I may not be fond of religion in general, but points like these are quite refreshing to hear. On the other hand, it seems like religion is more often than not driven by tradition and conformity, so when I come across religious perspectives that are anything but traditional or conforming, my reaction is a little mixed.
I will begin by saying that I am flatted that you thought enough of my words to create a thread about them.
Moving on, religion as an institution (so-called "organized religion") is often foolishly conservative and tradition/conformity-minded, often to the point of undermining its own message. I can certainly say that I believe Christ would be dissatisfied with the modern Church, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or otherwise. Far from the poor and loving community he envisioned, the Catholic Church, at the very least, has become a massive, bloated, money-hungry institution more worried about oppressing homosexuals and fretting over abortion than things Christ actually talked about, such as helping the poor, opposing violence, and loving all the members of creation. While I think the Church has a marginally more valid set of reasoning to come after abortion over homosexuals, I still think that their whole overall set of priorities is skewed and ineffective. After all, they have no good reason at all to say that women cannot be good priests, and their reasoning for why priests should not be married and share in the same love for others that is granted to us by Christ is severely lacking. The Protestants, as far as the ones that are visible in modern American culture, spend all their time coming after homosexuals and abortion as well, and care little for the message of Christ; I am not, however, familiar with the Orthodox Church.
Edit: In fact, it is bitterly ironic that organized religion centering on Christianity is so conservative and reactionary, as Jesus Himself came to fight the conservative, reactionary, and corrupt institutions surrounding Judaism. To end up with a similar set of institutions centered around a strong liberal activist is simply sad, in a way.
But if the notion is that the bible might have been mistranslated, doesn't that then cast the translation of the rest of the bible into uncertainty as well?
It certainly should. After all, the Bible was written by men many centuries or decades after the events being described. While it's theoretically plausible that the Gospel writers were still alive to write or at least dictate the Gospel, it is not that those who wrote the Old Testament were the same as those who experienced the stories in it. Couple that with the fact that many of the Old Testament stories are absurd and read like Greeco-Roman myths rather than the low-key and reasonably limited stories of Christ, and I am inclined, to use a vulgar phrase, to call bullshit. Most of the Old Testament, as far as Christians can lend the document credence at all, should be read allegorically, and within the contexts of both the societies that wrote it and the word of Jesus Himself, which is more important overall.
Even people who agree on a translation might disagree on how to interpret it. For example, the parts about helping the poor are often cited in discussions of contrast between Christian and conservative ideas and the like, but even helping the poor doesn't necessarily mean agreeing with public healthcare or government welfare being the means by which one goes about it, as is often implied in some of these discussions.
You are correct in that "believing in helping the poor" does not automatically translate to advocating public healthcare or government welfare systems.
(In the interests of full disclosure, I dislike welfare. I prefer market socialism as a means to rid ourselves of poverty; welfare would serve as an acceptable short-term solution, however).
Such modern concepts as public healthcare fall into the realm of economics debates, framed by one's moral values. That is to say, while "Good Christian =/= proponent of public healthcare," being a Good Christian should
mean that one favors making sure everyone is taken care of, healthcare-wise, regardless of who or what they are. If one is not using pseudoscience or bad economics, this would thus logically lead one to support good public healthcare systems.
Nationalism was also mentioned in the above quotation, and I am not sure what the religious justification for it is there, but again, I think it, like religion, is often (albeit not always) driven by tradition and conformity.
American exceptionalism and its older, more overt grandfather, Manifest Destiny, were and are both distinctly religious concepts that were pushed by conservative reactionaries. American exceptionalism, the more modern phenomenon, is rooted in the idea that the United States is somehow God's new "chosen people," replacing the Israelites as we have entered a new covenant with God. It is then used to justify American imperialistic ventures and outright contempt and disregard for other nations, other peoples, other cultures, other religions, and the achievements of any non-Americans. It is a disgustingly self-centered and self-justifying philosophy that pervades the thoughts of many American conservatives and independents, and is the ultimate expression of cynical twisting of religions to promote one's own selfish wants.
Again, these interpretations of Christianity are refreshing, but they kind of leave me wondering why someone would support a religion that, in practice, hasn't really been all that effective at promoting what they expect it to promote. Why not just move on from it?
I would say that my religious beliefs have influenced my politics, which have in turn influenced my religious beliefs. However, I would argue that what the various churches preaching in the name of Christ and God do, whether it's something horrible or something good, should not be allowed to reflect on the actual word of Christ. If the word of Christ is not worth following, morally, then it is not a religion worth having. But if the actions of its followers aren't following, then it isn't worth subscribing to the organized religion associated with the religion, and not necessarily blaming the religion itself. I, however, prefer attempting to reform the Catholic Church, rather than simply casting it aside.
As for the excessive nationalism, I think that has more to do with the fact that people place far too much emphasis on the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers rather than any specific religious principle.
I always laugh at the "Christian nation" paradigm of historical study, because it's so blatantly contradictory in its intentions. If the Founding Fathers really, truly established the United States on such "Christian" principles as imperialism, capitalism, and oppression (hint: they did, but they aren't Christian principles), then the Founding Fathers aren't worth listening to. Then again, I'm not an originalist, and if given the chance I wouldn't have a problem with rewriting the Constitution. However, if one simply means "the Founding Fathers didn't intend separation of church and state," then not only is that person wrong
, because they did, but that would also mean that the Founding Fathers themselves were un-Christian, as Christ Himself argued for separation of church and state.
edited 22nd May '12 3:50:41 PM by DerelictVessel