Arrrrgh. I’m writing about politics again. Or am I writing about religion? Here is a section from “God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck” by Southern Baptist pastor/seminary professor Russell Moore:
It’s taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined “revival” and “turning America back to God” that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.
Rather than cultivating a Christian vision of justice and the common good (which would have, by necessity, been nuanced enough to put us sometimes at odds with our political allies), we’ve relied on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads. We’ve tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political “conservatism” and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.
Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.
He hit the nail on the head. This rally was a quasi-religious and nationalistic call to morality and civil religion, but not a call to follow Jesus Christ. Many in the crowd didn’t seem to know the difference.
HT: Cranach (the blog of Gene Edward Veith)
Grace and Peace
From Yahoo! News: Noted anti-global-warming scientist reverses course.
With scientific data piling up showing that the world has reached its hottest-ever point in recorded history, global-warming skeptics are facing a high-profile defection from their ranks. Bjorn Lomborg, author of the influential tract “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” has reversed course on the urgency of global warming, and is now calling for action on “a challenge humanity must confront.”
Grace and Peace
Here’s a listing from an internet classified ad site:
Seeking Board Members for Group (Advocates for Creation Science)
A newly formed organization is seeking those who would serve on the board of directors. This organization, “Advocates of Creation Science” or “ACS” is the dream of Michael Douthat, a retired engineer. His ultimate desire is to see a “Creation Science Museum” here in St Louis. Before that can happen we must start small by promoting books and videos about the “other” theory of how life began. The religion of Darwinism has overtaken our schools and teaches our children that life came about by chance and then evolved over millions of years. Christians need to counteract the theory (“religion”) of evolution with a more logical and proven theory of Creation.
We need some conservative Christians who are willing to give a few hours of their time each month to meet and learn what we can do to change the hearts and minds of children (and others) concerning how the world came about and how science and creation are NOT in conflict. If interested, please send an email as seen above. Please pray and ask God if you should get involved!
These creation museums seem to be fruitful and multiplying, which is a trend that I don’t think is good for the church or for evangelism. People do come to Christ through these places, and I am thankful for that, just as Paul was thankful for those who preached Christ even with questionable motives (Phil 1:15-18). However, I am not sure that the end of evangelism and discipleship justifies the means of using questionable arguments in defense of the Bible.
On a related topic, I do want to make the trip to the creation museum in Kentucky some time while I live in Missouri.
Grace and Peace
Yesterday, I quoted “A Crunchy-Con Manifesto” from the book Crunchy Cons, by Rod Dreher. I won’t say too much about most of the book: the chapters on consumerism, food, education, and so forth. I do want to spend a bit of time taking a closer look at the chapter on the environment.
Dreher starts with his experiences with his father on hunting trips in Louisiana. His father’s group of hunting buddies were avid conservationists: they had deep respect for the animals they were hunting, as well as the land those animals lived in. At times, they were joined by big-city politicians and attorneys who did not share those values. I can picture the type: shooting stop signs, poaching, leaving half the carcass on a hill side. These big-city guys would likely be political conservatives, but they could have been liberals as well.
As a writer for the conservative magazine National Review, Dreher had common stereotypes of environmentalists: tree huggers, anti-human nature worshipers, PETA extremists. In the course of his work, however, he ran into conservative environmentalists, a phrase that might seem like an oxymoron to some. These included Matthew Scully, a vegetarian animal-rights advocate who was also a speechwriter for President George W. Bush; and Jim DiPeso, an officer of Republicans for Environmental Protection. These opened his eyes to see that there is nothing conservative about things like over consumption, animal abuse, or ecological degradation.
Here are a few quotes from the chapter:
“Animals are more than ever a test of our character, of mankind’s capacity for empathy and for decent, honorable conduct and faithful stewardship, ” Matthew [Scully] wrote. “We are called to treat them with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don’t; because they all stand unequal and powerless before us.”
This is true about the environment as well. Technology and wealth have given mankind dominion over nature unparalleled in human history. Everything in the tradition of conservatism—especially in traditional religious thought—warns against misusing that authority. Yet the conservative movement has become so infatuated with the free market and human potential that we lose sight of what Matthew described as our conservative belief “in man as a fundamentally moral and not merely economic actor, a creature accountable to reason and conscience and not driven by whim or appetite.” If we lose our ability to see nature with moral vision, we become less human, and more like beasts.
I’ve found that one of the quickest ways to start a fight with most people in our tribe is to say that factory farming is problematic from a conservative point of view. They get real hot about how if we didn’t have these things, where would we get cheap chicken?
“In his desire to have and to enjoy rather than to be and to grow, man consumes the resources of the earth and his own life in an excessive and disordered way. At the root of the senseless destruction of the natural environment lies an anthropological error, which unfortunately is widespread in our day. Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God’s prior and original gift of the things that are. Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray. Instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him.” — Pope John Paul II, Centesimus annus
“I call myself a conservative in a way, because I’m interested in conserving things that need to be conserved. But I hesitate to call myself a conservative publicly, because I don’t think there are too many in the conservative movement today who care about conserving much of anything except money.” — Wendell Berry.
My current political thought: I am rather wary of the Tea Party movement, as I view it as part of the anti-environmental wing of the Republican Party.
Grace and Peace
I have too many half-read books on my bookshelf (or in some cases stacked in piles in my office). One of them is Crunchy Cons, by Rod Dreher, with the subtitle “How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, … America (or at least the Republican Party).”
I don’t wear Birkenstocks, I’m not all that hip (and certainly not a mama), but I am an evangelical, right-wing nature lover who buys eggs from free-range chickens even though they cost more.
Dreher sums up what it is to be a “crunchy con” (crunchy for granola-eating, and con for conservative) in A Crunchy-Con Manifesto:
1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.
2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.
4. Culture is more important than politics and economics.
5. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.
6. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.
7. Beauty is more important than efficiency.
8. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.
9. We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.”
10. Politics and economics won’t save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives.
Things that are important: faith, family, community, beauty, nature, truth, wisdom.
Grace and Peace
From “Saved by an Atheist” by Rob Moll, who returned to faith in Christ in part through reading The Plague by Albert Camus:
Yet the biggest influence on my spiritual journey was the novels and philosophy of Albert Camus, a French existentialist of the 1940s and ’50s—and an atheist. C. S. Lewis warned, “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” Camus should have been safe territory for me, but as I like to say now, I was saved by an atheist.
Though atheists may argue that the existence of a supreme being is impossible, their arguments often reveal a belief that God just doesn’t behave as they think he should.
Camus was right, I knew, and I, too, had plague. I was sick and in need of a Physician. Camus’ willingness to accept the truth that human beings are fallen allowed me to do the same. Camus held a mirror to my face—in a way that no pastor, preacher, or professor had—and I knew I needed salvation.
Certainly not all atheists lead readers to such Christian conclusions. And just as certainly, not every atheist writer deals as honestly with himself and with God as Camus. But, at their best, atheists show Christians how our teaching or our practice is failing our society.
In The Plague, Camus describes Father Paneloux, a priest who has no real answer to suffering but nevertheless thunders that the plague is God’s judgment on a wicked city. The epidemic is the fault of the people, he says, and it will remain until they repent. But Camus presents the death of a child as a counterargument: a good God would not punish an innocent child with such suffering.
The church’s inability to answer the problem of suffering is still atheists’ most common complaint against God, and it teaches us how we may be setting people up for spiritual disappointment and failure. Maybe the modern church puts too much emphasis on better living through God. Or perhaps we don’t adequately explain that God suffers with us and redeems our suffering without eliminating it. Whatever the cause, atheism remains an attractive worldview for those who have witnessed suffering or been in pain and can’t reconcile the idea of a good and powerful God with the reality of life on earth.
Atheists may have an arsenal of arguments against God or religion. But at heart, rejection of God seems not to be a purely logical choice against the possibility or desirability of God. Rather, it is often a rejection of God’s people. Atheism’s recent popularity should serve as a warning to us. Apologetics conferences and passionate rebuttals may have their place. Certainly we should be ready with reasons for our faith. But before we begin dueling on blogs and arming ourselves with television talking points, let’s learn to see atheists not as deniers of God, but as wrestlers with him. And let’s remember that their deepest arguments against belief are the people they’re arguing with.
Grace and Peace (from one who also has the plague)
A car at work has this bumper sticker:
Ummmm… I think it has been over 300 years since anyone was burned at the stake in this country (a very unfortunate event in U.S. history). Since that time, mixing of politics and religion has led to some rather positive historical developments, such as the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement (this person has obviously not read much by Martin Luther King Jr.). We should be thankful that the leaders of these movements did not leave their Christianity at the doorstep when they entered the political realm.
The history of religion, including that of Christianity, has some rather dark pages. I cannot deny that. Atrocities and injustices in the name of Christianity, however, are inconsistent with the teachings of Christ and of the New Testament, and so do not invalidate Christianity, or the involvement of Christians in politics.
This sort of historical revisionism runs rampant in the writings of the “new atheists,” such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Perhaps a better bumper sticker—one that is a little more accurate in terms of recent history—would be:
Grace and Peace