March 31, 2011

Crisis of Faith

I keep trying to answer SOF's question of why the religious right makes me question my own faith. I don't have a good answer yet, but this entire budget mess has pushed me closer to something. I think my problem is with trying to reconcile these budget cuts for the poor while helping the rich--I am trying to reconcile those actions with the faith of my youth--where I learned about the Bible and morality. And I can't do it.

So if those who most often talk about their relationship with God can support these kinds of policies, what does that say about God? What does that say about an entire way of understanding God?

Because if Christian morality is not offended by attacks on the poor, support for torture, and the almost mindless defense of the rich and powerful--is there even such a thing as Christian morality? And if not, then what is all of this about?


Smitty said...

why the religious right makes me question my own faith

Is it the religious right that's making you question your faith? Or is it *really* something else, and the religious right is simply an example or a case-in-point of the greater question of Why Faith?

You've established quite well on this blog the utter disconnection the RR has with its faith. I think, too, being in the bible belt, you are closer to the Noise Machine than where I am in Michigan, which is the epicenter of laissez-faire/smorgasbord catholicism. Both of those, though, point to human twisting of the roots of faith; from heavily contradictory conservative/religious fundamentalism in OK or TX to "meh, I show up to Mass outta obligation" in MI, both of those models point to the frailty of Faith IMO.

It was never a stretch for me to ask "well...then...why am I doing this?" So every example of the Fundies doing something batshit insane is more fuel to a fire lit long ago, but was never what made me question my faith to begin with.

I say all of that lengthy bloviation just to ask you if Fundy insanity is really what's making you question yours?

Streak said...

I hear you, Smitty. My problem, I guess, is disconnecting fundamentalism from my faith. I know that doesn't sound particularly rational, but then again, we are talking about religious faith.

I will certainly concede that faith has always been hard for me. There is a lot about believing in God that doesn't come easily--at least for me. And I think you are right in that I am living in the middle of fundamentalism run amok.

steves said...

Good question, Smitty. I guess I would be skeptical of any discussion that begins with, "how can you be a 'person of faith' and believe ________?" I am not suggesting that there aren't any absolutes, but most of the time when people ask questions like that, they aren't interested in a discussion as much as they have some kind of agenda.

It must be a Bible Belt thing, because I belong to what some would probably consider a fundamentalist church and in the 7 years I have been a member, I have yet to be questioned on why I believe the way I do (even if it is contradictory to what some believe) or told a certain political stance is more 'Christian' than another.

Mrs. Smitty said...

is disconnecting fundamentalism from my faith

I'm with you here. It would be one thing if fundies were relegated to Al Qaeda-like corners of the Christian world. But what we actually get is tacit approval. Sure, by and large, they aren't blowing people up in suicide bombings, so "normal" Christians don't tend to rail against fundies and scream "that's not us!" instead, they excuse it. They let it go. They don't call them out on being batshit. And they've let them control the agenda of an entire political party. All this, despite poll after poll showing Christian Extremist views are the stark minority of overal Christian views.

So what's left tho think but...they are an approved part of Christian dogma.

Streak said...

Help me out here, Steve, because that sounds like you are suggesting that my questions are not legitimate questions. Is it not reasonable for me to question whether Christian morality includes support for torture and a defense of the rich?

Mrs. Smitty said...

What?? Now Mrs Smitty has even taken over my iPad?? IS NOTHING MINE???

Monk-in-Training said...

Christ IS offended by attacks on the poor, torture, etc. We fallen humans fail to follow our Master in so many ways it is incalculable, and somehow our Fundamentalist friends have gotten into a poisonous cycle of politics, racism and nationalism that has only the thinnest veneer of anything Christian about it.

What is occurring in our State is not historic Christianity by any means. I was one of the young Republicans cheering for Reagan back during the time of the founding of the Moral Majority, and I remembered some older preachers warning Jerry Falwell, et al that joining the Church and Politics would compromise the Gospel.

I laughed at the old fuddy duddies. It was one of the worst mistakes of my life, for surely this marriage is not what the Bride of Christ is supposed to be doing.

I highly recommend Frank Schaeffer's book "Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back"

It is also a VERY old story, as old as the Faith itself. There has always been tension between Jesus and Caesar. Who is Lord? In my mind it is not those billionaires funding the tea party or selfish politicians, it is a Revolutionary homeless Man with nary a cent to His name.

steves said...

I think that is a reasonable question and one that should be asked. My skepticism is more directed at those who suggest that someone isn't a 'real' Christian because they take a certain political stance or support a certain candidate.

Streak said...

For me, it is about moral consistency, not the idea that their beliefs are necessarily incompatible with their politics (though it is not a stretch for me to say that I don't believe that Christians can support torture and still be Christians), but about holding up the book and faith that they claim they represent and then asking why they are supporting the opposite.

steves said...

I think there is a problem with the Bible being consistent, so I wonder how possible it is to always follow it. I think that torture is a no-brainer. Personally, I probably ignore some stuff that doesn't fit with my belief system.

Streak said...

I don't think I am asking for complete consistency. But I would like conservatives to explain how harming the poor at the expense of the rich is a Christian value.

leighton said...

So if those who most often talk about their relationship with God can support these kinds of policies, what does that say about God?

Either (a) (s)he can't correct their misconceptions, (b) (s)he doesn't care enough about being slandered and misunderstood to bother correcting anyone, or (c) (s)he has existence issues. I don't see any other options. Apologists would probably suggest that there is some divine higher purpose to continuing to allow sincere, well-intentioned people to believe they have a close relationship with God wherein (S)He wants them to support policies that comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted. But I don't see any difference between this stance and option (b). In my opinion this indifference runs counter to the claim of divine relational personhood.

I went to a Victor Stenger talk last night where he made the point that if there were a personal, personally-involved deity as claimed by the monotheistic faiths, we ought to have found some sign of his/her presence by now. For me, the decisive observation is that with so many competing claims about God's nature, we don't have a source we can consult to decide between claims. (The genius of fundamentalism, from an organizational standpoint, was to make statements about the Bible more important than the content in the Bible. Two people who would never agree in a million years how to read the gospels will gladly agree that the whole thing is "authoritative," "infallible," etc.)

I grew up with the notion of a purposefully hidden God who would only act on people's hearts. But the lack of consistency is just too troubling for me; people being mistaken about God's nature and wants -- and this is ridiculously common regardless of which things you happen to think are mistaken -- are a deeply troubling obstacle to the claim that there is a deity acting on people's hearts.

Streak said...

"The genius of fundamentalism, from an organizational standpoint, was to make statements about the Bible more important than the content in the Bible. "

Interesting point, Leighton. Of course, the relationship with God is personal, so no one can tell the other that they are wrong--even when what they say conflicts with the Bible. Which brings us back to your point.