Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses.
To the contrary, our opiate is ignoring questions of ultimate meaning. We pursue our careers, work our jobs, give ourselves to our relationships and families, dedicate ourselves to hobbies, pacify ourselves with substance and entertainment, while seemingly ever-avoiding the question, “What does it matter? What’s the point?” We are all going to die someday. So, what of all this will possibly escape death’s menacing judgment of “pointless!” “meaningless!” “trivial!”?
This is the elephant that looms large in the room. And we are content (dare I say, determined) to ignore and avoid it at all costs.
So great is our determination here that we have an unwritten (verbalized) rule for it. We want to privatize religion and its disruptive sort questions along these lines. They’re uncomfortable. “Don’t talk religion and politics,” we say, “(but especially religion)” we mean — that is, if you take religion as something more than sentimental tradition; that is, if you actually believe it to be making exclusive sort of truth-claims.
Some of us are dead set to avoid conflict. “Niceness” (at seemingly all costs) is our culture’s highest virtue. Others of us are far too uncontemplative, or maybe intoxicated with the triviality — “This stuff is all too serious. Take it easy, man.”
So, we keep ignoring that foreboding elephant. We’re like a child who has been given a certain chore to do. We fool ourselves into thinking that by postponing or neglecting it long enough it will just go away or be forgotten.
These questions may be controversial, taxing, and disruptive — they certainly are. And I’m very much aware that it’s quite easier and more soothing to just ignore them. But they are far too important for that.
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“‘Vanity of vanities!’ says the Preacher. ‘All is vanity!'” – Ecclesiastes
In The Prophet and the Messiah: An Arab Christian’s Perspective on Islam & Christianity Chawkat Moucarry seeks to present a comparative examination of Christianity and Islam’s major claims and differences. He organizes his presentation according to four topics, which focus on both religions’ major truth-claims and illuminate the fundamental differences between Christianity and Islam. These topics are (1) the sacred scriptures, (2) key doctrines, (3) Jesus, his person and his work, and (4) Muhammad’s prophethood. Moucarry begins his work by presenting some introductory remarks about engaging in mutual dialogue. And finally, he closes by addressing some contemporary concerns.
As Moucarry begins his comparative presentation, he begins where both religions do—their sacred scriptures. Both religions claim to have received special revelation from God. However, regarding the nature, content, and method of that revelation, Islam and Christianity differ.
On January 13th I published a post analyzing and critiquing the viral video by Jefferson Bethke entitled, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” (see my earlier post here). This post got lit up with lots of attention and traffic–far more than I expected. I got plenty of feedback from plenty of people, some positive, so not so positive. Among those who responded more negatively, some seemed to have the impression that I did not see any value or benefits in the video (on the contrary, I was simply presenting a caution). Due to this, I’ve decided to write a “part 2” on the strengths/benefits of Bethke’s “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” By doing so, I want it to be clear that I am not attempting to retract my initial criticisms/cautions. However, I am presenting a balanced perspective that probably should be taken.
This week I saw my Facebook flooded with a certain video, so I watched it. I knew where Jefferson Bethke (the author of the poem and individual in the video) was coming from and what he meant by his words, yet I was a little unsettled by this video.
Many individuals, evangelical in disposition, seem to be rejoicing in this video (even “The Resurgence” posted it on their site, see here). On the other hand, I’ve noticed a much different reaction from the Catholic crowd (i.e., various Catholic facebook friends of mine as well as various Catholic blogs that have written critiques, such as what I am now doing), as one might expect. And to be honest, in many regards, I agree with these Catholics in their criticisms. Allow me to share some of my brief thoughts on the video.