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Posts Tagged ‘evangelical’

An Evangelical’s Perspective on God’s Other Creatures

May 10th, 2010 No comments

Take a listen.  Most of the sources he mentions on my Resources page or in the Library Thing link in the sidebar.  When you’re done with these, check out the other videos from the Wake Up Weekend set from the link underneath.

Ben’s website Not One Sparrow (fixed link)

Wake Up Weekend – Ben DeVries Part 1 of 2 from Calvin Video Network on Vimeo.

Wake Up Weekend – Ben DeVries Part 2 of 2 from Calvin Video Network on Vimeo.

Evolution, Design, Killing, and Christianity

June 12th, 2009 No comments

My pastor recently did a multi-week series on the topic of the interpretation of the creation account in Genesis 1.  His purpose was not to tell us how we should think but only to show that there are different faithful interpretations; broadly speaking they are metaphorical, 6 literal 24 hr. days, and something called the day age interpretation.  Shortly thereafter we had a guest speaker, the author of the book “Nature’s Witness: How Evolution Inspires Faith“.   Again, none of this was in order to standardize belief for our congregation but to allow room for discussion on a topic that is usually polarizing to the point of paralysis.

All supremely good and brave stuff.

Here’s my take.  My educational background is equal parts anthropology and psychology.  I’m all about evolution.  That’s not a problem.  My problem is highlighted by two of the comments/questions that were posed during the question and answer time after the author spoke.  They were something along these lines:

  1. “I heard that cooking meat is what made us have bigger brains and that’s essentially what made us the humans we are today.”  – maybe not the exact words but something about eating cooked meat makes us human.
  2. “We’re different from animals because animals don’t fear death, they will lay down and bare their throats to the blade.”  – that one’s more close to the actual wording, it was so disturbing it’s easier to remember.

Read more…

What Does Evangelical Mean?

May 2nd, 2009 No comments

“Evangelicals” have some particularly interesting perceptual correlates … blindness to violence towards animals and people.  And we’re the ones taking the good news to the rest of the world.  I love it.  But seriously, how is that Good News?  In response to a poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Andrew Sullivan comments …

So Christian devotion correlates with approval for absolute evil in America. And people wonder why atheism is gaining in this country. Notice the poll does not even use a euphemism like “coercive interrogation” – forcing Allahpundit to substitute it. (Even HotAir, it seems, finds it difficult to write the sentence: “Evangelicals are more likely to be conservative and conservatives are more likely to support torture.”) But it remains a fact that white evangelicals are the most pro-torture of any grouping.  ~ via The Daily Dish

Imago Dei or Imago Diabolus?   If Evangelical means wanting to get more people to know the love of Jesus, the light of the world, then I’m Evangelical.  If it means knowingly and openly supporting, condoning, and ignoring violence when there are other options then, not so much.

Left Behind with God the Garbage Man

April 18th, 2009 No comments

In her article, “Murder in the Theme Park: Evangelical Animals and the End of the World”1, Kristin Dombek lays out a critique of the intersection of apocalyptic thought and secular humanism as it gives birth to popular Christian entertainment like the Left Behind fiction series and the Holy Land Experience theme park.  Great Read.  A few selected excerpts …

In current mainstream Western culture, of course, the ritual sacrifice of animals is taboo (and, in an inversion of the sacrificial logic of “primitive” cultures, considered violent), while killing animals for eating is commonplace (and not considered violent); in performance, though, the two look uncomfortably similar.

The Left Behind series has only one scene depicting animal sacrifice, and the depiction is damning.  The Antichrist’s performance of the abomination of desolation, staged in book nine of the series, Desecration (laHaye and Jenkins 2002), involves slaughtering a “gigantic” pig in a parody of Jesus’ triumphal entry … he attempts to butcher the pig, but fails.  “Pity!” he exclaims; “I wanted roast pork!” thus conflating the sacrifice with slaughter for the sake of eating (163).  Like the sacrifice in general, the novel represents this conflation as an abomination.

In the end, it is our dependence on our difference from nonhuman animals that allows us to think apocalyptically without figuring our own extinction as a real possibility.  But it is a difference we earn by identifying with some animals we love, as if the violence they survive is not our own.

And so it is that by reading closely these Christian texts and performances, we come full circle to the same enemy that conservative Christians have positioned themselves against during the 20th century and now the 21st: humanism.  The impulse for such positioning came in part from a recognition of the bankruptcy of a vision that left humans alone in a world in which all else was simply not human, and therefore not meaningful.  Rightly, fundamentalists wanted us to realize that we are no gods of this world.  But the Left Behind series – as the clear fulfillment of this tradition -posits the most deeply humanist vision of all: the utopic feast, after God reaches down and cleans up all that humans have done.  This final image shows us just how secular conservative Christianity can be: for Christians to enjoy all the consumer pleasures that secular humanism has allowed citizens of capitalism, but escape responsibility for the violence upon which global capitalism depends, God must be demoted to garbage man.

I would add “butcher” to that.  Part of her discussion is how, in the series, the kingdom is represented as a place where animals literally volunteer to be butchered.  Talk about a guilty conscience.  The authors of the Left Behind vision of the kingdom unveil the heart of the matter specifically by their fantasy portrayal of being able to kill without guilt.  That’s what they think the kingdom is about?  Being able to kill without guilt?  Our biggest claim to fame is the fact that we have a conscience in the first place and yet the most popular bit of Christian fiction ever portrays the kingdom as the time when “we” will finally get to kill animals without being burdened by a guilty conscience – because animals will want us to kill them.  Does that sound familiar?  That’s the “she wanted it” defense played out in pop theology against the other creatures who share the breath of God.

… the utopian butchering depicted in the series’ final pages is easy, relatively clean, and divinely ordained.  … In the millennial kingdom, then, no longer do humans have to hunt, for all animals are docile and turn themselves over for killing whenever humans need food.  Now that the Beast is gone, humans will no longer need to be martyrs; the only skin to be cut, the only bodies slaughtered and on display, will be those of nonhuman animals.

The tone is unmistakeable … that which the authors of this book (this theology) want to “consume” will finally quit complaining, quit struggling, be docile and just give themselves over to the authors appetites.  Do Christian women see this?  Can we acknowledge all the victims of Stepford Theology (animals and certainly men too) or do we care only in so much as it suits a particular slice of feminist agenda?

1. originally published in TDR: The Drama Review 51:1 (T193) Spring 2007 © 2007

Scary God?

April 2nd, 2009 No comments

I got this from Greg Boyd’s website, he highlighted it in a recent blog entry.   Thanks, Brad Cole, whoever you are, for this article.

an excerpt

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-44 – GN)

I’m tempted at this point to take this article in a different direction and to ask, “What should a Christian look like?” This is radical stuff and sadly it shows that Christians do not often follow the teachings of Christ, but the point to make for now, with regards to the Old Testament is this. Jesus’ repeated words in this sermon “You have heard it said….BUT NOW I tell you…” suggests something critically important to our understanding of the Old Testament. This may sound strange and perhaps even wrong, but please wrestle with this statement. Here it is: There is a hierarchy of truth in scripture.

Why does that sound wrong? Well, one view of inspiration is that since the scripture is God-breathed everything is on an equal plane of truth whether we are in the book of Judges or the gospel of John. But what did we just hear Jesus say? He said that the rules such as ‘eye for an eye’ were not the ideal. That rule is a very, very dim light compared to the very bright light of loving your enemies. In Jesus we can say that Gandhi was right, that “an eye for an eye makes the world blind.”

the whole enchilada here.

God’s World

February 9th, 2009 No comments

Andrew Linzey, at a British conference for animal rights.   Better yet, read some of his work and then argue with him.

Most of our theology comes from people who assumed you had to eat meat to live.   I suspect that might have had something to do with the current state of things.  It’s an interesting picture when you get out from under “normal” enough to see both sides.   For further reading, check the listings on the resource page.

Fun with etymology:

cattle Look up cattle at Dictionary.com

c.1250, from Anglo-Fr. catel “property,” from M.L. capitale “property, stock,” neut. of L. capitalis“principal, chief,” from caput “head” (see head). Orig. sense was of moveable property, especially livestock; not limited to “cows” until 1555.
pecuniary Look up pecuniary at Dictionary.com
1502, from L. pecuniarius “pertaining to money,” from pecunia “money, property, wealth,” from pecu“cattle, flock,” from PIE base *peku- (cf. Skt. pasu- “cattle,” Goth. faihu “money, fortune,” O.E. feoh “cattle, money”). Livestock was the measure of wealth in the ancient world. For a related sense development in O.E., see fee. Cf. also Welsh tlws “jewel,” cognate with Ir. tlus “cattle,” connected via notion of “valuable thing.”
golden-calf1
I agree that this conversation is just as much about the idea of animals as ‘property’, i.e. generators of human wealth as it is about anything else.  Humans have been (and still are) considered ‘property’ too, it’s the wrong paradigm in both cases.   Interestingly, the idea of women (or any class of supposedly inferior human) and animals as chattel property arose at the same time in human culture.  Property, private ownership of  life, is a societal and cultural construct, not a theological one.   Of course there is property in the Bible – but it’s not like there was an 11th commandment that says “Thou shalt invent currency and own property”.  When we see ourselves as the ultimate ‘owner’ of life, other life as well as our own, it is a de-facto denial that God has primary rights to everything.  You must first objectify something, deny that it has any inherent worth, before you can treat it as a commodity.  See how the concepts are born from the same seed?

Yes,  even with the animal kingdom.  In the Genesis 2 account the animals are presented as helpers, just as Eve was.    Adam named all the animals, just as he named Eve.  Of course, this has been viewed by some as support for the fact that men can treat animals and women the same, with the assumption that animals as property is a given (it wasn’t always so).   Do we really believe that today, that the second creation account means to say animals are property therefore women are property?  I think most of us know that when you name an animal it’s a sign of relationship.  In fact, denying a creature its individual identity is exactly how we put something in the category of  “that which can be exploited, that which has no self- interests”.

Biblical covenants are about relationships of commitment.  God makes covenants with with animals too, not just humans Gen. 9:8-17.   Of course we’re not the same as them (we can’t fly, or smell cancer, or navigate by the earths magnetic field, or breathe underwater, or see at night, or communicate using thermal inversion – animals can do these things naturally) but the covenant is based on relationship (responsibility to and for) and not ownership the way we think of it today (predation, exploitation).
Matt. 6:24 No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t serve both God and Mammon.
Mammon . This word occurs in the Bible only in Mt. 6:24 and Lk. 16:9, 11, 13, …. It means simply wealth or profit, but Christ sees in it an egocentric covetousness which claims man’s heart and thereby estranges him from God (Mt. 6:19ff.): when a man ‘owns’ anything, in reality it owns him. (Cf. the view that mammon derives from Bab. mimma, ‘anything at all’.)  ~ IVP New Bible Dictionary
But if animals are not here for us to exploit, i.e. own, then what will we eat?  What will we wear?
Matt. 6:31 Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘With what will we be clothed?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day’s own evil is sufficient.
I can see every loss of human dignity in our continuing to feed this infernal machine, and none in our disengagement.   Profit, however, will tell another tale entirely.

And All Made for Us?

November 6th, 2008 No comments

Andrew Linzey addressing the Evangelical position on Creation Care …

It is an old tradition that the earth and everything that lives on it are made for human beings. The idea certainly predates Christianity. Aristotle held that everything was made to some purpose and so it followed, according to nature, that plants and animals were made for humankind. But, although the doctrine was taken up by Augustine, Aquinas and later Christian thinkers, its claim to be biblical is very tenuous indeed. Certainly there are instrumentalist tendencies within scripture, but the view that all creation was made just for us is not stated unambiguously in either the Old Testament or the New.

The time is long overdue for a reappraisal of this heritage. And it might be hoped that evangelicals, who so often sit loose to church tradition, might be the people to lead the way. Indeed, in ‘The Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation,’ which forms the cornerstone of IVP’s book The Care of Creation (2000), there are welcome signs of a fundamental rethink.1 It affirms that ‘the Creator’s concern is for all creatures’ and ‘he delights in creatures which have no … apparent usefulness [to humans]’.

Continue the article after the jump.  

The loss of the Christian mind

September 2nd, 2008 No comments

I’ve just finished reading a book called “Love Your God With All Your Mind“, by J.P. Moreland 1997.  Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1.  

Not long ago, the newspaper featured a leading politician’s statement about the Christian political right in which he charged that the Christian right was populated by dumb, uninformed people who are easily led by rhetoric.  While I would dispute the complete accuracy of this charge, nevertheless, we Christians must ask ourselves why, if there is not a grain of truth in it, someone would think to make this accusation of us in the first place.  Judged by the Scriptures, church history and common sense, it is clear that something has gone desperately wrong with our modern understanding of the value of reason and intellectual development for individual discipleship and corporate church life.   … We are staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, and we can no longer afford to act like it’s loaded with blanks.  

In the first chapter Moreland lays out an outline of how the emergence of anti-intellectualism in the 1800’s and the subsequent Evangelical withdrawal from participation in the broader intellectual culture informs the disproportionate relevance of the church compared to the size of her community.   He outlines anti-intellectualism’s impact on the Church along the following dimensions:

  • a misunderstanding of faith’s relationship to reason
  • the separation of the secular and the sacred
  • weakened world missions
  • the spawning of an irrelevant gospel
  • loss of boldness in confronting the idea structures in our culture with effective Christian witness

Chapter two lays out a biblical sketch of the value of reason and confronts sources of biblical resistance to the intellectual life.  The rest of the book is divided into 3 parts, How to Develop a Mature Christian Mind, What a Mature Christian Mind Looks Like, and finally Guaranteeing a Future for the Christian Mind.  This book serves as a wake-up call for regaining some balance in the formula of Matthew 22:37 and why it matters that we do.

Another reviewer touches on Moreland’s discussion of “Empty-Self Syndrome” here.