01 February 2015

Defining Religion by Culture

Non-radicalised Muslims and many political Centrists will say the Terrorists aren't real Muslims at all. Their actions contradict the true nature of Islam.

The Right insists that the Terrorists are real Muslims and in fact their actions express the true nature of Islam.

The Right insists that you can't divorce their actions from their ideology. This is keeping with the whole Clash of Civilizations mindset many have embraced.

And yet, the Right and in particular the Christian Right will cry foul if Timothy McVeigh or Anders Breivik are identified as Christian Terrorists.

To Biblically defined Christians a Christian Terrorist is an oxymoron and of course we would immediately say that neither McVeigh nor Breivik are or were Christians.

But to the mainstream Christian Right, the Dominionists, those who define Christianity in terms of Christendom, they have a bit of a problem.

On the one hand they want to define Christianity in terms of civilization. They view themselves as fighting for Christian civilization. They celebrate Christian soldiers and so-called Christian Freedom Fighters and Rebels.

Broadly speaking that's what McVeigh and Breivik stood for and people like Geert Wilders and Viktor Orban stand for today. They stand for what they view as Christian Civilization. Like American Evangelicals they have equated Christianity with Christendom and Western Civilization.

Ah, but they aren't 'believers' as we would define it. That's true, they aren't. But that's because we (Bible Christians) use the term Christian in its restricted Redemptive-Covenantal Biblical-Theological sense. It is inappropriate to apply it culturally or politically.

At this point the Christian Right wants to use the term as we do, but more often than not they're happy to use it in its extra-Biblical expanded sense referring to culture, i.e. Christendom. This is true most of the time, except when it's inconvenient. Their definitions seem to be blown about by the political winds. Wilders is a hero to many American Evangelicals and yet Orban, though officially a Calvinist is pro-Russian and thus an enemy.

How many works of art, literature, how many politicians are labeled as Christian or in line with Christianity because they basically harmonize with the worldview of Christendom? The list would be too long to list here. In fact not long ago we heard that very thing about Romney. Sure, he's a Mormon, but his worldview was basically viewed (by this faction) as compatible with Christianity.

He was Christian enough shall we say?

And yet, when it comes to the terrorists, or certain varieties of political extremism, no they're not Christian at all. They're illegitimate betrayers of the legacy.

But then that same intellectual bifurcation is not permitted the Muslims even when the mainstream, the largest group of them will insist the terrorists are not acting in accord with Islamic principles.

But the mainstream shows sympathy it is argued...

Well, how many White Christians past and present have showed some sympathy toward say the KKK? They might not go along with the KKK, they might not join it but they do in fact largely agree with its platform and agenda. I'm afraid the past has been erased at this point and there's a lot of intellectual dishonesty too. The millions of Klan members from the 1920's and after have been quite deliberately forgotten by today's Evangelicals. It's a chapter they don't want to revisit and yet it is very much part of their history and it was by no means restricted to the South.

The KKK believed itself to be standing for Christian civilization too. Maybe many contemporary Christians would say they were too extreme in their actions, but in the realm of ideas many who have stood for Conservative Christian values will find rather astonishing levels of harmonized beliefs with the Klan and what it has stood for.

I'm referring to Nativism, Prohibitionism of drugs and alcohol, Segregation, (whether Jim Crow in the South or White Flight and Anti-busing in the North), 'Christian' government, Anti-Communism, Anti-Labour, Anti-Union, States-Rights, Gun Rights, Militia movements, Family Values, Anti-Feminism, and Anti-Immigration. Until about twenty years ago most of the Christian Right also shared in their Anti-Catholicism.

Christian Conservatives are certainly not as hostile to the KKK or John Birch as they might be toward the Black Panthers. Why not? Because the KKK and John Birch are to some degree Christian in their sympathies.

Islam with perhaps the exception of the Sufi tradition has never functioned outside a political framework. To be honest I have no interest in the false religion of Islam or spending a lot of time learning about its nuances. If you want to criticize it, that's fine, but not from a position of political power. The battle with Islam is a spiritual one and our weapons are not the weapons of the world. The question is, how do I as a Christian behave when I have a Muslim for a next door neighbour?

Constantinian Christianity has blinded and disabled itself when it comes to interaction with the world. It has become hypocritical and schizophrenic and because of its political activism it has put these flaws on display. It's sad that so many lost people have a better understanding of the world and a stronger moral compass than what we find in Christian circles.

Another example along these same lines is the issue of Christianity among the population and divorce statistics. On the one hand Evangelicals are quick to point out that when surveyed the majority of the population professes belief in God and large numbers say they believe the Bible, in heaven and hell and in the literal return of Christ. They use these numbers to try and argue America is in fact a Christian country. Of course only be redefining the term Christian can this be so.

And yet when divorce statistics among Christians prove to be the same as among secular society, suddenly Evangelical leaders want to restrict 'Christian' to more specific categories regarding those who attend Church regularly. The nominal Christians who answer the survey questions but apparently don't go to Church... suddenly they don't count as Christians.

The only people Evangelicals are fooling, are themselves.

If the Church would abandon politics and return to its martyr-witness status it would truly be able to speak more effectively and with moral authority on these issues. The so-called Christian leadership in America and their various media platforms have no moral standing. They think they can earn it through force, through taking over the nation's institutions and mandating conformity. This is why people like Phyllis Schlafly want a return of Joseph McCarthy's Inquisition. They only believe in freedom and democracy when it suits them and when they're in charge. The hypocrisy on these questions cannot be ignored. They're living and more importantly thinking a lie and that's something we as Christians cannot do.