Fr. Stephen Freeman: What To Do With What You Know

Today I direct your attention to a post from Fr. Stephen Freeman.  Freeman is one of the largest and most influential Eastern Orthodox bloggers, and he blogs at Glory to God for All Things.

In this post Freeman addresses the subject of knowledge.  His big idea is that it is not enough to know things; one must also know what to do with the knowledge.  Knowledge is useless unless it is an answer to a question that you or other people are asking.  You can gather information all day long, but unless it answers a question you are asking, you don’t really know it–why would you bother with it?

Orthodox Christianity is not a topic to be mastered. If it is rightly understood, the Orthodox faith is an account of “everything.” It is not a subset of religious knowledge or a compendium of doctrines. It is the whole of existence, created and uncreated. Most of the faith cannot be spoken. The less of the unspoken that surrounds any given statement, the more likely that statement is to be wrong or distorted.

St. Ignatius of Antioch observed: “He who possesses in truth the word of Jesus can hear even its silence.” He also noted: “The more any one sees the bishop keeping silence, the more ought he to revere him.”

All this, of course, comes as a stern rebuke to someone who has written over 2,000 articles. I will say, however, that my greatest accomplishment is in what I have not written. It is perhaps only there that I shall find salvation.

Read:  What To Do With What You Know by Fr. Stephen Freeman

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Pat Robertson: Then and Now

If I were to set up a Google feed on Pat Robertson, this blog would write itself.

Not surprisingly, Robertson has weighed in on the presidentially-manufactured controversy surrounding NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.  He ties it together with the Las Vegas shootings, general criticism of Donald Trump, and just a general air of disrespect all around:

Violence in the streets, ladies and gentlemen. Why is it happening? The fact that we have disrespect for authority; there is profound disrespect for our president, all across this nation they say terrible things about him. It’s in the news, it’s in other places. There is disrespect now for our national anthem, disrespect for our veterans, disrespect for the institutions of our government, disrespect for the court system. All the way up and down the line, disrespect.

Contrast this with his remarks just a year ago at about this time, brought to you by the good people over at Right Wing Watch:

This is representative of how Robertson spent much of the Obama administration.  Apparently, radical socialism and control over every aspect of every American’s life, imposed by a small group of political elites who supposedly know more about governing than all the rest of America is perfectly OK in his alternate universe, as long as it is our guys who are on top of the heap.

Let that sink in, people.  That is worthy of pondering.

Does Donald Trump Think Badly of His Supporters?

Today I direct your attention to this opinion piece at CNN.com.  For those of you who missed it, there was a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville this weekend to protest the proposed removal of Confederate statues.  One white supremacist used his car to murder one young woman and injure several others who were there to protest their actions.  Donald Trump, in his statements this week, made it abundantly clear that he is with the white supremacists.

But why?  Why has Donald Trump gone out of his way to make it clear that he is with white supremacists?  Commentator S. E. Cupp offers his opinion:  Donald Trump has them confused with his base, the largely white and economically disenfranchised voters from the flyover states.  In Cupp’s opinion, Donald Trump will not change course until/unless an overwhelming majority of his supporters yank their support and let him know he is wrong.

Benjamin L. Corey on Christian “Ghosting”

Those of you who are not millennials or otherwise well-versed in the ways in which millennials express themselves via texting/social media have probably never heard the term “ghosting” with respect to interpersonal relationships.  But you can get an idea what it means:  To vanish like a ghost, suddenly and inexplicably, from another person’s life.

As noted in the previous post, today’s political/religious climate demands 100% agreement with every item of your respective party’s ideological platform because there are numerous special interests out there to enforce this and ensure that you feel the consequences if you dare to deviate.  In many parts of conservative evangelicalism, one of the consequences is “ghosting”.  This has been perfected to an art, long before ghosting ever became a thing in the broader culture or took on that name.  If you dare to deviate from your faith community’s party line on whatever issues are deemed to be of paramount importance (like gay marriage, abortion, or women in church leadership), it is not unheard of for close friends to cut off contact with you and vanish like ghosts from your life.  Some of you probably have stories to tell about this.

Today we are going to look at Benjamin L. Corey’s story.  Corey blogs at Formerly Fundie.  Corey was “ghosted” by his best friend and the Christian community of which they were a part.  It was a conservative, fundamentalist church community and Corey had begun to shift toward some positions which were at variance with the community’s ideology.  They couldn’t handle it, so they left him, and of course he was left having to deal with it himself and explain it all to his children.

For those of us who have tried to live out the Christian life while being open to allowing new information to shape and stretch what we believe, the reality is that at one time or another, we have friends who will ghost us.

Somehow, someway, too many Christian circles have failed to realize that we don’t have to be in complete agreement to be in a complete relationship.

And so, when theological agreement is not in harmony, there’s always at least one family who feels like some evil magician made their life disappear without notice or even a preemptive “abracadabra” to give us a bit of warning that life is about to change.

While we can’t control the actions of others, I do think we can do two things:

We can refuse to be the ones who do the ghosting.

And when it happens, we can practice praying, “Forgive them Father, for they don’t have the slightest effing’ clue as to the damage they’ve done.”

Read:  Christian Ghosting: The Destructive Christian Practice We Don’t Talk About by Benjamin L. Corey

Charles Featherstone: Church, Flagellate Thyself

Today I direct your attention to a piece by Charles Featherstone entitled “Church, Flagellate Thyself“.

One of the recurring themes in Featherstone’s writing is community and belonging.  In this piece he focuses on progressive Christianity (because that is the universe in which he lives) and the implicit assumption of many liberal churches, specifically Episcopal and Lutheran, that anyone with an ounce of sense would want to be part of their churches and if people don’t it is only because they have excluded them or failed to welcome them.  He cites the example of an Episcopal church where a conversation about adding a wheelchair ramp morphed into an outpouring of self-reproach for all the sins of white Christendom down through the ages.

Reality check:  Not everyone is called to be an Episcopalian or a Lutheran.  These churches can be as welcoming as they possibly can, and it still won’t alter the fact that not everyone has it in them to be an Episcopalian or a Lutheran.

Reality check, on a more fundamental level:  Not everyone has it in them to live the respectable bourgeois dream.  Believe it or not, some people live out on the margins of society because they actually want to be there.  It is where they feel safe.  It is where they feel like they actually belong.

The truth is, there are many reasons people do not want to be ELCA Lutherans that have absolutely nothing to do Lutherans failing to be welcoming or inclusive. It’s not necessarily about us. Even if we say we get the gospel right, in the end, people make choices for reasons that honestly have nothing to do with us.

Maybe some folks live on a margin because that’s where they feel comfortable, safe, and welcome. Because that’s where they know they belong. Margins should be safe, and not abolished.

Liberalism and progressivism, however, in its many forms, cannot abide marginality. And it cannot abide separateness either. All must belong to the one true community. Eventually, the progressive reaches for the cudgel. To force others if it can.

And if it can’t, to scourge itself.

Read:  Church, Flagellate Thyself by Charles Featherstone

Another Look: Charles Featherstone on Civil Religion

With our recent discussion of the American civil religion that is rife in evangelicalism, especially at this time of year, I wanted to return to a couple of posts Charles Featherstone has written on the subject of American civil religion that I have linked previously.

In “The Problem of Modernity“, Featherstone’s jumping-off point is a PSA from the 1950s urging Americans to go to church because the world is in a chaotic state and in need of morally strong individuals and because church can be a place of comfort during difficult times in one’s life.  The focus here is entirely on the individual and the nation.  No mention of the Church, of God, or of Jesus Christ, except as an assumed but unimportant presence.  There is nothing distinctively Christian here as by that time Jews were full participants in the American civic faith.

In “Belonging…Or Not“, Featherstone critiques a David Brooks piece written in reaction to Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem.  Brooks’ big idea is that the national anthem is one of the rituals of the American civil religion that binds us all together as a people.  Failure to participate in this ritual undercuts the very thing which holds us together as a people.  Thus Kaepernick was basically biting off the hand that fed him because his actions undercut any sense of obligation that other Americans might have felt for him, and thus any platform by which he might have been able to agitate for social change.  Brooks’ argument fails to take into account that American civil religion is built upon exclusion of some class or other, and that for those who are excluded there is no possible repentance, sacrifice, or restoration to community.  You can say the Pledge of Allegiance, stand during the national anthem, etc. all day long, but at the end of the day you will still be excluded if the powers-that-be in American civil religion have decided that you are to be excluded.  There is nothing you can do to change this status.

In the end, American civil religion has no power to save.  It reduces us as the Church to a mere pawn of the state whose sole raison d’etre is to produce good citizens, not necessarily good Christians.  It tells an alternate story in which our story, the story of God’s plan to rescue a fallen humanity via Israel which reached its shocking and unexpected climax in the person of Jesus Christ, takes a backseat to the story of science and progress and democracy and America as a Christian nation.  It is distressing to see that civil religion has gained such a foothold in American evangelicalism, because it is causing us to forget our story, to forget who we are and whose we are.

Dave Daubenmire Calls For “A More Violent Christianity”

Dave Daubenmire, a Religious Right webcaster known to his fans/followers as “Coach”, did a webcast this past week in which he said that the only thing that can save Western civilization is a “more violent” brand of Christianity.  He showed a video clip of Donald Trump at a recent NATO summit shoving other world leaders out of the way so he could stand at the front of the gathering and praised him to the sky for showing himself as “large and in charge”.  He then cited congressional candidate Greg Gianforte from Montana, who won a special election just two days after being charged with assault for pushing a reporter to the ground.  I give this to you courtesy of the good people over at Right Wing Watch, where you can even watch the webcast at issue in all its sordid glory.

Translation:  The only thing that can save Western civilization is a Christianity that wipes its ass with the very people for whom Jesus Christ came to earth and died on a Roman cross.

If you want to know why Christianity, and evangelicalism in particular, are now on America’s shit list, this is it right here.

People:  Think about this through the lens of “What does love require of me?”  To think that what love requires of me is to embrace a Christianity that wipes its ass with the very people for whom Christ died because this is supposedly the authority that God has called us to walk in…there is a disconnect here and I will just let you sit with it.