Archive for November, 2004

Questioning Doom Prophets…

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004

Wherever I go I hear of the coming this or the coming that. “Read this book and know about this.” “God is going to do this with this nation or that with that one.”

No consideration taken if I am Christian or not but I often get approached by End time “prophets of doom” as a former priest used to call them.
Not that I like using that term I don’t mean it in an offensive way, if they do believe that they are doing God’s work and are there on the front line then that counts as some kind of faithful work…
However this stuff actually gets to me. Whether it is a good thing or bad thing I am still at the stage whereby I can abandon one Christian view on doctrine I have had in favour for another if it moves me to action. And this is why so-called prophets of doom’s material can get to me in a somewhat shattering fashion.
So it hits me that God’s word has something to say about Mr. Hussein’s Middle East conquest… Or that the Chernobyl nuclear blast was actually a trumpet in the Revelation of John… Or that we are approaching the final trumpets of the tribulation? Whatever the trumpets or tribulations actually are.
I have become something like a spectator just watching views and interpretations being flung about the place, and trying not to get myself too moved into action on something I feel forced to believe. What I feel lacking most of all is accountability. If something does not take place as printed by the preachers claiming “God said” then they simply resolve to some other interpretations and leave the rest behind. Well, the amount of apologies and accountability have not to my knowledge equalled the claims made that God said something about a building’s destruction.
Well here are some two comments on End Time interpretations, which I believe, represent grounds for a reasonable debate towards narrowing down ideas about the end being flung about the place:
1) Last Days or Not?
Some responses to end time prophets of doom have been that: “these days we live in have never been better.” Many people refer to the Middle Ages as “dark times.” Convincing us with phrases like “a mediaeval burning” or “a medieval torture” as something of the past which we of today who are more sensible and humane have done away with.
It has been debated that contrary to the sayings in Paul’s famous Letter to Timothy that describes the attitudes to know the Last Days we of the present age of man have actually never been better.
This statement is based on evidence from looking at the treatment of women in western society or the treatment of people from other origins. How tolerant we have become and that we are actually getting better. Things like animal rights, democracy, abolishment of capital punishment, the vote for all genders, more moderate foreign relations, multiculturalism, toleration of religions which somehow Christianity in the past was meant to deny.
2) A typical villain of End Time evil empires, Russia.
But what is behind this fear and dislike of Russia? Is it more social than religious? If we look to 50’s films or news archive about “an incoming danger” what we will come to is the Russian threat. This hasn’t worn off. We always hear of the Russian threat. From sly news casting remarks like “The Reds Attack” to sporting fears such as “Russian tycoon” to films and games like Sega’s Soviet Strike. These feelings obviously stem from the cold war communism days, which seem to suggest that Russia is the embodiment of communism or forever communists.
Looking at Russia now its seems almost impossible that anything can take place with their economic status. Perhaps there still seems to be a tinge on Soviet xenophobia. But why is it mingled with Biblical text?

Fundamentalists

Thursday, November 11th, 2004

They are taking over the US, and they’re coming to the UK – fundamentalists are hijacking Christianity and squeezing out people with any sense at all.

It makes me sick to think that Bush was re-elected by people claiming to believe in the same God as me, and the reason given by these people was “moral issues”.

MORAL ISSUES?

Meanwhile, I’ve had my own taste of fundamentalism back home.

Moral Issues? Presumably by that you mean ignoring any concept of right and wrong and voting on a narrow point of theology?

You know, fundamentalism ought to mean going back to the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and re-evaluating everything we do in those terms. Wouldn’t that mean providing for the poor instead of giving vast tax cuts to your super-rich friends? Wouldn’t that mean taking care of the people under your command instead of sending them on a war of personal revenge mixed with greed? Wouldn’t that mean showing an iota of concern for people? And as a president, wouldn’t it mean accepting your duty to lead wisely, allowing people to act freely instead of taking away their rights to privacy, freedom from intimidation and freedom of religion? Wouldn’t it mean showing mercy to and care for the “alien” (foreigners) in your land?

But it seems to these people that’s not what it means. What is means is not only that a previously unheard-of literalism is applied to the Bible (taking the kind of “worship the book” attitude that is taken in Islam, but which is forbidden in Christianity where we worship God and learn about him from the Bible) but also that the strange conclusions which are drawn from that literalism are taken to be more important than the basic moral laws which are infused through the whole of the Bible, not to mention explicitly stated on numerous occasions in both the old and new testaments.

Yes, strange conclusions. How many verses are used to back up the opinion that a person becomes a human on the point of conception? 2? So you vote for the hater, the greed-feeder, the alien-oppressor, because he is against abortion. How many verses do you need about taking care of the alien and the oppressed? I don’t know when a fetus becomes a person – but I do know that the leader of a country is supposed to care about the dignity of humans under his authority, instead of lying to them about how rich his tax cuts will make them (while wages in the US slip downwards) and lying to them about why they should fight and die in a weak and corrupt foreign country.

How many verses condemn homosexuality? 5? How complex is the context? Should we ban men having long hair? Should we stone people for having sex during a woman’s period? I don’t know what I think about homosexuality – I genuinely don’t know, but I do know the impression given in the Bible about how God feels about oppressing the weak and not defending the powerless.

Speaking of which, which part of “Blessed are the peacemakers,” do these people not understand? How is leaving the Israelis and Palestinians to fester a “moral issue”?

So we come to my local experience. I went to a meeting about Israel and Palestine this week, and I heard some of the violence that is being used to oppress and drive out the Palestinians from their homes. But no matter what your opinion is on this situation (and certainly the Israeli government has the right to try and protect their citizens), what really got me going was the utter idiocy of some of the people who came along.

A direct quote:

“We have to remember that God is on their [the Israelis’] side.”

WHERE DID YOU GET THAT FROM?

Even if we presuppose for a minute that Jesus’ coming and saying everything was different (remember the phrase “new covenant”?) made absolutely no difference, where did you get the idea that God has always been on the Jews’ side?

Did you forget the exile? How about when Moses had to plead with God not to wipe them all out? What about the countless times they disobeyed God and he scattered them, made their enemies defeat them, or left them to fester in their sin?

ARE YOU AN IDIOT?

The ridiculous thing about this is that there really isn’t one verse in the Bible you could twist with your idiotic literalism and come to this conclusion in the first place. Where did you get it from?

So I came closer this week to throwing in the towel than I’d like to admit. How can I say it is reasonable to believe in God, when so many of the people who say they believe in the same God are so happy to believe such stupid, stupid things?

But I remembered that there have been other heresies, and there have been other mistakes in the church, and somehow we’re still here.

And somehow I still believe in God and I still think he wants people like me to argue and persuade these people that they’ve got their priorities muddled, and they should take another look at the “fundamentals”.

But I hope he and you will forgive me for letting off steam a bit before I try.