It seems like certain believers will never agree to keep their views on religion private. We are headed for a future of endless confrontations and disagreement on what the Constitutional role religion plays in our country.
I recall Pat Robertson bragging about how he had pulled of this trick to get Christian prayer into public school graduation ceremonies. He had done it by having the class President or Valedictorian give Christian testamony during their traditional remarks.
By pulling off this trick, of course, they have set in motion the practice of making traditional remarks by students an opportunity for both religious and political speech. Even if students can deliver such remarks under the cover freedom of speech guaranteed in our Constitution, it opens the door for making traditional secular ceremonies in testamony for atheist students as well as the religous.
When parents are fortunate enough to have a child who is the class President, it would be a great time to teach the child good taste and respect for others by sticking with secular remarks, whether the parents are religious or secular.
The practice of putting the Christian cross on public property where a loved one or law enforcement officer was killed is another example. Even in the grief that follows death on a highway, it is a time for private contemplation, not unconstitutional use of public property.
I’ve not heard yet of a greiving atheist family putting up the “A” symbol at an accident scene.
I went to several revival events in central Iowa when I was young. The preacher would work up an emotional froth and then issue the alter call, “If you will give your life to Jesus, come forward now.” Always, some would go to the front and kneel, tears would flow.
This genre of evangelism was the trade mark of Billy Graham. He was in our City a couple of decades ago. I visited with a local organizer afterwards. Organizers were unsure how ”being saved” would sell in somewhat undemonstartive Lutheran culture. Southern Baptist Graham agreed to substitute the term “committment” for the term “saved”.
Years ago Graham’s revivals were considered to be legitimate news stories. The size of the crowd and the number of people saved was given big coverage.
Times seem to have changed. I’m sure the same style of revival meeting must occur today, but they are not reported on by the large media outlets.
I can’t say whether this lack of interest in the revival genre is because Graham is no longer active or because the public does not have the same level of interest in the concept of being saved. Perhaps it is both.
Before Graham’s visit here I recall churches were advised to expect larger crowds following his revival. I don’t think attendence went up.
I do know if there are revival meetings being held today, and people are being saved, church attendence is falling anyway.
When we think of Christianity as a market driven religion, so many things make sense. Certain sins are seen as important for a while, then they are ignored.
While certain sins remain hot buttons, preachers rail out against them. When they fade, preachers don’t mention them because of the collection plate. In that way, the people in the pews write the sermons delivered from the pulpit.
Exactly the same thing happens with “Jesus movies”. The genre of Jesus on film is big business. How Jesus is portrayed in films follows exactly the concept of Jesus popular at that time.
There is much flap at the moment about a couple of Christian themed movies. These movies are aimed at the same audience as The Passion of Christ. The themes presented are about “the serious Jesus”.
The Vietnam War was so long ago many in the U. S. were not even born at the time. Thus, they would not know “The Hippy Jesus”. For reasons now hard to recall, there was something called, “The Jesus Movement” in the counter culture. Out of that time came the successful movie and stage show, Jesus Christ, Superstar.
There have been many other Jesus styles. In 1915, Birth of a Nation, saw Jesus blessing the Klan. Black people did not see Jesus this way.
By 1927, we have a period ripe with anti semitism. In King of Kings, Jesus is peace guy and the Jews are the ugly nasty people who killed him.
There will be many more Jesus movies.
There was a little flap recently when the American Atheists Association purchased a booth space at Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) gathering. The atheist group wanted to meet and greet whoever might be so inclined to visit with them.
Then, CPAC cancelled the atheists booth contract and returned their money. The President of American Atheists, Dave Silverman, did register to attend the gathering.
I keep thinking there will be a turn in the road and political conservatives will realize they need the support of conservative secular people. There is no philisophical reason atheists would be either conservative or liberal in their politics. Both views are represented in our local Red River Freethinkers.
It seems to me the business branch of conservatives could welcome atheists in their fold without sacrificing any the their principles. Less regulation and lower taxes are just as likely to be embraced by “Satan” as by Christianity.
It is always amusing to hear from groups who want to stay with “the past” and call this conservatism. I always like to ask which past they are referring to? Lots of things happened in the past we all like to ignore.
The founding fathers themselves were a mixed bag of political and religious views. The period of time when the Constitution was ratified and several decades after that have been called to most secular time in U. S. history.
If conservatives like CPAC want to rule the political roost, they need to invite in a group that is growing, the atheists.
I don’t claim to be an expert in the field of rhetoric.
Wikepedia calls rhetoric an art of persuading and motivating. Aristotle saw it as the counterpart of both logic and politics.
I see it as the art of choosing an argument that can be defended when attacked. It is about how to prevail in argument over a long period of time.
There is a group, Religous Communication Association, that publishes about rhetoric applied to religion. I have thoughts of how Christianity should approach rhetoric.
It needs to recognize public schools now teach critical thinking. I am surprised at how often this is required in our granddaughters’ written work.
Christianity should recognize the faith will be subjected to critical thinking more than ever in its history. It should figure out positions that will withstand coming decades of critical challange.
Christian apologists will not be able to defend that the Bible can be taken literally, in part or in whole, against critical analysis. The divine-source argument will not stand up in a generation familiar with critical thinking.
On the other hand, the faith can defend that people are attracted to various kinds of spiritual thinking. Recognizing there may be patterns of such thought and that some people receive pleasure and meaning from these thoughts is something defensible. Deeper meaning about sin and afterlife is where the argument gets weak.
Exploring generic spirituality is essentially the position of liberal branches now. I think they will prevail in rhetorical argument, conservatives will not.
Christianity needs to develop a rhetorical strategy for coming generations.
I’m reading the book, Philomena, by Martin Sixsmith. The movie is much discussed these days.
A teenage girl in Ireland became pregnant in the 1950′s. Her widowed father dropped her off at a Catholic convent which isolated, housed and exploited the girls for monetary gain. The facility added to its profits by money from government and by selling the girls’ babies to nonvetted Catholics in the U. S. without the mothers’ permissions.
The book is based on five years of research including many interviews with surviving participants in the travesty. What could possibly justify the barbarian concept?
It was justified by the belief there was sin. Those guilty of the exploitation considered themselves sin experts. Anyone who believes Christianity is about forgiveness and not about sin should read this book.
Of course, there are those who will argue the Philomena story was but one branch of the Christian faith and took place 70 years ago. I would argue in return that sin remains the central theme of the faith and without it the faith would but a fraction of its current size.
The sin was teenage sex. No matter how the girls were abused nor how much money was wrongly taken from the girls’ families, the government, the girl’s labor and the sale of their babies, the Mother Superior and the Bishop blew it off as the product of the sin of young girls.
The Catholic Church today has its current list of sins of sex, abortion, birth control and gay marriage. In this way, the Philonma story lives on.
There is a break away group from the Presbyterian Church that has been picking off congregations unhappy with the Presbyterian mother church’s (Presbyterian Church of America) decision pastors can be homosexuals. For several months Christian sites have been anticipating a vote by the largest church yet to disassociate. It is the 3,000 member First Presbyterian Church of Houston, TX.
Last Sunday conventional wisdom was turned on its head, a vote to leave failed. A two third’s majority was required and the number fell short by 35 votes.
A majority of those voting certainly are mad about liberalizing the rules on homosexuality. But, even in the Bible Belt, there were not enough votes to pull off the protest exodus. Perhaps it is yet possible for dissenters to call for another vote.
Only about one half of the membership, 1600 out of 3,000 members, even bothered to vote. One could conclude almost half the membership was not interested enough in the church’s debabe to even participate. From what one reads the low participation in First Presbyterian-Houston is not unusual.
The dissident group in First Presbyterian-Houston which campaigned to leave Presbyterian Church of America claimed to know what the Bible says about homosexuality. If they really do know, the vote should have been a slam dunk.
The fact that it lost means either many people in that church a.) do not believe the Bible condemns homosexulaity or b.) don’t care if it does or does not or where the church affliliates.
The latter may be the most discouraging news conservative Christians have received.
Everytime I’m not in a church but at some other gathering and public prayers are uttered I ask silently, “I wonder who is getting something for doing this?” That includes prayers at public meetings where politicans get votes and at private events which charge admission.
I enjoyed a story about the NBA professional basketball team, Oklahoma City Thunder. Thunder is the only NBA team that has a prayer before each home game.
After the prayer the usual sexy dancers, Hooters’ advertisements and beer fire up and everyone has fun. So, why the prayers?
The Thunder’s owner said the real purpose of the prayers is not making money but, he admits, it helps. He explained that if the team invites a mega church preacher to pray, the preacher announces this at church weeks before.
Loyal church members like to see their pastor at half court doing his thing. There is the opportunity to sell 5,000 tickets that would not have been purchased otherwise.
There is this saying, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” I would add, “Capitalism works in mysterious ways.”
We have to remember the price of admission is never absent within the faith itself. Branches of the church that have no money disappear.
Those which collect enough money to survive and live on are the ones we see today. In that way, money has determined theology. Any theology that is no longer preached disappears.
As to the basketball prayers, I’ve noticed God favors teams with centers that are seven feet tall and good three point shooters.
Several years ago, I knew a young man who suffered from depression and had small children. He tried dealing with it in various ways and eventually took medicine.
He fell into a small tight Christian group. He opened up to members about his struggles. In their evangelical enthusiasm they persuaded him to stop taking his medicine.
He put a shotgun to his head. At the funeral, one of the group praised the progress the young man had made in his faith journey that allowed him to toss his medicine.
I know only a small part of the faith that preaches against medicine for mental illnesses. I know also the young man I knew may have died without encountering the religious group.
The peculiar thing, however, is that we require warning labels of every product with even the slightest danger to our health. There is no warning label on religion.
It is far more common to read a letter to the editor warning about the dangers of atheists, gays and Muslims than about not taking medicine prescribed by a doctor because of religion. The warnings of the Christian faith are about missing out on the afterlife, not missing out on the present one.
Preacher Jay Bakker, son of Jim Bakker, said he knows full well that a good preacher can mess with peoples’ minds, making them do things that are not in their best interests.
There is something to be said for caution when practicing religion.
That theory is based on religion. Those who follow the theory can refuse abortion services.
Putting this religious idea into law is another matter. I mentioned the other day how entangled the religious view that life begins at conception would be with the medical problem of miscarriages if the former were put into law. I pointed out that when the fetus is a human being, and comes up missing, all kinds of laws and implications arise.
The problem, obviously, is that both a miscarrage and an abortion result in a human being that disappears. About one in five confirmed pregnancy results in miscarriage. Laws will have to be passed to differentiate between the two.
Evidence indicates there were about as many abortions each year before Roe as there have been since. We can only assume if abortions were again made illegal they will continue nevertheless.
We don’t know for sure what state or federal legislators will do to differentiate legal miscarriages from illegal abortions. History, however, can give us some idea.
There is one basic political premise underlying opposition to abortion. It is that the moral judgement of women cannot be trusted. Leadership in the anti abortion political wing is dominated by men.
Thus, we can count on the political view continuing that women cannot being trusted to report honestly their experiences with miscarriage. I think women will experience doubt and suspicion when the report they have miscarried.
Criminal law will hang over ever pregnant woman. Women who suffer miscarriages will be investigated.