Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Children Kill God!


But he had it coming.

I finished The Amber Spyglass. This is the third of His Dark Materials
trilogy. It was enjoyable. Especially delicious were the attacks on the church. More lovely than that was watching the real church squirm.

The Vatican, the Southern Baptist papacy, and various paranoid preachers are wringing their hands and screaming heresy just like the bumbling Magisterium does in the books. Even the liberal Christian Century devoted its cover to the books and film and sniffed at Pullman's efforts.

Pullman's version of Christianity is a fairly common straw man: the oppressiveness of organized religion.

I don't think Pullman is criticizing a straw man at all. It is a very real man. Pullman lets loose on the church. Let those who have ears hear. The church has it coming. It still fosters ridiculous notions about sexuality, biblical and church authority, and it substitutes superstition for science. Hey kids, let's go to the creation museum! After that a fun trip through hell house and we'll top off the day with two minutes of hate for the gays! Don't ask questions. Just believe.

If the church had any sense of dignity it would not feebly defend itself in a mode of self-righteous posturing but take these critiques to heart.

The Amber Spyglass is a great adventure of human consciousness, courage, wisdom, and love for Life as it is. It is an awareness of Life in all of its physicality, beauty, ugliness, joy, and despair. It is about curiosity, growing, knowing, loving, and waking up. It is about redemption and hope.

I think they are great books for middle and high school youth--perfect for a confirmation class.

The only way the church is going to move beyond its ignorance, self-centeredness, cowardice, and fear-mongering, is if it is critical of itself and of its theology and bravely moves ahead.

I found in Pullman's books the real message of the historical Jesus--not the myth the church turned him into--but the real person. That message?

In the words of Lyra: let's build the Republic of Heaven. Right here. Right now.




30 comments:

Drew said...

I'm tellin' ya... The question is not "What Would Jesus Do" since those who tend to peddle those bracelets often have a skewed notion of what that means. The question is "What Would Jesus Preach"...to the church. We know what he would say to the lost. We also know what he would say to us. He had a lot to say to the authorities of the religion of his people didn't he?

Rachel Baker said...

Rev:

In my eyes you are just as silly as the Fundamental Christians you attack. Don't you see that you are a fundamentalist. By attacking the fundamentalist groups, you are behaving just like them. Why are you claiming to have Absolute Truth? And what makes you so sure that it is Absolute Truth?
Have you always been like this, because my initial impressions of you were very different?

John Shuck said...

Hey Rachel,

I am what I am. But I don't have absolute truth.

John Shuck said...

**We also know what he would say to us. He had a lot to say to the authorities of the religion of his people didn't he?**

As far as Pullman's books are concerned, that seems to be the point. Authority is earned by the truth it tells. When it stops the quest for truth it no longer has authority, but has become simply force. I think Jesus was about exposing that very thing.

Jodie said...

The children kill God?

Lends new meaning to "for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven", doesn't it?...

Rob said...

I am glad you are speaking out John. It is about time those in positions of leadership oppose the ignorance of evangelical fundamentalist Christians.

Rachel Baker said...

The only reason I am giving you a hard time Reverned is because I don't think that the curches are the enemy today. I believe the "authority stopping the quest for truth" today in our society is our corrupt Government/corporate World.

Anyhow I won't plague your blog anymore. I start school/work again next week and will be terribly busy. It has been great getting to know you and everyone who visits your site. I hope you accomplish your mission in life, but I have a feeling you are just going to piss alot of people off who are going to want to "pray for you". I may keep coming to your sermons. I really like what you do with the kids, and I kind of feel like I should raise my son in a church. Where does that come from?

John Shuck said...

Thanks Rachel,

I hope you keep coming back to the blog and I am glad to hear you are coming to church with that marvelous child you have! People may choose to get angry and "pray for me." That's cool. There are times I get passionate. Others do as well. That's cool, too.

When I take on "the church" remember I am in the church. It is from the inside. I am in the fold. I am passionate because I have a deep love for the church, even as I am critical. And that criticism points to me as much as anyone else.

My comment to Drew is the main point. We should never stop our quest for uncovering what is true and good. The church (as well as governments as you pointed out) all too often confuses power with truth.

You are right to come down on me. Good for you. You called it as you saw it.

I am not sure why you feel you should raise your son in church.

Perhaps it is because we need communities to be loved, challenged, to grow, to be nurtured, and to serve.

Again, glad you are here. I like your fire!

John Shuck said...

Jodie--LOL!

Rob--Thanks...

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Brilliant post sir. All your points are valid and important. It wasn't the corrupt government or the world that made me leave the church and organized religion, it was hypocrisy and willfull ignorance by the sheep who blindly followed those who want to keep the people oppressed and yoked to our current econmic system.

FranIAm said...

I have not read the books but I cannot help but think that you are absolutely correct!

Bravo on a great post.

Grace said...

But, if it's true that the church just invented this myth from the man Jesus, then why would anyone who has integrity want to be part of the church. I know that I would not waste two minutes of my time. What would be the point?

I can see someone agreeing with the moral and ethics of Jesus, wanting to follow the Sermon On the Mount as a way of life. And, I mean who doesn't agree with the golden rule. Maybe even feeling that in some sense, Jesus provides one of many windows to God. But, we certainly don't need the church for this.

I'll be honest, John, if I believed in your matter of thinking, not only would I not be part of the church. I think I would be trying to bring the whole institution down as based in nothing but lies, and delusion. I definitely would not want my kids in there, I can tell you.

And, Dr. Monkey, I have to challenge you. If you truly accept the reality of the incarnation, and know Jesus as Lord, then why have you abandoned your brothers and sisters in Christ? Didn't Jesus say, "Feed my sheep," not run away , and head for the hills because we don't agree, or have it altogether?? Does God give up on us??

We need you.

John Shuck said...

Grace,

You say it all very sweetly and humbly, but what you say is that,

1) I have no integrity
2) I am about dismantling the church

You want me out of the church and Dr. Monkey in. Well, I guess that is ok.

Regardless of the insults--and they are insults, Grace, no matter how sweetly you put them--I think I will stay and seek truth and goodness.

Mystical Seeker said...

I'll be honest, John, if I believed in your matter of thinking, not only would I not be part of the church. I think I would be trying to bring the whole institution down as based in nothing but lies, and delusion.

The old all-or-nothing delusion. If it isn't all true, then it is all lies.

Outgrowing this simple binary thinking is the first step in spiritual growth.

Jodie said...

Just an aside Grace,

You said "Didn't Jesus say, "Feed my sheep," not run away , and head for the hills because."

That common and often used phrase in the English language, "run away and head for the hills", actually >>is<< a quote from Jesus from Mat 24:16 and is part of the "little Apocalypse"

"Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION ...

then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains."

I just thought it was a curious choice of words.

Grace said...

You're wrong, John. I don't want you out of the church. I will fight not to let go. I'm speaking from my own perspective. God is present and working in your life or you would not stay in the church given your convictions. No one would.

You are questioning, smart, and creative, not afraid to tackle the hard issues, to fight against the tide. We can't lose you, but we need you, and clergy like you in the faith, in Christ.

Our young people, like Rachael, are searching for meaning, and looking for answers. If they are not led to Christ by our clergy, their spiritual needs not met by the mainline, they are very likely to turn to the fundamentalists and the very conservative evangelicals, or will not bother with church at all.


It will all seem irrelevant. There are plenty of places to find community, and work for social justice if that's all we're going to be about together.

I'm trying to challenge your thinking, and cause you to see the ramifications of it. As I'm sure, you are challenging mine, and I thank you for your honesty, and for how God is using you in my life in just a short time.

John Shuck said...

Grace,

You wrote:

**If they are not led to Christ by our clergy, their spiritual needs not met by the mainline, they are very likely to turn to the fundamentalists and the very conservative evangelicals, or will not bother with church at all.**

What do you mean by, "led to Christ?" How do you determine whether or not someone is being led to Christ or not?

I would argue that our community does "lead people to Christ" although it may not be done in the way some think it ought to be done.

[Also, I doubt that many in my congregation would use that phrase. They have enough of clergy and churches who "lead" people around. Most of us are not interested in the Christ they are "leading us to."]

We allow people to search and to open their minds and hearts so that Christ is present for them, as they understand Christ.

**There are plenty of places to find community, and work for social justice if that's all we're going to be about together.**

First, I think that is a pretty darn good thing to be about. I think there are too few congregations that see social justice interconnected with spirituality.

For us, spirituality and the sacred is not divorced from social justice, community building, and life itself, but it is interwoven with it all.

Second, some people are going to grow and flourish in communities like the one I presently serve, others are not going to like what we are about and will go somewhere else.

Near my mountain there are so many churches you can't spit without hitting one. If folks don't get what we are about, there are other options.

Mystical Seeker said...

John, apparently Grace thinks that you are not leading people to Christ. By "led to Christ", she seems to mean "thinks like Grace does".

Alan said...

John-
So what exactly, in your opinion, does it mean to be saved? Saved from what? Saved to what? If being involved in church is just to bring happiness and social change there are simpler ways of doing so. I am honoring your request also, I have stopped praying for you.

Grace said...

No way, Alan. I'm calling down the "hound of heaven." Watch out ((John Shuck.)) Laughing.

Mystical, no I do not mean "think like Grace does," Myst. That's not fair. I'm doing my dead level best to share the historical witness of the Christian church, here.

Does it make sense to think that Christ can be present for anyone, or be our "salvation," if everything the church bears witness concerning Him is just "myth."

How can a mere man, regardless of how great and wise be any of these things to anyone. C'mon Mystical.

We have this huge problem in the church with everyone running around using traditional sounding terminology while investing these familar sounding terms with their own personal meaning. And, then everyone pretends we are on the same page with the gospel.

It' like , "The Emperor Has No Clothes."

We have to love, and care for each other enough to be honest, and real here.

Grace.

P.S. Jodie, that's a really interesting observation. I don't know why I used that expression. It just came to mind. Now where is that elusive Dr. Monkey hiding? He has not answered my challenge.

Mystical Seeker said...

Mystical, no I do not mean "think like Grace does," Myst. That's not fair. I'm doing my dead level best to share the historical witness of the Christian church, here.

Which is another way of saying that you are doing your dead level best to share an understanding of Christianity that you subscribe to, and which you consider to be the only legitimate one. Which is basically what I said the first time--you only consider people to be "led to Christ" if they think like you do. You apparently don't consider John, who thinks differently from the way you do, to be leading people to Christ.

John Shuck said...

Monkey-- glad you mentioned that. Far too often the church simply legitimizes the interests of the powerful.

Fran-- thank you and I love your blog!

Alan-- Gotcha! While you stopped praying for me, I sent one up about you. I am not going to tell you what it is. Expect the unexpected.

Grace-- The Emperor has no clothes!?!!? Got pictures?

Mystical Seeker said...

I had meant to comment on this early statement:

I know that I would not waste two minutes of my time. What would be the point?

I can see someone agreeing with the moral and ethics of Jesus, wanting to follow the Sermon On the Mount as a way of life. And, I mean who doesn't agree with the golden rule. Maybe even feeling that in some sense, Jesus provides one of many windows to God. But, we certainly don't need the church for this.


This is an example of how easily some people can take the leap from "I don't see the point" to "there is no point, period". Grace doesn't get it. She doesn't understand why someone might be drawn to a religious faith and religious experience if it is not grounded in literal acceptance of certain mythological stories about Jesus. So then she says, "I would not go to such a church." Which is, of course, perfectly fine. But the problem is that she doesn't just say that "I" would not go to such a church, but that there is no point in such a church for anyone else either.

The unfortunate reality is that I hear this argument a lot of times from people on the orthodoxy side of things. They don't understand the value in a religion that doesn't serve up their brand of clear, pat answers, and since they don't get it, they then presume to tell others that they also should not find value in such a faith either.

A different approach might have been to say, "I don't understand the value that you derive from your kind of faith. Can you maybe explain to me why you are drawn to your faith given your understanding of Jesus and God?" But instead of taking "I don't get it" as a launching point for learning about other people's faith, it is instead a launching point for attacking a faith perspective that one doesn't understand.

Maybe at some fundamental level, this is another manifestation of the inability to accept religious pluralism. There is a sense that there is only one way to view things--one's own--and if "I" don't see the value in something, then no one else should either, and further, it is becomes that person's business to tell others that their faith is wrong and that they should come around to one's own way of thinking.

This childlike inability to stand outside one's own self and recognize that different people can actually derive value from different kinds of religious perspectives, experiences, and paradigms--this view that there is only one right way, which by the sheerest of coincidences happens to be one's own--that is the fundamental problem here. As long as people insist that others must express their spiritual urges in the same way as oneself does, then there can be no real dialogue.

I have commented on what I have called "tribal arrogance"--the idea that my tribe is superior to other tribes. To make arrogant assertions about other people's spirituality, based on no empirical evidence, based on nothing at all but one's own dogma--this is what holds religion back.

I have no problem with people taking certain Christian mythologies literally. I happen to disagree with them, but I do not deny the value that these beliefs offer for those who hold them, nor do I deny that many deeply religious people with strong connections to God can have such beliefs. Unfortunately, a proportion of the very people who do hold those beliefs are themselves tribally arrogant towards others. And that is the real problem that I see.

Grace said...

Shame on you, John Shuck.(Laughing)

You are a rascal, and a old sinner, but extremely sweet and endearing. Love ya!

Like I said, I'm storming the heavenly speedway.

Signed,
Member of the Jesus "tribe."
Grace.

Flycandler said...

Alan, are you a Presbyterian (or from another Reformed church)?

If not, John's answer to your question will surprise you.

By John, I mean Calvin, not Shuck.

FranIAm said...

John- thank you! I am honored. Now back to being a smart aleck. It is my charism. You know how Catholics can be, especially us leftist ones.

T-r-o-u-b-l-e!

Alan said...

Yes, I am a presbyterian (PCA) and I know Calvin's answer to my questions.

Flycandler said...

Well, Alan, if you belong to the PCA, I doubt it very much. Right there on the home page is a prominent link called "How to have eternal life" with gems like the Sinner's Prayer and this:

"Would you like to enter this new relationship with Jesus and receive eternal life now? This is the most important decision you will ever make in your life."

I'll ask the question I asked another PCA member hanging about here. Why are you so concerned with this particular PC(USA) pastor? We ordain women who have been called to the ministry and have no intention of stopping anytime in the future. Aren't we all doomed anyway?

Alan said...

Yes

Flycandler said...

So why bother with a single minister in east Tennessee (no disrespect John) when you've got over 14,000 others, approximately a quarter of whom are women and the others who accept the ordination of women as ministers?

Why be more concerned with the 250-ish members of John's church than the 2.3 million of us in the greater denomination if we're all hellbound over the female ordination issue?