Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Presbyterian church

 

Presbyterian Minister Who Doesn’t Believe in God. Why should you be that surprised?

“How can you call yourself a Christian, let alone a minister?!”

I get asked that question frequently and the questioner is hostile more often than not.

Still, I like to answer it if I believe the questioner is sincere.

Though I self-identify as a Christian and I am an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I raised eyebrows a few years ago when I posted an article on my website about how my personal beliefs don’t align with those of most Presbyterians.

For example, I believe that:

  • Religion is a human construct
  • The symbols of faith are products of human cultural evolution
  • Jesus may have been an historical figure, but most of what we know about him is in the form of legend
  • God is a symbol of myth-making and not credible as a supernatural being or force
  • The Bible is a human product as opposed to special revelation from a divine being
  • Human consciousness is the result of natural selection, so there’s no afterlife

In short, I regard the symbols of Christianity from a non-supernatural point of view.

And yet, even though I hold those beliefs, I am still a proud minister.

But I don’t appreciate being told that I’m not truly a Christian.

Why is that so many people think my affirmations are antithetical to Christianity?

I think it is because Christianity has placed all of its eggs in the belief basket.

We all have been trained to think that Christianity is about believing things. Its symbols and artifacts (God, Bible, Jesus, Heaven, etc) must be accepted in a certain way. And when times change and these beliefs are no longer credible, the choices we are left with are either rejection or fundamentalism.

I think of Christianity as a culture.

It has produced 2,000 years of artifacts: literature, music, art, ethics, architecture, and (yes) beliefs.

But cultures evolve and Christianity will have to adapt in order to survive in the modern era.

Many of those paths will be dead ends.

As Daniel Dennett once said, the dinosaurs really have not died out because modern birds carry on many of their traits.

Similarly, as religions evolve, they may look similar in some respects and quite different in others. You may not even call some of them religions anymore, depending on how you define the word.

I believe one of the newer religious paths could be a “belief-less” Christianity.

In this “sect,” one is not required to believe things. One learns and draws upon practices and products of our cultural tradition to create meaning in the present.

The last two congregations I have served have huge commitments to equality for LGTBQ people and eco-justice, among other things. They draw from the well of our Christian cultural tradition (and other religious traditions) for encouragement in these efforts.

I think a belief-less Christianity can be a positive good for society.

Belief-less Christianity is thriving right now, even as other forms of the faith are falling away rapidly.

Many liberal or progressive Christians have already let go or de-emphasized belief in Heaven, that the Bible is literally true, that Jesus is supernatural, and that Christianity is the only way. Yet they still practice what they call Christianity.

Instead of traditional beliefs, they emphasize social justice, personal integrity and resilience, and building community. The cultural artifacts serve as resources.

But what about belief in God?

Can a belief-less Christianity really survive if God isn’t in the picture? Can you even call that Christianity anymore?

In theory, yes. In practice, it is a challenge because “belief in God” seems to be so intractable.

However, once people start questioning it and realize that they’re not alone, it becomes much more commonplace.

Since posting my article — and in response to my ministry in general — many have opened up to me that they didn’t believe in God but they liked coming to my church. One young woman, after going through my confirmation class, joined the church.

She read her faith statement in front of the congregation. It was a powerful articulation of her social justice commitments in which she added that she didn’t believe in God. The congregation enthusiastically welcomed her, of course.

Personally, even though I don’t believe in God as a supernatural agent or force, many still do. I utilize the symbol “God” in worship.

This may be viewed as cheating but since our cultural tradition is filled with images of God, it is near impossible to avoid.

As a symbol, I’m not yet ready to let go of God. It is a product of myth-making — I know that — but the symbol incorporates many of our human aspirations.

I find that “God” for me is shorthand for all the things for which I long: beauty, truth, healing, and justice. They’re all expressed by this symbol and the stories about it.

Someone quipped that my congregation is BYOG: Bring Your Own God. I use that and invite people to “bring their own God” — or none at all.

While the symbol “God” is part of our cultural tradition, you can take it or leave it or redefine it to your liking. That permission to be theological do-it-yourselfers is at the heart of belief-less Christianity.

I understand some Christians may react with hostility and panic to this idea — they already have — but it deserves an honest discussion.

Patsy Z sent this link on FB

VERY interesting, coming from a priest! Surprisingly open-minded and logical! Makes sense from a community perspective.

The question is: does this thinking work at all in the religious frame?

Or better call this community something else and frame it differently?

I get asked that question frequently and the questioner is hostile more often than not.
patheos.com
Note: Aren’t we all living within sets of cultural constructs?

The Republican Party made a terrible blunder by not advancing “Con dolcezza”, (a name which means “with softness” that her mother Angelena used as it appeared on piano partitions), to challenging Hillary Clinton in the latest Presidential campaign.  Condoleezza Rice would have been beaten: The Republicans had to be kicked out after two disastrous terms of the Jr. Bush, two wars, and the financial crash of the century.  Nevertheless, Condo would have infused a colorful campaign instead of the decrepit, decaying, boring dinosaur of McCain.

The “No dolcezza” Condo was born in 1954 in Baton Rouge (Louisiana), as her father John Wesley, originally from Birmingham (Alabama), was teaching and preaching at a Presbyterian church.  Condo then moved with her family to Birmingham till the age of ten.  At the time, Birmingham was the most racist city in the US and applying the stringent segregation laws.  Her father was a Presbyterian preacher and inherited the church that his father established in Birmingham.  Her mother was a science and piano teacher.  The Rice and Ray married in their thirties and decided to concentrate all their resources and energy in the only child girl.  The grandmothers of Condo had been house slaves, attached to the mistress of the plantation after the mister got satisfied for a short time.  Their husbands were field slaves with diminished privileges but they managed to get some education: three generations of Rice and Ray went through university studies because only education was the surest way not to returning to the cotton fields.

The Rice family protected Condo from trespassing to the white districts in the city:  The family didn’t need to mingle with the white citizens and could afford everything in their own quarters.  Condo joined a black  school and she was a bright achievers:  She participated in all sorts of contests, especially piano and singing.  Condo learned French with a private teacher. The mother was the organist and Condo the pianist in the choral of the father.  Sundays at 11 am was the time of the mostly segregated hour in the city:  They all joined their respective churches. The father was a football fan and initiated Condo to that sport.

The parents were mentally aware of the terribly discriminating behaviors of the citizens but they built barriers around the house and their emotions; the father owned a car and never had to ride any bus; they traveled westwards, out of Alabama and the southern States, and visited museum, zoos, university campuses.  The parents continued their education and acceded at higher social status and encouraged Condo to keeping her scholarly schedule pretty busy.

At the age of ten, Condo transferred with her family to Denver (Colorado) and joined a private religious school.  Soon after, the mother discovered that she had breast cancer and survived the sickness for another 14 years.  The father had risen in the university administrative positions.  Condo would wake up at 5 am and practice ice skating for 3 hours, go to school, and then practice piano for another 3 hours in the evening.

At the last year in high school, Condo decided to formally finish high school and participate in the diploma ceremony, while taking courses at the Denver university.  She went to the prom at the arm of the most famous university football player.  The year 1974 was a critical stage:  Condo had to decide on her specialty and the university to attend. Condo decided not to integrate the famous music university of Julliard in New York:  She had attended a music instrument competition and realized that many musicians had talents that she lacked. Condo had to be the best in everything she does.

Condo decided in the second semester to major in international politics because she got impressed with her professor Joseph Korbel (father of the infamous Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s State Secretary).  Joseph Korbel was the secretary of Czechoslovakia President before the WWII and then ambassador until Russia annexed Czechoslovakia and ended up teaching in Colorado. Condo opted to specialize in Russia and had to learn the language, the literature, the music and the history of Russia.  She also learned the Check language to satisfy Korbel.

Condo finished her Masters within a year in Notre-Dame (Indiana) and returned to finish her Ph.D in Denver.  She received a grant for a post-doctoral study in Stanford in 1981 and remained there for 20 years.  She became professor, chairman of the humanities and political sciences department, and then provost at Stanford. As provost, she managed to eliminate the university debts within two years but alienated the Afro and Latino activists colleagues in the university.

Condo was chaperoned, prepared and formated by the Republican think tanks:  She spent sabbatical at their main think tank bastions such as the Hoover Institute (Stanford), the Rand Corporation, Carnegie Foundation, JP Morgan and Chase, Chevron (oil multinational).  George Shultz and Brent Scowcroft were her mentors:  She became a member of the Bush family and spent her week-ends in Houston and in Maine.

Bush Sr. introduced Condo to his son Bush Jr. when governor of Texas:  He planned to assigning Condo to give his son private lessons and prepare him for the presidency; she tailor-made her program to conform with Bush’s short-term attention span and frivolity.  Bush Jr. was not excited to becoming President of the USA, but as he was elected against his will, he sent for Condo to support him and further his education at the White House.  By then, Condo had become an expert in missiles and the balance of power between the USA and Russia:  She was appointed in the first term as Bush national security advisor and then Secretary of State in the second term.  Bush Jr. saw Condo first in the morning and the last person before going early to bed.

I would have voted against “No dolcezza” no matter what; I would have campaigned aggressively against this technocrat who was formatted to becoming unethical, immoral, and not exhibiting compassionate behavior.  I vividly recall the way Condo barged in Lebanon, for a swift visit, as Israel has been pounding Lebanon for 30 days, in July 2006.  Israel by now had destroyed all the infrastructures in Lebanon, totally demolished 10 villages to the ground, pulverized a ten-block quarter in Beirut, using freshly US donated implosion bombs.  Israeli aggression killed 1,500 civilians, half of them children and women, injured and handicapped 4,000 civilians, and displaced 800,000 from their homes for 33 days.

Condo moved to shake hands with Lebanon oligarchy leaders, with her peculiar gait, the behind profusely protruding “out”; she assured the oligarchic leaders, who were anxious for the war to resume and getting rid of the Lebanese Resistance that checked the all-out Israeli military machines, that Israel is about, in a few additional days, to resurrect Bush’s public wishes of a newer democratic Greater Middle-East and that liberty will sweep the region with the total and unconditional backing of the USA.

The oligarchic Lebanese leaders were greatly pleased of Condo’s confirmation that Hezbollah is to be on its knees:  the oligarchy leaders were rubbing their hands in joy because soon, the rich Arab oil States will be donating millions for the “reconstruction” of the country and their private bank accounts will swell beyond imagination.  They believed that no political opposition parties would dare challenge their plundering project.

The consequences of the war were contrary to expectations:  Condo realized that she was looking more stupid than Bush and equally as bloody and senile a political figure as Cheney.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

July 2020
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