Monday, February 23, 2004

I actually saw a church with this sign this past Saturday. Bo Strofeda, who posts under the auspices of the venerable Dr. Omed,  recently suggested that Xians admit their religion is insane. Well, this was his response to the news that some fundy pastors are encouraging their parents to take young children to see the graphically violent Passion of the Christ.

This sign does seem to me a sort of insanity. I can't imagine why a church would want to associate itself with a corporation whose practices are unethical, at best, and would likely qualify as Unchristian. Obviously, they are attempting to piggy-back on Mall Wart's successful ad campaign.  Perhaps they are even clever enough to be aware of the play on the meaning of the word "saving".  But this church seems to suggest that it is no more than one more business when it appropriates the advertising slogan of a business. And since the business in question is motivated by commerce rather than ethics or community service, the comparison calls into question the ethics of the church.

I don't recall the denomination of the church this sign actually appeared at. Perhaps it really was a Baptist church. And perhaps they have the view — as the "one, true, church" — that their mission is to drive all other denominations out of business as Mall Wart has driven locally-owned stores out of business. One doubts the church in question would be so blatant.

As for the controversial Passion, what I have heard reported suggests it would be inappropriate for young children. It might be suitable for 16 years and up, but I would recommend parents carefully read a variety of reviews prior to encouraging their children see this. If the parent in question objects to violence in video games and other media, I would suggest they maintain some logical consistency by not sending their tweens (or younger) to this movie.

The director, Mel Gibson, has stated he believes the Christology that "Christ died for our sins". Given that, I think it likely the film will be biased in that manner. Many who have seen previews of the movie have reported having that position confirmed.

To return to Mr. Strofeda's challenge: is Christianity, or faith, insane? A former priest once said that Christians are like the Red Queen: we are called to believe six impossible things before breakfast. These impossible things — the existence of a Supreme Being, a human manifestation of that Supreme Being, and so on — are matters of faith, not logic. Belief in a Supreme Being is value neutral; how one acts in response to that belief is another matter.

Mr. Strofeda may maintain that belief in a Supreme Being is insane. If so, we disagree. I can't prove God exists, nor can Bo prove the negative. In order to even have that discussion, we would have to agree on the definition of quot;God".  Regardless, I would maintain that belief, by itself, is value neutral.

The problem arises, I suppose, when people act contrary to what they claim to believe. This is a familiar argument, to the effect that Christians are hypocrites. I think there are two levels to this: one would be a sort of cognitive dissonance, where one says one thing on Sunday, acts in a contrary manner during the week, and never recognizes the disparity. The other level is when one actually strives to "practice what she preaches, and fails. That's pretty much the human condition.

I suppose Bo to be railing against the former.  I count myself among the latter. To be continued . . .

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