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Christianity brings equality and tolerance...

Christianity brings equality and tolerance...

Postby Brian » 02 Mar 2009, 03:19

In the all too brief time I had for personal reading while on a business trip last week, I ran across this thought provoking assessment on Christianity's role in fostering equality and genunie tolerance. Apologies for the length, but I can only edit very little and still convey the message:

From Anthony Esolen - The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (2008)
"Sometimes in the history of may one idea, well expressed and preached by people afire with zeal, makes all the difference. Consider the ringing cry, a garbled echo of Moses and Jesus and Paul, 'All men are created equal.' The affirmation that man is saved by Christ, in Christ, is such an idea. For most pagans, this made no sense. You were created chosen or not. For an athiest, this makes no sense. In our material selves (our atoms, our genes, our muscles) we evidentially are all different from birth. But Christianty affirms that in our dignity before the Lord, we are equal.

That faith is meant to leaven one's life, and in this way the new Christians are at one with their elder brothers, the Jews. But it is not a set of cultural rules. It is a relationship to the person of Christ, adaptable to all cultures, at all times, everywhere. It could be Jewish or Armenian, Ethiopian or Persian, Greek or Roman, and soon after Paul, it would be all these. We now preach 'tolerance' by which...we mean two contradictory things: a refusal to distinguish between true and false and good and evil, a supine submission to the politically correct rules of an intelligentsia. It is intolerance, with hair spray and a smile.

The first Christians, who endured periods of persecution and long ages of contempt, set upon by spies after their property or emperors after their blood, learned tolerance by living it. They dwelt among people who traded in slaves, exposed babies on hillsides, seduced young boys, and made homicide into daily entertainment in the arena. And they brought them to the faith without making them a whit the less Roman or Greek, rather returning them to the noblest virtures of their own traditions.

For Christianity, rightly understood, fairly invents the virture of tolerance, precisely because, as Saint Paul says, the Lord wants sons (and daughters - my insert), not slaves."

Esolen goes on to make this distinction between Christian tolerance and the forced external submission/compulsion of the Roman Empire and Emperor prior to Constantine and Islam from its early years under Muhammad to this very day. He also makes the same case against the Political Correctness philosophy rampant in in much of academia today. While an English Professor at Providence College in Rhode Island, his history and current assessment of postmodern concept of equality and tolerance vs. genuine equality and tolerance rooted in the Christian faith are very much on target.
In Christ alone,
Brian

Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry. Mark Twain
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Re: Christianity brings equality and tolerance...

Postby litfan » 02 Mar 2009, 03:36

Thanks for sharing this interesting discussion, Brian. So how did we (I'm including myself with the Christians) become associated with intolerance? Are we failing to live out our faith's insistence on tolerance? Or do we just have a PR problem? Or is it a bit both?
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Re: Christianity brings equality and tolerance...

Postby deadwhitemale » 02 Mar 2009, 06:13

litfan wrote:Thanks for sharing this interesting discussion, Brian. So how did we (I'm including myself with the Christians) become associated with intolerance? Are we failing to live out our faith's insistence on tolerance? Or do we just have a PR problem? Or is it a bit both?


I dunno. On more than one other message boards (some of which I am now banished from), a large, even predominant percentage of the posters just assume that Christianity is extraordinarily and uniquely oppressive and intolerant, particularly to what thyey like to call the Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgendered Community. "Christian" is used as a synonym for "Fundamentalist," often shortened to "Fundy" (plural, "Fundies"). And it's a dirty word to them, an epithet, only slightly less serious than "racist."

It is just taken for granted that Christianity is inherently, essentially oppressive to any and all minorities, especially sexual minorities, and it is assumed that, furthermore, Christianity is always and everywhere hostile to and the enemy of all fun and pleasure of any kind whatever, and even of life itself, except where abortio and euthanasia are concerned. In those case Christians are assumed to be in favor of forcing all women to be baby-bearing slaves of the Patriarchy, just like in A Handmaid's Tale, and of forcing all dying and/or paralyzed/brain-dead people to live on in pain as long as that can be arranged.

All this is almost unanimously taken for granted in many quarters. Try to dispute it, and you'll find yourself on the wrong end of really nasty, vicious, below-the-belt personal attacks and character assassination campaigns, and then, sooner or later (usually sooner, or even sooner) permanently banned and separated (almost as if by death) from whatever friends you may have had there. And then those who banned you or got you banned all smugly congratulate themselves and each other, and feel all rightous and advanced and progressive and warm inside. :brood:

Maybe it's just further proof of what a bad Christian I am, but, frankly, I haven't got time to spend fretting about other people's sex lives, if any. I've got MUCH bigger fish to fry, and in general I'm a big believer in minding my own business anyway. But I admit that, if you've got a LOT of patience and time on your hands, you can find biblical passages (in both the Old and New Testaments) that express an unfavorable view of homosexual practices. But it ain't hardly the first thing that just jumps right out at you, and it beats me how anybody got the idea that the whole point and purpose of Christianity is to be mean to all the gay people, women, and minorities. :brood:

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Re: Christianity brings equality and tolerance...

Postby mitchellmckain » 02 Mar 2009, 10:57

litfan wrote:Thanks for sharing this interesting discussion, Brian. So how did we (I'm including myself with the Christians) become associated with intolerance? Are we failing to live out our faith's insistence on tolerance? Or do we just have a PR problem? Or is it a bit both?


They acquired power. And surprise surprise they did what human beings have always done with power. Nevermind whether they did any better or worse than Ghengis Khan, Stalin, Pol Pot and other human beings with power, those with less power have simply done what human beings have always done when confronted by those with more power - blame all their problems on them.
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Re: Christianity brings equality and tolerance...

Postby friendofbill » 02 Mar 2009, 13:06

Indeed it is as you say: dunno. On more than one other message boards (some of which I am now banished from), a large, even predominant percentage of the posters just assume that Christianity is extraordinarily and uniquely oppressive and intolerant, particularly to what thyey like to call the Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgendered Community. "Christian" is used as a synonym for "Fundamentalist," often shortened to "Fundy" (plural, "Fundies"). And it's a dirty word to them, an epithet, only slightly less serious than "racist."

As for "why?" ... I think it is an ego thing. Religion in general, and Christianity in particular, can be liberating and transforming, or it can be used as a prop for the ego. "Those people [gays, blacks, Irish, rednecks, Latinos, etc.] are not like me, so they are bad and I am good and God should take note of that fact." It is simply the modern extension of "I am not like that publican over there."

Not that there is a problem with only the "religious" side of the conflict. There is also a problem with any group of people who choose to believe that their pet sin is exempt from the requirement to repent and make changes in one;'s life. Not one of us is qualified to cast the first stone; the point of the Resurrection, and of Pentecost, is that no matter what our pet "sin" may be, we stop defending it and set about relinquishing our life, liberty and will to the One Who can transform us into His likeness. I find that if I am occupied in that endeavor, I do not have either the time or the inclination to point fingers at anyone else and figure out what God plans to do with them. That is the message I get from the last chapter of John, when Peter, having been given his marching orders, points to John and says "What about him?" Jesus answers, "None of your business. You follow Me."
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Re: Christianity brings equality and tolerance...

Postby archenland_knight » 02 Mar 2009, 17:22

liftan wrote:Thanks for sharing this interesting discussion, Brian. So how did we (I'm including myself with the Christians) become associated with intolerance? Are we failing to live out our faith's insistence on tolerance? Or do we just have a PR problem? Or is it a bit both?


I think the problem is that a few very prominent TV/Radio personalities discovered that by preaching about how sinful "those people" were, (and by "those people" I mean whoever is committing whatever sin you want to pick on today) they could whip their audiences into a frenzy and get them to send in boat loads of loot to contine the "fight".

Meanwhile, the truth is, even if if they could have won the fight they were waging (an impossibility) they were abandoning the fight Christ called us to wage. For Christ did not call us to wage a fight against other people (i.e. "flesh and blood") but against the oppression of spritual darkness in this world. (Ephesians 6:12 ... obviously.) He called us to preach the Love of God and the Cross of Christ, not to try to convince this group or that group to behave differently. In fact, the scripture tells us that a person trapped in sin is powerless to change his/her behavior without first coming to know Christ.

Telling someone trapped in sin to change their behavior is putting the cart before the horse. Lewis speaks of this in "Mere Christianity". They must first come to Christ. Then, He will begin work on their behavior. To borrow from VoDT, only "Aslan" can free them from their dragon's scales.

We can rail on and on about certain acts being immoral, but such rantings will only serve to attract self-righteous followers who enjoy feeling superior to others, while alienating people who might otherwise be able to find Freedom in Christ.

Admittedly, there is a great deal of money to be made this way, but what shall a man profit if he should gain the whole world and loose his own soul? I have seen the money that can be made this way, and I have seen the darkness it casts over the soul of those who preach it and those who follow it. I'll keep buying my cars used and my clothes at Wal-mart, thank you very much, and preach the Truth of The Gospel. I may never make a cent of this world's currency at it, but the treasure stored up in Heaven will more than compensate.

What we are called to preach is the Love of God through Jesus Christ. We are called to preach freedom. We are called preach good news to the poor, to preach of the One who came to bind up the brokenhearted, to set the captives free, and to release prisoners from darkeness. I so wish that people would quote John 3:17 as often as they qoute John 3:16.

John 3:17 wrote:For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
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Re: Christianity brings equality and tolerance...

Postby Brian » 03 Mar 2009, 02:47

litfan wrote:Thanks for sharing this interesting discussion, Brian. So how did we (I'm including myself with the Christians) become associated with intolerance? Are we failing to live out our faith's insistence on tolerance? Or do we just have a PR problem? Or is it a bit both?


Hi litfan,
Esolen himself provides part of the answer in his comments - the genuninely intolerant are the academics who have decided for themselves what is to be tolerated and what is not. Biblical evil and good are now reversed - much like what George Orwell noted in his famous dissection of socialist/communist totalitarianism in his classic 1984- "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength" if I recall the statement correctly without a copy of the book handy. To borrow from Orwell's example - we in the West have been harangued by the likes of Dawkins, Harris, et. al. that Christian tolerance is actually intolerance. Definitions have been deliberatley changed in an attempt to acheive ends other than those which God intended.

I know enough of the history of Christianity to know that even otherwise godly people and groups have not practiced biblical tolerance consistently over the centuries. Yet, with that concession, the definition of tolerance as presented by Esolen and the Bible allows for ' unity in diversity' - Unity of faith and relationship with Jesus Christ as the only way of eternal life, yet diversely expressing that faith across cultures and centuries. Christianity has always been at its best in living out that unity in diversity.

Biblical tolerance however does not allow for evil behaviors whether sexual, finaincial, social, religious or in any other area of life. If that is intolerance, it is the intolerance practiced by Jesus, whose example we are to follow. Christ sacrificed himself on the Cross at Calvary to provide the only way to live out true tolerance, not the politically correct version of barely camoflagued intolerance.
In Christ alone,
Brian

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Re: Christianity brings equality and tolerance...

Postby deadwhitemale » 03 Mar 2009, 05:40

I'm all for a separation of church and state myself. I just don't thinmk that means the state should be hostile to faith, or suppress every public expression of it. I don't see looming theocracy in every Christmas manger scene on a courthouse square, or in prayers on the Senate floor, or in Ten Commandments plaques everyone just ignores in school buildings.

At the same time, I do not think religious faith, or any church, should ever let itself be co-opted and used and exploited by the state to justify or support aggressive goverenment power grabs, at the expense of the rights of the people.

I think I've been on about this before, but I'll say it again: I believe that the most-/worst-abused part of the Bible, by far, is Romans, chapter 13. One particularly nasty example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRIDNQNsUss

Thomas Jefferson said:

"I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Thomas_Jeffer ... es_it_mean

And I feel myself bound by essentially the same oath. Back when I called myself a libertarian I was bothered by Ayn Rand's hostility to and contempt for religion. I never shared that, and I never considered myself a Randian. But for decades I believed there was no conflict or contradiction between what I thought of as libertarianism and Christianity. As time went on, though, the anti-religious (and particularly anti-Chritian) element among lebertarians came to predominate, to the point that recently I ceased to call or consider myself one.

Almost everywhere I go it is just assumed that Christianity (at least, any relatively undiluted form of it) is inherently oppressive and tyrannical, just itching to impose an oppressive, tyrannical theocratic dictatorship the first chance it gets. I don't believe that. I set very great store by liberty of thought and action, and I want to believe God does too, or that at least God is not hostile to it, and that He was serious when He said He wanted sons, not slaves. I

I know there were people in ages when all or most believed a lot stronger, and knew there way around a Bible better, than most do now. And yet some of them, at times, found reason to rebel against the powers that were then. (See: the Wars of Religion of the late 1500s, the Thirty Years War, the English Civil War (a.k.a. Parliamentary Rebellion, etc.), the Glorious Revolution of 1688-'89, and the American Revolution/War of Independence.)

I'm not saying everyone who fought on the anti-establishment side in all those wars was necessarily driven by religious motivations, but a lot of them were religious, and yet somehow didn't think the 13th chapter of Romans was universally applicable. I mean they thought there was a time when rebellion was the right thing to do, and that the time had come.

I've been on about this before, I know, but I don't think compulsory "virtue" is worth anything, or pleasing to God. In that sense films/books such as Serenity and A Clockwork Orange could be considred profoundly Christian works of art (whatever the expressed religious or anti-religious views of their authors). See my post in the Books, Film, and Music forum about Serenity being misunderstood.


' The Alliance's main problem is that it seeks to govern everyone, regardless of whether they desire to belong to the central government or not. What the crew of Serenity, and specifically Mal and his lifestyle, represent is the idea that people should have the right to make their own decisions, even if those decisions are bad.

The Operative embodies the Alliance and is, as Whedon described, the "perfect product of what's wrong with the Alliance". He is someone whose motives are to achieve a good end, a "world without sin". '


'[Joss] Whedon has said that the most important line in the film is Mal's contented promise to the Operative at its climax: "I'm going to show you a world without sin." Whedon's point is that a world without sin is a world without choice, and that choice is ultimately what defines humanity.'

'The primary and most controversial idea in A Clockwork Orange is voiced repeatedly by F. Alexander and the prison chaplain: without choice and free will, man is no longer human but a "clockwork orange," a deterministic mechanism.'


"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."

"In fact," said Mustapha Mond, "you're claiming the right to be unhappy."

"All right then," said the Savage defiantly, "I'm claiming the right to be unhappy." -- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


"It is with your approval that criminals -- honest criminals whose hands you are unfit to touch -- are being taken from the jails to which British judges sent them, on the conviction of British juries, and packed off to Belbury to undergo, for an indefinite period, out of reach of the law, whatever tortures and assaults on personal identity you call Remedial Treatment." -- C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength


DWM
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Re: Christianity brings equality and tolerance...

Postby deadwhitemale » 04 Mar 2009, 06:11

Huh, now I've got some of 'em (on another board) throwing this up to me:

' God says you must obey your master, slave:

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” -- Ephesians 6:5-6 '

They seem to be suggesting that I am a bad Christian for not being in favor of slavery.

It really seems like an insincere sort of sophistry to me, but I am not a good enough counter-Sophist to answer it effectively. These people keep saying that to be a real Christian you've got to go by every single thing in Leviticus or wherever about stoning homosexuals and abstaining from shrimp and so forth. If you don't consider yourself bound by that as a Christian, or if you are opposed to slavery, they say you're hypocritical or inconsistent.
"It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun." -- Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim(1899?)
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Re: Christianity brings equality and tolerance...

Postby friendofbill » 04 Mar 2009, 16:03

These people keep saying that to be a real Christian you've got to go by every single thing in Leviticus or wherever about stoning homosexuals and abstaining from shrimp and so forth.


Invite them to read Paul's letter to the Galatians. Evidently they missed that part of the New Testament.
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Re: Christianity brings equality and tolerance...

Postby Bluegoat » 04 Mar 2009, 16:51

deadwhitemale wrote:Huh, now I've got some of 'em (on another board) throwing this up to me:

' God says you must obey your master, slave:

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” -- Ephesians 6:5-6 '

They seem to be suggesting that I am a bad Christian for not being in favor of slavery.

It really seems like an insincere sort of sophistry to me, but I am not a good enough counter-Sophist to answer it effectively. These people keep saying that to be a real Christian you've got to go by every single thing in Leviticus or wherever about stoning homosexuals and abstaining from shrimp and so forth. If you don't consider yourself bound by that as a Christian, or if you are opposed to slavery, they say you're hypocritical or inconsistent.



Usually when I am confronted with this point of view, I point out that the church has never treated scripture that way throughout most of her long history. The closest are probably some Fundamentalists, who only appeared in the 20th century, and certainly do not represent the whole of Christian thought today. And even they do not really approach what your critics are saying; even Orthodox Jews don't understand scripture that way.

And then I suggest that if they want to criticize Christian thought, it would be a good idea to find out what it actually is. But it is hard to change the mind of a sophist.

The disappearance of the institution of slavery in the West has a clear relationship with the rise of Christianity, because scripture clearly makes out that in Christ, all are equal, and slaves have personal rights as all people do.

Even now, we have forms of economic slavery in the West. Sure, Christians work to change this, but "the poor will be with us always." But it is quite clear that heaven is open to all, regardless of our earthly status - in fact the rich may find it more difficult to get there than the poor.
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