Wednesday, January 18, 2012

pots and kettles

Christianity, conceived of as a system, begins with a religious or political mode of thinking and then seeks to impose it upon the world. Here a strong Platonic influence is at work whereby we mold the particular (the individual) into the Universal (the idea), and if the individual can’t—or won’t—be molded, then he or she is rejected. For instance, if a certain lifestyle is perceived to be wrong within the system’s framework, the individual in question will be asked to change or leave. The disavowed obverse of “all humans are part of my family” is then, “if you will not be part of my family you are not human.”

Various systems or worldviews fight for power and authority. Yet Christianity, as a religion without religion, offers a radically different approach. Christ opens up the idea of a system that seeks always to find those who are excluded from the system that is in power. The Christian “worldview” is thus manifested as always seeking out those who have been rejected from the worldviews that have authority. The way this works itself out in practice is that whatever political or religious idea is dominating the society at any given time, Christianity seeks out those who are excluded by it, the one sheep who is not in the pen, the one coin not in the purse, those who have not been invited to the party, the nobodies, the nothings. The Christian “system” can thus never take power for, by definition, it is always that which stands against power, seeking to identify with the powerless and the voiceless. It is a system in the sense that it systematically seeks out those who do not fit into the system offered up by the currently prevailing political and religious authorities.

What we see being worked out within Christianity can thus be said to be a prejudice toward those who are excluded and marginalized, those who are oppressed by our religious and political systems. This means that every time a “Christian” system is created, the Christian is the one who seeks out those who are excluded from it. Christianity, as a religion without religion, affirms a system that undermines every system of power by seeking those who are oppressed. The Christian critique is not then directed at the people in power so much as at the place of power itself. When a system of thought, however great, is given authority over all, it becomes oppressive and undermines its own liberative elements. The point then is not to find the “right” way of thinking and then give it a place of power and influence, but rather to question the place of power and influence itself. Is this not what we learn from the following biblical insight?

Rollins, Peter (2009-01-29). Fidelity of Betrayal (Kindle Locations 1929-1948). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.

First, a bit of a personal gripe. Rollins here goes on about "those who are excluded". Very well, but then, the past few times I've tried to leave comments at his little blog, they have not been posted. The comments of some other people have been, usually comments containing sycophantic praise. Now, my proposed comments have not contained praise, sycophantic or otherwise. Is that why Rollins or whomever the gatekeepers at his blog are do not allow such questioning and critical comments be allowed to stand?

But perhaps that exposes what he means above in a nutshell--the "excluded" whom his version of Christianity is suppose to seek out are only those "excluded" ones who do not voice much disagreement with him and those like him. To give an extreme example, I'm pretty sure that it doesn't bother him much the neo-Nazis are excluded from power and don't have that much of a voice, and in fact I would bet that if such people were to be put in power it would likely disturb him very much. In that, I hope he and I may find a rare bit of something to agree upon.

But given this extreme example, what about other, less extreme examples? That is one of the things that is most disturbing about the Left when they talk or write like this--they mean it only for themselves and those they agree with, but woe betide those who oppose them. One can see it, for example, in the lying accusation hurled at the conservative Tea Party that it is racist, violent, hateful, and should not be listened to or taken seriously. There is rather scant proof of any of that, if any proof at all, but it has become an established meme that is believed without question by those who oppose it.

As well, we should ask what is meant by these excluded whom the church should seek out. What about, for example, murderers in prisons? Again, an extreme example, but come along anyway. Certainly they are among the voiceless and powerless in regards to politics and religion. What does it mean that the church should seek them out? Should the Christian critique be directed at those who think that murderers should be put in prison, away from society, so that they should not be able to practice murder any more? Should the Christian system stand against those who have put the murderers into these prisons, such as the detectives and policemen who have arrested them, the lawyers who in trial put forth the evidence for their crimes, and the judge who sentenced them to prison?

Now, the idea that murder is a crime is a religious idea--"Thou shalt not murder". Should the church stand against this teaching that you should not murder, because it is the idea that is in power?

As I said, this is an extreme example, but I think it is one that's pointed. I doubt that Rollins would want murderers to be set free from prison. But this shows just how shallow what Rollins is saying really is, because the church's job is not to validate something simply because it's not in political or religious power. It's not the church's job to validate people like neo-Nazis and murderers, no matter how isolated they are, no matter much people don't pay attention to them, no matter how much they may feel oppressed because no one takes their looney beliefs seriously or because they are put into small concrete cells and kept away from innocent people so they can't murder any more of them.

But let us give Rollins a partial point, a good bit less than half a point, maybe about a quarter if we are to be generous. There are people on the outside, and the church does have a commission from Christ to take the Gospel to the world, that Christ came to seek and save the lost. Those lost may not be in power, but then maybe they are. Both the king and the peasant are equal in one thing, in being sinners whose every attempt at a good work is like the vilest of rags to God.

Rollins wants to make this about politics, which is blasphemy. It's about much more than that. It's about the condition we all find ourselves in, that we are separated from God, that we are enemies of God, that we are under God's wrath and rightfully so, that all we deserve is physical and spiritual death. It is about Christ being born of a virgin, living a sinless life, doing the thing recorded of Him in the Gospels, being crucified as a sacrifice for out sins, and rising from the dead.

The church doesn't go to the lost to proclaim what we can do for anyone. We proclaim what God has done for us. It isn't about being against power and authority, for then we would be going against God, but rather that we point to the one who has ultimate power, to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Don't doubt that Rollins' rhetoric is simply a cheat, a bait and switch. His main concern, and those like him on the Left, is simply that they should be the only voices, the only 'advocates' for whatever they espouse. Why else would they try to silence dissenters and opposing information? There're reasons why his book is called "The Fidelity of Betrayal", why he tries to make the traitor Judas into a hero.

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