Beliefs, Practices, History
"Bill Maher vs. the 'talking snake'", by Andrew O'Hehir at Salon.com (October 2, 2008).
What if there was a religion, asks comedian Bill Maher, in which an all-powerful god from outer space decided to send his unborn son on a suicide mission to planet Earth? So this space-god impregnates a human female in some mystical, not-quite-physical fashion, and she gives birth to a baby who is both a human being and a divine incarnation, simultaneously the space god's spawn and the space god himself. (Oh, space god also has a third manifestation, one that's totally invisible.) So space-god junior is born on Earth destined to be killed, even though he's a space god and therefore immortal. As you've picked up by now, the religion Maher is describing is not imaginary, and in various forms and guises is professed by most people in the United States, including every president we've ever had or are likely to have in the foreseeable future... In the acerbic late-night talk-show host's new movie "Religulous," made with "Borat" director Larry Charles, Maher keeps bludgeoning you with stories like these to make the point that the central story behind mainstream Christianity, when considered at face value and taken literally, sounds every bit as loony as the oft-derided tenets of Mormonism or Scientology.
John Horner on the Church said...
No, to find real blasphemy, we have to look to ourselves and our forebears — those of us who have taken upon ourselves the name of Christ, and then, in the name of Christ, perform acts that make him weep. When our Christian forbears used the name of Christ to justify slavery, used the name of Christ to justify the history of anti-semitism and the long line of pogroms. When we used the name of Christ as the reason for apartheid and Jim Crow. When we use the name of Christ to kill the Irish Catholic or the Irish Protestant. Or the Serb or the Croatian or the Bosnian. When we use the name of Jesus as the banner under which we picket the funeral of President Clinton's mother, or someone who has died of AIDS. When we get upset because the homeless are littering the sidewalk that leads to our church. When we expend more political effort toward getting a cut in our taxes than we do in making sure that the children of our country have decent food and shelter, and do it in the name of Christianity. When we do these things — that's when we should raise the cry of "Blasphemy."
Christianity on Trial (Encounter Books: July 2001)
It is easy for those who do not live under a totalitarian regime to expect heroism from those who do, but it is an expectation that will often be disappointed... it should be less surprising that the mass of Christians were silent than that some believed strongly enough to pay for their faith with their lives.
First Things 107 (November 2000): 69-88.
Admittedly, it is not so attractive when the apparent modesty disguises a self-denigration that is almost tantamount to self-hatred, as is sometimes evident in current forms of "multiculturalism." Among Christians committed to ecumenism there is a type that is aptly described as an ecumaniac. An ecumaniac is defined as someone who loves every church but his own. So it is that multiculturalists are forever discovering superiorities in other cultures, oblivious to the fact that, in the larger human story, Western culture is singular in its eagerness to praise and learn from other cultures. One is never more distinctively Western than when criticizing what is distinctively Western. The same holds for being American. In our multiculturalism we display our superiority by demonstrating our ability to see through what others — mistakenly, we say — admire in our culture. So maybe this new and self-denigrating way of telling the American story is not so modest after all.
Alvin Plantinga on Theology said...
Warranted Christian Belief, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), vii.
Classical Christian belief includes, in the first place, the belief that there is such a person as God. God is That person, that is, a being with intellect and will. A person has (or can have) knowledge and belief, but also affections, loves, and hates; a person, furthermore, also has or can have intentions, and can act so as to fulfill them. God has all of these qualities and has some (knowledge, power, and love, for example) to the maximal degree. God is thus all-knowing and all-powerful; he is also perfectly good and wholly loving. Still further, he has created the universe and constantly upholds and providentially guides it. This is the theistic component of Christian belief. But there is also the uniquely Christian component: that we human beings are somehow mired in rebellion and sin, that we consequently require deliverance and salvation, and that God has arranged for that deliverance through the sacrificial suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who was both a man and also the second member of the Trinity, the uniquely divine son of God.
Love God With All Your Mind (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), p. 111.
Unfortunately, I have seen too many Christian thinkers who have a certain texture or posture in life that gives the impression that they are far more concerned with assuring their academic colleagues that they are not ignorant fundamentalists than they are with pleasing God and serving His people. Such thinkers often give up too much intellectual real estate far too readily to secular or other perspectives inimical to the Christian faith. This is why many average Christian folk are suspicious of the mind today. All too often, they have seen intellectual growth in Christian academics lead to a cynical posture unfaithful to the spirit of the Christian way. Fidelity to God and His cause is the core commitment of a growing Christian mind.
The Brothers K (Bantam Books: July 1996), p. 61.
Personally I'm not sure just who or what Christ is. I still pray to him in a pinch, but I talk to myself in a pinch too — and I'm getting less and less sure there's a difference. I used to wish somebody would just tell me what to think about Him. Then along came Elder Babcock, telling and telling, acting like Christ was running for President of the World, and he was His campaign manager, and whoever didn't get out and vote for the lord at the polls we call churches by casting the votes we call tithes and offerings into the ballot boxes we call offering plates was a wretched turd of a sinner voting for Satan by default. Mama tried to clear up all the confusion by saying that Christ is exactly what the Bible says He is. But what does the Bible say He is? On one page He's a Word, on the next a bridegroom, then He's a boy, then a scapegoat, then a thief in the night; read on and he's the messiah, then oops, he's a rabbi, and then a fraction — a third of a Trinity — then a fisherman, then a broken loaf of bread. I guess even God, when He's human, has trouble deciding just what He is.
David James Duncan on the Church said...
The Brothers K (Bantam Books: July 1996), p. 18.
Christ founded a new church! You'd know that if you ever opened a Bible! And that new church — "And that new church," Papa cut in, his face suddenly savage, "is two thousand years old now, and every bit as senile and mean-spirited as the one that killed Him!" "How dare you!" Mamma hissed. "How dare you say such a thing in front of these children!" "How dare you throw a fit in the name of God over one damned beer!" "I've seen the hell one beer can lead to!" Mama cried. "And I've seen the hell your friendly preacher calls salvation!" Papa roared. "'Come unto me all ye Tea Totalin' prudes, and if your husband watches baseball or sips a beer with a neighbor on my Sabbath pay day then damn him to hell and whip his kids off to Spokane!"
David James Duncan on the Church said...
The Brothers K (Bantam Books: July 1996), p. 15.
And today is Sabbath. And I'm not sick. And the sun is already so hot outside that everything's all bleached and wobbly-looking, as if the whole world was just an overexposed home movie God was showing Jesus up on their living room wall. And whenever it's really hot Elder Babcock's sermon — even if it starts out being abut some nice quiet thing like the poor or meek or weak — will sooner or later twist like a snake with its head run over to the unquiet subject of heaven and hell, and who all is going to which, and how long you'll have to stay, and what all will happen to you when you get there, and he goes on so loud and long and the air gets so used up and awful that bit by bit you lose track of any difference between his heaven and his hell and would gladly pick either over church. Then the sermon ends, and the long prayer after it, and it comes time to belt out the big hosanna that means it's almost time to go home. Except that last hymn always has about fourteen verses. And when you stand up to sing it you discover your blood has got stuck down in your feet. And all through the sermon every grownup in the place has had their mouth clamped shut trying not to yawn, so when the glad voices suddenly upraised this tidal wave of pent-up halitosis comes swashing out of them and up your nose and all through the parts of your head where the blood that's in you feet should have been, till your brain feels like it's going to barf.
Brennan Manning on Narcissism said...
The Ragamuffin Gospel (Questar Publishers, 1993), 53.
The Kingdom belongs to people who aren't trying to look good or impress anybody, even themselves. They are not plotting how they can call attention to themselves, worrying about how their actions will be interpreted or wondering if they will get gold stars for their behavior. Twenty centuries later, Jesus speaks pointedly to the preening ascetic trapped in the fatal narcissism of spiritual perfectionism, to those of us caught up in boasting about our victories in the vineyard, to those of us fretting and flapping about our human weaknesses and character defects. The child doesn't have to struggle to get himself in a good position for having a relationship with God; he doesn't have to craft ingenious ways of explaining his position to Jesus; he doesn't have to create a pretty face for himself; he doesn't have to achieve any state of spiritual feeling or intellectual understanding. All he has to do is happily accept the cookies: the gift of the Kingdom.