Wednesday, March 26, 2008
A 11 year -old diabetic girl dies because her Christian parents said they didn't have enough faith. They did not believe in "worldly" means of treating her diabetic so they waited and prayed and watched her slowly, and with great suffering, die from ketoacidosis.
Diabetes is a very, very, very treatable disease and there is no reason this dear little girl had to die, except for her stupid (sorry, it's the parent in me speaking) parents, deeply engrossed with Christian Gnostic Dualism, allowed her to.
This is not the first time that Dualism has been the key to murder. Throughout history it has raised its ugly head in this way. Virtually all the deaths (tens of thousands at least) who have died in the hands of Islamic radicalism (either in Iraq or under the likes of the Taliban) have been killed because the victim's precious live, which God had breathed into them, was considered so inferior to some heavenly cause that it was worth it. That is how an AlQada member in Baghdad can "rent" two mentally ill women, strap bombs to them and send then into a crowded market. They see a "greater good" in Heaven and for Allah. Radical Islam is even more dualistic than American Evangelicalism.
But in the case of this sweet little girl an error in theological position caused a tragic death.
But, when you think, according to Platonic metaphysics taken to the extreme, that God doesn't care too much for this physical world, including the earth, our bodies, our brains, our art, our science nor our medicine, but instead, he is only interested in what we define as "spiritual" then it really distorts your view of life. In these situations (where medical help is refused on "religious" grounds) is quite common. We had a young man in our home town die from a very treatable form of leukemia last year because his grandmother believed that it wouldn't be "trusting God" to use chemotherapy.
If you look in scripture, you will see supra-natural (not along any scientific laws) healings because, 2000 years ago (or longer in the case of the OT) that was the ONLY treatment for disease. But the supra-natural healing is now elevated as somehow superior (according to Platonic Dualistic thinking) as a "higher" way. The smart men and women (who were made by God and who's minds were made by God) learn how to create human insulin by using the very complicated laws, WHICH GOD HAS MADE, are erroneously see as "worldly." How bizarre . . . how very sad.
What is sad, when stupid (woops, the parent speaking again) Christians allow their kids to suffer terribly and die because of NON-BIBLICAL philsophical beliefs, and they are challenged by the legal system (certainly not perfect but whom God put in their place) . . . it is really, really strange how American Evangelicals come out to defend the stupid, Platonic, Christians.
Look at the AlQada suicide bombers and you will see the extreme edge of Dualism (blow yourself up young man becaues you will leave this evil world and be with 40 virgins this afternoon in Heaven). Think about it.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I can only speak from deeply within the American white subculture, because that is the perspective I've been given. I grew up in the (very) racist southern Bible belt. My small town did not have a single person "of color" or non-European descent.
I once heard a story from my mother, that back in the 1930s a black man and his sister did move to our little town. But then rumors quickly spread through the local people (and sadly the local churches) that the man was practicing incest. Then one night, several white teenagers went to the rustic clapboard cabin, dragged the black man out into his yard, tied each of his limbs to a stake, then gouged his eyes out with sharp sticks for "incest." They were doing it "for God" . . . in the same way that the Taliban might stone a woman to death, in the name of Allah, for rumors she had committed adultery.
No one knows what happened to the family afterwards. I do know what happened to one of the teenager boys, he became the town sheriff and was indeed the sheriff when I was a kid.
All of us were racist, some much more that others. There was an "unofficial" KKK club in my high school. The person who started it now runs the town funeral home. Whether he ever repented . . . I don't know but I certainly hope so.
Now, not by choice, I still live in a 95% white community. As much as I've tried not to be racist, I'm sure that I still have been influence by my own culture and early upbringing.
I think the most shocking message that I got, from listening to Dr.Wright's (cherry-picked by the media) sound bites was how different the perspective is from the black community than the white community.
If you had asked me or any of my white neighbors, we would say that racism is old (60s) and doesn't exist anymore . . . nor is it an issue. But in many parts of the black culture, the concern about it is alive and well . . . and must be for a reason.
I won't go into the details of the brief statement that have been taken from Dr. Wright's sermons . . . because we've heard them over an over (if you have cable). I hear them every time that I'm in Thrive on the thread mill.
I can certainly see how some of those sound bites are haunting Obama's campaign and will come back to haunt him in the general election. I can just imagine how some of my old Evangelical, Rush Limbaugh-ditto head-Promise Keeper friends of mine will digest this. "A true sign that Obama is a dangerous radical." But I'm going to share my honest take on this, which may rub some Christians the wrong way.
First of all, of course, some of the things that Dr. Wright said, are factually wrong. Having spent 25 years in health care I am quite confident that the US government did not create the HIV virus in order to cause genocide. There may be other things that he said, which are factually wrong . . . I really can't remember. But, some of the things which he brought up have merit. The US foreign policy is considered by most of the world to be as cruel and self-serving as Dr. Wright suggests, but strongly opposed in the "My Country Right or Wrong" mentality of mainstream, white Evangelicalism.
The fact that Dr. Wright is wrong on some issues doesn't mute his voice. My town probably got the truth very wrong when they accused the black man of practicing incest . . . when there was no evidence of that. And those were "good, Christian, white folks" at least back in the 1930s.
Dr. Wright also raised the issue of the Palestinian question, and I probably agree with him. The way in which the nation of Israel was created was very injust to the Palestinians. This injustice has led to many terrible things since, including the hatred of the West by Al-Qaeda . . . and vertually all Arabs. Jimmy Carter seems to get it, but he too is out of step with the typical American Evangelical.
The typical American Evangelical is so blinded by (what I consider a false) theology (Schofield Dispensationalism) that it allows tremendous injustices "in the name of God" to happen and continue. I am certainly not a "Jew Hater," or anti-Semite. I respect the Jewish people the same way I do all men and women. Now that Israel does exist, I think it can not, nor should be reversed. But that fact it became a nation again in 1948 was a self-fulfilled prophecy not the ushering in of the "last days" as I was taught when I was a new Christian.
I am not naive about the view of the Muslim people. I do speak Arabic. I've lived in the Middle East. I've spent countless hours in conversations with Muslims. I was even in NW Pakistan just a little over a year ago. There, in the heart of anti-American, Pro-Al-Qaeda territory I had many meaningful discussions with locals. I will try to paste a some of my photos on the side bar as the blog will not allow me to post them here.
Now my point, trying not to get bogged down in the particulars, is that one group (white vs black) Christian do not have a monopoly on truth . . . or falsehood. Also, the Jeremiah Wright situation tells us that the Black-Christian subculture is very different from its White equivalent.
The Role of Culture:
I am certainly not a relativist when it comes to truth. I, like all Christians, believe in absolute truth. But as fallen people, we often have problems finding the truth. As Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV) says,
" The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"
This verse is referring to the mind or soul. The fall has rendered as unable to know the full truth 100% of the time. I think the biggest problem is not our rationality, but our perceptions. I'm not assuming that our reason has been spared from the Fall as some 15th century Scholastic theologians may have. Our reason can fail us as well. But I think our area of greatest vulnerability is in our perceptions. The most extreme example of this is the paranoid schizophrenic, who actually has fairly good reasoning skills . . . but he/she hears voices and see things that suggest that the CIA really is implanting probes into their brain.
A parody of this search for truth is found in the anatomy of the human eye. While truth is really there ( the reality of what we are looking at), the acuity (or perception) of that truth is distorted by our cultural and emotional experiences. The lens of the human eye is controlled (or focused) by tiny muscles called the zonule fibers and ciliary bodies, which tug on the lens to change its shape. Our cultural experiences, belief system (and emotional baggage) act like these tiny muscles in determining our focus and completing our visual perception.
One flaw of Dualistic thinking, is the ignoring of the very important role that culture and emotions have on our perception of reality. I say that history is the scaffolding on which culture is perched. When, as Dualist, we assume that the history of the world, normal people doing normal things, is insignificant . . . then we reach the same conclusion about culture . . . it has no real meaning or bearing on what we think is truth.
This is why white Christians may not understand the perception of black Christians. In this Dualistic view (down-playing the importance of cultural history) there is the tendency to end in ego-centrism. My perception of truth is the real truth. The truth that I could see as a typical white Christian man (for example, the Arabs have been treated fairly, it was God's plan to made Israel a nation in 1948, the Muslims hate us because simply they are evil and they want to destroy "The American Way" and racism no longer exist) I then feel is the absolute truth. The black Christian my have a very different view of these matters.
A Monist, non-Dualistic, view is to humbly accept that my personal experiences, the culture I was raised in, my personal emotions and psychological make up can greatly influence my perception of reality and the conclusions I make about truth. This is not to give up any hope of finding real truth . . . but to be an honest broker of truth.
A Monist is congruent with the ideals of the "Post-Evangelical" because, while we accept the fact that absolute truth exist (vs a relative truth that some theologically-liberal people might think) we are cautious about being dogmatic. We also accept that ambiguity exist, even in some of the big questions. God could have answered some of the big questions (such as the age of the earth) in one simple verse . . . but he did not.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Be sure to read the previous posting first.
The modern view by Evangelicals is that our persona is made up entirely of the spiritual . . . or soul in other words. Now if you ask the typical Christian “on the street” they may consider their intellect as coming from the brain, but not the soul or persona.
If you look at Christian behavior then it must also be limited to the spiritual realm. The spiritual soul is, in most ways, fluid or flexible. The material brain is not. Neurons grow and change very, very slowly. You may know some one who has had a TBI (traumatic brain injury). If you do, you may know how long it took for them to recover, sometimes never recovering.
In this commonly held Christian model of the persona, then, at the moment of conversion the fluid soul can immediately respond to God in repentance and actually start living quite perfectly the next day, at least in theory. We of course call this process of changing into “godly” people as sanctification.
Now imagine that this model did not reflect reality. That, in a non-dualist view, the material brain also has a lot to do with our persona . . . meaning personality, emotions, thinking pattern as well as intellect. In this, nondualistic model, these material things change very, very slowly. So, the process of sanctification is much more arduous, convoluted and protracted than most Christians have been led to believe. What happens is that a gap quickly develops between what Evangelicals believe about sanctification and reality. This is where the façade . . . or worse, the farce begins, to fill that void.
Now I will try to this more practical through a real-life illustration.
I knew a gal, named Caroline. She became a Christian in college and quickly got involved with a Navigator discipleship program. She seemed to be growing promptly and surely.
But Caroline, unfortunately, like many of us, had a very difficult childhood. Besides some painful abuse, her father committed suicide violently when she was about 15 and she was one of the first to find his body (after a self-inflicted shotgun blast to his face). Despite that experience, we expected her to “supernaturally” become a well-balanced woman of god . . . virtually overnight. We considered that the only factor that determined becoming well-balanced godly woman was her obedience.
But in reality, she struggled with some very, very deep psychological scars. These scars were not simply in her fluid, flexible spirit . . .but in her material brain. It has been shown through research that the brain does go through structural changes during stress. So, to fit in with her new Christian friends, she had to learn quickly the mores of that sub-culture. She learned to stop swearing, stop smoking dope, stop having sex . . . or at least stop letting people know she was having sex. She also learned to smile all the time, speak of Jesus doing this or that in her life and to reinterpret every event in her day as a supernatural work of God. But this did not quench the deep pain or bring internal peace to the deep parts of her soul.
Six years later, the entire group was shocked when Caroline abruptly left Christianity and ran off with a non-Christian guy (who could give her some affection that she was longing for).
So my point is that we are all Carolines. We are all damaged, some more than others. The damage is in the very real material brain. Did you realize that more of the physical space of the brain is taken up with personality, memory, emotions, judgment and sensory perception than what you might call intellectual function? We all have damage from living in this fallen world. Some of this damage never goes away. Some if it can be healed with new thinking and the work of the spirit of God in our lives but that takes a very long time.
So much of the façade and dishonesty of the Evangelical world comes about because we have falsely been led to believe that change come instantly. So to prove that we are being obedient, we must give the surface impression that we have it all together.
My fall in the late 80s, after being a missionary with the Navigators in the Middle East, came about when I came face to face with my boss’s mental illness . . . and my own. It didn’t make sense because both of us had been considered “godly” for a couple of decades. But our wounds were very real and deep and hidden behind the godliness façade.
This also explains how men like Ted Haggard can lead huge Evangelical churches, even be the president of a huge Evangelical organization . . . all assuming that he was very godly . . . when he had some deep wounds and issues.
This is how it fits.
When I started this Blog, it was titled something about being brutally honest in an Evangelical world. My attempts were to peel back layer after layer of honesty within the Evangelical context. I had to then write anonymously because the things I was writing would have hurt a lot of people (see my posting about being "too honest”). But, like I said before, I decided to "come out of the closet" and disclose my identity and refocus on the basic problem . . . which I believe is the Gnostic Dualistic influence on the Church over the ages . . . especially modern Evangelicalism.
So, in this posting, I want to try and make the connection between the barriers of honesty within the church and their Dualistic way of thinking.
First, I want to define the kind of honestly issue that I'm tallking about. I will have to use personal, true examples to make my point.
About ten years ago, my wife and I went through a very serious conflict within our marriage. It was a complicated situation that would take pages to try and explain. This was after fifteen years of marital bliss. It wasn't like we didn't want help. We were desperate for help, real help. But, we had been seen as spiritual leaders. After all, we had been missionaries, elders, and generally leaders in the church.
But trying to approach people within the church was very difficult. It wasn't just my pride (this was before I had become as honest as I know believe that I should be). Just to attempt to talk to people seemed to be met with horror and I wasn't even mentioning the really bad parts.
I did have an old Navigator friend who lived in another state (and not of the old, legalistic Navigator school). We had many long and fairly candid conversations. I also met with the pastor. He was well known as a "godly" man. However, he too could not venture within the deepest parts of what we were dealing with. He used a counseling method that was taken from some super-duper mega church. It was four meetings with four precise (mechanical) steps. 1) Identify the problem, 2) give a plan to fix the problem, 3) check up on the Plan, 4) create the long range plan.
This was a formula that might work in business, but what I (we) needed was someone (sort of like my long-distance Navigator friend) to grab us and cry with us. Then to give us the love that made us feel safe enough to pour out all the dirt knowing that we would not end the relationship with that friend. I did not feel that with the pastor. Well before I could get to the really nitty-gritty of the problem, I was feeling condemned (or at least he was being disappointed even at the minor things). So I certainly couldn’t share my heart.
This reminded me years before, when I just returned from the mission field and was doubting God’s existence. I worked with a true-blue evangelical who was deeply offended if I tried to share with him what was going on in my heart. He would quote a verse or give me a cliché (like from a popular Christian song) . . . often along the lines, “Who are you to doubt God . . . He never doubts you!” So, of course I couldn’t talk to him about what was going on in my private places of my heart. Oddly, this same man abruptly left his wife and seven children a few months later to run off with a young women . . . whom he was having sex with at the very time he was condemning me.
So, in my pursuit of honesty, I know even within our most “godly” evangelical circles there’s some real, (deeply hidden) sorrows.
When I come back, I want to show why Gnostic Dualism is so compatible, and actually sets up, us to live in Evangelical dishonestly (what young people call the Evangelical farce).
Saturday, March 15, 2008
About four weeks ago I attended the LAbri conference in Rochester, MN. The theme this year was "God's Common Grace." What they meant by this was how God's Grace is common not only to the Church but to all of humanity, and to all of the cosmos. This of course is not meaning a universal salvation ( Jesus came to save all men, whether they believe or not). But more simply, how God's grace and creative design is still present in even the non-Christian writer, artist, thinker etc. and how that Grace can be appreciated by the Christian.
The Evangelical's Dualistic approach is to see the world as camps. The believer camp vs the non-believer camp. It even finally reaches the level of Red States vs Blue States. Then us vs them. I could go own and own.
I really think the root to this kind of thinking is tied to that never ending human desire to be significant. To look down our noses at the homosexual, Muslim, Goth or Punk . . . is to use them for leverage to push ourselves up. Hey, we have the truth and they don't. We may say that we are saved by grace, yet in the most private parts of our hearts we believe we are were we are because we have earned it. But if you really understood God's grace, then the divisions would vanish or at least loose their power to make us feel signficant. In Christ, we are signficant and there is nothing we can be to add to that.
Dick Keyes' lecture at the LAbri conference (The Breath of God's Lordship linked above with the title of this posting) was a good summary of this Dualistic thinking that seems to haunt Evangelicalism, tainting our perception of what is spiritual and what is "worldly." It is only $5 for the MP3-down-loadable version from Sound Word.
I hope to do some more postings soon. I've been on the road and just got home. I never have time to post when I'm travelling. I did get home in time tonight to make it to my daughter's play, Urinetown. They did a fantastic job. Mike
Saturday, March 8, 2008
NPR's Fresh Air featured Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins on their Friday evening (3/7/08) in a very interesting interview. Dr. Dawkins' interview made up about 45 minutes and Dr. Collings was about 15 minutes.
Dr. Dawkins is a evolutionary biologist and an outspoken atheist. Indeed if you look at his website you would get the feeling that he is the rock-star of atheism, Dr. Dawkins is the author of the book The God Delusin . Actually I am sure (having published a book or two myself and knowing how these things work) that the reason that Dr. Dawkins was featured on NPR last night was because his publisher arranged it since his book came out in paper back yesterday.
Presently I believe that Dr. Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science,Oxford University.
Dr. Francis Collins is a geneticist and is best known for his discoveries of genetic disease and leading the Human Genome Project. He is also an outspoken Evangelical Christian. However, he differs from the mainstream Evangelical apologist in the fact that he not only believes in an old earth (4.5 billion years old) but also believes in evolution and that all species had a common biological ancestor. This is very different from the Evangelical anti-evolution poster child Richard Ham. Mr. Ham not only believes that the earth is only 6,000 years old but suggest that anyone who does not believe that is at least in sin if not a believer.
I would like to share my impressions of the Fresh Air episode.
Although I had heard of Richard Dawkins I knew very little about him. The only time I had seen him was a brief video that Richard Ham used of him, taken out of context btw, which was in a series that I saw at our church. Richard Ham's point in airing this excerpt was to make fun of Dr. Dawkins and score a few points with his live audience. But that's another story.
First of all, I was very pleased to hear that Dr. Dawkins and I have a fundamental point of agreement and it is regarding classical logic. He says, which I agree with fully, that Science and Religion are asking some of the same questions but are coming up with some very different answers. Now the amazing point, was that he said that only one of two opposing answers can be right. For example, if the Bible clearly states that the earth is only 6,000 years old (which it does not) and science says it is 4.5 billion years old, then only one could be right. In the classic sense of logic, this makes sense.
However, in the Post-Modern age (and post rational) there is the popular concept of synthesis, which states that non A and A can both be true. Dawkins admitted that many scientist practice tis synthesis, saying that during the day when they are in the lab they can believe one thing, but in their religious life they can believe the opposite and the two are compatible.
So I am glad that Dr. Dawkins at least admits in the classical logic. It is so much easier to have a conversation with someone who speaks logically than some Post Modernist who do not. Now, I am not sure why Dawkins thinks logically. I mean, either he is an old hold out from the logical-positivist or he may be representing a new, actually very old, way of thinking . . . which is a positive step.
The other thing, and the host Terri Gross must have done her homework, is that some very important questions were asked of him (questions which most atheist fail to address) and this where he gets his basis of hope. His answer though was evasive. He says that the universe does not owe us any reason for hope . . . an Terri let him get away with that.
The problem with atheism is that a true atheist can not live consistently with their beliefs . . . life is meaningless, art is meaningless, hope is meaningless, ethics are meaningless etc.
There is much more I wish I could say but this is getting long.
Briefly, regarding Dr. Collins, it was a little interesting and refreshing to see that a true believer can have intelligent views apart from Ken Ham's and still consider themselves a Christian.
I may add more later, but I have three teenagers wanting to watch a movie. I would like to put these thoughts in the context of Evangelical Dualistic thinking and how we can improve the discussion by seeing the Universe as God intended.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
This blog, previously known as Brutally Honest Christian in the Evangelical Wilderness, is taking a new direction. The point is, rather than ranting and raving about particular issues, I would rather related them to what I think is the crux of the matter . . . the negative influence of Gnostic (or Platonic) Dualism on the Church and how we can look at the world more Biblically.
Besides a new name and a new look, the other major is that the author and Blog jockey will come out of the closet. I've gone back and delete the honest (but possible offensive) post that I did while anonymous. I have several reasons for this. The most important one is that I feel that a Blog with a real person (rather than a synonym) is more organic and real (although much more dangerous for me).
Stay tuned for what's to come!