A Force to Be Reckoned With

Doug "Blue Skunk" Johnson wrote a thoughtful reply to my previous blog post, MyNotes: Christians Against Christianity. That blog entry shared some memorable takeaways from Obery Hendricks' book. 

Since Doug is so kind in his comments, I thought it would be fun to do a comment hoist and respond to his remarks, like I would an email. I've only included the parts relevant to the blog entry. I've put Doug's words in as blockquotes, and my response follows each of his points.

Image Source: 4.3 Establishment Clause


What Is Difficult

First, thanks for the courage to write this post - detailed and thoughtful. You, as I remember, are a practicing Christian, so to write this must have been difficult. I appreciate that.
Thanks for this assumption. The difficulty does not come from the corrections to my understanding of faith, but rather, from trying to understand the historical threads interwoven into American Christianity and evangelicalism. As a Panamanian whose father is American, and as a result, I enjoy dual citizenship, I often took at face value the stories of American exceptionalism and relegating to the past the discrimination, enslavement, persecution of people of color. That was wrong. 

America has not moved on from its past, instead, slapping "lipstick on a pig." Until it does so, life in America will be increasingly difficult because people are no longer willing to live the lie for the sake that white men and women (hey, I'm half Swedish) will avoid feeling uncomfortable.

As a child descended from Swedish immigrants, I want no part of the white privilege that comes at such a price, even though I have enjoyed it all my life. No one should want such a cloak bleached in the blood of the enslaved. Yet, America remains a country of promise because of separation of church and state and other freedoms that are slowly being demanded by its people, even if Black men are murdered at routine traffic stops in a hail of bullets that maim or kill them. Should it lose that completely, then it won't matter how wonderful people say it is.

The challenge is that if America's freedom are not available to all Americans, then freedom itself is a lie available to whites only. That hypocrisy, America's Christianity in  supporting that, is reprehensible. American veterans and servicepersons suffered and/or died for all, not for some.

My Father's gravestone...he didn't defend America so that Jan 6th could happen

While I harbor a deep respect for the Holy Mysteries, I have a deep sense of disappointment and disdain for believers using their faith as a blackjack to beat others into submission. Simply, I have a healthy skepticism of religion, including the Catholic Church which turned a blind eye to child molesting clergy, as well as the Southern Baptists who apparently did the same. 

In fact, the real problem is in human perversity, that wins out over good deeds quite often or in spite of them. When horrible things happen, I am not shocked or surprised...it is human to be horrific. We aspire to be good. The problem is, legislating behavior and spiritual beliefs is tyranny. God himself doesn't, we shouldn't either. Can you imagine angels with swords and sickles on every corner, making sure we follow the word of the Lord? No, I can't either.

Simply put, I agree wholeheartedly with America's founding fathers that religion and democracy don't mix.

Religion Harms, Love Lifts Up

I have never been religious and often reflect on how it seems religion has done more harm than good throughout history. Cultural bigotry and cruelty have often (or mostly) used religion as a basis for their beliefs, especially the persecution and disenfranchisement of minorities. 
I can certainly appreciate this. As I've shared myself, if God so loved the world to send his only begotten son, it's clear that we've didn't do a good job of receiving him. Instead, we sent him on his way and now are hoping for a second coming so we can do it again. Much of what believers believe is probably fantasy fiction, a la Tim Le Haye and Hal Lindsey. It's clear, as Obery Hendricks points out in his book, that the acid test is "Love God with all your heart...and your neighbor as yourself." Without that in place, it doesn't matter how many flags you fly, fishes you add to your car bumper, or guns you hold sacred.

When you factor in the role of Christians and slavery in America, as well as elsewhere like Haiti, you realize that religion in charge of the state is a tool of enslavement and maintaining the status quo. That's history, not me, making that point. With these horrible actions in mind, you are not alone in dismissing Christianity as it is practiced since the founding of America and before, as a tool of enslavers. 

Thank goodness, a faith-based person can see that God exists in perfection in spite of these stupidities. The problem is, the arguments long made of God come into play, a la Epicurus:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

The simplest explanation? We don't know anything, don't really understand what's happening, and can only work to stop the evil we perceive, but that varies because we are all confused, especially when we are most certain.

Again, I'm reminded of the quote: “I was not, I have been, I am not, I do not care”

Gather The Wheat, Burn the Chaff

The wheat when first thrashed lies in one heap with chaff and straw, and is after winnowed to separate it; so the faithful are mixed up in one Church with the unfaithful; but persecution comes as a wind, that, tossed by Christ's fan, they whose hearts were separate before, may be also now separated in place (Matthew 3:12).


I'm not a farmer, but it's easy to see the meaning. Wheat and weeds grow together, but the weeds get burned at the end because trying to separate them out before its time could harm the wheat. What I like about this analogy, that I hadn't thought of before is that wheat and weeds are separate. Wheat doesn't wake up one day and become a weed, and vice versa. Maybe that's the point where the analogy breaks down.
Yet, my son-in-law is the pastor of a small UCC church in suburban Kansas City and I see first hand how much his ministry is a comfort and help to his congregation. He leads efforts to eliminate racism and homophobia in his community. He serves as the faith leader for the local police force. His brand of religion seems to have no connection to the radical right nor to the national organizations that tolerate the sexual abuse of minors.  He is truly a force for good. It's a confusing world we live in, hombre! 
As Hendricks points out in his book, the test is love your neighbor as yourself. In this way, I am a failure, perhaps more so than the crazy people charging around on January 6th, toting guns and bibles around. Your son-in-law is being loving and taking care of people. 

 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12)

Are Americans Still Committed?

This isn't a Christian problem alone. It is a problem about whether Americans remain committed to what our Founding Fathers agreed upon:

After Independence, there was widespread agreement that there should be no nationally established church. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, principally authored by James Madison, reflects this consensus. 

The language of the Establishment Clause itself applies only to the federal government (“Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion”). 

All states disestablished religion by 1833, and in the 1940s the Supreme Court held that disestablishment applies to state governments through the Fourteenth Amendment.

Source: The Constitution Center 

If that is to be done away with, then people who oppose disestablishment may move somewhere else or fight to enshrine with the blood of patriots (may that not be necessary) that the Constitution remain as intended.

  


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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