I had planned to write a post on Global Citizenship to further explain the concept espoused by this blog. Unfortunately, an article in my Google news reader caught my eye and I could not help but to click on it.
The article “More Teens becoming ‘Fake’ Christians” was just too good to pass up. At first, I thought this would be some sort of movement or idea such as Rush Limbaugh’s “RINO” (Republican in Name Only) and that they would draw a few parallels and perhaps throw in a quote by Sarah Palin.
Instead, it was a summary of a book called “Almost Christian” by Kenda Creasy Dean – a minister and professor at Princeton’s Theological Seminary. The main argument in the book is that most teens subscribe to a “fake” Christianity where “God simply wanted them to feel good and do good.”
*Side Note: As a language enthusiast, you cannot say “do good.” You can say “do good things.” Good is an adjective and modifies a noun. Unfortunately, this tiny mistake undermines the opinions of this professor as she is tackling a very complex subject which in its essence is looking down on “fake” people and inherently placing herself above them. Strike one in my opinion.
Instead, she feels that “real” Christians always encompass these four traits.
“They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.”
In addition, she believes they must be able to articulate why they believe what they do and if not, they would fall into the “fake” category.
Instead, her advice is to “get radical.” Which is to say let the passion flow, demonstrate extreme acts of faith.
*Side Note 2: “Become radical” is much better. To “get” is to obtain something physical. I know I’m being anal about this, but if she is going to set herself up on a pedestal and look down upon those that she deems “fake,” then I’m going to call her out on these mistakes. She claims to be a professor after all…..
As this blog is concerned with understanding and embracing other cultures, you probably already know that an article such as this is going to rub us the wrong way. The main reason is that the article assumes that “Christianity” is the only correct religion and those that call themselves “Christians” might not be Christian enough! It follows a particular formula that rises to the top of national media from time to time, usually from “radical” preachers who are touring the country and claim that God told them to do so. The formula usually goes like this:
1. A particularly inspired individual works themselves up into an excited state concerning religion.
2. They then look around and realize that most “religious” people are not as excited as they are.
3. They decide it is their duty to do something about it.
4. The convince themselves that it is divine providence and that God has selected them for just such a task.
5. They engage other people, start to preach and write books to try to bring others to the exact same state of mental excitement they are, and wish others to replicate. The believe this is all “God’s work,” and what they are doing is true and just.
Now, back to our professor, it would make sense that this person would naturally view others as not being Christian enough. She spent her life engrossed in Christian books, conversing with other Christians and her entire world is Christianity! Since she is a professor, it would only make sense that, from her point of view, others are not up to par. Then, throw in the basic tenant of Christianity which is to “spread the word,” she feels it her duty to write a book and tell people to be better Christians!
This is not surprising as I would expect most professors to be like this no matter what the subject. They spend their lives concentrating on one specific subject and at some point realize just how much more they know compared to the average person. In some cases this gives them a feeling of superiority which I suspect has happened to our dear professor from Princeton. Her world is Christianity and she now feels entitled to tell others they are not “good enough” in practicing what has been her life’s focus.
This can be done with any subject and to draw a comparison, let’s talk about wine.
Let’s say, I begin to start studying (and drinking a lot of) wine. After a year or so I feel pretty good about myself and knowledge of wine. I then find myself at a restaurant, overhear a person saying how much they love wine. They then order a Cabernet but are surprised when they receive a red instead of white! I too would feel superior and if I had made wine my life’s focus, then I too might start thinking about writing a book since it is something I am passionate about.
I don’t think I would call them “fake” connoisseurs however in that I want to sell as many books as possible. But with Christianity, this formula seems to work. It is naturally perceived that the most “radical,” the most adherent, is naturally the better Christian. In the Middle Ages, you had to outwardly show how Christian you were (especially during the inquisition) or perhaps you were just pretending!
So what is the goal of this professor, what is it she wants to accomplish? I would say the first thing is to feel that she is contributing to the cause of which she has studied for the past ten years. After all, if you are not a published professor then are you a professor at all or just a “fake” one? Secondly, as mentioned above, she wants to elevate others to the same mental state she is in concerning Christianity. As she has most likely spent 10 years or so studying the religion it would be safe to say she would think others are not worthy enough to be called “Christians.” Thirdly, she most likely believes she is contributing to the betterment of society (albeit within her own narrow parameters).
Christianity = Good = Better Society
Better Christians = More Good = Even Better Society
In order to make them better Christians she must show them how to become “more excited” over their faith and become like her.
This however is not new, especially in the United States.
The US has a long history of “revivals” where people work themselves up into a frenzy in order to more directly “experience God.” These include:
1. Snake Handlers
2. Quakers – “Unprogrammed” worship where people just start to yell out
3. Speaking in Tongues
5. General retreats
It is also not something new in other religions. My favorite example is the “Whirling Dervish.” In this case, the worshiper whirls around while focusing on God in order to perceive “him” more directly. Not sure if this works or not as I have never tried it, but should I have the opportunity, I think I will give it a go.
I have run into these “extreme Christians” quite a few times in my life. On the campus at the Ohio State University there is something called “The Varsity Club.” However, it does not concern itself with sports as one might guess from the name, but instead with “saving souls.”
These are the people that will approach you while you are studying quietly in the middle of the Oval and sit down next to you. The open up with general conversation such as “What’s your major?”
Should you decide to converse with them, the subject quickly changes from the mundane to “Have you accepted God into your life?” At this point, it is best to pick up your books and walk quickly in the other direction. Being me however, I relish these discussions. Just as this Varsity Club member believes they are doing me a service by trying to “bring me into the fold,” I always felt I was doing them a service by trying to open up their minds a bit. It always followed the same pattern.
VC: “Do you believe in God?”
Me: “Do you mean the Christian God, or some other ones?”
VC: “errr, the Christian one from the Bible.”
Me: “Well, I haven’t discounted it, but have you considered Buddhism?”
VC: “That is not what Jesus tells us in the Bible, so no.”
Me: “So you only believe in what the Bible tells you and have never given a thought to the possible truthfulness of other religions?”
From this point, the VC continually tries to draw me into what he/she knows which is the main points of the Bible. I on the other hand try to draw them out by citing Buddha, The Koran, anything else I can think of. Eventually, they get frustrated and tell me they will pray for me.
It is not that I am trying to discourage them but rather just get them to open their minds a little bit which is a very difficult task. One time I was approached by a gang of them and after about three minutes they all started crying.
It is this type of Christianity, the same type espoused by our published professor from Princeton, which I do not enjoy. It seems a bit too emotional and not enough scholarship. I much rather prefer the intellectual variety than the “cry-all-over-me” variety. The fact is, these people are just working themselves up into a very excited state and then want others to copy it. Yet, if they can quote philosophers and expound on the points made then they would have my attention. Simply crying to show their passion isn’t going to cut the mustard.
Yet, even the intellectual variety has it’s weak points. Almost all of the Christian philosophers are of European descent. They spent their time in the same types of environments and thus reach similar conclusions. Their philosophies all come from the same source which is the Bible. The teachings of the Bible were spread through use of arms and much more by conquering civilizations than simply sending a few preachers to “spread the word.”
I have found very few people who have integrated with other cultures, learned the language and seriously given thought to why other religions might be true. People such as this are almost non-existent!
The goal of this blog is not to degrade the professor from Princeton or anyone else, but instead to open a few minds and break the narrow parameters in which most people think. It just so happens that Christianity and most other religions are bound by these constraints and leave very little room for diverse thought. It’s either, you believe it or you don’t, and if you do not, then you are wrong.
They may try to get around this by saying “God tells us to love everyone,” and “Love the sinner but not the sin,” but in the end the non-believer is still wrong in their mind.
This is not to say that Christianity does not have a useful place in the world. The fact is, that human beings do not treat each other very well. We need an institution in order to tell us how to behave since we cannot do it on our own. Governments, Corporations and society simply are not up to the task. If we took away religion then what would fill the void?
This is where atheists and agnostics would surely disagree. They would say that we have the power as individuals to treat each other kindly. I would disagree with this and say that *some people* might be able to do this, but humanity still needs a guide no matter how flawed it might be. If the guide tells us to be kind and to love each other than what’s the harm?
So, even though it might seem so, this post is not anti-Christian. There certainly is a place for it and it helps it’s adherents confront a host of life’s problems then best of luck to them. The problem with the article is that again, it supposes Christianity is the only correct religion and Christianity, according to scripture is going to place in hell all non-believers. For those that are Christian already, it wants you to whip yourself up into a frenzy and get out there to start converting people, because if not, you are not “good enough.”
As for me, I have spent a lot of time learning Japanese so I would prefer to go wherever the Japanese people go when they die. No sense in going to a place where I can’t even use the language I’ve spent so much time studying.
In conclusion, the point of this article is not to bash Christianity or anything else. The purpose is simply to point out that the professor from Princeton is asserting that Christianity is the only correct religion and you have to be a super Christian at that by following her formula. As this blog is dedicated to the opening of minds and embracing different ways of thinking we have to take issue with this professor who believes there is only one correct way to think about God and that way is her way.
It would do her well to spend some time in Asia, perhaps in a Buddhist temple and reflect on the divine from there. But, we doubt this will ever happen.