Sunday, July 11, 2010

God, Country, and Humanism

This post details my thoughts from last Sunday's 4th of July church service.


Sunday was the most militant Sunday service I've ever attended. Was it always like this on patriotic holidays? How long have I been out? I don't ever recall church and patriotism being blended as smoothly as I experienced it on Sunday. We were surrounded by dozens (if not hundreds) of flags and banners stating how much God wants to bless America. A short video was also shown saluting the military in almost a Messianic manner set to the poem It Is the Soldier by Charles Providence. Here is an excerpt.

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

The poem itself honors the freedoms protected by the blood of those who fought and died for this country, but place it in a religious context and it gives the subtle impression of honoring the soldier as a messianic figure, blood shed for our freedom (salvation). If my mother wasn't there I would have walked out. I have no beef with honoring veterans or worship service but to quote one of my favorite sci-fi authors, Frank Herbert, “When religion and politics ride in the same cart, the whirlwind follows.” I fear the day when nationalism and patriotism in the U.S. becomes commonly equated and intertwined with the commoner's faith.

The pastor shifted gears and spoke on the public school system by pointing out the errors of humanism being taught in school. Humanism? I don't remember ever learning about humanism although I admit that I only went to a public school 2 years throughout my youth until college (I attended private SDA schools). The pastor noted the 5 major erroneous beliefs of humanism.

  1. No God- If we don't have a God to hold us accountable for our sins then suffering will increase in the world.
  2. Evolution-If we don't acknowledge the Creator as the author of creation then that means we come from animals and our existence becomes pointless.
  3. Amorality- You choose what you think is right or wrong and if it feels good, do it.
  4. Self-Sustaining Man- We don't need help from the divine, we can save ourselves.
  5. One World Government-.... (The pastor just mentioned the phrase and didn't elaborate at all.)
Honestly, I found all of his descriptions and arguments against humanism incredibly weak. I admit I know very little of the actual definition and history of humanism but I think it has more to do with the benefit of mankind as a whole than a self-centered, hedonistic worldview. Of course the enemy is always painted in a negative light and their views are distorted in a manner to cause a "normal believer" to cringe. But this blatant attack on humanism not only distorts what humanist believe it increases the rift of fear alienating Us from Them. Christianity historically is more prone to covering up theologically difficult questions than actually wrestling with them. If the first four points, although crude, make up an understanding of humanism then I might consider myself a humanist, although I don't feel any more of a sinner than I did before I started questioning my beliefs 5 years ago. Here are my short responses to the pastor's view of humanism.

  1. Atheism-The atheist and agnostic groups are growing in the American religious landscape yet I haven't heard of Atheism being the contributing factor behind crimes and violence. Christians, or should I say true Christians (whatever that may mean), are no less immune to committing sinful and atrocious acts against our fellow man than an Atheist. Atheists still believe life is precious, not believing in God does not turn someone into a mindless, amoral beast.
  2. Evolution-What would it mean to mankind if evolution was found to be true? I believe it means that we first must create and find our own meaning to life and that we must cherish all life. If there is no afterlife maybe mankind might be less violent against their own neighbors. If scientists say that the evidence points towards evolution who am I to argue against their findings? I have no problem with science and the scientific method as long as we continue to question and reshape our theories in light of new evidence.
  3. Amorality-Everyone already decides what is right or wrong regardless what the gods may proclaim. We choose how moral we want to be as easily as we choose which church to attend. I for one believe we have outgrown our previous images of the divine. I'm not saying that God and religion should be thrown out but that we should be more moral than the God of the Bible. Mankind's collective consciousness has evolved throughout history and continues to evolve as well as our notion of morality. We each have an internal moral drive which is tied to our yearning to survive and our desire to be accepted and loved.
  4. Self Sustaining Man- Man is fallible, as well as our image of God. Our image, myth and story can not save us because they were penned by us. They might inspire and guide us but in the end we must save and redeem ourselves. How can we do this if we are fallible creatures? We already have the means, the symbols, and the teachings scattered throughout human history which all point to one thing: love. If we allow Love to dwell within us, and we dwell within Love, then redemption will find us.
  5. One World Government- The pastor did not elaborate on this point as I believe he only stated it to further impress fear upon the congregation. The idea of a one world government is the penultimate fear among conspiracy theory junkies (I admit I was one of them for a brief period of my youth). But it's created from fear as it perpetuates fear, on and on it goes. I'm not discounting that history might take this direction I just refuse to fear the unknown future.
As the pastor concluded his rant on Hell and the unbelievers that will undoubtedly populate it, I can easily sum up Sunday's service in one word: Fear. Fear was the theme, it wasn't honoring life and freedom but the call to arms in defense of an invisible enemy created by their own fears. There are enough demons and hidden skeletons in closets without creating an unnecessary fear of our fellow man. There is no They, only the illusion of separation.

On a similar note, Peter Walker over at Emerging Christian recently wrote on the dangers of being too proud on Independence Day and reflects on what it means to be patriotic of a country with a dark past.

5 comments:

samantha said...

Hmm sounds like we need to find another church.

Andrew said...

I went to my in-laws church for the 4th while visiting MI last summer. It was almost exactly the same thing, and it was all I could do to stay in my pew.

Yep, it was all about THEY are out to get US!

captron52 said...

Thats my biggest "problem" with religion. They seem to be based on fear and I cant belive we are here to be afraid of anything. especially God

Doug B said...

Do such preachers never think for themselves? Do they really believe a man cannot have a conscience without belief in God? The Bible teaches that God formed man out of the elements. Do they believe evolution starts someplace else? The concept of a One World Government seems laughable. Even the United Nations is mostly a joke. But many listeners will buy into all this with hardly any thinking on their own part. Sad.

Tommy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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