Monday, May 04, 2015
I believe written conversations have an advantage of being able to take time to present an issue or idea, or to formulate a response.
When someone poses questions or presents an argument to me in written format, I like being able to go through their writing multiple times, maybe even quoting from it, to make sure I have honestly and adequately addressed their thoughts. Sometimes I will rewrite things four or five times before hitting send.
So, when someone asks me to respond to something, and I take the time to do so... only to have them delete it.... that doesn't tend to sit well with me.
This came about due to an old friend who recently friended me on Facebook. This person is a Christian... and... well ... when you are an atheist, you can't help but categorize your believing friends under various headings. There is the fundamentalist asshole you keep around purely for entertainment purposes. There are the good souls you seem to relate to in EVERY way other than their theism, so you accept each other as-is. There are the ones who have never been particularly active in their faith, yet find it a bit disturbing that you are an atheist.
I am sure I could come up with a number of others if I sat here and thought about it, but in this case, this is the Christian who believes you left the faith because you never had exposure to REAL Christianity. Your atheism is actually somewhat understandable, maybe even justified... because, like Coke, you just need the real thing. If you could only go to their church, or hear this or that pastor, or read a certain book.... you would see.
In that vein, this person posted an article by Shane Claiborne and tagged me in it, asking for my thoughts. I had read the article back when it came out in 2009, but I read it again, and then a third time before writing.
Not long after my posting, my response was deleted.
I hate when people do that... particularly if that was the only copy available of what I wrote. Fortunately, I had written this response in Word.
So, since I took time to write that response, I want it to exist somewhere... so here it is. If you have gotten this far, you may want to read the Claiborne article (it's short). I do appreciate theologically liberal, good folks like Shane Claiborne. However, I still find they carry a bagful of false assumptions about those not in their faith, some of which I address below. So without further ado:
I have always appreciated Shane’s generous and compassionate heart. I think he is a humanist, and I admire that, because he is willing to put the needs of people above the dictates of his religion’s dogma (to a degree).
However, he steps into the usual misdirections most religious folks fall, in that he cannot not see outside his own perspective. For example, from the article:
“To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.”
From the beginning he is clear that he sees the world with bi-polar lenses, those who see religion his way… and everybody else. He defines everyone who does not accept his religion - by his religion. If someone does not believe, it is because they have not heard the right message, or been to the right church. Perhaps they have been wounded by someone in the faith. Maybe their heart is hard or bitter toward God because of some pain in their life. If they could just meet the Jesus he knows.
I assume Shane does not believe in Mormonism. He doesn’t believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God's restoration, and he doesn’t believe Mormons are God's one true church on the earth. He just doesn’t believe any of it to be true.
However picture if a good chunk of his community and family were telling him that it isn't that he doesn’t believe it... rather, it is because he met some bad Mormons, or went to a bad ward, or just hadn’t experienced TRUE Mormonism. Shayne could try to explain that he really just didn’t believe – but they respond that his heart is hard and he should be open to what Joseph Smith might be saying to him.
He might appreciate the sincerity of these folks (the first couple dozen times) but he would still find the whole thing absurd.
I appreciate Shane’s sincerity, but I still find the whole thing absurd.
Also, it is very clear to me that, like all Christians, Shane is making up his own Jesus. Shane says, “if you choose Jesus, may it not be simply because of a fear of hell or hope for mansions in heaven.”
He does this a few times – he has an idea of Jesus in his head that is really great… but then he runs into that scriptural Jesus who isn't always so great… Jesus does woo with rewards and punishments… big rewards and punishments. That doesn't work for Shane, so he deflects.
Another example, “I was recently asked by a non-Christian friend if I thought he was going to hell. I said, "I hope not. It will be hard to enjoy heaven without you." Again… that bothers him. It would bother ANY good person… but he doesn’t know what to do with it, so he makes it a joke.
I talk with Christians all the time who speak like this. They sidestep Hell, try to make it not sound as bad as the Bible does, throw up their hands and say its not for me to judge, etc. They are trying to avoid the very real fact that their God presented in scripture has set up a system where you love him or pay dearly. At least that’s how he is in some parts… other parts not so much. I don’t believe the bible is consistent.
So what do I think? I think Shane is a decent human being, trying to be decent, in a religion that is often not decent. He works hard at finding the diamonds in the rough… focusing on the generous and compassionate parts of his Bible, while choosing – consciously or subconsciously- to avoid the more horrible bits. I just think that generates a lot of un-needed work and stress. Let the religion go, continue to be decent, then you won’t have to worry about always having to come up with clever ways to make those bad bits sound good for the sake of fidelity to a religion.
Posted by Andrew at 9:19 PM