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[325] Human Rights Dialogue

Nicholas Wolterstorff, in Justice: Rights and Wrongs, urges believers to join the secular discussions of human rights, rather than yield the floor to non-believers.  Furthermore, this participation need not merely be an attempt to convince secularists of our point of view but rather to engage in what Wolterstorff calls “dialogical pluralism.” Dialogical pluralism is an art of listening intently to alternative views with an eye toward “appropriation”–realizing we might actually learn some things from the views of others.

According to Wolterstorff, the Christian has nothing to fear in engaging in this type of dialogue, because we believe that the only real basis for human rights is grounded in theology, one that holds that each person’s worth lies in her being in the image of God and loved by her creator.

I really like this approach, if only because it enables believers and non-believers to discuss major issues without beginning from what is too often a hostile, we-they stance.  This is not to say there will not be profound disagreements, but any hope for peace and tolerance lies in people’s willingness to engage one another’s ideas rather than condemn them from a distance, creating only animosity. DC

 

[324] Forgiveness is Conditional

How important is forgiveness?  One of the last sentiments uttered by Jesus during the crucifixion was “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Them means us, not just the first century rowdies engineering his physical demise.  He was not crucified just for their sins. He was up there because of you and I.

Forgiveness is the cornerstone of the gospel.  Christ’s Easter resurrection enabled this Good Friday forgiveness petition to take place, because he conquered the only thing that could stop it–death.

But that is not the whole story. Our forgiveness is conditional. It depends on our willingness to forgive. The Lord’s Prayer includes the request that God will forgive our trespasses, as we forgive others. In Matthew 6:14-15 Christ sets the terms. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

The Christian world is filled with I’ll-never-forgive-him grudges. In other words, sinful people who believe they can be forgiven for killing the innocent son of God, without forgiving the petty sins of fellow sinners–people no worse than themselves.

That thought scares me.

When is the last time you heard a sermon on that?  There should be many such sermons, because there is no gospel without it. DC

[323] Really?

“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love,” so the delightful chorus goes.

Really?

When Christians will split off from each other in hostile ways over issues having nothing to do with their salvation?

When we speak the truth–but not in love–and attack the secular world in such a way that it knows infinitely more about what we are against than what we are for?

Really?  DC

[322] Normalcy

We are awash in discussions of “the new normal” and a “return to normalcy.” According to Kevin D. Williamson in the National Review (December, 2020) our current political state is actually rather normal, if one looks at our history. People become nostalgic over the post-WWII years in the US, and see that blip in time as normal. The US government was in high esteem and science flourished. Products, ideas, and movements were “sold” as scientific. All problems would yield to science.  Times was good.

But those good times were much an illusion. Human affairs could not be managed scientifically.  Wars continued, divorces multiplied, and crime did not go away. Government, believed to be the benign force that could solve our problems, failed to do so.  Poverty won the War on Poverty. In short, science could not solve the problems of human fallibility–sin.

We are not currently heading in the direction of the mid-20th Century.  According to Williamson, we are closer to the mid-19th Century—populism, partisan media, fierce debates over fiscal policy, political weaponizing, demographic divides, and a distrust in government. In fact, the 1896 election was arguably as bitter as the most recent one—fought over cultural divides and even ethnic issues.

We are back to normal.  DC

[321] Xianity & Racism II

Last time, we spoke of Robert P. Jones’ “White Christian America Needs a Moral Awakening” (The Atlantic, July 28, 2020) in which he shared some research findings from his Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) on racism among religious groups. Using a Racism Index in a study of over 2,500 people, he found that white Christians scored roughly 30 points higher on the index than whites with no church affiliation, and 50 points higher than African-American Protestants.

Here are some of his conclusions.

White Christians, while believing they have “warm feelings” toward African-Americans, hold many racist attitudes that challenge that belief.

There is a positive correlation between church attendance and racist views.

The more racist views a person has, the more likely he or she self-identifies as a white Christian and vice-versa.

Jones has some advice for the Christian community. He urges us to face the reality that the “faith of our fathers” culturally reinforced white supremacy.  We need to stare that in the face, seeking justice rather than reconciliation.  Reconciliation–as in the case of the Southern Baptist Convention’s 1995 apology for its pro-slavery, racist history—bring peace but not needed self-examination and genuine transformation.  For Jones, racism robs us of “right relationships with our fellow citizens, with ourselves, and even with God,” and that failing to address “this sinister disorder in our faith will continue to generate serious consequences” for not only others, but “ourselves and our children.” DC

[320] Xianity & Racism

Robert P. Jones, in “White Christian America Needs a Moral Awakening” (The Atlantic, July 28, 2020), points to the troubling racial past among white Christian churches, stating that they “have not just been complacent or complicit in failing to address racism; rather as the dominant cultural power in the US they have been responsible for constructing and sustaining a project to protect white supremacy.”

A rather potent charge.  But Jones, raised as a Southern Baptist, goes on to cite some research from his Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).  Here are some of the findings from a survey of more than 2,500 people.

White Christian groups consistently hold views that are at odds with black Protestants, while non-religious whites are more aligned with African-Americans. For example, approximately 75% of white Christian groups saw the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride. Only 41% of the unaffiliated and 16% of African-Americans agreed.

Two-thirds of white Christians viewed police killings of blacks as isolated incidents, while only 38% of white unaffiliated and 1% of black Protestants did.

These patterns persisted “in question after question on issues of racial justice,” says Jones. To pull things together, he developed a Racism Index based on 15 questions. Here are the standings: White Evangelicals 78, white Roman Catholics 72, White mainline Protestants 69, religiously unaffiliated 42, black Protestants 24.

Jones’ findings are not to be dismissed.  They arise from careful, unbiased, sociological research.  They are disturbing, but not surprising. The emphasis on individual faith and discipleship, so much a part of orthodox Christianity, can easily blind us to collective evils, especially when those evils are a part of one’s own tradition. Those collective evils, however, socialize (socially shape) generations of individuals to an ongoing blindness. We will look at a few more of Jones’ findings next time. DC

 

[320] Who?

There is a push coming from some Christian groups to bring back religion into the schools. Not as a devotional exercise but as an educational response to the religious illiteracy of secular society. These people think that a clearer understanding of the various faiths will reduce stereotypes, and increase respect and tolerance for all faiths, creating an atmosphere of civility in what can be a highly-charged atmosphere.

I have one question: Who will develop the curriculum for these classes?

Imagine having a well-intentioned secular Jew develop a world religions curriculum. There is no certainty that she will present an accurate description of the gospel.  And to be fair, what about the Christian teacher presenting the various forms of Judaism?

This whole enterprise is nonsense—rank naivete.

One of the biggest problems with secular understanding of Christianity is that the faith is reduced to little more than the teachings of a great moral leader named Jesus.  No claim is made as to his divinity.  Do we want more of this?  Christianity is about truth revealed in scripture. To leave its presentation in the hands of secular curriculum designers and teachers is to subvert the very truth that is the faith.  DC

 

[319] CRT

There is much debate, particularly among Christians, over Critical Race Theory. First, do realize that despite the current debates, CRT is not new. It originated in 1989. Furthermore, variations of CRT have existed for decades. CRT is an outgrowth of what used to be called institutional racism (now systemic racism).  

According to Tommy Curry, by way of the Encyclopedia Britannica (June 9, 2016) CRT holds “that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of colour.”

For many people, making race not biological and denouncing the US legal system has a rather radical ring to it. Recently, white Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Seminary Presidents condemned CRT as incompatible with the Christian faith. Much of their objection resided in CRT being rooted in atheistic Marxism.

There is some merit there, but this was not an intelligent decision.  It was a typical–and well-meaning–white decision. And certainly not one affirmed by their black brothers and sisters in Christ.

Look at the CRT definition. It states that the law is racist.  It certainly has been historically (slavery once being legal) and its application is clearly racist if you look at the prison population, unless you believe African-Americans are inherently more criminal than members of other races.  Yes, race is defined biologically, but that biology has social consequences for people of all races. I don’t know many whites who, given the choice, would rather be black in America.

The issue I have with the SBC presidents is that their reaction to CRT shows an ignorance, and therefore unintended insensitivity, to the historical pervasiveness of racism in the US, very common among many well-meaning white Americans. Indeed, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, Marxism and other political elements do elevate the issue of race from simmer to boiling.  But we Christians need to get past the noise and look soberly at the matter of racism, particularly its history even among some Christian groups. For example, the SBC itself began in 1845 because of the belief that missionaries should be able to own slaves.  Not until 1995 did it apologize and repent of its pro-slavery stance.  Perhaps more important, we need to stop condemning concepts like CRT and denounce the still contemporary evidences of racism, injustice, and oppression.

There are over 70 verses in the Bible affirming God’s love for justice. Over 400 about his advocacy for the poor and oppressed.  Let’s open our bibles to those passages rather than engage in rhetoric that polarizes and divides even members of the kingdom of God.  DC 

[318] Cover

It is strange how certain words sneak into our lexicon and then get accepted as accurate depictions of reality. These words eventually code our brains with a false sense of what is really going on. Here is one for you: cover—as in journalism. “She covers the White House for this network.”  He covers Capitol Hill, or Hollywood, or the NFL.

These people, usually senior reporters (whatever that means) are given an elevated, almost omniscient status. In reality, they do not cover anything. They do not encompass or have claim to all relevant knowledge on whatever they “cover.”  They simply report on what they find.  Often these reports are cleverly embedded in a point of view. That is what they do and that is all they do.

So what is the point of this mini-rant? It is that terms like cover are dangerous. They are deliberately misleading, lending a sense of expertise, authority, credence—again, even omniscience–to the words (including slanted opinions) of these fallible people.

And that is not healthy in a society in which millions rely on too few voices to inform them of what is real, factual, and correct in their world.  Especially when many of those “purveyors of truth” have no respect for the one who is the source of all truth. DC

 

 

[317] Personal Not Private

One of the most powerful Satanic weapons is the notion that one’s religious beliefs should be personal and private. Well, they have it half right.  Our faith, whatever it may be, is indeed personal.

But it should never be private.

If our identity as believers is indeed the most important thing in our life—the very definition of who we are—why should it be private?

Are we private about our interests, our opinions?  Do we not talk about who our favorite restaurant, our family and friends?

Presumably, these are far less important than our faith, our personal relationship with Christ. So why should it be private?

It shouldn’t. If it is, we need to ask ourselves why.  We do know where Christ stands on the privacy issue. “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 10-32-33). DC

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