The differences are being realized

The process of realizing the differences between what has been known as “Evangelicalism” in this country and what has developed into the Christian “Religious Right” is picking up. For twenty years now, this group that has developed into the politicized Religious Right has striven to make sure the American public believes that they are the true Evangelicals and that their brand of Christian faith-expression is the only true expression of the Christian faith. The Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Mainline Protestants, and any other form are all apostate and not truly Christian, although the Religious Right will align with them politically or socially when their goals are the same.
Here is an interview from the Star-Tribune concerning Randall Balmer’s new book, Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical’s Lament :
Interview: Christian right has hijacked his faith, evangelical says
What is becoming more apparent is that the Religious Right is not the same as traditional American-Evangelicalism. In the same way, I think that we are realizing that politically the Neo-Conservatives in charge of this administration and who have taken control of much of the Republican Party are not truly conservative in the traditional understanding of American-conservatism and not in line with the traditions of the Grand Ol’ Party of Lincoln.
Thank God! The distortions of the Christian faith and of American-Conservatism are becoming clear, and the Religious Right and the Neo-Conservatives will be brought to task. I just don’t know how long the deception will last or how deep will be the damage.
Via: Father Jake Stops the World

It is hard…

“Say what you want about the vices of the dogma of sin, one of its virtues has always been to remind us that we—all of us—live between the animals and the gods, that one of the underappreciated challenges of human life is to somehow become a human being.”
In Prothero’s review of the new Oxford University Press’ new books series on the Seven Deadly Sins, he writes much about how each of the authors handle their respective sin. I find it interesting that the book written by the Columbia University Buddhist Studies professor Robert A. F. Thurman (Uma’s father!) gets a good deal of attention and Prothero suggests that his book is the only one that treats the topic as “sin” – or what might be traditionally understood within Christianity as sin and the effects of sin. What does this tell us about current American culture? You know, this American culture of ours that if you heed the spin of poll-results from the politicized Religious Right suggests this good, wholesome, and particular kind of Christian nation, despite the evil, godless, and liberal American cultural elites who are trying their hardest to destroy Christian America.
Anyway, the quote above struck me. What does it mean to be truly “human?” Biologically? Psychologically? Communally or individually? And, particularly for me, Spiritually? Can any of the above really be separated without loosing the essence of what a “human being” really is – this thing between animals and the gods? I don’t think so, but for many people the “spiritual” aspect is often removed from the equation – or at least any kind of defined and systematized understanding of “spirituality.”
Then, there is this idea that it is quite challenging to actually become a “human being.” Perhaps, to view the holistic nature the human is a good first step in understanding what it means to be a true “human being.” The spiritual cannot be seperated from the physical from the psychological, etc.
I agree with Prothero’s assertion that our cultural understanding of sin and sin’s effect upon human life has been turned on its head – sin once seen as that thing which impinges upon our freedom has been turned to be understood as that which brings about our freedom. Where does the difference between freedom and license, liberty and libertinism?
From my Christian perspective, there are things that we do that originate from our inner-selves (what is unclean is not what we put into our bodies but what proceeds out from of our hearts) that distort our understandings of and relationships with God, our neighbors, and our own self-understanding. To live by license or a libertine existence seems to bring about true freedom, but often we become bound by and controlled by those behaviors. Our true freedom is hindered or even destroyed. Freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want whenever we want, but true freedom is the ability to step outside of our own wants and our own lusts. To give into or indulge our own wants and lust often leads to enslavement to those wants and lusts – materialism, greed, addictions, etc. To engage in the struggle and daily battle to resist the temptation of sin, I think, is the process of discovering true freedom.
We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We don’t deny ourselves, but we are enabled to move outside ourselves so that we can consider the wants and needs and betterment of our neighbors as a goal at least as important as self-indulgement – perhaps even more so. For me, this is a beginning point of discovering what it means to be a “human being.” It is a challenge and it requires discipline, but the process brings freedom.
Read the review by Stephen Prothero (chairman of the Department of Religion at Boston University) of the new book series on The Seven Deadly Sins published by Oxford University Press at ChristianityToday.
Via: Titusonenine

Losing place…

I caught myself the other day responding to the cultural zeitgeist of pro- and anti-anything that doesn’t smack of mythical-America (a bucolic rendition of the 1950’s era that centers on male White Anglo-Saxon Protestants and doesn’t consider the plight of anyone not in positions of political, economic, or cultural power – anyone other than male WASP’s). I’m not a liberal, but I am a Christian. That means that my focus is not (or should not be!) on the accumulation of power or wealth or the fear-based need to protect and preserve what I do have.
I’m a male WASP, and I know I have benefited from what some liberals like to call my “skin-privilege,” and I suppose I could add to that my “gender-privilege” or perhaps even my “religion-privilege.” From my tending-towards-libertarian-conservative perspective, I react negatively to notions like “skin privilege” and the politically correct demands that all people of the world have to be uncritically accepted and loved and esteemed regardless of the actual outcomes of their philosophies, beliefs, or actions. (I know that few people, even the most politically-correct minded liberals, do not say that we should be uncritical, but the way it works out in the world suggests this is the end result.)
I believe, in general, that the free-enterprise system and competition help the most people, that Western Civilization despite its flaws is still the best why of conceiving of life in the world, that all cultures are not equal, that the cult of Self-Esteem particularly evident in American educational pedagogies is counter productive, that there are differences in the sexes, and that I don’t have to feel guilty for the atrocities that past generations have perpetrated against the vulnerable – those non-WASP’s who had no power. Oh, and I believe that Jesus Christ really is the Son of God and the only way to the Father, despite the idiocy of many of His followers – myself included.
Okay, so that is my very culturally-current American way of thinking. Shoot fire, we are the greatest thing the world has ever seen and we are God’s very own blessed people and the world – every last human bein’ in the world – should just bend over backwards with gratitude that they can walk on the same planet that we Americans dominate! But, then comes the Gospel of Jesus the Christ. Suddenly, this very American way of thinking doesn’t seem so good and right. Hyper-individualism, hyper-materialism, hyper-busyness, hyper-selfishness, the drive for hegemony and empire, the loss of the sense of community, the repudiation of self-reflection and education, the push for banality in our cultural life, and the growing inability to love our neighbors as we certainly love ourselves just doesn’t seem very workable or attractive any longer. Is there any wonder why so many people in the world are rejecting so much of what we have come to represent – contrary to the high-minded ideals we like to think we project to the world?
If I am serious about being a follower of Jesus, then I have to lay aside all these notions. As a Christian whose home is not here, may American identity is irrelevant; my desire to attain and preserve power or privilege is inappropriate; my proclivity to indulge my lusts of whatever sort and be undisciplined is perverse; my selfishness is destructive; and the fear that grips me as those who have traditionally been marginalized gain more power and influence is very sad and dead wrong with regard to the call of Jesus to be a servant to all people. The two greatest Commandments – To love God with my entire being and then to Love my neighbor as myself – are profoundly difficult and profoundly contrary to the present culture in which I find myself.
I am losing my place in this world – that place that has traditionally been granted to male WASP’s. How will I respond? I hope I will respond in the way of Jesus’ example. I caught myself responding with indignation (really out of fear). How will I respond, tomorrow? What opportunities and freedoms will be realized by my loss?

Lots of spin

There is a lot of spin and angst going around concerning ++Rowan William’s interview with a Dutch newspaper – Nederlands Dagblad. The more radical-conservatives are claiming that ++Rowan is now supporting their side and the more radical-liberals are gnashing their teeth.
Both sides are spinning his comments for their own purposes (sometimes I wonder whether they know how to do anything other than spin, spin, spin?).
Here are some good reference sites to read-up-on and for yourself the interview:
Here is the Dutch interview transcript:
Here are a number of good assessments and commentaries on the interview
from ‘Thinking Anglicans’:

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