"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I Like the Way This Guy Thinks

Matt Huisman has a few profound thoughts in comment world:

The tricky thing about moral condemnations is that you actually have to reference an agreed upon moral that has been violated. And the truth is that we’re not really capable of telling anyone that extra-marital sex is immoral anymore. We have developed the means to eliminate the physical harm - and why be upset with someone who has done no harm? What’s that? You say that some of us still slip up and make a mess? What a shame, but who can really blame someone for getting caught up in the moment and forgetting to take the necessary precautions – there but for the grace of God go I. Better make a note to redouble our appeals before the god of education, who is no doubt merciful and good, and able to save us from our current condition.

So where does this leave us as Christians? Should we be spitting fire and brimstone at those who scoff at their creator? Or do we simply need to recognize that the world has passed us (and God) by, and we’ve become irrelevant?

Neither. For while our compassion dictates that the church be useful to its fellow man as counselor, insurance policy and all-around handy man – it was never our central purpose.

General revelation is a good thing, and the world’s ever amassing competence and ability to overcome the obstacles that used to turn them to the divine will soon expose the hard reality of loneliness (or meaninglessness) that lurks behind every would-be panacea. Perhaps it is here where our efforts are best spent – where the real love of Jesus can best be understood.

We may be getting close to the time where ‘I told you so’ is no longer relevant as an introduction to the eternal – and that too is a good thing.

15 comments:

Tlaloc said...

In all honesty you guys would so much better off if you could ditch all the Robertsons and Fallwells and Phelps. My wife's brother is a very devout christian but he's incredibly easy going and doesn't try to convert or preach to anyone. He just lives his life according to his religion and calls it a day. We get along quite well. He just crashed at our place for a couple days since he was on this coast visiting family and all.

Great guy and a hell of a lot better advertisement for christianity than fifty Dobsons. If Christians would, en masse, stop letting themselves be fronted by obnoxious demagogues and stop getting so involved in partisan politics I think you'd see a slow but steady reversal of the declining church attendance.

Hunter Baker said...

Phelps is not in the club at all, AT ALL.

Tlaloc said...

When he stops getting money to fund his campaigns we'll talk.

mjwatson said...

Church attendance is going down in mainline Protestant denominations, but up in evangelical and more charismatic denominations and non-denominational churches. Oddly enough, it's the more liberal churches in both theology and political leanings that are losing members.

Some questions about Christians and political involvement, Tlaloc. Do you oppose Christians involved in politics qua politics, i.e. any positions, or only Christians taking positions you disagree with? Was the Roman Catholic Church wrong to excommunicate state officials in Louisiana for supporting segregation, or was MLK Jr. wrong to bring his religion into the public square? Or do Christians have a free pass to support policies you believe to be just?

And is it only Christians, or should all citizens informed by religious beliefs abstain from exercising their right to engage in political debate?

Hunter Baker said...

If I were with the Human Rights Campaign or any other gay advocacy organization, I'd be throwing money at Fred Phelps with two fists.

That's why I send Howard Dean as much as I can spare out of every pay check.

mjwatson said...

Hanging Phelps around the neck of Christians is like hanging Stalin around the neck of atheists and Hitler around the neck of Germans. It's beneath the level of respectful discourse and a risible form of the fallacy of guilt by association.

I'll take some deserved heat for Robertson, Falwell, and, to a much lesser extent, Dobson. They're not perfect, neither am I. But Phelps? C'mon . . .

Jay D. Homnick said...

And is church attendance the best yardstick by which to measure devoutness? I think not.

Although I have no statistics, it is my definite intuition that belief in God and the effort to improve life in accordance with His plan is very much on the rise in this country and has been since at least 1980.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Robertson is already a dinosaur, and a discredited one at that. The Moral Majority made its ill-fated run at true political social/political power awhile ago, but has, as Mr. Huisman acknowledges (a fine essay, Matt), been consigned to working to preserve its place at the very populated table of our polity, and that's as it should be.

If religion's voice is to be heard over the din of everybody fighting over the pork chops, it will be with arguments that, as Mr. Homnick intimates, feed the soul of man. We religionists just happen to believe, and seek to prove, that the nourishment offered by God's plan is what our souls truly hunger for.

That's our purpose around here, I think, and if anyone should resort to the banality of dogmatism, they should be thumped over the head with their Bible.

connie deady said...

If religion's voice is to be heard over the din of everybody fighting over the pork chops, it will be with arguments that, as Mr. Homnick intimates, feed the soul of man. We religionists just happen to believe, and seek to prove, that the nourishment offered by God's plan is what our souls truly hunger for.

I agree with that. Faith and the ethics and sense of good that religion brings plays an essential role to a society.

But as you know I draw the line at putting specific religious beliefs into general laws.

JC said...

But as you know I draw the line at putting specific religious beliefs into general laws.
So does everyone---it's the First Amendment.

The problem is that you might mean something different than the next guy who comes along. As mjwatson put it, you would probably agree with the church a lot of the time. There is no particular distinction when "putting specific religious beliefs into general laws" among the civil rights movement, the abolition of slavery, and the anti-abortion movement (just grabbing a canonical example), except that you disagree (I assume) with one of the movements. They all had vocal religious supporters.

I submit that the only thing you really said in the quote above is that "you know I draw the line at putting specific religious beliefs into general laws" when those beliefs conflict with your own. But this equally true even when religion is not involved. You draw the line at passing laws with which you disagree.

Well, join the club. Three cheers for democracy!

Tlaloc said...

"Church attendance is going down in mainline Protestant denominations, but up in evangelical and more charismatic denominations and non-denominational churches."

Overall the percentage of americans who consider themselves religious has been declining substantially. You are correct that within this shrinking demographic there has also been a push toward the more extreme congregations.



"Some questions about Christians and political involvement, Tlaloc. Do you oppose Christians involved in politics qua politics, i.e. any positions, or only Christians taking positions you disagree with?"

I didn't say I was opposed, what I said is that they'd be much better respected if they stopped mixing faith with politics so heavily. I absolutely think that churches should be free to say whatever they want, but as with any issue of freedom of speech that doesn't mean you are always wise to say whatever comes to mind.



"And is it only Christians, or should all citizens informed by religious beliefs abstain from exercising their right to engage in political debate?"

I think other religions will suffer the same kind of backlash should they try to directly manipulate the government in the same way, so my advice would apply equally to them.

Tlaloc said...

"Hanging Phelps around the neck of Christians is like hanging Stalin around the neck of atheists and Hitler around the neck of Germans."

I disagree, it's more like hanging Hitler around the neck of the racists. Lets face it Christianity has never exactly been known for it's compassion or forgiving nature (in stark contrast to Christ himself). And it's not exactly like Phelps exists in a vacuum. An unfortunately large number of people in this country are rabidly homophobic and a great many of them use misconstrued passages from the bible to justify their beliefs.

It's not like the gay marriage debate created itself afterall.

Tlaloc said...

"And is church attendance the best yardstick by which to measure devoutness? I think not."

Certainly true, but last time I checked it was an issue of great concern to the various Christian communities, and it is a reflection of the overall view of the Christian CHURCH (as opposed to the Christian faith) in everyday life.



"Although I have no statistics, it is my definite intuition that belief in God and the effort to improve life in accordance with His plan is very much on the rise in this country and has been since at least 1980."

The polls would suggest otherwise.

“a. the proportion of the population that can be classified as Christian has declined from eighty-six in 1990 to seventy-seven percent in 2001;
b. although the number of adults who classify themselves in non-Christian religious groups has increased from about 5.8 million to about 7.7 million, the proportion of non-Christians has increased only by a very small amount – from 3.3 % to about 3.7 %;
c. the greatest increase in absolute as well as in percentage terms has been among those adults who do not subscribe to any religious identification; their number has more than doubled from 14.3 million in 1990 to 29.4 million in 2001; their proportion has grown from just eight percent of the total in 1990 to over fourteen percent in 2001”

(This is from the City University of New York study using the ARIS question set in 2001. The poll included 50,000 people and so was substantially better sampling than your typical n=1000 political poll. Unfortunately I don't have a working link at the moment to the data.)

Furthermore in that same study the respondents indicated they were “somewhat religious” in equal proportion to those who were simply “religious.” The percentage identifying themselves as “religious” or “somewhat religious” correlates with age, the youngest populations being substantially less so than older Americans. Specifically 18-34 year olds between the two categories were 70% religious/somewhat religious as opposed to 81% for the 65+ crowd. More importantly though in the younger crowd “somewhat religious” is substantially larger than “religious” a trend that changes as the populations get older.

So what does that sum up to? Fewer people, percentage wise, are religious as compared to even ten years ago. Of the religious Christianity makes up a smaller portion of the whole. Of Christians the tendency toward seeing religion as a central matter to their life (religious vs. somewhat religious) is declining. Within the population devout religious populations are skewed toward the older end of the spectrum.

Matt Huisman said...

Hunter, TVD, thanks for the kind words - the encouragement is appreciated.

Tlaloc, I think we all can understand some of your frustrations with Christians. To the extent that attendance/devoutness is not what it could be, all believers need to look in the mirror - because what we have to offer is attractive, and has the neat secondary benefit of being true.

Unfortunately, we're not so good at keeping the truth in it's place. You have a very keen understanding of the effects of power on men, and can no doubt see how the lure of the 'truth' could distract and corrupt even the most well-intentioned.

Should HB, TVD and the rest of us spend all of our time 'thumping' (as TVD might say) those who get out of line? I don't know...I think I'll leave that to Hank Hanegraaff - I'd hate to put him out of business.

But it would be a shame if you let some of our antics distract you from examining where your current worldview really takes you in this life and beyond.

connie deady said...

ut as you know I draw the line at putting specific religious beliefs into general laws.
So does everyone---it's the First Amendment.


Yep, I love the First Amendment. I'm actually a fan of the whole Bill of Rights.

My point was in response to the argument advanced elsewhere that we should make certain sexual acts illegal, even if we don't enforce them.

And abortion is a codification of a particular religious belief.