Sadness, Anger, & Apathy: Part 2

Sadness & being a bad friend

This exercise in dumping raw emotions could come off as a vainglorious laundry list of complaints. That’s not what I want so I’m going to start with myself.

My failures are many. This is the one most present on my mind.


I’ve been a terrible friend to someone incredibly important to me during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If I make a list of the people that are more important to me than my own life, they will be on that list.

If I make a list of the people that put me above themselves with their own actions, they will be on that list.

If I make a list of the people that have never done a single thing to hurt me (short list), they will be the absolute top of that list.

I am talking about one of the best friends I have ever had. A person that I absolutely love. A person that has absolutely loved me.

ᾰ̓γᾰ́πη love.

At some point during the pandemic I recognized a glow that came over them. It wasn’t all at once, this emotional glow grew over time. It was beautiful to see.

And then I realized I had no idea what was causing it.

I should’ve known.

If this person is someone I love the way I think it do, how could I not know what was happening on their life to make them so happy.

I realized: wow, I’m a terrible friend.

I’ve been lazy.

I’ve been complacent.

I’ve been inconsiderate.

I finally took the initiative to talk about these positive changes that they were broadcasting with a beautifully enriched and emotionally swollen affect.

As I took this in it slowly dawned on me that this friend has moved past me. Moved on into a better world. Moved on in their life.

And I missed it.

I cut myself out with my indifference & indolence. They had been such a perfect friend for so long that I didn’t even realize my own inattentiveness until it was too late.

I’m sad because I miss my friend.

I’m angry because it’s my fault.

Sadness, Anger, & Apathy: Part 1

Incompatible

These are the 3 feelings I’ve been having simultaneously:

Sadness

Anger

Apathy

Sadness about things happening around me, about people I used to believe, about the dangerous choices & consequences I’ve been witnessing, about the way my relationships have changed.

Anger about the same.

Apathy towards the same.

It never works out well to juggle contradictory emotions. Sometimes the incompatibility of the mixture of feelings exacerbates each one individually.

I will say that I’ve experienced all these emotions before for very similar reasons.

Friendship

Occupation

Family

Social circumstance

Religious Community

And last, definitely not least, my own behaviors

It’s all just come together in such a unique way during this pandemic that I can’t process it the have in the past.

The convergence of incompatible feelings leaves you in an emotional pit that you have to break some nails to crawl out of

Sadness, Anger, & Apathy: Intro

This blog was meant to be about the convergence of science & faith. I have attempted to stick to that purpose but now I am intentionally going to take a detour.

These are topics that could still be examined from the perspective of science & faith.

I’m not going to do any examining though. Maybe someday. But right now I just have thoughts that need to spill out.

So here they spill.

The Healthcare-Industrial Complex

The healthcare–industrial complex describes the relationship between a nation’s healthcare infrastructure (doctors, , nurses, medical & lab assistants, hospitals, education, foundations and lobbyists, etc.) and the industries that support it (administrators, pharmaceutical manufacturers, dispensing pharmacies, equipment manufacturers, professional associations, instrument and waste disposal, office professionals, billers, coders, etc), seen together as a vested interest which influences public policy (voters and politicians).

Save Ourselves

Of course the heresy hunters came after Raphael Warnock over his tweet about “saving ourselves”. I would argue this comes down to an issue of exegesis.

In this case I’ll call it the Underwood vs Offerman hermeneutical conflict.

As I read the tweet I took it to mean “saving ourselves” in the corporeal sense.

That is, relating to worldly matters as opposed to salvation in the sense of Jesus’ victory over the powers which hold mankind in bondage: sin, death, and the devil.

So the tweet would present a hermeneutic that we have been released from that bondage by Christ’s victory; that by the guidance of the Holy Spirit we are empowered to save ourselves & our neighbors from powers & principalities that oppress us in the here and now with our own actions as we work to build God’s kingdom based on grace, compassion, and justice while awaiting His return, rather than relying on faith without works.

NOT that we ourselves need to achieve ultimate victory over those same powers, which would be unnecessary since that victory has already been won by Christ.

Further, that the actions wrought through our love of Christ & neighbor to fulfill God’s command that we begin building His kingdom on earth, are worked by those that confess their faith in Christ as well as those who are called to fulfill God’s purpose regardless of their standing with any church or creed.

These critics apparently have a different hermeneutic.

They all seem to believe that God calls us to no action in his creation other than to maintain their orthodoxy of disempowered faith that generates no change in the world to advance God’s kingdom as we await the return of Christ.

As I said earlier, the Underwood vs Offerman hermeneutical conflict:

They all seem to seem to propound the theology of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” as written by Brett James, Hillary Lindsey and Gordie Sampson, and Carrie Underwood.

In contrast, my analysis of this tweet coincides with the theology of “Pray While Turning Into The Skid” as proposed by Nick Offerman

On the Underwood side, we surrender all action to God produce nothing by our faith.

On the Offerman side, upon accepting God’s Grace we embrace our call to do good works as He has commanded.

Of course, perhaps there is no exegesis here at all. Perhaps this has been an exercise in eisegesis. Eisegesis being the process of interpreting text in such a way as to introduce one’s own presuppositions, agendas or biases.

Hard to know*. We’d have to ask Warnock as well as the self-appointed heresy hunting defenders of the faith.

But ultimately it’s irrelevant because this has exposed the underlying theology of the critics which represents a divide in two of the many forms of Christianity that are ultimately and fundamentally irreconcilable.

*it’s pretty obvious that I’ve been reading my own thoughts into this situation 😉

Continue reading “Save Ourselves”

Western Chauvinism

I’m about to use the term “big tent” a lot.

I don’t know if that’s a common term that people still use so I’ll explain it, please forgive the over explaining nature of this description. But everything I’m about to write depends on knowing what I mean by that praise.

The idea is that within a social or political movement you have to construct a space for movement.

The metaphor of the tent being that you’ve created a specific space under a tent.

The smaller your tent, the smaller and less diverse the group that fits under it.

A bigger tent just means you’ve created more room for your intended group, making it more diverse and potentially more influential as a result.

I see a lot of people talk about “White Supremacy” and I think we’re making a mistake to think that way.

A great into to the topic is the Proud Boys.

They self described as Western Chauvinists. This is actually a perfect way to understand how they are creating a bigger tent.

The general design of the ideology is nested. It starts with:

(Western Chauvinism)

that then has other ideologies nested within it.

Next we find:

(Western (nationalism) Chauvinism)

Often then we move to:

((Christian) Nationalism)

Then to:

(((Eurocentric) Christian) Nationalism)

In this case the “Euro” is about the specific cultural aspects of European society and history, including religion and colonialism and imperialism and so on.

This attracts many racist ideologies for sure:

((((White) Eurocentric) Christian) Nationalism)

But the movement in the US has been widening the tent to move past those racist ideologies. This is very notable in many Evangelical circles.

As a result you’ll find any number of variations nested within the movement of Western Chauvinism

In the minds of many Americans it doesn’t go much deeper than:

((Christian) Nationalism)

leaving behind the Eurocentrism for a much more generic western-centric ideology. Again, particularly attractive to Evangelicals of any ethnicity.

In many Evangelical circles the focus on Western or European culture is too broad and they have a much more specific:

(((USA-centric) Christian) Nationalism).

In both these cases the ancestral component is much weaker or less influential. This entices more people from every ethnicity.

The development of Evangelical ideologies that American exists in some kind of covenantal relationship with God similar to historical Israel are particularly strong and have made pervasive inroads into Latin, Asian, and African groups (both African immigrant communities and historical communities of the descendants of American slaves). In many cases those groups are the fastest demographics of the American Evangelicals.

But you’ll also find the same big tent outreach with the religious elements. In some cases you can replace the religious affiliation:

(((Eurocentric) Pagan) Nationalism)

Or

(((Eurocentric) Areligious) Nationalism)

This attempt at big tent proselytizing has been quite successful for a number of reasons.

The result of the expansion of Evangelicalism across every ethnic demographic.

The result of appeals to some construct of traditional masculinity.

The result of red-scaring tactics in communities with pervasive issues trusting government institutions.

They’ve even started spreading the ideology outside the US in parts of Africa and Latin American.

“White Supremacy” is not the right term.

The tent is getting bigger.

You can find evidence here.

And here.

And here.

Ignoring the expansion of the tent is dangerous.

Barack Obama frequently gets criticized for his criticisms of those he generally tends to agree with.

I imagine that’s the general reaction I’ll get.

But he does it for the same reason I am.

Being precise with our language matters

Losing Control

This is great but at the same time has a specific flaw that skews it slightly. Those three denominational categories of Evangelical, Mainline, and Fundamentalist are real enough. But at no point did they actually settle in such neatly defined camps with solid lines separating them.

The overlapping both across and within denominations, congregations, and American Protestantism as a whole has been constant and is still in flux.

It’s more like a polar triangle with each of the three poles representing the Evan, Main, and Fund. The leadership, theologians, and public figures being closest to the poles and congregants gravitating towards the poles, with many closer to the center than to the actual poles. My analysis of what Phil is getting at here is that there needs to be more acceptable space between the poles. I would even say that it’s easy to identify the historical moment that has slowly erased the acceptability of occupying space between the poles: the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

I would argue that it makes the issue of what people mean when they call themselves Evangelical in a modern context pretty simple. People who call themselves Evangelicals believe or have beliefs derived from the Chicago statement and to some degree its 2 subsequent summits.

The thing that makes it messy is that it is increasingly clear that affirming the statement’s content is forging an identity. This identity is trans-denominational, cultural, and political. You’ll find people affirming the core tenets of the statement from Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Regardless of how they developed this belief in the context of their own tradition the influence of and convergence with the statement is pervasive. I would also argue that religion is inherently political and that much more so in regard to the statement which has stark implications on how individuals engage with the society around them.

There is no way to separate politics from American religion whether it’s segregation or teaching evolution or selling alcohol on a Sunday. Those issues are all a woven fabric of social, political, and religious beliefs. It is in no way a shock that American Evangelicalism has emerged from its incubation as a theological movement within American Protestantism in general and transformed into a socio-cultural political identity. That transformation is not something that the intellectual and theological leaders can control at this point and I would say they lost control of it long before they realized they did.

I really like Phil and I do love his take here. As helpful as it is though, don’t be blinded by the simplicity.

Life is never as simple as we want it to be

To get some context on my claims go here to read about Billy Graham’s personal relationship with LBJ (hard to deny the inherent politics of friendship with a sitting POTUS)

Go here for some context about Graham’s intentionally moderate position on segregation & civil rights. It’s true that he was adamant about integrating his events but did not engage in direct protests regarding integration, which again shows a concern for the political implications of personal positions vs personal actions.

Definitely significant issues when it comes to the most influential Evangelical who would go on to be a spiritual advisor to every POTUS including Barack Obama. This longstanding relationship with political figures shows that Evangelicalism was imbedded in American politics well before the shift in the 70s that Phil discusses.

Star-Lord

I thinks about this from time to time because of Chris Pratt so in case anyone cares here’s a breakdown of what kind of church he goes to, and his (apparent) ignorance of that church’s teaching.

(Before I start I’m using QUILTBAG instead of any other LGBT+ variation because it’s the most inclusive and also an acronym which makes it inherently superior 😎)

There are 3 essential positions when it comes to churches/religions when it comes to QUILTBAG issues. I’ll focus on western churches.

1- Not welcome. This ones pretty clear: QUILTBAG peoples are not welcome. Period. At least this one is clear.

2- Welcoming and Affirming. Also pretty clear: QUILTBAG peoples are not only welcome but affirmed as being valid expressions of the diversity of creation, not living in inherent sinfulness, not excluded from the Church in any way.

3- Welcoming but NOT affirming. This one is definitely not as clear as the other two. This is also the kind of church Pratt attends so I’ll spend more time on it.

The idea here is that the church does not exclude anyone from attendance, so QUILTBAG peoples are welcomed as Pratt has said multiple times. But to some degree QUILTBAG peoples are not allowed to participate fully in the life of the church. They may be allowed to lead a class or Bible group but prohibited from elected or ordained leadership. They may be allowed to volunteer but not take a paid position. They may be able to have a civil Union blessed but not actually have a marriage ceremony performed. The church Pratt attends is a welcoming but NOT affirming church.

Pratt goes to a Hillsong Church (as far as I know, people switch churches all the time). Hillsong is an international mega church with campuses across the globe that was founded in and is headquartered in Australia. It’s been involved controversies including sexual misconduct (shocking) and ongoing doctrinal issues like propounding the Prosperity Gospel (which rich people shockingly love).

Regardless of how you feel about all that their senior pastor Brian Houston has made his position on QUILTBAG issues clear:

“Hillsong Church welcomes ALL people but does not affirm all lifestyles. Put clearly, we do not affirm a gay lifestyle and because of this we do not knowingly have actively gay people in positions of leadership, either paid or unpaid”

Even this statement has gotten Houston in hot water because people on opposite ends of the spectrum on QUILTBAG issues both distain this kind of opaque middle ground.

Now what does Pratt think? He’s made a point to defend Hillsong as being SO welcoming!

Does he understand that they do not affirm? Does he know that the welcome stops at the pulpit, at any position of authority whatsoever?

I haven’t seen him address that question but maybe I just didn’t Google deep enough. And honestly I think he might just be ignorant of the reality of this position from his church leadership. I’ve discovered over my team studying and understanding religion ( and last 5 years for SURE) that many adherents have no clue what their institution believes. Some of them don’t care and make no bones about that fact. If you want to be cheritable or maintain a robust Pratt fanship I guess you can toss some thoughts and prayers in the direction of him just being ignorant.

As a post script, I will also say that there are TONS of welcoming and affirming congregations across the US and world in general. So it is also worth considering that people have the choice to leave a non-welcoming or welcoming but not affirming church and go to a welcoming and affirming one. Even the welcoming but not affirming position that the Catholic Church has been slowly lurching towards is not absolute and there are some relatively small but notable figures/groups that are welcoming and affirming. As an individual you could even make clear that you wish to influence the direction of your own church by stating your own welcoming and affirming position on QUILTBAG issues publicly and explicitly. Pratt has not done so. His statements have been notably vague and leave room for either position

There’s my breakdown. Take it or leave it.

The Religion of your People

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/after-permit-approved-whites-only-church-small-minnesota-town-insists-n1251838?fbclid=IwAR0ThNU3_BzEKacKAO_-9Jus-Qp4q29KtAzfzNr0or0FUBVwEl19SPvWbnE

This story proves that we need to teach comparative religion classes because people don’t seem to understand how an ancestral cultic religion works. Not that I defend ancestral religions like this one but it’s not unique and this kind of controversy is not unique to a Eurocentric ancestral religion.

Perfect point of comparison is the Hebrew religions. I’ll circle back to Judaism but I’ll actually start with Samaritanism.

There is a middle eastern ancestral population of Semitic speaking peoples called Israelites (or a few other names depending on which historical perspective you’re using, but Israelites is the one I’ll use).

Today that ancestral group of has two recognized subgroups: the Samaritans and the Jews.

When someone is called Samaritan that simply means their ancestors were from that group of Israelites. Being a Samaritan Israelite has nothing to do with the modern state of Israel and has nothing to do with what the individual person’s religious beliefs are.

In this case however religion is related to ancestry. That’s because the religion of Samaritanism is a form of ancestral religion which has historically been quite common.

Ancestral religions take a number of forms but the basic outline is that the ancestral group has a ritualized belief system about an entity that is specific to people of their same tribal group.

Sometimes that religion was focused on worshipping a god or several gods that watched over, protected, or controlled the fate of that tribal group. Sometimes it was the actual spirits of their deceased ancestors themselves.

The point is, an ancestral religion is a religion of the tribe. In this example, Samaritanism is the religion of the historical group of peoples that the modern day Samaritans are descended.

So now the question comes up, like in that religious group in Minnesota, who is ALLOWED to practice an ancestral religion? And there is an incredible amount of variation on that subject.

The Samaritans for example are generally opposed to people without biological Samaritan ancestry from joining and practicing Samaritanism. However, the modern Samaritan ancestral population is quite small and as a result is prone to genetic bottlenecking and founder effect which can result in genetic disease. One way to combat that is to use genetic testing in marriage and reproductive planning which the Samaritans do. But their high priests have approved religious conversion from outside marriages as a way to create more genetic diversity. Basically meaning that a non-Samaritan women can marry a Samaritan man and then be fully accepted into the religion by conversion. However it’s also true that some within the Samaritan community do not agree with this decision by the priesthood and would prefer to rely on genetic testing rather than letting non-ancestral individuals into their biological, social, and religious community.

As a contrary I’ll move on to Judaism. Many of the same principles apply as with Samaritans. The Jews are a population descended from Israelite ancestors. The religion of that ancestral group is called Judaism. So again, being Jewish means you’re descended from that group but it does not mean you practice that religion.

However the Jewish ancestral population and Judaism have a very different history compared to the Samaritans. They have a deep connection to the Israelite tribal group but the two religious traditions, despite similarities, diverge greatly.

The most pertinent divergence here is that Judaism does have provisions allowing conversion from outside their ancestral group. Further complicating it is that Judaism has fractured into so many different branches that some have much more simplistic process for conversion. In a real way, if you want to convert to Judaism you’ll almost certainly be able to find a branch that will welcome you.

One thing you can come across still is a problem of acceptance between the different groups. And of course, regardless of your conversion to the religion that can’t change whether or not you have biological ancestry from the Israelite Jews. You’ll be Jewish religiously and culturally but not ancestrally.

Some other ancestral religious groups are extremely exclusive. In many forms of Zoroastrian communities you can only practice the religion if you are part of the ancestral group. Some even make the distinction of whether you have ancestry from both parents or only from one, potentially barring individuals who have any outside ancestry at all. The issue that makes Zoroastrianism tricky is that it does not have a centralized authority to determine the rules. You will find some Zoroastrian religious groups that are actively proselytizing, attempting to convert people regardless of ancestry. Which turns into a conflict because then some other Zoroastrians will refuse to acknowledge the converts as true Zoroastrians.

Now after all that we come back to this ancestral European religious group. Some things to ponder here.

How do they define European Ancestry? Does that include anyone with any amount of biological European Ancestry?

In the US many people have ancestry from all over the place. Obama has Kenyan ancestry on his fathers side but English and Irish and German and a bunch of other European ancestry on his mother’s. Does that half make him European enough? And how does this religious group determine that? Proof of genealogy and DNA results?

Or is it based on what someone LOOKS like? Would they let in Halsey because she has Euro-typically pale skin but deny Eric Andre?

Or are they focused on ancestral purity the way some of those Samaritans and Zoroastrians are?

According to their website they leave it a bit ambiguous in places…less so in others. It seems pretty obvious that they’re all about “purity”.

Honestly I support people’s right to practice ancestral religions. Of course I personally think they are dumb dummies who believe dumb things that contradict the evidence based reality of human biology. But this isn’t as simple as white supremacy because it’s an issue that pervades several ideologies.

As westerners we are incredibly biased by the history of universal religion. Christianity and Islam and Buddhism for example. Even though they don’t act like it sometimes (whole other topic) it is nonetheless a core tenet of those religions that any person of any ancestry can convert to their belief system. Their religion is founded solely upon belief which they claim to be universally true for all people. So if you adopt and affirm that belief system as universally true then you are admitted to the group no questions asked. Even the very African-centric religion Rastafarianism has shifted toward this universal model.

Westerners tend to make the assumption that all religions should follow this model of universal inclusiveness. But that is our own cultural bias to grapple with.

As a final note, this group is some variation of neo-pagan, Eurocentric revivalism. But if that is something that appeals to you then ignore this group. There are TONS of neo-pagan organizations that are not obsessed with ancestry and “purity” that would be happy to welcome anyone into the fold.

I recommend checking out the band Heilung who made an explicit statement that they’re pagan performance pieces are for everyone and they will not tolerate any form of racism. Someone should rent some church space to them.

All that is Right & Beautiful

There is a house I walk by frequently that is owned by Calvin University.

Calvin is one of the major higher learning institutions owned and supported by the Christian Reformed Church in North America or CRC.

CRC is a major Evangelical and Calvinist denomination in the USA with influence and missions abroad. The CRC could even be used as an archetypal example of American Evangelical Protestantism in many respects.

As such the student body and academic structure of Calvin University is usually assumed to tilt strongly toward the American political right.

The university has even produced several high profile political figures on the right like Betsy DeVos, Bill Huizenga, and Dave Agema.

Yet, as I made one of my frequent passes by the house owned by this school I’ve noticed a curious thing.

In the window I notice a Black Lives Matter sticker.

The decal is one of the standard emblems of BLM with the raised first AKA the forceful salute.

Now I’ve watched any number of figures on the right lambast BLM with any number of accusations.

I’ve heard BLM called socialist, communist, anarchist, satanist, or feminist. And any number of extrapolations or combinations.

So what is that decal doing in the window of a house owned by an Evangelical institution?

The house is called Nizhoni House. Nizhoni being a Navajo word for beautiful and in this case used as a broader sense of “good”, lining up with the mission of the house. That mission is the University’s attempt to show commitment to the neighborhood as they try to spread the Good News amongst its residents.

And it should be noted that Calvin University also has strong ties to Calvin Seminary which is an educational institution for producing professionals trained in theological, scholarly, and leadership for the CRC.

(And to be fair, Evangelicals in general)

But this hasn’t cleared anything up yet. Why would the students living in this house, presumably on a path to some form of Evangelical leadership, have a BLM decal up?

Aren’t Evangelicals the very ones condemning BLM?

Aren’t Evangelicals the very ones denouncing communism? feminism? anarchism?

Here though is where you can find the divide, if you look hard enough.

Evangelicalism in the US is multifaceted to be sure but there is an element that is nearly universal: the centrality of the Bible.

The Bible is the authority.

The Truth with a capital “T” is found in the Bible and the Bible only.

All other authority is insignificant.

But at the institutional level, the academic and scholarly and expert theological level, there is far more nuisance to the concept of Biblical authority than the oversimplifications I’ve written out above.

You can dive deep into the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy to see what I mean. And that’s just a start. You can then move on to other statements like the Nashville Statement from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

These are complex and intricate statements that are meant to define the correct belief for Evangelicals in America and their international networks of Evangelical mission churches.

If you take the time to dig you’ll come across the Resolution On Racial Reconciliation from The Southern Baptist Convention.

And more pertinent to this house I walk by, the CRC Office of Race Relations.

Because the leadership of these a Evangelical bodies DOES acknowledge the reality of racism and the need for reconciliation. They have for several decades.

But their congregants do not.

Why not?

Because Evangelicals have been told NOT to trust authorities. NOT to listen to experts and academics. They’ve been ignorant of the fact that those tenets they’ve been following were developed by experts.

Experts in theology, exegesis, hermeneutics, and so on.

And slowly but surely a chasm has developed between the congregants and their institutions of leadership.

They’ve been told (by academics) that they shouldn’t trust academics.

They’ve been told (by experts) not to trust experts.

And now the experts have lost control. Those who imagined themselves to be leaders have lost any semblance of broader authority.

Their attempts to purge any reliance on scholarly analysis worked too well and when they try to exert influence on changes in ethnic reconciliation it is not working.

It’s the same with several other topics.

Immigration.

QAnon.

Identity Politics.

Religious Freedom.

That’s why the BLM decal in that window seems befuddling. The CRC leaders in training at their University recognize and believe in the need for racial reconciliation. But their congregants don’t care what they think.

Their congregants are forging their own socio-political culture and identity that despised expertise and study through higher learning institutions.

This is their reckoning; the reckoning of authority condemning authority without emphasizing that their authority should be the exception.

Those pundits denouncing BLM are the academics working on theology and religious scholarship. They are political figures, people with power on the mind. Not trained to lead as experts.

And therefore much more effective at leading their congregants.

Populist figures rather than institutional leaders.