Category Archives: christian life

Man as an automatic leader and/or utterly untrustworthy animal?


cavemanWhen I read certain Christian publications, especially from American sources, I get the weird notion (tell me if I’m making straw man arguments here, I’d be glad to hear that all of this is a criticism of something that does not exist) that man, as opposed to woman, is both ‘hardwired’ to be

A.) The natural leader, who should lead in the family and in society!
and
B.) An utterly weak creature, who cannot control himself, even the sight of a strange woman in bikini will make him stumble.

Maybe this sounds logical to some people, but I do fail see any logic in it myself, and I find both options completely incompatible with each other, and also forms of quite unhealthily exaggerating and generalizing. If man is such a weak creature as B says, don not in a million years let him lead, please! Or let him and the woman lead together. But sorry, to me this makes no sense at all.

Old-fashioned patriarchy in the highly praised classical cultures may not have been the best system to live in if you were a woman, a slave or a child (a Roman ‘Pater familias’ sometimes even had the right to kill all of those whenever he wanted!), at least there was some kind of internal logic, although based on false facts: The old Greek (and some of the Church fathers influenced by them) believed that man only was a rational being, who could exercise self-control and virtues, and for that reason man was seen as superior to woman, who was seen as irrational, weak, lustful and dangerous. So it was the man who was seen as strong and virtuous, and therefore the man was the leader.

(Note also that the Christian religion was looked down upon by Romans exactly because it was considered, as Celsus said, “a religion of women, children and slaves”! Never heard any of the ‘masculinity in the church’ preacher ever talk about that though… )

Now compare this to the supposed logic of modern fundamentalist neo-patriarcy: The woman is seen as almost asexual in a way (the man is always initiating, the woman follows) and having no sexual desire of herself sometimes except in bad cases, but just dangerous by being what she is. In talk about relationships it seems to be always the boy who wants to go to far and too fast and the girl that needs to be the one who slows down.
Okay, some women can be dangerous seductresses, but apart from that it’s mostly even ignored or denied that women have a sex drive and are actually a lot like men. And anyway, according to this idea, above all it is the man who is weak, without self-control, and ultimately powerless against temptation, even unwilled temptation from a woman who dresses too short, so no woman should show some skin to not tempt this poor weak creature. Nor would the Greek or Romans recognise this as a man of any sorts…

What a weak wimp of a creature this man is, and how pitiful such a weak-willed being is. I wouldn’t let such a being even babysit my pet mouse if the poor thing would still be alive. And yet it still is this man who is supposed to always be the leader according to those who hold such views, apparently.

One would ask why, if we men as ‘visual beings’ are not even in the possibility of seeing a ‘sexy’ woman without having lustful thoughts or even controlling our deeds. (Note that here we go into very dangerous territory, this way of thought could lead to rape apologies and other abominations) Should he even be allowed to walk out alone on the street, with billboards using half-naked female bodies to sell random product not related to female humans at all on every corner? Maybe men should be protected and kept at home, and kept away from all women, and all women who would enter a place where men are should cover up.

We’re just to weak people, sorry. Lock us up, it’s not the women’s fault, they just are what the are. But men are just weak, keep them away from civilized humanity, and please, don’t give them any power at all.

(A side note, I never understood how people stressing an ‘every human is completely evil and cannot be trusted’ form of the theology of ‘total depravity’ can believe in strong hierarchical structures where fallen human beings are given quite a lot of power and responsibility and no-one should question them. The more depraved man is supposed to be, the more we need a system in which no man has too much power. No man (and I use it in a gender-inclusive sense here) can be trusted if we really are completely depraved! Balancing, dividing and delegating power should be a first concern for anyone who takes total depravity serious!)

Now, as we all know, luckily both thought systems A and B are quite wrong on some points:

To start, men nor women are completely weak creatures who have no chance of ever exercising self-control. And yes, I do believe men can have more self-control than post-Freudian-synchretizing Christian fundamentalists make them out to be. Although this might be not the easiest thing in a world where men are indeed conditioned like Pavlov’s dogs to react to images of women’s bodies with sexual interest. We will indeed become very visually and dominated by what’s called ‘the male gaze’, and those things might not be originally ‘hard-wired’ in our brains, but our habits and conditionings do have form us and even alter our brain!

Ah, neuroplasticity is such a great thing, isn’t it? We aren’t hard-wired as some believe at all, but our wiring system forms when we grow up, and could develop in a lot of different ways. And even if we’re adults we can make new patterns and brain connections (Yes, it’s better to learn to play music as a kid, but sometimes there are examples of people who get an instrument later in their lives and learn to play music and make amazing stuff, like blues singer T-model Ford) and re-wiring is possible, but not easy, and in some cases it will always be a weaker spot and a temptation. I once read somewhere that people might need half of the time they spent in a bad habit or a relationship to really get over it…

This also means that a man who’s ‘trained in virtue’, or for example a Kung Fu master, who has been working on self-control, is a wholly different being than us postmodern Western wimps who believe the lies that we cannot say no to temptation and only know a world in which people just ‘follow their instincts’, (Even that expression is nonsense, most of the time we have a lot of incompatible instincts telling us to do completely opposite things, and it’s still our reason or something else that chooses between them, not our instincts themselves that lead us!)

And indeed, feeling attraction in itself might be unavoidable sometimes, but we can choose how it develops and what we do. If all patterns we have made are to just ‘go with the flow’ it might seem irresistible, but that’s because we’re trapped in a self-fulfilling prophecy that might even have been written onto the hardware our internal system. Which makes it not that easy to fight, but still that doesn’t mean it’s an impossibility…;

Also, as a Christian, it’s nonsense to say that we are to love everybody, be good to everyone, and then make an exception for those whom we find attractive in the wrong situation. Aren’t we supposed to be mature enough anyway to cope with such things without running away from such a thing? No, they are human beings made in Gods image just like us, and we have to learn to see that, and respect them just like every other person. Attraction should not trump anything, au contraire, love, and respect, and friendship should trump whatever wrong intentions we might have when we feel misplaced attraction.

After all, attraction without love should not be acted upon because it dehumanizes. And if we are led by love and respect, we will see more interesting things in a person than that misplaced attraction alone.

So, man is not a creature to give absolute responsibility, but neither is he the untrustworthy animal some make him out to be. And a man in Christ, and even a virtuous man in any tradition who has formed the right habits, is not going to be led by the first impulse or instinct that comes up, and can do some quite impressive things sometimes. But it’s the same with a woman.

(And if you noticed that I didn’t say much about  A, I find the ‘every man is a leader’ idea so ridiculous that I didn’t even put much energy in it; and that  even apart from the ‘every woman is a follower’ bit that’s equally stupid. Let’s just note that the idea of a leader becomes quite devalued when 50% of the population is said to be one. Especially when there’ a lot of women leaders too… And a lot of men who should never in their lives be ‘leaders’ of anything at all)

And in the end it depends on our personality, our character and our calling whether we are to be a leader or not. Some men and women are good leaders, some are not, and will have other callings. Which is not something lower at all. The body needs both the eyes and the kidneys, and the nostrils and the pancreas…

Let’s all take up the responsibility we’ve been given, and do it together, and not be fooled by fundamentalism of pop-Freudianism that paralyses us and says we can’t do it, nor by any false ideology that says we shouldn’t be working together in this. Together is how it goes, as brothers and sisters! And whatever we do, let’s do it in love for the other, respecting the full humanity of each other. (Even the ones we don’t agree with that have despicable ideas!)

And let us not forget as Christians what the fruits of the Spirit are:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)

Are those not one of the basic characteristics of both men and women that profess to follow Christ? (Among other things as loving neigbors and enemies, and caring for the least, and not wanting to be leaders but servants?)

(And let us not mock nor belittle nor disbelieve in them, blaspheming the Spirit is a serious thing!)

Peace

Bram

I don’t care how ‘big’ you are…


babelThis world seems to be obsessed with celebrity sometimes. Everybody wants to make a name for themselves, or follow those who have made a name for themselves as if they are very important. Sometimes to the point that I wonder if the cult of celebrity is some replacement of the pagan worship of all kinds of minor deities, or the exaggerated saint worship of our medieval ancestors.
Which is quite weird to me, because the objects of this worship are humans after all. We all are just humans. It’s not because someone is more known that he or she has more to contribute to humanity, or is more interesting. Au contraire, we have a phenomenon in our Western world of people who seem to be known just for being known. Or what would you say is the reason Paris Hilton is famous?

Sure, there are a lot of people who are known for good reasons. There are some good musicians who sell a lot of records, and those are known for good reasons. There are also a lot of people who sell millions of books because they are good at writing or have ideas that should be known to more people. But this should not at all be reversed: there is no guarantee that celebrity means quality… And it is, sadly enough, also not true at all that quality or substance will lead to celebrity or having a platform that can share your message to the world. Some of the greatest artists of all time have only become known after their death anyway, like Vincent Van Gogh, and probably some of the most important thinkers and artists have died unknown.

Being known means nothing except that you’ve made a name. It does not mean that you have quality, nor it does not mean that you don’t have quality either…(Furthermore, celebrity can be detrimental to quality, and those who are too interested in it and obtain it do sometimes even destroy the reason why they might be of any real interest to people, beyond their mere state of celebrity… A lot of people sacrifice quality for celebrity)

A lot of the best things might be unknown. A lot of the best music is never heard on the radio or found in the CD-store. The psalters for example are one of the best bands ever in my opinion, and one of the most impressing examples of religious music; even though unknown by most people. I do have a lot of lesser known artists in my library who have made songs that are better than the songs on the radio, sometimes even better than a lot of songs in our lists of ‘timeless classics’. Yes, I know, all of this is subjective, but exposure to it might increase the chance that people will like something, but it won’t change the quality… The guitar-riff of Soul-junks ‘may my tongue be stuck up on the roof’, for example, a psalm 137 song about the rivers of Babylon has a killer riff like ‘seven nation army’. But it’s completely unknown…

Same with writings things like blogs. (btw, I do generally have more readers as a ‘christian blogger’ than I do have listeners as a musician, although I don’t have a big audience anywhere.- I do have some links in my blogroll here, and those are just chosen because I like what those people are writing. I actually don’t even notice how ‘big’ a blog is when I read it, link to it or recommend it. If someone says things worth reading I will read and quote them, makes no difference be it a completely unknown guy with great ideas or one of the most-known thinkers on the earth.
I’d quote a friend as much as I would quote Plato if his saying is true and says what I wish to communicate. Truth is not linked to celebrity.
Staying in the field of Christian blogs, I don’t have more respect for a blog with 100ths of comments or one with a comment here and there, if they have something to tell that’s worth reading I’ll read it and recommend it. No matter if it’s Scot McKnight, Andrew Jones, Morgan Guyton, Lana Hope, or Rachel Held Evans, or some enormous star (I do like the new series on the bible by Rob Bell here, who seems to be a Christian celebrity for example) or someone no-one has ever heard of. I frankly don’t even have a clue who the big Christian blogs are, and I probably wouldn’t even interested in those. But I can recommend everyone to read the monthly post of Vinoth Ramachandra, or the weekly post of Eric from the Jawbone of an ass. Those are blogs I learn from! Even though I hardly see anyone quoting them.

C.S. Lewis describes an interesting scene in ‘the great divorce’, a weird book about a guy who visits heaven with a bunch of people from hell, and meets some interesting people there and sees other from a distance without interacting with them. One of them, who seems to be an enormously important saint, happens to have been a simple unknown woman during her life on Earth. She is honored as the greatest saint of all, while big figures here on earth are just shady and deluded ghosts there.
It is this way in the kingdom of God anyway: the least are the most important, and those who think they are big might turn out to be not much…

So it might be true that celebrity gives you a bigger audience, which is good if you indeed bring something that’s good, but which is quite bad if what you bring is bad. And actually, there is no reason at all to think that louder voices are more valuable and more worth hearing. (I even think that there’s good reason to be very careful with them…) Maybe the little kid next door has some wisdom that none of the rockstar preachers, academic masterminds and other mighty idea leaders will ever tell you because they don’t know it themselves.

Stardom is so relative, and it has cost a lot of people their soul…

peace

Bram

On similar misandry in Christian fundamentalism and consumer capitalism?


I read this excellent bvenus_de_milo1logpost by Sarah Schwartz, and American Christian blogger, in which she apologises for the damaging way men are often viewed in her (sub)culture. A quite horrible view of men, that’s preached not just by women, but by men too. The way she expresses it goes probably a lot further than what I know from local Christian circles, but I do recognise it nonetheless. What’s more troubling is that I recognise it not mainly from Christian circles but much more strongly from other places, and it’s something I’ve always been sensitive towards because I found it quite painful.

I posted the post above on my facebook-wall with a quote from her and a short introduction:

Quite sexist to reduce men to this, not? I hope she exaggerates, but I do recognise some of it…
“You are nothing but a slave to your desires. You are a sex hungry, uncontrollable, animal-like creature with no capacity for empathy or self-control. It is laughable to think that you could possibly prize relationships over sex, people over sex, vows over sex. You are sub-human, and no one expects anything different from you.”

The first person on facebook who reacted, Simon, has no connection at all to American Christian fundamentalism at all, but did surely recognise it as a very real problem, even on facebook:

Too bad the capitalist consumerist greedy types never cease trying to rewire our brains… For example: as a male I am constantly bombarded with sex ads on facebook (to a point where it’s disgusting me), even after I ‘told’ facebook I’m in a relationship. It’s a never ending onslaught and I think it’s degrading for men as well as for women. We are more than sex hungry creatures who can’t control ourselves. We are more. People are more. Even most animals are more. But ‘they’ don’t want us to be more. They want to control us, divide us, make us manageable to be able to make lots of profit doing the least amount of effort possible.

And yes, it’s true, if Sarah’s quote above is the description of how men are seen in American Christian fundamentalism and likewise-minded circles, it does not differ much at all of how the media and the advertisement industry in our Western system of consumer capitalism is constantly abusing us, just for profit.
The only big and very substantial difference here is that fundamentalism wants to stop this, to keep men down and to draws walls around them and puts us in boxes imprisoned by guilt, and that consumer capitalism abuses it, that it wants to make money out of it, reducing both men and women to less than humans for the sake of Mammon, which is very, very, very, low.

What’s very painful is that I’ve met enough men (and women) who just go along the lines and follow the flow, who let themselves dehumanise, and act like it could not be differently. As if we are indeed hard-wired for this as modern ideologies as fundamentalism and pop-Freudianism claim, and that we can’t function otherwise. We buy into the lie, and buy the crap the want to sell us, and let it destroy potential relationships and friendships and trust and intimacy, and…
And I refuse to believe the lie, and I refuse to accept that the lie is being spread, that people are indoctrinated and re-wired to fit the “man=animal, woman=prey” stuff. I refuse this as a Christian, as a humanist, as a human being, as the human being that I am, as a friend of both men and women, as a lover, and as a father of 2 little girls.

Problem here, if we speak about ‘wiring’, is neuro-plasticity which results in the possibility of strong conditioning by making connections in our brains. Like Pavlov’s dogs we can be conditioned in a lot of ways, and also reprogrammed later in other ways. If I compare men to Pavlov’s dogs here it’s not to reduce them to animals, but because that’s how it works biologically for both Homo sapiens and Canis lupus familiaris.
On the other hand, conditioning can be changed if we change our habits. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. We are not hardwired, and we can be rewired. We should work on this re-wiring if it hinders us from being human! This leads us to the old-fashioned idea of virtue, in which we follow a certain path of life that forms us.

I might need to clarify the word ‘misandry’ in the title for some of my readers, a words that means something as hatefullness towards man. It is a parallel to the word misogyny, which is actually the more visible part of the same problem here.
I don’t have a better word, but I am aware that it might a word that is rarely used (my spellchecker doesn’t know it) and that when it’s used, it is sometimes employed by people who come from a ‘war of the sexes’ worldview who say feminism should be fought in every possible way and want to turn the relationship between misogyny and misandry in a zero-sum game. I completely reject this line of thought, and want to be clear that I believe that sexism always has 2 sides, and that every system with heavy sexism against female human beings has another way of dehumanising male human beings, no matter how much power and privilege they have. Disconnect both sexes from each other and everybody gets dehumanised.
(I do think about Ursula Le Guins short stories about the planet Seggri here, with men having all the privilege, but women having all the rest, see my post on the sex-life of aliens and sexism on Earth) We need to treat both sexes (and all people who don’t fall into 2 binary genders) equally as humans. There is no other way. A zero-sum game approach to either women’s rights or men’s rights, or emmancipation of any minority group will always and invariably lead to some kind of ‘animal farm revolution’ which ends up with the same amount of oppression but differently distributed.

Women are human beings!
Men are human beings!
Everyone else who doesn’t fit in those 2 gender is a human being too.
And as a Christian I believe all human beings are made in Gods image.

There should be nothing radical about this !!!
It is more logical than our ABC or 2X2=3.

peace

Bram

More posts on similar subjects:
Nothing more natural than cross-gender friendships?
I don’t understand ‘complementarianism’
‘Male christianity’ vs Mother Teresa
the emerging Joneses and my anarchist marriage…
on sexy porn models and human dignity
Some old critique to ‘true love waits’ and Joshua Harris…
A purity culture I don’t know…
teenage flashback: I’m not flirting, but I might need a hug…
On the sex-life of aliens and sexism here on Earth…
Meditating on sexy models

Another side of the situation for Christians in Egypt


Vinoth Ramachandra shared this text coming from Egypt, which gives another view on the situation in Egypt. The source is the Bible society of Egypt here. Another contact in Egypt (an Anglican priest) commented ‘I agree with the content’.

Egypt has an encouraging story that is not being told in much of Western media!

When more than 85 Churches and institutions were viciously attacked and burned (a profound blow of disgrace and humiliation in this culture of “honour”), the non-retaliation of Christians was both unexpected and unprecedented.

Pope TawadrousImmediately following these attacks, the leader of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II said that if the destruction of these properties was the price Christians in Egypt have to pay to get a free Egypt, then that sacrifice is worthwhile!  His – and all other Christian leaders’ messages – have helped the Christian spirit of forgiveness to be powerfully demonstrated in Egypt.

This practical application of Christ’s teaching by millions of Egyptian Christians should have made worldwide headline news!

Many Egyptian Christian leaders are reminding their flock that the Church consists of the people of God, Christ’s body, and not the buildings in which we worship. Thus the Church can never be destroyed!

Egypt is not on the verge of civil war! On the contrary, most Egyptian Muslims and Christians are more united than ever in their common vision for the future, as together they have rejected extremist “Political Islam,” and are working towards the noble task of establishing a civil society which recognizes all Egyptians as equal citizens.

Egypt, however, faces incredible social, economic, cultural and political challenges as it tries to rebuild after three years of radical change and confusion. As a result many Egyptians are weary and pessimistic about the present situation in their country.

One of our projects is a special edition of the Sermon on the Mount (in which Jesus presents principles of His Kingdom which reflect the aspirations of many Egyptians at this time), and a variety of tracts taken from it, for wide distribution.

Yes, in the face of war, oppression, destruction of their property and church buildings those people share the sermon on the mount, out of which come the golden rule, the ‘blessed are the peacemakers’ and other beatitudes, and the command to love enemies. Seems like those people are really taking Christ seriously…

I am impressed and praying for my brothers and sisters in Egypt!

Bram

Capitalism vs. Christianity I: Rule of the Market


Coin of Augustus PAS 200 px sh“Markets, like merchants, are nothing new, but they are central to the capitalist society in quite a new and more abstract way” – James Fulcher

A bit late because of work, illness, bad time management, alien abductions and the birthday of my wife, but here it is: my first post in what will become a series about the incompatibility of Christianity and capitalism. (Click on link for the introductionary post)

Central to capitalism as it is currently defended by a lot of people is not ‘in whose hands the means of production’ are or should be, but the idea of ‘the free market’. And even more: the ‘free market’ itself has to be quite a priority according to those who like to preach capitalism. Not only is it important for ‘the market’ to be ‘free’, it is also important for that ‘free market’ to be really important in all aspects of our lives. And indeed, for some reason unknown to me ‘the market’, together with the whole idea of ‘the economy’ which is centered around it, is seen by some as the center of reality, and even as the only reality that matters.

Not reasonable or logical at all
So what’s my first problem with this ‘marketisation of everything’? ‘My first critique to this is just philosophical: Contrary to what I’ve heard from some people sometimes, there is nothing ‘rational’ or even ‘realistic’ about putting the economy, centered around the so-called free market, as our top priority in life and all human affairs on planet earth, and as a lens through which all of this world has to be interpreted. If you want to look at the world this way, fine, but know very well that it is purely an ideological choice, and if you ask me it’s a very poor hermeneutic which leads to a very bad and unbalanced exegesis of the book of ‘reality’. Continue reading

Some interesting things elsewhere VIII


If you want to get rid of an evil by means of a revolution, work for finding a way of life completely without that evil. Anything just built on reactions to that evil is still bound to said evil and is never going to take its influence away…

I didn’t have the time to finish my first capitalism post yet (it’s getting too long anyway) but I hope it will be ready for this wednesday. Things have been hectic again, and to make up for not that much interesting stuff here I present you the resurrection of the ‘some interesting things elsewhere’ series, with various dreadlocked guys, feminists, fundamentalists, and even the gospel coalition…

Let’s start with some music: The most interestpsaltersing band on the planet (and one of the most distinct bands in the galaxy) has its music available on bandcamp now: the psalters! (Not all albums are there yet…) If you don’t know the psalters, just listen…

Philip Ryken on the Gospel Coalition with ‘how to discourage art in the church’ has some very interesting points.

And then from the ortodox side this article by Father Stephen on Prayers and the One God of all that I’m still processing.

From the feminist side: Libby Anne is blogging through some weird American book called ‘created to be his helpmeet’ which like me looks like the manual for spousal abuse and more disaster in marriage, and she as a non-christian is a lot beter at exegeting proverbs 31 than the writer of that book. This confirms my idea that some things that go under the name ‘fundamentalism’ might say that they take the bible serious, but actually just follow their own (very weird) tradition and use some bible verses here and there to back it up…

Speaking of feminism and women in the church, this breaks my heart. Something is very wrong with how women are viewed in our society, including Christian circles. Be sure to also read this post from just beloved. It is beyond my understanding why women are judged so easily because of their looks, but it still is a very pervasive evil!

Speaking of evil: Roger Olson about ‘satanic realism’ (part 2)

Andrew Jones AKA tallskinnykiwi, the grandfather of Christian blogging, has a 10 year anniversary for his blog so he decided to start again with a whole new blog here.

15 things Jesus didn’t say

Totally unrelated: mosses frozen inside a glacier dating from the little ice age 500 years ago are still able to come back to life!

I leave you with some dreadlocked guy who reads you what he considers the best sermon ever:

peace

Bram

Pope Francis as a universalist?


Pope_Francis_in_March_2013-1

Edit: Here is a catholic explanation. Doesn’t sound universalist at all if you ask me…

Pope Francis, the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide, has already proven to be a controversial person from time to time in his career of only a few months. And luckily it has been in a surprisingly Christlike way, not in the way most modern liberal people expect popes to conservative and oldfashionedly irrelevant: The pope who denied the papal palace, shuns wealth, calls the church to focus on the poor,  washed the foot of women and Muslims instead of Catholic priests and criticised capitalism now stated that atheists are redeemed too and can do good works.

2 articles have been going round on facebook since yesterday, first one from the Vatican Radio and then one from the American Huffington post, which tried to interpret the words of the pope from an American perspective, but to me they seemed to miss the point and tried to make him answer questions he wasn’t addressing…

But let’s have a look at what our papal friend is saying:

“The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”:

“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

“Instead,” the Pope continued, “the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

(bold parts from the Vatican radio website)

Some people, like Paul from disoriented, reoriented, actually do think Francis’ words point to Christian universalism (the idea that through the saving work of Christ all will be saved in the end), and point to the old tradition of universalism within christianity that goed back to Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, but I’m not so sure of that actually. I don’t have much problems with hopeful universalism or even praying for the salvation of Satan in the end (as Gregory of Nyssa did), but I believe in free will, and I am afraid that some will never be able to enjoy an eternity with God, it would be hell to them.  But it’s not my task to even speculate about those things, let alone proclaim that I know all the answers here.

It is clear that the pope is an inclusivist here, not in the the sense of salvation (which is not addressed) but when it comes to doing good, which is what is expected from all human beings. (I suppose Rahners idea of anonymous Christians or the older idea of virtuous pagans does fit in here somewhere.)

What we can be sure of though is that the pope here rejects 2 doctrines that are important to certain protestant traditions, especially those based on Calvinism: limited atonement (Jesus did only die for the chosen)  and total depravity (man is fallen in a comprehensive way, and can’t do good himself)

(My problem with total depravity lies in the people whom the NT calls good and just, like Zachary and Elisabeth who were Thora-abiding Jews, and Cornelius who was a God-fearing pagan. Apart from that I do believe very strongly in human depravity, and I see it all the time in the news, around me, and in myself!)

The pope acknowledges here simply that all people can do good, whether they’re atheists or catholics:

“Doing good” the Pope explained, is not a matter of faith: “It is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because He has made us in His image and likeness. And He does good, always.”

What’s interesting is that he roots the possibility of doing good works both in Creation (man being the image of God) and in being redeemed by the blood of Christ.  Note also that Pope Francis is speaking about good works and bringing peace here. he isn’t speaking about salvation per se, especially not in ‘going to heaven after you die’ kind.Francis in his view on Christianity seems to be focussed more on the ‘here and now’ aspect of the Kingdom of God, specifically for the ‘least of those’ than about the ‘pie in the sky’ dimension of salvation that some people prefer.

To be sure about how to interpret what the pope said I asked  a catholic, Rob Allaert who writes in Dutch on http://www.thuiskerk.be , and he responded with the next paragraph:

Redemption needs to be uderstood as gift and assignment. Become who you are in Christ. Or as Saint Paul would have it: “Offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” So, there is an assignment attached to salvation which has in itself a universal scope.

(He also said my interpretation in this post ‘nailed it’.)

So, redemption is only the beginning point here, not the end point at all as ‘salvation’ is often seen in  evangelicalism. Salvation may be universal, but it gives us ‘an assignment’. I don’t think I can disagree with that actually. I even think we should say the same about predestination: if some are predestined by God, it is not just to be saved themselves, but to bring Christ, and salvation and redemption, to this broken world.

So what can we take from this, except from a strong affirmation of the popes inclusivism and love for all people of all religions, and the call to everyone for peace and doing good? I hope there’s also the last thought included somewhere: Loving God and neighbor as the great commandment says (which will include living out that love, maybe even in radical ways) is not the way to salvation, it is part of salvation itself. The Christian idea of both heaven and the Kingdom of heaven on earth looks forward to a world in which all relationships have been restored, and everyone and everything lives in harmony with God, other humans, and all of Creation.

If that’s what the pope means, I agree with him…

what do you think

Bram

PS: The most creepy thing about a universalist pope, especially if he is the second pope after John Paul II, is that in the dispensationalist end-times plots I encountered as a kid (that the pentecostals for some had borrowed from dispensationalism) the endtimes-pope would be some kind of ‘all-religions-are equal’ universalist who would be very popular but open the door for the worship of the beast 666 by the people of all religions.
(Not that real Christian universalism in which it is Christ and Christ alone who saves all would apply here, let alone a pope who calls the Church back to following the gospel in simplicity as Francis does. But somewhere in me the idea still lingers sometimes, and it feels a bit creepy…)

Why racism against white people is still racism…


Edit: I see that this post is still read regularly, and I’ve been thinking and discussing this subject since writing this and come to the conclusion that the use of the word ‘white’ by Americans is still a complete  mystery to me. So I want to make clear before you read this that I use the expression ‘white people’ just for the plain meaning of “light-skinned specimens of Homo sapiens” (as we native Europeans are), and the word ‘race’ for a group of humans with the same biological characteristics  like skin color, eye form, etc…’ I actually have no concept for the ‘race as a social construct’ idea the way some Americans use it, coming from a continent of native white people myself, where white people have been killing, hating, oppressing, enslaving, and so on for the last thousand years for differences like culture, language, tradition, religion, place of birth or clan-ancestry, and where ‘whiteness’ is not the defining and most relevant issue unlike in our former colonies where it is very important.

North-America has (very simplified) the situation in which 3 groups of white colonists/former slave masters, conquered natives and former slaves are each ‘racially’ very distinct from each other, just as the Mexican immigrants, so the connection of those groups with ‘race’ and using the color as name of the group is relevant over there, but not always in other contexts, like on the native continent of white people where a lot of groups exist that are racially the same and have a lot of other differences that matter much more.

Also, I do not believe (from all the racists and racism I’ve seen here in Belgium) in the relevance any meaningful concept of specifically ‘white privilege’ over here, as Americans use the term. There is no real ‘we-group’ of ‘white people’ against the rest here for most people, the ‘we’-group is much smaller and more specific, and ‘race’ in itself (in any meaningful definition of that word) is not the defining factor. People of other colors can be much more ‘in’ the we-group (example: an adopted black person with Flemish name) than white people that are very unlike us(example: East-European poor immigrant not knowing the language and cultural customs)
We just sometimes have a dicriminating system based ‘native privilege’: This is our country, our language, our culture: the more ‘like us’ you are, the more privilege you get, the more you are different and behave different, the more you will be ‘out’. (In a way, many things called racism over here are more some sort of pseudo-racism which is equally bad: discrimination on being culturally different. I would like to reserve the word ‘racism’ itself for discriminating people because of racial (biologically) difference, discrimination of muslims (who can be of all races) for example is a big problem and injustuce, but not real racism. Using the term too sloppily might make it problematic to confront real racism where it exists and still is a life-destroying problem!)

I’ll blog more about this later.

(Okay, This is where the original post begins:)

 
…and you become a monster, so the monster will not break you…

(U2, channeling an idea that might come from Nietzsche)

(Note: I am not American nor a real Academic, and I do refuse to take the views of American or other academics, feminist or otherwise, normative for all of the planet. I will listen to you, but if my experience or what I’ve seen completely disagrees with your theory don’t push your worldview onto me please. I also don’t even give one single atom of Hydrogen about political correctness and using the right shibboleths for any side as you will see… Also, this was inspired by several different conversations happening lately, and was not written to attack any person or text specifically. )

Let’s start with saying racistit flat-out loudly: I’m tired of people who decry sexism and racism and then go bashing white males all the time. No matter what excuse you use, it still is sexist and racist and self-defeating anything you want to accomplish to this outsider of your liberationist tradition!

Yes, I know some of you will say now that racism and sexism come from privilege and that you cannot discriminate against the privileged and bla-bla-bla. But sorry, that won’t convince me, and all those redefinitions will bring us is only a semantic quicksand and more misunderstanding, and maybe even more discrimination.

Firstly, the whole idea of tying ‘racism’ completely to the idea of privilege is a semantic shift that has only happened in certain academic circles, and not one I had ever heard of before entering the blogosphere or discussing about such subject with a certain type of academics. For other people the word ‘racism’ just means negative prejudices based on race (skin color and similar traits) or the hatred and discrimination built on it. And all this bashing of ‘white people’ does definitely fall under the ‘classical’ definition of racism.

Secondly, the idea that racism cannot exist against whites sounds quite dangerous to me actually. It only reminds me of an attempted ‘animal farm revolution’. And completely outside of reality as far as I can say too. Living in a European city with a lot of different people from very different backgrounds I’ve seen racism coming from a lot of sides towards a lot of sides. Including racism (and sexism) against native white Belgians, especially white women even. And most problems here were not really just ‘privilege’, but some are more symptoms a very serious cultural clash. When I lived in a street full of immigrants, my (then) fiancée was afraid to go outside after 8 because a certain kind of men made her uncomfortable because they behaved like just because she was walking outside as a non-veiled white women, which was less than nothing in their eyes, or more some public property they could prey on with their eyes and words (luckily in her case nothing more, but not every woman has been that lucky). I’ve never seen a more severe case of what feminists call ‘rape culture’ in my life actually.

(And to go on in the politically incorrect direction: the thing is, from all nationalities or cultures present only representatives from a few were problematic in this way. Certain cultures and subcultures seem to tend more to xenofobia or woman-unfriendliness while other don’t seem to have such tendencies at all… Some people from elsewhere really seem to be completely denigrating towards Western non-veiled women. Also, a lot of muslim and African cultures are mostly hostile to anything not heterosexual in a way beyond what we Westerners -even ‘homophobic’ ones- can imagine. I once had a boy from an African country tell me how they lynched gays with burning tyres in his homeland as if it was the most logical thing ever. He couldn’t even understand I was surprised by that!)

Something else: The whole way ‘whites’ are described here is quite deterministic to me, and I do not see how it does anything else than keep the gap between ‘whites’ and ‘non-whites’ wide open. Maybe I don’t get what you want to say because I’m not part of certain academic circles and because I don’t read the right books, or am not American, I don’t know, but this repeated use in a blaming way of ‘whites’ only gives me the idea that whatever happens they will always be the fault for some people, most of which are white themselves by the way, but don’t have all of the other point of privilege that matter to their views on privilege (more on that later).

But anyway, ‘reverse’ racism is just as big a problem as racism. I’ve seen this with certain non-Belgians who were quite hateful against the native Belgian (and sometimes against all of Western civilization ) We’ve never had much slaves over here by the way (only genocidal kings with private African colonies in which they unleashed hell for the local people to get themselves and a few mega-industrials richer), so the biggest racism problem here is not really between ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ (dumb terms, there’s nothing white about me) but between Belgians and certain newcomers from mostly certain muslim countries, who are mostly brownish-skinned indeed, but the problem is not one of skin or appearance, but a serious clash of cultures from both sides.

I don’t think there’s much difference whether it is Belgians looking down on the brownish guys, or the brownish guys looking down on us white Western infidels, or the brownish guys on the black Africans, or… Racism is evil in every instance…

Yes, racism between non-Belgians is not that uncommon either I am afraid, it’s not only white people who are racist, and there can be really strong racism with no white people involved, even in a white European country. I once, while in a working-class job had a North-African co-worker who was as deeply racist against black Africans as a few of his not-so-friendly co-workers were against his people.

(Yes, it’s probably classist and again not very politically correct, but some specimens among those generally not very educated working class people I worked with were quite shocking to me because they were unashamedly racist, sexist and hating on anything homosexual in a way I thought did not exist in our enlightened modern society! It was only later when I heard certain stories from elsewhere -remember the tyres?- that I realised it could be even worse.)

So don’t tell me racism can only come from white people, and never be directed towards white people. That’s just plain nonsense to me, and if you dismiss what I’ve seen and experienced for an academic theory you should not expect me to listen…

Now to get to my point I wanted to bring across: Racism, as all form of hate and discrimination, tends to work according to the principle of the never-ending vicious circle of violence. It always comes back in a new way from the other side. Hate begets hate, violence begets violence, prejudices and racism beget prejudices and racism. That’s how it works. And the hate on the oppressed side is just as destructive as what comes from the oppressor. And even long before the stage of hate and violence the same principle is clear: misunderstanding breeds misunderstanding, prejudices breed more prejudices, etc… This will also work between 2 groups of ‘equal status’ btw. Never forget that racism can be fully operative without any real privilege-imbalance going on between the 2 groups that are racist towards each other.

And no, I have no problem in confronting privilege and opening peoples eyes for it. But please cease the racist-sounding lingo against the privileged. It will only make a lot of people who need the message close their ears. Look for others word or you will create confusion with anyone except for those who know the right lingo and subscribe to the latest academic theories… I must honestly again say that to me all of this calling out of privilege which in the end comes down to bashing white males to me sounds only like a weird attempt at an ‘animal farm revolution’ that does only make the distance and problems bigger and does not in any way bring reconciliation and not at all stop the spiral of racism actually.

The only revolution I can care for as a follower as Jesus is one that tries to free both the oppressor and the oppressed from the system that distorts the image of God in either of them.

Discrimination is a problem, cultural clashes and prejudices are a problem,and privilege is a problem, and these things are sins that should be fought against, made visible and repented of, but this way of framing it is going nowhere, sorry…

One more remark about the whole privilege thing: privilege is never absolute, and it actually can be completely contextual. As for myself, in one situation I have been completely privileged as a native Dutch-speaking male, in another I have been completely the lowest person in rank just for being an introvert, or not been taken seriously in any way just because I’m a religious person (I live in a secular country where being an evangelical gives you the opposite of privilege). Or because I’m a non-academic who does not use the right shibboleths…

Last remark: there are much more ways of institutional discrimination (also very depending on the context) than the usual suspects of sex and race: Introvertpobia (or extravertnormativity) for example can also be institutionalised in certain sectors for example (I’ve experienced that, and might even have been fired for such reasons once), and hippie profiling can also be a strong form of unjust institutional xenophobia. There’s a lot more going on than the few highlighted problems that are battled extensively, and a lot of people who need to be lifted out of the darkness and given a place on the table, and a voice on deciding what we’re going to do. And sometimes we will have to listen and try to understand things that go beyond what we can understand….

(Last politically incorrect parenthesis: don’t ask me what to do with a man in the street who hates all Westerners, sees all non-veiled women as lowly sex objects and wants gays to be executed, but God loves him and even wants us to love him, and if we don’t listen to him first, he will never ever attempt to listen to us. I actually refuse to believe that anyone is beyond redemption, and even he carries the cracked image of God. Which doesn’t mean I would let my wife ever talk to him…)

To close let us pray:

Let us be like Jesus
who loved the least
and went for the most lost ones first
He, who had the privilege
of being God Himself incarnate
and became a lowly baby…
Let us ask for His Spirit
to open our eyes,
and for the upside-down Kingdom
of the Father
to shatter all of this evil
that divides us and destroys us…
Let us love
let us fight hate
let us bring down barriers
and invisible walls

what do you think?

Bram

to the guy searching for ‘brambonius cools emerging’


(warning: just a rant full of christian theological  lingo)

Looking at my stats today I saw that my blog has been found 5 times today looking for ‘brambonius cools emerging’. Makes me wonder if anyone still uses the term ‘emerging church’, and why people would bother finding out if I (using my internet nick) have something to do with it.

To be honest, I don’t even know myself :p

I can’t deny that I’ve been following the ‘emerging church dialogue’ (even if I was quite late to the discussion.) and that I have learned a lot from it. I am a postmodern evangelical after all, so I found in it the words to explain how I look at the world; On the other hand, I think I’m too post-modern and too evangelical (once a charismatic, always a supernaturalist…) to ever fall for modernist forms of christianity, be it either fundamentalism or liberalism. Thank you very much, both are completely inconceivable for me… So if you mean some kind of ‘liberalism 2.0′ I’m not your man. I’ve found out that I’m allergic to all forms of liberalism, from liberal theology to liberal humanism and oldschool liberal politics and economics (like the stuff they call ‘conservative’ in America).

So if you mean the ‘tall skinny kiwi‘ type of emerging church, or the Shane Claiborne type of christianity, yes!: I’m in…

If you mean some kind of updated liberalism, as some seem to use the word ‘emergent’ (maybe mainly the critics, see cartoon) count me out. It won’t ever work for me. I’m a supernadoctrinemongersturalist who is quite critical towards the enlightenment.  For me that’s just the negative-picture version of fundamentalism… I will readily affirm the apostles and Nicene creed, but I will also place them alongside the sermon on the mount as foundational to Christianity. And I believe in the gifts of the Spirit for today (and the fruits), Christian non-violence and peacemaking, equality of the sexes [and egalitarianism], the priesthood of all believers, the trusworthiness of scripture (I don’t care about the modern concept of ‘innerancy’ though),  creation care and stewardsghip over nature, and the incompatibility of capitalism and christianity… I believe God works in all of His Church, even though I have no use for a lot of things in various traditions that I believe to be abominable (like double predestination, rich TV-preachers asking money from the poor, relic worship, christian materialism etc…)

To satisfy the heresy-hunters even more some labels I could wear: I’m a Wesleyan anabaptist-inspired postmodern charismatic evangelical with both orthodox and organic church sympathies, inspired by Francis of Assisi, christian mysticism and apophatic theology, who thinks Christianity is a way of life restored in relationship to God than accepting all the right theologies.

Love God, love your neighbor as yourself. In the end after the day of Judgment that’ll be all that’s left, with all evil and everything incompatible with God erased….

And as you might have noticed, I’m as non-reformed as a protestant can be…

May the Spirit lead me and bring me to the right path… May God bring His Kingdom and reveal Christ to me more and more, so that I can follow Him!

peace

Bram

godless consumer-capitalism, it’s everywhere…


… even inside of me…

After reading a very interesting article on Roger Olsons blog about a book that criticises what goes for capitalism these days from a Christian POV, stating that contemporary neo-liberal (some Americans would call it neo-conservative for some reasons, but American conservatism is built on the tradition of enlightenment liberalism anyway) capitalism is completely incompatible with Christianity. Something which makes a lot of sense to me.

I’m actually quite economytired of people who call the economy ‘reality’, as if the reality of people working for slave wages in sweatshops oversees or the mass extinction we cause are not more important realities than just ‘the economy’. The economy is there for the people (all of them!) and not vice versa, otherwise there is something completely wrong…

But what’s troubling :

Have you ever noticed how stores, especially “big box” stores, lure you into buying things you had no intention of buying when you entered them? I often go to a store, neglecting to pick up a cart as I enter because I am only there to buy a couple “necessaries” and then, halfway through the store, realize I need to find a push cart for all the stuff I’m carrying. As I exit the store with my bags full of things I didn’t plan to buy, I feel manipulated. Sure, I could resist, but it would be an enormous, almost super-human effort always to resist that.

So why does that matter? What has that to do with discipleship? Bell’s main point is the way in which contemporary capitalism distorts our desires—away from God toward money, power and possessions. Capitalism is an economic system of disordered desire. Even if it “works,” Bell argues, it is contrary to the spirit of Christ.

The thing that worries me here is that the next thing I did was ordering the book he’s talking about…

Bram