News: Daniel Dennett – 5 Non-believing Preachers

Five preachers, five non-believers, five fascinating stories of providing pastoral care while reconciling public faith with personal disbelief.

Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola just published a small study exploring how five stories of practising pastors dealing with personal and hidden disbeliefs in the Christian movements they are promoting. Financial and social dependences, family relationships, church loyalties, and fear of adverse public reactions keep them quiet and ultimately distressed with their circumstances.

The researchers discuss the philosophical and mental ploys used to reconcile their conflicts. Conflation of the concept of God with the actuality of God in discourse blurs the line between ’word use’ and ontological reality. The worshipper hears existence while the pastor means concept.

In (post) modern discourse, myths can be truthful without being factually true. So these pastors can talk about the (unsaid metaphorical) truth and meaning of Jesus’ resurrection with believers without acknowledging the event actually occurred. Again traditional believers continue to hear that the biblical event actually happened.

Ultimately the pastors feel they can make a difference, introduce more liberal thinking amongst parishioners. The pastors are unwilling to question the literal interpretations openly but hope to achieve this change through a sort of osmosis. The researchers are unsure how this could be achieved. Overall one can empathise with the humanity of their struggles and fears of rejection and hope they can find satisfactory resolutions.

Alex McCullie

Comment: Modern-day Fairy Tale

Conversations with Zak

I never found out where he came from, but Zak wanted to know about us – humanity. After reading books on science, technology, psychology and sociology, he continued “Progressive and updatable, that’s good. Most commendable. Now, what is religion?”

 “I can tell you about Christianity. But there are many others”, I said tentatively. I explained that Christianity is about seeking another world that is everywhere, but cannot be seen or touched. However we know that God – he is all powerful and morally perfect – resides there with his son, Jesus. Other religions don’t believe that about Jesus though.  Zak looked sceptical. “How do you know?”

“Well, we have a book that says so. The Holy Bible describes God, Jesus, life after death, heaven and hell, how to behave, and what to worship. I had to explain that ‘worship’ meant something like feeling unworthy, and serving God and then feeling constant gratitude. “Curious” was all I heard from Zak. And then “Tell me more”.

I explained that the Bible was written some 2000 to 3000 years ago based on some events in the Middle East: after a bit of searching, I showed where on the map. The Christian part is about God’s son, a man called Jesus, sort of half-man, half-God. In fact he is the same God as well – it’s a bit confusing, I said somewhat awkwardly. He was executed after one year of preaching or, perhaps, three, but that was enough to start Christianity. He exorcised demons, reanimated dead bodies (that happened to him as well) and performed other magical feats like walking on water and solving food shortages. “Do you have demons?” Zak asked. Well no, I explained. “Maybe Jesus got rid of them all.” Zak suggested, somewhat sarcastically, I suspected.

“Can I see this Bible?” “The originals were lost a long time ago, but we have copies” “Who copied the Bible?” Zak asked. I explained that Christians don’t know, but they believe that it’s totally accurate; in fact, many see it as the literal word of God – that’s part of their faith. “Do Christians change the Bible after learning more about the world?” “No, there is no need. The Bible already represents absolute truth.”

Zak left dismayed to continue the conversation another day.

Alex McCullie

News: Interfaith Tolerance Has Many Forms Including None

From good old OZ comes an excellent example of ‘do as I say and not as I do‘ …

CAMDEN’S Christian leaders have united to condemn the Quranic Society, which wants to build an Islamic school in Camden, for espousing views which are “incompatible with the Australian way of life”.

The leaders of the St John’s Anglican, Camden Presbyterian and Camden Baptist churches and the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary signed a letter to Camden Council arguing that the proposal was not in the public interest.

“Camden is increasingly becoming a multicultural community, but when one part of the community seeks to dominate the public space, as we have seen in Auburn, Bankstown, Lakemba and more recently Liverpool, the social impact is unacceptable,” says the letter, which was read at the Quranic Society’s appeal to the Land and Environment Court yesterday.

“Our concern is the Quranic Society inevitably advocates a political ideological position that is incompatible with the Australian way of life. This includes promoting Quranic law as being superior to national laws and regarding followers of any rival religion as inevitably at enmity with it.”

Quoted from the SMH web site

Alex McCullie