Category Archives: Culture

Christianity is Not a White Western Religion

I read this article at “Red Letter Christians” with the title by the same name as this post. You can read that article here.  Is it me or does anyone else essentially read this:

A.  White Western religion = White Christianity bad.

B.  Black religion =good.

There really is no reason given as to why this assumption is there and I’m sure that is not the point of the article.  However, it is a main staple of Red Letter Christians throughout their writings.  Here are a few negatives about white religion that are sited in the article.

“But through my activity in church, I felt that people were trying to mold me into this Western white culture – even in the Black church.”

 “But there was still this tension between Western culture, biblical culture, and my culture as a person of African descent.”  “Western culture” should be interpreted as white culture.

“This made me see my reality in the Gospel much more so than the average evangelical. I listened to Focus on the Family and Charles Stanley, but I struggled to integrate their form of Christianity into my everyday life.  These guys are considered, conservative white male Christian religion.  Nothing is ever stated as to how much of what we see in black churches is really not authentically African either.  And what were some of the aspects that you could integrate?  Seems like absolutely nothing of value can come from such Christians?

“If you’re trying to understand Christianity in a Western context, you’ll be lost.”

“It’s so important for Christians to connect to the Hebrew roots of their faith, because otherwise out faith becomes disconnected, becomes Westernized and makes whiteness an idol.”

“But as more Greeks and Romans converted, and Christianity became the religion of the empire, it got watered down and separated from its Hebrew roots. Greeks and Romans were white.  Definitely not black.

“Either we will have a Christianity that is Western or we will have a Christianity based on the truth of the Bible”

“When you separate it from its roots, the whitewashed Western, and often American, version hurts everyone, including white people.”

Now for the positive statements of black religion.

“I also always loved to read and learn about Black history. I read Malcolm X and Dr. King…”

“At Penn State, I took an African American religious studies class where we read God of the Oppressed by James Cone. I reread it again that summer. I began to see the Bible in my reality.”  Apparently, black literature by certain black authors is cool.  In fact, so cool, that it was read over again.

“I’m the founder of Prophetic Whirlwind, an organization that provides Bible study materials and educates via social media, lectures, and workshops on the African roots of the Christian and Jewish faiths. This is a huge passion of mine.”  I guess that’s a positive thing?  That Christianity and Jewish faiths are rooted in African roots?  Well, when you compare it or contrast it next to white religion.

“Until 1869, Israel was connected to Egypt – connected to all of Africa. It was only when the Suez Canal was completed that Israel became separated from Africa. Even until the early 1900s, Israel was referred to as NE Africa.”

“The whole world opened up to me and revealed items that are important to Black Christians, and Christians in general. We have really separated Christianity from the Hebrew faith. But early believers continued to practice Passover and Sabbath. In Hebrew culture, salvation is about everyone – the entire community – not just the individual. This is the norm in African culture.”  This is important and it’s positive because, well, you don’t see this in white Christianity or White Western culture with it’s high individualism right?  Listen, there can be blind-spots in any culture. Why not talk about Asian societies with their culture of shame for example.  Simon Chan talks about this in his book, “Spiritual Theology.”

“It’s even more powerful to understand the cultural roots of our Biblical mothers and fathers. Mark was the Father of the Gospel in Africa. The Last Supper and Pentecost took place at his mother’s house, and she was an African Jewish woman from Cyrene. They were refugees. Do immigrants know this today? Do Black sisters and brothers know this today? This is incredibly empowering if we know these stories.”  Here we see an almost complete contrast to western religion.  This is one HELLUVA positive statement.  This is not all that bad, as making the Bible relevant to someone is a good thing.

“Then there was a large reverse exodus from Israel back to Egypt in Biblical times. The two landmasses were connected, they looked the same, and had similar climates. When Mark and his mother needed to leave Israel, they went to North Africa. It was a place a lot of Jews went. Thomas Oden is a researcher from Eastern University, and his research opened my eyes. Mark was born in Africa, and died in Africa. St. Augustine was African, his mother Monica was African, and when she died, she told St. Augustine to carry her bones back to Africa.”  So Africa is the jam man.  Interestingly, when you get down to it, the continent of Africa is not uniform either and so one might want to ask what group is she is referring to as being so closely biblical?  That is, which group represents Christianity the closest?

“This is significant as Biblical prophecy states that when these tribes begin to come back to the Torah, the Messiah will return. Many researchers, especially from the Jewish faith, travel around the world, like Indiana Jones traveling for the lost ark, looking for these tribes. And research shows that many of these tribes are in Africa.”  Hmmm…it may be significant for Onleilove to talk about what the researchers are saying about those tribes but she also used the word, “many” (“many of those tribes”) which is to say that some of those tribes weren’t of African descent?

Interestingly, there was a statement that is most revealing in this article.  Onleilove says:

The whole world opened up to me and revealed items that are important to Black Christians, and Christians in general. We have really separated Christianity from the Hebrew faith. But early believers continued to practice Passover and Sabbath. In Hebrew culture, salvation is about everyone – the entire community – not just the individual. This is the norm in African culture.

It’s important to understand that the Bible is a multi-cultural book. My work is about reconciling Jesus to his culture – his Hebrew culture. If you’re trying to understand Christianity in a Western context, you’ll be lost.

It’s so important for Christians to connect to the Hebrew roots of their faith, because otherwise out faith becomes disconnected, becomes Westernized and makes whiteness an idol.

If it is the case that black Christians and Christians in general need to return back to their Hebrew faith then why talk about all the positives of black religion as if it is not in need of redemption.  Here.  I’ll say it like this.  Richard Mouw one time spoke about the arts being in need of redemption.  He was referring to the pop cultural art (low brow), yes, but he was also referring to what is sometimes referred to as “high brow” art.  One gets the feeling, when reading Onleilove’s article contrasting white western Christianity and black religion that it is white religion that is in the real need of redemption.  Referring back to Simon Chan’s book, even black religion would be in need of redemption because as with all societies, there is a separation between “doctrine” from “the living God”–orthodoxy and orthopraxis.

 

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The Flash: Social/Political Ramifications 

I just started watching he first three episodes of “The Flash.” I just finished episode three on Netflix. Anyone else enjoying this TV series? This third one was one of the best episodes yet which has helped me reflect a little more deeply about principled pluralism (it also has some interesting philosophy about our running away from problems as well as running TOO something). Gonna put a spoiler out there to demonstrate what I’m talking about.
Barry has now had some time to think about his father in prison. As a matter of fact, he has being thinking about how he could rescue him since he first went. But now that Barry has supersonic speed he KNOWS he can free him without going through the proper channels and in fact he says so when he he talks to Detective Joe West in the hospital. But alas, both realize that the best way to get his dad out of prison may take longer (going through the process) but it is right and good that they do so in the end. And why is that? This scene, more than anything I’ve watch or read so far on authority demonstrates clearly what Austin Lee spoke about in his book, “Up with Authority” concerning the undermining of authority. Think about what would be the case if Barry decided to break his dad out of jail on his own? First, there would be issues of public trust. Barry (Flash) would be viewed as someone not trustworthy. Who’s to say that Barry would not bend the rules whenever it suits him? Also, what would happen with law and order–something we normally take for granted and depend on–if we decided to skirt the rules and act above the law every time it suited us? Not only would there be no public trust for the “Barry’s” of the world but we also wouldn’t have trust in the system. Think about it. You believe your father is innocent (and in Barry’s case actually is), the rest of us believe he’s guilty. You may have it within your power to free him from prison, but by doing so, you’ve done nothing to convince the rest of us that he is. You may want justice for your father but by freeing him without going through the process you’ve undermined 
justice because now nobody will trust the system, ie., were those in authority in on it? The scope of concern is wider than the more immediate need (in this case).

In saying this, I’m not talking about certain rules that can be bent WITHIN the “ground rules.” I’m talking about the ground rules themselves. Certain things can or must NEVER be broken.


Non-Inclusion On a Personal Level

On the way to visiting my buddy Paul Joseph in Brantford this past weekend, I was thinking of this issue of inclusion again. We talked about it while we did some running around to get some errands done while I was there.

There is a website called “Love Without Agenda” run by Jimmy Spencer Jr.
“Love Without Agenda” is inclusionary in their core set of values, and one of the team members, in his bio, speaks of it in a way one speaks of Jesus or the Gospel. Here is what he says:

“JACOB WENTZEL / DEVELOPMENT WRITING & FORMATION My name Jacob Wentzel and I am a 25-year old native of the Chicago area who now resides in Bucktown. Since graduating from Loyola University Chicago with bachelor’s degrees in English and French literature in 2012,1 have been working at an office job, acquiring a masters of liberal arts at the University of Chicago, and pulsing, patiently, to become part of something significant, here and now, for the welfare of humanity. At the core of our initiative is the message of unconditional inclusion and equality within the human experience, which has also become the core belief of my personal philosophy From the start, I was raised to get along with all types of people, and was even particularly attracted to the misfits who were excluded by the mainstream. Then, about 12 years ago, when Spencer became my youth pastor, I found out what happens when the message of inclusion is applied to the place from which is should most radiate, but which more often practices exclusion: the Christian Church. As Spencer took his message of inclusion beyond the Church and as his initiative evolved over the years, I did whatever I could to help, including editing articles and essays in exchange for chorizo burritos. Meanwhile, I also ingested the message of inclusion through my pursuit of the liberal arts, which taught me the beauty and truth of a polyphonic community in which no voice is excluded or even hushed. As one who is constantly reflecting upon my immediate community and looking to solve its problems, I am eager to combat the evil of exclusion and to give a voice to all walks of life.”

I’m going to chalk some of Wentzel’s enthusiasm to age (he seems to have a world/global vision for he speaks about the “welfare of humanity” and combatting exclusion for all walks of life) but you can see how much inclusion means to Wentzel. It’s as if it isn’t even questioned. He LOVES inclusion. It’s almost as if he is having an orgasm. It’s as if this is what he lives for. THIS IS THE GOSPEL!

It’s understandable that some would think this way as they believe that Jesus was all about the marginalized. But let’s face it. Jesus had some that were closest to him while excluding others. And ALL of us don’t include EVERYONE in our close circle and we do it for several reasons. Some because of differences of opinion, some because of culture, sex, age, interests, etc. As a matter of fact, it is physically and humanly impossible to include everyone in our lives. And it isn’t “sinful” to not do so for the reasons given.

The modern Christian belief is that in the consummation of the ages we will all be loving everybody in Christ. There will be no hate. Everyone will be included. Perfect love will abound. How we come to that point is another post but for now, let’s simply accept that that will be the case. So, in the mean time, in the “all-ready-not-yet that we now live in, we are supposed to work toward that vision. In other words, we are supposed to be loving towards others NOW, based upon a future eschatology.

But let’s think of many of those reasons mentioned above as to why we don’t include others. And let’s think of this on a very personal relational level between the sexes. Say a person, wants to date someone but that other person doesn’t find them attractive for various reasons. Let’s just go with looks as the surface reason. Question: The person who rejects someone on that basis–is their negativity toward said person sin? I mean, it certainly doesn’t fall within the eschatological vision of where we love everyone. Most of us would say it isn’t sin even though it is VERY exclusionary. They simply are not attracted to the other person on a physical level and it is that lack of attraction (negativity) that is my main concern here. There could be other reasons. Economic. One person is poor while the other is not. That makes cause for lack of attraction. Negativity again. Is it not sin to exclude for those reasons? Is not that lack of attraction sin? Again, on a personal level, not many of us would say it is sin. We just accept that this is the way the world works. That this is the way of the world. And that we simply want to get on with our lives and live our lives from day to day.

If we are all ONE at some future point then I would suspect that whatever negativity that one has for excluding someone on a personal relational level ie., why they can’t be lovers, or included in their inner circle would not be the case at that point. ALL of that should be erased. Yet we accept that “negativity” now for personal reasons but not for thinking generally about Christian love and ethics for and towards all humankind as is the case in Wentzel’s spiel (to be exclusionary is the epitome of evil!).

The whole inclusionary vision, based as it is on what I think is a over-realized eschatology doesn’t work in the real world–the here and now. It doesn’t work between groups and it certainly doesn’t work on the personal level.

Maybe it is the case that the so-called “negativity” is not negative. Maybe that is the way we are wired and so we might want to tweak what we mean by inclusion and Christian love a little. That is, when we think of inclusion, maybe it should be viewed as all peoples, ethnicities, races, groups, etc, are simply included in the beatific vision. Either way, right now, it IS the case that we discriminate and don’t included on MANY levels.


Inclusiveness On Steroids

The whole inclusiveness ideology that many Christians tout today is based on a particular understanding of God’s love and Jesus’ mission in the world (Christ came to save everybody)–the whole, “he came to seek out the marginalized and we’re supposed to love everybody” thingy.

In saying this, many Christians don’t really have a problem with how their faith (and this particular theo/politico outlook) would play out with regard to public justice or individual justice. Essentially, for them, government was and is doing a good and just thing to end discrimination, ie., school integration and civil rights legislation, acceptance of LGBT folk, etc.

Interestingly, the whole top down approach to rid society of discrimination has not only been a failure historically but it really doesn’t make philosophical sense because it ignores that the attempt to eradicate “racism” (ie., attitudes) is much like the attempt to eradicate stupidity as well as it ends up creating a homogenized and uniformed society. That is, it “flattens” society. (James Kalb, “Against Inclusiveness”).

But there’s something else as well. Inclusiveness ignores human nature and how relationships work. What I mean is that you can’t like or “love” (in that sentimental sense) EVERYBODY. Does love (in this sentimental way) mean, for example, that a pastor will get along with everyone in his flock who is under his care? How exactly would a pastor “love” everyone in his congragation? Would he get along with EVERYBODY?Would he not have differences with parishoners? Would he not find some relationships like sandpaper–gritty that go against the grain? Does this not ignore how relationships work in real life situations? For example, most of these same inclusive Christians would have no problem with a couple who divorce for they realize the situation–that that couple are ultimately not reflecting the Triune love of the Godhead in their relationship. In other words, there is a less than perfect love there. As a matter of fact the best that a couple might be able to do is to reflect that love by not talk to each other and in this way seek out as much peace as POSSIBLE. In other words “as possible” means there is less than perfect love there. But maybe it has nothing to do with “less than perfect love.” Let’s say, said couple have different interests and are not compatible on other levels? Does it have to be a question that there is LESS THAN perfect love? Or does this not reflect the normality of the way that relationships work and are INTENDED to work?

So, if this happens on a personal level, why MUST we push the idea of inclusiveness on such a grand public scale? If the idea of a divorced Christian couple as not “inclusive” (of each other) is OK, why do we not allow for this on a societal/sociological scale? Let’s face it. People choose to hang with and befriend certain other people for various reasons. People clash with personalities. People don’t always feel comfortable in other groups. So what would be problematic with a pastor who chooses not to associate with certain people in his congregation ie., trust, personality issues, cultural differences, etc? Granted, some of this “lack of reconciliation” is due to sinful tendencies and impulses but some if not most of it isn’t. And it would certainly be hard to differentiate between the various reasons, as if there are hard and fast boundaries.

One may say, “Well we should TRY to be loving (which means inclusive) because ultimately in the new age to come we will be love each other.” This is inclusiveness from the other end of the spectrum–the eschatological end. But why must “loving” in this instance mean getting along, making-friends-with, everybody? Why can’t loving mean simply serving–without the sentimentalism? Why couldn’t a pastor serve those in his congregation by helping them connect with others whom are like minded (you know, birds of a feather flock together idea?) or connect them with those who can be loving in the way that these folk need to be loved? Would that not be loving even though the pastor doesn’t have the interior resources to love in that way? It seems to me that inclusiveness in the Christian community is an inclusiveness on steroids that does damage to the way relationships work and are intended to work.


On Racism

My buddy Tom Belt wrote an interesting piece on racism that you can view here.

I do have a couple of things to say about this though.

A. Dwayne and Tom see systemic racism to be a failure to truly love someone because of self-perception. I really don’t know if I would identify this as the “systemic” portion of racism. Of course, one could say the same thing about blacks against whites. One could also say the same thing about sexism. The list could go on and on. Not trying to say this is not true. As a matter of fact I do see this as a pretty plausible explanation. But an explanation that seems to have to fit into a wider view of justice.
B. Some Christians are fond of saying that Christian morality should not be forced on to others. Something like, “You can’t force non-Christians to love” through law. So, if this is a Christian understanding of racism, I would like to know how this could ever be reflected in law. Should such a view be encoded in law? COULD it be reflected in law? Sure, a non-Christian may not be able to love the way they should if the Spirit was guiding them, but I tend to think that the Spirit is still at work in unbelievers as well as I tend to think that if a view such as this was encoded in law, it may be able to be done without the Christian trappings. In other words, how could we all perceive ourselves as “one?” Forget law. Just put it in policing policies.
C. I do think that this explanation is helpful with regard to responding to the question that was actually proposed to me on Facebook: “Do you think the police want to kill others?”

I don’t think these question are irrelevant. I think the questions Tom raises is one side of the coin while my thoughts are the other side. Theirs is theoritical. Mine is trying to see this as an outworking in law and policing policy. I’ve been guided by a saying that goes something like this:

“Justice fulfills what love cannot.” You can start out with love–looking at what the problem is or what you think the problem is. You can come up with solutions, ie., deal with the self-perception issue, ., ie, we’re all one. But it also needs to have a practical outworking–justice.


The Marriage Pledge

In this post, I will put up links and then a little commentary on Reno’s and Doug Wilson’s piece. First, we have the pledge itself with the second being a response by Leithart to critics with the third being an endorsement by R.R. Reno and the forth being a critical response by Doug Wilson to the pledge itself. A sixth one has responses by various authors and lastly, a seventh response is by Catholic lawyer, Edward Peters.

Looking at what Reno says:

“But the season of sewing is ending. Now is a time for rending, not for the sake of disengaging from culture or retreating from the public square, but so that our salt does not lose its savor.”

A. What, pray tell, does “salt losing it’s savor” mean if not something more tangible then what Reno is saying? What does Reno mean by this? In what way would the Church being losing it savor by not backing out of the civil marriage? Would “losing it’s savor” in this context mean that there is too much concentration on moral issues while neglecting the “more weightier” matters of the Church ie., preaching, sacraments, etc? If it has to do with offending our neighbours over a moral issue and not the Gospel then I think this is a poor reason. I think of that scene in Acts 16 when Paul and Silas were thrown in prison unlawfully. As citizens, they had certain rights that were violated. Paul not only insists that they be escorted by those who violated their rights but he even seems to “rub it in” in this act and when asks to leave, he rubs it in a little more by not leaving right away but by going to Lydia’s house and THEN leaving. It seems to me he knew how to balance “pushing the issue” and “backing away.” Would we say that he lost his savor by pushing the issue with the authorities and insisting on his citizenship? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about not offending people for the most part, but there is SOME point at which, well, you can’t help it. Can there be such a thing as “offending in love?” Kind of like, can we actually “kill our neighbour out of love” or kill our neighbour while loving them at the same time? If love is narrowly defined, I can understand opposition to it. If it is broadened enough to include a wider goal for a wider situation, ie., someone is killing someone and you kill them or put a “stop action” to their action for not only their sake but for the sake of a greater good then it might be possible to see this as loving.
B. On the point of Doug Wilson’s post, while I would agree that this is not a time of retreat, and with his stance on marriage, I don’t agree that ministers sending people to Caesar is as much of an ethical issue as he says it is PER SE. It’s not as if the state itself is evil. The state may do evil things at times, but it isn’t exactly sending folk into a lion’s den. If a pastor sends a couple to the state to have their marriage recognized, how would doing THAT be unethical? The state will simply recognize those marriages as well as “same sex” marriages. Is that a bad thing for the opposite sex couple involved? All this would be is the government recognizing all relationships that come to them for marriage AS a marriage. They are not doing the “dirty paper work” by simply going to the state to have it recognize their marriage. The problem is the so-called foreseeable future where pastors perform marriages not the couple seeking marriage. The problem is, if the couple go to the state, and then go to the church and the church/pastor performs and recognizes a marriage, then they would be discriminating against same-sex couples if they opt out of performing/blessing THEIR “marriages.”

Alas, the problem of the government legitimizing same-sex “marriages” as marriages is that there others will be forced to legitimize same-sex marriages or recognize same-sex marriages as marriages. This, doesn’t just stop at the church door for it will eventually insist, like the wolf in the fairy tale of the Three Little Pigs, of blowing the whole house down and coming on in. For example, say we go along with the Pledge where pastors don’t perform marriages and leave it to the couple to seek the legitimacy of their marriage with Caesar who recognizes other relationships (same-sex) as marriage. What happens then? Say that same couple who went to Caesar to legitimize their marriage want to open a photography business or open a bakery? Or let’s say they don’t even do anything of that nature. Regardless, that couple will be forced to legitimize same-sex marriage that the state has legitimized. In other words, once the state legitimizes same-sex marriage it expects everyone else to follow suit–tow the line, which is to say that it will insist that churches recognize, in some way, shape or form, that the marriages that it has legitimized need to be legitimized by them as well, at which point they will baulk such that we are back at square one of whether we are losing our savor or not. It would seem to me that all we have done by this pledge is push the line we drew in the sand just a bit further back only to say, “OK, NOW I’m serious. Don’t cross THIS line.”


Fundamentalism: Thinking Historically

I want to take a little passage from a book I read a good portion through (but haven’t finished yet) and put it down here. The book is, “The Sword of the Lord” written by Andrew Himes. As one reviewer stated:

“Andrew Himes is the grandson of famed evangelist John R. Rice. His father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, five nephews and many cousins are or were Baptist preachers. His mother was one of Rice’s six daughters. He had an insider’s view of the early days of independent Baptist fundamentalism and it wasn’t all pretty.”

So if anyone, I’d think, is capable of speaking on the subject (which goes further back than his own personal family history) it would be Himes. Hime’s voice on the topic is rather refreshing. It seems, most people can only offer a “negative apologetic” or negative criticism of a particular issue. Specifically, in this case, fundametalism. They work with what Mouw spoke of as a “hermeneutic of suspicion” rather than a “hermeneutic of charity.” It’s nice to see something that isn’t the same fan fare of brutal criticism but also offers something positive as well (Bruce Barron’s work on the faith movement and on Kingdom Now or The Reconstructionist Movement is notable in this regard).

In the beginning of, “The Sword of The Lord” Himes says this:

“In general, a fundamentalist outlook made a lot of sense in a world in which you needed to be certain where to stand in order to survive the next day and to defend the lives and welfare of your family. Fundamentalism was a rational, and emotional, response to a dangerous world where you needed to know who was a sheep and who was a goat, who was for you and who was against you, who might slip a blade between your ribs and who would love you back.”

Hopefully, the next time you hear some criticism or another of fundamentalism you keep this statement in mind. You keep in mind not to take any criticism of a movement that doesn’t take into consideration the complexity of the historical situation.