December 14, 2017

Another Look: Boot Camp Blather

Sgt Carter 1

Note from CM: In July 2010, I wrote a rant that grew out of my attempts to comment on some other sites known for their strong views on a particular literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-2. Unlike the vast majority of the discussions here at Internet Monk, the “conversations” were nothing of the kind. I was shouted down and ridiculed. My commitment to the Bible, my faith and salvation were openly doubted and I was deemed a “dangerous” character. In their view, I was either “all the way in” or categorically on the outside. It appeared to me that I had entered a military camp and was being made subject to military discipline. The other commenters on the blog suspected me as a spy in the camp, and if not quite an enemy, at least an outsider who didn’t have a clue, likely to spill ignorance and doubt all over their tidy barracks.

That is NOT Internet Monk. However each of us, your gentle Chaplain included, has an inner fundamentalist that wants to forcibly conform others to the TRUTH™ as I see it. So this rant targets me too. If I ever let my secret “Sgt. Carter” get the best of me when we converse, I expect you to call me on it, just as I called the community out yesterday.

For today, let us consider the advisability of using the sword as we discuss God and life together.

• • •

Where does all this Christian militarism come from anyway? Why does every issue have to be framed as “The Battle for This” and “The Battle for That”?

Sgt Carter 2In one post that I read and to which I responded, a well-known teacher used the following language:

  • We must not make “friendly alliances.”
  • We must not “surrender ground.”
  • Now is the time to “take a stand.”
  • It is our duty to “be on guard” against views that are “hostile to the truth.”
  • We must “expose” and “vigorously oppose” such views.
  • Now is no time for “retreat” or “compromise.”

And the final dire warning:

  • To weaken our commitment to the biblical view of creation would start a chain of disastrous moral, spiritual, and theological ramifications in the church that will greatly exacerbate the terrible moral chaos that already has begun the unraveling of secular society.

That kind of talk can still push my buttons, but not at all in the way the writer intended! Instead of making me want to charge into battle, this voice of doom makes me want to yell back, “Whoa! Slow down, General Patton! Who died and appointed you commanding officer? Who gave you the right to define this conflict? Who put those warmongering words in your mouth?”

Here was your peace-loving Chaplain’s comment to all that boot camp blather:

You know, this whole debate between Christians — and I stress this particular part of the debate — could be a healthy thing in the church. But it never will be as long as people like ____________ keep using these military metaphors suggesting that we are war with one another. Either declare those who disagree with you heretics and your side the only legitimate Christianity, and be done with it, or find some way to engage in a positive discussion and debate. But this trench warfare where we hunker down in our own holes and lob grenades at one another from a distance across no man’s land is only destructive to the fellowship and mission of the church. Sometimes I despair of Protestantism and its unending warfare. Quote all the NT verses you want justifying your militant position. The apostles only engaged in this kind of attack when battling enemies of the Gospel. Either declare the other side enemies of the Gospel, or find a better way. Please.

I mean, come on. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, by the wars you wage against other believers for your interpretation of the Bible?” You’ve got to be kidding me.

Honestly, I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.

Gomer Pyle (3)Are some people simply temperamentally confrontational like this, so that they see everything in “war” terms? Do some people just love the adrenalin rush, the sense that this very moment is the point of crisis, the meaning and significance that it gives to them when they feel called to participate in some vital, do or die contest? Do some people just like to fight?

Is this just their public face, the rhetoric they take up when preaching or writing, or are they like this at home too, and when they deal with individuals or situations in their lives or in the church? How would you like a pastor with this mentality to visit you in the hospital?

How did the faith of Jesus and the apostles get turned into such a “take the hill” charge? How did the ministry of servanthood get turned into an onslaught against those whom someone defines as the forces of darkness (which includes the other churches in town)? Since when has God’s mission been about flexing one’s muscles, rising up to defeat opponents by cold logic and force of argument, berating and belittling them? Is anyone else getting tired and cynical listening to the constant drone of the “watchmen” sounding alarms, promoting fear, and issuing dire warnings of chaos to come?

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. (Isa 30:15)

What happened to humility? to holding one’s interpretations and opinions with some sense of modesty and reserve? to abandoning the self-important delusion that the task is all up to me? to being willing to have civil discussions and debates with those who have other opinions rather than just preaching to the choir and lobbing grenades out of our protected little bunkers at the “enemy”? to loving our enemies, for heaven’s sake?

What happened to keeping the central teaching the central teaching?

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

If we’re going to “take a stand” anywhere, it should be here. Along with the other core creeds of the church, this is the central teaching that defines our faith.

  • Not a particular interpretation of Genesis.
  • Not the doctrine of inerrancy, a teaching not found in any of the foundational creeds or confessions of the church — Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant.
  • Not a specific outline of eschatological events.
  • Not one’s particular approach to ecclesiology such as church structure, leadership roles, specifics about how the sacraments should be practiced, or worship styles.
  • Not positions on specific social, cultural, or political issues.

gomerpyle 1Of course, Christians may (even should) study matters like these and develop convictions about them. Fine. Just don’t make them the central teaching of the faith. Just don’t consider them beyond discussion and absolutely non-negotiable. Just don’t turn every issue into a “battle” against the world and within the family.

What happened to keeping the main thing the main thing?

The Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God. (Micah 6:8, GNT)

So many of the drill sergeants that are constantly in our faces telling us to shape up and get ready for battle base their harangues on “God’s Word” and the plain truth it tells us. Folks, it doesn’t get any plainer than Micah 6:8.

  • God has told us what is good. From his point of view. His opinion, not ours.
  • He has laid down his requirements for his people in plain and simple language.
  • First, do what is right (or just). Get right and be right (in Jesus) and do right (in the Spirit). Act right and treat others right.
  • Second, love lovingkindness. Make it your heart’s desire above all else to be known as a person of love. A person who shows constant, faithful, compassionate, merciful, patient, kind, and sacrificial love to family and neighbors, friends and enemies alike.
  • Third, walk humbly with God. As The Message paraphrase puts it: “And don’t take yourself too seriously — take God seriously.” Big God, little me. He must increase, I must decrease. More spotlight on him. I am content in the shadows.

Simple. Plain. Much easier to grasp than trying to determine the genre and interpretation of Genesis 1!

I don’t find it believable that this kind of person — a Micah 6:8 type of person — could possibly graduate from the evangelical version of boot camp, take up arms, and go full bore into battle. I don’t picture a person who is concerned foremost about treating others right, showing them constant love, and living out of a humble walk with God playing the part of an aggressive warrior. Do you?

It’s time we started fighting the real battle, the one that is raging within. The one against self-deception, self-exaltation, and exaggerated self-importance. The one that tells me I’ve got to protect my (God’s!) territory and view others with suspicion as threats to my well-being. The one that says “I am called of God to tar and feather you because you are wrong, wrong, wrong!”

gomer 2Of course, you know I am not advising against a healthy spirit of discernment. I am advocating against the basic lack of trust and confidence in God and truth and the image of God in the neighbor that turns us into such savage beasts in the ways we deal with one another.

The internet, unfortunately, makes it easier to engage in the kinds of fruitless battles that are the subject of this rant. The technology has made it possible for whole armies of faceless people to unload on each other and never have to face any consequences in real life. One blog can take on another blog. Preachers and “teachers” (and internet chaplain-monks at weak moments) have a worldwide platform from which to launch attacks. It’s Protestantism gone to cyber-seed.

But let’s not blame the transport for the troops that have boarded it.

Enough boot camp and battlefield bluster and blather. Enough I say!

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Matt 26:52)

Thus endeth the rant.

Comments

  1. Maybe this language comes from the Bible.

    “Spiritual warfare”. “Arm yourselves…”

    Or the language in the Book of Revelation.

    Or Jesus Himself. “I come not to bring peace, but a sword.”

    Stuff like that.

    • I think this is about aggressiveness in the hearts of men/women and the increase of self-importance that comes with pride.

    • OTOH, Jesus showed near-infinite patience with His disciples, “sinners”, and questioners (saving His ire for those who, ironically, thought they already had all the right answers and were quite “drill sergeanty” about it). Paul never let his use of military metaphors drift over into a universal call to act aggressively – quite the contrary, he consistently advocates living quiet and peaceable lives.

      “Forgive others as you have been forgiven…”

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      “Spiritual warfare”. “Arm yourselves…”
      The phrase “spiritual warfare” never appears in the Bible. And, if you’re referring to Ephesians 6 with the phrase “arm yourselves,” Paul specifically notes that the battle was not against earthly powers.

      Or the language in the Book of Revelation.
      Much of Revelation was prophetic metaphor used to encourage a people under heavy persecution, not to inspire them to “spiritual warfare” (did I already mention that phrase doesn’t exist in the Bible?).

      Or Jesus Himself. “I come not to bring peace, but a sword.”
      The same Jesus who also said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” “Be at peace with each other,” and “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you”? Don’t worry, I checked; it’s the same Person. The Gospels are full of these contradictory sayings of Jesus. My personal belief is that He wanted to show that real truth couldn’t be found in easy answers or bumper-sticker theology.

      Perhaps proof-texting the crap out of Scripture, for the sake of justifying our own militant fundamentalism (conservative or liberal), does more damage than good. Can’t we just say, “We like taking stands because, in our heads, winning an argument is the same as being right”? Granted, that ideology has no Scriptural support, but at least it’s true.

      • Maybe not. The “Trinity” doesn’t appear, either. But I think it is good theology, and good imagery.

        I mean, we are in a battle (not with men) but with the spiritual forces of evil that inhabit men. The devil and his mi nions are real.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > Maybe not. The “Trinity” doesn’t appear, either.
          > But I think it is good theology, and good imagery.

          Both Spiritual Warfare and The Trinity are rubbish in my book. But someone can believe whatever they want about The Trinity, and it completely doesn’t matter [which is WHY it is rubbish IMO, it is inconsquential]; Spiritual Warfare rhetoric leads to bad things.

          > I mean, we are in a battle (not with men) but with the
          > spiritual forces of evil that inhabit men.

          You believe your adversaries are possesed by demons?

          > The devil and his mi nions are real.

          I can belive this is true without believing it is my role to be at War with them or to exorcise them from those who hold positions other than my own.

          • Patrick Kyle says:

            “Both Spiritual Warfare and The Trinity are rubbish in my book.” The Trinity is ‘rubbish?’ Do tell…

          • If the Trinity does not exist, it’s difficult to explain where/how love originates.

            Dana

          • Adam; The theology of the Triune God is one of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith. I would be interested in anyone else here at imonk who holds your view. Well, you can discuss it with the 3 of them when you get to heaven. Also, being oblivious to Satan’s power and schemes will not protect you from their influence. Perhaps you should read “The Screwtape Letters”?

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            First, I do believe in the Trinity. However, it is an illogical premise to assume that one can only explain the origin of love through the Trinity. There are also several Christian denominations which do not affirm the doctrine of the Trinity.

            More importantly, however, the question of whether or not the Trinity exists has nothing to do with Steve Martin’s post, my response to his post, or today’s article, so I’m not quite sure why we’re headed down this rabbit hole.

          • It’s amazing how this part of the thread proves the main article’s point.

          • StuartB…that was exactly what I was thinking. Battle lines being drawn in the midst of an article about not drawing battle lines. Oh, the sad irony…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Then should we start “smelling out” these “spiritual forces of evil which inhabit men” and burn said Witches in the process? Not much of a stretch from one to the other — Witches who are unaware of their Witchcraft because they’re “inhabited” by evil spirits are common in West African witch-hunt panics. And their innocence due to possession doesn’t save them.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Right. Because that policy has never gone horribly wrong before.

          • The first place we ought to start smelling out these forces of evil is…within ourselves.

            The question ought not be ‘why is there evil in the world?’…but rather, ‘why is there evil within us?’

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Easier to point-and-scream at the Other like in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          So sorry, Steve, but “spiritual warfare” is horrible theology. It places communities of believers on the offense, tricks them into thinking they are playing defense, and convinces them that they are engaged in a war which they could possibly lose.

          Accepting that the devil and his “minions” (what an odd word) as something which must be taken on faith, the issue is not that the devil is real. The problem is that we assume that we can only fight the devil by fighting people, policies, creeds, beliefs, and ideas. Also, the problem is that we think this is a battle that belongs to us to fight. Meanwhile, Jesus is claiming he has already overcome, and no one is listening.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And with a lot of these “Spiritual Warfare” types, you have psychically “discerning” spirits like a Shaman, finding Demons by Spectral Evidence, Binding and Commanding Demons like a Karcist Doesn’t seem like much of a stretch from Spiritual Warrior to Master of Mighty Magick (Crowley spelling deliberate).

          • OldProphet says:

            As I shared in previous comments, HUG and Marcus. I have done deliverence ministry for many years and when a demon speaks to you and threatens you with knowledge it could not have known, the theoretical becomes reality. The Devil becomes real too. It wasn’t fake, I was there. Just sayin

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            With all due respect to your ministry, OldProphet, “deliverance ministry” is not material to the subject of my comment or this article. If we were talking about fighting demons and evil spirits, that would be a totally different conversation. Here, we are talking about fighting people: liberals, conservatives, evolutionists, creationists, Republicans, Democrats, academics, literalists, Muslims, Lutherans, Catholics, Protestants, and the list goes on.

            Deciding that it’s our responsibility to fight the devil, when Jesus said he already won the war is the first mistake, Deciding then that the only way to fight the devil is to fight people, or the ideas they affirm which happen to differ from our ideas, is usually the second.

          • OldProphet says:

            1. My talk about deliverance ministry is a response to the posts about the non existence of the Devil. 2. I never said anything about people to affect the Devil. I don’t do that 3. The Devil has power in the earth realm, to think that by ignoring him makes you exemt, well…… Jesus confronted demons throughout his earthly ministry. They are still around. They didn’t all run off to Africa because of the invention of the Buick

    • Yes, Steve. It’s Christian spiritual Jihad. Let’s start with the darkness in our own hearts, and worry about others if we ever get finished with that.

      • Amen

      • good words, MIGUEL . . . ‘the darkness in our own hearts’ is where a lot begins . . . there is a phenomenon that people will sometimes ‘project’ their own darkness on to others and point to ‘them’ as ‘the problem’ . . .

        I suspect that may be where much of the world’s troubles begin . . . with our inability (or unwillingness) to deal with our OWN baggage, and finger-pointing to others as a way of deflecting from our own darkness

      • “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Especially when to the USSR, Solzhenitsyn was one of those “evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds” whom the KGB “separated from the rest of Us”.

        • Christiane says:

          great quote, DAMARIS

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        A booklet on the six-hour stage production of the Mahabarata many years ago included interviews with the main actors. One was Muslim, and spoke of “The true Jihad is that against the darkness within yourself.”

    • Steve, I don’t doubt you mean the things you say, but I also think you find a good deal of fun in posting your thoughts in a way that you know will get us all annoyed and running around in circles. Kind of like poking an ant hill, I imagine. Anyway, I like having you here, if only to keep our adrenaline going.

  2. I’ve walked away from trying to talk to the people on those websites. The reason was confirmed these past two weeks, when I engaged a brother on Facebook in whom I see so much potential. Unfortunately all his posts are about “what is wrong in the church”. I tried to convince him that WE ARE the main stumbling block in the church, but he does not see it that way. Sola scriptura is his motto and of course there is no room to be wrong….. or that he might be wrong. I finally flipped when he posted this article. http://www.dancogan.com/why-i-dont-sing-hillsong-or-jesus-culture-songs To me it was moronic to say the least. So for the sake of inner peace, I walked away. I think we have to listen to each other and find out if “what I’ve heard” is “what you said”. We also have to acknowledge the positive in the other person’s message. BUT and it is a big BUT. If that person cannot acknowledge the positive in what you’ve said and cannot acknowledge the he/she might have some errancy in what he/she believes, then we have to walk away. (We have to make room for the fact that we are broken and make mistakes.) Internet shouting does not build the kingdom of God.

    • It seems like that blog post was taken down in the past day or so. Sorry about that.

    • Precisely the reason why I keep my facebook conversations light and away from theology.

    • I think we have to listen to each other and find out if “what I’ve heard” is “what you said”. We also have to acknowledge the positive in the other person’s message.

      YES! Before ASSUMING that what you THINK a person is saying we should try asking “Did you mean…..?” Most of the time these assumptions come out of our own pain.

      For instance, if we have been subject to sexual discrimination then we may have a tendency to see misogynist meaning behind a person’s comment where none exists. Or, a person who has been hurt by church leadership may just recoil at someone else who is involved in a traditional church setting.

      Also, our online personae may not reflect our offline personality. A generally gregarious person may come off online as aggressive, someone who seems to be always morose may, in reality just be reflective in his writing, and the aggressive poster may just be excited that he can put his unfiltered thoughts down in print when in reality he is a mild personality who rarely peaks out in public.

      PLUS, there is ALWAYS one or two people who just “rub us the wrong way”, no matter WHAT they say. In those cases we should just recognize that and exercise a little forbearance in responding to them.

      Finally there is the subject of politics. We need to be careful to refrain from using terms that are dismissive or unrepresentative of another’s political leanings. Unfortunately the media makes this difficult because they coin many of the words and phrases that people tend to use in any political discussion. MOST of the time we use these without thinking, but it is time we began to THINK before we type.

      And, of course, I count myself as an offender in more than one of these scenarios. Please forgive me…

      • Very insightful points, Oscar. This point — “We need to be careful to refrain from using terms that are dismissive or unrepresentative of another’s political leanings. Unfortunately the media makes this difficult because they coin many of the words and phrases that people tend to use in any political discussion” — made me think of a new concept I’ve learned, that of the “snarl word.” It’s a word used just to express strong negative emotion, not any factual content. So words like “socialist” or “conservative,” which have a specific and useful meaning, become mud clods to hurl at enemies. It’s a shame.

  3. Amen!

    Just the other day, I received a message from a brother who differs with me on Genesis 1 and evolution. He kindly pointed me to Mark 9:42 and added a link to an advertisement offering millstones, with the advise to buy it and use it in the nearest pond.

    This was posted as a comment on my weblog, which attracts both Christians and non Christians. ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, by the wars you wage against other believers for your interpretation of the Bible.’ Indeed.

    • -> “…and added a link to an advertisement offering millstones, with the advise to buy it and use it in the nearest pond.”

      Good grief, how obnoxious!

  4. I have given a lot of thought to apologetics and Paul didn’t get far with them at Athens. I am not saying they don’t have a use. I hate old sayings like iron sharpens iron. It only seems possible when both are of equal hardness at least that to which it is possible to shave hair with. I have sharpen enough knives to know soft steel only folds over and is just as dull if not duller.

    Many times I see the hurts of others manifesting here and proudly on display. I see the opposite and they are the ones on display that have caused some if not here elsewhere.

    I came here with the need of being built up. True, I have found some genuine people and souls here and have peered into their beauty with a different perspective with which I came.

    The metaphors I see pertaining to warfare are about love and the advancement of love. Love being are primary weapon. I see it demonstrated in the pathway to the cross with a determination that only the strongest of all men could endure. It is this I must aspire to and am trying to learn and I have to keep trying to. Anything less and I feel separated. Even when I am doing it wrong I know I am being brought to the place where I will find out how because it is in the failures I learn. It is faith in Him bringing me there. I often wonder in Paul’s walk if he didn’t face these things. I have something to aspire to in these men called apostles. I thank God for them and others I know.

    Humility in love is the strongest force I have ever known. Oh Lord have mercy

    • The Athens passage is an interesting one since it is commonly referenced, but there are differing views on what Paul accomplished there. Some see it as not working out well (as you pointed out), while others point to it as a model since there was some success. I imagine there are others who see it as a mixed bag.

    • Good to see you post here today, w. Blessings.

    • w, I get built up so much here.

      Then I read the comments…and sometimes I find some good there too.

  5. I used to keep an old Peanuts cartoon in my office. Snoopy is typing. Charlie Brown asks what he is doing. Snoopy says, writing a book on theology, to which Charlie Brown responds, “I hope you have a good title.” Snoopy says, “I do, Has It Ever Occurred to You that You Are Wrong?”

    • 🙂
      the wisdom of Peanuts is always eye-opening . . . the ‘humble’ Snoopy himself is especially known for casting light on our more pompous ways

  6. I think at least some of the violent passion around many of these issues comes from the fact that Christianity has traditionally held the threat of hellfire over people’s heads for getting these wrong, and hellfire is scary. As a result, many Christians want to attach themselves to some airtight set of doctrines and beliefs that they think will secure them from the threat of hellfire.

    To the degree that they make that attachment, which can never be logically or psychologically invulnerable, they view anyone raising questions as a threat to their safety from hell, particularly when the questions and doubts raised are ones that they have struggled to suppress in their minds and hearts. They in fact view these questions as temptations, and the questioner as a tempter. But the vitriol and passion of their reaction to questions and questioners is rooted in their attempt to shore up their particular theological and doctrinal viewpoints against their own uncertainty and doubt, which they have constantly to suppress.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Christianity has traditionally held the threat of hellfire

      I do not think so.

      It is far more subtle, IMO. I do not believe it is actually about the issues at hand, or their legitimacy. Most of the time it is an issue of identity. We are we, and they are they, and thus we have substance. If it was about the issues people would be far more informed about the issues than they actually are – but mostly one finds a bullet-point level of understanding and a nearly complete ability to cite or even name source texts [biblical or otherwise].

      But holding positions A, B, & C makes me part of group X. And in a group I am safe, I am defined. This appeals to all of us. We all want an Us – that is human.

      It may begin with the idea or the concept but with age and time it gradually becomes about identity. And then pride; my people. And change, or questioning, would be betrayal.

      • Fear of losing group identity? Yes. Fear of hellfire? That, too.
        I see such fear among so many believers. Fear of others who don’t exactly share their beliefs. My daughter attended an Lutheran Church in college for a while (LCMS) but left when the pastor announced that no Christians should go to the Dalai Lama’s lecture at the university because, as he was not Christian, he had nothing to say that would be beneficial to a Christian. She never went back to that church. I don’t understand that mentality. Non-Christians are loved by God as much as you or I and have much to teach us. If I, as a Christian, am afraid of learning about and from others’ beliefs, I’d guess my own beliefs to be extremely weak.

        • How very said that one of our ministers would say that to you. FWIW, many of us in the synod would gladly attend that lecture (just don’t ask us to open it in prayer 😛 ).

          If I, as a Christian, am afraid of learning about and from others’ beliefs, I’d guess my own beliefs to be extremely weak.

          Bingo. He who is afraid to hear is practically confessing his own err.

          I think both Adam and Robert are right, but it is more complex. For some people it is fear of damnation, for others it is tribalism, and for most, at least a partial mix of both but more driven by many other factors. Not everybody arguing for the supremacy of their perspective does so out of insecurity or the incessant need for self-justification. Sometimes it’s just the beggar-and-bread thing. Some of us just enjoy arguing about theology. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is a right and wrong way of doing it. Crossing that line can easily happen in the best of conversations, so I find that when it doubt, best to cut a brother some slack and assume the best.

          • (just don’t ask us to open it in prayer )

            Genuinely curious…why not?

          • -> “For some people it is fear of damnation, for others it is tribalism…”

            Fear and tribalism. Bingo. And two things I’d argue that Jesus came to do away with. Which means a Christian who still walks in fear and tribalism is not being very Christ-like.

          • Stuart, the words “prayer fellowship” are part of the reason. You can Google it.

          • @Adam and Miguel, notice, I did not make a sweeping generalization that all are motivated in their vitriol for the same reasons. I merely observed that fear of hell is definitely a component, for some a stronger component than for others.

            Neither did I mean or say that one may only have a strong opinion and stance regarding doctrine as a result of ignoble motives.

          • Stuart, we draw a hard line on things like “inter-faith prayer services.” It’s not that we don’t feel comfortable praying whenever and with whomever, but in order to boldly confess the exclusivity of Christ, we refrain from formally participating in mixed religion events. Our prayers are a part of how we confess what we believe (lex orandi lex credendi), so just as most Christians would not invite a Muslim or Buddhist into their pulpits on Sunday, so we too respect our differences by not pretending we all worship the same God. In the context of a Buddhist presentation, we would not presume to treat it as a Christian event by addressing the Christian God at its opening. The Dalai Llama may have some very good things to say, but it is most certainly not a Christian presentation, and he certainly rejects the Gospel. We’re happy to let the Buddhists do their thing the Buddhist way, and it would be better for us to visit these sort of things as outside observers than to try to shoehorn our beliefs into their practice.

          • Miguel, you know that Budfhism is, at heart, non-theistic, right? Robert F understand this far better than i, and can explain it if he wants to.,i am not adequate to the task.

          • But it’s just a lecture. Where is this “prayer fellowship” coming into play? That’s an entirely different question.

            But it sounds like another form of separationism, if not as extreme as the ones I’ve been around, which is often just another variation of praying in public that we’re not like that guy over there.

          • numo, I would be happy to explain whatever I can, but I’m not sure that there’s a need to do so, since I don’t see that Miguel said anything in his comments that suggests that he thinks Buddhism is a theistic religion.

            The various dominant forms of world Buddhism are non-theistic religious philosophies, but their non-theism has a special meaning. They neither deny nor affirm the existence of God, because they do not believe that God’s (or the gods’) existence or non-existence makes any difference in the project of extinguishing attachment, and the suffering that follows from attachment.

            Though Tibetan Buddhism has a pantheon of gods and goddesses, these are understood to be expressions and symbols of states of being through which sentient being travels on the way to liberation, enlightenment; that is, they are projections of consciousness on the screen of experience, without any independent existence of their own. Indeed, the Buddhist doctrine of dependent origination/mutual co-arising asserts that all forms are composed of interpenetrating qualities that have no essential identity in themselves, but are manifestations of non-dual reality, in which every manifestation is dependent on every other manifestation for its arising and appearance.

            If the historical/legendary Gautama Buddha, along with his disciples, were to tune into iMonk one day, he would presumably tell them: “Do not be like these poor fools, attached to the scriptures. Among such, you will finding nothing but contention about matters which are not skillful means for the cessation of attachment. Indeed, with every word they speak to each other, they trap themselves further in the web of their own illusion, samsara. They illustrate, oh bhikkus, that the mind is indeed a monkey.”

          • Stuart – yes, i agree. It is, however, something particular to some of the more conservative Lutheran synods here in the US, this thing about “prayer fellowship.”

            Not saying that to be critical, just by way of info., though it does baffle me (a bit).

          • Numo, I do believe you are mistaken on this one: “Prayer fellowship” is more of a WELS issue (they won’t even pray with our softball team). We’ll pray with anybody, except in the context of a religious event. At that point, we only pray with Christians.

            Stuart, it’s not about us being superior to the heretics. Do you pray to Jesus with Muslims who are praying to Allah?

          • Miguel – however, it is a long term sticking point for both the WELS and the LCMS. But i won’t mention scouting if you won’t. 😉

            As to praying with Muslims, I would do it, because isn’t it about the One who hears us, really? By praying with, i mean that i wouldn’t convert, but if Muslim friends ever asked me to pray together, i would gladly do so.

          • Wow, Numo. I guess you know more about the history of denominational politics than I do, because I’m not really sure what you refer to with “scouting.” I have front row seat to a lot of the inside baseball of the LCMS right now, and a large majority of it flies over my head. There’s a lot of baggage built up in the entrenched poles, and I am learning surprising things regularly.

            I do know that the WELS will not pray with us. If a Muslim asked me to pray with him, this is where I would draw the line: 1. He would not be addressing Allah in my church (worship service). 2. I would not be praying to Jesus in his Mosque. 3. I would never allow for anything that gives the impression that I believe we are addressing the same person when he prays to Allah and I pray to Jesus. 4. I would not allow for anything that gives the impression that I am joining him in his prayers to Allah.

            Sure, it is possible that I can be with him as he prays to Allah and not be supplicating a false God in my own heart. But in that instance, I’m simply standing near him while he prays, I’m not “joining him.” Therefore, if a Muslim asks me to join him in prayer, to not say “no” would be dishonest, because I will not be praying to Allah. Polite acquiescence here is not the right thing to do, it is simply disingenuous.

    • Robert,

      I think that you’re right (and I think Adam’s point about tribal boundaries is also true). There is definitely a hellfire component to this. IMO a large amount of what I’ve heard in traditional Christian teaching – once I get thru the fluff and surface stuff and get at what is really being said – is fear based. With hellfire at stake, I don’t find it the least bit surprising that people get nasty or emotional. Particularly as the substance of “faith” is very often presented as abstract theology (rather than on concrete acts of service and love which are “works”) we have a perfect environment for “Christian militarism” (to go along with the theme of the post).

      So I don’t think it’s a new things at all. Eternal damnation isn’t a new idea in the Christian faith. And issues of identity and us vs. them have been around for a while. And looking at history I think “Christian militarism” has been around for a while too – it wouldn’t be hard to find inflammatory quotes from centuries past (and not just in religious matters) that would be right at home in today’s blogs. I’m not nearly as well versed in history as some of you so someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t anabaptists drowned by certain protestants around the time of the reformation because they were thought to be denying the faith and leading people to hell? This was a matter of saving people from hell – and no response could be too extreme if it could effectively prevent that from happening.

      The inability to discern between primary and secondary issues is a big one too. Given the commonly understood idea of biblical authority/inerrancy, virtually any issue can cause THAT issue (biblical inerrancy) to be at stake. In that context there are no secondary issues – everything becomes a “gospel issue”.

      But something is different. Like the post says:

      “The internet, unfortunately, makes it easier to engage in the kinds of fruitless battles that are the subject of this rant. The technology has made it possible for whole armies of faceless people to unload on each other and never have to face any consequences in real life. One blog can take on another blog.”

      I tend to agree – the internet has made it possible to engage in these battles to a degree not before possible. The internet does make it easier for people to anonymously unload on one another, no doubt. But I think there’s more to it. The amount of information that we’re trying to sift thru is incredible. Us younger generations don’t trust authority much anymore. These are also factors.

    • Really, really good statement Robert F. about folk being so worried concerning the right stance, and how it will appear. I hit reply but may not appear there.

  7. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    > Are some people simply temperamentally confrontational
    > like this, so that they see everything in “war” terms?

    Yes. And we are fed a constant diet of monger-gruel to reenforce this; not just in Evangelicalism but culture-wide.

    > Do some people just love the adrenalin rush, the sense
    > that this very moment is the point of crisis, …
    > Do some people just like to fight?

    Yes, myself certainly. I love a fight [both rhetorically and when I was younger the physical kind too]. The clarity provided by a fight is intoxicating; more so than anything else I have encountered. Fortunately with age physical confrontation doesn’t stop hurting in a few days, and the blood cools, … and it just gets exhausting being in that hyper-vigilant mode all the time.

    The most potent antidote is to get to know that other person. Whether that is the Catholic classmate [if you are Evangelical], the popular girl in high school [when you are from the unpopular group], or the business man, or the…. After you’ve sat there and had a real conversation with them it gets much harder to rage against them. Maybe not apparent at first, but a little uneasiness sets in; for me it took years for that germ to flower, but I am grateful it was planted.

    Those conversations do not happen nearly often enough. Some days our society seems built purposely to insulate us from those conversations. It was very optimistic to assume – as a lot of people did – that Social Media would bring people together. It just automated the creation of the Straw Man. I wish I had some idea how society is going to get itself out of this thicket.

    > How did the faith of Jesus and the apostles get turned into
    > such a “take the hill” charge?

    It didn’t, not exclusively. It is important to take a step back and see that we have done this with *everything*. Militarism has seeped into every issue, every discussion.

    > Is anyone else getting tired and cynical listening to the
    > constant drone of the “watchmen” sounding alarms, promoting
    > fear, and issuing dire warnings of chaos to come?

    The demographic data makes the answer pretty clear -> Yes.
    Younger people have walked away.

  8. I keep thinking the source of some of the militant attitude is we don’t really trust God to work, instead we (we being the other guys because of course, I’m not like this) feel a need to hurry God along.

    I see this in other areas as well. The Bible says that if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. We don’t trust that and when we do, we find some poor soul who is not that new creation and hurts us, our kids or our fellowship.

    The list could go on.

  9. It’s always good to stress the fact that there are primary issues, and secondary issues (this does not mean secondary issues are not important, just they are not at the core of the faith).

    Isn’t a big part of the problem the “slippery slope” concern many people have?

  10. I’m in complete agreement with Chaplain Mike here. This is one of the two main reasons I stay away from the comments section of any site, especially “Christian” ones, and from church. Is there not enough fighting going on already?

    I fight myself when I wake up. I fight myself all day. I fight myself when I am asleep. Why go looking for more?

    I’m still trying to learn what this means: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.

    Now you can fight my comment. Come on, you know you want to. Point out my “error”, show me the “truth”, proclaim to all and sundry that I am a _________________ opposed to something “important”.

    Go for it!

  11. I think Matt B. Redmond said it best: “I’m convinced that much of what we argue about in evangelicalism is a result of our lack of adversity.”

    • I have heard the ongoing fundamentalist fight in the SBC described as the fundamentalists won in the early 80s but couldn’t figure out how to stop fighting.

      • David Cornwell says:

        Fundamentalism is ABOUT fighting. Fundamentalists are defensive in nature, building high a wall that cannot be breached. However part of it is also offensive in nature taking the form of a spoiling or preemptive strike against the enemy. Hit from behind in the darkness of night, then retreat behind the fortress walls.

        • is ‘home schooling’ and ‘home church’ used as mechanism to keep their young isolated from ‘the world’ and ‘safe’ from ideas that go against fundamentalist teaching?

          I see ‘control’ as the ultimate need of those who have embraced strict fundamentalism. Those walls they build are a manifestation of their great fearfulness, which is sad. And I think that some words from Philip Yancey about this isolation-exclusion phenomenon have great meaning for me:
          ““Sociologist and researcher Amy Sherman has said that Christians tend to have three models for interacting with society: fortification, accommodation, and domination.
          To put that in layman’s terms:
          We hunker down amongst ourselves, water down our witness, or beat down our opponents. For many reasons, those aren’t New Testament models.” (Philip Yancey)

          A question I have had for some time is this: are there certain personality types that are drawn to fundamentalism in all religions? In extreme cases, are these people actually unwell ?

          • “. . .are there certain personality types that are drawn to fundamentalism in all religions?”

            There is a book that is available to read for free online that you might find interesting. It’s called “The Authoritarians” by Bob Altemeyer, and it’s on the website for the University of Manitoba. I think his analysis of the authoritarian personality type fits a lot of fundamentalists quite well.

          • Christiane,

            Extra points for the Philip Yancey quote. His new book is on my list, and I just pulled What’s So Amazing About Grace? off the shelf for a new look after too many years.

            To answer your questions, “are there certain personality types that are drawn to fundamentalism in all religions? In extreme cases, are these people actually unwell ?”

            It sounds like you’ve been burned. I would answer “Yes” to both questions, but I have no training except for having been burned myself.

            In my opinion, a Christian fundamentalist would be an Islamic fundamentalist or a McCarthyite if he’d had a different background. In extreme cases, yes, I think they are very unwell, if obsession is a disease.

            Jesus said to pray for our enemies.

          • is ‘home schooling’ and ‘home church’ used as mechanism to keep their young isolated from ‘the world’ and ‘safe’ from ideas that go against fundamentalist teaching?

            Many go beyond that and believe it’s what God COMMANDS, and if you aren’t…well, you are sort of living in sin, aren’t you? Here’s a pamphlet. God bless you.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        What do Predators eat after they’ve killed off all the prey?

  12. I think I non trivial part of this is that many people just can’t deal with gray in any areas of their world view. For a variety of reasons ranging from not wanting to have to think about things to mental illness. And with this outlook they MUST defend their religious positions at all costs otherwise their entire reason for life falls apart. Admitting you might be wrong on an aspect of faith (strange how that word fits here) means that your “faith” might have no meaning. To them.

    I’ve lost relationships with people of these types over the years. The biggest one being my mother. My brothers and I recently buried her. A lonely bitter lady who thought of her children as evil because they didn’t agree with her on EVERYTHING. For any of us to have a conversation with her that lasted more than a few minutes we had to lie and agree with some position of her’s we disagreed with or get literally yelled at. On any topic. Religion to science to doctors to food to … well the weather at the moment.

    She only had 3 friends show up at her funeral which was more than we expected.

    I see my mother’s end as the end of this road when carried out to an extreme.

    It’s sad.

  13. I grew up in a sect of Christianity which did not brook any dissent. Because of that I still have a really hard time 1. not making people evil when they disagree with me and 2. being able to view the world as a place in which I bring the Light of Christ (not WAR). I find myself quoting “do we hold the Creed in common” when I’m in situations that are possibly rife with disagreement. Christina Clevland’s Disunity in Christ has been very helpful to me.

  14. I think this is a ‘human’ problem, rather than a ‘Protestant’ problem…or an ‘Evangelical’ problem, or a ‘Fundamentalist’ problem, it’s endemic within all aspects of the human race.

    IM is (IMHO) certainly not immune to this. Day after day….I often read a bit, and then delete….why? Because so many blog posts are filled with pointing out the ridiculousness (and many ARE ridiculous) actions, words, and positions of this or that leader in the ‘Evangelical Protestant’ world.

    This is why I seldom post here. Why not then dwell on the POSITIVE….dwell on what we feel God has called us to be and do….instead of pointing out the flaws of all those in the world we’ve perhaps left….or don’t feel at home in any more?

    That may be far more blessing to readers, than to read about, and confirm our worst suspicions about….this or that in the North American churches.

    Blessings

  15. Mornin CM. I just started viewing the blog. Loved that you called a cease fire yesterday. Today’s post is also timely. But it appears that it is in vain. The anger and vitriol is already evident in some comments Really, one person calling some peoples positions “rubbish”? And other negative responses can be mentioned? Truly we need to address Jesus statement about “the quarrels that beset us”. It’s almost Christmas. And every Christmas I watch the WW1 movie about the Christmas cease fire and celebration between the English and German troops in the front line trenches. It’s moving and wonderful. Of course, court martial followed, but….

  16. A very needed post. Couldn’t agree more. I have a family member in the group that CM commented in back in 2010 and happened to see the aftermath of his comment. I was dismayed but not as surprised as I might have been given other experiences with people who have gotten themselves into camps like this, including my family member.

    Why the warfare mentality? Certainly it has to do with group identity, security, and a sense of power and place. But the thing that stands out to me in my interactions is an astonishing pride, specifically spiritual pride. I don’t know if that’s the driver, but it is certainly the predominant feature. I’ve also seen this lead to contempt for those outside the group. In my more cynical moments, I also sometimes think those in leadership keep the war drums beating to keep their followers whipped up, consolidate power, and keep the money flowing.

    By contrast, peace is relatively boring, and peacemaking requires sacrifices that are often unseen, sometimes great sacrifices over long periods of time. No immediate gratification in that, and nothing much to bind you to the group identity or give you power. It’s messy, and there are gray areas sometimes, and you may not succeed. But to me, and certainly to many others, it looks a lot more like Jesus than marching to war over a molehill does.

  17. One time in Church a pastor showed a clip from Gomer Pyle where he wouldn’t fight the enemy because he loved them too much. And the sergeant was yelling at him that he would be killed if he didn’t fight and what not. The point the pastor was trying to make was that if we don’t fight ‘spiritual battles’ we look absurd and that Christ was some drill sergeant yelling at us to fight. Needless to say it was the most backwards metaphor I think I ever saw in Church! I want to be like Private Pyle refusing to raise arms against those that would want to do me harm out of love. (I have a lot of work on that aspect in Christianity too!)

  18. David Cornwell says:

    “What happened to keeping the central teaching the central teaching?”

    This is where the “yes but” begins.

  19. Sean O Riain says:

    Until a little over two years I was not a Christian. I called myself Agnostic, but that really was not the correct term. I have always been a theist, but I could not determine which, if any, religion was true. However, the last two years have been life changing and I currently find myself working on my Masters in Theology. With that said, I have been looking for sites such as this to see what the “discussions” are all about out there. This is the first time I have posted on any blog, so please forgive my ignorance if something is not done correctly. Anyway, on to my point.

    Since I started studying Theology, I deemed it was necessary to have my own personal creed. I came up with the following, which I think in some small way touches on the theme of this post:

    1. I do not currently, and will never in present human form, know all there is to know and understand in relation to God and His creation. This must remain in the forefront of all religious study, dialogue, and communication.

    Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV), “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

    Isaiah 55:9 (NIV), “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

    2. I will always remain open to study and learning new ideas and thoughts from others as well as my own interpretative reading, while always asking God for clarification and to pull me from directions leading me astray.

    2 Timothy 3:14-16 (NIV) “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

    Romans 12:2 (NIV), “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

    3. I will always accept the views, thoughts, and beliefs of others. This is mainly due to point one, but also because I have not been granted the authority to judge, nor do I seek such authority.

    James 4:11-12 (NIV), “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it… There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”

    Matthew 7:1-2 (NIV), “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

    4. Conversations regarding theological matters will only be for the purposes of strengthening my own faith and understanding, and never designed to negatively impact another’s faith and relationship with God. I am not to cause another to stumble nor do I wish to cause strife or unhappiness. Furthermore, I have no desire to quarrel, especially in light of point one.

    1 Corinthians 8:9 (NIV), “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”

    Romans 14:1 (NIV), “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.”

    Ecclesiastes 3:12 (NIV), “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.”

    5. In the event that matters become too troublesome, either in my relationship with God, my relationship with my neighbors, or with my own studies, I will simply pause and reflect, and then ask for future guidance.

    Psalm 46:10 (NIV), “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”

    Ok, so that’s it. Do I have my own personal opinions and strong feelings about specific theological ideas? I most certainly do. Yet, I am only a human and I think the verse from Micah sums up my approach quite nicely. I will humble myself and work to love my neighbors whether I agree with their stances or not, and will try to continue to do so even when their militant views try to force me from my convictions.

    By the way, it has been a pleasure reading the blogs on this site and all of the comments over the last week or so that I have been visiting. The writers and commenters all seem to have much I can learn from, and for that I thank you all.

  20. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Are some people simply temperamentally confrontational like this, so that they see everything in “war” terms?

    Type Example: R.B.Thieme Jr:
    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/whatever-happened-to-r-b-thieme

    “In the Grimdark Future, There Will Always Be WAR!”
    — Warhammer 40K (which invented the terms “Grimdark” and “Crapsack” Universe)

    What happened to humility? to holding one’s interpretations and opinions with some sense of modesty and reserve? to abandoning the self-important delusion that the task is all up to me? to being willing to have civil discussions and debates with those who have other opinions rather than just preaching to the choir and lobbing grenades out of our protected little bunkers at the “enemy”?

    The one that tells me I’ve got to protect my (God’s!) territory and view others with suspicion as threats to my well-being. The one that says “I am called of God to tar and feather you because you are wrong, wrong, wrong!”

    “For in the Devil’s theology, the most important thing is to be Absolutely Right and to prove everyone else to be Absolutely Wrong.”
    — Thomas Merton

    • Merton is/was brilliant. “The Moral Theology of the Devil” should be required reading. Here’s the full paragraph which, I think, strengthens the connection to this topic. This is towards the end of the essay, so the whole thing leads to this.

      Another characteristic of the devil’s moral theology is the exaggeration of all distinctions between this and that, good and evil, right and wrong. These distinctions become irreducible divisions. No longer is there any sense that we might perhaps all be more or less at fault, and that we might be expected to take upon our own shoulders the wrongs of others by forgiveness, acceptance, and patient understanding and love, and thus help one another to find the truth. On the contrary, in the devil’s theology, the important thing is to be absolutely right and to prove that everybody else is absolutely wrong. This does not exactly make for peace and unity among men, because it means that everybody wants to be absolutely right himself, or to attach himself to another who is absolutely right. And in order to prove their rightness they have to punish and eliminate those who are wrong. Those who are wrong, in turn, convinced that they are right… etc.

    • HUG! I rediscovered Fantasy Flight Games this past weekend via their new game center. Played a few rounds of Warhammer DiskWars and grok’d a bunch of miniatures and Magic games. Cool place.

  21. Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

    For me it boils down to a very simple meme. We, as a culture, have lost the virtues, especially charity. And Christians, who above all have a mandate to charity, are more concerned with being right than doing right. One of the negative consequences of the Reformation seems to be an increasing emphasis of orthodoxy over orthopraxy. My two cents.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      But arguing is easier than doing [anything]. If you just argue it is easy to get lazy, slowly sink back into your arguments.

      > an increasing emphasis of orthodoxy over orthopraxy.

      Agree. But I wonder if this is/was fundamentally about the Reformation [which, I will give you is best described as “a mess”]. The Yankee Calvinists who settled western New England and the most of the mid-west were very concerning with doing.

      But whatever positive threads existed in the Reformation it’s children have had a very hard time dealing with Modernity. Modernity has made Doing all that much harder, and the retreat into orthodoxy that much more tempting.

    • Did Protestantism ever have the virtues? Maybe the clue is in the name…

  22. One of many reasons I find David R. Hawkins so valuable in navigating these times is that he provides a chart of human evolutionary development from the lowest tooth and claw mentality up to the epitome demonstrated by Jesus. He treats both the psychological and social development as well as the spiritual. It is presented as a scientific chart in the same way that modern child development is laid out age by age.

    With this in view I find it easier to cope with the fundamentalist tunnel vision based on fear, which is pretty much the same as we see with the Taliban and ISIS, just not as physically violent. It does not have people locked up in their present level any more than first graders will stay at that level in school. At the same time it does not expect people to go from learning their numbers and sums directly to square roots and algebra. Love seems to be the key to fostering development, not answering in kind.

    For whatever it is worth, here is my present creed which was done as a discipline of having it fit exactly onto a standard dog tag worn around the neck with all spaces filled and none left over. The irony of a military dog tag creed in today’s context does not escape me but does amuse me. I’m not yelling, dog tags use all caps.

    OUR GOD IS LOVE
    WE ARE HIS CHILD
    HIS WILL BE DONE
    JESUS IS MESSIAH
    WE ARE HIS BODY

  23. In 2008 I read a paper, published in a monastic journal, that would eventually end up being the first 2 chapters of Fr Meletios Webber’s book “Bread, Water, Wine and Oil.” It’s worth the price of the book for just those (but the rest is very good, too). They are basically a distillation of Patristic psychology as to why we behave the way we do.

    Lack of trust in God, inability to deal with gray areas, group mentality – all those our symptoms of our overarching fears related to our need to ensure our own survival, to trample down anything that might bring death or even feels like it might in the tiniest way lead to our non-existence. Since the first humans refused to trust and find their source of life in God (that’s what the “fall” story in Genesis is about), we believe in our deepest being that it’s up to us to make sure we have life, even if it means to the detriment of others, even those we love. This made the best sense to me of anything I have read before or since. Richard Beck also discusses much of this kind of thing in his book “The Slavery of Death.”

    I think Jesus-shaped spirituality is ultimately about living in such a way that incrementally (because each person didn’t get where s/he is overnight and we all live among people who are just like us…) we come to the ability to accept death, or those experiences in life that feel like smaller deaths. That is the way that we, like Christ, are able to offer ourselves to the Father in the Spirit; it is the Cross working in our lives. The “spiritual disciplines” and the Sacraments are meant to help us find the “place” where we are able to change our way of thinking and turn toward God (metanoia). It’s not magick, and it’s not easy. But it is in our death(s) that we become fully human beings, just as in his death Christ showed us what it is to actually be fully human (and fully God). This latter is the subject of Fr John Behr’s book “Becoming Human” – an exceptionally good read. God ultimately wants us to be fully the human persons he created us to be, in the Image of Jesus Christ. The ways we treat others when we view them as The Other, My Enemy, The Threat To My Life, are *IN*human.

    Humility in love really is the most powerful thing, as w wrote. If we are in that place, there is simply no room for fear. We know in our bones that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, we have quit lying to ourselves about the ground of our existence, and we trust that the Resurrection is sure to come on the other side of whatever death we must endure. Therefore, we can truly love and offer ourselves to others as well – even and especially our “enemies.”

    Dana

  24. “If we’re going to “take a stand” anywhere, it should be here. Along with the other core creeds of the church, this is the central teaching that defines our faith…?Not one’s particular approach to ecclesiology such as church structure, leadership roles, specifics about how the sacraments should be practiced, or worship styles.”

    I think this is a good reminder.

  25. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Regarding the title “Boot Camp Blather”:

    Many veterans have told me that you only find such “Boot Camp Bragging” among Boots who have NEVER seen action. Once they’ve Seen the Elephant for real, they NEVER talk like that again.

    (I recently proofed a book of family memoirs for a friend of mine. He had an uncle at Omaha Beach, another at Anzio, and another at Saipan and Okinawa. The uncle from Omaha Beach said only that he saw more men die in one day than he ever knew were alive at the same time; the uncle from the Pacific described Suicide Cliff on Saipan but refused to speak about Okinawa.)

    So I can only conclude all these Christianese Culture/Spiritual Warfare types have NO actual “combat experience”. Else they wouldn’t be so glib and full of bravado.

  26. Is some of the difference in handling based on the nature of the topics?
    1) Sin, weakness, failure we all experience. But to address it in a way that changes people, we need to address their specific sins, weaknesses, and failure. That is inherently an individual practice that needs to address specific people with their specific situations. A good spiritual mentor is not going to use blanket statements. So the pressure to develop and teach the “one right” solution is defeated by the nature of the topic. Again, while we all have sins, and most of us believe in confessing them, almost nobody believes that we should confess our sins by publicizing them widely. Instead we confess them to a select person or few people.
    2) Theology can be addressed wholesale. That makes it possible to believe one has found the “one right” solution that everyone needs to agree with. Nothing holds us back from publicizing our views on these “one right” solutions except humility.
    3) Growth in love is easy to support at very high levels of vagueness. But exercising love needs to be done in individual situations, meeting individual needs. So we can’t teach a “one right” solution that is more specific than “listen to the promptings of the holy spirit, look to the needs and wants of others”. Again, the nature of the topic defeats the potential to take hard and fast stands and battle for them.

    One passage that God strongly called my attention to when was a new believer was the passage beginning at Romans 14:1 and continues into Romans 15 “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. … Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. … the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, … So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, … Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Do we teach this passage often enough? Indeed, have you ever heard it taught from the front? I have not.

    • Sean O Riain says:

      grberry,

      Excellent thoughts, and a couple of things specifically grabbed my attention. In your first point you said “A good spiritual mentor is not going to use blanket statements.” Oh, how this is the truth, at least from my experience. Before I was a full believer, it was those “blanket statements” that kept me from really latching on. Then I met a great spiritual mentor, and although he has been guilty of using them in casual settings, he rarely is so vague when it truly matters.

      I also was struck by your inclusion of Romans 14:1. If you look above at my so-called creed, you will see that I actually cite that verse as well. It must be something important to speak to “new believers” because it really spoke to me when I was one too. When you are on the outside and trying to get in, you can easily see all the confrontation and “disputable matters” that people quarrel over within the Church. It can be disheartening and even give credence to remaining an unbeliever. However, Paul’s words here grabbed my hand and said, “It’s ok, come on in.”

    • “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. …

      Amen. Yet this is where I get hung up, because all my life I’ve been surrounded by the professional weaker brother, and it surely is tyranny. My comment to HUG above about going to Fantasy Flight Games would make me anathema to many, and yet close brother to a christian friend of mine who owns a similar type store (mostly Magic the Gathering and similar games).

      And this is the quandary. Some would say that the wiser, more seasoned, the stronger must lay down their rights for the weaker. And yet…that never flows the other way. Which leads to the stronger living the same life as the weaker, growing progressively more anemic and atrophied. Who is truly strong then? Probably the one that got someone else to change and bend to their will.

      So…my conclusion is I’m done caring and jumping out of the race entirely. And I’ve found many others here at IM and elsewhere.

      • davidbrainerd2 says:

        “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. …”

        But Paul didn’t practice what he preached on that. Remember Romans 9, its like remember the Alamo. Remember the guy that called out Paul’s nonsensical predestination false doctrine, “But Paul, if that’s true, then how can God still find fault when we sin? Sin ceases to be sin because everything is ordained by God’s will.” And Paul’s answer? “Who are you O man to reply against God.” Wow. He condemned the guy over a totally disputable and stupid matter! And he questioned the guy’s commitment to God acting like he was “replying against God” when in reality he was only questioning Paul’s totally stupid and questionable doctrine. So its Paul’s hypocrisy on this point that fuels a lot of this nonsense.

    • This : “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. …” is wonderful. I’m going to have to highlight this portion in my bible.

      It’s commendable to be strong in your opinions, but goodness… this may be out of context, but “swallowing a camel and straining at a gnat” (Matt 23:24) is a phrase that pops into my head when I think about people getting so hung up on the things that don’t…really….matter.

      This may be over-simplifying it, but pretty sure accepting Jesus as your savior is what gets you into eternity with him and not so much how exactly you interpret Genesis.

      What ever happened to [respectfully] agreeing to disagree (on anything, really, not just faith-based)?

      Additionally, I’m both weary & wary of the ubiquitous spiritual/cultural warfare.

  27. I’m just guessing here, but I think some of the reason for “boot camp blather” is that it’s a metaphor that resonates with a lot of people. Christian men often consider themselves a “Band of Brothers.” Warfare and its associated lingo connects with our current culture much as Jesus’ parables did with the culture during his time. I use it myself periodically.

    That said, it’s an overly used metaphor and should be used with discretion. The points in this article are well-made and valid.

  28. “Growth in love is easy to support at very high levels of vagueness.”

    Too true. It seems many people who love humanity in general really dislike humans in the specific. Curiously, the opposite is also often true, which isn’t really the point here.

    Overall I think Christians (really, people in general) are just very poor at indicating they think something is important without also fighting about it. It can be hard to believe somebody really cares about something if they’re not “doing something” about it.

    • -> “Overall I think Christians (really, people in general) are just very poor at indicating they think something is important without also fighting about it. It can be hard to believe somebody really cares about something if they’re not “doing something” about it.”

      Spot on. And let’s face it, there are some scriptural elements that seem to support this, so it’s easy to see how this becomes the case for Christians.

  29. -> “Overall I think Christians (really, people in general) are just very poor at indicating they think something is important without also fighting about it. It can be hard to believe somebody really cares about something if they’re not “doing something” about it.”

    Spot on. And let’s face it, there are some scriptural elements that seem to support this, so it’s easy to see how this becomes the case for Christians.

  30. davidbrainerd2 says:

    Its funny to me how you guys reject the literal truth of Genesis 1-2 but then buy into lying Pauline theology based on a hyper-literal misinterpretation of Genesis 3. I go the opposite way: Genesis 1-2 is literal, Genesis 3 is an allegory saying “Obey God because if you don’t he punishes you” and has nothing to do with a “Fall” of mankind as a whole, and the incoherence of Romans 5 helps prove my point.

  31. Mike,

    I’ve read the 2010 blogpost that you quoted, and the comments that followed.

    I’m currently reading Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, which makes me apostate. I’m comforted that it was Christianity Today’s “Book of the Year” in 1995, but that would make CT apostate too.

    Here’s what I found this morning on page 187-188:

    Under the social pressures of the early twentieth century as well as the impetus of their own movement, fundamentalists gave in to the weaker elements of their theology, with harmful results for the practice of science. In particular, fundamentalism retreated to Manichaeism, under the assumption that science was a battlefield in which the forces of light must yield nary an inch to the forces of darkness. It adopted a form of super supernaturalism, which had the effect of demonizing the ordinary study of nature. It also fastened on to notions of the “literal interpretation” for the Bible that made it very difficult to see how earlier believers had found the Scriptures a stimulus to full-scale investigation of the physical world. The rise and, from the perspective of the nineteenth century, surprising strength of scientific creationism among evangelicals is the best illustration of these inclinations.

    It’s not merely science. It’s the forces of light against the forces of darkness.

    Noll says later, on page 192, that “since 1960, creationism has done more than any other issue except abortion to inflame the cultural warfare in American public life.”

    • As Mark Noll wrote somewhere in “Scandal,” ‘I am writing as a wounded lover of evangelicalism.”

      Noll later remarked that it was an encouraging to him to find that so many evangelicals identified with his position in that book.

      I’m always struck, every time I re-enter one of these conversations, how many people know there’s problem. I’m simultaneously struck by the vitriol these conversations evoke. I now meet this with a steely determination as that boat pitches around, but it still takes all the wind out of me to keep my footing. All in a moment, I can be back at college — where I’d shipped myself specifically to be able to “contend” for “the faith,” and to avoid the pitfalls of training to be an academic — full of misgivings and troubling observations, hiding a terrible secret.

      The great trouble for evangelicalism is that these narratives are so powerful. Many evangelicals sense there are problems presented by the battles some leaders have chosen, and with the narrative these battles consist of a great war between light and dark. However, it is very difficult, especially from the inside, to twist around and dismantle the rhetoric that being used to advance particular viewpoints–it is particularly hard to name and challenge the overarching narrative in which there are insiders and outsiders, light and dark, truth and compromise, faithful Christians and traitors, a Christian nation or dystopia, salvation or Hell. The pursuit of God has been linked to a great array of causes and fears, and to give up any of them (someone will always argue) is to lose God. It’s a powerful argument, that evokes a terrible fear.

  32. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Boot Camp Blather leads to the Bug Out Boogie.