Archive for August, 2011

That Pesky Evolution Problem

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 by JEL

Darwin’s theory on the evolution of species has had its detractors from the beginning. If we evolved from apes, they say, what happens to that Bible narrative on the creation of Adam and Eve? An excellent question, and one they choose to simply sweep under the rug. And then not bring up in their evangelical colleges. And oh, by the way, stay away from that museum down the street that has dinosaur bones dating back a few hundred million years.

This post from Mathew Schmalz extends the question much further. In it, he talks about how Catholics have never had the problems with evolution that evangelicals do. And then he continues:

But there is a problem with evolution nonetheless. My views in this regard have changed in dialogue with many evangelical colleagues whom I respect. For them, the issue is not Biblical inerrancy as much as it is probing the theological implications of Darwin’s theories. For example, if there is no radical distinction between humans and animals, when do human beings become “human?” When does a human have a “soul” that can be saved? More broadly, what theological sense can Christians make of a natural world that operates on Darwinian principles?

[...]

To be sure, much of the resistance to evolution comes from a need to defend a particular construal of “Biblical truth”-after all, if the Bible is shown to be false in one aspect, it throws into question the entirety of scripture. Some of the resistance also stems from a misunderstanding of what a scientific theory actually is. But the real problem with evolution is that Christians have yet to reflect deeply on how they fit into a Darwinian world.

“No Sin There.”

Monday, August 29th, 2011 by JEL

There are shades of grey in almost every debate. Take Christianity vs. Capitalism. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus makes it pretty clear where He stands on the wealthy. Remember the camel and the eye of the needle? Well, St Margaret Lothbury, a very old church in London, has a different take. It doesn’t have services on Sundays and caters to financial services executives during the week. The vicar, Reverend Jeremy Crossley, has no problems with Christians making money:

“As long as you’re being honest about what you do, it’s not a sin to make money. God rewards industriousness, and that’s what most of the people who come here are. Good, hard-working honest people who want to make money. No sin there.”

Read the whole article here. What do you think?

The National Religion

Friday, August 26th, 2011 by JEL

Debate has been going on for years, and will continue to do so, about whether the U.S. is a “Christian Nation.” Reading the constitution, one gets the clear impression that our founding fathers bent over backwards to ensure religious freedom for all, to keep government out of religion, and religion out of government. Others obviously have their own interpretation.

To David Sirota, the whole argument is moot. Our national religion is not Christianity, says he, it is Denialism:

Some branches of this religion deny the science documenting humans’ role in climate change. Others deny tax cuts’ connection to deficits and deregulation’s role in the recession. But regardless of the issue, Denialists all share a basic hostility to facts.

As this know-nothing theology expands, none of its denominations claims a bigger membership than the one obsessed with race. Today, many reject the fact that black people typically face bigger obstacles to economic and political success than whites. Instead, they insist that whites are oppressed.

His entire piece is an interesting read.

“Christianity and War”

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 by JEL

I’ve long been perplexed by the view so many American Christians share on war. Killing foreigners just never seems to bother them, especially if these foreigners are not Christians, themselves. This view already puts them in Jesus’ doghouse, but then there’s their hypocrisy to deal with. Namely, their virulent pro-life stance. “Pro-life” means just what it says: preserving the sanctity of human life. Except to these folks, they narrow it down to unborn American babies. Innocent civilians on the other side of the world who happen to have the misfortune of getting in the way of a bullet or bomb be damned.

Today I ran across an article on the libertarian Lew Rockwell site, of all places. It was written by Laurence M. Vance and I think it makes a number of strong points. Here are some snippets, but please check out the whole thing:

I write extensively about the biblical, economic, and political fallacies of religious people, and especially on the topic of Christianity and war. This is a subject where ignorance abounds in both pulpit and pew, and most of it willful ignorance. This is a subject that exposes Bible scholars as Bible illiterates. This is a subject that turns Christians into disgraceful apologists of the state, its leaders, its military, and its wars. This is a subject that reveals pro-life Christians to be two-faced supporters of wholesale murder.

[...]

But modern-day Christianity is in a sad state. There is an unholy desire on the part of a great many Christians to legitimize killing in war. There persists the idea among too many Christians that mass killing in war is acceptable, but the killing of one’s neighbor violates the sixth commandment’s prohibition against killing.

[...]

Many Christians have a warped view of what it means to be pro-life. Why is it that foreigners don’t have the same right to life as unborn American babies? There should be no difference between being for abortion and for war. Both result in the death of innocents. Both are unnecessary. Both cause psychological harm to the one who signs a consent form or fires a weapon. Why is it that to many Christians an American doctor in a white coat is considered a murderer if he kills an unborn baby, but an American soldier in a uniform is considered a hero if he kills an adult?

There’s a lot more where that came from. Read the whole thing.

Jesus in India?

Monday, August 22nd, 2011 by JEL

Frank Huguenard is a documentary film producer whose latest film, “Beyond Belief” is the second in a three-part trilogy “focused on our minds, consciousness and finding true happiness in our lives.” “Beyond Belief” asks the following questions (and claims to answer them):

Is it possible that starting at the age of 13, Jesus learned to purify his mind using ancient Vedic techniques and then brought these teachings back to the west? Was there a completely different strain of Christianity, which was actually much closer to Hinduism than Catholicism, that was exterminated by the Roman Empire? Did Jesus teach reincarnation and emphasize meditation?

You can actually watch the 55-minute film (and judge for yourself) here. For a press release about the film, click here.

It Was 45 Years Ago Today…

Thursday, August 11th, 2011 by JEL

Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. Wait, that’s wrong. No, 45 years ago today, John Lennon apologized in Chicago for the interview that appeared back in March of that year (1966) in the London Evening Standard. In it he said:

“Christianity will go, it will vanish and shrink . . . We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity.”

This, of course, led people in the U.S. (not in the U.K.) to lose their minds. People burned their records in massive bonfires, etc., etc. So, five months later, John said he was sorry:

“I’m sorry I opened my mouth, I’m not anti-God anti-Christ, or anti-religion. I wouldn’t knock it. I didn’t mean we were greater or better.”

The Beatles’ 1966 tour was their last.

Note: for all our regular readers, there will be no new posts next week due to vacation.

Adam & Eve vs. Genomes

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 by JEL

If you happen to believe the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, you might be peeved to find those pesky scientists knocking on your door again.

Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: “That would be against all the genomic evidence that we’ve assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all.”

Venema says there is no way we can be traced back to a single couple. He says with the mapping of the human genome, it’s clear that modern humans emerged from other primates as a large population — long before the Genesis time frame of a few thousand years ago. And given the genetic variation of people today, he says scientists can’t get that population size below 10,000 people at any time in our evolutionary history.

This comes from a very interesting story on NPR (listen below). I found the comments from Evangelicals particularly fascinating.

Go listen to the story >> (7 min. 44 sec.)

In Search of Inspiration

Monday, August 8th, 2011 by JEL

After the debt fiasco in congress, the weekend’s helicopter crash, and the stock market cratering (again) today, I went searching for some positive inspiration. I found the video below. The production is very nice, albeit a bit treacly for my taste, but the message is right on target. I also happen to own a Canon AE-1.

More Than Belief Talk

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by JEL

Chad Holtz wrote a great piece this week over at The Christian Century. In it he talks about the need for a “Christian Ramadan”—a need for Christians to show their belief instead of just talking about it.

My last year at Duke Divinity I sat in on a panel discussion between Sam Wells, dean of Duke Chapel, and Abdullah Antepli, Muslim chaplain to Duke University. (Imam Antepli also spoke at Wild Goose this summer.) In the course of their discussion about Islam and Christianity, Imam Antepli said something that disturbed me a great deal about my faith. It went something like this:

“When I ask a Muslim what makes them a Muslim I get an immediate response which includes things like, I pray 5 times a day, I take care of the sick and the poor, I do not eat this or that, I fast on a regular basis and I observe Ramadan.   These practices make me Muslim, they would say.”

Imam Antepli then said the thing that damned me and I think most Christians,

“When I ask Christians what makes them Christian I usually get an odd look, and an uncomfortable silence ensues.  At most, they might say that they believe in Jesus.”

Believing in Jesus is just fine, I think we can all agree.   But Muslims believe in Jesus.  Heck, Jesus said that even demons believe.

I realize by putting “Christian” and “Ramadan” in the same sentence, let alone right next to each other, is asking for trouble in today’s world. But read Holtz’s column and think about the way you show your faith. He ends with:

So, thank you, my Muslim brothers and sisters, for reminding us this Ramadan season that we Christians need to embrace our liturgy – our way – to greater degrees.    May we become known increasingly more for the bread and wine we consume at every mass, the widow and orphan we stand beside, the absurd ways we turn the other cheek, the radical ways we forgive, the devotion we have to our scriptures and prayers, and the affection we have for Christ’s body, the Church.

Christianism vs. Christianity

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 by JEL

Tom Zirpoli is a columnist for the Carroll County Times. In today’s piece, he introduced me to a term I’d never heard of before: Christianism. He actually referenced Andrew Sullivan’s use of the word to describe the “political co-opters.” Here are four great paragraphs from Zirpoli’s column:

Many politicians who call themselves Christian insist on health care for the unborn, then vote to cut health care funding for millions of babies and their mothers. Come to think of it, they no longer even support health care for the unborn; just their birth.

I have always wondered why some people are so protective of the unborn, but don’t care much for helping children after they are born. Perhaps it is easier for people to advocate for the unborn because it doesn’t cost them anything. They don’t have to feed the unborn or provide them with shelter. And after they are born and in need, they can be someone else’s problem.

Self-proclaimed Christian politicians in Washington want to pay down the national debt on the backs of the poor, the elderly and the disabled while they continue to protect generous tax breaks for the rich who are enjoying the lowest tax rates in decades.

Andrew Sullivan uses the term “Christianism” to delineate Christianity and real Christians “from their political co-opters” who have “the desperate need to control all the levers of political power to control or guide the lives of others.” Sullivan views Christianism as he does Islamism. Both, he says, “are panicked by the complexity and choices of modernity into a fanatical embrace of a simplistic parody of religion in order to attack what they see as their cultural and social enemies. They are not about genuine faith; they are about the instrumentality of faith as a political bludgeon.”