Brian McLaren’s “Toward the Other” (Christianity ≠ Hating People)

Recently, Brian McLaren posted a video “Toward the Other.” The video summarizes the main points of McLaren’s new book Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World.

I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve watched the video, and McLaren, as always, gives us a lot to think about. Personally, I think he pretty much nails it, and I live in hope that I and many others can put into practice more and more an expression of our Christian faith that, as McLaren says, moves toward the other.

Here is the gist of it. When the matter of inter-religious friendship and collaboration comes up, McLaren says that the tendency is either to focus on the big differences between them or to proclaim that all religions are the same. “The truth is,” McLaren says, “we are very very different. Our biggest problem, though, isn’t our differences.”

Our biggest problem is that we build our religious identity by enforcing hostility toward the other. “I learn who I am by learning who I am against.” This “oppositional identity” is rooted in “fear of the other.”

McLaren is certainly correct, that hostility toward the other is rooted in fear (or as Yoda puts it, “fear leads to anger”). I would add that fear is focused, albeit under the surface, on the loss of some “certainty” that group thinking provides.

At any rate, anyone who has their eyes half open can see patterns of belligerence against the other in Christian history–whether “other” is someone of another faith or even another Christian whose theology differs from yours. (The former breeds crusades and the latter inquisitions, both of which are marked by the shedding of blood, whether actual or metaphorical.)

At any rate, McLaren’s question is, “Can we find a way of holding Christian identity that sends us toward the other with love and hospitality rather than with fear and hostility.”

That, as the cliche goes, is a great question–and a timely one at that.

Coming at this from the point of view of a biblical scholar, however, an immediate hermeneutical and theological problem presents itself. The pink elephant pirouetting around the room is: the fear-based religious hostility McLaren tells Christians not to be a part of is part of the Christian Bible.

And there is no way of avoiding this problem.

Remember the Canaanites? (For a reminder, see here, here, and here.) Israel is commanded by God to exterminate the inhabitants of Canaan–men, women, and children. They are the “other” and their existence side-by-side with the Israelites might be a bad influence (see Deuteronomy 7:1-5). The best solution, apparently, is to kill them all.

McLaren says that Christians must begin to address the culture of fear and hostility by coming to terms with Christianity’s past. This is no doubt correct, but the deeper issue may be more difficult to address–In Scripture, God himself promotes the notion that religious identify is built by enforcing hostility toward the other.

I plan on returning soon to this 13-minute video to highlight a few more issues McLaren raises. In the meantime, watch the video for yourself. It’s great stuff.

  • http://prodigalthought.net Scott

    Pete -

    If you want, you can get the video from Vimeo and that will allow you to embed it here for people to watch. Here is the link: https://vimeo.com/49211069.

    I do know many a evangelicals feel that McLaren is too loose on these issues. And while it may be so, as I still don’t believe same sex relationships is God’s best, I still believe his overall thesis is on target. As you note – we build our religious identity by enforcing hostility toward the other. We’ve used so many things, including Scripture, to create an us vs. them mentality. I am convinced it’s not of Christ.

  • dopderbeck

    Ok Pete — good post. I’m glad McLaren is raising this. It’s a very deep concern of mine. Thankfully, there is lots of very rich Christian theology on this, particularly from the post Vatican II Catholic perspective. One of the best writers on this today, IMHO, is the Catholic theologian Gavin D’Costa. I’m particularly encouraged by the great work that’s been done in recent years in Catholic-Jewish dialogue. (No, I haven’t converted to Catholicism, but I’ve been studying lots of Catholic theology, and there are also some great Protestant voices, notably Leslie Newbiggin…!) We don’t need to and shouldn’t go the route of someone like John Hick — indeed, it is the particularity of a Christian understanding of the Trinity and of Christ that allows for the hospitality towards the “other” that this post alludes to.

    And here’s where, I think, I may be a bit uncomfortable with where you’re going. You seem to suggest that Christian hospitality and the universality of the Divine Logos are not “Biblical” because of the problem of the conquest narratives. Well, now we’re raising definitional questions about what is “Biblical,” which require theological and hermeneutical explication, as you know. From a Christian hermeneutical perspective, of course, the conquest narratives must be read through the cross, the Sermon on the Mount, etc., and as such the conquest narratives standing alone don’t represent a “Christian” ethical or theological approach to world religions today. The conquest narratives tell us things about holiness, covenant, etc.; not about how Christians should relate to the broader world. Even from a Jewish hermeneutical perspective, certainly in Rabbinic Judaism, the conquest narratives don’t have to represent a pattern of hostility towards other nations and religions; much as Jesus and the early Christians did, Rabbinic Judaism began interpreting many of these OT narratives as parables of the internal life.

    I know you know all this, but it seems far too simple to me to say “but the Bible is the problem” when the question really is the age-old question of moving from the Bible to theology and ethics.

    • peteenns

      David,

      By posing the question as I am, I am trying to bring people into that larger conversation you are referencing. But first, they need to feel the “offense” of the text to drove the theological and hermeneutical creativity of the early church to begin with. I do bristle a bit, though, when I hear “The conquest narratives tell us things about holiness, covenant, etc.; not about how Christians should relate to the broader world.” The latter is certainly true in view of the NT, but the conquest narratives are about killing Canaanites and other outsiders for the reasons given in those texts, which include ANE notions of holiness (purity), covenant, etc. Theological interpretation must account for the historical particularity of the text, not in principle but in its details.

      • dopderbeck

        I should have said, “For us as Christian interpreters, the conquest narratives tell us….” You’re right that they may have said something different to the “original audience.” But even here, who was the “original audience” and what really was being said to them? Were they exhilic or post-exhilic texts that were performing a rhetorical function similar to the book of Revelation — that is, as a critique of “empire” (in that case, Babylon)? I kind of like Eric Seibert’s thesis here, though maybe he tries to prove too much.

  • http://fullcolorfaith.wordpress.com Dan

    Insightful post. I’m really looking forward to reading McLaren’s new book. My only criticism of what you’ve written here is the need for a more nuanced view of the OT’s teaching about “the other.” God commanded Israel to welcome foriegners, making no exceptions for those of different faiths (Dt 10:18-19). You’ve also got plenty of religious outsiders who become heroes in the Hebrew Scriptures – Im thinking of Rahab, Ruth, King Cyrus, etc.

    As for the Canaanite genocide, the OT is clear in many places that God is punishing the people for their sins, not exterminating those of different faiths. God did the same thing to Israel when they oppressed the poor (see Amos). Are those texts still problematic? Absolutely! But Ithink it’s unwise to use them to paint such an unnuanced view of the OT’s posture towards religious others.

  • http://www.religious-diplomacy.org/node/35 John W. Morehead

    Thanks for mentioning and endorsing McLaren’s thoughts on this very important issue. The book is sometimes mistakenly referred to as being about interreligious dialogue, but it’s a precursor to such things as he suggests a reformulation of Christian faith identity in relation to the “religious other.” If you had read his book and not just seen the video I think you might not have raised the concern at the end of your essay, or you would have at least framed it different and provided further commentary. McLaren is brilliant here, in that his ambitions project for the book is spelled out in various ways, and in the chapter The Liturgical Challenge he draws upon the work of artist-theologian Derek Flood. McLaren then takes the hermeneutical challenge you mention head on. He acknowledges the “hostility and violence of many Bible passages” (which many of his evangelical critics do not!), and then suggests we follow Paul’s hermeneutic which rejects it altogether. He provides an example in Romans 15:8-10 wherein Paul edits quotations fo Psalm 18:41-49 and Deut. 32:43. McLaren suggests (demonstrates?) that “Paul courageiously re-articulates the meaning of salvation. It is no longer ‘rescuing Israel from peril by killing her enemies,’ but rather ‘the restoration of all people in Christ.’” He goes on and argues that Paul is not being sloppy with his hermeneutic, but instead, suggests that Paul is putting forward “a consistent pattern of reinterpretation ‘in Christ,’ whereby his own inherited preferences and prejudices have been revolutionized. In case after case, hostile and violent sections of quoted passags are simply left out so the meaning is artfully and deliberately reshaped according to the ‘way of peace,’ which is the way of Christ. As Fllod concludes, ‘Paul has disarmed Scripture in Jesus’ name.’”

    Since I had been wrestling with these issues myself as I continue to pursue my own work in forging a new paradigm for evangelical identity and interreligious engagement (which overlaps considerably with McLaren’s ideas), I welcomed these ideas, and I think you will do. I strongly encourage you to read this book, and for those very conservative evangelicals who have not read it and have written it off because they consider McLaren either liberal or heretical based upon his previous writings, you are doing you and him a disservice. There is much to appreciate in this volume, some to disagree with, and a lot to talk about for evangelicals and those they engage in other religious traditions.

    • peteenns

      Thanks for the correction, John. Now I need to go buy another book :-)

      • http://www.religious-diplomacy.org/node/35 John W. Morehead

        Jericho Books is a new label and would be all too willing to send you a free review copy, I’m sure.

        • peteenns

          Good thought. I know Wendy Grishom and I will ask her.

    • peteenns

      BY the way, John, feel free to make a similar comment on my FB post…..

      • http://www.religious-diplomacy.org/node/35 John W. Morehead

        I’ve been trying, but this far the conversation has been dominated by the more conservative types of evangelicals which represent the biggest challenge in our faith community not only to new understandings of Scripture by way of the Old Testament and evolution and violence, but also by way of the biblical narrative on engagement of the religious other. My whole day could be spent arguing with such folks, but for me the best way forward is to provide a positive model for like-minded brethren (and they are there) and then spend whatever time left after that trying to persuade those critics with some open-mindedness. No doubt this is what you do in your fine work. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts and for engaging this topic. I would encourage folks to visit my website links for further exploration of these issues.

    • peteenns

      Brilliant point about Romans 15, by the way.

  • Amy

    I would have to disagree that the Bible promotes fear based His treatment of the Caananites. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that they are being punished for their sins, such as the human sacrifice of their children.
    “It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 9:5)
    “You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:31)
    Sin is very detrimental to any nation as shown by the various accounts in the Bible. As such, God’s intent was to protect the nation of Israel.
    In addition, we are told to love and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). It doesn’t seem as if the Bible teaches fear.

  • Amy

    John, I went to both of the internet cites your referenced in your post and read them both. I agree that we as Christians need to do a better job of reaching out to those of other faiths and I am certainly not one that condemns or judges another person’s faith.
    I am not sure which statement of mine you thought I made casually. If I came across as casual or dismissive, that was not my intent. I purposefully limited my response because it’s a blog comment section. However, the article itself is short and contains a bright-line proposition, which I do not believe is supported by the entirety of Scripture.
    I agree that certain Scriptures are difficult to reconcile with a loving God. The notion that somehow Scripture promotes hostility toward the other to reinforce religious identity, draws a bright-line across all of Scripture and if true, presents a serious problem for a Christian. In addition, the proposition itself appears to contradict our mandate to “make disciples of all nations” and various other Scriptures, in both the Old and New Testaments. At a minimum, our effectiveness in promoting salvation would be called into question, if Scripture impeded our ability to do the very thing it asks us to do. For the stated reasons, among others, I would have to continue to disagree with the above proposition.

  • http://www.religious-diplomacy.org/node/35 John W. Morehead

    Amy, thanks for your further thoughts. Unfortunately, while you acknowledged the difficulty that certain Old Testament texts present to the Christian, I didn’t hear how you reconcile this to avoid the problem in support of your disagreement. What do you think of Brian McLaren’s “solution” based upon Paul’s Christological hermeneutic as exemplified in Romans 15 which I mention in my comments above? That would seem to both acknowledge the reality of the problem you don’t seem to see as much of a problem as I do, and offer a helpful and biblical way beyond it to the extent that we are willing to follow this hermeneutic, and check our preferences for violent hermeneutics at the door.

    • Amy

      John, I would be happy to talk more about this issue. However, you keep inserting assumptions into your posts about my level of awareness over this issue, while dismissing the points I’ve already raised. My position that Christianity is not a fear-based religion hasn’t changed since my last two posts and I’ve explained why. If you want to keep making those assumptions in your posts, perhaps you should provide more details on why you think I don’t seem to see as much of a problem as you do.

      • http://www.religious-diplomacy.org/node/35 John W. Morehead

        I’ll try to be more clear, Amy. First, I’m having a difficult time with how you seemingly don’t have more of an ethical problem with the violent passages of the Old Testament that Peter refers to in his post. Christians frequently point to violent passages in the Qur’an and call Muslims to account, and yet there are far more troubling passages in the biblical materials. Philip Jenkins has described this challenge very well in his book Laying Down the Sword, and I summarized it for evangelicals on my blog http://johnwmorehead.blogspot.com/2012/07/laying-down-scriptural-swords.html). I wonder if you’ve read it, and how you would characterize the serious challenge this presents to Christians as a result? In your first comment I read you as minimizing it, which caused me troubles and initiated my first response to you.

        Beyond that, I do believe that evangelicalism can be understood as fear-based, even if the broader Christian tradition is not. Jason Bivins has written a book called Religion of Fear, and he argues that this best describes evangelicalism due to things like the “horror houses” where we try to frighten people into salvation, our rhetoric of fear in politics and sexuality (as in Jack Chick comics to us Bivins’ example), and I would add our fear-based approaches in describing and responding to those in other religions. I don’t see how a fair analysis of this can argue to the contrary. But again, Christianity is love-based, but the evangelical tradition is the problem, not the broader religious framework in which this is contextualized. So we must wrestle with our evangelicalism and learn from broader Christendom, particularly the gospels.

        So there are these two ideas I’d like to get your feedback on. Maybe we’re closer together than I understood. I hope so.

        • Amy

          John, thank you for responding. I want to respond first to your comments regarding certain practices that result in a fear-based approach to Christianity. Without going into a lot of specifics, I agree that those practices are wrong and I don’t believe they comport with what we are taught under the New Covenant. I don’t know how the people that conduct those practices justify their actions, but I don’t think they will find any support in Scripture for their actions (I don’t read Scripture that way and I’m not affiliated with anyone who does). On those points I think we are in agreement.
          On your comments regarding the ethical dilemma posed by violent passages in the Old Testament, I don’t think we are in disagreement (at least not where you think we are). Hypothetically, if there is an ethical dilemma in violent passages in the Old Testament, I would agree that there might be a problem. However, I am not convinced that the above article, including the links to the other Canaanite articles, has correctly, or adequately, interpreted the Canaanite conquest passages. I think we should be extremely careful about making sweeping generalizations about Scripture from seemingly extreme situations and therefore, I want to examine all the surrounding passages of Scripture and any extra-biblical evidence before I conclude that Scripture itself may pose an ethical dilemma. I haven’t minimized the problem at all; I simply don’t concede that it represents the level of moral dilemma that is proposed. I’ve read an article that attempts to provide a comprehensive treatment of the Canaanite conquest, and which resolves some of the ethical concerns you’ve noted.
          It’s too lengthy to summarize so I’ll just leave the link. http://www.christianthinktank.com/qamorite.html

          • peteenns

            Amy, I don’t mean to intrude on your conversation with John, but–for what it’s worth–I just read and skimmed the link you provided, and in my opinion, there are some problems with what the author presented, both in what he says and what he omits. I only say that to encourage you not to stop there and feel as if a sufficient counter-argument has been made. Keep reading, and as broadly as you can.

          • http://www.theofantastique.com John W. Morehead

            Amy, thanks again for your further thoughts. I hope we are closer than I have thought. I must reiterate my concern about the Canaanite conquest narratives again both in terms of the ethical problems they raise in the texts themselves, and in that the article you cited which, in my view, does not present a “comprehensive treatment” of the issues involved, and it most surely does not resolve the ethical concerns I have. In fact, it may exacerbate my concerns and deepen my frustrations when evangelicals reference such things, and others like Paul Copan’s book Is God a Moral Monster?. I have had exchanges with evangelicals where such pop apologetic works are cited as if that’s the definitive end of the discussion. Unfortunately it is not, and it demonstrates that evangelicals have yet to fully grapple with the challenge, and to move beyond simplistic answers to complex issues and challenges. I would encourage you to continue struggling and feeling the challenge of this (that’s a good thing), and like Peter Enns, encourage you to read more broadly. If we don’t we do the issues, the scriptures, and evangelicalism a disservice.

  • Marshall

    Another word for “Other” is “Adversary” … the question (seems to me) is Where do you see Satan at work? I don’t know that ‘hostility’ is the right word, but it’s appropriate to be mortally intolerant of some things, and what things are chosen is part of how our religious identity is appropriately formed, how it evolves. It’s certainly possible to be intolerant without being angry. I would say to do it right it’s needful to be without fear.

    • Ashley Nicole

      No, another word for the “other” is not adversary. It has a long tradition in philosophy (and some theology) and that is not it’s meaning. Most simply put, it means someone that is different than you. Do some reading, then join the conversation intelligently. McLaren is certainly drawing on this here.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Other
      (*granted wikipedia is basic, but I think it’s a good start)

      Not everyone that is different than you is your enemy. (For example Women are the ” other” to men.)

      • Marshall

        All right, that was a teensy bit glib, but. “Adversary” <= "ad versus", the one "turned against" us, the one who gets in our face. My point is that we should examine who/what we think of as 'other' and who/what as 'same' (cf. Wiki). The ancient Israelites thought of Canaanites as 'other'; we (people like me) think of Palestinians as 'same'. Complementarians believe that women are other than men; many men are egalitarians who believe that women are … well … "equal".

        Christians believe that all are united in Christ. The Adversary (cf. Walter Wink) is not located in people, but in attitudes such as the common tendency to declare persons unintelligent rather than trying to understand what they are saying, which creates them as other. It is appropriate to be intolerant, although not angry, when that sort of thing comes up.

  • rumitoid

    “Our biggest problem is that we build our religious identity by enforcing hostility toward the other.” The premise to this idea in woefully flawed. The very notion of an ideal is hostile to being; ideals are murderous.

    There is no building of religious identity; to do so is the sole identifiable problem.

  • http://whiterabbitthoughts.wordpress.com DuJour

    I’m sorry, I thought Jesus said “love your enemy”. Silly me ;)

  • Jeff Martin

    The New Testament uses the defeating enemies part but refocusing it on Satan and his minions. Ever heard of Revelation or the pigs going into the abyss? There is no evidence for changing the idea of defeating enemies into all becoming friends. There remains a fearful judgement for those who spurn Christ.

    I am not trying to justify anyone treating someone nasty. I just think there is a new tendency to obliterate any similarity between the violence of the OT and the NT

  • Derek

    I think a lot of these issues that Brian Mclaren raises can be solved by simply being faithful followers of Christ under the New Covenant If we put into practice the teachings of the NT we will love and serve our fellow humans, made in the image of God, and bring them the good news of the gospel in hopes that they will be reconciled to God, have their sins forgiven, and live as a new creature in Christ. If not, well we can still continue to love and pray for them.

    That was easy.

  • Hilary

    Why is it so hard to see the Canaanite conquest as just tribal history? A lot of violence happened between ANE tribes ~3,000 years ago by people who claimed that their god was on thei side. These particular conquest narratives are the only ones with a living culture still attacted to them. I’m Jewish, and they don’t bother me. Yeah, there was a lot of violent stuff going on back then. Guess what, no tribe/religion/identifiable group of people going back three thousand years is going to have a perfect pacifist record. I asked my rabbi about it – there is no archeological evidence for the conquest as described in the torah. Has it never occurred to you guys that it’s national propaganda from a small, outnumbered nation with much bigger warrior nations around it like Assyria and Babylon, trying to say “Don’t f*ck with us, our god can kick your god’s ass – look what he did to the people here before us!”

    Why are you worrying about tribal warfare from 3,000 years ago, when only 500 years ago you Christian’s burned people alive in the name of Christ? Where was ‘love your enemies’ during the Pogroms?

    Hilary

    • Marshall

      I think the thing that bothers many Christians about the Canaanite conquest is that we see ourselves as the heirs and some of us don’t like thinking of ourselves like that. It isn’t just ancient tribal history, this way of dealing with the neighbors is still very active in the world … examples could be multiplied indefinitely, in every region. If it doesn’t bother you, then I think that’s a problem.

      Even though the details of the story aren’t supported by archeology, we can take the story at face value and think about what it means for our relationship with God and each other. “Each other”. These days “we” are the big guys. We can kick ass if we want to … is that what God wants?

      • Hilary

        Marshall

        Thanks for replying to me. I’ve only just started wandering into the world of Evangelical Christiantiy by reading around on Patheos, until now all I could see was the social conceptions of Evangelicals common to a non-Christian person (ie everybody who doesn’t worship Christ the way you do is going to Hell, the science of evolution and climate change is from satan, and two men having sex in a loving lifelong relationship is no different then a man raping his five year old daughter) but I am slowly starting to move past that. Reading Enns has been a big part of it. From my own point of confermational bias, I keep forgetting you guys don’t have the Rabbinic traditons of interpretation to draw on, instead you read the ‘Old Testament’ from a Christological viewpoint. It’s disorienting reading Christians talk about how they see Christ in the OT, like hearing them describe a picture I know in blues, greens and purples with one level of depth perception as a picture in red, yellow and orange with a completely different level of depth perception.

        Yes, it bothers me immensely how human beings use religion as a rational to kill each other, hate and distroy each other. I hate the conflict in Israel/Palastine, I hate how it’s twisted what I love about Jewish values and been used to create so much hate and suffering in the world. But the Canaanite conquest doesn’t bother me the same way because I see it as part of tribal history, and just realistically tribal history has violence in it, for all tribes in all of humanity. I remember reading or hearing somewhere that it was decided that G-ds commands to kill everybody in territorial conquest of Canaan was a one time deal only, it’s history and we are not to repeat G-d’s commands from that time. Of course, that rabbinic descition was before any dream of a political nation of Israel ever existed. I hate way it’s been used by fanatics to justify religious/political violence in our own time.

        It drives me nuts to read Christians saying that they are so upset about how violent G-d is in that story, how glad they are when Christ came and changed everything, when in historical reality he didn’t change anything. Humans are just as capable of being cruel or kind after him as before him. It’s not like violent territorial conquest stopped because of anything he did, or anything his followers did. Canaan/Israel is about the size of New Jersy; what Joshua lead was a time-specific and geographically limited act of territorial conquest. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to Christian territorial conquest around the world.

        But thinking about what you said, and other stuff I’ve read around, I am starting to see how this is being used as an example of struggling with our sacred stories to find a way to live with them in the world we have now. And the world Christians are having to come to terms with is one where they are one of many, an equal amoung equals who are not willing to be missionized or converted. That is not a place Christianity has ever been in, AFAIK. As a Jew it is easy for me to see non-Jews as fully human and fully part of G-d’s family.
        “The rightous of all nations have a place in the world to come”
        “Do not oppress the stranger, for you know the heart of the stranger, haveing been yourself a stranger in the land of Egypt”
        “What is hateful to yourself, to not do to others, the rest is commentary – go and study it (the Law, Torah)”

        These are part of my religious narrative – core, integral parts of Judaism. But for Christians there is no cultural narrative of dealing with others as equals, not enemies or mission projects. Now you seem to be in the struggle to make one.

        I have to go to bed, but if you comment I’ll check for that and respond.

        Hilary

        I

        • peteenns

          Hilary, a couple of thoughts. I try to remind some of my Christian friends to see the Christian tradition as somewhat analogous to Jewish tradition–diverse views derived in part from diverse readings of a diverse Scripture. Even the Christological reading of Scripture yields diverse readings. Generally speaking, one things that gave rise to Judaism was the interplay between ancient text and changing circumstances–namely the exile and aftermath. Suddenly, being Jewish had to be reframed in terms of not living in the land. Scriptural interpretation was adjusted, so to speak, so that it would remain active and vital, yet not bound by the past. The New Testament authors and early Christians did something similar, but for them the “changing circumstance” was the belief that Jesus was the messiah and that now the promises of Israel’s God are open to gentiles as gentiles. Evangelicals tend to miss this dynamic, mainly because of how they “need” the Bible to function. What Jewish interpretive tradition has over evangelicalism is a dialogical approach to Scripture.

  • James

    I’m also concerned when conservatives attempt to reconcile biblical genocide with justice in modern terms. But I don’t agree with progressives who provocatively neglect to place the ancient text in christological context–in effect denouncing pre-modern morality. Philosopher Charles Taylor in his book Dilemmas and Connections observes a similar problem in the search for world concensus on human rights. Here the “contemptuous denunciation” of “premodern illusions” on the part of progressives (the West) “leads to fundamentalist reaffirmations, which in turn provoke even more strident denunciations, and so on.” A tendancy in both quests, I would say, is to tearn down before we build up. Perhaps a better way forward in our desire to reframe the pre-modern text for current use is to renovate as we go along.

  • ash

    A bit of levity with a lesson that is relevant to this conversation:
    Anonymous author
    Title: The heretic
    I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, “Stop! Don’t do it!” “Why shouldn’t I?” he said. I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!” He said, “Like what?” I said, “Well, are you religious or atheist?” He said, “Religious.” I said, “Me too! Are your Christian or Buddhist?” He said, “Christian.” I said, “Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, Me too! Are your Episcopalian or Baptist? He said, “Baptist!” I said, “Wow! Me too! Are your Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord? He said, Baptist Church of God!” I said, “Me too! Are your Original Baptist Church of God or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?” He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God!” I said, “Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?” He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!” I said, “Die, heretic scum!” and pushed him off.

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  • Christine

    And yet on the other hand, you have the OT God who argues on behalf of the Ninevites (both human and nonhuman!) when that bigot Jonah questions the value of giving a damn about those heathens at all:

    “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals ?” – Jonah 4:11


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