reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Richard Dawkins - for a very clever man, you really are a nincompoop

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 0 comments
Richard Dawkins,

I'm really not sure if I have understood your book "the Devil's Chaplain" properly - it's quite possible I haven't, but I would love to know what you are trying to achieve by it.

So - in one chapter you say that complaining "we ought to save all the people in the world before we think about saving the gorillas" is "speciesism" - which is just the same as apartheid. Exsqueeze me? So you are actually saying that there is not ethical principle that human life is to be valued more than animal life.

Fair enough - but why then would I want to (human as I am) subscribe to your view of the world, as it is the most ridiculously counter-intuitive thing I have ever heard?

Well - you say because it's "better" to face up to the truth than comfort oneself with meaningless platitudes. Unsurprisingly, as a Christian, I agree with this. I think kidding yourself to believe something that isn't demonstrably true is probably one of the most foolish things that people can do. (As such, I loved your chapter about relativism by the way.)
However - I want to know WHY in your schema of things, truth is "better" than falsehood. I want to know WHY we should fight against the pain and suffering of evolution if it is just the way the world is?
The thing is if the accident of life is the only objective truth, then you, or anyone else has no place saying that one thing is "better" than another.

Now - maybe you explain this in the rest of your very interesting book. I look forward to examining it. But this, I am afraid, will always commend people searching beyond what you say the world is about.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Why I am a banana,...

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 0 comments
Ok, so labels in the Christian world are an odd thing. I do think there's something inherently unChristian about them, as they generally seek to put people or churches or organisations in boxes which is a bit irritating.
But I accept they are needed, so you can work out where you are and what you are dealing with, and a general set of parameters into which your experience might fit.

Ok we're stuck with labels, but I have to say, I think my section of the church has been stuck with the wrong one.

MY church would be called, I think conservative evangelical, or worse still reformed. The latter, I think can pretty much discounted because:
1) It is the name of a pretty nasty type of ham that comes in plastic packets and looks nothing like the shape of a pigs leg.
2) Churches that call themselves this are often cessationist, grumpy, bad tempered, teetotal people who go on about grace but don't seem to show much
3) the correct term would be reforming as the point of these churches is that they are in the tradition of the reformation which is supposed to mean contantly reforming under the rule of Scripture, rather then getting it all sorted and sticking with it, thick or thin, year in and year out, never changing a flipping thing.

Anyhoo. Reformed - our survey said ni nu.

So we're left with conservative evangelical. Nope. Sorry. Other evangelicals have such interesting sounding names - charismatic evangelical sounds so exciting, liberal evaneglical sounds a bit crazy, open evangelical sounds nice and welcoming.
Conservative summons up images of
  • Maggie Thatcher - heaven help us.
  • Old. People. who. won't. change. anything.
  • stuck in the 1950's.

No no no no NO. This is not an accurate OR an atractive description. You see, conservative evangelicals are NOT generally people who want to preserve the status quo, keep things the way they are, or keep the church in step with society. Quite the opposite. It is quite often people who would describe themselves as liberal who are committed to that. Let's look at a few key areas:

Theologically - CE's are often strongly Calvinist - ie they believe God chooses who will be saved, they are often committed strongly to penal substitution central model of the atonement - that Jesus died on the cross to take God's wrath in our place and the inerrancy of the Bible - it is right. always.

And actually these views are not conservative in the sense of being held by people in the past or at the moment, in the church or society at large, and needing preserved. In fact, it is often evangelicals that call themselves other names that are more conservative - by not wanting to challenge the societal mores about the importance of human beings and how they feel. All of the doctrines above depend on a radical, rather than conservative, view on the world, based on the absolute centrality and importance of the display of God's character, and the secondary importance of us and our preferences. This is not an existing view that needs "conserving" it is a radical view that needs prophetically shouted from the rooftops in the face of prevailing church and secular culture.

Traditonally - CE's are often those who are most willing to throw tradition out the window for the sake of reaching people with the message. Even charismatics who are supposedly the maverick sheeps of the family have more of a set way of doing things than so-called conservatives. It is unlikely to be the conservative evangelical (defined theologically above) in your local parish church campaigning for the use of robes and the book of common prayer.

No conservative evangelical is all wrong. We need a new name. I like "banana" - but as it's already been stolen by a cheeky bendy piece of fruit, better go with something that does actually come close to describing our position. I like "radical evangelical". That sums up for me the God centred countercultural view of the world that supposed conservatives hold. Radical evangelical -it's the new banana.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Make Poverty History...

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 4 comments
well - if only. But this a big campaign to get governments of rich countries to end the issues of poverty facing poorer countries by - fair trade, cancelling debt, and giving better and more aid. Fair play. We think that is a good thing.

Lots of Christians are involved in the project, including evangelical relief agency Tear Fund (with whom I am...ahem...somewhat familiar) I went to a church service on Sunday, the aim of which was to raise awareness amongst Christians of the whole thing. I came away, however, feeling a bit uneasy. This was for a number of reasons, including -

1) we can make people's lives better all we want, but unless they turn to Christ they still face God's judgement. I can over rule this one in my mind though by pointing out (to myself - yes I do have an issue with this - "the voices, where are they coming from") that God seems quite concerned about issues of poverty and the church in question does a lot of evangelism as well, and it's very easy to say that when I am part of the top richest 1% in the world or something
but also:
2) there are a lot of people involved in make poverty history with whom I have quite serious disagreements. This includes groups of other religions, gay rights organisations, but most concerning for me, other "Christian" groups who hold heterodox or heretical views, and many of whom think that by ending poverty we are achieving the kingdom of God on earth. Which we are not, by the way.

To deal with this, I think if evangelicals are going to get involved in MPH, which I think they should, they need to make their distinctive addition to the debate MUCH clearer. This was not, I have to say, done well at the church service I attended. Basically, the message was that Jesus was kind to people, especially the poor, and we should be too. No Gospel. (It also rested on a pretty faulty exegesis of Luke 4, in my humble opinion but that's a whole separate issue.) Our distinctive addition to the discussion is surely grace. That people should be treated BETTER than what they deserve, because we as Christians have been treated that way by God. After all God's concern for the poor is nearly always linked to his character in the Bible AND nearly always linked to his concern for the "poor in spirit" which I don't think is a material reference.
If we are going to campaign about poverty we need to make it clear that it is part of a bigger issue for us - the love of God for his creation most centrally revealed in Christ. This is not to say that campaigning about poverty is just a platform for altar calls about Jesus - but it is to say, I think, that we are selling God short by geting involved in a campaign like this and not explaining why. Of course, if we do people are less likely to want us in their campaign. Perhaps that's the issue.