Monday, December 13, 2010

Beyond Exclusivism

Is there a step above religious exclusivism? Is there anything more drastic than saying "only those that do it our way" are acceptable?

At one time, exclusivists were concerned for your soul; if you didn't get on the right team fast, you might burn for eternity.  Now though, it has gone a step further. It is no longer about your soul. This is about their offense at your not viewing life their way. Anger builds within them when you do not put their god as supreme, and by association, their view as supreme.

Take for example the perspective of Donald Douglas on the parting words of Elizabeth Edwards, who died recently after a long battle with cancer. She had stated:

"You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces -- my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope,"

These last words gave no small amount of frustration to Mr. Douglas who commented:

"Clearly Elizabeth Edwards wants to put her faith in something, be it hope or strength or anything. But not God. I wonder if it's just bitterness, that's she's been forsaken by more than just her estranged husband --- that's she's been forsaken by Him. And imagine if she'd have become First Lady. Americans generally expect outward expressions of faith in our presidents, Christian faith especially, and thus in our First Ladies as well. The Democratic base obviously doesn't care, as we can see in the "wow factor" expressed by the author at the American Prospect. Being anti-religion is cool, so Edwards' non-theological theology gets props from the neo-communists. Still, at her death bed and giving what most folks are calling a final goodbye, Elizabeth Edwards couldn't find it somewhere down deep to ask for His blessings as she prepares for the hereafter? I guess that nihilism I've been discussing reaches up higher into the hard-left precincts than I thought."

My mind reels at the self-centered navel-gazing of this man's religious views. He is offended that Ms. Edwards did not, on her death-bed, give preference to his religious perspective. The fact that there are a myriad of religious views she also did not mention seems to be lost on Mr. Douglas. He missed this obvious point for one simple reason...

He is a bully.

This brand of religious bully-ism is on the rise in America.  As our country becomes more pluralistic, people like Mr. Douglas feel more and more threatened.  In their frustration, their verbal violence is becoming increasingly bitter.

Jesus had to endure religious bullies in his time too.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  He had this to say to them:

“Woe to you; you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. You give a tenth of your spices, but you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. On the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."

HT: Find and Ye shall Seek


repsac3 said...

The exclusivity of many religions (and of politics, and probably other things, as well) is a very difficult concept to broach. Obviously, one believes that their own faith is the one that God smiles on; the one that will lead them to have a righteous life, and an everlasting reward. But part of saying "I'm practicing the faith that God desires" is saying "those who don't worship as I do, are wrong, and God knows it."

And while I understand the compassion involved in bringing folks into your "one true" faith (whatever you believe that faith and denomination or sect thereof to be), there comes a point where human compassion bids you give people the right to be wrong. Sometimes, you have to allow people the right to choose their own faith, even if you believe the one they choose (that is, any one except your own) will lead to everlasting torment, or reincarnation as a mayfly.

The next step; the religious / political / social bullies are far more sad . As you say, it stops being about helping or saving you, and becomes all about them and their wants and needs. Your not living up to their standards becomes an issue of disrespect toward them.

I believe that you have to allow people to be wrong. I'm not saying one cannot try to lead the lost out of their religious, political, or social confines and into the light, but there comes as time when it's more compassionate (and rational, too) to just let them be wrong, and even to let them think you're the one who's wrong. The alternative, is a world full of "my-way-or-the-highway" bullies like Mr Douglas.

A good piece...

dewey said...

Jesus was one of our more famous exclusivists. John 14:6 NIV

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."That cut a few people out.

Doesn't that make a mockery of what he says in Matthew 23:14" Woe to you; you hypocrites!" Hypocrites are everlasting. They are everywhere and sometimes they are us.

We all are exclusive to one degree or another. We all put a red mark on the gauge and say anyone that goes past this mark is too exclusive. I even think people who worry about exclusivity are being too exclusive. What do you think?

Redlefty said...

dewey, why would John 14:6 cut anybody out? Is there anybody Jesus didn't die for?

societyvs said...

Exclusivism, well some things must be exclusive (ie: a marriage) and some things not so much (ie: church).

I don't think I mind some aspects of exclusivism so much as I mind the way it is enforced. I also don't like how Christianity can use it's own scriptures to make the kingdom of God so narrow minded...which always rubs me the wrong way (and in this death bed case - detestable).

However, we are all exclusive to some degree. We set up our own standards and sometimes going past those thresholds - we exclude people (ie: a drug addict might not stay in your home for example). It's reasonable though.

The examples you have given about Christianity are the same things I fight against, unreasonable exclusivity - or - people being held back from God or being told they are.

Logan said...

I even think people who worry about exclusivity are being too exclusive. What do you think?

Inclusivists end up excluding exclusivists? Nah...I think the exclusivists exclude themselves.

Mystical Seeker said...

Religious bullying is, unfortunately, rife within the fundamentalist right. It's a shame, it's offensive, but Douglas's comments are probably not unexpected.

repsac3 said...

Not to pull this too far away from a discussion of faith but, as someone who has butted heads with Donald Douglas for the past several years online, I don't believe it's about religious fundamentalism for him (though he does occasionally express fundamentalist beliefs, generally in the context of hitting others for having different or less faith than he does, or Cthulhu forbid, no faith at all. He seldom evangelizes about his own specific religious beliefs--indeed, I don't believe he's ever mentioned his church or denomination, at all.

If you read through the posts on his blog on any given day, I think you'll find that Donald Douglas is just a garden variety bully, and that for him, religion is just another club with which to hit his many political/social/ideological "enemies." YMMV...

Andrew said...

Welcome repsac3, thanks for commenting. I completely agree with you that it probably has little to do with religion for him. I suppose this has always existed in some level, but it has become apparent to me in recent years that most of what passes for the Christian religion today is merely another avenue for expressing one's political/economic view. It is a way to check if someone is in the club.

Society - I think I tend to agree with you. I do not think being a particular group with specific traditions and views is problematic per se. There are certain practices that are peculiar to being Jewish, or Mormon, or Catholic that are hard wired in to being part of that community. However, I think any group has stepped over the line when they try to effect a monopoly on the grace of God, or his acceptance.

Dewey - I think the bible is, among other things, on giant Rorschach test. There are over 30000 takes on Christianity. This is because people look at the scriptures and see different things. I think what we quote from it and what parts of it stir us says much more about us than it does about God.

For example, you see that scripture as cutting people out, whereas Red reads the same scripture and sees it as drawing in everyone. For myself, I don't see Jesus as being famous for his exclusivism but rather for his inclusivism. It was that inclusivism that annoyed the "Christians" of his day. He used Samaritans as the heroes in his stories (That would be like making a homosexual the good guy when telling a story to the Focus on the Family staff). He gave respect and deference to people who were outside the accepted religious loop. I don't think that sounds like the attitude of Mr. Douglas.

Logan - your comment reminded me of a cartoon I used once in the blog. A christian is wapping a homosexual repeatedly over the head with a stick. When the gay man asks him to stop, the Christian complains that his freedoms are being violated. :) From that perspective, one would consider it intolerant to resist intolerance.

Mystical - I agree. I am not sure if the "right" does it more, but it has been my experience in the past couple years when talking with some folks who are far right. On a number of occasions I began to see markers in the conversation similar to that of Mr. Douglas in the article - they didn't merely disagree with me... they were offended that I held a different view.

irreverance said...

>>...the Christian complains that his freedoms are being violated.<<

And this is the key issue. Bullies don't like it when people try to make them stop. Suddenly, they're being oppressed. And worse yet, they can't even see that they are not the victims, but the victimizers (which is why they were being stopped from continuing the behavior). It seems that we need to revisit the idea that "my liberties end where others' liberties begin."

irreverance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Don said...

A good post Andrew.

Andrew said...

irreverence -
I am finding that to be a common position amongst a lot of folks. They want the right to mistreat people....

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