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Some good quotes I want to keep for Posterity

TIME Magazine, 21 June 2004; cover article: "Faith, God & The Oval Office" by Nancy Gibbs

"'People don't want a President to think that every important decision has a stamp of God's approval and that God is always on his side,' says ethicist Cromartie. 'I think people want their Presidents to be pious but not self-righteously so. So there's a paradox, isn't there? A President has to seem to be relying on God's wisdom but not acting like all his decisions are God's decisions.' It's the difference between praying that you're right and believing that prayer makes you right."

"'We began to see the upsurge of religious rhetoric in the late 1990s,' Lynn says. 'There was this real sense of moral malaise in the country, among liberals and conservatives alike. They might not be able to agree on the morality, but they all agreed we didn't have enough of it.' The Columbine shootings, the impeachment battle, the corporate crookery all piled up and 'led many if not most Americans to conclude that the country had lost its moral compass,' says Green."

"'I'm not a believer in God," says Gullett, 'but I recognize that faith is a morally guiding force in most people's lives. I believe President Bush has brought honor back to the White House because of his faith. I don't see the religious community being upset with him. I see the nonreligious community being upset with him because they see faith as a threat to liberal thought.'"


Dipping my toe in a possible discussion :)

The core of Christianity is its beliefs, but beliefs without action are just empty words. James wrote about this in his letter--it's easy to not look like a Christian by saying you believe in Christ but then simply living like all the generically (i.e. "selectively" :) moral non-Christians do. (As opposed to trying to broadcast that you're a Christian by acting self-righteously, as the religious person did in Matthew 6.) A Christian isn't a) proud and strutting or b) indistinguishable from non-Christians.

I can agree with the argument that institutionalized religion is a load of crap built on top of a real core of truth. However, not all people who want to meet together to share their experience of Christ and spur each other on to grow more and share more are piling a load of illogical crap on top of the core beliefs.

Thus, across-the-board blanketing of public Christian gatherings as (essentially) a waste of time indicates three possible things: a) the person avoiding gatherings either doesn't want to be publicly identified as a Christian (thus, are they really one?), b) the person believes that they are a super-Christian who (unlike all the rest of the mere mortals around), doesn't need anyone else to help them grow in their relationship with God or others--in which case, how are they not being self-righteous?--or c) the person hasn't looked hard enough for a compatible Christian gathering in their area.

Plus, while not every word in the Bible is meant to be taken literally (has anyone ever heard of allegory, metaphor, simile, or hyperbole?), the key to reading it is to not selectively toss out the bits that ask/demand something uncomfortable. The writer of Hebrews made a good point in 10:24-25...we need each other.

Re: Dipping my toe in a possible discussion :)

Note that I said "not necessarily action".

Since I believe that faith is the most private of matters, it seems logical to me that a Christian would be indistinguishable from a Jew or a Muslim or a Buddhist. What sets a moral Christian apart from a moral non-Christian is acceptance of Jesus Christ, whether you publically profess that acceptance or not.

My statement about the "illogical load of crap" had nothing to do with the people who gather for Christian worship. If I delve deeply into the root of my problem with Christian gatherings, it has more to do with the priest, and not to put too fine a point on it, the homily. The hymns, the reading of the lessons, the Eucharist and the ritual of the Mass (I'm such a sucker for ritual), fine -- these are set things that happen every week and allow people to draw their own conclusions. The homily, however, is where the priest gets to offer his own interpretation of the lessons. Since "priest" commands automatic respect in most people, without any window into that individual priest's character, that interpretation really has some force of religious law behind it. If the priest is a good priest (and I have known some excellent priests) then that may be fine, but if the priest has a slightly skewed viewpoint, a tendency to allow events from their private life to unnecessarily colour their speech, or a penchant for fire and brimstone, that homily has now dropped a pound of one man's interpretation onto an ounce of the Word of God.

I also have big problems with public prayer. When it's being offered for an obvious reason (prayer for the souls of the dead, a community prayer to end flooding, etc.) it's not so bad, but just about every church I've ever set foot in has snuck their political leanings in through the prayers during Mass -- bless our President in his reëlection campaign, pray that God turn the hearts of pro-choice people, may God grant the Israelis dominance over their land, pray that fundie Muslims be struck down and called to judgment, etc.

Religion is too important, too ethereal, too ineffable to be mixed up with politics or a priest's personal issues. Some proportion of what goes on during a Mass is religion and some other proportion is religiopolitics, God's work tainted with earthly bias that just makes me sick. In addition, there is a large number of priests out there who are convinced on some level that they are the Mouthpiece of God. The problem is that again, their personal beliefs get wrapped up in their message and so on the extreme end of things we end up with "your father was a Jew so he will go to Hell" or "let us purify the earth of gay people".

Of course, it's impossible to winnow earthly issues from religion -- we are imperfect, earthbound creatures, and I am as guilty of this as I charge others of being -- but I don't want to convince anyone to my way of thinking, I want them to think about it on their own, hence why discussions of "my religious beliefs" are usually short.

Re: Dipping my toe in a possible discussion :)

Yes...it's not about trying to change anyone else, but living, thinking about how you live, expressing yourself without feeling the need to dominate, and trying to live like Christ. I still disagree with you on the idea of Christians being indistinguishable from other moral people who don't believe in Christ (why bother being specific about believing in Christ then?), but that is as it is. :)

As for religiopolitics, yes--I have definitely experienced distasteful political stuff coming out of the pulpit, shrouded with "this is the pastor, thus you shouldn't oppose him," etc., but I didn't let it lay there. I didn't try to rant at him in public--no point in humiliating someone because I disagree with their politics--but I did let him know that I disagreed with him, and that I didn't require a response from him. It wasn't opening a debate, it was (in my mind), a call to reconsider. He told me once, a long time ago, that he could say hard things to me because he respected me enough to tell me the truth and he knew I could take it without getting offended and breaking off communication with him. I returned the favor, and while he's never explicitly responded to my critique, we remain on good terms and I have not heard the ranting coming from the pulpit since.

Re: Dipping my toe in a possible discussion :)

Also, re: the literal interpretation of the Bible...

Do I think these works were divinely inspired? Yes, I do.

Do I think that God wrote the Bible? No, I don't.

Do I think the Bible is set down exactly as God intended? No. The Bible, though inspired by I-Am-That-I-Am up there, was written by humans. Human writing incorporates human error. Hence, there are bound to be contradictions. Human hubris inspired Pope Athanasius to edit the bible from 39 books to 27 in 315 a.D.

Hence, since an infallible message was sent through fallible hands, the Bible is fallible.

Re: Dipping my toe in a possible discussion :)

Well, implying that there is a possibility that something happened outside of God's control is a bit illogical for me to swallow, but acknowledging that the Bible doesn't look perfect by current human standards is fine. Culture has changed, our access to ancient information has been reduced to a few shreds and bits of abandoned rubble, and hubris has wreaked a pile of havoc with the PR. For us, being meticulous about details in legal documents is commonplace (though that by no means implies greater accuracy! :), partly because of the printing press and greater recording technology. In ancient times, writing was less common and thus what people DID write down in such documents as those composing the Bible was focused on what they thought was especially important, which didn't always mean the precise use of language as is found in modern technical documents, etc. It doesn't make it wrong, necessarily, just a different kind of account. Plus, there is plenty of precedent for historians assuming that the Bible's dating and location citing was inaccurate, and later finding out that it was spot-on as more information was unearthed.

And what is "divine inspiration"? That's ethereality (though not complete subjectivity) for you! :)

Re: Dipping my toe in a possible discussion :)

implying that there is a possibility that something happened outside of God's control is a bit illogical for me to swallow

Understood, though I don't believe in a micromanaging God.

(There's a lot to say here, and I'm not breaking off the conversation, but I need to be at work and therefore this will have to wait till later.) :)