Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The view from the outside

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

~Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Conservatives & Progressives

Not long ago a candidate for our state legislature got my Irish up. He's Lutheran, from a nearby town, but he opens every campaign pitch with a Evangelical Religious Right wing diatribe about gay marriage, abortion and teaching evolution and prayer in public schools, while getting government off our backs, out of the social welfare business, stop giving health care to illegal aliens etc. etc.

After a few weeks time to cool off and reflect, it occurs to me that we're both right (and wrong) but also both as sincere as can be. He thinks that it's up to churches and charities to help the poor and disaster victims- not the government, whereas I think it's up to the churches and parents to teach about God pleasing personal and moral choices and to encourage and model prayer- not the government.

However you feel about it, whether you think that government is a means to reform society in preparation of the second coming, like Conservative Evangelicals (Restorationists & Calvanists), or whether you think that government is an instrument for achieving social justice or continuing Jesus' ministry to the poor, the sick, the widows and the aliens, like the Liberation-Theology (AME & Liberal Catholics) you have to admit that the convergence of faith and politics can be very sticky.

You also have to admit that Americans don't know the meanings of our own words. But then, so much of language is semantics.

I thought what follows was a fascinating discussion:

"The labels are somewhat oxymoronic if not paradoxical.

Progressives, for example, like to conserve nature, and historical buildings.

Conservatives like to put up new and more modern buildings after demolishing the old.

Conservatives mostly want to retain historical morals and ways of being: against stem-cell research, and abortion, and gay marriage, and want to retain the Judeo-Christian heritage based on the Ten Commandments.

Progressives want to retain historical cultures, and want the Native Americans to remain Native Americans, and want African tribes to remain tribal, and want each culture to retain its originality, even to the point of not being quite able to stand for women's rights in places like Afghanistan.

Conservatives (like Reagan) wanted to mainstream American Indians, bringing them up to date with the latest developments. Bush wants to mainstream Muslim countries, pushing them into the Democratic 21st century, where dictators disappear, and voting appears, and women have universal rights.

I'm sure there are many other ways in which the two terms aren't exactly adequate to what the supposedly rival groups claim to actually want.

And of course the two great streams have lots of crosscurrents within them.

But every time I hear the terms I giggle to myself at how inadequate they are.

Conservatives actually want progress on certain fronts: they want universal human rights based on Lockean Christianity, and they want to build an aggressive economic sphere that looks to the future.

Progressives actually are quite conservative on certain fronts: they want to retain each culture's wisdom, based on a Unitarian belief that Diversity of ideas is a good thing, and must be retained, and they want to retain the look of the 19th century even in the midst of our business spheres so that some kind of link to our history remains."

Posted by Kirby Olson on

Friday, May 09, 2008

Are Lutherans pretty much Catholics?

Today a student asked me if Lutherans were pretty much the same as Catholics. Like a typical History major, I launched into a detailed explanation of the excesses of the Renaissances and the subsequent Protestant Reformation, including a brief biography of Martin Luther and stopped myself before getting too deep into the Augsburg Confessions etc. etc.

I apologized for the over-explanation, but later emailed her these charts, accompanied by the following explanations-

The quickest way to explain Lutheran teaching is Ephesians 2:8-9, all that saves us is faith in God's grace through what Jesus did. We can never be good enough, or pray enough or keep from being bad or anything else.

Some Catholics may still think you have to follow certain practices. Some branches of Calvinist denominations think that only certain people are predestined to be saved. Some Pentecostals think that you're not saved unless you can speak in tongues. Etc. Etc. Yadda, yadda, yadda...

And then there are Adventists and Jehovah's Wittinesses and Mormons and Unitarian/Universalists who all claim to be Christian denominations but don't teach that Jesus is really the only Son of God. Bottom line, if you DO believe John 3:16, you're a Christian.

Lutherans ARE like Catholics insofar as our worship services are what's called "liturgical," meaning that we follow pretty much a similar order of service, or "liturgy" that Christians have for 2,000 years; Invocation, Confession and absolution, Psalm, Old Testament lesson, New Testament lesson, Gospel lesson, Sermon, offering, prayers, communion and benediction- part singing, part reading.

Whereas some non-denominational churches, some reformed churches and some Pentecostal churches are much more streamlined, free-form or sometimes even spontaneous. Quakers for instance actually call themselves "Friends," the nickname "Quaker" came about because they would sit around together in silent prayer until someone would start quaking, a sign that the Holy Spirit had come upon them and revealed something for them to share with the group. Funky, huh?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Ignorance really IS bliss

"When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.
For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven."

Are conservatives happier than liberals?
Source: MSNBC

Individuals with conservative ideologies are happier than liberal-leaners, and new research pinpoints the reason: Conservatives rationalize social and economic inequalities.

Regardless of marital status, income or church attendance, right-wing individuals reported greater life satisfaction and well-being than left-wingers, the new study found. Conservatives also scored highest on measures of rationalization, which gauge a person's tendency to justify, or explain away, inequalities.

The rationalization measure included statements such as: "It is not really that big a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others," and "This country would be better off if we worried less about how equal people are."

To justify economic inequalities, a person could support the idea of meritocracy, in which people supposedly move up their economic status in society based on hard work and good performance. In that way, one's social class attainment, whether upper, middle or lower, would be perceived as totally fair and justified.

If your beliefs don't justify gaps in status, you could be left frustrated and disheartened, according to the researchers, Jaime Napier and John Jost of New York University. They conducted a U.S.-centric survey and a more internationally focused one to arrive at the findings.

Wanna talk about relativism and situation ethics and seeing the world the way you want it to be or reinterpreting either the Constitution or the Bible to suit your own agenda? Then don't point fingers at us Liberals, take the log out of your own eyes, right-wingers. "White Liberal guilt?" "Ashamed to be an American?" Well, yeah actually. You say them like they're bad things. I think of it more as having a conscience, some self-awareness, and some empathy. We ask God to search our hearts and show us our sin.

Conservatives prefer to focus on other people's sin and try to control everyone around them. This leads to an ironic duplicity because they want government to control people's sexuality but think it's immoral to regulate corporations. We can invade Iraq (for our own oil interests) but Heaven forbid we intervene in Darfur. Who's more like the white-washed tombs Jesus talked about, the Pharasees and teachers of the law, and who's more like the 12 Apostles (granted, sometimes making mistakes, but earnestly following) and the early church?

Progressive Christians are taking back our church so the "religious"-right had better be on notice.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Protest song

“your flag lapel won’t get you into heaven anymore
It’s already overcrowded, from your dirty little war.
And Jesus don’t like killin, no matter what the reason’s for,
Any your flag lapel won’t get you into heaven any more."