June 04, 2005
Salvation from Jesusland
I think the answer is fairly simple, at least as simple as such complex matters can be. Religiosity (of a sort) can be an escape and an excuse from accepting social responsibility, from having a real (analyzed) political viewpoint. Religiosity then becomes an excuse to turn inward and renounce everything except one’s own interest, disguised as interest in personal salvation. It is to live the powerless apolitical life of the mass, with nary a thought of the universal. But this is not the only possible kind of turning inward. There is another kind of turning inward that is merely a prelude to turning outward again. This kind of inwardness leads to the recognition of social responsibility as the essence of religiosity and spirituality.
Real spirituality means recognizing oneself as a part of the world, not just rhetorically, but in practice. Being a part of the world means getting involved in things that are forming its destiny. It means adding one’s voice to the chorus of voices that still see the possibility of a bright future for humanity, the voices of those who have not given up on the ideal that a truly human life is the only kind worth living, and that such a life is lived in communion with the rest of humanity. Self-centered pursuit of one’s own interests and the interests of one’s own group is about as unspiritual as one can get. It is concentrating on matter, rather than spirit. Spirit is movement, change, and flux. Renouncing progressive politics amounts to renouncing the world, and any chance the world may have of becoming a spiritual world. It amounts to abandoning it to people like George W. Bush, who see the world as a tool for making money, and who see spirituality itself as a means to enhancing their self-interest. (The distinction between "mass" and "universal" was originated by the French philosopher Gabriel Marcel.)
Thank you for that, we all need to be challanged, especially in how we see things, because then we truly grow and change and learn to live with one another.
I look forward to your future posts!
The Bible has been re-interpreted so many times, it hardly resembles it's earlier form. The tone and content has been manipulated by those in power to serve their interests. During the civil rights movement, it was used to condemn interracial marriage. Now it is being used to condemn homosexuality.
I was raised in a conservative, evangelical Christian church, so I know quite alot about it. The Bible teaches, essentially, to treat others with compassion, but I think that it is used by those in power to do quite the opposite.
By the way, how do you always seem to get such nice comments which say absolutely nothing, other than, essentially, "Way To Go, Al"?
As to your other point, I think that you, as a steady reader of this blog, should be aware by now that I receive many different types of comments from many different people. They range from praise to constructive criticism (such as some of your own comments), mildly abusive destructive criticism (such as some of your other comments), irrelevant remarks, and, finally, sheer abuse (of the “you m.f. commie pig” variety). I had a post around this issue back in February (with several dozen comments and replies), and so I won’t go into it in detail here. By the way, there are at least one or two possibly deranged Bushites who visit this site on a regular basis, hoping to find something to pounce on and make me look bad.
But back to those who leave nice comments. I wouldn’t say they “say absolutely nothing,” although I do prefer to receive comments that discuss the issue at hand. What the nice comments do say, I think, is that the progressive community, and even those who are variously called “moderate,” “middle of the road,” and so on, all realize that we live in perilous times, and, therefore, any positive step should receive encouragement.
The process that I believe you are skirting around, that of the manipulation of religion for political purposes, is not unique to the present day.
Example - remember the formation of the Church of England. Henry Tudor wanted to adjust the balance of power between Church and State, for his personal purposes only one of which was getting rid of his second (? I think) wife. But there was much more to it than just that one instance. There were personal ambitions of power that factored as well; probably more than the odd or even wife. In fact the new Church got sufficiently powerful that it bit Henry in the bum... another story.
Example - and following from the comments you have already made. I believe that most Westerners, and most Americans in particular, would find true Christianity to be far too communist. It is a "hypocrisy" (in inverted comments so as to not cause offence) that fundamentalists of other religions such as Islam enjoy pointing out from time to time.
About your comment regarding the Bible and it's original form I think that what has happened is that as time, culture, and socitey has grown and expanded the understanding has been lost because - obviously - we are not living in a Middle Near Eastern culture.
The Bible has been remarkably preserved throughout the generations with little text varients and it has been copied by many hands in many nations - the issues of interpretation are of those who do not necessarily understand the historical context as well as the literary context. I think what has happened is that people - in trying to understand - have super imposed THEIR culture understandings and "isms" onto the text instead of letting the text speak.
Our culture (north american speaking) is so far removed in appearance and in function from that of the 1st and 2nd Early Middle Near Eastern that we do not recognize what was meant to be taken sarcastically or to heart - and that isn't even looking at type of literature it is.
I'm not religious myself, but I do have what I would call faith--faith in humanity and the earth.
Do you think those who use religion as an "excuse" or "escape" (as many, many do) are *abusing* religion, or that it is an inherent consequence of belief?
I submit to you that the concept of “true Christianity” is an illusion. The same goes for “true Islam” or any other fundamentalist concept of religion. As I said in the post, spirit is movement, change, and flux. If by “true Christianity” one means “original Christianity,” such a thing cannot, of course, exist anywhere outside the particular environment of the Palestine of two thousand years ago. In other words, to live as a “true Christian,” one would have to travel back 2000 years, and live in the conditions of unimaginable (to us) poverty, ignorance, and oppression that people endured at that time. “True Christianity” is dead and buried. That, rather than hypocrisy, is the reason it cannot exist in our time.
Whether “true Christianity” was or was not communistic is irrelevant. The religion of a capitalist society is by necessity a capitalist religion. The postulated spirituality of the future society, on the other hand, will be a spirituality of freedom and knowledge.
At the same time, religion and its vocabulary have been a part of human culture for nearly as long as we have been human beings. People are habituated to its terminology. I, therefore, find it convenient and expedient to use its vocabulary, even in progressive polemics.
I don’t think the dichotomy that you have suggested (the question of whether the use of religion as an escape from social responsibility is voluntary or determined) is a valid one. An action that springs from ignorance cannot be called a voluntary action. Therefore, it makes no difference whether we see such an action as originating in a mischievous yet ignorant volition, or in some psychological causative force whose origin, again, is ignorance. What is needed is a leap from “I believe it because it makes no sense,” to “I believe it because it makes sense.” As obvious as such an idea may sound, humanity has far to go yet before it reaches that point. And that is the danger.
True and very hard to argue.
And yet. And yet. Belief means the forfeit of that which contradicts ones belief. Are all right-wing Christians *ignorant* about evolution? No, some just choose not to believe it, voluntary, on basis of their faith.
It is now clear to me that my previous comment was based on my own interpretation of Christianity, and it would be very arrogant of me to assert that this is "true Christianity" more so than the more conservative interpretations. I am not privey to any special divine knowledge, so to say that my beliefs are somehow better is as wrong as when conservative Christians try to force their religious beliefs on others.
Regarding your questions, my answers would be that the conservative and liberal "wings" of modern religions exist because of people's differing positions on how to achieve the common good in a practical manner. I'd argue that all dogmas that have stood the test of time have, at their root, a belief in the holiness and divinity of life and love. I think all religious people would point to these as common values but the conflict occurs when the practicalities of life are considered (i.e.: economics). Are they still branches of the same religion? I believe yes, they all share a common root.
However to call George Bush or others like him a Christian by any standard is a heck of a stretch. Just the same as calling Osama Bin Laden a Muslim would be a stretch of the same magnitude.
Regarding "real spirituality" being tied to "progressive politics" as opposed to any other politics? Really, it's that sort of exclusionist thinking that creates these "branches" in the first place.
I DO think that there is a direct parallel between Henry Tudor / religion and GWB / religion. That parallel is relational, not causative.
Bush is not trying to recreate the Church to his own design so that it better serves the state and politics. What Bush is doing (in my opinion) is changing the state and politics to conform to his particular brand of religion.
There is potential for a similar "movement" in NZ. It comes in the form of "The Destiny Church" which, from comment here would definitely be a "right wing conservative" religious group and its political offspring Destiny NZ.
Even if one assumes Bush’s religiosity to be sincere, which is somewhat doubtful, this does not change the fact that what he thinks he is doing is not necessarily what he is objectively doing. What I mean is that he may think he is remaking the state and politics to conform to his religious views. What he is really doing, though, is remake those institutions to conform to the interests of a particular segment of the US upper class. In short, religious beliefs, contrary to all appearances, are not a significant causative force in society. Economic interests are. Whenever a nation has been plunged into tyranny of one kind or another, it has been because of the economic interests of the dominant segment of its ruling class. Democracy originates in the masses, but tyranny originates in the ruling classes.
Today’s Christianity bears little resemblance to the semi-mythical “original Christianity,” in the same way that today’s Islam bears little resemblance to the semi-legendary “original Islam.” All religions change and evolve, depending on whose interests they serve at any particular moment in history. It just so happens that at the current historical juncture, for political reasons, the dominant currents in Islam are a little more conservative than the dominant currents in Chrisitianity. After all, one shouldn’t forget that the late Pope imagined he was simply reverting to the practise of Christ.
What you are saying is beginning to equate my atheism with my cynicism for politics.
Hey!! You got a point there! :D
The worldly church is the church that has bought into the whole idea that the end justifies the means. The war in Iraq falls under this banner. The idea that America equals Christianity (which is the message that I seem to get) is ridiculous.
The spiritual church are the Christians who are following the teaching of Christ. I think he said, Love your enemies. The reactions to abortion, gay rights, and many other issues are a result of the westernization or western mind interpreting a two thousand year old way of life as was also said here in your forum. A careful study of the life of Christ to see how he might transfer his principles into our culture should be the goal of every Christian. The name Christian, after all, is supposed to mean "little Christ".
Your idea of the truly spiritual person being totally involved with everything that is our responsibility to the earth, it's systems and our fellow man is correct in that it is a spirituality of man. The Human Spirit. Man also has that part of him that bears the Spirit of God. I'm sure that you don't believe that and most of the people that post here don't either.
As a Christian, I feel responsible to be involved in the political process as should all citizens of our great country. I believe we have a responsibility to make the political processes work and to abide by the decisions made by our leaders. When we don't agree with the decisions, we can work toward change.
The evolution of Christianity that you talk about takes place in the worldly church. They are the institutions that have allowed leadership that have attitudes borrowed from the world.
Christianity hasn't changed, Christians have.
To be a true Christian is a challenge that I don't pretend is easy. We are to show love and concern for our fellow man and to put others before ourselves even when they offer nothing in return or even show outright hate. To me this sounds like, by your own definition, being a spiritual person.
I agree that could be said about churches, on the other hand that could cover countries and humanity as a whole, as countries have a left and right in them as does the world in general
good luck with blog
Concerning the topic at hand. I agree that religion has been used as a tool to govern and control people. I do also think that religion represent many morally good values that have driven the development of our society. We all have to admit that although the worlds sometimes seem to move backwards (more death human rights breached, more famine, more wars, more religious disputes etc.), all in all we are much more civilized than we were 200 years ago. When it comes to the comparison of the left/right/catholic/protestant church, I believe that conservative Chatolics are more alike conservative protestants, than liberal catholics, and vice versa.
(sorry for type errors)
"mythological lense of Christianity"
Let's not forget that Jesus Christ and his life are historical fact and not myth. Regardless if you buy the whole ball of wax or not, the good life he lived and the values he put forth are something for all people to aspire to. All people equals public.
Also don't forget that both Canada and the United States were founded upon Judeo-Christian principles and has made both our countries places where the rest of the world would like to live. We love to pick what we like from the mix and pick at the people who support the very things that hold society together. Faith is a part of politics everyday. People believe in what they're doing. Even humanists fight for what they believe in. You cannot separate faith from people in politics. It is the very soul that drives us all.
So, to say that Christianity should be left out of politics is to say Christians should stay out of politics. If you suggest that Christians leave their beliefs behind when they enter into the political arena, you are suggesting a schizophrenic existence which is unacceptable by all. A better understanding of Christianity by everyone is needed. Don't get me wrong. There are some crazy Christians just like there are crazys everywhere. Don't label everyone the same. Apparently most people have taken there idea of Christians from watching TV Preachers.
Allow me, in the name of Christ, our savior, to suggest to you to identify yourself by your full name on the blog. Christ is the Son of Man, and we believe in the Son – in being justified.
I agree with you much stupidity and cruelty seems to have been justified by the churches throughout history. And it is a shame the Christian today seems to be incapacitated when it comes to the question of nailing the devil to the wall. I also agree with you that political parties within the Church is a shame to the Church, being the body of Christ (Christ, according to St. Paul, being the head of the Church, literally speaking). God is not in conflict with God.
I also agree with you we do not believe in any religion.
Anders Woje Ellingsen
"Let's not forget that Jesus Christ and his life are historical fact and not myth. Regardless if you buy the whole ball of wax or not, the good life he lived and the values he put forth are something for all people to aspire to. All people equals public."
So is Bhudda. So does Bhudda.
I am neither Bhuddist nor Christian so I am not grinding an axe here.
Is Christ "more right" than Bhudda?
Is there "supporting fact" for the contention, or does it all come down to a matter of "belief"?
I have no contention with the teachings of Christianity. They comprise the majority of the ethical and moral framework that I have inherited from both my parents and from this society. That does not make me a believer... It is a case of complying with the expectations of the society in which I live.
No doubt were I to move to Japan, or Thailand, I would have as little difficulty with the morality and ethics of those societies. That would not make me a Bhuddist.
"How many of your countrymen do you think follow the true teachings of Christ?"
I was thinking more in terms of all those professed Christians, and whether they HAVE freely given all their worldly goods to the poor so that they may "follow Him".
The question is admittedly rhetorical. But it does, for me at least, make the point that in modern Christianity there is a huge gulf between practice and preaching.
Your dismissive "The bible is merely documentation and quotes from Jesus and his diciples" should offend many of your compatriots to the core. Where is the belief that the Bible is "the word of God"?
Honestly, I think we are actually on the same side of the fence here.
Al's statement that -
"Real spirituality means recognizing oneself as a part of the world, not just rhetorically, but in practice. Being a part of the world means getting involved in things that are forming its destiny. It means adding one’s voice to the chorus of voices that still see the possibility of a bright future for humanity, the voices of those who have not given up on the ideal that a truly human life is the only kind worth living, and that such a life is lived in communion with the rest of humanity. "
for me is a strong echo of how I feel, and it is said without direct reference to any religion.
And when he says that -
"Self-centered pursuit of one’s own interests and the interests of one’s own group is about as unspiritual as one can get.
I think "Yep, right on buddy. That is modern Christianity to a 'T'"
The use of the word "spirit" two sentences on makes me wonder and his statement about GWB is for me at least slightly off the mark.
I would go a little differently at that last bit; something along the lines of "...desirous of universal conformity..." would have to appear there somewhere as well as the desire for profit. I have to add that I think that is an over-simplification as well. There are probably as many ambitions and desires as there are people with power in the present administration, and I do not believe the present administration to be any different from any other in that respect.
Even though this post is ostensibly on the subject of religion, we know that theological discourse is far from its intent. My “eternal salvation” is just so many words to me, and so I won’t intervene in detail in the argument between Mario and you. I will just point out that Mario appears to be postulating a fundamentalist view of the Bible, and that his points are not really self-contradictory, though they do appear that way at first glance (a topic that, as such, is of no interest whatsoever to me).
Now to move on to meaningful matters. My intention in using the word “spirit” is to signify what it can (still) mean, after it has been cleansed of its theological associations. In other words, I would like to point to the fact that progressives are not in any way worse people than religious fundamentalists. Although I don’t live in the US, I have no doubt many Americans need to have the latter fact pointed out to them. American liberals are being made to feel like they have somehow abandoned morality. And, on the other side of the political fence, American conservatives imagine themselves as soldiers of moral values. I have mentioned before in this blog that, just before the last US Presidential Elections, I read about some guy in West Virginia who, in answer to a question about his voting intentions, said he will vote for Bush because of religious reasons. That’s why I don’t think it’s out of place in the current context to point to Dubya as one of the least spiritual and most corrupt individuals on earth. At the same time, this is not about him or any other individual. This is about the socioeconomic (and “spiritual”) system that has made them possible. Or, to put it more bluntly, it is about forming the kind of consciousness that will be needed for overthrowing that system.
We have had the Christian Democrats (ineffectual), we have the "United Party" (the phoenix from the CD's - inoffensive ) and that is about it.
Coming on the scene for the next elections is "Destiny NZ", a party formed from and using the powerbase of the Destiny Church.
The Destiny Church is one of these fundamentalist charismatic churches based solely upon the character and business acumen of an individual.
The combination of religious and political wings is, in my mind, the NZ Religious Nazis.
"Leaving the hating to the Republicans" is exactly what i think has gotten your great country into the shit in which it now finds itself.
It is now seven months too late to correct that error...
"listening to God" instead of listening to fact is what I fear could happen in this country of mine.
Since when is "fighting against" NOT equated with "hating"?
Good point. Christianity is "more right" to Christians as I imagine Bhuddism would be to a Bhuddist. And yes, it comes down to belief. That's why it's called a faith. A person makes a choice to believe in a personal God (the case of Christianity or Judaism) or follow teachings by great teachers who point the way to their salvation and heaven. I like to think that it is the remnants of a forgotten belief in God that is the framework for the moral good in any society on the earth.
The country of birth for any person simply means they would have more chance of belonging to the faith that is typically followed there. Canada is diverse culturally and in religious faiths. Which one is "more right"? The answer, of course, will depend on who you talk to. But in the very end of it all, how we treat one another is what matters most. I must treat each person with dignity and respect no matter their religion, race or politics. Do I always succeed? No. It is only when we stop asking forgiveness and trying that we fail.
How many of my fellow Canadians follow the true teachings of Christ? The answer to that question is difficult to get at. The resulting effects of people serving God and praying and living a good moral life is quantitatively hard to measure. If all those people were suddenly removed we may have some idea.
Your comment to Mario:
Christ only asked one man(the rich young ruler)to sell his possessions and follow him. He asked each believer to daily pick up "their cross" and follow him. We each have a cross to bear it's just that in an affluent country like Canada it's easy to avoid.
So, to boil it all down. Are a lot of Christians hypocrites? No, lets' personalize this a bit more. Am I a hypocrite? Of course. Anyone who says they aren't is deceived.
Tomorrow, I'll get out of bed and go at it one more time. I will be met with situations in my home and work where I will have the opportunity to apply the principles of Christ. Love and respect people no matter who they are or how they treat me. Tall order. I'm ready to go. I pray, that with the power of the Holy Spirit, I do well.
Nice chatting with you.
Two initial points:
1. The degree of thought that anyone (regardless of religion) puts into their political choice is open to question. The more educated someone is the less likely they are to change their mind in relation to a viewpoint. Political advisors are always trying to catch the swing voter.
Also most religions have differing conservative and liberal strains. One must remember that Satan himself can quote Scripture when it suits his purpose.
2. I reject the thesis that pursuit of one's own interests is refusing to accept spirituality. There is an obligation on Christians to change the world that they inhabit. The fact that you disagee with the way they would like the world to be does not discount their spirituality.
And the last thing I'll say regarding the "true Christ" or "true Christianity" I think that if there is one holy and perfect god who is indeed perfectly just and perfectly loving, he would be a God who desired to speak very personally and very truthfully to those who would listen and would seek us out and somehow, someway, pieces of him do squeeze through our thick skulls, and would not depend on our feeble ability to reason. I believe we can hear the true voice of God, not because our ears are good, but because he is powerful enough to speak.
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