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Stupid thinking Christians

Mon 17 Sep 2007 In: Comment View at NDHA

Bishop John Shelby Spong I was most amused to see the fundamentalist "Christian News" attack me after I wrote a recent article about retired US Episcopalian Bishop John Spong. Here's my rejoinder. Whoever wrote this article contests that the entire "true church" "rejects" Bishop Spong's claims about the immaculate conception, virgin birth, crucifixion, atonement, resurrection and ascension. Now, what does the "true church" mean here? I suspect that it is a synonym for "fundamentalist churches." Well, of course fundamentalists reject critical scrutiny of their beliefs... Spong is a Christian because historically, the Anglican denomination has had considerable pluralist latitude for its theological beliefs, including quite minimalist ones. Thus, he is still free to call himself a Christian within the ambit of that historic denomination's ambit. On the other hand, I am a post-Christian who shares none of those beliefs with Christians whatsoever, although I Was A Teenage Fundamentalist (shudder). However, here we have the gist of this little piece. Because Bishop Spong and I believe in neodarwinian evolutionary theory (!), which consists of random mutation and natural selection, neither of us can contemplate "objective moral values." Oh, nonsense. As a consequentialist, I hold that the morality of specific acts can be evaluated in terms of their foreseeable consequences, which means that there is ample basis for the creation of an evidence-based, humane and compassionate system of human ethics. It is deontological, immutable rule based "ethics" that are at fault here, as they crush those whodo notcomplybeneath their brutal dogmatic weight. LGBT rights are the product of social movements which have articulated specific demands for social change. These are the product of destructive individual and social experiences as a consequence of heterosexist social institutions and homophobic social attitudes. This harm can be demonstrated through evidence-based medical, scientific and social scientific research, as can the benefits of an inclusive public policy. Liberal Christians accept that these are valid bases for public policy and social justice. By contrast, fundamentalists do not. It is not Christ that grounds their particular right-wing interpretations of the Bible and consequent theological texts. It is particular anti-modern communities of theological and biblical interpretation, who are quite capable of eisegesis- that is, reading things into the biblical text that aren't there at all. Case in point- fundamentalists are rabidly anti-abortion, yet there is no coherent normative anti-abortion Christian tradition apart from fragments from conservative authorities. Even if something is "In the Bible", then so what? Conservative Catholic and fundamentalist anti-Semites once used anti-Semitic proof texts to justify pogroms and ultimately, the Nazi Holocaust. It appalls me that anyone could be so ignorant as not to acknowledge the role of German Lutheran and Catholic anti-Semitic traditions in precipitating Hitler's Final Solution. Homophobic biblical interpretations are little better. Therefore, we need to look outside this flawed and historically bounded text. And when mainstream scientific, medical and social scientific evidence does not avail the fundamentalist, he or she then twists and distorts science to suit their purposes, if they can stop parroting biblical verses or referring to particular court theologians for a moment. And it's a long, long list of tiny sample sizes, unrepresentative clinical populations, short duration studies, wild inferential jumps and unrepresentative data sets from broader studies that say quite the opposite- usually at odds with mainstream professional evidence-based research and its conclusions. In short, they lie. They lie repeatedly. Finally, let us come to the author's claims about the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. As I have said before, we only have the evidence of Philo to go on as a rough historical contemporary, with nothing else to corroborate the gospel accounts of Christ's existence. I would submit that this is wholly inadequate. Christ may not have even existed as a coherent historical entity from this sceptical perspective, but may be a compilation of esoteric and messianic prophets from specific Jewish traditions during this historical period. Craig Young - 17th September 2007    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Monday, 17th September 2007 - 1:54pm

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