Tag Archives: liberalism

farewell, online American Christianity…


dear readers,bla

I know, my title sounds dramatic and probably is an overstatement, but I’m afraid it’s time for me to draw the line I’ve been drawing earlier a bit more more clearer, for my own health. I need to get away from certain stuff because it just is an unhealthy distraction, and not relevant even for where I am in my faith journey.
There’s enough stuff enough already to wrestle with in my own life here on the old continent, and moreover I don’t think the things that come through are even representative, but for some reason the loudest voices are the most bitter ones. But those are the things I stumble across, on blogs, FB, twitter, etc…

Okay, let me be frank here what the problem is: I don’t want to read anything about people calling others ‘heretic’ or ‘bigot’ because they are not X or Y enough because of verse Z and Q read in a way that I don’t understand or because of this theology or tradition or scientific theory or academic consensus or political correctness or whatever. And yes, both sides come across as equally toxic to me in calling out and disowning and naming enemies. I don’t care about your dichotomies, it’s just 2 sides of the same coin for me. anyway your liberal and conservative American Christianity…

And actually this is not at all my story. I as a lone European weirdo can’t carry the problems of a defective, divided church and culture in our rogue ex-colonies. Taking in too much of it appears to be toxic to me, and the tragic thing is that they probably are as toxic to the people inside of them too. I completely can understand if people are losing their faith at the moment. I completely would understand an ‘evangelical collapse‘. And I sincerely hope you will be able keep it on your side of the ocean, and don’t infect churches here or in the global South with it. There’s enough problems in Christianity without being infected with those from the US too…

But like I said this is not my story and I want to keep it that way.

I already live in country where Christianity (cultural catholicism) has collapsed. Equating Christian with a narrow version of fundamentalist evangelicalism is not an option for me in a secular country where most people think ‘catholic’ when you use the word ‘Christian’, and then think a bout something of the past (or even worse, child abuse and stuff) although it seems our friends Francis does have a good influence.
Evangelicals are not on the radar, and to be honest, what I see coming from over the ocean (the loudest and most visible stuff) has nothing at all or even less in it that could give people a better image of Christianity, or point to Jesus.

And oh, If you want me to be interested in anything you say about your faith, disconnect it from your weird politics. They make no sense to me. None of our 8 parties of so can be equated with either of yours, so your weird dichotomies are alien to me. I live in a country where ‘republican’ means someone who doesn’t like our king (I don’t care about him to be honest) in favor of a republic, be it an independent republic of Flanders, Belgium as a republic or the united states of the EU under one president. Nothing at all about ‘conservative’ politics, although the capitalist-centered part does exist in our liberal party and some nationalists. (Economic neo-liberalism and similar stuff like a colder and extremer version the oldschool liberalism of the founding fathers, people, has NOTHING to do with Jesus. Real conservative Christianity would more ‘communist’ than ‘capitalist’ although it would transcend both and annul every form of slavery to Mammon, the demon to which our lives and all of Gods creation are sacrificed by our current political systems) A democrat to me is anyone who believes in democracy in one way or another. I don’t even see the difference between the 2 American parties, and I find the whole dichotomy-thinking dangerous and unhealthy. I don’t want to waste any more time or reading about it, our own politics are crazy enough and full of problems already. And no, your ‘left’ isn’t automatically more interesting than the right-wing stuff. The political correctness of a world that I don’t understand only looks like ot leaves no place for anyone to even breathe. And it seems that (like always, the problem is prevalent here too) people on both sides are completely misrepresenting the other side, not listening to the other it at all. We have enough of that here already…

Yes, I AM interested in Christians anywhere, including America, who show the fruit of their walk with Christ, who show love to the least, and to the ones they disagree with, no matter if they are sinners, heretics or bigots. If I don’t see that love, you might have the letter, but I don’t think you have the Spirit. You might have theory, but do you have Love?

Like someone said, without love we are nothing, and a tree will be known by his fruit.

Maybe the world needs more fruit.

Where is the fruit? The fruits of the Spirit? Where is the love? The love among Christians that the world will see so it will see Christ? Where is the good deeds that will make the world say that God is great?

Don’t boast in having the right theory, and especially not in how you exclude whatever group you see as heretics or bigots. Show your love through your life and your writing (which is what I see of your life). If something like heresy or bigotry is damaging people, show me how it is damaging to everyone, both oppressor and oppressed, and how you love all of them and want the evil to disappear so it will not be able to separate people anymore.

I want to see visions of light, and the Light itself. Not more descriptions of darkness. Denouncing darkness alone will never bring any light. Dissecting everything you see to find more darkness in it neither.

So I’m going to cut myself loose from some things even more, for it seems that the distraction of the struggles of a world that isn’t mine will only bring me further away from God. Yes, I might read Rachel or Robs series on the bible or some of my blogging e-friends from time, but I will avoid every blog-storm, every new ‘crisis’ in which people are leaving evangelicalism and in which Christians behave like a bunch of politicians of the type that never became more mature than a spoiled toddler. Even a critical commentary on it can channel something that is detrimental to my faith.

I’m not bound to whatever people on another continent call ‘evangelicalism’. I’m bound to the Way of Christ, the Incarnated and Risen one who conquered death, evil and sin, and to the Spirit who lives in me.

I need to be turning to God Himself, to the bible and the words of Jesus, to books from a lot of angles. To the believers around me, who are part of my journey with me.

And I am probably very privileged in a way not to be an American here if all you can see is America and its problems and me telling that it’s not my problem. But actually there are problems enough already in my own life and in this country, wo don’t have to import any.

But for those alarmed by the title: no, if you’re an American Christian reading this and we know each other from online conversations;I’m not going to cut off people. If you are my friends you stay my friends, but I need to disengage your overall culture, for my own spiritual health.

I will love you but not carry the baggage of your culture as if it’s mine. I will talk with you and pray for you, but I cannot share the axioms and certainties of your culture and act as if they are normative for all earthlings. They are not, and some of them are alien. Just as mine are…

peace

Bram

A rant on Christian modernism and stuff…


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I just posted this on twitter (in 11 parts) as ‘a rant that might cost me followers':

I think I do know why the America-centric Christian blogosphere seems to irritate me and feels so irrelevant so much of the time. I realised just don’t even care about the fundamentalist/liberal dichotomy as both seem equally irrelevant to me as a Charismatic (as I am probably to them…) and 2 sides of the same old boring utterliky unrealistic ugly modernist coin to me. Even if I’d lose my Christian faith I’d rather follow the closest new-ager or any tribal pagan than fall for naturalist materialism anyway, which is the privilege of ivory-tower Westerners and solipsistic academics. And although I liked the ‘emerging church dialog’, where the ‘emergent’ stuff falls into some kind of liberalism 2.0 it just loses any credibility to me. I can understand liberalism as the godless capitalism it is in Europe, it is honest but evil, and I don’t care for it. Socialism, non-marxist communism, anarchism, even monarchism, whatever… Bring on organic church, neo-anabaptism, Eastern Orthodoxy, indigenous expressions of Christianity, even insights from all kinds of other religions and philosophies where the Creator has sown the seeds of Truth. But please no modern Western liberalism, ‘new atheism’ or modern Christian fundamentalism please, they all seem connected to me and don’t convince me at all. The world is already ugly enough, thank you…

Maybe I worded it too strong, but it’s how I feel…

Any pushback or questions?

peace

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

The unhelpfulness of words like ‘conservative’, ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’.


Foto0067People love to live in a simple understandable world, I guess that’s why a lot of people divide the world into simple categories,  and apparently very often in a very polarizing way even, with only two black and white categories, which gives us very warped worldview.

The English example dichotomy between “liberal” and “conservative” for example has little use for me, on the contrary. Firstly because they are often used as a false dilemma: there are many more options than these two (especially when used in the way some people use them),  it just crams everything in two black boxes, which is a bit as watching the big colorful reality on a small black’n white  TV: it’s dangerously reductionist … In itself there is a very diverse and complexe spectrum that falls into multiple dimensions … A worldview that tightly to one of these two sides will sit very definitely false ‘us-against-them “feeling without ever understanding the other while projecting a lot of naive prejudices out of the own ideology onto the other…

Moreover, those words given are no real opposites of each other, “liberal” refers to a school of thought that has its roots in modern thought, and ‘conservative’ is an appeal to a tradition that should be preserved. Ironically  in an American context (where I see those words used most btw.) the tradition to be defended is built on a kind of old-fashioned modernist liberalism, from the time of the founding fathers… The details of what is considered ‘conservative’ will vary enormously depending on the context and tradition: for a Flemish person like m ‘conservative ‘will be quite different from the ‘conservative’ of an American, or Japanese, or Inuit, or Piraha person…

‘Liberal’ is also not quite the same as ‘progressive’, which would be a more logical opposite of “conservative” that gets used as well. But that word is equally problematic, since  it is equally something that is positioned towards a given tradition, so depending on the specific context the meaning will also be completely different. Moreover, it is impossible for any person or group to ever be completely progressive or conservative. There are also things to be conserved and in which one is then  ‘conservative’,  and others that need to change in which one is progressive…

(Left right there are similar unhelpful terms anyway, but let’s not talk about  them here…)

But there is more, and it’s something that we as children of modernity will not notice because it is a way of thinking that surrounds us as the water surrounds a fish. The connotation for many people is that “progress” is something undeniably positive. This is a purely modern idea that people of other times and cultures do not have, and that I fully doubt and reject. One does not need the aforementioned Piraha to see this: for example, in the Middle Ages our culture held to the opposite idea, that the older thing would be better the newer thing. The word ‘primitive’ for example had in earlier times no pejorative meaning (rather the opposite, the primitive church was considered cleaner than the later church for example), in Beowulf we find the idea that an ancient sword would probably be better than a new for example.*

(Maybe there are people on the conservative side that see ‘back then’ as the ideal as the medievals would. Of course that is just as counterproductive and pointless as well)

But we should not give this kind of meaning to progress on the time axis. Advancing in time simply means change and evolution, and that is neutral in itself. Or better, that change can be positive or negative, or neutral. The use of the word ‘progress’ for ‘it becomes better’ might therefore be just a problematic illusion of the Spirit of our age. It reminds me of the modernistic naive optimism of the Enlightenment.**

So let’s stop this polarization, please between ‘conservative’ and either of the 2 other sides please. We make it very difficult for us to really leave behind the things that we have to leave behind on one hand and go forward to something better while going back to the right path were we went wrong on the other hand if we keep in mind two opposite irreconcilable sides.

Now, for a thought experiment to illustrate what I mean, looking at myself to see whether the words do apply to me will every time give both a yes and a no. I’m influenced by modernism Westerner, so I will definitely have some liberal ideas. distinctly theological liberalism is not anything that works for me, but I’ll probably have, like all modern believers and even the very conservative, influences of liberalism-positive or negative-that I can not see myself because of the fact that I live in modernism as a fish in the water… Conservative as in the way of adhering to a tradition I want to preserve  I am, but in a broad sense, with  the great Christian tradition, in mind  but not a specific tradition. Progressive I am too, in the sense that certain things have to change, but that is precisely where I find the terms completely pointless: protection of the environment-and all of creation for example is something I find important, and if there would be any logic in the world this would be a “conservative” idea, but no, it seems to be progressive … (And that while I’ve largely learned the importance of the protection of our planet from my Catholic  teachers in elementary and middle school …) So, none of these words works in describing me or in describing anything that is not me either…

peace

Bram

* C.S. Lewis’ essay and inauguration speach as a professor in medieval and renaissance litterature  ‘de Descriptione Temporum’ is very interesting here. It can be read here.

** This modern idea of ​​progress, which we associate with modern enlightened humanist thought, ironically  has  its theological roots in Judeo-Christian eschatological thought of a very strong teleological nature… It only got stripped of it’s religious roots somewhere along the way  (between Hegel and Marx?) . But that does not mean that this way of thinking can be seen as something else than than teleological (working towards a goal or Telos).

Slavoj Žižek, the philosopher and cultural critic, on the collapse of society and the failure of capitalism.


See a very interesting interview with philosopher Slavoj Žižek on the English Al-Jazeera on the end of the world as we know it, the end of capitalism and democracy, and bio-genetics:

http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/rizkhan/2010/11/201011111191189923.html

I think the subjects he’s bringing up are not te be avoided. But it’s all so hard to look those monsters in the eyes when they are ready to devour them while we deny their very existence.

what do you think?

shalom

Bram