Thursday, January 19, 2006

Proving It...

Two of the best books I read last year were "Intellectual Morons: how ideology makes smart people fall for stupid ideas" by Daniel J. Flynn and "Hoodwinked: how intellectual hucksters have hijacked American culture" by Jack Cashill. The books detail how people like Ward Churchill can get away with stealing, lying, teaching fantasy as truth, etc. and yet, even after exposure, he will not lose followers, but gain them. Hundreds of other examples are given to illustrate the point that some things trump cold, hard facts. When those things are present, proof is rendered powerless and the best argument will fail.

One of the most powerful trump cards is race. This is not a black and white thing, but a worldwide issue; India's caste system comes to mind as does the Japanese/Korean racial divide. When race is introduced into the equation all other arguments and facts are tossed aside. This week in Detroit a State Trooper was acquitted of murder charges after he shot a homeless man who charged him, screaming and snarling, reaching in his pocket for a weapon. Race was introduced into the situation and people perjured themselves (proven by video tape of the scene) as they lined up divided by race. White people do this, too, when they paint pictures of blacks as lesser, violent, evil, etc. Every time you present evidence to the contrary your proof is trumped by their concept of race (although, have you ever seen a Klan rally or a group of Neo-Nazis stomping down the street and thought "Hey, look, there goes the superior race?" I thought not).

Closely allied to this is identity. We can choose race as our identity, but it is usually more complex that than. We choose identities as sports fans, or intellectuals (while these two are not not mutally exclusive it is exceedingly rare to find a professor of medieval poetry painting his body and wearing cheese on his head in Green Bay), or Christians, or atheists, or movie stars, ad infinitum. That sense of identity trumps proofs offered to us that we might be in the wrong. While in the two books mentioned above the target is the silliness of the left (in the main. Flynn goes hard after the right as well but not as extensively as he does the left) all of us need to do a gut check from time to time to see if our sense of identity (including race and religion) trumps truth. When it does, the results can be comical, farcical, or tragic beyond words.

Think of those who kill in the name of Jesus. Offer them proofs and scriptures and their sense of identity and mission will trump the truth. Offer churches scriptures to indicate that they have misunderstood the gospel and they will turn aside the scriptures as "isolated" and the verdict of two thousand years of Christian teaching as "quaint but outdated." They don't do this because they don't love Jesus; they do it because the Jesus they love is always sweet, always accepting, and always relativistic (relatively speaking). Their identity as Christians is based on that view of Jesus and no proofs offered them will change their mind. Just like a professor being questioned by a student, they assume the other is arguing from ignorance and darkness and that taints the argument before it begins.

It is critical that we get our sense of identity right. It is not enough to say that we are, first of all, Christians and then members of this or that group. We must make sure that the Jesus we are following is truly the one we find represented in Scripture (and in the church and nature -- those other two arrows). We do not get the Jesus we want, but the Jesus who is. We do not get the God we want, but the God who is.

James' word picture of looking into a mirror is still valid. In every argument, in every situation, especially when someone wishes to offer us "proof" that seems powerless or silly to us, we must check to see if our identity is part of the problem. Have we shut out truth to maintain our sense of who we are (including our sense of superiority over others)? Perhaps our prayers should include more "you are the potter and I am the clay" word pictures until we get into the habit of being shaped by God rather than shaping Him by our sense of who He should be, or would be, if He were us.

17 Comments:

At 1/19/2006 10:06:00 AM , Blogger pegc said...

Wow, thank you for your words today.

"being shaped by God rather than shaping Him by our sense of who He should be, or would be, if He were us"

How often do I shape God to who I am rather than who He is! I want my relationship to be because he is the powerful creator, not because I just want to be right!

Thanks again for starting my day off in the right direction.

Peggy

 
At 1/19/2006 10:24:00 AM , Blogger Jared Cramer said...

Patrick,

Before insinuating evil things about Bishop Gene Robinson, please get your facts straight.

Gene Robinson did not leave his wife, nor desert his family.

Their divorce was a joint decision and one that included a church service where they asked for each other's forgiveness and both pledged to raise their daughters together. After his wife remarried, he met his current partner, Mark, while on vacation. Furthermore, both his ex-wife and his daughter Ella gave full support to his consecration as a bishop. His other daughter couldn't be there because she was giving birth. (Christianity Today article, BBC article, Guardian article, Anglicans Online article)

Your denigration of Christians who hold views that differ with you on the interpretation of Scripture on this issue is sad and offensive. To say that we disagree with your interpretation of Scripture because the Jesus we love is "always sweet, always accepting, and always relativistic" doesn't do justice to the diversity that exists among those who affirm the possible morality of same-sex relationships. I would assume you don't want me to lump you in with Fred Phelps (of God Hates Fags fame). It is also condescending and assumes that your own interpretation of Scripture isn't colored by your cultural convictions.

You are a more thoughtful minister and a better Christian than this.

Grace,
Jared

 
At 1/19/2006 10:26:00 AM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

I would never intentionally slander another, Jared. If I erred here I must apologize. I got this information from two interviews with his former wife, one on ABC-TV and the other on BBC (I was in Scotland on a visit during much of the time of this controversy).

Again, if I erred, I apologize.

 
At 1/19/2006 10:41:00 AM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

Just in case the interviews were wrong and Jared is right; as a sign of love to him and to any who might have been wronged, I am editing my post and removing that comment.

 
At 1/19/2006 12:19:00 PM , Anonymous renee cutts said...

The Word of God is alive and powerful. The Bible has layers of truths so that no matter who you are, you are able to take what you need from them. We do this with just about any written word, we are afterall made in the image of God. We do this with Patrick's posts but the Bible has the ability to a much greater extent than any other written word, it is afterall God's Word, so it seems logical it is a reflection of an ability greater than our own.

Within the Bible are absolutes and real historic events that independent of whether you even believe in the God who is said to have inspired it's authors, you can walk away with a truth; whether it be history or a gem of understanding human nature. What I am saying is that anyone can relate to some part of it as truth, be it the atheistic history professor, or the Goth Satanist, or a follower of Christ, however, the follower of Christ has a different responsibility to the Word of God.

The Bible is full of human nature, a fallen nature, full of physical nature of a fallen universe, full of history from the fall of mankind to not too long ago, and full of the nature of God. As believers, in reviewing what it has to say to us because it is so interactive, alive, and powerful, we need to be careful that we are not being selective or using an application amoung all the "potential" applications we can devise so that we manipulate scriptures to best suit our will instead of God's will.

Will God be merciful to all our interpretations of this written Word that is so alive? We can see His mercy in it and we can also see His commands and judgement. We each have a responsiblity to study it for ourselves to know His will and to teach others what we know.

Jared, because I love you as a brother in Christ even though I have never met you, I am concerned that you seem to be thinking that homosexuality is an acceptable practice to God when it is clearly taught as a sin of human nature, not a sin of the culture of the times as some would propose as an interpretation; for it has been a sin clearly defined since the beginning of time through the time of Christ.

Homosexuality is a sin that is forgiveable like that of any other sin but like that of any other sin, it is not a sin to be embraced as an acceptable practice before God or in bond of marriage in struggling to overcome it.

Forgive me Patrick, I know this isn't a debate forum. I do think the nature of man and the nature of the Bible come in conflict sometimes when we use its living attributes to fit our purposes selfishly instead of selflessly as it was intended.

 
At 1/19/2006 02:10:00 PM , Blogger LyndaBee said...

I think that you all will agree though - homosexuality isn't any bigger than any sin I have in my life. So I can't cast a stone. But with society the way it is - there's a huge light on it. Maybe if there were such a light painted on lies, unfaithfulness, promiscuity, greed, etc. - we could better appreciate the forgiveness that's ours in Christ.

But sin separates us from God - and divides the church. From what I can gather, that's what happened with Bishop Robinson. Their church has been divided and people are devastated. I've also seen it happen to churches for adultery, idolatry, and the list goes on..... You just wonder if it's worth it...

God sees it all with the filter you have. Praise God mine is Jesus!

Blessings!

 
At 1/19/2006 03:11:00 PM , Blogger Blogging by Tina said...

Hi, Patrick, just wanted to thank you for the nice comment you left on my blog. Drop in again sometime!

 
At 1/19/2006 04:44:00 PM , Anonymous renee cutts said...

The filter of grace does not abound just so that Christians may sin without conscience, it abounds because we will sin, not sin willfully.

Homosexuality is defined as a sin so when it is brought to our attention should we divert its apparent sinfulness by saying that stealing, or lying or adultry or pride or ignoring the poor are also sins and committed by more Christians?

As Christians, none of these sins are acceptable, and all of them should be taught as sins, recognized as sins, repented of as sins, and yes, forgiven as sin. All of them are forgiveable in the state of grace we are gifted in Christ. However, we are also taught that this state of grace ceases to cover us when we say what God says is sin, is not sin, and we decide to do it as if it were not a sin.

If I read those links right, this Bishop is saying that homosexuality is ok to practice as Christians, in fact, he practices it; not as the occasional falling prey to this sin but knowingly. He is not agreeing with us that it is forgiven by God, He saying more than that, he is saying it's acceptable to God, it needs no forgiveness, it's part of His creation.

It would be like Patrick getting up and saying he is stealing from the church funds and it's ok if you want to do the same, God planned for man to steal so you can keep doing it in good conscience.

Because of the limelight cast on homosexuality doesn't it present itself as an opportunity to at least consider what God says about it, especally at a time when so many churches are approving its practice by its leadership?

Why is it wrong to point out sin when someone is in danger of embracing it as if it wasn't? Are we not commanded to do so especially if that someone is a brother or sister in Christ? Homosexuality is not morally acceptable to God, it might be morally acceptable to society for whatever reasons they want to say justifies it, but not to God.

Jesus said to the woman after her accusers left, "go and sin no more." not "go back to what you were doing" Jesus saw no need to cast stones but He did see a need for forgiveness and for her to stop sinning. So, do I. That's not casting stones.

 
At 1/19/2006 05:17:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

Okay guys, no more on homosexuality. That wasn't the point of the blog and it tends to take over ad nauseum. Let's stay on point.

 
At 1/19/2006 08:53:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

Another deep and thoughtful post, Patrick. I really like your last sentence:

"Perhaps our prayers should include more "you are the potter and I am the clay" word pictures until we get into the habit of being shaped by God rather than shaping Him by our sense of who He should be, or would be, if He were us."

Do we ever sing "Have Thine Own Way, Lord" any more with the verse that says "Mold me and make me, after Thy will, While I am waiting, Yielded and still." I don't think "praise" songs only cut it, you know?

Much more often, we need to be singing lament songs and prayer songs and songs such as "Have Thine Own Way." It's not all about us, guys. Never was, never will be.

Like you say, Patrick - let's get it straight what our "identity" is all truly about. It's found in Jesus and in Jesus alone, or it's not worth anything. Nothing at all, no matter how proud we are of our unique status in our "identity groups" or how "certain" we are of our own points of view.

 
At 1/19/2006 09:49:00 PM , Blogger Jesse said...

Does it really matter what kind of spiritual songs we sing, if it comes frome the song books, or even from what others created? Sure they all have their specific meanings, but I don't think it takes specific songs to show what we are truly about, it's more of to me in the case of how we act with the community...do we blend in with the croud? Or do we stand out for what we believe in? This kind of topic is very controversial in so many levels, that it could lead into trouble, if not handled correctly.

 
At 1/20/2006 12:05:00 AM , Blogger Steve Duer said...

Thank you for your thought provoking words about our identies and how we wear them. I often feel internal resistance to change because I am concerned about loosing my identity. I needed the reminder that next to being a child of God the rest of my identity is rubish. Thanks

 
At 1/20/2006 09:48:00 AM , Blogger Steve B said...

This week in Detroit a State Trooper was acquitted of murder charges after he shot a homeless man who charged him, screaming and snarling, reaching in his pocket for a weapon.

The cop was aquitted but the family is suing him and the Detroit Police Dept. for $10 million. Where was the family originally to help this member? Now he's a victim turned into a cash-cow.

 
At 1/20/2006 09:51:00 AM , Blogger Steve B said...

If you've been reading the DN and FP, as well as listen to the news, the cop was aquitted but the family is suing him and the DPD for $10 million. The bum went from non-person in the family to cash-cow.

 
At 1/20/2006 12:14:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

Steve is right. For those who don't live up here DN means "Detroit News" and FP is "Detroit Free Press." Interestingly (but quite off the point of the blog) the judge would not allow into evidence the assailant's mental health or criminal history (both considerable) or the words "mentally ill", "schizophrenic", "medication", or "alcoholic." Still, the trooper was vindicated by a 12-0 vote of the jury. Now we wait for the civil circus to begin.

 
At 1/21/2006 03:18:00 AM , Blogger Difster said...

Thank you for pointing all of that out Patrick.

While I do delve in to Biblical topics from time to time on my blog, it is mostly dedicated to educating people on the basic principles of liberty. I do that by showing examples of poor thinking that leads to bad laws and loss of liberty and I point out what is occasionally done right. Despite the evidence though, some people simply will not change their minds no matter what you tell them.

Spiritually speaking I know that I can never 'convince' someone to become a Christian. I would not even begin to imagine that I can take an unbeliever and convince him through proofs that God exists and that Jesus died for his sins. Rather, I can preach the Gospel in its simplicity and let the Holy Spirit do the work of 'convincing' for me.

The point is that as long as we remain open to the truth, be it common sense or God's word, we will find it. It's tough to set aside preconceived notions though.

 
At 1/23/2006 01:05:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You referenced the 3 arrows from your earlier blogs in this post. I'm not sure I can get on board with that idea. Seems to be putting God, nature and society all on the same level playing field?
Melissa

 

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