Truth as Untruth

The “American analytic philosopher, Christian theologian, and Christian apologist”(1) WIlliam Lane Craig wrote the following:

“Therefore, when a person refuses to come to Christ it is never just because of a lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come because he willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God’s Spirit on his heart. No one in the final analysis fails to become a Christian because of a lack of arguments; he fails to become a Christian because he loves darkness rather than light and wants nothing to do with god.”

What disquiets so about such a statement? Even if this entire piece was somehow empirically verifiable and true, what is it in its tone that is so cold and fundamentally unchristian?

Firstly, it contains the clear assumption that our dear Mollinist (2) Mr. Lane Craig is one of the elect. Isn’t that nice for him? He has decided and chosen correctly. His eternal salvation is assured, and ipso factum the reverse applies: all who reject his theological position are the rebellious and damned. Mr. Lane Craig isn’t among the rebellious who have refused God. He has not, like those miscreants, loved the darkness. He isn’t one of those rebels who “wants nothing to do with God“. He really is a fortunate fellow! The unseen subtext is dense with self-righteousness, bigotry and contempt for those who are as yet unconvinced of Christ’s message. Of course Lane Craig, with his astute, theologically trained mind, will be able to quote any number if scriptures in support of this narrow little piece of doctrine. Then again, the Pharisees were equally adept at justifying their self-righteousness – delineating the saved from the unsaved, the chosen from the cursed, the enemies of Yahweh from his true servants themselves).

Lane Craig makes no space for the liminel, for that freedom which is at the heart of Christ’s message of salvation. In fact he seems to imply there is an oppressively nnarrow area. His tone is redolent of that coercive, Inquisitorial theology which drags and kicks people into the kingdom of God through browbeating and veiled threats. Is that indeed the spirit of Christ, or the spirit of an intellectual bully?

Long ago when my wife and I were working for an interdenominational missionary organization in Cyprus, A kind and gentle missionary working amongst Arabs said something which struck me then with a force which remains just as significant: “wherever you encounter a spirit of coercion, that is not the spirit of Christ. Christ is a gentleman and coerces no one.”

Not so Mr Lane Craig. I imagine his instant retort (again, with a wad of scripture as thick as a Phylactery.

WIlliam Lane Craig, using an eerily medieval lens, sees lack of convincement as rebellion. He fails to see the liminel space Jesus opens up for each of us where convincement and metanoia may freely and joyously occur. Whether it is Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well or to the rich young man who could not commit to following Christ, there is always a sense of compassion and respect – something distinctly absent from Lane Craig’s mean little discourse on the hearts of men and women struggling to “find God”.

I have a picture of him in mind, barging in on Jesus’ conversation with the samaritan woman and saying with a sort of impatient irritability, “Listen woman, do you even realise who you’re talking to? Your life shows you love darkness rather than light – you want nothing to do with god: you better get on board while the going’s good”.

Jesus, interrupted and misrepresented by this zealous man, might by now be stunned by the intrusion or censure of our confident evangelist. Perhaps he would take him aside and explain to him that “As for anyone who hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”

At this point we may imagine Lane Craig, who understands the Bible so well, lecturing Jesus on the merits of his own argument. He might argue with Jesus that The Kalām Cosmological Argument should be brought to bear on the Samaritan woman, or that expounding post-Cantorian, axiomatized infinite set theory might be helpful. Or he might say to Jesus, “why bother conversing with this fallen woman at all? She wants nothing to do with god.”

I picture Jesus looking at Lane Craig and with pity, and saying “you have been with me so long and you have learned so little. Have I not taught you to love?


(1) Wikipedia

(2) Molinism is named for the 16th-century Jesuit, Luis de Molina. Molinism is a system of thought that seeks to reconcile the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. The heart of Molinism is the principle that God is completely sovereign and man is also free in a libertarian sense. Molinism partly seeks to avoid so-called “theological fatalism”: the view that God decrees who will be saved or damned without any meaningful impact of their own free choice. Today’s highest-profile defenders of Molinism are William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga” – gotquestions.org

See also: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2013/05/an-index-of-why-william-lane-craig-is-a-dishonest-genocide-defending-creepy-homophobe/

Heavy Earth

“The earth is heavy and opaque without dreams”
– Anaïs Nin 

I loved, and eventually in disappointment, parted company with Anais Nin, having first been exposed to her diaries in my early twenties. From admiration to betrayal and finally a sort of acceptance. Deirdre Bair’s biography was central to my demythologizing Nin, who now occupies a sort of half-remembered, Pessoa-esque place in my own dreams, a gently erotic and elusive voice challenging my own preconceptions and inclination to ossified points of view. The author of the piece below put it more succinctly than I:

“Never before have I been so obsessed, so emotionally tangled with a writer and their work as with Anais Nin and her journals. From reading her erotica and short stories (Little Birds, Winter of Artifice, Under a Glass Bell, Spy in the House of Love), to her journals, my emotional response to her has swung from adoration, gratitude and pity and then finally to hatred and revulsion.”

– Nancy, In a K hole (her intriguing blog statement: Celebrations, lamentations and bewilderment: musings on a mad world.)

https://www.google.co.za/amp/s/inakhole.wordpress.com/2010/02/21/love-hate-and-anais-nin/amp/

Just 8 men

“Just 8 men own the same wealth as half the world.” – Oxfam

16 January 2017

 
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“Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, according to a new report published by Oxfam today to mark the annual meeting of political and business leaders in Davos.

Oxfam’s report, ‘An economy for the 99 percent’, shows that the gap between rich and poor is far greater than had been feared. It details how big business and the super-rich are fuelling the inequality crisis by dodging taxes, driving down wages and using their power to influence politics. It calls for a fundamental change in the way we manage our economies so that they work for all people, and not just a fortunate few.”

Digging a lttle deeper into the story I learned that some financial aficionados find Oxfam’s statistical model spurious, and a journo at Forbes cynically praises the rich 8. We need more, not less, of the uber wealthy, he writes. The world will be a better place with more obscenely rich, bloated fat cats. Well it might be more bloated, Mr Forbes clever-journalist, but it will be increasingly less stable and unsafe: take your eyes off your screen for a second, look at the impoverished majority of human beings and tell me how secure you are in your pinstriped comfort.

Christofascism

The following definition is quoted at length from: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christofascism

(The article is helpful in understanding the origins of Christian dominionism and the heterodox misbeliefs inherent in Christian fundamentalism.)

“Tom Faw Driver, Paul Tillich Professor Emeritus at Union Theological Seminary, expressed concern “that the worship of God in Christ not divide Christian from Jew, man from woman, clergy from laity, white from black, or rich from poor”. To him, Christianity is in constant danger of Christofascism, stating that “[w]e fear christofascism, which we see as the political direction of all attempts to place Christ at the center of social life and history” and that “[m]uch of the churches’ teaching about Christ has turned into something that is dictatorial in its heart and is preparing society for an American fascism”. Christofascism “disposed or allowed Christians, to impose themselves not only upon other religions but other cultures, and political parties which do not march under the banner of the final, normative, victorious Christ”.

Douglas John Hall, Professor of Christian Theology at McGill University, relates Sölle’s concept of Christofascism to Christomonism, that inevitably ends in religious triumphalism and exclusivity, noting Sölle’s observation of American fundamentalist Christianity that Christomonism easily leads to Christofascism, and that violence is never far away from militant Christomonism. (Christomonism, accepts only one divine person, Jesus Christ.) He states that the over-divinized (“high”) Christology of Christendom is demonstrated to be wrong by its “almost unrelieved anti-Judaism”. He suggests that the best way to guard against this is for Christians not to neglect the humanity of Jesus Christ in favour of his divinity, and to remind themselves that Jesus was also a Jewish human being.”

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DOMINIONISM

Another important essay can be read in full at: http://www.publiceye.org/christian_right/dominionism.htm

An excerpt:

“Dominionists want to impose a form of Christian nationalism on the United States, a concept that was dismissed as eroding freedom and democracy by the founders of our country. Dominionism has become a major influence on the right-wing populist(s)… as Christian Right activists have flooded into the movement at the grassroots.“¶ “Dominionists celebrate Christian nationalism, in that they believe the United States once was, and should again be, a Christian nation. In this way, they deny the Enlightenment roots of American democracy. ¶ Dominionists promote religious supremacy, insofar as they generally do not respect the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity.¶ Dominionists endorse theocratic visions, believing that the Ten Commandments, or “biblical law,” should be the foundation of American law, and that the U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing Biblical principles. ¶ At the apex of hard Dominionism is the religious dogma of Dominion Theology, with two major branches: Christian Reconstructionism and Kingdom Now theology…”¶ “Advocates of Dominion Theology go beyond the democracy eroding theocracy of Dominionism into a totalitarian form of religious power called a “theonomy,” in which pluralistic democracy and religious tolerance are seen as a problem to be solved by godly men carrying out God’s will. Karen Armstrong calls Christian Reconstructionism “totalitarian” because it leaves “no room for any other view or policy, no democratic tolerance for rival parties, no individual freedom.” Matthew N. Lyons and I call Christian Reconstructionism a “new form of clerical fascist politics,” in our book Right-Wing Populism in America, because we see it echoing the religiously based clerical fascist movements that existed during World War II in countries including Romania and Hungary.”

Author Chip Berlet was co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements and a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Fundamentalism and the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica. Originally posted on Alternet.org. see also The Roots of Dominionism: http://www.publiceye.org/christian_right/dom_roots.html

See also:

  • Carter Heyward (1999). Saving Jesus from Those who are Right: Rethinking what it Means to be Christian. Fortress Press. p. 11. ISBN 0-8006-2966-3.
  • Ann Loades (2007). “Christian Focus: Radical Christocentrism in Christian Theology — By Clive Marsh”. International Journal of Systematic Theology. 9 (3): 365–368. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2400.2007.00279.x.

 

Addendum: Kingdom Now

http://www.publiceye.org/christian_right/dominionism.htm

“Kingdom Now theology emerged from the Latter Rain Pentacostal movement and the concept of Spiritual Warfare against the literal demonic forces of Satan. It has been promoted by founder Earl Paulk as well as C. Peter Wagner, founder of the New Apostolic Reformation movement.

For many, President Obama and the Democratic Party are among these “demonic forces.” This has real world consequences.

In 2006 former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris told thousands of cheering Christian Right activists that beating the Democrats in the upcoming elections was a battle against “principalities and powers,” which many in the audience would hear as a Biblical reference to the struggle with the demonic agents of Satan. Harris (who played “ballot bowling” in Florida to elect George W. Bush in 2000) told the audience at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington DC that she had studied religion in Switzerland with the godfather of the Christian Right, theologian Francis A. Schaeffer. Her speech there, which I witnessed and wrote about, qualifies her as a Dominionist.

The Unknown God

“The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 1o) can he interpreted mystically in such a way that the question of the knowledge of God becomes its focus. The priest and the Levite, who walk past the man who fell among robbers and was seriously hurt, are pious God-fearing persons. They “know” God and the law of God. They have God the same way that the one who knows has that which is known. They know what God wants them to be and do. They also know where God is to he found, in the scriptures and the cult of the temple. For them, God is mediated through the existing institutions. They have their God – one who is not to he found on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho.

What is wrong with this knowledge of God? The problem is not the knowledge of the Torah or the knowledge of the temple. (It is absurd to read an anti-Judaistic meaning into a story of the Jew Jesus, since it could just as well have come from Hillel or another Jewish teacher.) What is false is a knowledge of God that does not allow for any unknowing or any negative theology. Because both actors know that God is “this,” they do not see “that.” Hence the Good Samaritan is the anti-fundamentalist story par excellence.

“And so I ask God to rid me of God,” Meister Eckhart says. The God who is known and familiar is too small for him.”

Dorothee Sölle, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance

Cotton patch Christ

“One day a teacher of an adult Bible class got up and tested him with this question: “Doctor, what does one do to be saved?”

Jesus replied, “What does the Bible say? How do you interpret it?”
The teacher answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your physical strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
“That is correct,” answered Jesus. “Make a habit of this and you’ll be saved.”
But the Sunday school teacher, trying to save face, asked, “But … er … but … just who is my neighbor?”
Then Jesus laid into him and said, “A man was going from Atlanta to Albany and some gangsters held him up. When they had robbed him of his wallet and brand-new suit, they beat him up and drove off in his car, leaving him unconscious on the shoulder of the highway.
“Now it just so happened that a white preacher was going down that same highway. ‘When he saw the fellow, he stepped on the gas and went scooting by.
“Shortly afterwards a white Gospel song leader came down the road, and when he saw what had happened, he too stepped on the gas.
“Then a black man traveling that way came upon the fellow, and what he saw moved him to tears. He stopped and bound up his wounds as best he could, drew some water from his water-jug to wipe away the blood and then laid him on the back seat. He drove on into Albany and took him to the hospital and said to the nurse, ‘You all take good care of this white man I found on the highway. Here’s the only two dollars I got, but you all keep account of what he owes, and if he can’t pay it, I’ll settle up with you when I make a pay-day.’
“Now if you had been the man held up by the gangsters, which of these three-the white preacher, the white song leader, or the black man – would you consider to have been your neighbor?”
The teacher of the adult Bible class said, “Why, of course, the nig – I mean, er … well, er … the one who treated me kindly.”
Jesus said, “Well, then, you get going and start living like that!”

– Clarence Jordan


Who was Clarence Jordan?

Clarence Jordan (July 29, 1912 – October 29, 1969) was a white southerner who became so profoundly concerned about the “ordinary reader” of the New Testament gospels that, thirteen years before the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, he established an interracial farm in southwest Georgia between Americus and Plains as a “demonstration plot” for the true kingdom. Later, Jordan began to translate the New Testament into the idiom of the region. He called this translation for the ordinary reader a “cotton patch” version, and he actively sought a genuine “flesh and blood” reading from a southern perspective … his reworking of the New Testament was at the same time an effort to rewrite the cultural myths and present a new portrayal of the humanity of God.”    – Rewriting the Cultural Myths: Clarence Jordan and The Cotton Patch Gospels, Frederick L. Downing

https://www.sbl-site.org/publications/article.aspx?ArticleId=827#sthash.vJCpfVeS.dpuf

Liminality

“In anthropology, liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold” between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes… More recently, usage of the term has broadened to describe political and cultural change as well as rituals. During liminal periods of all kinds, social hierarchies may be reversed or temporarily dissolved, continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt.The dissolution of order during liminality creates a fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established.” (Wikipedia)

Big black bird


“The dream crossed twilight between birth and dying” – TS Eliot

I did this drawing back in 2011. Big black bird eats everything, I called it.

Was I just in a particularly grim mood, or was this image, drawn quickly – as if sketched with some strange vision in mind – a sort of prayer for those pursued by this big black bird?

This afternoon I heard of another suicide. The friend of a work colleague hanged himself yesterday. Age 28. His life a short, dream-crossed twilight.

It’s a wretched thing to write about.

A taboo:

everyone has a view:

a bone to pick,

a position to defend,

a scripture to quote,

a stone to throw.

Many a religious person calls it a sin leading to eternal damnation; many regard it as an act of cowardice. I’m not sure what I find more disconcerting: the tragedy of suicide or the tragedy of the human heart without tenderness. 

A suicide note may be the only insight we have by way of clarification: a page torn from a dream. 

Easy to point fingers at those who choose to get off the train earlier than the rest: I have come to the conclusion that many condemn suicide as a way of stamping down on their own big black bird. Keep stamping down, unless it rises into the air. There is no bird. There is no darkening landscape.

[How did the Pharisees see things? “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector”.]

Or like this suicide, perhaps.

I have no idea why I did this doodle of a lone figure in a landscape, beneath a heavy sky that is at once a storm and massive bird of prey. And why I scrawled the strange text below. But tonight, it feels as if a giant bird has eaten another life, and there is neither rhyme nor reason for it. 

Was the young man sad, lost, in despair? Was this an act of rebellion against a life he disavowed?

Was my doodle a sort of subconscious, apotropaic gesture? (Apotropaic – “to ward off evil”. The ancient Greeks made offerings to the ‘averting gods’ (Ἀποτρόπαιοι θεοί: Apotropaioi Theoi), chthonic deities who grant safety and deflect evil.)

Maybe I just want God to protect the vulnerable, to fend off the big black bird which threatens us. My doodle a sort of talisman.

But perhaps this is all foolishness. God never saw my little sketch, tucked into the back of an unseen journal

A doodle: a prayer, an offering to the Apotropaioi Theoi.

Or a Tibetan, or Nepalese prayer flag: in the west we think of prayer in terms of words spoken. The prayer flag has a different purpose: Buddhists place these flags outside their homes and on mountains for the wind to catch the blessings up into the air and distribute compassion, prosperity and courage far and wide. It is considered auspicious for the flags to become threadbare and fade as the wind erodes the blessings, symbols and mantras.

Perhaps my doodle was a little like a prayer flag.

Tonight I feel angry that the young man took his life. I say angry – not judgemental. “No one ever lacks a good reason for suicide”, wrote Cesare Pavese.

 Did no one see the young man running alone, as storm clouds closed in around him?

What sort of a world is this, where the young no longer want to live? This death is not so much a judgement on the victim, as a judgement upon the world in which he found it impossible to live.

Is that huge devouring creature real, or is it simply an illusion, a play of light on tumultuous clouds, the way the little figure perceives the heavy weather?

Perhaps our stick man just can’t see the beauty in the tumbling sky. Perhaps, consumed by fear, he sees only what he imagines to be there.

There is a verse in the Gospel of Saint Luke that says, “…men’s hearts shall fail them for fear and for looking after those things which shall come on the world…” The Greek here is ἀποψυχόντων: literally, it means dying (from fear and expectation). I am deliberately conflating eschatology with intimate tragedy. But somehow the one seems to penetrate the other. I cannot help but ask, where is God in all of this? Where are the angels, the emissaries of light? 

I want to build a shelter in that landscape, gather sticks for the little stick figure to hide. Like the Good Samaritan. Is the stick man calling for help, waving his arms in distress? Why is no one listening? Who will comfort and protect him?

[I recall the photojournalist Kevin Carter’s distressing photograph of a starving child: “The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist” he wrote, before taking his life. He could not live without joy.]

Where are the angels to show our stick figures that all us not lost?

The bird swept down yesterday, and suddenly, he was gone.


References:

Prayer at the Funeral of Someone Who Committed Suicide, by Rabbi Joseph Meszler Rabbi, Temple Sinai, Sharon, MA; Author, Witnesses to the One: the Spiritual History of the Sh’ma (Jewish Lights):

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3631416

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“Suicide usually isn’t discussed, especially in the church. While it is a subject whispered behind cupped hands or alluded to in the form of a prayer request, suicide is rarely confronted openly.

One of the greatest deterrents to meeting suicide head-on is the centuries-old proliferation of myths and misunderstandings about the subject. Doesn’t mentioning suicide to a depressed person plant the idea in his mind and encourage rather than deter? Isn’t a suicide death a sure ticket to hell? Don’t surviving family members feel better if no one mentions the manner in which their loved one died? The answer to all these questions is “no.

…..

See:

Argument s for antinatalism: David Benatar, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence.

See also an obscure work: “Excerpts from A Philosophical Dissertation Upon Death” by Count Alberto Radicati Di Passerano ( an 18th-century historian, philosopher and free-thinker arrested for his views).

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101067678845;view=1up;seq=11;skin=mobile

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Pause for thought:

South Africa has the eighth highest suicide rate in the world. In 2016 there were over a million suicides recorded globally.  According to WHO, a suicide occurs every 40 seconds and an attempt is made every 3 seconds. In South Africa, the suicide rate for children aged 10-14 years old has more than doubled over the last fifteen years.