Monday, January 12, 2009

Liberal Christianity

[This essay by DagoodS is much too good to be buried in the comments on this essay.]

Liberal Christianity is part of the problem because it uses the same erroneous methodology as Fundamental Christianity and thus is completely ineffectual when confronted by it.

Both use the method of first determining what God they would like (based upon upbringing, society, and interaction with others) and then looking for justification within the Bible, or popular authors supporting the particular Christian’s belief, or within their own minds if necessary. Each takes the same basic elements (the Bible, a God) and then liberally applies, “I think ____” by mode of interpretation to mash their particular God to fit the mold they desire.

Want a God who supports homosexuality? It is there for the taking by this method. Want one who hates homosexuals? Equally available. Hell? Sure—you can have it or not. All one has to do is spin the verses in the direction desired and voila—they unsurprisingly have their god.

While a Liberal may make social decisions more closely reflective of a non-theist, this resulted from the world’s secularization rather than of any actual doctrinally determined shift. Intel, iPod and the Internet have created far more Liberals than study and a new method for determining what actually exists. The method remained the same; just found a more-pleasing God to justify living in the 21st Century.

Thus when confronted by Fundamentalists, the Liberal has no place to retreat except to say, “We think a different determination is needed.” Neither can provide a method to demark inspiration vs. non-inspired writings. Neither can provide a method to use the naturalistic world to make supernatural determinations. Neither can provide a method to demark what is myth and what is history within the Christian framework.

Each picks-and-chooses what they desire to be “true” and what they desire to be “false.” They both happen to approach the same tree and argue over who is going to pick the best apples. Both unknowingly picking from a tree that produces no apples, and unknowingly are arguing over non-existent apples! Because their own method does not allow for such a possibility.

Until Liberal Christianity can develop its own theology, and its own method, it will be cursed with the genes of its parent—Fundamental Christianity. It may be more gracious to the poor; it may be more open to diverse lifestyles; it may allow bikinis at camp—but its DNA retains the same wrong reasons for doing so. Not out of self-determination of humanity, but to follow some God it cannot demonstrate exists. The Parent Fundamentalist acts in a way to please their god; the Child Liberal rebels against the parent and then finds itself using the same terms, the same songs, the same justifications for their own lifestyle.

Sure the Parent will not touch alcohol, and the Child has no problem with a glass of wine—but each are defining what they will/will not drink by their interpretation of a god. They each determine what they desire regarding alcohol and then justify that desire through the medium of Christianity.

I have lost count of the occasions when I have confronted fundamentalists with lack of consistent methodology while the liberals cheer me on. “Go get ‘im!” “That’s great!” “Wow, you sure know your stuff.”

But when I turn the same microscope and scalpel on the liberal, asking for the same methodology I hear cries of pain. “Why ya picking on me?” “What have we done to you?” “Why can’t you let a person live-and-let-live?” “Aren’t we on the same team?”

Did they think I was asking these questions because I was “angry” at their parents? That I was doing it as some sort of retribution to support the Liberal? I was doing it because it is a problem I see! In both.

I understand Liberals would like to differentiate themselves from fundamentalists. They find the comparison distasteful. Until they can show a difference at the root of the methods, I see them remaining part of the problem. Yes, part of the solution (the more who vote for gay marriage the better, regardless of theistic belief) but still part of the problem. Vote for gay marriage because it is the correct human thing to do—not because one wants to ascribe to a god the approval of such unions.

[DagoodS, the author of this essay, can be read at Thoughts from a Sandwich]


  1. Thank you for sharing that, it's absolutely spot on.

  2. I am not convinced.

    The reason I started calling myself an agnostic rather than a Liberal Christian is because I realized how little influence any doctrine had on how I thought about the world and how I lived my life. However, I only reached this conclusion because my methodology was so completely different than that of Fundamental Christianity.

  3. I actually see the modernists as more dangerous than the fundamentalists. Their interpretation promotes the fallacy that there is some rational reading of the text, where there is none to be found.

    History is killing religion now. In two hundred years, our descendants will look back on us in the same way we see our ancestors who danced around statues of Wotan and Thor, and who sacrificed their captured enemies to the god of the local swamp. We'll all be seen as interesting, quaint, primitive and novel.

    As it should be.

  4. That's the core difference between science and religion: In science there is a generally accepted set of methods for resolving conflicts based on logic and empirical data. There is no such generally accepted methodology for conflict resolution in religion. As a consequence, religionists are reduced to employing two basic strategies for "resolving" conflicts:

    (1) Enforce orthodoxy by whatever means are available, up to and including burning heretics, or

    (2) Schism: separation of the warring factions.

    The latter, of course, doesn't preclude the former from occurring between factions.

  5. Gregoire,

    History is certainly taking its sweet time about it.

    Unfortunately, I suspect that the propensity for magical thinking has been hardwired into our psyches by millions of years of evolution and psychology is not very far along the path to figuring out the circuits. Moreover, it may well turn out that man's creative capacity is tied into the same programs.

  6. Well, hello!

    I do wish that Christianity moves toward the more liberal interpretations of the Bible. Basically to me the only thing of any real worth in the whole book are the words of Jesus. The rest is crap. It's all about the LOVE. That's the part you need to take away from that book, and not the CONTROL. Love thy neighbor, and you don't get to choose your neighbor. That's the hard, narrow path that, in order to walk it, one needs to lose their egotism and their pride. A hard path, to be sure. But worthwhile, no?

    I have a blog, too. Say hi sometime.

    Saint Brian the Godless

  7. I agree, even so called "liberal Christianity" in my view counts as intillectual dishonesty...

    "The reason I started calling myself an agnostic rather than a Liberal Christian is because I realized how little influence any doctrine had on how I thought about the world and how I lived my life." - It's my impression that this argument can be used to rationalize a defense for absolutely ANY choice...even for Xian fundamentalism...or canabalism?

    "History is killing religion now." - This may be true in the sense that overall membership in Christian churches is in decline, however, in my view, the truly scary thing about today is that membership in fundamentalist Xian churches in this country is actually increasing at an alarming rate. Indeed, I think it will be some time before Neitzsche will be proven correct. Maybe living in Arkansas has given me perspective on just how ignorant a human being can be...

    "Basically to me the only thing of any real worth in the whole book are the words of Jesus." - While I do actually agree with this sentiment I will go so far as to say that when it comes to how to live one's life and our place in this world I think humanity is capable of much more...even the best sentiments in the bible seem trivial at best.

  8. Saint Brain the Godless,

    While I enjoy deriving as much beneficial as possible out of a situation—there is a dangerous tendency to give Jesus’ words TOO much credit.

    First of all, there is no established methodology to determine what Jesus actually said. The liberal Christian will vociferously agree with the concept of “Love your neighbor” or the Golden rule, but then ignore Jesus’ teaching on eternal damnation (Matthew 25). Yet they cannot come up with a consistent methodology as to why they accept one as compared to the other being “legitimate.”

    The fundamentalist, on the other hand, skillfully uses the words of Jesus—“Love your neighbor”—combines them with Jesus’ other statements, such as acrimonious accusations to Pharisees, and justifies their own ability to be self-righteous bastards by saying, “Jesus did it, and Jesus loved his neighbors. Therefore I can be a sanctimonious prick, just like Jesus, and qualify as ‘loving my neighbor.’”

    I have even seen justification for lying to infidels, ‘cause Jesus did it, and was still “loving your neighbor.” What I have NOT seen is any liberal able to counter this position, since they believe “love your neighbor” is equally divinely blessed as the fundamentalist. Sure—they don’t like it. But that’s about it.

    Heck, using the same method, since Jesus ordered genocide, and Jesus “loved his neighbor”—one could legitimately claim genocide is justifiable.

    Secondly, even if Jesus DID say it—he was speaking to an “inside group”—namely Judeans who accepted his position. He had no intention of extending “neighbor” to those outside the group (despite current Christianity’s attempt to use “Samaritan” as a demonstration of outside involvement—this is a Lukan invention, completely at odds with the Jesus of Matthew 10:5) We live in a vastly differently culture and the Jesus of First Century Judea was NOT the “kinder, gentler” Jesus painted by 21st century America.

    If we start picking-and-choosing what parts of Jesus we like and what parts we don’t; we dangerously enter the same methodological problems of the liberals and fundamentalists. Better to say he allegedly proposed an ethical system for his time and place that only remnants would still be feasible. Remnants in place LONG before Jesus would have ever said them. Things like the Golden Rule.


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