Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Jesus Saves

A good friend of my wife's, a Southern Baptist, said the oddest thing (maybe not odd for those of her beliefs) in reponse to a tragic event the other day. Her neighbor's 4-year-old had been killed by the family dog - a tragic event that I won't get into the details of as they are not relevant to the story. The friend had went to the funeral service this last weekend and lamented that there had not be enough speaking by the pastor. "All they had done was have friends and family talk about the life of the little girl" (paraphrasing her friend). She said that the time would have been better spent preaching to the people there because at a funeral service is the only time some people get to church. In other words, the time would have been better spent proselytizing. Now, I wasn't there when the friend said this to my wife and if I had, I cannot even imagine my response. But my wife, even though she considers herself religious, just about came unhinged. They argued on the point for several minutes before my wife, in the interests of maintaining the friendship, decided to let it go.

Add on to this the conversation of today that she had with the same friend: Her friend was commenting that their 6 year old son is not eating well, causes trouble and has sleeping issues. In the same conversation she talked about how they go to church every single night of the week and often do not get home till 9:30 or 10:00 at night. She did not see any apparent connection between the two.

A large portion of evangelicals seem to be living a life where your sole purpose is to evangelize and bring more into the fold - ignoring real life, parenting, those around you that don't believe the same. Please explain to me how this is different than a cult.

And my wife's friend is not some crazy person divorced from the rest of society. She is a genuinely nice person who watches Alex whenever we ask. That is the scary part -- she's not the lunatic fringe, she's representative of a lot of church-goers.

I don't want to tell anyone how to live their life, but my thinking is that if you want to attract more people to Christianity, you would be wise not alienate the youth that will be your next generation by shoving religion down their throats 24-7. And secondly, I'd advise not being so strident in interactions with run-of-the-mill Christians who would otherwise be sympathetic to your cause (my wife). And before you accuse some atheists of being strident (Dawkins, Harris), I will grant you that point. But there is a difference, they are not trying to engender a certain belief. There is no fold that they are trying to get you into. They are trying to get you out of the fold ... to look at things objectively.

But even the concept of evangelizing is strange to me. Call me crazy, but you either believe or you don't believe. Someone can't convince you that you believe. Or if you could, would that really count? Would God really buy it if someone had to twist your arm? It even seems to be less about the person being saved and more about the person trying to save someone. This same friend brags about how she goes to church every day and all the things she does at the church as if there is some kind of cosmic score card that will get your more bonus points in heaven because you got all your Christianity merit badges on earth.

"At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols." -- Aldous Huxley


Laura said...

Real Christians recruit - always - no matter what social mores they're infringing...

Seriously? At a funeral? Last time I checked, the purpose of a funeral was to mourn (and/or) celebrate the life of the dead.

How is proselytizing at a funeral different from cults preying on the weak and rejected to recruit their numbers? Find someone at their lowest point and then tell them what YOU have will heal all their ills. It's the same strategy used by cults (and neonazi groups too).

When does the kid do his homework for school? Or wait - lemme guess - he's homeschooled right?

dbackdad said...

"... he's homeschooled right?" -- lol. That would seem the obvious answer, but, suprisingly, he's not. I asked my wife and she had no idea when he does homework. Maybe, when he gets home from school and eats dinner quickly before they head back out to church. I'm sure the church is advocating homeschooling. Their church uses some thing called, Awana? As it says on the website, "... Awana is the leading ministry to help local churches and parents raise children and youth to know, love and serve Christ.

Awana blends Bible teaching, evangelism, Scripture memorization and tons of fun ..."

That's great -- teaching 6 year olds evangelism.

wunelle said...

All due respect, but I think she IS divorced from normal society. Normal people don't behave like this. This is simply abhorrent behavior, harmful to her kids and those around her. And it's behavior which is protected from just condemnation by the rest of society by the unthinking protections we grant to people's religious beliefs.

I agree with Sam Harris & Richard Dawkins: we need to express a "conversational intolerance" about these things. These people should feel no more comfortable talking about these kinds of beliefs in public than I would feel talking about fervent Nazism or satanism. (My right to say and believe should be respected, but our rights to disagree and disapprove--and to say so--should be as vigorously respected.)

Laura said...

Wunelle- MAN I wish I had that quote the other day. I just got one of those asinine "God is being removed from our schools and society" emails from a relative.... my first response was "so?"

I don't care what your beliefs are - but never take away someone else's right to question them. The only progress ever made in life is done by questioning the way things are and wondering if there's a better way.

wunelle said...

Absolutely. And somehow religious views have made their way into some protected class where people can say really offensive things with impunity.

I also got an outraged email a couple weeks back about new dollar coins having the "In God We Trust" removed from them. The email intended to cast aspersions on the criminal liberals responsible. And I sent back a gentle but unequivocal denunciation of the email and its goals.

They'd all sure as hell support church / state separation if the coins came with "In ALLAH We Trust."

shrimplate said...

I fully agree with Wunelle. Dawkins also says that too much craziness gets a total pass because it comes cloaked in religion.

dbackdad said...

Christmastime is a great time for the loonies (that means you, Bill O'Reilly) to come out of the woodwork and lament how godless liberals are taking Christ out of Christmas. The fact that 99% of the instances are completely fabricated just to rile up zealots is beside the point.

I will respect anyone's right to have the religious or mystical beliefs of their choice and I will be courteous in discussions with them. However, like Wunelle and Shrimplate have stated (and Dawkins and Harris), there is no reason for religion to get any kind of free pass when no other section of society is afforded one.

Laura said...

Yep... I think I've gotten that email too. It'd be interesting if those people (and the people that pitch a fit over "Under God" in the pledge) knew the real origin of those sayings in context rather than saw them as a public expression of faith. The saying on the money was applied by Abraham Lincoln's secretary of the Treasury without any say from the cabinet, congress or Lincoln to offset what he saw as Lincoln's agnostic take on government (the Treasury secretary was a rabid Christian).

In the case of the pledge, it was inserted during the cold war as a way to make ourselves feel superior to and give moral creedence to the fight against "godless" commies...

Both examples of the political use of religion to alter public opinion. That's exactly what we have now with the Evangelicals professing that "God" is being removed from public are doing right now. From where I stand... the position of God in our public life appears to be doing just fine.