Shuck and Jive

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Naughty Christians Should Come Out This Christmas

The LayMAN has posted Al Mohler's Christmas screed. Brother Al is the pope of the Southern Baptist Convention, headquartered right here in Tennessee. Brother Al has declared that true Christians must believe in the Virgin Birth. If you don't you are not a true Christian.

The good brother lists a number of folks who are not true Christians from past and present. You could call them naughty Christians. They include Albert Schweitzer, Rudolph Bultmann, Harry Emerson Fosdick, John Shelby Spong, Gerd Luedemann, John Dominic Crossan, Jane Schaberg, Bishop Joseph Sprague, and the Jesus Seminar.

The naughty Christians use reason to come to conclusions. They recognize the difference between legends, fantasies, and poetic language on one hand and biology and fact on the other. Naughty Christians can sing "Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child" and know they are using symbolic or archetypal language that touches the heart.

The true Christians know that just won't do. For them Adam and Eve were real people cursed with original sin that was transmuted from generation to generation by wicked human sperm. Mary, because she was a virgin, contributed nothing to Jesus except being an incubator for God's sperm. That is why Jesus could do all kinds of divine tricks including dying for your sins, rising from the dead, and flying off to heaven.

The real point of Brother Al's screed is to hunt down the heretics:

Bishop Sprague was charged with heresy but has twice been cleared of the charge--a clear sign that the mainline Protestant denominations are unwilling to identify as heretics even those who openly teach heresy.
He even goes after one of his own, fellow Baptist, Cecil Sherman:
Several years ago, Cecil Sherman--then a Southern Baptist, but later the first coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship--stated: "A teacher who might also be led by the Scripture not to believe in the Virgin Birth should not be fired." Consider the logic of that statement. A Christian can be led by the Bible to deny what the Bible teaches? This kind of logic is what has allowed those who deny the virgin birth to sit comfortably in liberal theological seminaries and to preach their reductionistic Christ from major pulpits.
Al's point is that true Christians need to hunt down and "fire" the naughty Christians. I am small potatoes since I don't preach from a major pulpit. Nevertheless, I am coming out as a naughty Christian.

Here I am Al. I think your views are wrong. Not only wrong, but harmful. Mohler, like a true fundamentalist, engages in intellectual bullying. "No true Christian can deny the virgin birth." In other words, believe as I do or you are not a true Christian.

Like other progressive ministers, I have had to clean up the mess this bullying has made of people's lives. What are some of the effects of this bullying? People grow up and out of fear of hell or of doubting the "Word of God" they think they cannot affirm evolution for instance. The biology of original sin and the need for a biological virgin birth makes little sense in light of our evolutionary history. Evolution, therefore, must be wrong.

More than that, these threats are aimed at keeping people from thinking for themselves. They create paranoia regarding scholarship and learning. Mohler's true Christians are ultimately paranoid Christians.

A word of warning. It really does no good to argue with them. You won't change their minds. However coming out as a naughty Christian can free your mind and can show others that there are other ways to appreciate and honor these marvelous Christmas stories.