Friday, February 18, 2011

The Cost of Faith?

There are a number of things I find fascinating about the above video. For one, it is a perfect example of what happens when you live in a religious echo chamber. I am sure that many of the caller's points seemed perfectly airtight when stating them amongst fellow believers on Sunday.... but quickly fell apart under the most simple scrutiny.

I also love the natural good cop/bad cop format the hosts take on. The gentleman on the right is often gracious as he tries to walk the caller through a linear thought-line - while the guy on the left can hardly contain his exasperation with the illogical pronouncements of the caller. I laughed out-loud multiple times.

Though there is a lot of material here (and perhaps folks might want to talk about other bits in the comment section), I want to focus on a piece that was brought up toward the end which is also a "hobby-horse" of mine - the relationship destroying nature of exclusivist theology.

The host is spot-on when he points out that there is a natural tendency within religion to assume that anyone outside of your group is in some way bad or morally hobbled. I was nervous getting my first "secular" job as a teen. I was convinced that all of my fellow employees would hate me because I was a Christian. It was a life lesson to find out they were friendly and more accepting than most of the Christians I knew.

It was too bad they were all going to Hell.

This attitude isn't confined to the young. I spoke with a Christian who was hiring recently. He discovered his two potential employees were both Christians. "It gave me a peace in my spirit," he said, "to know that regardless of who I hired, I was going to get a good employee." Because of their Christian status, it was assumed they were "good". So non-Christians, by implication, would at best be suspect.

I think Hell lies at the root of this (the caller threatened the hosts with Hell before hardly saying hello). Since most of the world is going to Hell, many Christians have resolved themselves to trying convert who they can while keeping themselves untainted. The world is doomed.

I was at a church one Sunday where the Pastor was mocking the "peacemakers" in our world. "There ain't gonna be any peace in this world," the pastor shouted while bouncing on the front of his toes, "until the Prince of Peace returns!!!"

Let's just hunker down until Jesus gets back....

Another Pastor said to me recently "Not even Jesus can redeem this world. He can only redeem those who believe and are washed in his blood."

Well, I guess that's it for THEM then.

Even the Governor of Alabama felt the need to announce to his fellow citizens that any non-Christians are "not my brother".

With this underlying attitude of separation, it is of no surprise that many religious folks like to keep people who are not in their group at arms length. As I question various aspects of my faith, I have had folks jettisoning my friendship left and right. Six "men of the cloth" have cut ties with me in the past year and a number of the laity as well. Whatever I have might be catching. A few tossed in a hell warning on their way out. :) (for my good, of course)

In the end, the caller from the video is afraid. He is afraid when he sees a Christian abandon his faith. He fears that it could happen to him. He fears that listening to anything outside the echo chamber could taint him. He could stop believing. Then the God he "loves" will reject him and torture him for eternity.

So, in a sense, you can see why he needs to put his fingers in his ears. You can understand why he must maintain superficial relationships with outsiders. It makes sense that he feels safe at church functions, meetings, and potlucks. There are scary possibilities outside.

He could burn FOREVER! That fear, to him, is real!

What a world we might have if the religious could believe that Perfect Love casts out fear!


curmudgeon said...

Very well written Andrew. I cannot count the times that I have been told by someone who is devout that they can't read what I write or know what I believe because they want to still like me. We have had the same response with our children. There have been some who have limited their children's contact with our children because they may tear down the faith they built in their children.

I have also been told that they would pray for me or that they will do my "temple work" after I am dead and they are only concerned for my salvation. Unfortunately they fail to realize that line of thought does not serve for me it only serves them. As a result I often find myself int eh "Bad Cop" role when it comes to matters of faith.

Sammy said...

I actually feel very sorry for people like the caller in the video. How sad it must be to live in such a narrow, isolated world. Every interaction with a non-Christian is considered an attack on their faith. I cannot tell you how many times in the past 5 years or so when I've worked with such isolated Christian, they are surprised at how "nice" I am. While I don't consider myself a saint (far from it), I try my best to be a nice person. In my experience, most people do the same, regardless of religion. How terrible to live in such fear.

Yes, part of me is completely incredulous at how they can believe such illogical things. At times, the absurdity can even be funny. Yet, again, my main emotion is pity. There is so much more to life than Christianity. The diversity of people and ideas in this world has taught me more about myself than any church did. They purposely separate themselves from that world.

I guess I also see a little of myself in them. Although I was discouraged from associating with kids who did not come from a good Christian family, I was "rebellious". Actually, my best friend in elementary school was Catholic (a big no-no). We are still good friends to this day. But it does not escape me that I could have easily gone down a different path and ended up as one of those isolated Christians. It was, and still is, a scary thought.

Don R said...

You have brought the word to light once again (FEAR). It is hard to understand how the word drives such a large percentage of the Christian world; laiety and leadership alike. Thanks for expanding on this topic.

Michael said...

Andy, thanks for sharing this. I finally got around to watching and reading. I have recently been having my own crisis of faith and to my surprise, the guy on the right actually strengthened it. I think the guy on the left just has a vendetta for all Christians, but perhaps that is unfair since I've only seen his face for a few minutes. Anyway, this statement you made is part of my crisis:
"In the end, the caller from the video is afraid. He is afraid when he sees a Christian abandon his faith. He fears that it could happen to him. He fears that listening to anything outside the echo chamber could taint him. He could stop believing. Then the God he "loves" will reject him and torture him for eternity." Also like the guy on the right I've had to question the lack of evidence available realizing at the same time that there IS evidence of God all around. The clincher is that evidence is not the same as proof! And lack of evidence is not proof either! It is impossible to prove the existence or non-existence of God unless he reveals himself. When will that happen? Apparently it's been any minute now for the past 2 millennia. As a child I truly believed that it would happen in my lifetime, probably before I turned 30. Well, I am still alive. Now as the Bible is rewritten over and over again by my "better understanding" I have come to understand that I have no idea what is real. I now see it as a bunch of papers and documents written by well-meaning people inspired by God in the same way that movies are inspired by actual events then gathered and sifted by other well meaning-people and handed down to us and somehow through that process it is supposed to be exactly what God wanted it to say... without error. In the end I do believe in God. I don't believe any person myself included has any idea what or who he/she/ze really is, but we all know our image is the right one.

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