Be Careful Of Causes, Christian
We all have interests. Good ones. Bad ones. I’m talking about the good ones.
Eventually at least one interest in our lives will grow into a hobby. No worries there. In fact, everyone should have a hobby. It helps is decompress from the stress, strain, or mundane elements of our lives. We escape for a short spell and return to our responsibilities refreshed. It’s what happens next that must create the caution.
>Sometimes a passion evolves into a cause.
Causes can be good too. But as I’ve said, this can become a defacto religion—an idol. But it can be even worse. We can step into activism. Again, activism can be good. But this is where we need to be cautious.
>Although we may merely worship an idol (as mentioned), we fight for our cause as activists.
Fighting for something is tricky. There is always collateral damage. I mean, that’s partially the purpose, right? The ends justify the means after all. We create confusion and chaos in order to build our utopian vision from the remains. It’s the only way sometimes, we think. That’s what revolution is all about after all and Jesus was a revolutionary, right? No. Not exactly like that. That’s blind.
>When we blindly fight for something we have become extremists.
That’s when we’ve fallen over the edge. Extremism in any arena, even your faith, is a problem because we’ve lost all reason and drive away any accountability. This is always the evolution of a movement or a cause.
Be careful of causes because they can evolve into extremism.
This entry was posted by Jason Berggren on January 16, 2012 at 6:33 am, and is filed under Life Lessons, Unauthorized Blogs. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
*They’re* not ground in reality. (Alas, I can’t help it; I’m a stickler for grammar.)
Jason, your historical ignorance is utterly appalling. You obviously don’t know anything about either Marx or Jefferson. It amazes me that someone supposedly committed to truth can just make stuff up like this. Honestly, dude, how can you possibly say these things? There not grounded in reality. Any rhetorical genius (like you, apparently) can make it sound like he has some knowledge to offer, even when he has none; but any well-read historian with real facts knows that the power of a rhetorician is merely in words, and not in substance. You’re the one who needs a grip.
Yawn…more evasions. It’s not that you don’t agree with me; I can handle that; that’s a part of life, and I’m fine with it. Like I said before (don’t you read what I’m saying, Jason???), it’s that your retorts are evasive, irrelevant, cheap, and simply false. The fact that you don’t see this, or don’t want to, is disturbing. That you can’t fairly interpret my words gives me little encouragement that you can interpret the Bible with any decency, and if any of your blog’s readers are listening, they should be concerned, too. But I doubt there are many–or any–others reading this, and for that I am encouraged.
I haven’t put any words in your mouth. Care to mention any examples????(You can’t, because I’ve been entirely fair in this discussion.) You’ve lost this argument, and the more you talk, and more embarrsing it becomes for you–not because you’re a Christian, but because your pride gets in the way of simply admitting that you’re wrong here, and haven’t anything to learn.
(I didn’t mention it before, because I thought I’d spare you the embarrassment, but anyone who knows anything whatsoever about both socialism and Thomas Jefferson knows that there isn’t any inherent inconsistency between the two. Just another glaring example that you haven’t a clue of what you’re talking about.)
I haven’t mentioned your feelings, or whether you’ll sleep well tonight, but the fact that you’ve mentioned these things makes me think that I’ve struck a nerve with you, and rightly so. You’re responses have been poor, Jason–very poor. My objection to all of your posts hasn’t been that you’re a Christian, or that you simply disagree; it’s been that you’re a dishonest and poor thinker.
Pete, get a grip. I answered your question. You just didn’t like it, think it was good enough, or smart enough (luckily for you, not even my mom reads this stuff). I simply stated that there is in fact a small range of interpretation to that area of Scripture. And any brilliant rhetorical genius would understand that the philosophy of Karl Marx and Thomas Jefferson are incompatible.
(I said I wouldn’t comment again, but I just can’t resist.)
Jason, it’s hard for me to take you at your word–that you’re a god-fearing Christian–when you lie and twist my words in such obviously inappropriate ways.
I never said you were an idiot. These are your words, and thus your comment is a bald-faced lie. I simply called your arguments fallacious, and accused you of resorting to childish tactics and sub-standard reasoning. All of these things are true, by the way, and your last comment bears out that point once again.
Even if I did call you an idiot in my last response (which I didn’t), the context is entirely different from the one you mentioned. In your first context (“People like me are…idiots”), the context is clear that the referent to the word “idiot” is applied to everyone who is a Christian. I don’t believe that; I have never said that. I have many friends and family members who are Christians. My last comment simply has nothing to do with Christianity per se, but the way you as an individual and in this specific context are unable to engage someone who is critical of your ideas. The two contexts are worlds apart (context does matter, Jason), and the fact that you conflate the two and then put words in my mouth (once again) just underscores my point.
Like I said, I wasn’t about to respond anymore, but when you blatantly lie and ignore the context of my words, it’s hard to resist. I sincerely hope that you’ll learn from this experience, and be able to engage others in the future in a more honest way.
Back for more? This isn’t a court ruling a libel case. Your words don’t bother me. I am simply pointing it out as I see it (as a bold-faced liar I guess). But just because you don’t type the words “YOU ARE AN IDIOT, JASON” doesn’t mean you didn’t imply it in many of your comments. Like when you say:
“The rest of your comment is fallacious nonsense”
“Don’t blame me for not being able to engage in a conversation”
“your arguments are shallow and indefensible.”
“clearly you’re unable to respond to anything that seriously challenges your perspective, save puerile, elementary school style tactics and sub-par arguments.”
My feelings aren’t hurt. I will sleep just fine. But don’t pretend to be all magnanimous, enlightened, intellectual, and above it all while calling (implying) that someone is an idiot because they don’t agree with you.
PS-You put plenty of words in my mouth in your ranting, so spare me the lecture.
I never suggested that sacrifice requires the death of something. Of course “sacrifice” can be understood in a non-literal way; but you’ve begged the question of why it should be used in this particular context, while failing to give any contextual or scriptural proof that the sacrifice in question ought to be interpreted that way. The context certainly doesn’t make that clear. What is clear, however, is that you haven’t any idea what you’re talking about. Jewish and Christian interpretive history–including the writer of Hebrews–has overwhelmingly understood this passage in its most straightforward sense, that Abraham expected to kill his son. Saying your symbolic understanding “clear” is definitely overstating your case. Meanwhile, the fact that you can’t seem to respond to my criticisms with anything substantive–only irrelevant details about the possible meaning of “sacrifice” in entirely irrelevant contexts and ad hominem attacks–simply shows you’ve got no good evidence that might discredit the traditional interpretation (which is what I’m defending here).
The rest of your comment is fallacious nonsense, since how I present myself is irrelevant to the issue at hand, as are my positions on other matters. If anything’s clear here, your ad hominem attacks just show that you’re grasping at straws. Don’t blame me for not being able to engage in a conversation about your blog. Perhaps you find it precarious to debate the logic of your angle simply because your arguments are shallow and indefensible.
But don’t worry Jason. You won’t have to continue this conversation with me, as I am happy to bow out here. I thought this might be fun and engaging dialogue, but clearly you’re unable to respond to anything that seriously challenges your perspective, save puerile, elementary school style tactics and sub-par arguments.
Some conversations are better in person.
Well, thank you for stopping by either way.
PS-I was right after all when I said: ” I hear it all the time. It’s always the same. People like me are either idiots, evil, or crazy.” You resorted to calling be an idiot after all.
You most certainly characterized what I said wrongly! You made an enormous amount of assumptions that weren’t true, and also put a lot of words into my mouth that I don’t condone. My point, which you seem to have misunderstood, is that your article begs the question: What, exactly, is extremism? It’s not at all a self-evident idea.
But perhaps more alarming to be is your explanation of the Abrahamic narrative. Your comment that Abraham “knew full well” that he would not have to sacrifice Isaac is entirely false. A number of things simply don’t make any sense, given that interpretation–least of all, Hebrews 11:17-19:
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
Abraham’s reasoning, that God would have to raise Isaac from the dead in order to fulfill his promise, assumes that he would have to offer him as a sacrifice. Moreover, if Abraham–as you say–knew full well that the entire ordeal was a symbolic charade, then how exactly was he tested? What kind of test of faith involves knowing exactly how the result would play out?! How is having full knowledge an act of faith? Your interpretation inverts the entire message of the story. The entire drama of the narrative is rendered completely meaningless if Abraham knew God’s plan, and such a circumstance would require no faith at all. Abraham, in your characterization, is not a servant who needed to suspend all rationality in order to render himself fully obedient to the divine command–which is what faith requires–but just a leading actor makes a symbolic gesture. What a watered down interpretation!
Seen in this light, “God himself will provide the lamb” is not a clear indication that this is a symbolic gesture; rather, it is a vague affirmation that, unbeknownst to Isaac, Isaac himself was to be the lamb. It is only when God sees Abraham’s complete trust, that he was REALLY willing to sacrifice Isaac after all, that Abraham’s faith in God is made real. And he was actually going to kill Isaac, otherwise the angel’s words “Do not do anything to him!” make no sense whatsoever–not to me, at least.
Thanks for the reminder about context. I totally forgot that Abraham lived in a world with other people, and that the biblical narrative doesn’t relate every detail. I thought that Abraham literally did nothing else between the chapters, and that he, Isaac, Sarah, and a few mute servants just wandered about the wilderness, just a clan of four or five. Seriously, though, I never suggested that Abe was isolated from outside influence, and I am fully aware of the Ancient Near Eastern context. On the other hand, your point is entire irrelevant. You seem to assume that living within a social context makes one accountable, but outside influence does not equal accountability. Accountability is a social contract that someone has to choose to enter into. An accountability partner, for example, is someone that you allow into the most intimate parts of your life, a person to whom you give full permission to criticize you, and whose criticism you fully accept as valid. It’s quite a special covenant. Influence, on the other hand, isn’t accountability at all; it’s simply a by-product of living in a social world.
I beg to differ. Surely, you don’t kill something every time you sacrifice. For example, a mother giving up a child for adoption is sacrificing, but she isn’t killing it. It is clear Abraham exercised faith knowing that God required him to sacrifice. But it is also clear that he wasn’t expecting to kill his son.
Also, you present yourself as an atheist with a soft underbelly, but clearly pretty snarky.
Lastly, I find it precarious to debate the logic of my angle on extremism, reason, and accountability with someone who: 1) is a Socialist and quotes Thomas Jefferson (In contrast, I would never put a Vladimir Lenin quote as one of my favorites) and 2) is a 9/11 Truther (that requires more faith than even I have).
But thanks for the fun!
Actually, you’ve characterized me completely wrongly. I believe that faith is an element in all human experience, and that atheists have as much faith as anyone else. I’m an atheist, but not in the tradition of Dawkins, Harris and others. I don’t believe Christians are crazy or unreasonable (not by virtue of their Christianity, at least…maybe for some other reasons!); but I also believe it’s difficult to characterize Christians as “reasonable,” since “reason” is always a matter of semantics, of how one’s community defines such standards. “Reason” is never something self-evident; it has different contours, all of which are dependent upon one’s community. But I believe there’s an element of disingenuous that seeks to mitigate the utter leap of faith that many of the biblical writers require. “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believed.” “Faith is the substance of things unseen,” etc. Faith is a leap in the dark, a leap of total uncertainty that necessitates as much doubt as belief. Abraham’s actions were pretty uncertain, and (if we are to take his words seriously) Jesus’ own words can be fairly interpreted to indicate a shadowy loss of faith: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” You’ve put words in my mouth: I don’t believe you’re an idiot, or crazy or evil person. I have no time for those who believe such nonsense; and I agree with you: Christians (like everyone) should be careful. After all, no institution is perfect, and things can change very quickly. But I also think it’s appropriate to own up to the quite radical elements of faith (and doubt) that seem to be central to faith. It follows from this that what is considered “radical” or “extremist” or “unreasonable” is very difficult to define. What one community of faith considers absurd and nonsensical, another finds to be quite reasonable; and this is precisely the problem. There aren’t any final courts of appeal to which any of us can appeal to solve these problems. There’s the Bible, of course, but the abundance of possible interpretations within the Christian tradition itself shows that it isn’t the transparent text many would claim it to be. You might object that the Logos–God–is this final court of appeal, but this belief isn’t self-evident to all, and there are reasons aplenty to disregard such a notion. Paul wants to speak for all humanity in Romans 1, when he says (or perhaps naively assumes) that belief in God is a moral decision. He says that people disbelieve in God not because of some lack of evidence, but because of some moral failure that stems from suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. And this is where I object. I have no interest in lambasting Christians for their beliefs, or trying to get anyone to accept why I lack belief. After all, there are plenty of other religions that I reject besides Christianity. However cool and hip many conservative Christians try to be, their biblical literalism virtually requires them to portray all non-Christians as morally challenged, as those engaged in rebellion against God. But this completely disregards many valid testimonies of non-Christians themselves, and amounts to calling us liars. Without any inkling of my motives or beliefs, you’ve portrayed me as spouting an arrogant line of atheistic reasoning that I don’t support at all. Meanwhile, you’ve completely ignored grappling with a classic text on biblical faith, one that is beyond our modern notions of what is reasonable, acceptable, or even moral. Christianity affirms the belief of a virgin birth, a man whose life was impeccable, and who rose from the grave. Tertullian was right: these are absurd ideas; Paul, too, agreed that the gospel is craziness to those who don’t believe. What I don’t get is why you refuse to acknowledge the tenuousness of your faith, and acknowledge that notions of “blindness” and “extremism” are radically subjective. That was my point all along: Christianity itself is an entire worldview based on a leap of faith, and the uncertainty that such a tenuous faith requires. Such a foundation, therefore, makes the parsing out of terms like “extremism,” “reasonable,” etc. enormously problematic, because any degree of certainty seems to undercut the very foundation upon which Christianity exists. One may feel confident that one has determined the contours of such terms properly, and thus come upon an iron-clad defense of orthodoxy in the process, but–ultimately–(and this is what faith requires) one cannot be sure. To the question of whether one is an extremist, the Abrahamic example suggests that one can never be sure.
I’m not sure that mischaracterized what you said all that much, especially finishing with “it seems that Christianity is fundamentally extremist.”
I am not ignoring your points. I simply think long dialoges in comment threads has its limitations.
As for Abraham, he knew full well (as do you) that he would not have to sacrifice his son. When asked Abraham answered his son, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So he was clear about the implication of God’s challenge–that it was symbolic.
In addition, as you know the Bible does not reveal every detail of every story. It is not an owners manual or encyclopedia. It relates the important details. There is no reason to assume that Abraham was isolated from outside influence (accountability) in his situation. It was a tribal culture and Abraham had hundreds of employees (servants) and their families around him as they all lived together (you may recall him rescuing Lot).
Context matters. You can’t just ignore it.
Fighting for something doesn’t always mean there’s collateral damage; it just means you’re passionate. You mention “blindly” fighting, which it seems is defined as fighting without “reason” and “accountability.” But this seems precisely what faith is about. Take Abraham, for example. He thinks he hears a divine message, a message to kill his son, and he obeys. In this narrative, there is absolutely no accountability, and reason is also nowhere to be found. For Abraham, it seems that obedience to God (the end) is quite justified by killing Isaac (the means). So, I guess my question for you is: was Abraham an extremist? It’s hard to see how he isn’t, since there are people aplenty who hear divine messages that drive them to violence. So if he is–and this seems to me the only conclusion–it seems that Christianity is fundamentally extremist. After all, Abraham is *the* Old Testament exemplar of the faith (according to Paul, at least).
Yes, I am quite familiar with your atheist line of reasoning that all religious people are extremists and only atheist (like yourself) are enlightened or ‘reasonable’. I hear it all the time. It’s always the same. People like me are either idiots, evil, or crazy. Good one! Very original.
In addition, should Christians not careful of their efforts in causes or what causes they give their interests? I’d think you’d agree with me, no?