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“Crossroads of Twilight” by Robert Jordan- A Christian (re)reads The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time” is a massive fantasy series by Robert Jordan (and, later, Brandon Sanderson) that is being developed into a television show for Amazon Prime. It’s cultural impact is huge, the series having sold more than 44 million copies. Here, I continue my series exploring the books from a Christian worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in this post for the series.

Crossroads of Twilight

I got this book a long time ago on a bargain shelf at a bookstore in hardcover. I’d only read the first two books or so but figured I liked them enough to go through the whole series. Little did I know that it would take me many years to circle back and actually read Crossroads of Twilight, as I got sidetracked by school and many other things before finally going back and reading the whole series when A Memory of Light was at last released. This time through the series, I found I enjoyed the tenth book far more than I remembered. The first couple times I read it, I thought it tedious. This time, I found I enjoyed the story of Perrin desperately trying to find Faile, the latter’s Machiavellian plots, and the many, many thoughtful asides throughout. My estimation of this book has raised significantly on a third reading. Anyway, let’s dive in to some of the worldview-level issues it raises.

Theology

Occasionally, Jordan put some discussion of theology in the books, and Crossroads of Twilight has one of the longest reflections on the core theology of the world coming from the mind of Rand, the Dragon.

“Did he think the Creator had decided to stretch out a merciful hand after three thousand years of suffering? The Creator had made the world and then left humankind to make of it what they would, a heaven or the Pit of Doom by their choosing. The Creator had made many worlds, watched each flower or die, and gone on to make endless worlds beyond. A gardener did not weep for each blossom that fell.” (558)

Rand’s theological reflection is almost self-refuting given his own circumstances. He knows that the Pattern exists, and that the Pattern itself can be broken, undone, or rewound in certain ways. So where does this almost deistic view of deity come from? I think it’s a moment of bleak hopelessness Rand experiences, and it says more about his own character than about the actual theology of the world of Wheel of Time. I could be mistaken, I admit, because even at later points in the series it does appear that nearly everything is just left up to the activities of the people or creatures of the world rather than any kind of divine intervention. But does not the existence of the Pattern itself suggest a broader plan for the world? The repetitive nature of the Pattern could suggest a clockwork world, but the Creator also seems to have set it up to heal from the attempts of the Dark One to interfere with it.

There’s certainly much to be discussed of the theology of The Wheel of Time. I think it would make a fascinating book, to be honest. Someone should write it.

Fatalism and Weaving

Perrin has a discussion with an Aes Sedai about how the Pattern weaves in Crossroads of Twilight:

“You are ta’veren, yes, but you still are only a thread in the Pattern, as am I. In the end, even the Dragon Reborn is just at thread to be woven into the Pattern. Not even a ta’veren thread chooses how it will be woven.” [Annoura–the Aes Sedai–said]
“Those threads are people,” Perrin said wearily. “Sometimes maybe people don’t want to be woven into the Pattern without any say.”
“And you think that makes a difference?” Not waiting on an answer she lifted her reins and [galloped off]. (588)

Again, though, this kind of fatalism goes against some of the evidence we have in-universe. The ta’veren themselves seem to occasionally work against fate–think Mat’s many, many discussions of the rattling dice. Though what makes this concept of fatalism especially interesting throughout the series is that it is always hard to tell exactly what the conclusion is. It is certainly possible that the Pattern encompasses efforts to thwart it into its own weaving, such that even when one appears to go against it, they cannot. It’s a fascinating thought, and one that can be applied to our own world. Many different Christian notions of providence exist, but the more comprehensive they get, the closer they become to a kind of “Pattern” in our own world. Is our every action predetermined? It’s certainly something over which much ink has been spilled, though in the end, the most important thing to realize is that Jesus is Lord.

Divided Loyalties

Striking from the beginning of the book is the way people have such divided loyalties. It honestly makes the world feel much more realistic. I was reading the section in which there are all these followers of the Dragon from all over the world, but they still have their internal allegiances, enemies, and plots. It definitely makes me think of global Christianity and how often we unfortunately find ourselves working against each other in favor of the nation state or some other cause. I think of Jesus’s words “No one can serve to masters.” He said it in relation to wealth, but it applies just as readily to any number of other things that demand our loyalty over and against God.

Conclusion

Crossroads of Twilight is full of deeper discussions even as it develops several characters much more fully than they’d gotten before. It’s certainly packed with fluff, but enough happens here to keep the plot moving while still pausing for lengthy reflections on the nature of the world the characters inhabit. I enjoyed it immensely.

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The Wheel of Time– Read all my posts on The Wheel of Time (scroll for more).

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Much Ado About Nothing: Alisa Childers’ “Another Gospel?”

I believe one of the most important thing anyone can do for their edification is to read books with which one disagrees. There are a number of reasons for this, such as the possibility that such books may enlighten or even change one’s position about at topic or to ensure that one does not misrepresent the “other side” when discussing topics with which you disagree. Alisa Childers’ Another Gospel? A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity* presents her opinions on what she calls Progressive Christianity, and, being sometimes labeled progressive myself, I figured it was worth taking a look.

The book has a Foreword by Lee Strobel, a journalist who writes bestselling apologetic works centered around interviews of experts and whose fame was only increased by the “A Case for Christ” movie about his life. I was honestly stunned when I saw his example of sailing a boat and needing an anchor to ensure one’s safety. He goes on to say that the anchor for Christianity is… what? Reading the analogy, I most definitely expected the answer to the question: “What is the anchor of Christianity?” to be, well, Christ! After all, Christ is the chief cornerstone of our faith (Ephesians 2:19-20). It seems reasonable to expect that the anchor would be similar enough to a cornerstone in an analogy to have Christ be the answer. Well, you’d be wrong. Strobel’s answer is: “In Christianity, the anchor is sound biblical doctrine” (xiii). Strobel’s answer is not only surprising but also wrong. Christ just is the foundation and anchor of our faith. Having the right beliefs is all well and good, but those right beliefs are nothing but foolishness without Christ. I belabor this point because Strobel’s answer in this foreword is indicative of Childers’ approach. For Childers, progressive Christianity is a threat not because it fails to honor Christ or because Christ is not at work in the progressive Church. No, progressive Christianity is a danger because they don’t agree with her own definition and beliefs of what is entailed by “sound biblical doctrine.”

Childers provides autobiographical details throughout the book, many of which resonated with me because I had some similar experiences growing up in the church. Childers was apparently a member of a CCM group known as ZOEgirl, which had songs I’m sure I’ve listened to at some point. What’s interesting is that these autobiographical details are often used as the foundation for her chapters dealing with her analysis of progressive Christianity. For example, a surprising example of a pastor who was an agnostic with whom she took a class serves, apparently, as her definition of what a progressive Christian is. I don’t say this to be disingenuous. It just appears that, as far as Childers is operating, her experience with this agnostic pastor became so formative for her with her visceral reaction away from him that she then associates anything even remotely related to that pastor’s views as progressive and therefore not really Christian, in her mind. I admit I’m taking some psychoanalysis too far here, but if one reads the book just trying to find what she means by “progressive Christianity,” this seems to be the ultimate answer. Indeed, Childers herself writes that this single class “would permanently embed the voice of a skeptic into my mind–that has to this day affected my ability to read the Bible without inner conflict” (20-21). That Childers reveals this is good, because it tells us about her biases. But then it clouds not just her personal reading of the Bible, but also her interaction with any Christian who strays from an unconflicted idea of “sound biblical doctrine.”

Childers words quoted above reveal what seems a painful experience to her based on her wording about conflict. It also shows a recurring theme in Another Gospel?, namely, that doubt is inherently to be distrusted or “fixed.” A later example occurs in Childers discussion of church, “Fixing What Isn’t Broken.” Over the course of a few pages, Childers delivers a terribly confusing message about doubt, first noting the problem with defining faith as 100% certainty all the time (49-50), then helpfully suggests that faith is “trust based on evidence” (51), and finally suggests that churches must become “safe places for those who experience doubt” (51-52). That sounds great, until Childers adds the addendum, “If people don’t feel understood, they are likely to find sympathy from those in the progressive camp who thrive on reveling in doubt. In progressive Christianity, doubt has become a badge of honor to bask in, rather than an obstacle to face and overcome” (52). Citation. Needed. Childers has absolutely nothing to back this up. Again, contextually, the aforementioned agnostic pastor is mentioned (50), apparently setting up Childers’ entire view of what progressive Christianity is, such that she can make these broad stroke claims about “progressive Christianity” without even a single citation of evidence. Indeed, one may wonder based on her own encouragement of churches to become “safe places” (note that she dare not use safe “spaces,” for that term is too progressive) for doubters is itself evidence that the non-progressive church itself dares not “face and overcome” the “obstacle” of doubt. Her words are insulting at best, and uninformed in the text itself.

Critical theory serves as a bogeyman in Another Gospel? just as it does in much conservative Christianity. Rather than providing any primary sources to discuss what critical theorists actually believe or think, Childers is content to set up false dichotomies regarding critical theory and Christianity (59-61). She ends this brief section with this whopper: “[W]hen someone accepts the ideas of critical theory, it can begin to erode their Christian worldview… It can lead someone into progressive Christianity, which already devalues the historic Christian answers to these ‘worldview questions’ and focuses on actions over belief. That becomes just another works-based gospel that ebbs and flows with cultural norms” (61). This passage is riddled with unwarranted assumptions, and Childers hasn’t even come close to establishing that progressive Christianity does anything of the sort regarding what she claims.

Claims about historical Christian belief abound in Another Gospel?, but it is clear that Childers has, at best, a passing knowledge of selections from church history. Her claims about the apparent unanimity of church history in agreement with her own current moral compass should set off alarm bells already (again, see quote above). Once she actually turns to discussing church history, those alarms turn into blaring claxons. For example, her discussion of “digging into their [church fathers’] writings” is especially revealing in that she she portrays them as seemingly united in doctrine (78-80), emphasizing that there are “hundreds” of quotes (81) about Scripture showing similar views to her own, but failing to demonstrate that what they were saying actually aligns in any way to her own views beyond superificial similarities in appealing to Scriptural authority. Yes, the church fathers had a high view of Scripture, but the way Childers writes, one comes away thinking they aligned on virtually everything else regarding morals, doctrine, &c.

A simple demonstration of Childers’ strange mixture of attempted awareness of church history and ignorance thereof is her treatment of universalism. I’m not a universalist myself, but it is clear there is a strand of universalist thought throughout church history. Childers’ discussion rejects universalism with little more than a trite “I learned that it is not biblical” and a quote from Richard Bauckham (187). The standard proof texts for eternal conscious torment are cited, but Childers seems to think that universalists have never even attempted to deal with these, and shows no actual awareness of a position like conditional immortality. No, for Childers, unsurprisingly at this point, it’s her way or the highway. After all, we know the anchor of Christianity is what? For Childers, it’s sound biblical [read: her view] doctrine.

Childers’ chapter about atonement is abysmal. I don’t use that word lightly, but Childers shows that she’s totally uninformed about historical positions on the atonement. Yes, there are voices in progressive Christianity that talk about the atonement theory in ways that don’t make sense historically as well. Yes, the “cosmic child abuse” narrative is nonsense. But also, yes, there have historically been several atonement theories. And Childers has the audacity to conclude this chapter by writing “Progressive Christians assume they are painting God in a more tolerant light by denying the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. But in reality, they are simply constructing a codependent and impotent god who is powerless to stop evil. That god is not really good. That god is not the God of the Bible. That god cannot save you” (224). Throughout this chapter, Childers cherry-picks quotes from various people and then trashes them based on proof texts that she presumably believes prove substitutionary atonement as the One True Atonement Theory. But if Childers really, truly believes that one must hold to substitutionary atonement or else have a “god” who “cannot save you,” then she’s writing off many, many Christians even back to church fathers throughout history. And the thing is, I genuinely do not believe Childers has any idea she’s doing this. Childers could not actually believe what she writes about competing atonement theories while also quoting C.S. Lewis in a positive light (Lewis did not believe that a single theory of atonement was necessary, as anyone who has read his views in Mere Christianity would know, and he seems to have held to a ransom theory or some variation thereof, though Lewis scholars continue to debate this). The chapter on atonement is, once again, Childers widely missing the mark. And that’s unfortunate, because a genuine critique of those within progressive circles who say things like “cosmic child abuse” needs to be written, but maybe it just can’t be done by someone who’s going to throw people’s salvation into question. Again, for Childers, the “achor” of Christianity seems to be “sound biblical doctrine” (read: doctrine she agrees with) rather than Christ.

Another Gospel? is an unfortunate mess. I say unfortunate because I, as a sometimes-labeled progressive Christian, believe that progressive Christians could use a gut check at times. It is true that the “cosmic child abuse” view some Christians put forward is astonishingly ignorant of church history and probably very poor Trinitarian theology, at that. It is true that progressive Christianity could stand to think more strongly about church history. It is true that progressive Christianity could use some subtle corrections. But Childers’ work is not that work. It is a series of misrepresentations, mistakes, and fear-mongering. Childers, like Strobel, appears to think that the anchor of Christianity is doctrine, not Christ. Perhaps they could each learn from so many progressives I’ve known personally who value Jesus so much that they’re willing to be uncomfortable with their own beliefs or those of others for the sake of the Gospel. Perhaps they could learn that God is strong and powerful enough to exceed our own expectations and break out of the boxes we set up.

*I did not comment upon the subtitle in the main body of my text because I know authors often don’t get to choose their titles or even subtitles. Nevertheless, the implication of progressive Christianity being so obviously untrue that “lifelong Christians” (such as myself, a lifelong, sometimes labeled progressive Christian) must “seek truth in response” to it is, minimally, a tough pill to swallow.

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Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Pacific Rim: The Black – Hope for the hopeless- a Christian perspective

“Pacific Rim” was a delightfully campy, action-packed sci-fi movie that has since spawned a sequel, some comics and novels, and now an anime from Netflix, “Pacific Rim: The Black.” The series has a tone that’s far more bleak than the movies, embracing the human cost of an invasion and long war against kaiju (giant monsters). Its story follows two teenagers, Taylor and Hayley Travis, as they make their way across a largely abandoned Australia. I’ll draw out some of the themes I found in the show from a Christian perspective. There will be some major SPOILERS in this post.

Hope

Taylor and Hayley have little reason to hope. Their parents left to fight the kaiju, leaving the kids behind in a secure, hidden community. They’ve not returned. Kaiju have effectively taken over Australia, the greater world seems to have abandoned Australia for lost, and they’re stuck somewhere in the middle of it with few resources.

Then, Hayley falls through into a jaeger storage facility–the jaegers are the giant mechs humans built to fight the kaiju–and the story starts rolling. The accidental revealing of a jaeger attracts a kaiju, and the monster destroys their home, along with everyone they’ve been living with. It’s a huge loss. They’re forced to move on due to the urgency of the kaiju attack, and continue to find hope in unlikely places… and people.

The siblings ought to be hopeless. They’ve lost everything. They even lose their jaeger. But they cling to each other, hoping for a future in which they escape to fight the kaiju, find their parents, and move on. Their tenuous lives continue in such hope, and it brings a refreshing feel to the show. It could have been all darkness and edginess, but it shows people persisting even in the darkest of circumstances.

Human Sinfulness

People will continue to sin, choosing themselves, their ambition, and power even when apocalyptic monsters roam the very land in which they live. This theme shows up abundantly in Shane, whose broken life leads to him seeking self-interest above all else. He’s a fascinating character. He’s evil, and though we see hints of what drives him, we never get it fully explained. Leaving him behind feels like a major moment in the show, setting up a later, final confrontation that can be anticipated in a later season. His character also shows how sinfulness can permeate whatever it touches, corrupting organizations, bringing others into its snare. It’s a nefarious thing, and at times makes you wonder whether the humans or kaiju are a greater threat to the survival of humanity.

Messiah… or not.

The very end of the series finally gives us a look at the “Sisters” who were barely alluded to earlier in the series. One of them sees the Boy/kaiju and says “The Kaiju Messiah…” It’s a striking plot point, certainly a twist in a final episode that was chock-full of them. Certainly the word “Messiah” is immediately something that gets theological antennae raised. What do they mean by “messiah” and why would that be in any way associated with the kaiju?

I wonder, though, if there may be a somewhat nefarious turn here. Given the implications of the term messiah and the questions of theological propriety of that title here, one can wonder about hope again–hope placed in the wrong things. Are the sisters putting their hope in the kaiju and mistaking muscles and mass for what constitutes true power and glory? Misplaced hope in the power of our world–or that of the world of giant monsters (!!!) is a theme in our history, surely. Perhaps the Sisters are another iteration of this same misplaced hope.

I’m probably going a bit deeper than may be warranted here, but “The Black” invites such speculation in a way I didn’t anticipate.

Links

“Pacific Rim”- A Brief Christian Reflection– I draw out a few themes from the original film, focusing on a Christian perspective.

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Also see my other looks into television (scroll down for more).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari” Babylon 5 and Repentence

I’ve never watched Babylon 5 before, but I got the whole series on a great sale and have been watching it from the beginning. In this post, please do not SPOIL anything past the episode discussed. There will, of course, be major spoilers for this episode.

Babylon 5 and Repentence: “The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari”

The first, most obvious point to make here is that the episode title is a kind of play on “Dark Night of the Soul,” a mystic work by St. John of the Cross. The work focuses not on general difficulties, which the phrase is sometimes used to denote now. Instead, it focuses on divine union and the purgation, or purification, of the soul. And that is certainly the central theme in “The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari.” 

Mollari appears to be poisoned at the beginning but instead has suffered from a heart attack, and in his dream, he is told that his heart is giving out from the weight of his conscience. From there, we are witness to a number of ghostly visitations somewhat like A Christmas Carol by Dickens. Mollari is visited by many characters whom we’ve grown to know and love, but they’re all seeming to push him through his own purgations of the soul. 

The primary purgation that must happen for Mollari is, quite simply, accepting responsibility. I think of the concept of responsibility in much deeper ways, having reflected on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s specific concept of responsibility as taking on the guilt–even of others–for the good of all. And Mollari is the master of evading responsibility. At this point in the series, he has already committed vast, awful acts of horrific scope. Or, at the very least, he has stood by silently observing those acts which he helped orchestrate. Although he’s tried to atone for them in some ways through his actions, he has continually refused to acknowledge the evil he has committed with anything more than a few facial expressions. In this episode, his reckoning has come.

The most powerful way this plays out is when the dream-G’Kar arrives and absolutely skewers Mollari for his complicity, time and again saying “You said nothing” as Mollari protests that he couldn’t have stopped the events. The refrain–“You said nothing” continues as G’Kar then props Mollari up on a whipping post himself so that he can experience psychologically the pain he visitied upon the Narn people. Ultimately, Mollari realizes that he wants to live, and that to live he must accept his guilt–his responsibility. He cries out “I’m sorry!” and in that moment, his eyes open, and he’s back on the operating table, looking at the real G’Kar. He manages to get out the words “I’m sorry.” G’Kar–now the real one, not the one who’d been torturing him in his dreams–acknowledges the apology with the tilt of his head and a slight smile. It may not seem like much, but for these two–who stood on opposite ends of an attempted genocide–it is a huge moment, and one that shows Mollari has grown and indeed learned quite a bit about his life during his “very long night.” 

There are other, subtle moments of theological and social commentary mixed throughout the episode. For example, Vir, in the dream, tells Mollari that prophecies are just guesses that turn out to be right, while if they turn out wrong, they are called metaphors. I found this less a jab on the concept of prophecy and rather a cautious warning about how to interpret prophecies. It’s easy today, for example, to devolve the reading of Scripture into headlines-reading attempts at prophecy. But to do that to the text of books like Revelation or Isaiah is to do great damage to the actual thrust of those biblical works, which are often much more a call towards justice and reconciliation than they are about whether attack helicopters would exist in two thousand years (or more) from the time they were written. We would do well to make sure we’re not falling into the “metaphor or guesses” camp and instead reading prophecy in context and trying to discover what it would have meant at the time and why. Prophecy is much more often, as I noted, a call for justice and a crying out for God’s help than it is some kind of secret code in which to find the sequence of future events. 

“The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari” is a superb, thoughtful episode of Babylon 5. We, too, need to take responsibility for our actions and do more than say nothing when we see injustice occurring. I hope you’ll join me in discussion of the episode, and make sure to check out my Babylon 5 Hub (on my other website) for more discussion of the series in general. 

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– My “Eclectic Theist” site features a number of posts discussing my first watch-through of Babylon 5. Check them out here!

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Also see my other looks into television (scroll down for more).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Ravi Zacharias and Problems with Apologetics

Ravi Zacharias was one of my early introductions to Christian apologetics. He was formative in how I approached some ideas, and his way of turning a phrase still sticks in my mind. Ravi Zacharias was also a fraud and a repeat sexual abuser. Christians need to deal with this. Apologists like me need to with this. We need to do it in a way that does not excuse but rather acknowledges this and works to ensure systems are in place to prevent it from happening in the future.

Early on, I was a bit off put by some of his examples. I cannot recall the exact book–it may have been Jesus Among Other Gods–but he used a story of a man propositioning a woman who sat next to him on a flight for a large sum of money. Eventually he admits he doesn’t have a lot of money, and the woman, horrified, asks what kind of woman he thinks she is. He cynically responds that she already established that by accepting his larger offer. It’s an off color story, but one that targeted women in a way that made me pretty uncomfortable. I wish I’d paid more attention then. I continued to buy and read his books until I started to move on to more intensive apologetics training and hone in on topics that moved beyond what he wrote about.

It came out some years ago that Ravi Zacharias inflated his credentials. There’s not really any way around this. He claimed to be a professor at Oxford. He claimed to be a visiting scholar at Cambridge University. These and several other claims which were false and admitted in writing to be false by him at various points demonstrated a clear and substantial case that he had inflated his credentials on purpose to lend himself credibility. This was enough for me at the time to immediately stop citing and recommending his works. I didn’t do enough. I should have done more to warn others about the problems then, because even this was a severe problem for someone at the front lines of apologetics–defending the truth while deceiving.

More recently, severe allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse were leveled against Ravi Zacharias. And, in the last few weeks, the independent firm hired by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries to investigate these claims confirmed that they are, in fact, credible. It was more than once, a pattern of planned and sustained abuse across multiple victims. It’s horrifying and unimaginable the damage that Zacharias did. It must be condemned in the strongest of terms, and it must lead to broad change across apologetics organizations and individuals.

There are some things Christians can and even must do to in order to prevent things like this happening again. Unfortunately, too few Christians and especially apologists are stepping up to do so. I remember being told time and again when I was taking graduate level courses on apologetics that “the Gospel is offensive enough.” The point was that, as Paul wrote, the Cross seems like foolishness to those who don’t believe. It’s enough for apologists to contend for the faith. To put up additional barriers, like backing unconditionally those celebrity Christians accused of wrongdoing, is to make the Gospel offensive. By our works we will be known, and too many Christians and even–perhaps at times especially–apologists have sullied the name of Christ with covering wrongdoing and siding with the oppressor, the abuser, and the wealthy over the oppressed, those harmed, and the needy.

The first thing Christian apologetics organizations must do is have outside accountability. I do not know all the details of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, but from those who have spoken out, it sounds as though there was very little accountability within the organization. Christians must do things openly and with all willingness to show accountability, paper trails, and willingness to change when needed.

A second thing that can be done is to stop lionizing individual apologists. Too many Christian apologists make their name into a selling point. I have long observed and tried to focus efforts into encouraging apologists to work to be experts in a few select areas and rely upon each other when other issues come up. This helps avoid the pressure to “know everything,” to inflate credentials, and perhaps most importantly, to make apologists into celebrities. When we decide that a single name–like Ravi Zacharias–is worth hitching our wagons to, it becomes much more difficult psychologically to acknowledge any possibility of that name being wrong. I’ve seen it with other apologists as well. Too often, we apologists are willing to defend the person and even the errors of that person because of their name, whether it’s Christological errors, inflating credentials, or even, horrifyingly, abuse. I use my name on my blog, and I have to confess it was in part because of my own aspirations to be one of those names. I hope that my efforts in the past few years to reconstruct my faith have shown that is not my goal going forward.

Third, we need to listen to those outside our circles. I am in a lot of apologetics groups, and I often see the same topic over and over again with the same people and web sites cited. When someone comes along with an outside voice, our tendency is to circle the wagons and shout them down rather than listen to and acknowledge their concerns. This applies to arguments related to the existence of God, but it also applies to broader theological topics, ethics, and, unfortunately, to covering up mistakes made. The latter easily turns into being willing to be apologists for abusers. We cannot let that happen. It must never happen.

Finally, we need to act swiftly and decisively in the face of credible accusations. It’s easy to appeal to court language like “innocent until proven guilty,” but that is not how the body of Christ ought to work. We need to work to protect victims as quickly as possible and speak up for those who are silenced. This is a fine line, and one that I myself am still figuring out, but we are far, far too often on the wrong side of this line. We, again, circle the wagons rather than listening to critique of someone we have lionized. We need to stop. I stated above that I stopped citing Ravi after I came upon evidence he had inflated his credentials. This evidence was put forward by an atheist, and simply because of that too many Christians dismissed it and my own concerns. A better approach would be to investigate and act upon that evidence. Going alongside this, with Zacharias specifically, we ought to immediately stop citing his works, using his examples, sharing any videos of him, or recommending him in any way whatsoever. To do so damages our witness going forward.

I hope this post will be taken to heart and start some discussion. We need to change. As Christians, and as apologists, we need to change.

SDG.

Links

What’s Wrong with Apologetics? – I ask questions and offer answers regarding what I believe is wrong with apologetics generally.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Path of Daggers” by Robert Jordan – A Christian (Re)reads The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time” is a massive fantasy series by Robert Jordan (and, later, Brandon Sanderson) that is being developed into a television show for Amazon Prime. It’s cultural impact is huge, the series having sold more than 44 million copies. Here, I continue my series exploring the books from a Christian worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in this post for the series.

Systems of Power

At one point in The Path of Daggers, Rand is surveying his arrayed forces and he considers their loyalty (and lack thereof). But in this considering, he notes:

they feared him [Rand] far more than they did the Aiel. Maybe more than they did the Dark One, in whom some did not really believe… (327-328)

The people, it seems, were more concerned with firmly holding their own wealth or gaining positions of authority and power than they were with the true evil which threatened the world. Unconvinced by the coming tribulation, they instead sought favor from the most powerful man in the world. The condition, it seems, is one which mirrors our own at points. Rather than being concerned with evil facing our world, or rather than fighting injustice, people are obsessed with gain that cannot be carried over across death and the grave. The true powers which threaten the world are left to expand and strengthen,while people seek their own gain.

It is a kind of pragmatism which infects us: injustice is “over there” and we are “right here,” so why be concerned with it? The notion that there is a spiritual realm with any sort of power is shrugged off, ignored, or even scorned as ancient superstition, unworthy of concern. Like the people who surround Rand in the book, we convince ourselves that evil has no power in the world and “[the Dark One”] could [not] and would [not] touch the world harder than he had already (328).

Of course, broadening these insights, it is easy to see how this might apply to systems of power more generally. Far too many people are dismissive of how we are capable of setting up systems that continue to exclude or oppress for years and decades to come. Yet the Bible teaches us that we must fight oppression, even in the very systems and powers of the world that are set up.

The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice.

Ezekiel 22:29

We need to seek out how oppression works, even if it is unintentional, and seek to end it in any form. We need to be less afraid of the powers of the world than we are of doing justice and walking rightly with God.

The people of the Wheel of Time became more afraid of Rand than they did the very real (Satan-like) threat of the Dark One. That was because they feared what might happen to their wealth, their things, and their worldly lives more than they feared eternal consequences. They cared more about themselves than about others. As Christians, we are called to the exact opposite, though too often we also stumble. When calls come to end oppression and seek justice, it is too often Christians who are the first to try to dodge or diminish those calls. We should obey the word of God and fear God rather than humans.

(All Amazon Links are Amazon Affiliates Links.)

Links

The Wheel of Time– Read all my posts on The Wheel of Time (scroll for more).

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Summoning” – The Christological Allegory of Babylon 5

I’ve never watched Babylon 5 before, but I got the whole series on a great sale and have been watching it from the beginning. In this post, please do not SPOIL anything past the episode discussed. There will, of course, be major spoilers for this episode.

“The Summoning” – The Christological Allegory(ies) of Babylon 5

I’ve often argued that science fiction can explore the deepest questions of the human condition. It allows creators to make stories of how humanity ought (or ought not) to be. It also lets people play with themes in ways that are unexpected, subversive, or meaningful in many different ways. Babylon 5 frequently explores religious themes in its episodes. “The Summoning” has several themes come to a head as we see just how deep some of the allegorical background of the show flows.

G’Kar is an alien character who has endured much throughout the series to this point. His people, the Narn, have been at war with another alien species, the Centauri. The Centauri have enslaved the Narn after defeating them. G’Kar has gone from a prestigious ambassadorial post to a pariah on the Babylon 5 space station. Finally, he is captured and put at the whims of the Centauri elite.

The Emperor of the Centauri at this point is Cartagia, a kind of Nero stand-in. He delights in tormenting G’Kar for his own pleasure, and for that of his court. G’Kar endures several ways of suffering which parallel Christ’s suffering. The image I used in this post shows him carrying one of the instruments of his torture in a scene that is surely intended to parallel Christ’s carrying of the cross. In one scene, he is wearing a kind of crown with spikes seemingly screwed into it around his head, akin to a crown of thorns. Though the imagery is somewhat overt, the subtleties behind the imagery is its own commentary on the depth of the show and its allegory of Christ. Cartagia wants to force G’Kar into some expression of pain, and finally resorts to a lashing. No one has managed to survive 40 lashes, and G’Kar is whipped 39 times before he finally cries out in pain. That number may not seem important, until one turns to Deuteronomy 25:3 and sees that punishment is not to exceed 40 lashes. Traditionally, some have said that Jesus was lashed 39 times. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 11:24, discusses being lashed 39 times on five separate occasions. Throughout this whole sequence in this episode, as well as the few before, we see that G’Kar is a kind of allegory for Christ, suffering in behalf of his people. 

I already mentioned how Cartagia is like Nero, but I wanted to draw that out. His hedonism at the cost of all else is one of the most obvious parallels. His utter contempt for any other people is narcissism, yes, but it’s so over the top and insidious that it takes it to another level. As he smiles, there is an ominous tinge to everything he does. Others try to emulate him to keep him pleased, and end up failing and being discarded or killed. The Nero parallels are there, but he could also be interpreted as a kind of stand-in for love of self over others, the easiest but also most easily corrupting sins. The greatest demonstration of this may be in his willingness to toss aside his own people for the sake of being remembered as a god. Cartagia’s delusions of grandeur could almost be humorous if he didn’t have the will and power to bring about some of his most dastardly plans. Cartagia then–whether he is a Nero, a Satan, or a kind of stand-in for human moral failing that evolves into monstrous evil–is another religious theme here. Is it a commentary on the overbearing power of the nation state? A questioning of the human condition? A nod to the spiritual power of corrupting evil? I think each viewer can take something away from it, and that is the power of a truly excellent work of art.

Babylon 5 is a show that inspires as much as it entertains. It makes viewers think, even decades after the show run finished. A powerful emotional response is almost unavoidable in an episode like “The Summoning,” and I’m sure I’ve missed some details as well for how the parallels might play out. Regardless, it’s a beautiful narrative that leads to reflection on the life–and death–of Christ, as well as how evil can so readily corrupt in heinous ways. 

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– My “Eclectic Theist” site features a number of posts discussing my first watch-through of Babylon 5. Check them out here!

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Also see my other looks into television (scroll down for more).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Dead Lady of Clown Town” by Cordwainer Smith- Love as Resistance

It’s no secret that I love science fiction. I’ve written on various science fiction works on this site before, and have a second website that is largely dedicated to writings on science fiction (Eclectic Theist). I’ve been on a journey discovering vintage science fiction. Cordwainer Smith is a major figure in that scene, and for good reason. Though he died fairly young, he churned out a number of short stories, novellas, and one novel, almost all of which are set in a shared universe spanning thousands of years. Smith was a Christian who pushed the boundaries in his fiction, using the strangeness of his world.

“The Dead Lady of Clown Town” is one of the stories set in his larger universe. It is intentionally resonant with the story of Joan of Arc, down to a character named D’Joan. In this world, there are the underpeople–animals who have been cross-bred or genetically altered to express various human features–whether physical or mental. The underpeople are used as, essentially, slave labor. They’re discarded and tossed aside whenever their usefulness is undercut. At one point, Smith writes of hospitals for humans that stand empty even as the underpeople are desperate for their care. The reason the hospitals are empty  is because  the underpeople aren’t allowed to be treated in them. They’re underpeople, after all.

The climax of the story has D’Joan being burned alive, but even as she burns, she cries out in love for those who burn her. The other underpeople had risen up with her, crying out and embracing people, calling out that they loved them. The love the underpeople bring unlock all possibilities. Robots come to be aware of their selves; Lords and Ladies are horrified or delighted by turns. Humans run in terror; while others stand around in shock. It’s a dizzying, poignant scene that, even more than 50 years later, evokes images of resistance.

The resistance of the underpeople is one of love. They reach out and embrace those who would seek to hate or even destroy them. Their resistance is built upon a powerful cry that resonates with that of forgiveness and hope rather than hatred and injustice. The underpeople cry “love; love!” and they die smiling. It’s a stunning scene, and one that we cannot help but see parallels throughout time. Smith published this story in 1964, in the heart of the Civil Rights era. It is impossible to not see parallels with Martin Luther King Jr.’s resistance movement and his nonviolence, even while calling out injustice in the strongest terms.

But the resistance of the underpeople is transformational: it changes their whole society, as well as everyone it touches. If we truly desire a just society, we must have a society that is capable of changing rather than rejecting. When those we’ve designated as the “other” reach out to us for embrace, we must not reject them. We must treat them as we wish to be treated.

Set in the context of Smith’s other stories, this is a story that sets off the founding of a religion based on equality of all sentient beings. It’s a beautiful, hopeful future envisioned by Smith. In our own time, as resistance to injustice builds, we have powerful voices also rising up to cry out for those who are downtrodden. May it ever be.

Links

“We the Underpeople”  – Cordwainer Smith and Humanity in the Future– I look at Smith’s vision for the future of humanity, good and bad; bleak and hopeful.

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Popular Books– Check out my other posts on popular books, including several other science fiction works. (Scroll down for more.)

Cordwainer Smith– Another blogger writes on the themes found throughout Cordwainer Smith’s science fiction.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Yes, Christians (and I’m looking at you, apologists) should affirm that Black Lives Matter, and here’s why

Image Credit: By George Willis, Navy Agent Pensacola Navy Yard placed July 18 1840. – Pensacola Gazette, runaway slave reward for “SMART” dated July 22 1840,p.3 National Archives and Records Administration Washington DC, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68445221

When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous,
    but dismay to evildoers. 

I have an MA in Christian Apologetics. Because of the circles I run in due to my interest in apologetics, I’ve seen dozens, if not hundreds of posts bemoaning Christians supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. These posts often center around the notion that the organization Black Lives Matter is inextricably tied to critical race theory, which itself is alleged to be completely anathema to Christianity. 

I’m going to suggest the opposite. I’m going to say Christians absolutely must support Black Lives Matter as a movement because black lives do matter. Full stop. And this argument doesn’t need to be over whether critical race theory may be used by Christians or not. I don’t need to wade into those waters for my point. 

If you’re asking the question “Should Christians support ‘Black Lives Matter’?” the first thing you should ask immediately following that question is a simple one. Do black lives matter? If they do, then you’ve answered the question. And the reason I’m saying this is because the answer needs to be simplified. People have been, intentionally or not, conflating the entire movement with one organization with which they disagree. I’ve directed this post somewhat at apologists because I’m an insider there, and I’m quite frustrated. We need to do better, fellow apologists, at leading the way as people who want to be thought leaders in Christianity. We need to do better. We need to express more care with our thinking, while also expressing more care for following what the Bible actually tells us to do

You see, no Christian apologist worthy of the name would agree that if an organization arose that went around saying #JesusisLord, every Christian ever has to agree with everything that person or organization says or does. yet it is a fact that Jesus is Lord. Right? Right? But it would be absolutely absurd to insist that every single person who ever has said anything like “Jesus is Lord” or #JesusisLord must therefore be intrinsically tied up in whatever the organization or person who made the phrase popular said or did. Indeed, looking at the history of Christianity, we better be very, very careful to make the point that support of a statement–even one made by members of an organization with the same name as a movement–does not entail support of everything in that movement or organization. If that were true, then all Lutherans must agree with Luther’s antisemitic statements; all Southern Baptists need to agree with the many, many antebellum Baptists who preached pro-slavery sermons; all Christians have to be indicted by the raping that occurred during the Crusades; and the sad, awful, and sordid history of every aspect of Christianity anywhere done by anyone who has ever said “Jesus is Lord” would be applied to every single one of us. 

But that’s wrong, because that’s not how reality works. I can affirm Jesus is Lord without also affirming everything even every other modern Christian says. In fact, I’m sure you do the same thing. That’s because we realize that Jesus is Lord is true, but not everything said or done by Christians is true or good. Guess what: the statement “black lives matter” is true. It is. 

None of this is to say that the specific Black Lives Matter organization is right or wrong about any- or everything. But I’ll tell you one thing: they are 100% totally correct in saying that black lives matter. And if you disagree with that, the problem is with you, not with the organization, not with people who you see as rioting, and not with anything else. It’s with you. 

If we’re Christians, we believe the Bible speaks to us today. It teaches us to this day. The quote with which I started this post was from Proverbs 21:15. It is just one of a great many Bible passages that urge us to seek justice. And believe it or not, the way God’s justice comes is sometimes surprising. Sometimes, even the chosen people of God get things wrong. That’s why, for example, Jonah’s anger over God’s justice speaks so clearly to some of us today. We are too often like Jonah, fleeing rather than trying to bring God’s loving forgiveness to people with whom we disagree. But God is a God who works in ways we don’t always understand. God used even the ungodly to bring justice. Be careful, lest we stand in the way of God’s justice in a moment in which we as Christians should be standing up and also declaring that yes, black lives matter and yes, we should seek justice for them. 

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. – Isaiah 1:17 

It’s a powerful thing when we can sit and listen to our neighbors who say they are oppressed without rushing to explain it away as an aspect of critical race theory or some other straw man we’ve set up so that we don’t have to do what the Bible tells us to do. Yes, those are strong words, and they are so needed right now, however unfortunate that is. Think about it. If you’re a Christian apologist- which have you spent more time doing of late: critiquing critical race theory and trying to correct people about the Black Lives Matter movement or actually seeking to learn from those who are crying out for help? Which do you think is more valuable for the building of God’s Kingdom? 

What about lawbreakers? I chose the picture for this post for a reason. It’s from an 1840 advertisement for capturing a fugitive slave. This ad was before the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, but it is still a fact that trying to escape from slavery was unlawful. These fugitive slaves were lawbreakers. But who was in the right–the “fugitive” or the enslaver? Let’s practice some extreme, tremendous care that we do not align our Christian morality to that of the law of the state. Laws change, but God’s will and justice never change. Justice came for those evildoers who enslaved others in the United States. We should pray that justice continues to roll from God to our nation to this day. 

Finally, we as apologists need to practice better care for our thoughts. When confronted by a new idea, our tendency is to analyze it, break it apart, and see how it fits together. Too often, this also becomes a practice in self-affirmation. Is it any wonder that so many apologists who were unconcerned about racism in the United States before the recent protests are suddenly up in arms about Critical Race Theory and calling on other Christians to disavow any kind of “social justice movement.” We need to think long and hard about that. Why was that our instinct–including my own? How do we break out of it? For me, it was going and actually reading books about racial injustice and disparities in the United States. Yep, we have to do that thing that apologists love doing: read books. But there’s a big caveat here: not just books that support our own views. We need to humble ourselves and acknowledge we might just be wrong on this topic, and do the work to learn about it. Because we absolutely cannot and must not make new stumbling blocks for Christianity. In my apologetics classes, I remember hearing time and again how “Christianity is offensive enough.” How do you think people feel when they see people like us–trained apologists–lining up to explain how Christians cannot support the Black Lives Matter movement, conflating it entirely with the organization? Is that actually a good witness? Is it even a good use of our time? No. It’s not. Why not? I’ll tell you:

Black. Lives. Matter.

It’s time to be humble; to act justly; and to love mercy. It’s time for apologists to do what the Bible says.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8

Links

Book Review: “Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores” by Dominique DuBois Gilliard– Learn about our criminal justice system and how it needs to be reformed. 

“Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom” by David W. Blight– A prophet for then and now- Learn about Frederick Douglass, a powerful Christian voice who helped speak for justice in ways that continue to resonate into our own time.

“How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi– I review and summarize major aspects of this book on antiracism on my other site. 

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

July 4: Frederick Douglass’s indictment of American Christianity’s links with oppression, and a call to stand for justice

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?
“Many of its [the church’s] most eloquent Divines… have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system…
“For my part, I would say, welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcome anything! in preference to the gospel, as preached by those Divines! …[Theirs] is a religion for oppressors… a religion which favors the rich against the poor; which exalts the proud above the humble…
“The American church is guilty, when viewed in connection with what it is doing to uphold slavery; but it is superlatively guilty when viewed in its connection with its ability to abolish slavery.
“…Let the religious press, the pulpit, the Sunday School, the conference meeting, the great ecclesiastical, missionary, Bible and tract associations of the land array their immense powers against slavery, and slave holding; and the whole system of crime and blood would be scattered to the winds, and that they do not do this involves them in the most awful responsibility of which the mind can conceive.”
-Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings, 196, 200-201

When we sit today, and we think about the fact that people continue to deny the reality of systemic racism; that black people are disproportionately imprisoned, stripped of the right to vote due to being deemed “felons,” and disproportionately sentenced to death; that so many feel a compulsive need to make self-declarations against “Black Lives Matter”; we must acknowledge that America’s Original Sin remains, and continues to divide us.

Let the people of Christ stand up against oppression! Let God come and break the rod of the oppressor, as in the days of old (Isaiah 9:4). Let us condemn practices that exalt the rich over the poor; and the proud above the humble. Let us confess where we have done wrong, and pray for guidance to bring justice. Let us stand up with people of color and denounce religious, political, and societal practices that work to divide us. Christianity ought to be a religion which lifts up the oppressed and downtrodden–may it ever be!

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