The Call To Worship

The freedom of religion is not primarily concerned with private devotion but rather that of public worship. It is a display of the freedom of conscience which, if removed to merely the privacy of silence, becomes a privation of faith which results in a practical, if not literal, atheism. (more…)

To The Disenchanted

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The reduction of Christianity to a mere belief, to simple immanence, barren of the transcendent, leaves christians of any people or nation easy prey to the carnivorous nature of political ideology. And this disenchantment of creation also fundamentally changes the way in which christians conceive of and pray to, God himself. The supplication, adoration and worship that are the elements of prayer are cast off and replaced by a conversation. A conversation with, because of the loss of transcendence, a deity that is always near, always immanent. So near, in fact, so as to be indistinguishable from oneself; prayer does, in fact, become just a conversation with a voice in your head. (more…)

Coram Deo

Coram Deo is a phrase little heard today — at least in my experience — among Christians of the protestant variety. Truthfully, it is a reality which strips away the defense of arrogance and freedom that is so inimical to humanity, it unmans a person; stripping us of the comforting delusion of the anonymity of our desires and actions. For those two, simple words of Latin come together to bind us to the truth that our lives, all the little pieces of love and hate, honor and betrayal, are done so before the face of God. That in concert with his transcendence he is intimately immanent, inescapable and that we are laid bare before his righteousness, all our machinations the feeble plans of petty creatures. It is a reminder of our need of not simply regeneration, but of the reformation of our hearts and will. And to live Coram Deo in conscious regard of its reality is both humbling and terrifying. It is the very light which shines upon the incredulity of our deluded goodness and demands that we recognize our redemption, of a reconciliation to God that is only possible as an external, transcendent act for us, that our salvation from the lives we lead in broken covenant with our creator must come extra nos, it must come from outside of us, beyond the ability of our captive and conditioned wills.

Our lives are on display…and what a mess we make of them. I find comfort in this,

60. How are you righteous before God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.

— From the Heidelberg Catechism, written by Caspar Olevianus and Zacharius Ursinus in the 16th century

America And Our Little Toy Brain

At this moment, all across America, your neighbor, friend, or perhaps even you, are making or affirming a declaration of war against Islam and often by extension, your average Muslim.

And you know what? It makes my head hurt. And if this describes you in any way, get your head out of your ass and knock it off, your mucking up my America!!!

Now then, since we’ve gotten that out of the way, perhaps we can do a little big boy talking.

It’s easy to blame religion for the atrocities that its adherents commit, generalities make it easy to not have to address real problems or invest any time in learning and understanding the context and history which act as incubators of cultural and sectarian violence. We have either forgotten or it simply never occurred to our navel fixated little brains that America and the socio-political climates we are born and raised in is fundamentally different then most everywhere else, especially in comparison to middle eastern and north African nations whose people are more accustomed to totalitarianism and a state controlled media than a free press and the right of self determination.

The Economist puts it this way,

Ignorance of the way the West works in many Muslim countries makes rabble-rousing easy. Protesters at the American embassy in Cairo on September 11th erroneously believed the offensive film to have been shown on “American state television”: in a place with a weak tradition of independent broadcasting, that claim is not as absurd as it might be elsewhere.

The casualties of such outbursts are not only innocent lives and lost livelihoods. The truth suffers too. A reluctance among many Muslims to accept that America could be a blundering victim of atrocities rather than a wily perpetrator meant that the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers were widely reported from the outset as an inside job, facilitated by Israel’s intelligence service, to stoke up Western hatred of Islam. Three-quarters of Egyptians now believe that conspiracy theory. It is a headache for their new president, Muhammad Morsi, as he plans to visit New York for the United Nations General Assembly…. For many Americans, only an explicit disavowal of his past support for such theories would signal that he is a decent man worth dealing with.

So let’s be frank, the recent spate of protests and violence that culminated with the assassination of a U.S. Ambassador, who I might add, was defended, though without success, by Libyan Muslims and taken to a Hospital by Libyan Muslims, was not caused by a movie clip. A movie clip that, though insulting and denigrating to any Muslim, was also amateurish and manipulative, had been available since June of this year and was only recently publicized in the Muslim world. And by publicized, I mean that it was used to stoke the flames of resentment and mistrust towards the West by Salafist hardliners looking to sow discord in order to consolidate and strengthen their position. In a sense, all the protests and violence need to be understood as the battle ground between radicals and those intent on the democratization of the middle east. That, I am convinced, is the subtext to all that is going on over there. There are unintended consequences to revolutions, to uprisings and the costs are often ignored in the face of victory. Revolutions are not simply an opportunity for freedom and liberty to be recovered or in some instances, tasted for the first time, but they are also avenues for the introduction of radical elements intent on domination and power. They leave power vacuums that often are filled by those quick enough to capitalize on the moment. The Arab Spring should have made us both optimistic about the future of people in those countries and pessimistic about the stability of life in the entire region. The pursuit of democracy is one fraught with danger and deception, revealing that the desire for freedom does not always translate into the ability or fortitude to make it a reality.

As a final thought, never accept violence as an appropriate response to insult, never silence the public display of your faith for fear of vilification or retribution and never accept that for the sake of peace and safety in our time that we must privatize those things which constitute our self identities. It’s time to put on our big boy pants and become comfortable in a world of topographical tolerance overlaid by byways and avenues of cultural sameness which bind us as a people yet make allowances for our differences, both great and small.

Religion isn’t the problem Lebowski, it’s the Nihilists, because they believe in nothing.