Moral Contradictions

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A quote

I came across a quote in one of my classes pulled from the October 16, 2006 edition of Time. Karen Tumulty, in the article "The End of a Revolution" says that:

Every revolution begins with the power of an idea and ends when clinging to power is the only idea left.


I could not help but think of the long view of the history of Baptists in the South. United with the fantastic idea of taking the Gospel to others beyond our borders, the largest incarnation of that group is sacrificing members by narrowing parameters for cooperation to cling to the idea of power.

I'm currently writing here as an excuse not to work on my 20 page paper for Christian Tradition. The point our textbook's author pounds is that Christ must remain at the center of the church. One essence, many forms. My understanding of how to practice my faith varies with other Christians, and that's okay, as long as Christ is the focus.

The day we succumb to temptation and put ourselves in the center is the day we are in trouble.

It's their fault

Republicans are upset at leaks concerning Justice Department probes into alleged corruption because they could threaten their majority.

As the age-old maxim goes (also a Biblical one), power corrupts. Unchecked power vested in one party, yet again, has resulted in the quagmire of morality that is Washington DC. Only this time it didn't take a impressionable intern.

I don't see what the anger is about concerning the Justice Department's investigations - if nothing was done wrong and there isn't anything to hide, then Republicans shouldn't worry, should they?

(Via Raw Story)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Literal contradictions

While taking a break from my Christian Tradition paper I am catching up on some of my blog reading. I am literally 1,000 posts behind as more are added everyday. While trying to knock that number down, something connected in my little brain. I may be totally off-base, but bear in mind that I am asking a question and do not have an answer yet.

The majority of Christians believe in transubstiation; in other words, when the bread and the wine are blessed at communion they become the literal body of Christ. Contrary to the triumphant Baptist tradition in which I was raised, this may be a shock to some as many are used to viewing this act in a symbolic manner. Unlike the Roman Catholic tradition, the Orthodox church has not tried to explain this belief - it's a matter of faith and though I disagree, I admire them.

The majority of current Southern Baptists along with Christians of other conservative denominations hold fast to the unbiblical word "inerrant", believing that the Holy Spirit, acting as God, used humans as a vehicle to move the pen on the scroll and write down the Holy Scriptures. In their circles, it's not enough to say the Bible is authoritative, inspired, and something to treasure, live by, and faithfully study. One must speak the word 'inerrant' as much as possible for a ticket of acceptance, else folks like myself are accused of not believing the Bible. Nevermind that word is not found in the Bible or in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, but whatever floats your boat.

I'm getting beyond myself, but the point is this: How is transubstiation dismissed as impossible, yet complete divine authorship is readily accepted?

In my mind, transubstiation has a Biblical edge when the statement "this is my body" is literally read, whereas "this book is without error" cannot be found. (Disclaimer: I have not taken Hebrew or Greek yet, so maybe I have a "liberal" translation or don't know enough yet to find it).

Furthermore, I have not taken a theology class yet, so maybe it's easier to believe that the Holy Spirit prefers human vehicles as opposed to those made of starch and alcohol and I am simply an ignorant fool.

Even though us Baptists believe the elements are symbols rather than actual flesh and blood, we still hold the act of communion in high regard - so high we usually only do it once a month so as to not take it for granted. To my knowledge, no one accuses us of not believing in Jesus' sacrifice because we do not believe the literal words of Jesus and agree with those who do.

Thus, if limiting the Holy Spirit's power in symbolizing communion does not take away from the meaning and importance of the act, why do some folks consistently dismiss those who disagree with the method of inspiration of the Bible as not believing the Bible? To me, saying the Bible is authoritative, inspired, and worthy of studying and living out is on the same level as considering communion as a holy sacrament despite disagreeing with the Catholic and Orthodox belief of the Holy Spirit's literal interaction with the ceremony.

Does that question make sense? I am merely trying to read the Bible for what it says and not assume I know what it says (or should say). I know it is impossible to be objective, but it is also impossible to be perfect, yet we are called to strive towards perfection.

Please bear with my ignorance and slight sarcasm, but my brain threw up a "Compare and Contrast" flag and I'm just throwing it out there.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A snapshot of all that has gone wrong in Iraq

We all know things have gone wrong in Iraq, but with the number of soldier's deaths increasing and God knows how many Iraqis' killed, Bill Maher has some advice for the 'think-tanks' that painted such a rosy picture to convince America that this war was necessary. Take it or leave it, but I had a hard time disputing his rationale.

Via Crooks and Liars:

And finally, new rule in two parts: (A) You can't call yourself a think tank if all your ideas are stupid; and (B) If you're someone from one of these think tanks that dreamed up the Iraq War and who predicted that we'd be greeted as liberators, and that we wouldn't need a lot of troops, and that Iraqi oil would pay for the war, that the WMD's would be found, that the looting wasn't problematic, that the mission was accomplished, that the insurgency was in its last throes, that things would get better after the people voted, after the government was formed, after we got Saddam, after we got his kids, after we got Zarqawi, and that whole bloody mess wouldn't turn into a civil war, you have to stop making predictions.

Friday, October 20, 2006

This is wrong

I interrupt my vacation to state that this is wrong.

Helping the hungry on base - Many military familes rely on donated goods.

(h/t Waldo Jaquith)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Truth, truths, and a post!

I really do miss writing here, but one thing I'm learning is that I have to get my reading and writing done at odd times. Today is a great example - I was reading a book for class while waiting for an oil change and saw a couple things that sparked my interest. Now I find myself at home typing over a cat on my lap, trying to get this done before we pack up to go to the beach for fall break.

I have started way too many projects and am trying to tie some of them up while a couple are on hold. I recently went down to part-time at my job, allowing me some more free time, which I hope will be reflected here. I'm starting some sort of hybrid ministry/business that will help churches obtain an easy-to-manage and affordable (and attractive!) website. I firmly believe that this can be a vital tool for ministry and outreach, especially to the 6 out of 10 former youth group members who have fallen away from the church.

So the mission and focus of this web design shin-dig I'm starting up is one thing that's on my mind, so the part of the book that stood out to me goes along with that as well as other ideas and thoughts, if you can call them thoughts, that float around in my head.

The book is Soul Searching, The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith. The author is a sociologist who loves numbers and charts a bit too much, but the following two things struck me and I'm not sure if they're related.

First, there's a chart detailing the percentages of youth ages 13-17 who currently consider themselves non-religious and lists the faith tradition in which they grew up. Three main Christian categories exist: Catholic, Protestant, and "Just Christian". The Just Christian category, in the author's mind, represents youths where church attendance was nominal. 22% of non-religious youths were Catholic, 22% Protestant, and 20% Just Christian.

The Protestant category is broken down by denomination, and Baptists represent 9%, or 41% of identified Protestants. 9% of youth today who consider themselves non-religious were raised Baptist.

This simply could be due to the sheer volume of Baptists in the country, as Luthern is second place at 4% and Methodist and Pentecostal at 2%. Whatever the reason, it is not something to be proud of and needs to be recognized.

Next was a quote by a non-religious 17 year old interviewed for the project and book. He had a pretty good life going, although it was hard for awhile, and was raised as a nominal Catholic. One observation he made during the conversation about his turn-offs from church was "I often see people get stuck into trying to find the truth in religion and they shut out the world around them."

I had two professors and a Bible study leader in the past two days discuss Truth versus many truths, and thus I've been wrestling with this whole Truth deal. In our post-modern age, many folks subscribe to a notion that what works for others may not work for them, and that's fine. Many in the evangelical side cling to Truth and approach evangelism with a "here's what you don't have, I have it, and you need it" mentality. Bible bashers - with the love of Jesus, of course. That tactic does not have much chance succeeding when put against a person who believes in multiple truths. You lose their respect, you come across as arrogant, and any chance of seed-planting is gone.

Now, I'm not saying good-ole evangelism should cease - I believe it still has a place at the table for outreach as many folks are looking for a solid and firm answer. However, there are multiple forms of evangelism, and one way is to engage folks where they are at and then share stories of God's work and help them come to Christ.

I'm hoping this little web thing I'm starting on the side will help reach out to folks who live a big chunk of their lives online. Tactics that worked 50 years ago, 25 years ago, or even 5 years ago need to be re-thought - not for the sake of merely trying something new for the novelty of the thing or to disrespect tradition, but we need to re-evaluate their effectiveness, as well as their theology. Website outreach is one way of evangelism that needs to be fully understood and utilized.

So yeah - Truth, many truths, and how to convey Christ in a post-modern world. Who said this was easy? :)

As Forrest Gump says: that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Unjust allies

I am continually struck at the blind allegiance many Christians give to political parties. Certainly today we hear more about the Religious Right as their party is currently in control of both Congress and the White House, but Democrats cannot be excluded from this wide-sweeping statement.

Usually this allegiance is given by the promise to fulfill their particular intrepretation of the Bible. All that makes the news seems to be abortion and homosexuality, issues that must be engaged, but often at the expense of the rest of the Bible's teachings. Often times Christians in opposite parties, in a reactionary way, totally ignore the pet issues of Christians in the other party, no matter the Biblical justification.

By sticking with one party, Biblical teachings will be compromised. There is no way around that. Christians who align themselves with Democrats yet are against abortion may sometimes feel unwelcome at party gatherings. Likewise, Christians who identify with the GOP may not speak out, or worse, champion the excesses of the corporate wing of the party.

Today in the church, too often the Old Testament and Prophets are at best ignored and at worst maligned. In Jeremiah, we know that God is not happy with His people, but often times the reason why is not explored, or Jeremiah is merely used as a tool to point to Christ or the an apocalypse. Jeremiah's temple speech commands that:

For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors for ever and ever.

Amos goes on to proclaim "Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate;..."(5:14-15a).

Of course the prophet Micah reminds us that "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"(6:8).

We know that God judges and that he abhors sin, but we cannot simply gloss over those teachings of the Old Testament. If we are to believe in the entire Bible, we must wrestle with these commands and not simply dismiss them with some sort of convienent theology.

Likewise, we must have the courage like the prophets and boldly proclaim what God commands us to say and do. Sure the prophets are immortalized in the Holy Bible forever, but they were not especially popular people back in their time. Even when Jerusalem was under siege, Jeremiah was in jail because he was considered a traitor for suggesting that Judah would pay for its sins.

God cannot be confined to one political party. The Bible cannot be the sole property and interpretation of one political party. Why has this happened? My layman's view is that it's too easy - vote at the polls for the politicians that speak your language and God will be pleased. There's no committment, no cross to bear, no narrow path - just show up at the polls once every other November and your duty is done.

I would love for someone to point out in the Bible where it says that following God is easy. The Bible was not dropped from heaven as some sort of rulebook or clear-cut guideline - we have to wrestle with all the teachings and understand what they say. We cannot pick and choose abortion and homosexuality or focus only on poverty and the suffering - if we say we believe in the Bible, we must read it with an open mind to see what it really says, and not what we want it to say. We must read the entire Bible, or else we pervert what God may be actually saying by attempting to think for Him.

We must engage all the issues and not sell out Biblical teachings so that we may curry political favor. I pick mainly on the GOP because they're currently in power, and we've witnessed how power can corrupt (which is another theme in the Old Testament that's routinely ignored, but we'll save that for later). Else, we may ignorantly find ourselves committing the same errors as the ancient Israelites which drew God's wrath.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Is there any surprise?

I have been saying since I started this blog that evangelical Christians who put their faith in President Bush were simply being used to gain political power. Any objective person who merely glanced at the news in the last six years could see all the talk about how important they were as the "base", yet most of the benefits went to the corporate and military wing of the party. How's that for irony?

I started writing this blog not to attack these Christian conservatives, as I share some of their beliefs. Rather, I wanted to expose my belief that their unquestionable faith (which they're starting to question, finally) in DC was misguided and even idolatrous.

Big Daddy Weave has a great clip from the Keith Olbermann show detailing David Kuo's book called "Tempting Faith", a book that I want to read.

President Bush has let you down - God never will. Remember, there's a difference.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Newt and I agree again

I saw this quote concerning the sex scandals of late from the esteemed (*cough cough *) Newt Gingrich:

"What we don't have to do is allow our friends on the left to lecture us on morality," Gingrich said at a party fundraiser in Greenville. "There's a certain stench of hypocrisy."


That's a valid point. I mean, if it was so easy to listen to members of your own party preach to the left on morality, only to suffer the indignation of having it thrown back at you, I would be upset. Really, when you stand on the pulpit above everyone else, you get to point out the problems of others while condemning those that recognize the same problems within your party.

So yes, clearly the stench of hypocrisy stems from the left. Clearly.

Seriously, how do authentic Christians, who strive to follow Jesus daily, swallow this bull? Will the real Christian statesman please stand up?

Update: Thank you Steve B for the George Will link. Will says it much better than I can:

Their story, of late, has been that theirs is the lonely burden of defending all that is wholesome. But the problem with claiming to have cornered the market on virtue is that people will get snippy when they spot vice in your ranks.


Will goes on: "His [Mark Foley's] behavior was disgusting, and some Republican reactions seem more calculating than indignant." Someone tried to preach to me that what separated Republicans from Democrats was not that Republicans claimed to hold a higher standard only to abuse the public trust, but rather dealt more swiftly with errant members. We're finding that out to be untrue, and I'm sure a little investigative work would turn up more examples.

I cannot count how many times I have heard ministers, politicians, and everyone else preach that morals are not relative, but absolute. How is comparing one party's morals to the others absolute? We may have messed up, but not as bad as them. Why not say we messed up, period? Only until the sin is fully acknowledged and blame accepted can forgiveness and atonement occur.

The Republican Party has no one to blame but itself. It has turned into the monster it has repeatedly condemned and feared, and only objective analysis and soul searching will allow them to swallow the consequences and attempt to restore its integrity and move on. Else, the shear level of cynicism toward American politics, not to mention Christians, which is my main focus, will burst through the roof, and everyone loses.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Adjusting

My world has been fundamentally altered forever within the last three months, so I beg forgiveness that I have not been able to write here as much as I want to. Not to delve too personally, but I'm dealing with:


  • Starting seminary

  • Changing churches

  • Re-evaluating my current employment

  • Finding personal and marriage time


All while this is going on, I've stumbled across some unexpected feelings dealing with the incredible amount of transition we are undergoing. It was unexpected because, well, I didn't expect it, but reflecting on it I should have. I do not know too many people that can handle all that in a smooth manner.

I anticipate working through it with no problem. I thank God for a strong marriage in which I can honestly communicate what's going on without fear of retribution or rejection. I also thank God for being God and being patient with my rambling prayers as well as being a comforter and peace-giver.

Suffice to say that my head will stop spinning and be on straight at some point, and we'll see if I can give more attention to this little project.

I must say that I am unsure if this is coming at an inconvenient or convenient time with all the happenings in the news. Soon I do want to hash out an opinion on the Virginia constitutional amendment being proposed. This whole Mark Foley deal just upsets me as more details come out about the lack of inaction all around. Additionally, the culture of corruption, lying, and half-truths wears on me, so for once I feel grateful for being allowed to stick my head in the sound and deal with personal issues.

Anyways, thanks for faithfully stopping by even though it has been slow. I always say I hope it picks up, but truthfully I cannot say that for sure. God bless.