Thursday, April 06, 2006

Underdog Afternoon.

For a soc project about children's books, today I checked out "The Real Story of the Three Little Pigs" and "The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig." Kid at the Love Library circulation desk says, "heavy reading, eh?" Yes, I say, and while you're at it you could at least go to the trouble of being as charismatic as the guy at Bennett Martin when I was getting Caldecott winners that were about snow on a snowy day -- "Ah, some appropriate reading." I don't blame the college kid though. Some people have to fall back on sarcasm because they haven't got the hutzpah to be sincere. Like me, usually.

Also, I just finished Jonathon Kirsch's "God Against the Gods," an account of monotheism' defeat of polytheism in the Roman Empire and thus the modern world. Kirsch romances with the pagans, stressing their acceptance in the face of monotheism's ongoing exclusivity and seeming need to kill people who subscribe to another deity's newsletter, or just read the same deity's a different way. So it's been underdog afternoon for me, reading the other side of the story, in fairy tales and Western Civilization.

So, I'm post-Christian, I think largely because I see monotheistic religion more as a social force than a theological one, and one that's done more than its share of harm. On top of theological disagreement, call it the "I don't want to be a part of that" syndrome. So, do you judge your faith by its teachings, or its actions? Outside of its exclusivity, I would embrace much of the gospel message. But there is that whole "No one to the father except through me" thing, and also nobody was listening to Jesus' social welfare platform.

Also, this was on Slate today:
Maybe. It's hard, as a secularist, to work with people who are too hung up on Jesus -- we are speaking the same language. But, if we could get past the mystery of the trinity and St. Paul's meddling and see are in at least the same political book, it could work.


Elissa said...

There are plenty of ways to be Christian other than the SBC-exclusivist model. You should definitely come to Mad-town. :-)

agmoseman said...

Yeah, but the point it, all monotheists are exlusivists by definition. Even liberal, open-minded Christians believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. They may not openly discriminate against those of other faiths, but by definition they assume that they are wrong. If you say that they're not wrong, then I think you're close to me in being essentially agnostic and believing there is no way we can know the truth about the spiritual universe.

Elissa said...

I gotta tell you, it's not quite that simple. At least, not here. The language at my church is much more: "Jesus is how we experience..." "We experience God as..." etc. It's so very open that it makes me feel a little unbounded -- inviting, but hard for me to always be comfortable with. Guess that's OK, though.

So yes, liberal open-minded Christians believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, but a growing number of them don't think that our knowledge/experience of Jesus is the only way to know/experience God (or salvation).

I do honestly think it can work. It can be true that the person of Christ is God, and that God can be experienced in multiple ways, so that even faiths without the Jesus-human element or Christ-language could be true experiences of God, true paths toward God. In that sense, I don't find it necessary that Christinity be exclusivist, nor for an inclusivist to be agnostic.

A.G. Moseman said...

Right, fair enough. I look at it as a two-part separation. Let's call the first part spirituality, the way we experience the divine spark, the way we treat each other in real life. The second part is theology, the quest for what is the truth about the universe, who is god, how do we get to heaven if it exists, etc.

So I understand you being open to the first part, to everyone experiencing the divine in their own way.

But I guess what I want to know is this: if you're open, and you accept that the Christian Trinity isn't the only expression of the divine, and that other religions or beliefs have something to them as well, then why are you a Christian? Because it fits your life better? Because you've experienced the divine through this system and think it's a little better than the others? If you're not going to be an exclusivist, but you still want to be a Christian, then what's the point, why are you doing it, and how do you reckon it theologically. I just think about this stuff in a totally different way, so I'm curious.

Elissa said...

That's cool. Here's the sketchy version: Reasons I'm Still Christian Even Though I Think There Could Be Other Ways...

1. It's part of my cultural identity. Very simply, I grew up with it as my context for truth, and that's hard to shed. Why shed something predominantly good (especially since all religions are human institutions destined to do some things wrong) in favor of nothing else?

2. (Influenced by #1, I know) The story speaks to me. The story is more important to me than the dogma, and connection is a better indicator of God than logic in the absence of passion.

3. (Kinda Wesleyan) Its theology offers me good reasons to do all the things that I believe are moral goods. It doesn't deny me the chance to do them, and I don't believe it mandates me to do anything I see as a moral evil.

4. You know that whole "through a glass darkly" thing? I think Christianity offers maybe the best view into God. Christianity hasn't got everything right in terms of theology, but I think (at least mainline) it's closer than anything else I know.

5. It's the paradoxes. They don't bother me -- they make it all seem right. If I got pulled any other way it'd probably be Buddhist, because of those beautiful paradoxes. I think truth has to be elegant and remain something of a mystery.

OK, so there's my top five. There are probably other reasons, but I said I'd keep it sketchy.

Elissa said...

I suppose it's also important that I don't look to my faith primarily as a where-to-go-after-I-die plan, so issues of salvation exclusivity don't ring as desperate to me.