lecture their people on the abstract question “Where do humans come from?” They were storytellers, drawing on cultural traditions, writing about the religious — and often political — beliefs of the people of their own time.

Their creation stories were more like a warm-up to get to the main event: them. Their stories were all about who they were, where they came from, what their gods thought of them and, therefore, what made them better than other peoples.

Likewise, Israel’s story was written to say something about their place in the world and the God they worshiped.

via Pete Enns: Once More, With Feeling: Adam, Evolution and Evangelicals.

Indubitably True Systematic Theology

Natalie on the troubles of biblical inerrancy, quoting from Christian Smith’s book “The Bible Made Impossible”:

Genesis 1-2 is an excellent example.  What was the intended effect of the written words of these chapters?  Was it to convey to the reader that the Yahweh God created a good world with his power?  Or was it to communicate a literal scientific account about the precise method and time period of the creation of the world?  Was it to banish rival pagan narratives of the earth’s origins?  Or, anachronistically, was it to motivate followers of the Yahweh God to mobilize against teaching evolution in schools?

To impose our categories of literalism and factual accuracy onto a rich, ancient text disrespects the intended effect of Scripture’s written words.  Inerrancy forces the Bible to look like a collection of “error-free propositions with which to construct indubitably true systematic theologies[.]”  But the living God of the Bible “actively promises, confronts, beckons, comforts, invites, commands, explains, encourages,” and more.  

Emphasis in original.

via Inerrancy is weak – Natalie’s Narrative.

Update Your Crosses

Richard Beck has a wonderful meditation about the cross of Jesus and how we should keep it from becoming merely an ornament to adorn our churches and necklaces. He recalls other means of execution where humanity brings down its curses upon the weak, specifically the death of Matthew Shepard tied to a fence in Wyoming and black men lynched in the Jim Crow south. I can’t do it justice in summary; it’s very moving.

Experimental Theology: The Fence of Matthew Shepard.


Civil vs. Individual Liberties

The Slacktivist with more thoughts on Ron Paul’s view of liberties, in which a distinction is made between individual and civil liberties.

If you believe in civil liberties, then you will believe that things like the Civil Rights Act, DADT repeal, marriage equality, hate-crime protections, Ledbetter, etc., are necessary and vital to ensure than non-majority individuals will experience some measure of the freedoms that the powerful enjoy. If you believe only in individual liberties, then you’ll oppose all such measures as Big Government meddling that restricts individual freedom (including the freedom to discriminate).

If you believe only in individual liberty, you can even find yourself in the absurd position of defending the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision as some kind of principled defense of the freedom of speech. If you believe in civil liberties, then in your view that decision is clearly one that gives free rein to the powerful to exercise their rights against the powerless, and thus you will believe that government action is justified to protect the rights of the powerless from being trampled by the powerful.

The basic distinction is that an advocate of individual liberty mainly perceives of the government as a potential threat to individual liberty, whereas an advocate of civil liberty also sees a vital role for the government in constraining the liberty of the powerful to inhibit the liberty of the powerless. The two perspectives overlap quite a bit — both would agree, for example, that torture and indefinite detention by the government are utterly unacceptable — but they also diverge far too dramatically to be used as interchangeable terms.

via slacktivist » Civil liberties for (powerful) individuals.

Abandoned to Face These Risks Alone

Harold Pollack on Libertarianism’s laser focus on government power:

Libertarians deserve credit for noting abuses of government power and for criticizing oversteps such as the drug war. Of course, there’s nothing distinctively libertarian about these specific concerns, which are standard fare among liberal Democrats. The federal government indeed poses worrisome threats to individual liberty. Libertarians err if they presume that federal power is the only or always the most concerning of these threats. Local governments, corporations, intolerant majorities can pose equally worrisome threats, too. There’s just more to fear in this world than are dreamt of in libertarian philosophy.

There is something else, too. Each of us faces risks that would easily crush any one of us, if we were abandoned to face these risks alone. We need to take care of each other. If you don’t believe that, you don’t belong on the stage in American politics.

via Ron Paul’s other 1964 (okay 1965) problem « The Reality-Based Community.

Men Are The Victims Of Women

I remember a discussion at a Christian men’s fellowship group one time where someone listed off a bunch of things they didn’t like about church and stated that it was all caused by the church becoming “feminized.” Hymns with militant language gave way to worship chorus “romance songs,” etc.

I think that Ed C. provides a good response to such an objection.

If we do have a problem with men not getting involved in the church, we at least don’t have a “feminine” church problem. We have men with a Holy Spirit problem. …I’m saying that we can’t blame women for becoming so involved in the church—as if men are the victims of women initiating a takeover of some sort where they prod pastors to do their bidding.

If we are going to have balanced congregations where men and women serve together in a relatively equal manner, our only hope is the leadership of the Spirit, not some vague notion of men becoming more manly or women somehow becoming less feminine.

via Does the Church Have a “Man” Crisis? | :: in.a.mirror.dimly ::.

Realist Positions on Moral Questions

We need to be realists because we cannot trust ourselves to be moralists.

That’s the slacktivist quoting Louis Menand summing up Reinhold Neibuhr’s theology. It puts me in mind of the folks who won’t get their kids immunized against HPV because they think it will be seen as “giving permission” for the kids to have sex. They’re arguing from a moralist position; their children will more than likely take a realist position towards having sex. That’s why I think parents should take a realist position on immunization.

via slacktivist » Church bulletin announcements.

Wear that Tomorrow

The Slacktivist has a good post about living the gospel in light of American materialism. In particular, he presents a “wear it tomorrow” rule to help us decide which articles of clothing we probably could stand to part with:

When in doubt, try the next-day rule. Set it aside and say, out loud, “I’m going to wear this tomorrow.” If hearing yourself say this doesn’t produce an immediate sense of enthusiasm over the prospect, then get rid of it.

via slacktivist » Spring cleaning in late December.