Just got finished reading an interesting column in a recent Newsweek. I thought I might take a few minutes over a few different posts to respond.
So, take a minute to read this column, and let's sit a spell -- to use the parlance of my southern West Virginia roots -- and talk a bit about it, point by point.
"Given the most common interpretation of of Biblical prophecy, it is not an exaggeration to say that nearly half the American population is eagerly anticipating the end of the world. It should be clear that this faith-based nihilism provides its adherents with absolutely no incentive to build a sustainable civilzation -- economically, environmentally or geopolitically."
First, let's nit-pick. As Christians, we are not anticipating the end of the world. We are anticipating the perfection of the fallen world in which we live. This is an important distinction that thsoe critical of Christians miss.
His second point, that Christians have no incentive to build a sustainable civilization smacks of truth, unfortunately. In an earnest desire to avoid an attitude the Bible warns about -- that the world comes to love the creation more than the creator -- many Christians from older generations take that thought to its extreme. Why recycle when we live in a dying world anyway? Because it's good stewardship, that's why.
Then, you must look at the shifting sands of Christian culture. We are rapidly moving beyond the fundamentalist thought of pre-Baby Boomer Christendom. Now, don't misunderstand: Christian beliefs are Christian beliefs, truth is truth, Jesus is the only way to salvation. Anyone who would say that we must concede bedrock principles to make ourselves relevant to post-modern culture does so at his peril. Jesus is Truth. Any orthodoxy that would distance itself even minutely away from that universal fact is flat-out wrong.
But the newer generations are embracing social activism, and that includes a healthy respect for economic, environmental and geopolitical issues. Christians are leading the way in pushing for greater worldwide assistance to the crisis in Sudan, for example. A weekend retreat I attended with a number of other young Christian men -- The Outpost -- had as one of its sessions a discussion entitled Environmentalism from a Christian Perspective.
As our generation of Christians become more educated and aware of our role in the world, we conversely become more aware of those issues that traditional evangelicals didn't embrace. It's not that they were wrong; they just didn't know any better (I hope that doesn't sound condescending ... it's not meant that way, I assure you.)
Our attitudes about the creation should reflect those about the Creator. I firmly believe that. And it's not because we can change the order God has set in motion. It's because, as Christians, our attitude about the world should be pure, beautiful and caring. Just like Jesus.
(Talking about Bush's stance against adult stem cell research) "Specifically, he believes that there is a soul in every 3-day-old human embyro, and the interests of one soul -- the soul of a little girl with burns over 75 percent of her body, for instance -- cannot trump the interests of another soul, even if that soul happens to live inside a petri dish. Here, as ever, religious dogmatism impedes genuine wisdom and compassion."
Let's nit-pick again. If Harris is an atheist, then why should he care about the soul of a little girl with burns over 75 percent of her body? Does she even have a soul? Do atheists believe in souls?
But you know what? He's right. This following point I'm about to make actually makes me cringe, because it smacks of the type of argument unbelievers make about Christ when they don't actually know Him. But the point is that Jesus Himself fought against the religious authorities of His day with a vengence, partly because in their narrow-minded dogma they missed the point.
Christians, by relying too much on their religious apparati instead of the personality and teachings of Jesus Christ, make the same mistakes that the Pharisees did.
I'm not taking a stance on stem cell research. I have a stance on it, but I try to avoid talking politics here. (Needless to say, my stance is at odds with a majority of evangelicals out there ... I know far too many people who I love deeply that could benefit from legitimate medical research ... wait, did I just reveal my position?)
But the point is our attitude about human suffering should mirror Christ's. And if the world sees us as lacking compassion, then we are doing something wrong. Watch the movie "Saved!," and you'll see what I mean. As a Christian, that film is terribly offensive to me. But you know what? I own that movie. Bought it at Blockbuster, $9.99, pre-viewed. Why? Because I want to know what the world thinks of me -- and what we are doing wrong that make them think that.
There's more to this column I want to address. We'll get to it later.