Skip to content

A Secular Theology, Part 1

Gay Pride Parade, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2004), Author Rose Brasil/ABr, Source Agencia Brasil (CC Attribution 3.0 Brazil License)

I would like over the next few weeks to discuss several articles from the Journal of Christian Legal Thought.  These address the profound cultural changes we see taking place around us, and the threats those changes pose – both to Christianity and humanity at large.

“…who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” (1 Rom. 25).

“Drag has always served a purpose…We mock identity…We show people we’re shape shifters.   We are God in drag.  That’s our role — is to remind people of that.”

-Ru Paul, Time.com [2]

We begin with an article by Thaddeus Williams titled “A New Theocracy” [1].  Williams examines a secular theology which is rapidly gaining ground.  He terms this Contemporary Western Creation Worship to distinguish it from the Creator worship of historic Christianity.

Secular Belief System

Williams identifies four essential beliefs of this secular, postmodern theology:

  1. That man is autonomous from any higher authority.
  2. That man can define himself in whatever way he likes; that he determines his meaning and purpose on earth.
  3. That man was never fallen; that he is “naturally good” as the philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau maintained. Consequently, that humanity is continually evolving toward its ideal.
  4. That there is no such thing as sin.  Sin, if it exists at all, is to be attributed to “institutions” according to Rousseau; to the “oppressor class” in Neo-Marxist terms.

In sum, “Self has become a god and self-fulfillment our salvation,” as Paul Hiebert said.

After all, how can human beings be in violation of a moral law, if their desires are the moral law?  Never mind that past generations would have viewed this as arrogance of the highest order.

These beliefs are diametrically opposed to the beliefs of Christianity.  Not only do they constitute a false gospel.  The behavior which flows from them is deeply disturbing.

Disturbing Behavior

The assumption is made that human beings are guaranteed a life free of guilt, when God is removed from the picture.  But are they?

Without God and redemption on the basis of Christ’s sacrificial death and Resurrection, man is deprived of justification.  However, the desire for justification remains.  Without God, man turns to society, the law, educational institutions, the media, even entertainment sources, in search of it.

A constant imputation of guilt to others is required to shore up the sense of moral superiority.  Those not in accord with a personal assessment of blamelessness are viewed as the enemy.

All who oppose this secular theology are characterized as bigots, phobics, and fascists.  First demonized, they must in the end be silenced. Read more…

“Who art in Heaven” by Wendo Kenyanito

God the Father from “Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel (PD)

This is a profound and beautiful examination of the nature of God and our relationship to Him by the talented poet, Wendo Kenyanito.

“Cease not, your Highness, to remind me that I am made of so much beauty that i forgot when i decided that I am defined by the things I am not…

More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of i believe; wherefore, let thy voice rise like a fountain for me night and day.  For what are men better than sheep or goats that nourish a blind life within the brain, if, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer both for themselves and those who call them friend!

In such a world, your Highness, so thorny, and where none finds happiness unblighted; or, if found, without some thirsty sorrow at its side; cease not to remind me who i am.  I am not my age, nor the size of clothes i wear.  I am not my weight or the colour of my hair.  I am not my name, or the dimples in my cheeks.  Am i?

It seems the part of wisdom, (and no sin against the law of love) to measure lots with less distinguish’d than myself, that thus i may with patience bear my moderate ills, and sympathise with others suffering more.  Please remind me, children we all are — of one great father, in whatever clime.  And that nature or chance hath cast the seeds of life — all tongues, all colours; and neither after death shall we be sorted into languages.  Perhaps, i might doubt myself, (a habit i am trying to get rid of) plundering to pathetic penury; my stock of hopes and dreams.  When such moments occur, let me know that i am all the books i read, and all the words i speak.  That i am my croaky morning voice, and the smile i try to hide.  I am the sweetness in my laughter and every tear i have cried.  I am the songs i sing so loudly when i am all alone.  I am all the places i have been to and the one i call home.  I am the photos i treasure so much, and the future i dream of.  Cease not, your Highness, to remind me that i made of so much beauty that i forgot when i decided that i was defined by the things i’m not.

Children, we all are.

Of one great father, He whom we live and move
He, the indifferent Judge of all, regards
Nations, and hues, and dialects alike.

Amen.”

Wendo Kenyanito blogs on Letters Unsent at https://theselettersunsent.wordpress.com

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

Permanent Recession

Roaring Mountain, Yellowstone National Park, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park (NAID 520000), Author Ansel Adams (PD by US Govt. employee)

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation
” (Habakkuk 3: 17-18).

Officially, the Great Recession is over.  There are more jobs now than when it struck in 2008.  The unemployment rate – which currently stands at 4.4% – is demonstrably lower.  The stock market has risen dramatically.

Yet millions are still struggling [1].  There are telltale signs of this:

  • Only 62% of working-age adults either have jobs or are searching for them.
  • The average household income of the bottom 20% of Americans fell $571 between 2006-2016.
  • Despite population growth, there are now 400,000 fewer homeowners (a drop of 6%).
  • The median income for black and Latino households has still not returned to 2007 levels.

The direct and indirect consequences of the Great Recession continue to linger.

Housing

Millions, of course, lost their homes [2A].  Some did not have the means to support home ownership.  Some were overextended, anxious to cash in on their piece of the real estate boom.  Others were the victims of fraudulent lenders.

Job loss, however, was the primary cause of mortgage default [2B].

Whatever the reason, some families became homeless, living out of their vehicles or moving from one cheap hotel to another.  Disconnected from community, the families of foreclosure had less help from friends and neighbors in finding work.

Foreclosure coupled with an uneven work history continues to keep credit ratings down a decade later.  Poor credit ratings continue to mean higher rents and less money for other essentials. Read more…

Mangers

Nativity scene by potter, Gerard Mosser, at Soufflenheim, Alsace, Author Claude Truong-Ngoc (CC by SA 3.0 Unported)

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.  So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2: 4-7).

Every day 2715 children are born into poverty in America alone [1].  And every day 22,000 children across the globe die from poverty-related illnesses and deprivation [2].

We are surrounded by mangers. Surrounded, yet 2000 years after that first Christmas we still decline to see.  Why spoil this festive season?  Isn’t there another sale, another party somewhere?  Pile those gifts high!  We need no encouragement to put Saturn back in Saturnalia.  We can manage that all on our own.

If pressed on the point, many of us would echo Scrooge’s sentiment:  “Are there no prisons?  Are there no workhouses?”  Who brought all these children into the world anyhow?  Why should we be saddled with their upkeep?  Who gave them the right to impose on our comfortable lives?

“…[W]ho made lame beggars walk, and blind men see[?]” to use Tiny Tim’s words.  As Christians we ought to know the answer to that.  We ought to live the answer to that everyday.  If we did, no billboards would be necessary urging that we put Christ back in Christmas.  He would already be there.
___
[1]  Children’s Defense Fund, Research Library, “Each Day in America,” http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/each-day-in-america.html.
[2]  Global Issues, “Poverty Facts and Stats,” http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats.

Originally posted 12/22/13

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

Scandal…Yet Again

Scales of Justice with emblem of Holy See, Author Ktr101 (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Just when the dust appeared to have settled, the Catholic Church sex scandal has expanded to a new venue.  This time the setting is Australia.  The proportions are massive.

A Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has uncovered the widespread abuse of children by religious schools and other institutions [1].  Most of those suspected are Catholic priests and religious brothers.

Tens of thousands of children were impacted.  While the exact number of victims cannot be known, the abuse extended across generations.

The Commission’s official report reads, in part:

“It is not a case of a few rotten apples.  Society’s major institutions have seriously failed.  In many cases those failings have been exacerbated by a manifestly inadequate response to the abused person.  The problems have been so widespread, and the nature of the abuse so heinous, that it is difficult to comprehend.”

More than 4400 victims have come forward and more than 4000 institutions been implicated.  In numerous cases, the commission found those in leadership were aware of the abuse, but failed to take effective action. Read more…

Long Gone

“One Euro” Shop, Amsterdam, Holland, Author Bo Basil (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

The Five and Ten Cent Store on the Main Street of my childhood is long gone.

Offering for sale handheld fans, kitchen towels, pots and pans, packaged seeds, ironing boards, safety pins, and small gadgets of all kinds, the Five and Ten was a place to buy aprons, doilies, string, utility candles, decals, coloring books, school supplies, penny candy, and the buttons to match a favorite blouse.

Slinky’s and Yo-Yo’s

I remember the Five and Ten had a dry smell, the aroma of aged wood and spices shipped in tins from far off lands.  It supplied the cotton dresses for summers without air conditioning, the rick rack for curtains in the extra bedroom, and the patterns for party frocks made lovingly by hand.

The Five and Ten in its heyday had all the household objects now difficult to find, plus a few low-tech delights for children.  These included hula hoops, Spalding “high-bounce” balls, Slinky’s, yo-yo’s, roller skates, Mr. Potato Heads, Paddle-Balls, and many other toys I have forgotten.

A Lynchpin

More than a mere discount store, however, the Five and Ten was a lynchpin of the community.

A visit there was an adventure for those under the age of 10, an embarrassment for teens unwilling to discuss their personal lives with elderly staff, and a chance for adults to catch up on the latest neighborhood news. Read more…

Ordinary Days

A Desk in an Office (“Schreibtisch”), Photo by User:Mattes

Most of our days are ordinary ones.  We go into the office, meet with clients, deal with vendors and personnel issues.  We return phone calls; respond to faxes and emails.

We fight traffic and the never ending battle with paperwork; reply to motions; attempt to schedule depositions.

We become experts on obscure statutes; review police reports and medical records – some dry, some so horrific we could never have imagined ourselves dealing with them.  All in the course of our ordinary days.

A few of us try cases, and have the scars to show for it.  Rarely though can any of us know the full impact of our lives.

So, too, with Ruth.  A pagan, Ruth chose to follow her widowed mother-in-law back to Judah.  Once there, Ruth’s days were occupied working in the fields.  No one could have predicted, when she married Boaz, that Ruth would become the great-grandmother of King David.

She had already entered the lineage of the Messiah.

Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers.  And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz… ” (Ruth 2:3).

Lord Jesus, we labor in Your fields, unaware of what fruit our efforts may yield.  Pour your grace out on our ordinary days, that there may be a great harvest.

Amen

Originally posted 7/17/12

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

Mayflower Compact

Thanksgiving at US Army Combat Post in Afghanistan (2009), Source Flickr (PD – work product of US federal govt.)

A foundation stone for democracy on this continent, the Mayflower Compact was the first document under which the Plymouth Colony was governed.  The agreement, which established an elected authority all would obey, was signed in 1620 as the Mayflower rode at anchor in Cape Cod Harbor.

For the Sake of Freedom and Equality

The Pilgrims were actually comprised of two groups:  Separatists and non-Separatists.

The Separatists sought religious liberty, specifically the right to separate from the Church of England.  They had initially emigrated to the tolerant Netherlands, but found the Dutch culture at odds with their own.

The non-Separatists — like many to follow them — sought economic and social opportunity, and the chance for a better life in America.

In the broadest terms, all risked their lives for the sake of freedom and equality. Read more…

False Gods

18th National Congress of Chinese Communist Party, Author Dong Fang (PD as created by Voice of America)

A growing cult of personality is developing around China’s President Xi Jinping, so much so that Christians there are actively being urged by the Communist Party to place their trust in Xi, and replace any pictures of Christ with his [1A].

Party members engaged in addressing poverty issues make a specific point of taking credit for the relief their actions may provide “melting the hard ice in the hearts of religious believers” [1B].

False Gods

Xi is not the first leader lauded as a savior.  Mass murderer, Mao Tse-tung, was, also, glorified in China.  North Korea’s Kim Jung-un is similarly exalted today.

But history is littered with the graves of others like them, men enamored of power and self-deluded enough to presume themselves gods.

Christians are aware that this is a fallacy – that these men are merely false gods – which is why we are viewed by totalitarian governments as posing an existential risk.  Truth is always at odds with lies.

Jesus answered [Pilate], ‘My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom.  If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders.  But my Kingdom is not of this world’ ” (John 18: 36 NLT).

Christ, of course, made clear that His kingdom is not of this world.  But Christianity offers a competing world view to that of such governments – a world view in which each life matters, and material things are not the measure of a man’s existence. Read more…

Latte

Luxury shoes at Kurt Geiger Store, Canary Wharf, London, Author UggBoy heart UggGirl//PHOTO//WORLD//TRAVEL, Source Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

We “love” a long list of things from Chinese food, the latest high tech devices, diamond studs, and chocolate cheesecake to classic rock, designer handbags, and soy latte.

There is nothing wrong with these things or our enjoyment of them.  They are, however, things.  Too often, we purchase them in the futile effort to fill an empty place inside – a place that has nothing to do with actual need.

Real Love

We “love” readily, yet have little concept of real love.  Our portrayals of love are a clear indication.

The vast majority of images we see of love on film or in print are of attractive, upscale couples in their twenties or early thirties.  Attractive and well-dressed children are added to the picture when we are being sold life insurance, family vacations, or disposable diapers.

With baby boomers retiring, a few older couples have lately appeared on the screen, to market dating services and erectile dysfunction cures to us.

Happily Ever After

We are experts at romance, but not at happily ever after.  Happily ever after is the hard part, something for which the fairy tales do not prepare us.

Actually loving someone for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.  Through bankruptcy and bad decisions, beer gut and crow’s feet, mastectomy and stroke.  Remaining true to a single individual, despite a barrage of messages to “trade up”.

The Care of Strangers

And what of those who have no husband or wife, no daughter or son?  Who will love the homeless?  The orphaned?  Who will love the aged, relegated to the care of strangers?  Who will love the victims of war or catastrophe?  The veterans who have given their all to protect the rest of us?

We should be able to muster for them at least the degree of love we have for, say, latte or golf.  In the process, we may find that empty place inside has been filled.

“ ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another’ ” (John 13: 34).

Originally posted 1/2/13

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com