The Cult-Like Anti-Intellectualism of Christian Bashing

Let’s look at the arguments we’ve seen against the faith here on Public Catholic. They tend to fall into categories.

By far the largest category is the Dawkins without attribution crowd. These people repeat arguments Dr Richard Dawkins has made in his popular books, usually without adding a single thought of their own. But they don’t attribute them to Dr Dawkins. There are so many of these it would be worthless to try to list them. Here is one recent example.

A reader made the statement (I’m paraphrasing) that the reason we live in a universe that appears to be tuned for life, at least life here on Earth, is that, well, however improbable, that’s the universe we live in. This is from Dr Dawkins’ runaway best seller The God Delusion. 

Obviously, this doesn’t answer anything. It simply sidesteps it. Also obviously, it wasn’t the reader’s own thought. 

There are a large number of pretend Dawkins commenters on this blog. Except for one time, I’ve let every single one of them pass through without calling them on their failure to say that they are quoting someone else.

What is interesting is that they don’t seem to be able to think past quoting Dawkins without attribution. I don’t remember one of these people adding anything to Dr Dawkins’ thinking when they slap these things down in the combox.

I don’t know for sure of course, but I’m guessing most of them haven’t thought all that deeply about what they’re quoting. If they had, they would probably have decided it isn’t worth repeating, as it doesn’t hold water. 

God-is-evil commenters are another large group. They have picked up out-of-context Bible verses and stories, sometimes from Dawkins, but I think mostly from Christian-bashing blogs. They come swooping in here with their Bible verse or story and throw it down with an almost audible There! Take that!

I’ve noticed that Public Catholic readers aren’t so good at answering this tripe. Our religious education has not taught us to look at the Bible from a viewpoint of defending God Himself in disputation.

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Protestants are good at seeing specific verses because that is the way they have been taught. They are much more adept than Catholics at picking out a verse anywhere. I know Protestants who can recite whole chapters of the Bible. I can give them a word or two of a verse and they will tell me immediately where it is in the Bible by Chapter and verse. 

Catholics are good at seeing the overarching story of the Scriptures, because that is the way they have been taught. Every Sunday we hear an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a reading from an Epistle and a reading from the Gospels. Catholics who go to daily mass will hear almost the whole Bible read to them this way in a three year cycle. These readings are chosen so that New Testament fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy or foreshadowing is placed side by side, along with an Apostolic interpretation of these same things from one of the Epistles. 

Catholics come away from this with a good understanding of how the Bible fits together to tell one, single story of our salvation. 

However, neither Protestants nor Catholics have been trained to deal with the dubious “scholarship” of highly aggressive Christian bashers. These people are cult-like followers of leaders who earn their living by attacking Christ, Christianity, the Church and God. Many of the Christian-bashing blogs are over the top with followers. Hate expressed in anti-intellectual shibboleths is popular with certain types of people. It always has been. 

Propaganda

These leaders comb the Scriptures looking for stories or single verses that they can manipulate to support their contentions. They studiously overlook the vast bulk of Scripture that abrogates their prejudices so clearly that even they cannot twist it into meaning something else. They then reinterpret their gleanings according to their own malice in order to judge both God and Christians by the obnoxious standards of 21st century self-righteous nihilism.

This whole practice of pulling things out of context and ignoring all scholarship to reframe them according to your propaganda is intellectually bogus. It is not a sign of intelligence, especially since the people who come on this blog to throw these things down are just parroting what someone else has said or written without any real understanding. 

I haven’t been trained in dealing with this. So far as I know, nobody has. After all, those of us who follow Christ are more intent on learning what the Bible actually teaches than mining it for gotcha verses and stories to use against God.

However, a lot of dumb clucks are buying it as if it meant something. I don’t mean Public Catholic readers. I mean your friends and mine. I mean our kids and the family we see once a year at Thanksgiving. People who have not studied the Bible in an intelligent and informed way are sitting ducks for this sort of anti-intellectual approach to Scripture. 

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From what little I have read and seen in this area, every single one of these accusations is answered by simply learning why and what the Scriptures are actually saying. I haven’t read one attack on the faith from Scripture that didn’t fall down dead by simply knowing what the Scriptures actually mean. 

The problem is that these understandings don’t fit in a combox. In fact, they would only fit in a full post if you take them one at a time, and that would be an entire blog of its own. They require what these anti-intellectual propagandists claim for themselves but don’t demonstrate: A certain amount of intellectual gravitas. 

In this post Christian world, we’re all going to have to become apologists, each in our own little world. The time when we could devote our studies to personal piety has ended. We are in a battle and we must, as St Paul said, “take on the whole armor of faith.” That includes an understanding of how and why these attacks on Christians and on God Himself through Scripture are both anti-intellectual in their methodology and untrue in their facts.

The result for us as individuals will be a greatly strengthened faith that “needs not be ashamed.” 

Faith grows when you step out on it, and that’s a fact. 

Book Review: Deriving the Personality of God from His Actions in Scripture

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To join the discussion about Finding God in the Bible, or to order a copy, go here

I gave this review a title that more or less describes what I see as the function of the book, Finding God in the Bible, by Darren Wilson.

Mr Wilson has an interesting story of his own. He was, by his own description, a ho-hum Christian, doing an ez-pz light-weight Christian walk through life when God butted in and called him to go make movies.

He doesn’t go into detail (which I would love to read, btw) about this call, but it sounds as if God did one is his, “stand over there” deals with no explanation and expected Darren Wilson to step out in faith and do as he was told. God has never hit me with something like “go make movies” with vague directions to head off to foreign lands with a camera and see what happened. But I’ve definitely gotten more than one of those “stand over there” type instructions.

I don’t know about Mr Wilson, but I felt like an idiot the first time I did it. I mean, the version of “stand over there” I got made absolutely no sense. In fact, it placed me where I didn’t particularly want to be and where I was also (to my understanding) wasting my time. It felt at the time as if God was putting me on the bench to sit out the game. Then, out of nowhere, He pitched me the metaphorical ball, which I could never have caught if I hadn’t been standing “over there” as He’d told me.

It is true that faith grows with these experiences. It never gets easy, but you do learn that God has a plan and you can at least trust that He knows what He’s doing, even if you don’t. I am confident that there are times when God tells us to do things and we do not see the reason until we get to heaven.

Mr Wilson covers a bit of this in his book when he talks about Abraham. God told Abraham to get up, take his wife and leave a nice cushy life in the most forward-looking metropolis of his time and head out into the wilderness. This was the ultimate “stand over there.” Years later, God promised Abraham a lot of things about the great nation of people who would come from him, but Abraham never saw any of this come to pass in his lifetime. He died in that wilderness and was laid to rest in the cave near Mamre with nothing but his trust in God that all these promises would be realized in time.

The Bible says that despite the fact that he would never see them in this life, Abraham believed God when God promised him these things and God reckoned that to him as righteousness.

So maybe following a “stand over there” command gives each of us a small bit of righteousness. It would be nice to think so.

Darren Wilson did what Abraham did and what so many people do not do. He got up and headed out the door and did this utterly impractical thing that God had asked him to do. The interesting thing is that every time you do that, God counters with a bigger request the next time. Before you know it, you’re living your life built around Him.

That’s the lesson of Abraham and Darren Wilson.

It’s a lesson that reverberates throughout the interpretive re-telling of Bible stories that this book contains. One after the other, God interrupts the lives of people in the Scriptures with requests that they do what they’re really rather not do. And one after the other, they  do it. Some of them do it gracelessly and after a good bit of whining and argument, but in the final analysis, they almost all follow through.

The one big exception in the stories Mr Wilson chose for this book is King Saul. Saul’s failed reign finds its failure precisely in his lack of faith. Saul didn’t wait on the Lord. Unfortunately for us type triple As, waiting on the Lord is as much a lesson of faith as doing for the Lord.

God always seems to make you wait. And then when you’ve decided nothing’s going to happen, here comes that metaphorical ball that He’s tossed you. At that moment, you understand a bit of what you were standing around waiting for in the first place.

Waiting is a lesson in faith. Just like “stand over there” is. Sadly for him, Saul failed this test.

I didn’t agree with every single nuance of every single interpretation of scripture that Darren Wilson wrote in this book. But there’s no reason why my understanding is any better than his. The point for me is the fact that he engaged me to the point that I wanted to sit down and talk to him about it.

I liked this book, and I also found myself liking its author. I plan to look up the movies he’s made and watch them.

I think, after reading Finding God in the Bible that I can see why God gave that particular assignment to this particular man in the first place.


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