Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Southern Culture on the Skids

No, I'm not referring to that awful band that was a minor novelty act a couple of decades ago. I'm referring to a post Monday on The Daily Dish that shows "America in One Photo." The first of what I believe will be many follow up posts is here. All of them taken in the South or in Texas. My favorite photo below:

So absolutely offensive to everything I believe. That I have to live next door to people who believe like this doesn't bother me, but it sure does when those people take to proclaiming their beliefs in such an obscene way as this.

If I had to point to one thing that troubled me about Christianity and Christians, it would be the idea that they believe it's their duty to proselytize to and convert the world. Given human nature and their desire to be the best at what they do, it makes for some very assertive and even aggressive tactics to spread "the word." Anyone who's walked the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica on a Friday or Saturday night can appreciate that. No one, including me, faults believers for being passionate about their love for their faith. I love being a Jew. What I would never do, however, is tell anyone that they are on a wrong path to God, which is central to the Christian dogma that it alone is the one true way to spiritual enlightenment. In other words, enjoy and revel in your chosen path; respecting the wishes of others to pursue their own paths would include avoiding "witnessing" for anyone else.

1 comment:

George, again said...

OK, Eric, you know I a great big lib. I believe that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. I am ashamed of the way that my chosen path has historically treated others who disagree. (Actually, in this day and age we are hardest on ourselves). But I refuse to accept that religion must the only subject that is off-limits for public discourse.

If you were walking on a pier and looked down to see someone obviously in distress, would you throw them a life preserver? Would you try to get someone to help them? Or would you keep to your own business?

If you were in a car with someone and they turned the wrong way down a one way street, would you point it out to them?

If you saw a movie that you really enjoyed, wouldn't you tell a friend?

If you found a medicine that cured a disease you've struggled with all of your life, wouldn't you want to tell everyone else who is suffering from that condition?

If you saw a parent beating a child in the store, what would you do?

The word "evangelism" comes from the Greek for "Good News." At its best, the evangelistic movement in Christianity is just that: sharing good news. "This is what works for me, it might work for you."

The same impulse causes one to speak against injustice.

Is there an arrogance in this? Certainly. It is the same sense of confidence which allows me to make a movie or food recommendation to a friend, or attending a rally for a political candidate. But I can think that I am right without thinking you are wrong.

And yes, sometimes the church confuses evangelism with a selfish attempt to make carbon copies of ourselves (complete with our flaws and blind spots. That is wrong.

Forced conversion, by threat of violence or law, or "legislating morality" is antithetical to the authentic tradition of invitation and grace within the church. It also doesn't work.

Again, as a Christian I bear shame for the way that the individual Christians and the church have treated others -- particularly jews -- when we have used power to try to convert others to our way of thinking.

But offering good news to a friend, or sharing a religious opinion in the public square is not the same as coercion -- it is the antidote! Make us compete in the world of ideas!