Monday, June 3, 2013

Belief Is The Least Part Of Faith



Faith is not belief in spite of evidence but a life in scorn of the consequences.
Clarence Jordan
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Note: this post is co-authored with my wife, Lindsay, a soon-to-be California licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). We've included some responses from a cyber dialogue we had with fellow post-Evangelicals.
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Although herself a secular scholar, Stanford professor of Anthropology Tanya Luhrman has spent hundreds of hours in Evangelical Christian churches, interviewing the faithful. She has written a book on the subject and has spoken extensively on her findings. Last week, the NY Times published her op-ed on on her unique analysis of the underpinnings of Evangelical Christian faith.

Evangelicals are known sociologically as those sorts of Christians who commit themselves to the ABC's of faith:

Activism: a determination to evangelize the non-believer
Bible: the error-free, self-evident, unquestionable Word of God
Conversion: all humanity is stained with sin and destined for hell...unless one commits to "believing" in Jesus

However, following the work of Emile Durkheim a century ago, what Luhrman consistently dicovered, in her observations and research, was that Evangelicals were far more practical than what outsiders usually anticipated, not as obssessed with doctrine:

And that was not really what I saw after my years spending time in evangelical churches. I saw that people went to church to experience joy and to learn how to have more of it. These days I find that it is more helpful to think about faith as the questions people choose to focus on, rather than the propositions observers think they must hold.

As it turns out, Evangelicals experience Something bigger than themselves the same way most of humanity does: by joining up with communities of folk who want the same thing. The ABCs are a sort of glue that binds these congregations together in certainty (or as they say "Absolute Truth"). Of course, their own distinctive political conservatism, emotionalism and anti-intellectualism all fuel the unity and inspiration of these dynamic church settings.

It was difficult to discern the thesis of Luhrman's article. Of course, Luhrman's NY Times piece was a short synopsis of a larger work. She was charged with the challenging task of narrowing thousands of hours of work into a 600 word article. With that said, it was difficult to get at what she, as a self-proclaimed secular intellectual, was getting at. Her concluding paragraph serves to clarify her main point:

If you can sidestep the problem of belief — and the related politics, which can be so distracting — it is easier to see that the evangelical view of the world is full of joy. God is good. The world is good. Things will be good, even if they don’t seem good now. That’s what draws people to church. It is understandably hard for secular observers to sidestep the problem of belief. But it is worth appreciating that in belief is the reach for joy, and the reason many people go to church in the first place.

We greatly appreciate that she seeks to sympathetically understand what is good and positive about what draws Evangelicals to their faith communities (and keeps them there), as there are way too many in her camp that have more fun dismissing them off-hand and making fun of how archaic and wrong-headed they are. We, indeed, would actually concur with and completely understand the frustration of nonreligious folk with Evangelicals, but, too often, we are left unsatisfied with the motives behind their blustering critiques. They seem to be more about winning a grand intellectual Head Game by humiliating their opponent by appearing far smarter and superior instead of actually doing the Real hard & constructive work of trying to bring about a more just, good and peaceful world.

Our issue is that--as self-proclaimed post-Evangelicals--we simply cannot "sidestep the problem of belief--and the related politics which can be so distracting." In fact, it is probably easier, at this point in our journey, to sidestep (or just be uninterested in) the "problem of belief," as she poses it, than it is "the related politics that can be so distracting." As our good friend, a twenty-something-post-Evangelical pastor, wrote in response to Luhrman's article:

If belief is about the ability to intellectually affirm specific propositions about God's identity, then belief should not be the most important part of Christianity. From my understanding, belief in the biblical context was always more about trust and fidelity to a way of living in relationship with God than knowing the facts. Only in a post-Enlightenment world can we get belief so messed up.

Belief is not just a head game. It is a pledge of allegiance to a way of life. Indeed, the late Anabaptist theologian James McClendon argued for the "chronological priority of ethics" in his 3-volume, 1000-page(+) set of narrative systematic theology. He embraced the postmodern shift by going back to the biblical texts and the early centuries of Christianity while bunking the scholarly guild by audaciously starting with Ethics (1986)...and then Doctrine (1994) and Witness (completed on his death bed in 2000). This crucial concept is, perhaps, best articulated by the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr:

We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.

Our friend, Chase, a recent Stanford grad who has engaged with Luhrman's work far more extensively than we have, has told us that Luhrman's main focus is on "how people learn to belong to a community, and how both that learning and that belonging changes their perception or experience of reality" and that, ultimately, "belief is a product, rather than the source, of action and interpretation." We deeply concur. Yet, the Evangelical world is stumbling in an Enlightenment hangover, dualistically attempting to divide their lives into walled off categories like "belief" and "politics" and "ethics."

Another young post-Evangelical friend of ours couldn't resist pointing out the irony of Luhrman's findings in regards to just how vocally committed Evangelicals are to their "beliefs":

The majority of the people I know who have remained loyally committed to the Evangelical Christian movement throughout my lifetime value a shared sense of belonging with a group over epistemology. The irony of that statement is that the majority of those Christians demand a very specific type of epistemology and the affirmation of a great many fundamental (Absolute) truths in order to gain access to that shared sense of belonging.

The problem of belief is not such a problem because, quite frankly, the modern focus on mental assent to various doctrines is neither compelling nor reflective of what the biblical authors and early followers of Jesus were getting at. Our issue is with the uber-conservative nature of Evangelical politics. For us (and the way we read Jesus' call to discipleship), politics can never be sidestepped because "politics" is, in fact the way we organize our lives (just about everything we involve ourselves with in everyday life).

Politics should never be equated with the "sporting event" that has become electoral politics in our country, but rather, the convictions and everyday political practices that inform and shape Christian individual and community life. As biblical scholar Ched Myers writes, basically everything Jesus did was political (Why else would the Romans want him killed? See above John August Swanson's depiction of Jesus' political act of washing his disciples feet):

...the politics of Jesus are defined not only by his attack on the Temple marketplace but also by whom he sits at table with, who comes in his house, when and where he sits at table with and whom he touches. In Jesus’ exorcisms, as with the Gerasene, the ‘possessed’ political body symbolizes territorial struggles within the body politic. Through exorcism Jesus challenges the authoritative space of the scribes, the political domain of the Powers, the military occupation of the Romans, and the sacred legitimacy of the Temple.

That being said, we see it as extremely problematic to ascribe to a community (as it is in Evangelical Christian circles) a narrative that assuages one's anxieties, fears & insecurities with the half-truth that "things will be good, even if they don't seem good now" when one see that, obviously, a lot of things are not okay: people die unjustly, people live under heavy yokes of oppression, the wealthy are drowning in their possessions while a supermajority of the citizens of the rest of the world suffer with basic needs not being met. Indeed, the entire planet groans under the weight of the toxic, Mammon-centered economy we have let spiral out of control.

We actually have A LOT of agency to do something about all these things. But if your overarching truth about the world is that God will make all things good in the end, then you are excused of the responsibility to partner with God and larger movements of faith and conscience working for social change now. In our experience, we don't think most Evangelicals are aware of evading this responsibility. Rather, it is a by-product of their unacknowledged and privileged social location within a largely white male-dominated, middle/upper-class, suburban culture.

We actually agree with what Luhrman identifies as an Evangelical conviction that "God is good. The world is good. Things will be good, even if they don’t seem good now..." In fact, not only do we agree, but this truth fuels our everyday life and work, knowing that we are not alone and that this global task of redemption is not all on our shoulders. We are a very small part of God's larger, still unfolding vocational narrative of what the Anabaptists call "the hard and holy work of releasing peace on earth" (a partnership of God and people of faith and conscience).

By and large, the Evangelical narrative serves as an escape from the pain and ambiguity inevitably experienced in life, propelling these "believers" to stop short of fully entering into the pain of the world. Experienced through the prism of the Evangelical narrative, pain becomes simply too much to bear, too overwhelming AND you don't HAVE to endure it, because afterall, "God has a plan for everything and God will make everything good in the end."

We cannot count how many times we've had to filter some of these kinds of statements, (all well-meaning of course) after Lindsay's father died in the Fall of 2011 (ie, "He's in a better place now." and "It was for God's glory."). We could tell it was more about the other person having no idea how to comfort or the severe limitation that comes with not being able to say anything that could make what happened alright. No doubt, we could just appreciate their care, however poorly expressed, but we share this as just a small, personal example of how this skin-deep way to live has major implications. Therapists call this addiction and denial (as all addiction stems from trying to stave off the pain life inevitably brings). People escape into their favored addictions in order to mask and evade the pain and anxiety that surrounds them.

Evangelical culture, as we have experienced and observed it, has become a large breeding ground for denial, hiding, and addiction. These sorts of religious structures, and belief systems are set up in such a way to encourage the faithful to escape from the pain of the world, to put on a happy face, to absolutely never question the pastor's interpretation of the Bible, and to cling to the security of an assured eternity in Heaven as "what really matters."

Evangelicals represent the largest and loudest group of Christians in North America and this is the brand of Christians that we are consistently in relationship with in the Trabuco Creek watershed in Orange County, CA. Many of our closest friends are Evangelicals and, yes, we used to be an active participants in their churches and ministries. This community of believers has much of our heart. We love these Christians because of their passion and sincerity, their utter willingness to give themselves for the Cause. However, we are convinced that at the end of the day, they are living off a default narrative that falls short of what both the pain and injustice of the world, and the gospel, demand of us.

All in all, we appreciate Luhrman's charitable perspective, and think it is much needed (on both sides) to work towards the healing and reconciliation of the long-standing stalemate between Evangelicals and Seculars. However, as post-Evangelical ourselves, we see our own responsibility, in relation to the Evangelical world, as both growing in love, charity and understanding as modeled by Jesus while also offering (in word and deed!) a much-needed alternative way of being Christian.

11 comments:

  1. That is really wonderful that Lindsay is (about) ready to practice in her field (MFT) of interest, really fantastic. I do nothing but with her and you two the best.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Monday, June 3, 2013
    Belief Is The Least Part Of Faith


    <> It is exactly this kind of "us" vs "them" type of mentality and way of life that sickens me. So, there is no way, not one single way that a Christian (or religious) of any type that can do good by trying to convert others. Why? Because it is tainted. It is the very idea of conversion that is despicable and will be the downfall of all religions. The best way to convert someone else is to be a wonderfully positive person and not force your conversion or biases in which one would share your motive, which is to make a conversion to your way of living/thinking. There is a living example of conversion; Israel. Modern day Israel is all (about) religion, the “righteous” beliefs and wanting the world to think the way that each side wants to live.

    <>> I am looked upon as a baby eater, a voodoo doctor or even an atheist - none of which I lay claim to. I do not live in believe in a God, so as statistics are concerned, most of America has nothing but disgust for me. Here is something that turns my stomach and really upsets me - to the majority of our nation - Christians would probably like me, that is UNTIL I told them that I did not believe in God.

    <>

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  3. Belief Is The Least Part Of Faith

    Faith is not belief in spite of evidence but a life in scorn of the consequences.
    Clarence Jordan
    ---------------------------------------
    Note: this post is co-authored with my wife, Lindsay, a soon-to-be California licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). We've included some responses from a cyber dialogue we had with fellow post-Evangelicals.
    ---------------------------------------
    Although herself a secular scholar, Stanford professor of Anthropology Tanya Luhrman has spent hundreds of hours in Evangelical Christian churches, interviewing the faithful. She has written a book on the subject and has spoken extensively on her findings. Last week, the NY Times published her op-ed on on her unique analysis of the underpinnings of Evangelical Christian faith.

    Evangelicals are known sociologically as those sorts of Christians who commit themselves to the ABC's of faith:

    Activism: a determination to evangelize the non-believer
    Bible: the error-free, self-evident, unquestionable Word of God
    Conversion: all humanity is stained with sin and destined for hell...unless one commits to "believing" in Jesus
    *****
    <>These ABC’s are some of the most monumentally and fundamentally worst thing that can be in existence. But, on one hand I want them, that is, I want them for people who are Christians. I want Christians to be these ABC’s. I wish that Christians would have the conviction that fundi Muslims have. I think that if people are going to believe in a God, then they should literally be willing to die and kill for their religious beliefs. Fore if one has the faith to believe in a God that was clearly created (all Gods fall under this category), then all of the faithful should be so devout that their sincerity is (literally) moving. For example, at 2:15 in this video - the muezzin (prayer reciter) is so moved by the his spiritual idealism that he starts crying while reciting the prayer, which is about how terrible non-believers are, and how believers are justified in our (non-believers) torment (Us vs. Them).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qcqFWr6h4qc#!

    <> I mean, all I can really say to this is, “Listen not to this Qur’an/Bible/Religious Doctrine, and make noise in the midst of its (recitation) that you may overcome.”

    <> That is why the ABC’s are so terrible, because if this (these ABC’s) reign true then the free people can only rue everyone else the world over. Why? Because the world will be only us vs. them the world over. But these ABC’s is what religious should be doing, not striving for, they should be so moved, for example at the 6:00 marker in said video, the muezzin shuts down from crying.

    <> Believe me, I really understand his/this position. I use to be this devout, I use to cry at the fact that others did not have God in their lives, it just made me so sad that people did not know or have God in their lives. I do not want to say that they did not accept God in their lives, because to me, it was more or less this (in my mind), “if you are cognitive, then you must believe in Christ/God, no sane or rational person could do/live without Christ/God, there is only one way - through/with Christ/God.” I truly and ardently believed/lived this way.

    <> But, I now see that being caught up (rather blinded) in this way, I was not able to see, speak or feel what a real human existence was like. Fore the ardent faithful to God, their blindness knows no bounds, except those boundaries that they ought be committed to (via the Bible).

    ReplyDelete
  4. However, following the work of Emile Durkheim a century ago, what Luhrman consistently dicovered, in her observations and research, was that Evangelicals were far morepractical than what outsiders usually anticipated, not as obssessed with doctrine:

    ****
    <> Well of course, I mean, they don’t really want to actually live a life based on the Bible. I mean, come on!?, who could actually do that? Not a single person, Jesus included could actually live how the prescripts of the Bible tell people how to live? The Bible is a riddle, where it tells you to act one way and then later counters it. To be obsessed with the Bible, one would have to start backtracking in their lives where they would have to surpass the Amish. You would have live your life the way they did when the Bible was written (approximately 2,500 BC to 349 AD). And even by making your life near impossible by all practical means, you would really have to go above and beyond by killing people for not adhering to the word of the Lord. I am sure that most people, Christian or not, find it so much easier to just be a normal, regular average person, which what they do and why the do it (be average).

    <> There are so many contradictions within the Bible that, as I said, it would literally be impossible to follow it. I would say that people should be wise enough to know that nobody should follow the Bible, but let’s see what the Bible says about how wise it would be to know the Bible.
    PRO 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

    ECC 1:18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

    1CO 1:19: "For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."
    *****

    And that was not really what I saw after my years spending time in evangelical churches. I saw that people went to church to experience joy and to learn how to have more of it. These days I find that it is more helpful to think about faith as the questions people choose to focus on, rather than the propositions observers think they must hold.

    *****
    <> Who does not want joy, or at least to be happy? Everybody does, now, how they come/go about achieving happiness is something that is so wide and varied, that I feel most people are content with being average. And, just because someone either says or is actually filled with joy from going to church, does not mean that it was divinely derived or even real. Church goes forego the truth all the time to save face or for whatever other reason(s). Being “different” IS frowned upon within church cultures. It must be! Fore being part of the same cloth is part-in-parcel to being in group, and if you are different, then you are not really in that group. Are you then? No - you cannot be, because you are something else, something different.

    <> White sheep, or followers of the word of the Lord cannot even be a black sheep. Being different is not good, you cannot be different, do not go outside the confines of our say so. Because we do have a say so. Blessed is whomever that follows the shepherd, and damn the rest to hell.
    *****

    As it turns out, Evangelicals experience Something bigger than themselves the same way most of humanity does: by joining up with communities of folk who want the same thing. The ABCs are a sort of glue that binds these congregations together in certainty (or as they say "Absolute Truth"). Of course, their own distinctive political conservatism, emotionalism and anti-intellectualism all fuel the unity and inspiration of these dynamic church settings.

    ReplyDelete
  5. *****
    <> I am sure they experience something bigger than themselves, just like the 900 sum people did at Jonestown. They too joined up with a community of folk who wanted the same thing. I absolutely agree that the ABC’s are a glue that binds the faithful, and as I have proven, it is horrible - and that is the Absolute Truth (that the ABC’s are absolutely horrid).

    <> Moreover it is that sense of “bigger than themselves” that makes them all so blind, it is this type of incredulity that makes them weak and not know themselves and makes these obfuscated “BLIND,” as in blind faith. People believe in... - and yet they cannot prove something. The proof is required of those who makes the greater claim (that there is a God). That hurts, I mean, it’s painful to type.
    *****

    It was difficult to discern the thesis of Luhrman's article. Of course, Luhrman's NY Timespiece was a short synopsis of a larger work. She was charged with the challenging task of narrowing thousands of hours of work into a 600 word article. With that said, it was difficult to get at what she, as a self-proclaimed secular intellectual, was getting at. Her concluding paragraph serves to clarify her main point:

    <> If you can sidestep the problem of belief — and the related politics, which can be so distracting — it is easier to see that the evangelical view of the world is full of joy. God is good. The world is good. Things will be good, even if they don’t seem good now. That’s what draws people to church. It is understandably hard for secular observers to sidestep the problem of belief. But it is worth appreciating that in belief is the reach for joy, and the reason many people go to church in the first place.
    *****

    <> That’s too much to ask. As a matter of fact, that should not even be allowed to be asked - how can you sidestep the question or problem of belief? That is the problem, that people have belief in something that they cannot know? It’s very easy to see how someone can believe in God or a belief, but viral memetic infection is just that - brainwashing, and it is bad. Bad for the person, everyone else and the world.

    I do not know how you can take the politics out of religions, because the religious force their religiousocity upon the rest of the world.

    Yes, the world is filled with joy, if you make it so.

    God does not exist so why fragment your thinking, way of being and the world? God only makes things worse.

    Yes the world is good, if you make it so.

    Yes things are good, even if they don’t seem good now, but they will be if you make it so.

    I do not have to sidestep belief, I, nor does any fully cognitive person, just use reason, logic and if you want to make the world a better place then you should also utilize compassion. I do not need to sidestep anything like belief, I make the world what I want it to be - and I take responsibility for my actions and words. I do not live in a fantasy world.
    *****

    We greatly appreciate that she seeks to sympathetically understand what is good and positive about what draws Evangelicals to their faith communities (and keeps them there), as there are way too many in her camp that have more fun dismissing them off-hand and making fun of how archaic and wrong-headed they are. We, indeed, would actually concur with and completely understand the frustration of nonreligious folk with Evangelicals, but, too often, we are left unsatisfied with the motives behind their blustering critiques. They seem to be more about winning a grand intellectual Head Game by humiliating their opponent by appearing far smarter and superior instead of actually doing the Real hard & constructive work of trying to bring about a more just, good and peaceful world.

    ReplyDelete
  6. http://trevorbjarne.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. you can go to my blog to see my post, where my thoughts are in green, so as to be able to decipher through it with a greater ease.

      http://trevorbjarne.blogspot.com/

      Delete
  7. *****
    <> I appreciate sympathy, for the sake of being kind and understanding, that does not mean that I have to like others opinions. I certainly do not dismiss that of what I use to be - Christian, religious and much much more. I cannot dismiss it, because their movement is so powerful that they force it upon the world, (wait for it - - -) the world over. Huh, well, I really hope that I do not come across as some blind dolt who just wants to be right/correct as an intellectual, just to get my rocks off, because that is exactly what I want; a just, good and peaceful world that is filled with compassion.
    *****

    Our issue is that--as self-proclaimed post-Evangelicals--we simply cannot "sidestep the problem of belief--and the related politics which can be so distracting." In fact, it is probably easier, at this point in our journey, to sidestep (or just be uninterested in) the "problem of belief," as she poses it, than it is "the related politics that can be so distracting." As our good friend, a twenty-something-post-Evangelical pastor, wrote in response to Luhrman's article:

    *****
    <> Once again I agree with you, as I have stated - I would not sidestep - whatever. I take responsibility for my actions and words and I have high standards, which nobody else can force or enforce upon me - I, me alone - I am the one that does that to and for myself (which thereby for the greater good of the world).
    *****

    If belief is about the ability to intellectually affirm specific propositions about God's identity, then belief should not be the most important part of Christianity. From my understanding, belief in the biblical context was always more about trust and fidelity to a way of living in relationship with God than knowing the facts. Only in a post-Enlightenment world can we get belief so messed up.

    *****
    <> But why trust what you do not know? That’s the problem! Yes, the Bible, once agian, as I have stated in the above says, to be intelligent (it also counters that), but I choose intelligence. So, why go against intelligence and yourself? Trusting something that nobody can know is belief. So, why do that to yourself or us?
    *****

    Belief is not just a head game. It is a pledge of allegiance to a way of life. Indeed, the late Anabaptist theologian James McClendon argued for the "chronological priority of ethics" in his 3-volume, 1000-page(+) set of narrative systematic theology. He embraced the postmodern shift by going back to the biblical texts and the early centuries of Christianity while bunking the scholarly guild by audaciously starting with Ethics (1986)...and then Doctrine (1994) and Witness (completed on his death bed in 2000). This crucial concept is, perhaps, best articulated by the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr:
    We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.

    *****
    <> Beliefs and pledges of allegiance are so dangerous - I do not like them. An allegiance to one’s spouse, this is understandable, allegiance to all things good and positive, to compassion, to knowledge and wisdom, I can understand this, but other than that, it gets dicey.
    *****

    Our friend, Chase, a recent Stanford grad who has engaged with Luhrman's work far more extensively than we have, has told us that Luhrman's main focus is on "how people learn to belong to a community, and how both that learning and that belonging changes their perception or experience of reality" and that, ultimately, "belief is a product, rather than the source, of action and interpretation." We deeply concur. Yet, the Evangelical world is stumbling in an Enlightenment hangover, dualistically attempting to divide their lives into walled off categories like "belief" and "politics" and "ethics."

    ReplyDelete
  8. *****
    <> Yes, people want to feel welcomed and comforted and will go to great lengths to feel that they are part of a group, as I have mentioned, this is viral memetic infection. And it can be very dangerous.
    *****

    Another young post-Evangelical friend of ours couldn't resist pointing out the irony of Luhrman's findings in regards to just how vocally committed Evangelicals are to their "beliefs":

    *****
    <> I know, this is as I have been saying, it’s very dangerous stuff - this devoting/giving one’s life to that of what they believe in, that in which they do not know. And it is painful, because many Christians are very vocal about their beliefs (or, that of which they do not know, but feel the propensity to expound on the likes).
    *****

    The majority of the people I know who have remained loyally committed to the Evangelical Christian movement throughout my lifetime value a shared sense of belonging with a group over epistemology. The irony of that statement is that the majority of those Christians demand a very specific type of epistemology and the affirmation of a great many fundamental (Absolute) truths in order to gain access to that shared sense of belonging.

    The problem of belief is not such a problem because, quite frankly, the modern focus on mental assent to various doctrines is neither compelling nor reflective of what the biblical authors and early followers of Jesus were getting at. Our issue is with the uber-conservative nature of Evangelical politics. For us (and the way we read Jesus' call to discipleship), politics can never be sidestepped because "politics" is, in fact the way we organize our lives (just about everything we involve ourselves with in everyday life).

    *****
    <> I believe that beliefs are a very, VERY big problem, and people constantly make that abundantly clear. Every day from many different news agencies there is news of believers doing something horrible, Christian or otherwise.
    *****

    Politics should never be equated with the "sporting event" that has become electoral politics in our country, but rather, the convictions and everyday political practices that inform and shape Christian individual and community life. As biblical scholar Ched Myers writes, basically everything Jesus did was political (Why else would the Romans want him killed? See above John August Swanson's depiction of Jesus' political act of washing his disciples feet):

    ...the politics of Jesus are defined not only by his attack on the Temple marketplace but also by whom he sits at table with, who comes in his house, when and where he sits at table with and whom he touches. In Jesus’ exorcisms, as with the Gerasene, the ‘possessed’ political body symbolizes territorial struggles within the body politic. Through exorcism Jesus challenges the authoritative space of the scribes, the political domain of the Powers, the military occupation of the Romans, and the sacred legitimacy of the Temple.

    ReplyDelete
  9. That being said, we see it as extremely problematic to ascribe to a community (as it is in Evangelical Christian circles) a narrative that assuages one's anxieties, fears & insecurities with the half-truth that "things will be good, even if they don't seem good now" when one see that, obviously, a lot of things are not okay: people die unjustly, people live under heavy yokes of oppression, the wealthy are drowning in their possessions while a supermajority of the citizens of the rest of the world suffer with basic needs not being met. Indeed, the entire planet groans under the weight of the toxic, Mammon-centered economy we have let spiral out of control.

    *****
    <> Agreed, in general, w/o the Christian part. With FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt) you can command people, but who wants that? And if you are not afraid, then you should be as certain about yourself as you can be which means that you should employee intelligence/wisdom. That is why, even though everything may not be okay, as I said, only you can make it so. Your other option is to not - make it okay, good or better. Life is only all about choices, as I have just mentioned, we must make the most positive decisions that we can - so use logic & reason.
    *****

    We actually have A LOT of agency to do something about all these things. But if your overarching truth about the world is that God will make all things good in the end, then you are excused of the responsibility to partner with God and larger movements of faith and conscience working for social change now. In our experience, we don't think most Evangelicals are aware of evading this responsibility. Rather, it is a by-product of their unacknowledged and privileged social location within a largely white male-dominated, middle/upper-class, suburban culture.

    *****
    <> Forget about God, if you want to excuse responsibility, then I throw my hands up in the air, because there is no point in being a mature adult if you do not take responsibility for yourself.
    *****

    We actually agree with what Luhrman identifies as an Evangelical conviction that "God is good. The world is good. Things will be good, even if they don’t seem good now..." In fact, not only do we agree, but this truth fuels our everyday life and work, knowing that we are not alone and that this global task of redemption is not all on our shoulders. We are a very small part of God's larger, still unfolding vocational narrative of what the Anabaptists call "the hard and holy work of releasing peace on earth" (a partnership of God and people of faith and conscience).

    *****
    <> I do not really like the word redemption here, although I think of life as a challenge every day and in every way - and I strive to be the most positive ... I can be. Next, I do not really like, “work of releasing peace on earth.” I have learned to try to be proactive, not reactive. Think about it.
    *****

    By and large, the Evangelical narrative serves as an escape from the pain and ambiguity inevitably experienced in life, propelling these "believers" to stop short of fully entering into the pain of the world. Experienced through the prism of the Evangelical narrative, pain becomes simply too much to bear, too overwhelming AND you don't HAVE to endure it, because afterall, "God has a plan for everything and God will make everything good in the end."

    *****
    <> Agreed, religious people live in a fantasy world ( I know that I took some liberty there, but there it is). Giving up is a cop-out - agreed.

    *****

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  10. We cannot count how many times we've had to filter some of these kinds of statements, (all well-meaning of course) after Lindsay's father died in the Fall of 2011 (ie, "He's in a better place now." and "It was for God's glory."). We could tell it was more about the other person having no idea how to comfort or the severe limitation that comes with not being able to say anything that could make what happened alright. No doubt, we could just appreciate their care, however poorly expressed, but we share this as just a small, personal example of how this skin-deep way to live has major implications. Therapists call this addiction and denial (as all addiction stems from trying to stave off the pain life inevitably brings). People escape into their favored addictions in order to mask and evade the pain and anxiety that surrounds them.

    *****
    <> Understood and agreed. Honestly.
    *****

    Evangelical culture, as we have experienced and observed it, has become a large breeding ground for denial, hiding, and addiction. These sorts of religious structures, and belief systems are set up in such a way to encourage the faithful to escape from the pain of the world, to put on a happy face, to absolutely never question the pastor's interpretation of the Bible, and to cling to the security of an assured eternity in Heaven as "what really matters."

    *****
    <> Oooh, that kind of fluff chaps my hide.
    *****

    Evangelicals represent the largest and loudest group of Christians in North America and this is the brand of Christians that we are consistently in relationship with in the Trabuco Creek watershed in Orange County, CA. Many of our closest friends are Evangelicals and, yes, we used to be an active participants in their churches and ministries. This community of believers has much of our heart. We love these Christians because of their passion and sincerity, their utter willingness to give themselves for the Cause. However, we are convinced that at the end of the day, they are living off a default narrative that falls short of what both the pain and injustice of the world, and the gospel, demand of us.

    All in all, we appreciate Luhrman's charitable perspective, and think it is much needed (on both sides) to work towards the healing and reconciliation of the long-standing stalemate between Evangelicals and Seculars. However, as post-Evangelical ourselves, we see our own responsibility, in relation to the Evangelical world, as both growing in love, charity and understanding as modeled by Jesus while also offering (in word and deed!) a much-needed alternative way of being Christian.

    ****
    <> With all honesty and sincerity and as much love as i can give,
    Trevor Meyer

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