Comments 44
  1. Sault

    « Secularism acquired the “Truth” brand by default because evangelicalism began defining Church’s mission as cultivating Faith, not promoting knowledge of Truth »

    And hoo-boy, they were sure successful, weren’t they?

    « If students were educated to become shepherds by serving local community, the church would launch an education revolution, which will restore Christianity’s brand of Truth and Grace. »

    An interesting idea… but wouldn’t it be ironic if it ended up backfiring? After all, studies seem to indicate that the more educated you are, the less likely you are to be religious.

    « Christianity lost America because 20th-century evangelicalism branded itself as the party of faith. By default Secularism (science, university, media) became the party of truth. »

    I think there’s more to it than that.

    Letting right-wing conservatives co-opt the image of Christianity hurt Christianity’s cause as much as anything else – every political blunder then became a tarnish upon Christianity itself, to some degree. Every time some a-hole tries to legislate their Christian morality on the rest of us, Christianity gets another black eye.

    How much does Christian intolerance play into Christianity’s decline? There was never a “war on Christmas”… just a search to try and accept other faiths. You don’t think that hurts Christianity a little?

    Look at the phrase used in the article you reference –

    « The fact that some American missions to Muslims and upper-caste Hindus are backing away from Christ’s lordship over their cultures seems to be a result of their increasing uncertainty about Truth. »

    Is that not cultural imperialism? Is that not itself a statement to some degree of intolerance?

    How do such statements sit with non-believers? Do these things I’ve listed make anyone want to draw closer to Jesus, who is supposed to be all about love?

    No, I think there’s more to it than just valuing faith over truth.

  2. Crude

    An interesting idea… but wouldn’t it be ironic if it ended up backfiring? After all, studies seem to indicate that the more educated you are, the less likely you are to be religious.

    Did you even read that link? First off, education and intelligence are not the same thing – the article itself differentiates between IQ and education level attained. Second, go down to section 1.3 – which indicates the exact opposite of what you stated. The results in other contexts are varied, but it’s not so nearly some flat ‘indication’ of the way you stated.

    There was never a “war on Christmas”… just a search to try and accept other faiths. You don’t think that hurts Christianity a little?

    Of course there’s a ‘war on Christmas’, just as there’s a (cultural) war on Christianity generally. ‘Search to try and accept other faiths’ is manifest baloney.

    Do these things I’ve listed make anyone want to draw closer to Jesus, who is supposed to be all about love?

    If ‘love’ means never disagreeing with anyone, and never insisting that someone (or even an entire faith or culture) is wrong, then no, Jesus was not ‘all about love’.

  3. Crude

    As for my own two cents regarding the OP: Christianity has had a tough time in America for a number of reasons – and I don’t think the truth-faith claim is the strongest.

    * Culturally, Christians have allowed themselves to be shoved away. Christians rarely show up in our media – whether we’re talking cartoons and video games or TV shows – except as jokes or worse. And there’s rarely any united response to either of these things. Mock Christ explicitly in, say… Family Guy, and the response is either silence or weak. Compare this to the reaction, and the results, gotten if someone makes casual use of the word “faggot” on TV or in public. So this is a double failing – we’ve allowed our faith and symbols of our faith to be extracted from our culture, and we’ve not been willing to fight when it’s slighted and mocked.

    * While this has been changing, there’s also been a lack of cross-sect cooperation. Too many TEs fight ID proponents and YECs and do little else. Too many protestants would rather attack Catholics (and vice versa) rather than work with them. The Manhattan Declaration attitude is a step in the right direction – there needs to be a lot more of that, and more organization.

    * In contrast to the last point, there’s also been a habit of trying to water down how Christianity is presented. Hence the watering down Christmas to ‘being about sharing and family’, rather than being about Christ in any major way. Or the repeated drumming in of the idea that following Christ means keeping your mouth shut and not standing up against any mockery, insult or demeaning treatment, unless it’s anything other than a Christian practice, belief or person on the receiving end.

    I think there’s absolutely some truth in the idea that ‘secular’ things tend to be presented as truth – usually manifesting as some serious (and at times intentional) misunderstandings about what constitutes the secular and scientific – but the cultural end is key. Frankly, Christians should be looking at just how groups like the LGBSA have managed to come as far as they have in so short a time, and copy them.

  4. BillT

    This article is written from an unusual viewpoint and mischaracterizes a lot about modern Christianity. The idea that Christianity is a “religion of faith disconnected with truth” is without basis. In fact, there has been a huge amount written even in the last decade and a big emphasis within the evangelical community concerning the historical accuracy and the reliability of the facts of Christianity.

    Also, the correlation of faiths and income is a strange perspective on which to judge the success of Christianity. After all the “good news for the poor” that Christianity teaches isn’t that they will become rich. The fact that there are large numbers of poor that are Christian is strength not a weakness.

    Here in NYC and I know elsewhere, there are many new growing and thriving evangelical congregations. Both the numbers of evangelical congregations and the New Yorkers attending them has grown by very large numbers over the last 20 years. Further, they are in large part filled with young single members.

    As far as overseas missions and their results, the idea that Christianity is in trouble is a stunning assertion. Africa has, over the last century, experienced the largest Christian conversion in recorded history and it continues to grow exponentially. China has a huge and rapidly growing Christian population even in the face of severe persecution. I believe that I have read that in Latin America more people attend evangelical congregations that Catholic congregations. I think we will find that the demise of Christianity is highly exaggerated.

  5. Sault

    And there’s rarely any united response to either of these things. Mock Christ explicitly in, say… Family Guy, and the response is either silence or weak. Compare this to the reaction, and the results, gotten if someone makes casual use of the word “faggot” on TV or in public.

    The difference, of course, is that making fun of Christians can be really funny. Besides, being Christian is a choice. Mocking someone’s sexual orientation, something that they can’t choose, isn’t nearly as funny. Besides, I’m pretty sure that God has a sense of humor, even when His followers don’t.

    So my question would be…. how much of a sense of humor should a Christian have?

    Put another way – does a Christian need to be offended on behalf of an eternal and omnipotent being who is more vast than anything we can imagine, who created not just Earth, but billions of galaxies and billions of stars across billions of light years, who knew us in our mother’s womb and knows our hearts and minds?

  6. Crude

    The difference, of course, is that making fun of Christians can be really funny. Besides, being Christian is a choice. Mocking someone’s sexual orientation, something that they can’t choose, isn’t nearly as funny.

    Utter, complete baloney. That’s like saying “saying something that hurts someone’s feelings is never funny”. Sounds great on a bumper sticker. Pity it’s not true.

    Moreover, it’s not a question of whether or not it’s funny. Groups don’t complain “no one is laughing at the joke you made”. They complain about the content of the joke regardless of who’s laughing.

    Put another way – does a Christian need to be offended on behalf

    I never said anything about being “offended on behalf” of God. I pointed out the effectiveness of various groups, with the LGBSA and like groups being models, in their complaints – and more and more I believe they should react just the way gays react, even when the joke is funny. Some Christian jokes are funny – funny doesn’t justify anything.

    And you should really can the poetic statement routine. It doesn’t work for you – no sense of timing.

  7. Sault

    Utter, complete baloney. That’s like saying “saying something that hurts someone’s feelings is never funny”.

    No, I’m pretty sure I made a distinction between things that you can choose and things that you don’t. But I’ll concede the point – hurting people’s feelings can be really, really funny.

    and more and more I believe they should react just the way gays react, even when the joke is funny.

    Or you could just do what the Muslims do, and issue death threats. That’s pretty effective. I mean, some Christians already utter death threats, but I bet you could probably institutionalize it.

    But perhaps you don’t have to go that far. Forming groups to prosecute and lobby and be outraged every time Family Guy makes a joke at Jesus’ expense… yeah, I’m sure that will work.

    But… what if the people writing the jokes for Family Guy are Christian? Nah, I’m sure Christians would never poke fun at other Christians. Silly me.

    I never said anything about being “offended on behalf” of God.

    You don’t have to. Your proposed group would consist of a bunch of people being outraged on behalf of an omnipotent being who could probably handle Himself just fine.

    Look at Pat Roberts… trying to claim that the SNL skit with Jesus and Tebow was “anti-Christian bigotry”. That’s your group right there – old white men who sacrificed their sense of humor on the altar of cheap publicity. Although hopefully your group would be without the whole “the gays caused Hurricane Katrina” thing.

    I should say that I’m not challenging how effective groups like the NAACP etc are. I just think that the idea of a bunch of Christians getting outraged every time someone makes a Jesus joke is pretty ridiculous.

    The point of these groups is that they’re based on very real episodes of abuse and persecution. Christians have nothing to compare to that, not in this country they don’t. Christians are the majority – you don’t get to claim that you’re being persecuted when you’re the majority.

    Of course there’s a ‘war on Christmas’, just as there’s a (cultural) war on Christianity generally. ‘Search to try and accept other faiths’ is manifest baloney.

    If over 70% of America is Christian… then who’s waging this hypothetical war? I mean, you can blame the godless liberals and the atheists, but we’re less than 10% of the population. Face it – the only people “waging war” on Christianity are other Christians!

    And you should really can the poetic statement routine. It doesn’t work for you – no sense of timing.

    There once was a blogger named Crude
    Who thought that it would be quite shrewd
    to make groups for his faith
    to react just like the gays
    and urge ‘pon Christians litigious moods

  8. Tom Gilson

    Sault, when you said,

    Letting right-wing conservatives co-opt the image of Christianity hurt Christianity’s cause as much as anything else – every political blunder then became a tarnish upon Christianity itself, to some degree. Every time some a-hole tries to legislate their Christian morality on the rest of us, Christianity gets another black eye.

    You were thinking only of the latter third of the twentieth century. I think Mangalwadi is going back another 60 years or so in his analysis. That’s one thing. The other is that it’s way too simplistic to speak of “letting right-wing conservatives co-opt the image of Christianity.” Sure, politicians will co-opt anything they can. That’s the nature of that beast. But if I were blogging politically I could make a case for social and economic conservatism based on biblical principles. (The Acton Institute is a good source on this.) To a great extent political conservatism is an expression of a worldview that’s informed by biblical thinking. That’s not to be viewed simplistically either, and I’m not intending to blog on this, but I wanted at least to register that corrective opinion.

    How much does Christian intolerance play into Christianity’s decline? There was never a “war on Christmas”… just a search to try and accept other faiths. You don’t think that hurts Christianity a little?

    Boy, it sure makes a difference how you frame an issue! The topic in the blog post was Christianity’s claim on truth. It is that very claim that gets labeled intolerance. I hope you’ve read what I’ve written on “the truth holds us.” You’ll notice I don’t get involved in the “war on Christmas,” and that’s for a reason; but in fact it is an act of intolerance toward Christianity to strip this holiday, which has been around for millennia (and in something like its current form for centuries), of all its historic roots and meaning. Now, the reason I don’t get involved in that battle is because I think it’s fairly inconsequential in the big picture; but I don’t accept that Christians are the aggressors in it. When my wife and son saw a “December 25” card for sale at WalMart a couple years ago, that was not Christianity taking aim against culture.

    « The fact that some American missions to Muslims and upper-caste Hindus are backing away from Christ’s lordship over their cultures seems to be a result of their increasing uncertainty about Truth. »

    Is that not cultural imperialism? Is that not itself a statement to some degree of intolerance?

    Imperialism? No. Intolerance? Of course! Do you know anything about Islam or Hinduism? There’s plenty in there not to like. There’s plenty in there that’s false. I’m intolerant of falsehood. I’m intolerant of hatred. I’m intolerant of lies that enslave and that lead people to death. And because I believe there is truth, I believe some things are false. Do you see something immoral in that? (Be very cautious in your answer, if you’re inclined to say it’s immoral to regard someone else’s values as immoral. That would be terribly intolerant. But nowhere near as much as,

    The difference, of course, is that making fun of Christians can be really funny.

    Good Lord, man, did you see what you wrote?

    So my question would be…. how much of a sense of humor should a Christian have?

    A lot. Christians don’t need to be offended on behalf of God. He can take the heat.

    Now, here’s a different question. How much should non-Christians who self-righteously make a stand for tolerance, make fun of Christians without noticing how bigoted they are in the process?

    Did you notice that wasn’t the same question?

    Did you know that even though Jesus didn’t take offense, he was nevertheless quick to point out hypocrisy where he saw it?

    Consider it pointed out.

    I mean, some Christians already utter death threats, but I bet you could probably institutionalize it.

    Jesus also pointed out obvious and malicious lies. Consider it pointed out.

    Look at Pat Roberts… trying to claim that the SNL skit with Jesus and Tebow was “anti-Christian bigotry”. That’s your group right there – old white men who sacrificed their sense of humor on the altar of cheap publicity.

    Speaking of bigotry: Our group is not “old white men.” Your sociology of Christianity is as wrong as it could be. And as stereotyped. And as intolerant. I’m just pointing out your hypocrisy, Sault. It’s astonishing!

    And I wrote the above before I even saw your limerick. You’re a bigot, Sault. This is not about my sense of humor. I can laugh at Christians. I can take criticism. Let’s see, now, how far back to I have to go to find an example? I’m searching, I’m googling my own site, I’m racking my brains… Oh, yes, I think I’ve finally found one: it’s at the top of this screen. Read the OP.

    I have a lot of fun with my church and its foibles, and also with my Christian employers. We laugh a lot, including laughter at our own mistakes.

    Having a sense of humor and identifying hypocrisy and bigotry for what they are–those are two different things. If you say something funny about Christians I’ll laugh with you. If you’re being a bigot, though, I’ll try to help you see that for what it is.

    I can take some heat. I can learn from it. How about you?

  9. Tom Gilson

    BillT,

    I think Mangalwadi was taking a longer look back than what you’re referring to here. Mainline Christianity lost America, for sure, and it had a lot to do with the kinds of things he says here. Fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity suffered losses in a different yet related way, by not keeping a firm grip on Christianity’s being (in Dallas Willard’s words) a knowledge tradition, along with being a faith tradition. It’s not just “I can believe this,” it’s “I can know this, because there is good warrant (justification) for regarding it as true.”

    I agree that things are looking up recently.

    His assessment of Christianity overseas, on the other hand, struck me as a warning of what could come, not a pronouncement of demise.

  10. Pingback: Why Christianity is Losing America » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

  11. G. Rodrigues

    @Sault:

    But I’ll concede the point – hurting people’s feelings can be really, really funny.

    Well you should know it, as you are thick as a doorknob and dumber than a bag of hammers.

    Note: Tom, feel free to delete this comment as pure sardonic flamebait; in my defence, I will just say that Sault deserves it as his performance in this thread fully attests it.

  12. G. Rodrigues

    Not being an american, and thus unable to comment on the OP, all I will say is this: you guys think you have it difficult? Cross the Atlantic and land in some western european country like France.

  13. Tom Gilson

    G. Rodrigues,

    I’ll take your 9:22 am comment as an ironic turnaround toward Sault, giving him the opportunity to see how odd his position really is.

  14. BillT

    Tom,

    I’m not sure I buy that mainline Christianity lost America for the reasons Mangalwadi gives. Mainline Christianity lost America because it stopped being Christianity and started being a social club. Rodney Stark has made this point in his analysis of the decline of mainline Christianity. And what about the financial analysis he gives. What is the point of that.

  15. Sault

    Discussion policy noted. I will avoid referring to politics going forward. I do accept that my understanding of evangelicism politically is heavily influenced by the past three decades of religious conservatism, and that I lack much knowledge from before that period.

    I’m also going to stop talking about the “war on Christmas”. I have no idea what prompted me to bring that up, except that I must be some kind of masochist – after a whole season of it, why continue the punishment?

    « The topic in the blog post was Christianity’s claim on truth. It is that very claim that gets labeled intolerance. »

    I make a distinction between claims of truth and actions based on those claims. Its one thing to think that you’re right, it’s a whole ‘nother to go out and condemn other cultures and aggressively proselytize amongst them.

    Restated – I am right and you are wrong. I won’t interfere with you being wrong, though, if you don’t interfere with me being right. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, then you go your way and I’ll go mine. That, to me, is tolerance.

    « Do you know anything about Islam or Hinduism? There’s plenty in there not to like. There’s plenty in there that’s false. I’m intolerant of falsehood. I’m intolerant of hatred. I’m intolerant of lies that enslave and that lead people to death. »

    I feel exactly the same way about Christianity. The difference is that I’m much more willing to let you lot do your own thing – as long as you aren’t trying to legislate your morality on the rest of us, or trying to make science teachers promote ideology instead of real science, etc.

    « Now, here’s a different question. How much should non-Christians who self-righteously make a stand for tolerance, make fun of Christians without noticing how bigoted they are in the process? »

    Is making fun of someone a form of bigotry? That is an excellent question. In some cases I think that it can be, although it depends on the context. Making fun of someone because they’re black, mentally handicapped, or gay can be very bigoted… but many comedians do it all the time to very warm reception. Say the same thing out in public (repeat those Chris Rock jokes at the watercooler!) and its a bit of a different story, though.

    On the other hand, things that you can choose to be or not to be? Fair game. My personal philosophy lies somewhere under the umbrella of “atheism”, I used to play Magic: The Gathering, one of my guilty pleasures is listening to the band Aqua (think “Barbie Girl”), and I shave my head cuz I look funny with hair. All of these things are absolutely fair game for a good joke. Why should being Christian be any different?

    I mean, some Christians already utter death threats, but I bet you could probably institutionalize it.

    Jesus also pointed out obvious and malicious lies. Consider it pointed out.

    You may not like it, but some Christians utter death threats. I’m not saying that every Christian does it, but plenty have and continue to. Google ‘christian hate mail’ some time for some examples. You can also ask abortion doctors for “real-life” examples.

    « Speaking of bigotry: Our group is not “old white men.” »

    You misunderstood why I said what I said. I don’t mean that your group is literally old white men, but that the old white man that is Pat Robertson is emblematic, to some extent, of the group that Crude proposes. How can I take him seriously (Pat, I mean)? How can someone who gets so worked up over Jesus jokes really be taken seriously? He isn’t worked up over the joke anymore – he is the joke.

    Any proposed group will be looked at and the question asked – is God offended, or are you? If God is offended, God must be pretty petty to be bothered by our measly opinions, and if it’s you, why can’t you take a tip from your God and chill out? If God doesn’t care about what people say about Him, then why should Christians care? Why can’t they be secure enough in their faith to not have any “sacred cows”?

    « WRT that limerick, Sault: read the discussion policy. »

    I put quite a bit of thought into it and tried very hard to not actually make it insulting (I only used the word “gays” because it was already used a certain way in the context of the discussion!) – partly just to have some chuckles, and partly because I wanted to make a very particular point.

    Does it benefit Christianity for Christians to become prosecutors for Christ? Could it not be said that looking for Jesus jokes and other slights against Christianity might bring about a sort of legalism? And then – who gets to determine what flavor of Christianity is too sacred to be lampooned?

    Well you should know it, as you are thick as a doorknob and dumber than a bag of hammers.

    Thanks, this actually made me laugh out loud. I will wear this as my red badge of courage!

    (Anyways, it can’t phase me coming from you, G, because I know that you say it out of genuine love. *grin*)

    — “Dumb as a bag of” Sault

  16. G. Rodrigues

    @Sault:

    I won’t interfere with you being wrong, though, if you don’t interfere with me being right. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, then you go your way and I’ll go mine. That, to me, is tolerance.

    G. K. Chesterton dixit: “Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions”.

    I feel exactly the same way about Christianity. The difference is that I’m much more willing to let you lot do your own thing – as long as you aren’t trying to legislate your morality on the rest of us, or trying to make science teachers promote ideology instead of real science, etc.

    Let us giggle a little. Should I follow your example and unravel the spiel of bigoted secularization happening in western democracies? Matthew 7:5.

    You may not like it, but some Christians utter death threats. I’m not saying that every Christian does it, but plenty have and continue to. Google ‘christian hate mail’ some time for some examples. You can also ask abortion doctors for “real-life” examples.

    This is tiresome, it really is. Atheists issued death threats. Atheist regimes acted on it; the death toll is about 100 million and it keeps on going in some countries (North Korea being the typical example). You want to compare hate mail with this? Does this count as empirical evidence against atheism? (let me guess: no it does not. Insert the stupid excuse of the day for why it does not, but hate mail, crusades, witch hunts or what have you, counts as evidence against Christianity).

    I don’t mean that your group is literally old white men, but that the old white man that is Pat Robertson is emblematic, to some extent, of the group that Crude proposes.

    I cannot speak for Crude, but I think I will not err too much if I say (surprise, surprise) you misunderstood him.

    Any proposed group will be looked at and the question asked – is God offended, or are you? If God is offended, God must be pretty petty to be bothered by our measly opinions, and if it’s you, why can’t you take a tip from your God and chill out? If God doesn’t care about what people say about Him, then why should Christians care? Why can’t they be secure enough in their faith to not have any “sacred cows”?

    Then I am sure you will not object if I proffer all sorts of obscenities and indecencies against your mother or your wife or whomever (or whatever) you love the most. It is all for laughs, you know, so chill out. Or are you such a witless, humorless, spineless man that you cannot handle a joke?

    Anyways, it can’t phase me coming from you, G, because I know that you say it out of genuine love. *grin*

    I object, sir. I am a cold, heartless bastard. If there is anything resembling love in the dry fig I have for a heart, you should blame Him not me.

  17. Crude

    G Rodrigues,

    I cannot speak for Crude, but I think I will not err too much if I say (surprise, surprise) you misunderstood him.

    Misunderstood? I’m going to place my money on ‘actively and purposefully misinterpreting what I said’, personally. But I hardly care – I’m more worried about what Christians and the non-emotionally-invested irreligious think. That sault finds it so worrying that he has to attack it and malign it as much as he is, if anything, encourages me. I think I found a project for the New Year.

    I will say, though, to yourself and Tom and Bill, that – just as with the LGBSA style groups, incidentally – picking battles is key. Tom mentioned that Christians should have a sense of humor, and I agree. Frankly, you’re talking to someone who (you may not know these names) loved the humor of Sam Kinison and George Carlin in his youth, same as now. I can laugh at jokes about Christians and Christianity alike. And I’ll bet you anything that plenty of the mockery that the LGBSA and like groups opposed were, they’d admit, funny to most people – even to themselves. But they opposed it anyway when the situation called for it, because by opposing it they had the desired effect: soon, certain jokes had to be done carefully, if they were to be done at all. There was a line that not only couldn’t be crossed, but that line was actually drawn further back a few times. Now, it’s a more delicate, careful affair to make any joke about homosexual behavior or culture than it is to make any joke about Christian behavior or culture.

    It’s a matter of fighting the right battles at the right time with the right amount of force. But it’s still a matter of fighting, and I maintain that the cultural fight is key. I’ll also point out that this sort of ‘raising hell in the face of this mockery’ was only part of what I said was the problem – Christianity also has to show up in the culture itself, in a positive light. Ask yourself why the LGBSA has for ages lobbied for the inclusion of homosexuals – cast in the right light, no less – in movies, TV shows, video games and otherwise.

  18. Sault

    « “Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions”. »

    “When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.” – Peace Pilgrim

    « This is tiresome, it really is. »

    Hey, if you feel that Christians shouldn’t make death threats against people who make Jesus jokes or work at abortion clinics, then I’m right with you there. Glad to see that we agree on something!

    « Then I am sure you will not object if I proffer all sorts of obscenities and indecencies against your mother or your wife or whomever (or whatever) you love the most. »

    Well, my mum gets upset a little easily, but if it’s really funny then I’ll try to clean it up before I tell it to her!

    « I object, sir. I am a cold, heartless bastard. If there is anything resembling love in the dry fig I have for a heart, you should blame Him not me. »

    Well played, sir, well played.

  19. Tom Gilson

    Sault, you’re a hypocritical bigot. Either that or else you’re blind. You say,

    I make a distinction between claims of truth and actions based on those claims. Its one thing to think that you’re right, it’s a whole ‘nother to go out and condemn other cultures and aggressively proselytize amongst them.

    You’re condemning Christian culture, while you’re claiming it’s wrong to condemn cultures. You’re also trying to privatize belief: It’s okay to think something is true as long as you keep it deeply bottled up inside. You’re not bottling up your own beliefs very well, though, are you?

    Restated – I am right and you are wrong. I won’t interfere with you being wrong, though, if you don’t interfere with me being right. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, then you go your way and I’ll go mine. That, to me, is tolerance.

    That’s really pathetic. It’s wimpy. It’s limp. It’s lame. Tolerance is insipid. “You go your way and I’ll go mine” is just another way of saying let’s avoid each other. Let’s not interact as human beings. Let’s keep our distance. Bah! You say,

    “When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.” – Peace Pilgrim

    But your form of tolerance is walking away from others. Try love instead. Try holding to your own beliefs, recognizing differences, being honest about differences, being willing to meet people mind-to-mind and heart-to-heart on differences. Try respecting people in spite of differences.

    But that does not mean respecting what’s wrong in their beliefs, or blithely ignoring it when they do wrong. I hope you’ll read my link. Meanwhile I have no respect for your insipid and erroneous position on tolerance.

    I feel exactly the same way about Christianity. The difference is that I’m much more willing to let you lot do your own thing – as long as you aren’t trying to legislate your morality on the rest of us, or trying to make science teachers promote ideology instead of real science, etc.

    Straw man. Ignorant straw man.

    If you think your form of bigotry is allowed under “fair game” rules, then that’s the kind of bigot you are.

    You may not like it, but some Christians utter death threats. I’m not saying that every Christian does it, but plenty have and continue to. Google ‘christian hate mail’ some time for some examples. You can also ask abortion doctors for “real-life” examples.

    You represented it as if it were somehow typical of Christianity. That’s a vicious lie.

    Any proposed group will be looked at and the question asked – is God offended, or are you? If God is offended, God must be pretty petty to be bothered by our measly opinions, and if it’s you, why can’t you take a tip from your God and chill out? If God doesn’t care about what people say about Him, then why should Christians care? Why can’t they be secure enough in their faith to not have any “sacred cows”?

    God does care what people say about Him.

    « This is tiresome, it really is. »

    Hey, if you feel that Christians shouldn’t make death threats against people who make Jesus jokes or work at abortion clinics, then I’m right with you there. Glad to see that we agree on something!

    Twisting. Misinterpreting. Stereotyping. Bigotry.

  20. Sault

    « I will say, though, to yourself and Tom and Bill, that – just as with the LGBSA style groups, incidentally – picking battles is key. »

    I would agree completely. I mean, look at my reaction to Pat Robertson, right? At this point he’s basically run his course, but for your future project, you’d need a lot more media and cultural savvy than he and his team has had.

    I don’t know if I’d say “actively misinterpreting” as much as I would say “taking it to a certain extreme”. Hey, you did say Family Guy – I admit that I got the image of resolute Robertsons and outraged O’Reilly’s denouncing Family Guy stuck in my head and just ran with it. After all, the bread goes in and the toast comes out – you can’t explain that!

    All of Crude’s remarks are spot-on, though. Get enough political hue and cry about something, raise a big stink about it every time the topic even comes up (or at least, when its advantageous to), and eventually you push back the boundary of what’s acceptable in the realm of public discourse.

    Just because I think it’s silly, and just because I keep having images of old men shaking their fingers at each other and being total tools doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t work.

    « I’ll also point out that this sort of ‘raising hell in the face of this mockery’ was only part of what I said was the problem – Christianity also has to show up in the culture itself, in a positive light. »

    There’s a lot of truth to this comment. It’s tough – things that denomination A does hurt the Christian brand just as much as what denomination B does as well.

    There are so many Christians, and so many types of Christians, and so many flavors of Christianity that it’s tough there too, though – which do you present, y’know?

  21. Sault

    « You’re condemning Christian culture, while you’re claiming it’s wrong to condemn cultures. »

    In this context, I condemn people who feel that they have the right to force their beliefs on others. If they aren’t doing that, then I don’t have much of a problem with Christianity at all.

    « “You go your way and I’ll go mine” is just another way of saying let’s avoid each other. »

    Well, I certainly can’t convince you otherwise at this point, I think. I look at tolerance differently than you do, it seems, and I’ll just have to leave it at that.

    « You represented it as if it were somehow typical of Christianity. That’s a vicious lie. »

    If I came across that way, I apologize, I didn’t mean to.

    Hmmm.

    Well, some of what I’ve said has been a little tongue-in-cheek, so I can see what you mean when you say that I’m “just baiting”. I apologize for that as well. Was trying to have a little too much fun with it, and took it to a place that I shouldn’t have.

  22. JAD

    Mangalwadi’s article reminds me of Mark Noll’s thesis in his book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. An evangelical himself, Noll describes his book as “an epistle from a wounded lover.” He critiqued the American evangelical community for it’s anti-intellectualism and lack of it’s “sober analysis of nature, human society, and the arts.” While I basically agree with this thesis, I think we also need to keep in mind that Christianity was never meant to be an ideology for intellectuals only.

    I think there are several other “false dichotomies” beyond so called the faith-truth dichotomy. For example, to cite just one, early in the twentieth century many evangelical’s eschewed the so called “social gospel.” They claimed that the social gospel was something to which modernists or liberals had reduced the gospel. Of course, I agree that the gospel is more than social concern but I think we create an even bigger problem when we believe that gospel has little or nothing to do with social concern. The NT certainly doesn’t teach that. (James 2:14-19).

    I think evangelicals missed a golden opportunity in the early 60’s by largely sitting on the sidelines of the civil rights movement. There couldn’t have been a better fit. While blacks in general are politically liberal, theologically they are conservative. Church should have been the place where we first saw genuine racial integration. However, fifty years later, apart from a few token examples, the evangelical churches remain largely segregated. I think there is still an opportunity here, but the door is slowly closing. Overall, however, it’s a shame. If evangelicals had taken the lead on civil rights in the 1960’s it would have given them the moral standing that they now desparately seek to speak out forcefully on issues like abortion and gay marriage. Ironically, black Christians largely agree with evangelicals on these issues.

    Notice how the far left has been able co-opt the issue of civil rights and use it as leverage to advance their own agenda.

  23. Michael Snow

    Re: “… little concern for truth.”
    One of the prime examples of this is the evangelical mantra that “Christianity is a relationship not a religion.”
    Such claptrap would be impossible for anyone who had read Augustine or Luther or Wesley or any Christian writer prior to the late 20th Century.
    Prior to this, the conversation regarded the question of true versus false religion.

    If there is any hope of regaining lost ground, it will come from those leaders who wean themselves from the tit of the zeitgeist and follow C.S. Lewis’ rule for reading: “…after reading a new book, never allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one…keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds…”

  24. Crude

    One of the prime examples of this is the evangelical mantra that “Christianity is a relationship not a religion.”

    That’s an evangelical mantra? I ask that as a Catholic, since evangelical stuff is pretty foreign to me.

    For something like that, though, I think it’d be important to know the thought behind the words. I think nowadays many people tend to associate religion with a variety of things that only have a secondary or tertiary relationship with religion at best. I could see some response of “Christianity is about a relationship with Christ first and foremost – whatever teachings or traditions are engaged in, are done so with that relationship in mind”. Of course, there is some – for lack of better words – “touchy feely crap” in play with Christianity in some quarters.

  25. G. Rodrigues

    @Sault:

    Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions

    “When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.” – Peace Pilgrim

    I am a snob and a pedant and if there is one thing I cannot stand is cultural bastardization. I offer Chesterton, a writer of genuine wit and palpable genius, and you respond with a piece of fortune-cookie fluff?

    This raises an interesting cultural point. As Tom Gilson rightly pointed out, you only know how to talk in clichés and stereotypes, and thus your objections have absolutely no force because no one here conforms to your hackneyed, distorted, self-serving vision of Christianity.

    For my own part, I am with Crude. Saying that I cannot handle a good joke is unfathomly stupid, as I have probably read more imprecations, insults and blasphemies against God and Christianity than you will ever read in your whole life. I am not going to unravel the long list of my readings (which would just be a pointless exercise in snobbery) and content myself in saying that I have even read the Marquis de Sade — a supreme bore who cannot write his way out of a paper bag and whose fame rests on his “transgressive sexual politics”, which is just another name for pornography.

    But there is an even more important point to make here. Whatever imprecations and blasphemies you care to hurl against God or Christianity, the Bible as a whole and more generally, the whole Christian intellectual tradition (from Augustine to Aquinas, from Dante to Hopkins, from J. Swift to Evelyn Waugh) has already articulated those charges in a more forceful way *and* with a convincing answer to boot.

    @Crude:

    I honestly do not know how to fight the counter-cultural war. I look at the panorama of current popular culture, and it is hard not to avoid a feeling of utter contempt and disgust. As you point out, if a Christian appears in some popular show, nine times out of ten he is the paedophile or the serial killer. In the other case, he is reduced to mumble some inane talk about “tolerance” or “peace” or some other vaguely politically-correct banner.

    Sticking to music, sure there are some very good musicians around, and some of them even clearly influenced by Biblical Christianity. Bob Dylan is an obvious example. Another one, is my favorite singer-songwriter, storyteller extraordinaire, musician of genius and the only true heir of Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits. His relations to God and Christianity are ambivalent but all his work is Biblical through and through. Although there are some harsh criticisms in there with real sting, there is none of the bigoted, haughty contempt of Christianity that we find in mainstream popular culture. He shows genuine compassion for the underdog, the outcast, the marginalized without ever downplaying their faults.

    And then again, I take solace in the existence of composers like an Arvo Part (Part is spelled with two points over the “a” — what is the English word for it? — except I do not know how to do that) who can write a piece like Sanctus (part of his work “Te Deum”) or a Gorecki (died in November 12, 2010, in his home in Katowice, Poland) who can compose a piece such as: Symphony no.3 “Sorrowful Songs”, second movement “Lento e Largo”. In the video, one of the carvings on the wall should be readily recognizable. I myself will not follow the link, because when I listen to this piece I always break down and start to cry uncontrollably like a little child.

    Granted, the cultural influence of an Arvo Part or a Gorecki is negligible. But compared to them, what is an artistic fraud like Lady Gaga?

  26. SteveK

    Teaching the truth is important, however this is not what determines which direction a people or a culture will go.

    Adam and Eve were taught the truth from the Truth itself, and they went astray. Did God lose Adam? No. Adam rejected the Truth.

    Americans are to blame for rejecting Christianity. The truth of Christianity is being taught – maybe not as well as it should nor in every location – but it is accessible to anyone willing to listen.

    American culture is either less willing to listen, or they have listened and are rejecting it just like Adam.

  27. Crude

    G. Rodrigues,

    I honestly do not know how to fight the counter-cultural war. I look at the panorama of current popular culture, and it is hard not to avoid a feeling of utter contempt and disgust. As you point out, if a Christian appears in some popular show, nine times out of ten he is the paedophile or the serial killer. In the other case, he is reduced to mumble some inane talk about “tolerance” or “peace” or some other vaguely politically-correct banner.

    Well, one of the advantages nowadays to ‘fighting’ the counter-culture war is that ‘culture’ is vastly more accessible now. You don’t need to be on Network TV to produce something that gets known – you have youtube, you have websites in general, you have everything from independent radio streams to flash animation to otherwise. The same goes for video games and software generally – you don’t need to be published by a major (and therefore, typically culturally misplaced) company to break into the market. Music avenues are more well-known, thanks to what exploded out of Napster. The fact is, what Andrew Klavan does here can be done by just about anyone with a computer, a camera, and some relatively cheap pieces of software, if the invest some time and effort.

    So the opportunities are there, now more than ever. What needs to be there in addition is the awareness, the support and the talent. The last one being key – I can name ‘Christian’ media which makes me cringe. Very lazy or obnoxious stuff, lacking subtlety. On the other hand I can also name some fantastically done stuff – years ago I loved to listen to the Adventures in Odyssey radio drama. I think one problem is that the attitude towards Christian media is ‘if it’s not saying Jesus is Lord every 5 seconds or making the Christian into a Mary Sue, it’s not Christian media’. That has to change – you can have a Christian game or movie or song or book that isn’t Left Behind, or screaming ‘This is a thing for Christians’ at the top of its lungs.

    It’s not nearly as simple as what I’ve outlined above. But it’s also not nearly as hard as what some people think. And in addition to the option of encouragement the creation of Christian culture from the outside, I really do think that more needs to be done when it comes to dealing with some increasingly insulting mockery. I keep referencing the LGBSA and like groups, but I do so because they provide so perfect an example to follow. It wouldn’t be as easy for Christians since they’re politically on the wrong side of the fence more often than not (in the eyes of major media, anyway), but I bet you it can be done to greater effect than it is now. And, perhaps, it can even be done in a way that unites Catholics and Protestants and the like, similar to how the Manhattan Declaration had that unity, or even the Prop 8 fight in California.

    But compared to them, what is an artistic fraud like Lady Gaga?

    The funny thing about Gaga is, as near as I can tell, she does have some considerable musical talent. A friend of mine once told me to watch a particular performance she had and tell me what I thought. My reaction was, it’s sad that someone with that abundance of talent wouldn’t be known if she didn’t act like an over the top freak.

  28. Sault

    I talk about Christianity in general, you attack me because I don’t address your specific beliefs. I talk about a segment of Christianity, and you accuse me of addressing Christianity as a whole. I denounce Christian activities or beliefs, and you accuse me of denouncing God. You offer an appeal to authority and demean my response because the author of that quote doesn’t meet your standards of scholarship.

    Well, whatever. Until Tom bans me for my perceived bigotry, I guess I’ll just keep commenting.

    « content myself in saying that I have even read the Marquis de Sade — a supreme bore who cannot write his way out of a paper bag »

    I agree. “Shocking” rather than quality work. I’m not sure if he was against Christianity rather than just trying to be shocking, though. I have since tried to not say “friggin” as a euphemism for the “f-bomb”, though!

    « That’s an evangelical mantra? I ask that as a Catholic, since evangelical stuff is pretty foreign to me. »

    There has been a backlash against the word “religion”, at least among the Evangelicals (I think you could call them that) that I know. Personal relationship, a committed heart-to-heart/devotion with an emphasis on worship is a higher priority than a focus on the “law”. I don’t think any of them (these particular friends, that is) bring a Bible to church, and that was kinda weird for me, growing up Mormon and all.

    « Did God lose Adam? No. Adam rejected the Truth. »

    Lucky he did though, or but for his disobedience, we wouldn’t be here…

    « I can name ‘Christian’ media which makes me cringe »

    Some years ago I was listening to a Christian radio station that had a lot of bands that had that “hard rock” sound a la Puddle of Mud, Disturbed, Nickelback, etc. Two weeks in, I realized that they all sounded the same, and that it was a blatant proselytizing. Oh, well, no thanks.

    The time lag is narrowing, but with a number of genres there’s been about a four-year delay between a musical style growing popular and Christian versions popping up. It happened in the hip-hop, rap, ska, and hardcore scenes, and I already mentioned the Nickelback imitators.

    The “Christian versions” are starting to become a little more talented, but just as there has been a backlash against the word “religion”, there’s been a backlash against “Christian” bands as well. People know that they’re going to be preached to if they go to a “Christian” show… so many of the bands minimize how Christian they are, and tone down the religious rhetoric a bit. If they didn’t, many clubs wouldn’t even book them – it’s that big of a deal.

    That’s not bigotry on the club owners’ parts, either – that’s a reaction to people not buying tickets, and it’s all about the bottom line.

    Before you accuse me of bigotry or misrepresenting etc, I’ve pulled some of this from an interview with… was it the guy from Tooth & Nail records? Something like that. Christian label. According to him, many of his artists wouldn’t be booked if they loudly proclaimed their beliefs.

    I know a few of the local promoters here in Seattle, and they don’t deal in any overtly “Christian” bands, even though a great deal of the bands have Christians in them. “Christian” bands don’t like to play in bars, I guess, or at least I haven’t seen one yet that has.

    In many of my peers opinions, people want to go to a show and be entertained – they don’t want to be preached to. You go to church for that.

    That said, I think there are a few talented Christian bands out here, if you can handle the whole “worship” experience. I saw a band called Neverclaim at a local church, and thought they were actually quite talented.

    « Americans are to blame for rejecting Christianity. »

    …and I think that the market is already saturated with Christians preaching their own version of Christianity. At some point people just shut down. Or, like many of my peers, they’ve had negative experiences with judgmental/preachy Christians, or simply don’t care.

    The most effective pastors that I’ve known personally were salesmen, and for a reason. From that perspective Christianity is a product, a brand name, and it’s all about how it’s marketed… and to relate it to the topic, how its covered in the media.

    « I think one problem is that the attitude towards Christian media is ‘if it’s not saying Jesus is Lord every 5 seconds or making the Christian into a Mary Sue, it’s not Christian media’. »

    A few of the Christian bands that I’ve followed (Flyleaf is one, saw them open for Staind, it was a good show) became popular, then were rejected by the Christian media on the grounds of a) becoming too popular in the mainstream or b) not being “Christian enough”, or a combination of the two.

    Oh, look at me, I start talking about music and don’t want to stop…

  29. Tom Gilson

    Sault,

    Here’s the problem. We’re talking about issues internal to Christianity, and we’re using language that’s familiar to us. You don’t really know what this discussion is about. Instead you’re tossing in smoke-bombs to obscure it. For example, when Crude said,

    Christianity also has to show up in the culture itself, in a positive light. Ask yourself why the LGBSA has for ages lobbied for the inclusion of homosexuals – cast in the right light, no less – in movies, TV shows, video games and otherwise.

    … you answered,

    There’s a lot of truth to this comment. It’s tough – things that denomination A does hurt the Christian brand just as much as what denomination B does as well.

    There are so many Christians, and so many types of Christians, and so many flavors of Christianity that it’s tough there too, though – which do you present, y’know?

    That had nothing to do with what Crude was talking about. He wasn’t talking about settling denominational differences, he was talking about creating culture: arts, media, literature, etc. Totally different topic. Maybe you picked up on that later on as the discussion continued. These conversations have been floating around Christianity for several years now, so when he spoke it, he and I and others knew right away what he was talking about. I don’t suppose I can blame you for not knowing it, but I do hold you at fault for finding ways to put so many things in the worst possible light.

    I’m really puzzled over this, now:

    « Did God lose Adam? No. Adam rejected the Truth. »

    Lucky he did though, or but for his disobedience, we wouldn’t be here…

    Where on earth did you get that from? Is that Mormon doctrine? Or did you think Adam and Eve’s sin was having children? No, that was a command (“be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth”).

    I do agree with you on the Christian music scene. I lived in it for ten years, and I don’t listen to Christian music much these days because I don’t enjoy much of the music. There are exceptions; there is good Christian pop music: Clannad, Mercy Me, 3Union, to name a few of the artists I’m enjoying, and my friend Fernando Ortega.

    Anyway, I’m going to ask you to allow us to have a serious conversation here without fizzing in any more of those smoke-bombs, okay?

  30. Tom Gilson

    Baiting, trolling—funny how they both have to do with trying to catch things with barbed hooks and deception. I don’t think much of it by any name. I do think part of the problem is that he just hasn’t known what’s been going on in this conversation. Part of it is that he thinks he does know, and what he thinks he knows, he doesn’t like. Part of it is his trying to catch things with barbed hooks and deception.

  31. JAD

    I think that most of these internet trolls are motivated by a conceit that they are just smarter than anyone who believes or defends a Christian worldview. They think they’re smarter even if they have never studied or understood what Christians believe. Their attitude is no doubt a lot like that of Richard Dawkins who responded to the criticism that he had not really studied or understood the Christian theology that he tries to debunk in his book, The God Delusion, with the comment that you don’t “need to read learned volumes on Leprechology before disbelieving in leprechauns.”
    http://richarddawkins.net/articles/1647-do-you-have-to-read-up-on-leprechology-before-disbelieving-in-them

  32. G. Rodrigues

    @Crude:

    There are two different issues at play here. The first is how the Christian community at large expresses its beliefs in the forms of its shared culture; this has to do, at one level, with the vibrancy and the strength of the local communities and churches and how the living Faith informs, in the sense of giving form to, the popular forms of expression. I stress the communal aspect, because no amount of individual effort will accomplish much of anything. At a more global level, it is a cultural war that is fought in the academia, in the public forums like journals and blogs, etc. to assert Christian culture and avert the undeniable secular attempts to expel it from the public square.

    The second issue is how the individual Christian artist (since nowadays being an artist is an aspiration verging on the obsessive, I should qualify that by artist I mean a strong artist) expresses or could express his Christianity; this is an intensely individual matter and there are no answers here because it is even hard to get the precise questions right. In my previous post I mentioned the Estonian composer Arvo Part. His music is inextricably intertwined with his eastern orthodox Christianity and the mysteries of the Faith, but he is also something of a special case (although definitely not unique; there are other Christian-suffused composers like Sofia Gubaidulina or Alfred Schnittke. Hmmm… all from Eastern Europe; coincidence?). As Steve Reich remarked he is completely outside the zeitgeist and yet extremely popular, in a relative sense that is, as he is a classical composer. But when it comes to literature, the situation changes. There are reasons for this difference, having to do with the intrinsic nature of the medium and its uses. In the Bible, we read of the angels singing or playing instruments like the harp, but they never read or write poetry; in my view this is not a mere oversight, but it expresses a profound insight, for what need is there to write poetry when one is face to face with He Who Is? Literature is the most human of all the arts, whose purpose is, to borrow a phrase from Wallace Stevens, to redress the poverty of the imagination and the anxious self-consciousness of that poverty or lack in the self. If we were immortal, or even if our human lifespans were multiplied by ten say, what use could poetry have? Or to put it bluntly and in rather un-Christian terms, we read because we are alone and alone will die and in our loneliness we know that we are alone and that we will die alone.

    Traditionally, there has always been Christian literature, even in our bleak modern times (Flannery O’Connor comes readily to the mind for a 20th century example, especially as the readership of this blog is mostly a northern american one — at least I guess it is). The Bible is the obvious example and as I said in another thread, it is the single most influential book in western literature. The only secular writer that can be said to approach this kind of overwhelming influence is Shakespeare, and in saying this, I must also add that I am a card-carrying Bardolator (G. K. Chesterton, which to his many qualities one should add that he was also a very good literary critic, maintained that Shakespeare was a firmly orthodox Catholic writer. He makes some good points, but I doubt the thesis is tenable; Shakespeare just transcends religious categories). The foremost representatives of Christian literature would be Dante from the Catholic side and Milton from the Protestant one. But if one looks squarely at say the Divina Commedia there is plenty in there to be scandalized over. Newmann writes with characteristic circumspection that Dante has no qualms in putting a pope that the Church has canonized in Hell; his subversion of the divine hierarchy and the specific place in it he attributes to Beatrice is nothing short of idolatrous. An artist, qua artist, is bound to put his aesthetic interests (originality, individuation, etc.) ahead of everything else; and the corrosive acids of irony and ribaldry will eat away at every dogma. In saying this I am just repeating, albeit in a more pedantic and roundabout way, your point that we should not expect a serious Christian artist to be an entirely “clean” Mary Sue; on the contrary. What we should expect, nay almost demand, is a *serious* engagement with the Christian tradition and its message. Personally, imprecations, insults and even blasphemies do not bother me much (though I understand if it bothers other people — and in my defense I should add that I have gotten better with age and less tolerant of it); but it really grates on my nerves and breaks all the measures of my patience when they issue from ignorance, prejudice, arrogance, pride and idiocy.

    Two examples of what I understand to be a serious engagement, both coming from *atheist* artists. The only decent movie about Jesus Christ that I ever saw (I still have not seen Mel Gibson’s attempt, but from the reviews I have read I do not put too much hope in it) is “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” and was made by the Italian Pier Paolo Pasolini, a self-professed atheist, marxist-leninist and homossexual. If you read summaries of his filmography there is plenty in there to shock you (I am thinking especially of “Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom”). Now, there’s paradox for you. The second example would be Samuel Beckett, an artist of true genius (as opposed say, to that fraud that made “Piss Christ”, whose name I forgot and will not even deign to look up) and an authentic atheist. Christianizing Beckett is something of a futile enterprise (pace Hugh Kenner) but can his whole work be understood apart from his rejection of God? In the play “Endgame”, at some point the main character Hamm suggests to say a prayer; a moment of silence ensues and then he blurts out “He doesn’t exist the bastard!” Is there a more telling witness to the somber deprivation that follows the awareness that He did not even deigned to come to be?

    My apologies for the long rambling. But literature, and more generally the arts, and their relation to Christianity, is an issue very close to my heart.

    note: reposting this from Firefox as I got a bizarre response from the native KDE-browser reqonk (header field too long or something like that) and could not access the website from thereon. Do not know if its a problem here (reqonk is still a bit rough around the edges) or with the server. If there is any conflict Tom, keep this version and delete the previous one.

  33. Sault

    « Baiting, trolling—funny how they both have to do with trying to catch things with barbed hooks and deception. »

    Up to this point I have never thought of the word “trolling” as having to do with fishing. The mental image has always been of foul-tempered people sitting under bridges harassing people walking over them. Amazing. Well, now having learned something today, I can safely shut my brain off and continue about my merry way. Whew!

    « I do think part of the problem is that he just hasn’t known what’s been going on in this conversation. Part of it is that he thinks he does know, and what he thinks he knows, he doesn’t like. »

    It wouldn’t be the first time that words and phrases that mean something to a Christian mean something completely different to me. It is something that happens, but something that is not always expected. I would suggest that this happened with our different interpretations of the word “tolerate” as well.

    « Part of it is his trying to catch things with barbed hooks and deception. »

    At some point I consciously started poking fun. I don’t mean to suggest that Christians have a real penchant for death threats, outside of comments made over the internet, and we all know how seriously to take those, right?

    My interpretation of what you were saying got the best of me. I’ll acknowledge that I misinterpreted you if you’ll entertain the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I’m not as bigoted as I’ve come across to be.

    « Where on earth did you get that from? Is that Mormon doctrine? Or did you think Adam and Eve’s sin was having children? »

    Well, Adam and Eve didn’t have children before they were kicked out of the garden, right? The Mormon doctrine is that they had to Fall in order for us to be born and go through the process of sinning and eventual redemption through Christ’s sacrifice… I figured that since the scriptures weren’t specific on when they had children that common Christian interpretation basically followed suit.

    This is potentially a huge theological discussion and I don’t mean to derail the current conversation. If I’m way off base I can accept the correction and can leave a specific explanation about it for another time.

    « I lived in it for ten years, and I don’t listen to Christian music much these days because I don’t enjoy much of the music. »

    If I may make one more comment on the issue? My biggest complaint with Christian music is that its constantly Jesus-centered. Every song is about Jesus, or God, and how we worship Him, or how we’re nothing without Him, or His victory, or His holiness, or otherwise extolling His attributes.

    Music to me is about the full spectrum of life. If life is only about one aspect of your relationship with Jesus, how can I as a non-believer, possibly relate to that? Where are the songs about being mad at God, or being unhappy, or wanting to have fun, or loving someone without having to invoke a relationship with God, or heartache, or… well, anything else in life outside of this worshipful attitude? I can’t relate to any of that, not really.

    Well, I can relate to some of the feelings of longing and yearning at least, and sometimes the feeling of just being happy. When I’ve played on the worship team, those are the songs that have drawn me in.

    There is an artist named Matisyahu. He’s an Orthodox Jew who basically raps over reggae beats. He’s incredible to me – he invokes feelings of deep connection and spirituality that I can relate to, and he does it without having to invoke God’s name constantly. That, to me, is artistry. I respect him greatly for his ability to do that in a way that I have not respected Christian artists.

    Can a Christian artist do that? Is a Christian artist *allowed* to do that? After seeing what has happened to popular artists (again, referencing Flyleaf), and seeing the Christian media question whether they should even air their music video because the song doesn’t specifically reference Jesus enough…

    This leaves me with a negative impression of Christian culture. Hopefully you can see how that ties into your discussion about how Christians are portrayed in the media… if the rest of us see the Christian media censoring their own artists for not being Jesus-centric enough, how can that possibly give us a good impression of the Christian culture?

    I am strongly against censorship, and I resent the idea that an artist must conform to someone else’s expectations simply to be accepted…. that’s the artist in me speaking!

    « Anyway, I’m going to ask you to allow us to have a serious conversation here without fizzing in any more of those smoke-bombs, okay? »

    I will do my best. I am trying to enter into the discussion positively and hopefully contribute some insight. Hey, maybe I’ll learn something along the way.

  34. G. Rodrigues

    @Sault:

    Music to me is about the full spectrum of life. If life is only about one aspect of your relationship with Jesus, how can I as a non-believer, possibly relate to that? Where are the songs about being mad at God, or being unhappy, or wanting to have fun, or loving someone without having to invoke a relationship with God, or heartache, or… well, anything else in life outside of this worshipful attitude? I can’t relate to any of that, not really.

    It is tiresome to be constantly correcting you. Have you not read the Bible? Because everything you mention is right there. More to the point. You are speaking from a specific point in time, from a specific point in space and with a specific amount of experience. Christian culture is two-thousand years old and the only thing you are aware of is the tiniest of tiny slices of it.

    There is an artist named Matisyahu. He’s an Orthodox Jew who basically raps over reggae beats. He’s incredible to me – he invokes feelings of deep connection and spirituality that I can relate to, and he does it without having to invoke God’s name constantly. That, to me, is artistry. I respect him greatly for his ability to do that in a way that I have not respected Christian artists.

    Can a Christian artist do that? Is a Christian artist *allowed* to do that? After seeing what has happened to popular artists (again, referencing Flyleaf), and seeing the Christian media question whether they should even air their music video because the song doesn’t specifically reference Jesus enough…

    This leaves me with a negative impression of Christian culture. Hopefully you can see how that ties into your discussion about how Christians are portrayed in the media… if the rest of us see the Christian media censoring their own artists for not being Jesus-centric enough, how can that possibly give us a good impression of the Christian culture?

    Once again you speak out of ignorance. In my posts in this thread there are many examples; but I cannot resist giving another one. Here is an excerpt of a poem; it is the lament of an elderly man for the bisexual follies of his youth:

    My mind did stray, loving with hot desire…
    Was not he or she dearer to me than sight?
    But now, O winged boy, love’s sire, I lock thee out!
    Nor in my house is room for thee, O Cytherea!
    Distasteful to me now is the embrace of either sex.

    It is an English translation from the Latin. The author is Marbod, director of the school of Angers and later, Bishop of Rennes. Date: 1035-1123. Now, I did not got the dates wrong; monks in the middle ages routinely wrote this kind of stuff (well, ok, the story is a little more complicated but the point is essentially correct). The middle ages are shockfull of poems of youthful monks, showing a zest for life and celebrating joy and happiness. There is of course, also the reverse side of the coin, but the distorted idea that you are trying to sell is in the best of circumstances, only representative of the tiniest of parcels of Christianity. My point being, and I am going to repeat myself, Christian culture is two-thousand years old and it has riches and a depthness beyond your dreams. Judging it from your narrow, parochial point of view, speaks volumes about you but not a whit about Christianity.

  35. Crude

    G. Rod,

    I stress the communal aspect, because no amount of individual effort will accomplish much of anything. At a more global level, it is a cultural war that is fought in the academia, in the public forums like journals and blogs, etc. to assert Christian culture and avert the undeniable secular attempts to expel it from the public square.

    Well, when you say ‘no amount of individual effort will accomplish much of anything’, I end up wondering what you mean. To give a weaker example – Bil Keane just passed away. The sum of Keane’s cultural contribution was his Family Circus comic. (Well, he also did some earlier comics – some of them more sarcastic.) Was Keane’s efforts an example of change coming from an individual? Clearly not in one sense (his success relied on a whole lot of support – getting into newspapers, the newspapers themselves, etc), and yet clearly so in another sense (for a very long time, as far as I am aware, that comic was drawn and written by one man.) A better example would be Tolkien. His faith is represented strongly, if indirectly, in his books. So was his love of language.

    I guess my point there is, the communal aspect is extremely important. But sometimes the community needs to operate by supporting various individuals. Both the individual and the community are important.

    He makes some good points, but I doubt the thesis is tenable; Shakespeare just transcends religious categories

    Maybe, though why doesn’t Shakespeare then transcend the category ‘secular’ too? At the end of the day, Shakespeare – what I know of him, which is limited I admit – wrote plays where religious Christians were often portrayed in a positive, if not Mary Sue light. The moral emphasis was very often in tune with the broadly Christian mind. Oddly enough – and this is where I think you and I will come to some disagreement – this is actually the area I’d like most to see built up. More below.

    What we should expect, nay almost demand, is a *serious* engagement with the Christian tradition and its message.

    I agree with this in one sense, of course. But in another sense, we’re actually on a different page. Let me try to explain where I think you’re coming from, and where I’m coming from.

    I really get the impression that you have an eye on higher culture, and deeper topics. You want Christ and His message discussed and given center stage, and deep treatment – whether when talking about Christ Himself, or how a sincere Christian (or non-Christian!) relates to Christ meaningfully. A hit with both intellectual barrels, a deep engagement. I think that’s absolutely important – so when you talk about Christianity in the arts, you mean “arts” in the highest sense.

    The difference here is that my primary concern is the lower sense of arts. The video games, the sitcoms, the comedy, the comic books, the comic strips, the popular movies – even at the lower end of that already low spectrum. And frankly, it’s no coincidence in my view that that is precisely where the bulk of counter-cultural effort tends to be put. The groups I have referenced fought over movies like Basic Instinct. When they wanted a character representing their interests included in a work, they spoke in terms of MTV, Batman and popular culture.

    Now, you’d probably be right that these don’t constitute serious engagements with, say… the question of homosexual acts and behavior, to pound that example into the ground. But I will point out the effectiveness of that cultural movement – something Tom has brought up on this site from time to time. Their success is the success I think Christianity could learn from, and that Christians should be interested in pursuing, in broadly similar ways. There’d be differences – one advantage of Christianity is that there’s just plain more to talk about – but broadly similar all the same.

    At the end of the day, I’m a lot more concerned about defending and promoting Christian thought and representation in the lines of media the vast majority of people are more likely to encounter in their day to day lives – as simple and basic as it may be – than I am about extremely depthful, artistic venues. Which isn’t to say they aren’t important – they are. But it’s the general attitude about all things Christian that concerns me more than those deeper engagements. (Part of the issue there is that, say… Dante’s Inferno is in many ways timeless. But timeless means that it’s always there, always available, even when there’s a lack of equivalent art being produced at that particular time. But the more accessible culture? It always has an emphasis on the new and recent. There’s no alternative to what’s being produced recently.)

  36. Sault

    « Christian culture is two-thousand years old and it has riches and a depthness beyond your dreams. Judging it from your narrow, parochial point of view, speaks volumes about you but not a whit about Christianity. »

    « There’s no alternative to what’s being produced recently. »

    These represent two different views, and mine falls in the latter. I have no disillusions about the richness of literature and media produced by those who professed Christianity throughout the years. We would be a very sad and impoverished culture without their contributions!

    But I speak as I do from a modern perspective and am speaking specifically about music. Would you want to be judged based on Christian practices from 200, 500, 1000 years ago? I certainly wouldn’t. So I don’t – I look at the Christian culture around me, and evaluate it from that perspective.

    Is it narrow? Yes. Does it exclude previous contributions? Yes. But what’s important to me is what Christians are doing now. Is it fair to compare you to past traditions and past accomplishments? I don’t think so, because its far too easy to compare the best of what has gone before with the full spectrum of the good, bad, and ugly that happens now.

    My engagements with the classical arts are limited – most days I’d rather listen to modern music. It’s not that I don’t value the higher arts at some level… but Beethoven doesn’t have a chunky electric guitar and Bach has no kick drum. There are only so many times that I can listen to Wagner or whomever did “Night on Bald Mountain” (Paganini?) and be moved. I want something new, something fresh, something that speaks to me in the here and now!

    Look at the punk movement. The Ramones were certainly NOT even in the same continent, musically, as any of the great composers… but they tapped into a feeling, a mood, a need for common identity (community?) and helped start a movement.

    If the Christian culture can’t offer me anything musically, what attraction, as an artist, does being Christian have for me?

    What does the Christian music scene offer me? What feeling of community can it extend to me? How is it relevant to me? And what’s more important, does it have integrity – are the artists speaking from their heart, from their souls?

    If the modern Christian culture censors their own artists, how can I then see them as valid and real and possessing that integrity, and not as simple, bland, generic products of some Top 40 music factory?

    As an aside – growing up, I looked at the Mormon culture and thought it very odd that there weren’t a lot of Mormon musicians. In fact, basically none. Plenty of serious old men, but no young vibrant artists. How valid can any religion be if it can’t inspire music, one of the most central expressions of who we are as human beings?

  37. G. Rodrigues

    @Crude:

    I really get the impression that you have an eye on higher culture, and deeper topics. You want Christ and His message discussed and given center stage, and deep treatment – whether when talking about Christ Himself, or how a sincere Christian (or non-Christian!) relates to Christ meaningfully. A hit with both intellectual barrels, a deep engagement. I think that’s absolutely important – so when you talk about Christianity in the arts, you mean “arts” in the highest sense.

    Yes, I did have an eye on higher culture and the largest portion of my post was dedicated to it, because that is where my heart lies, but by no means I think popular culture unimportant, so let me correct that impression and on the way clarify the relation between the individual and the community.

    I think we really are on the same page here, I just expressed myself in a contorted way. Community is an abstraction; only individuals write songs, poems, etc. But if these poems, songs, etc. are to survive there must be a community to receive them, otherwise it will all just wither away. The artistic impetus arises from the individual talent, but if it is to leave a mark, no matter how evanescent, there must be a community to receive, incorporate and transmit the work to the next generations. And that is what I meant by my first paragraph; if the specifically Christian viewpoint is to survive and even thrive, whether it is articulated in the higher arts, or in popular culture (popular is something of a misnomer, folk is probably closer to what I intend) in its various forms and guises (music, films, whatever) there must be a receptive, strong and vibrant community. Such a community will not only foster the creation of new art — which most of times is really the *re*creation and adaptation of old themes and motifs to our specific circumstances; in other words, love songs are as old as humanity itself — but also ensure the survival and transmission of the best of its past, not in the wax, stuffed museum sense, but as something organic, deeply felt and important to our lives, both emotional and spiritual.

    This is a bit off-topic, but the fate of Dante is instructive. The 1300’s were of course completely different from our own times, so it is hardly surprising that when he published his poem hardly anyone paid attention — there were no literary reviews, artistic coteries, the Times Literary supplement, etc. It was a healthy state of things (grin). But after he died, his contemporaries in Florence (that he so much maligned) accorded him due fame and even founded a chair for the exposition of his work and entrusted it to Bocaccio. But as time went on he again fell in disfavor compared to other more “modern” authors (e.g. Petrarch invented the sonnet which spread like wild fire throughout Europe), and in such a way that by the 1800’s he was hardly read even in his native country. He rose again in favor with the risorgimento and hailed as the founder of a unified Italy (a misunderstanding, which just goes to show how fickle human fame is) but his real valor was only acknowledged in the first half of the 20th century. I wonder how many people read Dante as he is a genuinely difficult writer. But more importantly, if another Dante were to arise, would we even be able to recognize him? Does an artist make a sound if there is no one to hear him? In our present bad times, fiercely anti-Christian, what chances does a would-be Dante have? If we as Christians, as a whole, cannot assert our values and our rich (infinitely rich, I would say) culture, whether it is Dante or Tolkien (yes, I have also read and seen the “Lord of the Rings”), whether Arvo Part or the folk songs associated to the misteryes of our faith, propagate it, sing and shout it from the rooftops — which I would say is another, different way, of evangelization — how can we hope to stem the tide of aggressive secularization and avoid being drowned?

    He makes some good points, but I doubt the thesis is tenable; Shakespeare just transcends religious categories

    Maybe, though why doesn’t Shakespeare then transcend the category ‘secular’ too?

    Oh he does, absolutely. It was not long ago that I finished reading a biography of Shakespeare by an English critic, Jonathan Bate. He has a chapter on the uses that Shakespeare has been put to; whether it is to bolster the party in power (e.g. by quoting parts of the famous “few good men” speech in Henry V) whether to glorify the life of the common ordinary folk (as represented say, by Falstaff and his merry band) or to promote independent, nationalistic ideas (the relationship of Caliban and Prospero). Ideologically pre-conceived readings of Shakespeare, from whatever quarter, tend to fall flat because he gives a fair hearing to everyone; while he accepts all historical contingencies he refuses to be pinned down and co-opted by whatever party. It is in that sense that he transcends the religious or secular categories.

  38. G. Rodrigues

    @Sault:

    I gave examples of specifically Christian composers. I spoke about Bob Dylan and Tom Waits (hardly nobodies) and how their lyrics are deeply influenced by Biblical Christianity. Probably you never heard of them or they mean nothing to you, but so what? And what do you mean specifically by Christian music? Music made by Christians? If a Christian makes a song without ever mentioning Jesus Christ or Christianity in any way does that count as Christian music? If it does, then I guarantee you that there is plenty of it all around you (if the authors really are Christian as they say they are that is another story). And if it does mention Jesus Christ will that not incur your ire and cause your boredom? Methinks there is a catch 22 lurking here.

    I would advise against relying too much on the ability to “connect” as you put it. Our aesthetic preferences are highly contingent. For example, most classical music means nothing to me; I am completely tone deaf to the likes of Mozart and Beethoven. But I do not draw any conclusions from this fact, other than my own tone deafness that is, whether for the merits of these specific composers, or the virtues or faults of the specific culture that gave rise to them, or etc. and etc.

  39. Crude

    G. Rod,

    Yes, I did have an eye on higher culture and the largest portion of my post was dedicated to it, because that is where my heart lies, but by no means I think popular culture unimportant, so let me correct that impression and on the way clarify the relation between the individual and the community.

    I understand. And I agree that that’s important too. My own emphasis is elsewhere, not because I can’t find things to appreciate in high art, certainly not because I don’t think it’s necessary to focus there exclusively, but largely because I think it’s neglected. It’s rather like my growing feeling that, while there’s a place for metaphysical argument and demonstration, or even scientific considerations in the form of ID-style arguments, it shouldn’t be done to the neglect of far more common sense thinking and conversation. Christianity’s a religion for the masses, so when I think about culture, I think about the culture the masses can come in contact with. I want to reach my friends and family most of all, in other words, and people like them.

    This is a bit off-topic, but the fate of Dante is instructive.

    Man, I don’t know if this will make you laugh or horrify you, but I have to share it: Dante’s most recent interpretation.

    But more importantly, if another Dante were to arise, would we even be able to recognize him? Does an artist make a sound if there is no one to hear him?

    Well, this is another reason why I focus on the lower culture – the TV and videos and games and shows and entertainment that people actually interact with. Culturally, the impact of one decent and believing Christian on a popular TV show, even if not as the star, would be tremendous. And likewise, the constant assault of the opposite – the Christians-as-bogeymen (or at least despicable figures) – also has an impact. There’s a variety of things that need to be done. Not just complaining, loudly about the negative appearances in popular media, but also demanding positive appearances. And at the same time, encouraging and promoting Christians getting into the arts (low and high) from independent directions, with community support. It’s a huge project that I have in mind, but it’s doable. Call it more an attitude and an approach than anything else.

    I think the biggest roadblock there is making it a project that can cross sect lines. I think orthodox Christians, whether Protestant or Catholic, can find enough common ground to stand on to enjoy much of the same things, take part in the same culture, without sacrificing their differences.

    Actually, while we really are on the same page, I think there’s an additional emphasis we can both agree on. Christians should strive to make an impact in and change the modern culture, both popular and high art. But at the same time this should be part of the emphasis: striving for excellence in art. Good writing, good art, good music, and when delivering a message, realizing that it can be done subtly.

    To use another obscure example, if you ever read the comic series Hellboy – far outside your usual literary interest, I get the impression – you’re going to be struck by something. The presence of priests and religious who often are decent, upstanding people. They aren’t always central to the series, which itself largely has to do with some absurd and sometimes gruesome demon and magic related stuff, but for me it was a breath of fresh air to read a popular comic and notice, “Wow, there’s a priest here, there are religious people, and they’re actually decent human beings and it’s implied they’re devout.”

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