Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Guerrilla Theology

I am by no means a religious authority or a devoted student of theological studies. I am, however, a student of life and my ideals for human existence are embodied in the example of Jesus Christ. Some might call me a Christian. I don't know if I am or not, and mostly, I really don't care. I don't believe a label can define me or my faith, but I do believe that the way I live sharply defines who I am. I do know that I am not a "mainstream" Christian. For example, I believe that Christ was a pacifist. I believe that violence serves a political purpose, not a spiritual purpose, and that most "Christians" often confuse the two. I believe that Christ was a pacifist because we humans have a long history of killing each other (as exemplified in the Old Testament, not to mention history), and I believe "God" sent Jesus Christ as an example of how we can change our actions by changing the way we think about our world, i.e. the Kingdom of God.

I am a pacifist, and I believe violence is the tool of the weak (minded). However, when I view REALITY through a political paradigm, i.e. government, law enforcement, democracy, etc., I realize that violence is unavoidable as a consequence of natural social conflict. So here is the rub: Violence is a necessary POLITICAL function, but according to Jesus Christ, it is the antithesis of Christian faith. There is no Christ in POLITICS, for POLITICS is a HUMAN engineered game, a quest for social power, and one ENTIRELY founded upon the limits of human perception. To mix Christian FAITH with POLITICAL MEANS is to deny the sanctity of the former for the sake of the quick-fix security of the latter.

Now, I know MANY Christians who would disagree with this, and that's fine. People believe whatever they need to believe to get by. The humanitarian in me wants to accomodate the beliefs of those who would confuse Christian and Political ethics for the sake of self-defense. I'm content to let people believe whatever they want to believe, but this comes at a cost: relativity. Allow me to continue...

Albert Einstein formulated his theories of special and general relativity nearly a century ago. For those who don't really know what these theories represent, let me briefly elaborate. Special Relativity provides a model for understanding how light (photons, sunlight, starlight, radiowaves, etc) travels through space. General Relativity provides a model for understanding how gravity (you know, the stuff that sucks) influences light, space, and time. Now, don't disregard the relevance of Special and General Relativity just because they carry the baggage of "theory". In truth, our society could not function the way it does WITHOUT our understanding of cosmological relativity. Without the "theories" of relativity, we could not syncronize our artificial satellites that orbit the Earth and provide us with weather models, global positioning systems, and mass communications. Simply put, our ECONOMY as it exists today would not be possible without the "theories" of Special and General Relativity. So, cosmologically speaking, relativity is TRUTH. But what does this have to do with spirituality? Please visit the next paragraph!

Their is another significant "theory" of relativity that governs life a little closer to home. In the scientific field of Cultural Anthropology, the controversial theory of Cultural Relativism suggests that our beliefs have no universal foundation, and that what one culture believes to be true may not necessarily be true for another culture. I tend to subscribe to this viewpoint because, well, I understand that what I believe to be true is not necessarily what someone else believes to be true. Cultural Relativism is a model that explains the diverse belief systems that humans exercise around the globe. One may believe that Cultural Relativism is wrong, and that there exists in our world certain absolute and universal truths... of course, this just reinforces the theory of Cultural Relativism, if for no other reason than it makes clear that people, with respect to TRUTH, believe differently. Cultural relativism is a truth on par with Special and General relativity because it helps explain why our world exists the way it does.

(If I've lost you at this point, please hold on for one more paragraph. This is where the rubber meets the road...)

Our world is relativistic (more on this later). People believe whatever they need to believe to survive in this entropic universe. Regarding personal spirituality, I believe that the example of Jesus Christ provides an ideal model for how we humans should live with one another. Violence is the antithesis of this, and I disagree with those who combine the political use of violence with the pacifism of Christ in a synthesis of "Praise God, pass the ammunition". To me, this is morally wrong. Yet, in America today, the Cross of Christ and the M-16 go hand in hand. Cultural relativism would suggest that differences in belief are only natural. I'm content with this, but as a consequence, the significance of my personal faith loses a little steam. To be honest, my faith walks a line between a beautiful model of Christ and a raw universal atheism. When I think about the fact that people believe whatever they need to to get by, I tend to place "spiritual faith" in the same category as myth, i.e., an explanatory fiction we humans invent to explain the mysteries of our universe. When I take God out of the picture, the world makes more sense. No more theological jigsaw puzzles, no more "how can God let this evil happen to me?", just a raw universal THIS IS THE WAY IT IS, AND MY SIMPLE HUMAN BRAIN IS NOT CAPABLE OF UNDERSTANDING THE ENTIRE PICTURE, SO I INVENT SYMBOLS TO QUANTIZE THE BIG AMBIGUOUS PICTURE INTO SOMETHING MY MIND CAN COMPREHEND, and viola! a mythological Father figure called God is born.

I guess the point of this post is this: ATTENTION CHRISTIANS! THINK DEEPER ABOUT WHAT YOU BELIEVE. The consequences of NOT doing this will only work against the cause of Christ. Our physical Universe posses no absolute truth; it is itself a relativistic and ever changing entity. The world is what we make it. The example of Christ provides a model for understanding how we humans can make our world a better place. If the cause of Christ becomes tainted by our animal instincts for survival, we've missed the point, and we've doomed ourselves to repeat the patterns of history (not to mention the Old Testament).



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your thoughts on this topic are quite insightful. What is interesting to note is that today their are 3 religions that claim to be the true faith of the God of Abraham, What is also interesting to note of these 3 religoins is that violence and war are forrbiden... Unless they are "Just" wars. So what makes a "Just" war vs. and "unjust" war? Victim hood. Under these 3 religions it is never appropriate to simply attack, however as a victim you can defend yourself. As you mentioned politics and human ambitions this really gets more interesting. To have a war in our society we must see ourselves as victims in our case victims of terrorism. In the middle east they are victims of poverty.

Just war through victim hood


11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:31 PM  
Blogger sourmonkey said...

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2:12 AM  
Blogger sourmonkey said...

Thanks for your comments.

I agree with your statements on Victimhood. It really vibes with our whole "War on Terrorism", consumer competition, save the "lost" and spread "freedom" society. A mentality of victimhood is a defensive mentality, is it not? Within this type of mentality, "threats" and "enemies" are somewhat commonplace ("conservatively" speaking).

Perhaps we "humans" as a collective "race" place too much faith on the labels we use and too little faith on what really counts (to be determined individually, of course...)

2:16 AM  
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12:09 AM  

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