Are theocracies preserving cultural integrity or persecuting the minority? - Page 2 - Mothering Forums

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#31 of 54 Old 03-01-2009, 03:19 PM
 
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hristianity than so-called Western values.

But there would be so much sensitivity required by missionaries to behave that way. Even ignoring what happened in the past, it seems like not all churches are very mindful in choosing who they send to represent them. I think they would have to go to learn at least as much as they went to teach.

very well put!

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#32 of 54 Old 03-01-2009, 04:18 PM
 
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I really don't think that suppressing other religions will preserve traditional values in a good way. In most cases I think many traditional values and practices could be maintained even with a change in religion. And change is not always bad. In a place like Bhutan, many of their traditional values are actually more in line, IMO, with Christianity than so-called Western values.
You make some really good points, Bluegoat, but I don't think I understand your point here. We aren't talking about Bhutan having a choice between Christianity and Western values, we are talking about the choice between Christianity and Buddhism. Are you saying that their traditional values are more in line with Christianity than with Buddhism? Or that Christianity will be a better "shield" than Buddhism to resist Western materialistic values? Or none of the above?

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What do people think about missionaries targeting people who are already Christians, from another denomination. It seems to me it is a problem that doesn't look good at all to outsiders.
You mean, if a Baptist tries to convert a Catholic for example? To me, it doesn't really matter since they are all Christian and very much share similar values/culture. It doesn't seem the same to me as a Muslim trying to convert a Christian or vice versa.

As to your point about whether it is okay to break the anti-proselytizing rules, you are absolutely right that Christian missionaries aren't the only ones who feel morally justified in breaking what they view as harmful laws. I guess I would draw the line at respecting national sovereignty. It is one thing to practice civil disobedience in one's own country -- say, by using medical marijuana in a state where it is illegal. So if you were a Chrisitan citizen of a country that banned proselytizing, I'd say you do have the right to challenge it's laws if you are willing to accept the consequences. If you did not want to challenge the law, then I think you could just say "sorry, the law prohibits me from talking about my religion" if someone asked.

However, talking about foreign missionaries, it is a different thing entirely to subvert the laws of another country, especially a country where the laws enjoy widespread popular support (I'll take an uneducated guess that a majority of Islamic citizens support antiproselytizing laws). I can only imagine what those same American missionaries -- the ones who are smuggling Bibles etc -- would do if citizens of a foreign country were trying to subvert our laws! It is fine to protest unjust laws in other countries -- like when we call out other nations on human rights or our European peers call us out on some of our lousy decisions -- but I just can't see that it is okay to simply go ahead and flout another country's laws.

And quite frankly it doesn't help the image of Christianity any. Just adds to the stereotype of "pushy Christians".
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#33 of 54 Old 03-01-2009, 04:42 PM
 
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the thing is though... cultures change through time. it's not as if Vietnam has been Vietnam forever. or that China has been China forever. I mean 70 years ago China's culture was completely different than it is now. Cultures change.

I'm not saying I don't sympathize with the desire to keep some of the old cultural ways - b/c I completely do. I can't stand the idea of even the thought, of everything changing when something new comes along. there is a part of us that is deeply rooted in tradition. HOWEVER, there is also the side... well that we are a moving and changing people. we evolve, for lack of a better word. There is no way a government can stop change completely. and when they try, ironically it usually changes for the worst. meaning it may not change into a different "religious culture" BUT it does change to a dictatorship style country. which brings with it it's own religious and cultural changes.

I would like my kids to carry on with their religious heritage. and I fully plan to raise them as such. but when they are adults... well I know if I try to control them- what they think, say, do, or even worship - then even if they were too scared of me to change, it wouldn't be from the heart. and b/c it wouldn't be from the heart they wouldn't be happy and they wouldn't be happy so neither would their kids and then their kids would say "we don't want that oppressive religion! let's change and be something else!" and to me... it's very much like that with a government which tries to control change and religion. it may hault change for a bit... but then it completely backfires pushing people into the very change they tried to avoid.
HP, this is a really good post. I've been thinking about it. I agree with you, but I don't want to, really I don't! Because it seems that the inevitable outcome of a constant process of evolution and globalization will be the loss of cultural/religious diversity, which just like loss of genetic diversity, will not be a good thing. But imposing a religion will always destroy the religion, no doubt about that.

I guess the one thing I would wish for, the one thing that might allow diverse religions to flourish forever, would be for religions to truly respect each other. To get back to a "many-paths-to-God" mentality. I say get "back" to that mentality because I think historically that is how people thought before the rise of monotheism. Okay, I know there wasn't a lot of religious respect and tolerance in those little semetic or greek or whatever tribes that roamed around happily slaughtering each other in the name of their Gods, but then once they conquered a land they would usually try to co-opt the local God into their own pantheons. They didn't say the enemy's God was false or a trick of Satan -- they took the local Gods seriously. They'd even import foreign Gods to their countries if their own Gods didn't seem to be doing their jobs, as when the Romans imported the Egyptian Isis in response to a plague.

As long as a religion teaches that they are the one true path to God, I just don't see how good people in that religion won't feel moved to proselytize. I know you personally are against it, HP, but there will ALWAYS be pushy proselytizers in Christianity because of the nature of the religion. And they aren't bad people. I used to be one. I was genuinely horrified at the thought of people dying without being saved, that is what motivated me.

So that's my wish, even though I know it can't come true...
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#34 of 54 Old 03-01-2009, 06:01 PM
 
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As long as a religion teaches that they are the one true path to God, I just don't see how good people in that religion won't feel moved to proselytize. I know you personally are against it, HP, but there will ALWAYS be pushy proselytizers in Christianity because of the nature of the religion. And they aren't bad people. I used to be one. I was genuinely horrified at the thought of people dying without being saved, that is what motivated me.
I totally sympathize with what you are saying. and i can't give you a "feel good, fix it" kinda answer. it's just not that simple as is clear on this thread. (not that you were asking me to... but ykwim!)

I realize the idea of accepting all religions as equal is a popular one - it seems it would fix things. but at the same time... it waters down every religion to a mixy wash of the same thing. so... while it may solves some problems, it would create others. It may totally satisfy one person while making a whole bunch of others feel completely stripped of their identity. and then who is to say which obligation should be most important to every single human being? for instance my obligation to my personal beliefs in ONE God are who I am. If I was stripped of this, I wouldn't be the same person. (though maybe some would like that ). and since the interest would be in making everyone feel equally happy - how would it work if half of the people were completely dissatisfied.

our human nature needs to live for something. some people argue it's the human evolutionary desire to survive. but others would say GOD put it in s to keep us all searching for truth. Either way, you're never going to get everyone on the same boat. you just aren't. nothing will change that at it's core. So if we make every religion "equal" yes it will satisfy those in the one boat. but it will strip the other identity completely and then where back to square one - whose desires (religious or not) are more important than another?

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#35 of 54 Old 03-01-2009, 06:33 PM
 
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I realize the idea of accepting all religions as equal is a popular one - it seems it would fix things. but at the same time... it waters down every religion to a mixy wash of the same thing. so... while it may solves some problems, it would create others.
Oh, no, that's not what I meant! Not that religions merge to become some watered-down, committee-designed belief system that everyone can believe in.

What I meant to say is that I wish all religions accepted the principle that other religions are valid. It doesn't mean they are the same, it doesn't even mean that other religions are "equal" (like, you might think that your own religion is the highest expression of truth but other religions can also lead people to a right understanding of the Divine). This would take the need to proselytize out of the equation, and people really would be able to choose the path which is the best fit for them.

Buddhism is like this, I think Judaism is like this. It doesn't even mean you have to give up monotheism, despite what I said above, as you can believe in one God and still say there are many paths to that one God.

This view is often misunderstood in Christian circles, so please know that I am not advocating "designer" religions that will allow people to do whatever they want, like someone claiming that conspicuous consumption is a path to God and expecting it to be considered valid. I am talking about the historical, long-lasting religions which have stood the test of time and have obviously proven to fulfill the spiritual needs of billions of people. All of these religions have certain points in common, one of which is the requirement to "die to self" and transcend selfish desires. Despite what I learned when I was a fundamentalist Christian, none of the great religions are easy when taken seriously.
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#36 of 54 Old 03-01-2009, 08:20 PM
 
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ok... I'm ready to be misunderstood and flamed now. bring it on

(no I'm only joking... I know that most of you here are so way better than that. and i REALLY enjoy that we can have these open discussions even when it's... well... not always pretty and simple. TIA for trying to understand what I'm getting at here)

---------------------------

I do think I understood you appropriately... maybe I expressed myself incorrectly.... I will try again

I realized you weren't implying making all religions the same. I didn't get that impression at all. But the point you make about saying all religions agree that there are many ways t truth... well that was what I was getting at. The firm belief of MANY religions is that there ISN'T many ways to divine truth (or whatever they would call it in their religion) and that by ignoring even this seemingly small part of the religion, it would actually destroy the religion or recreate it to be something completely different. (of course I could see how outsiders to one of those religions would say "and so why does that matter? maybe it needs to changed"... but I will put that on the backburner for the moment)

I mean to say that I would never ever agree that there are many ways to truth (b/c i don't believe that). But I would ALWAYS agree it's a very personal journey and not my place to tell another person how they should go about it....unless they desire my input.

where it gets sticky is that if your religion (God) commands you to "proselytize" (and by that I don't mean westernize or destroy other people's cultures, but to make effort to make the gospel of your religion heard by all peoples) then you're not going to just lie it down.

so then like I said, we're back to this point: leaving behind that "annoying" aspect of a religion may sound great to some (not of that religion esp!!) but it would greatly dissatisfy the others (who are apart of that religion) and who get to decide what or who has the more important goal - to live our their commands, or to leave in "peace".

I will always vote for living in peace... I am fine with getting along with other religions and religious peoples and letting them do there own thing, and me do mine, but I will never ever be willing to say I think their religion will get them to the divine truth (unless I feel it would) b/c I would be lying... as I don't feel that way. I dont expect them to feel this way about me either... My desire to empathize with my fellow man over their journey comes second to my priority of fulfilling the commands of my religion. and i think many devout people of other religions feel this way too.... and so the idea that they will ever all fully "get along" isn't going to happen past a certain point. I will never expect a devout muslim to say "hey, you christian, I totally think you're on the right path!"... and then the "wars" between muslims and christian nations in general will just suddenly dissolve. . I wouldn't expect them to give up what they believed to be the truth to pacify me, and i don't intend to do it either...

I'm SO not trying to be harsh or distant or anything of the sort. I'm just trying to be realistic. the ideal religious peace between religions will never happen on this earth anyhow, b/c so many religions (at least traditionally) believe there is ONE way. and unfortunately too many people also carry anger and resentment b/c of this and it turns UGLY and into war. and really, no matter how much it sickens me, I know it wont stop.

I think too many people believe this but are too scared to admit this... because it seems unfriendly or cold. and it's not meant to be. this isn't baout MY judgement on other religions, it's about my judgement on MY religion (if that makes sense).

so what I'm getting at is that though what you say is an ideal... I never see it playing out. it just... isn't possible. I totally respect what you mean, wholeheartedly. But I would never give up any part of my sacred commands to pacify anyone or anything, when it comes down to it. Not because I think myself smarter, wiser, or better than anyone else. simply because I believe my commands sacred and that comes first and foremost in my life. I realize to some thing seems shallow... but what else can I say? their opinion of life isn't my highest priority. and if we all look inside ourselves I think we can all find things we are UNWILLING completely to bend on. we rarely admit these things, but they exist in all of us, right or wrong.

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#37 of 54 Old 03-01-2009, 08:26 PM
 
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Despite what I learned when I was a fundamentalist Christian, none of the great religions are easy when taken seriously.
would you mind explaining this one more? I *think* I understood... but I'm not positive...

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#38 of 54 Old 03-01-2009, 09:10 PM
 
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Oh, I don't think you are being cold and harsh, you are just being realistic. As I said, I don't think my wish will ever come true...

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I will always vote for living in peace... I am fine with getting along with other religions and religious peoples and letting them do there own thing, and me do mine, but I will never ever be willing to say I think their religion will get them to the divine truth (unless I feel it would) b/c I would be lying... as I don't feel that way. I dont expect them to feel this way about me either... My desire to empathize with my fellow man over their journey comes second to my priority of fulfilling the commands of my religion. and i think many devout people of other religions feel this way too.... and so the idea that they will ever all fully "get along" isn't going to happen past a certain point. I will never expect a devout muslim to say "hey, you christian, I totally think you're on the right path!"... and then the "wars" between muslims and christian nations in general will just suddenly dissolve. . I wouldn't expect them to give up what they believed to be the truth to pacify me, and i don't intend to do it either...
Right, I agree. I am not wishing that you forsake your religious commandments, I am wishing that your religion did not command you to consider other religions invalid. If your religion did not claim to be the only way to God, then you could accept that other religions are valid and still fulfill the commands of your religion. The problem is in the religion, not in the followers. In my humble opinion .

I wouldn't even really expect a Muslim to say to a Christian "Hey, you are on the right path". As long as they could say, "I think my path is better (because Muhammed is the final prophet or for whatever reason) but God is great and I expect I'll see you in Heaven too."

But as you said, everything evolves. While I don't think it is terribly likely, I can still hope that religions will eventually evolve (or devolve, as the case may be) to the point where they no longer claim to be the only valid path, right? I honestly don't see how it would destroy Christianity, as you say it would. There are plenty of passionate Christians today who are open to multiple paths to God, even great Christian figures like Thomas Merton and C.S. Lewis.

On a personal note, I could never calmly "let people do their own thing" when my belief system said that "their thing" condemned them to an eternity in torment. It seems to me that this belief, combined with basic compassion, pretty much demands that a person proselytize, smuggle bibles, whatever it takes to get the word out because you want to save as many souls as possible. I have no doubt that you are a compassionate person, so how do you do it? (if its not too personal to ask, that is -- you don't have to answer. I just could never live with it.)
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#39 of 54 Old 03-01-2009, 09:18 PM
 
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would you mind explaining this one more? I *think* I understood... but I'm not positive...
Oh, just that the evangelical church I grew up in basically taught that Christianity, being the only true religion, was the only one that demanded followers truly "give themselves up". That all other religions were designed by Satan to trick people and so all appeal to some baser nature -- like in the case of Buddhism, that it is a "works" religion that appeals to man's pride because one can say one got to Nirvana on their own good works. Vs. Christianity which not only encourages good works but also demands man give up pride and humbly accept Jesus' sacrifice because one will never be worthy no matter how many good works one does. So Christianity was always the religion that demanded the most from it's true followers. I'm not saying that all churches teach this, but I think it is pretty common in the evangelical fundamentalist churches.

Needless to say, as a Buddhist now, I don't agree with that view at all. I find being a Buddhist much harder.
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#40 of 54 Old 03-02-2009, 12:03 AM
 
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ok I will do my best to answer your questions.

but first I had to say - when you said the problem was with the religions and not the followers... well I DO get what you are saying. but I don't think you're seeing the bigger picture in it (not to be snarky) but it's just so much more to it than "this religion makes me do xyz". that would be an entire different thread though... and I can't sum it up in mere words here on the internet without writing a 500 pages essay I think heh.

I realize you have background in the "fundamental christain church" and so I respect that. but also do realize that *your* church or church experience doesn't cover all of the ground. it's just one person' experience and as valid as it may be... well... I wouldn't let it be the only way I looked at christainity (not that you do... ut just to throw that out there.)

I DOn't know what you mean about c.s. lewis. he makes it clear that He beleives in one God... is there something more that you can fill me in on? if you're wanting to know what *I* believe about getting to God... well again. I could write a book. but in short i will say this - the common analogy of the "many paths/one path" leads to God thing is very confusing. for instance, if a person was born in the woods and his mother died off leaving him alone before he ever heard the word "God" or "Jesus" or any stories about them... would he not be "saved" from sin and separation from God? and would his experience make him any closer or farther from the "right path to God" than from a person in modern day America who attends a strict service every single Sunday and prays in earnest? it's two different paths, but one God (regardless of what we call him) and it's two people searching for God in total earnest. just like any other human, as we can find God in the things of God - nature is His biggest testimony. and there are personal experiences, interactions and relationships that teach us continually. NOT one of us is privileged to be in the know about God in total. it just isn't so. and any religion or person that claims that is seeing through very dim light in my opinion. I think there are many experiences and paths that lead us to God... but not many gods that lead to God.... if that makes sense.

which is why I feel our FIRST priority in life is to seek after God in our personal lives. our first mission should never be to "share the gospel" as first we must know the gospel ourselves before we can carry the honor of sharing it. I think that sadly this very thing is mixed up within the Christian church. a million reasons why 0 but i think mostly it seems from the human problem of arrogance. We want to think we know it all before we know even half. ugh. sad, but true. you know how it goes. if you know 20% you can just fake the rest. . and that is how things are often done.

for me personally? how do I do it? I live the life I feel I am supposed to. I make mistakes, I mess up, and i am no closer to god than any other person in this world. But I make it my first priority to seek Him, and secondly to remain open to sharing my journey with anyone who would in any way like to know more or even join me on it. I'm not going to say it's all wrong or anything... but it is not in my family's comfort zone to hand out tracts or bibles to strangers. but instead be friendly meek and outgoing, ready to talk or help at the drop of a hat if anyone has questions. people can generally tell when a person has a certain openness about them... and when tey don't; I try hard to remain open. I will never lead someone through HOW TO BE CHRISTIAN, but rather encourage them to keep seeking Him and His truth. (again... the ways would vary from circumstance to circumstance).

as a Christian I think most of our efforts should be seeking God and righting our own wrongs... and praying for those around us. being meek and helping out whereever we can. NOT trying to convert the masses. to me it's much like how the government is trying to deal witht he obesity problem in our nation. they see it's a problem and they think "convert everyone to a healthy diet" and that will take care of it. but no matter how many programs they try to sponser like WIC, and elementary school lunch programs and what not... it wont work. b/c it isn't the issue. it's more an issue of we don't know how to think for ourselves and find the way to be healthy. we don't need someone to force their idea of health on us, we need a supportive foundation and encouragement to seek out health on our own. (if that makes any sense at all). I do not wish ANY to die of heart disease and unnecessary illness... BUT I am not them. and I cannot control their actions - that is a privilege given to each person individually. I can be only an example and educator about how important a healthy diet is... and pray for those around me that they too would try to find a healthy diet. in the same way I can not force or find God for any other person... ONLY for myself. each man is responsible for this on their own. I believe it is the responsibility of the Christian to do whatever he can to help this.. not hinder or force it.

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#41 of 54 Old 03-02-2009, 12:07 AM
 
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Oh, just that the evangelical church I grew up in basically taught that Christianity, being the only true religion, was the only one that demanded followers truly "give themselves up". That all other religions were designed by Satan to trick people and so all appeal to some baser nature -- like in the case of Buddhism, that it is a "works" religion that appeals to man's pride because one can say one got to Nirvana on their own good works. Vs. Christianity which not only encourages good works but also demands man give up pride and humbly accept Jesus' sacrifice because one will never be worthy no matter how many good works one does. So Christianity was always the religion that demanded the most from it's true followers. I'm not saying that all churches teach this, but I think it is pretty common in the evangelical fundamentalist churches.

Needless to say, as a Buddhist now, I don't agree with that view at all. I find being a Buddhist much harder.
yeah sadly, I agree. I think you're right that is what is usually taught in most "fundamentalist evangelical churches". *sigh* I wish I could defend it, but I can't. I do not agree with it AT ALL!

which is why I think it so important to lookf or God on our own as well as corporately. If we are so busy trying to keep up with the right way to be a christian, we miss the point entirely. Christianity - or any relationship that pursues seeking God is a journey. and rarely are real journeys actually easy.

God has many tools to use to talk to us... but the best way to find Him, I believe, i through prayer and personal seeking every single day of our lives. all the rest is fluff... it may be fun and helpful but it's not "the" way to God.

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#42 of 54 Old 03-02-2009, 04:22 AM
 
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I DOn't know what you mean about c.s. lewis. he makes it clear that He beleives in one God... is there something more that you can fill me in on? if you're wanting to know what *I* believe about getting to God... well again. I could write a book. but in short i will say this - the common analogy of the "many paths/one path" leads to God thing is very confusing. for instance, if a person was born in the woods and his mother died off leaving him alone before he ever heard the word "God" or "Jesus" or any stories about them... would he not be "saved" from sin and separation from God? and would his experience make him any closer or farther from the "right path to God" than from a person in modern day America who attends a strict service every single Sunday and prays in earnest? it's two different paths, but one God (regardless of what we call him) and it's two people searching for God in total earnest. just like any other human, as we can find God in the things of God - nature is His biggest testimony. and there are personal experiences, interactions and relationships that teach us continually. NOT one of us is privileged to be in the know about God in total. it just isn't so. and any religion or person that claims that is seeing through very dim light in my opinion. I think there are many experiences and paths that lead us to God... but not many gods that lead to God.... if that makes sense.
Well, I actually think we are pretty close in our thoughts here. I'm afraid I wasn't very clear when I started the tangent, because I was talking about all the different Gods back in the old days and that monotheism brought about claims to exclusivity. As I tried to clarify my thoughts, I talked more about "multiple paths to God/the Divine" and that is what I really mean. In other words, the same thing you are talking about (I think) in the part I bolded. If a guy who has lived in a forest all his life and has no knowledge of Jesus can come to a true knowledge of God through nature, couldn't a Wiccan who worships the spirit in nature do the same? Or a Muslim through his/her religious practice?

This is what C.S. Lewis basically said in his last Narnia book, don't know if you've read the series? It tells the story of the last battle, where Aslan (Jesus)'s armies battle the armies of ??? - can't remember the name but obviously symbolizing Satan. In the end, one of the soldiers of the enemy army finds himself in heaven and falls down before Aslan saying, but I fought against you Lord! And Aslan tells him that although he thought he was fighting against Him, in reality his good heart and good works showed that he was always on Aslan's side. So he is admitted to Heaven. He didn't take the "right" path to God, he was never "saved", but he got there anyway.

Maybe you would say that people of other religions can come to God *in spite* of their religion, rather than *because* of their religion (like the soldier in the story). To me that is still believing in multiple paths to God. Because the bottom line is, they can get there.

So I understand now. Because if you believe that, the horrible urgency to proselytize that I described just isn't there. Which is a healthy thing for all concerned as far as I am concerned.

Oh, and although I was brought up fundamentalist, I did spend years in liberal congregations such as Quakers and Mennonite, so I've pretty much been on both ends of the Christian spectrum. Needless to say I "fit" much better on the liberal end of the spectrum but I don't have any bitterness towards my fundie past. The vast majority of people I knew in those churches were really good people.
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This is what C.S. Lewis basically said in his last Narnia book, don't know if you've read the series? It tells the story of the last battle, where Aslan (Jesus)'s armies battle the armies of ??? - can't remember the name but obviously symbolizing Satan. In the end, one of the soldiers of the enemy army finds himself in heaven and falls down before Aslan saying, but I fought against you Lord! And Aslan tells him that although he thought he was fighting against Him, in reality his good heart and good works showed that he was always on Aslan's side. So he is admitted to Heaven. He didn't take the "right" path to God, he was never "saved", but he got there anyway.
I think you would have to be very careful with this passage from the Narnia books. Not that it doesn't represent Lewis' views but it could easily be misinterpreted on it's own. To get a clearer view of his ideas you really need to look at his non-fiction.

I think, as you point out, that Lewis is saying that God looks at what is in our hearts, in our hope and yearning for him. He also knows, better than we do, the limitations of time, place, and nature that we face. It is with all of this knowledge that Aslan judges the young man in the story.

However, Lewis makes it quite clear in his writings that he does not accept the "many paths/one God" theory. He agrees most religions have real truths to them, and are working from a real perception of the divine. That is to be expected, since we all learn about God in much the same way; by considering the nature of our own soul, from reasoning, and observing the natural world and other people. All of these things are the creations of God, and so reflect his nature. This is what would be called "natural religion" and is what the ancient Greeks, Romans, and many other people had.

Jews, Christians, and Muslims, however, have something which has a different character though. They believe that God revealed himself to us directly, and that is quite different than revelation through creating. Christians in particular believe that God became incarnate and so we can really see, touch, and have interaction directly with God. This is what, in Lewis' view, destroys the equality of natural religion for Christians. Christians believe they have a kind of truth that is much more than that of other religions, because God proclaimed it himself.

Now, Jews do tend to be agnostic about natural religion, but they also believe they have extra, special knowledge which God revealed to them. But they also believe that the Law given by God was not intended for everyone to follow. That being said, practices by pagans which contradict the revealed nature og God are seen as negative. Also, Christianity and Islam, which make, in their view, spurious claims about revelation, are also seen negativly. So they don't really go for the many paths/one God theory either.

I am not sure Buddhists really do accept it. From their view, all of it is illusion, so is equally untrue, if I can put it that way. In any case, we'll all be stuck in the illusion until we realize it's nature, which the tenets of Buddhism describe. So other religions might be part of an individuals movement to enlightenment, but he or she won't be enlightened until he realizes their illusory nature. To my mind that implies Buddhism has a kind of truth other religions lack.

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You make some really good points, Bluegoat, but I don't think I understand your point here. We aren't talking about Bhutan having a choice between Christianity and Western values, we are talking about the choice between Christianity and Buddhism. Are you saying that their traditional values are more in line with Christianity than with Buddhism? Or that Christianity will be a better "shield" than Buddhism to resist Western materialistic values? Or none of the above?
I guess neither. All I meant, I think, was that the assumption that a change in religion would destroy their cultural values is wrong, though some might shift of change.

In particular, I was thinking the values of Christianity are really not opposed to the traditional values of the people of Bhutan. Although many nations perceive Christianity as always being tied to materialism, oppression, and a hedonistic lifestyle, I think that is a misunderstanding. I don't think Christianity supports those things.

I am starting to think I might actually be wrong about this though.

What I suppose may be behind it is they perceive Christianity as supporting secularism and individualism. And I think that may be true. Even the Christians on this thread have made it clear they think religion must be assented to by the individual, and that each person has the right or power to decide our own beliefs.It does seem to be opposed to ideas, present in many traditional cultures, which emphasize authority, the group, obedience to family, clan, church and government. The individual is seen as having less importance, and there is more of a collective feel to society. People are defined more by their relationships and connections with others.

Now, it could be argued that Christianity gives rise to secularism and individualism, which give rise to materialism and hedonism.

Food for thought.

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Bluegoat-

you bring up a lot of good points and thoughts... lots to think about it.

you touched on something i've been thinking a lot about.

it seems people think either a religion is a corporate religion or an individual religion. as in you find God through corporate worship and obedience or you find God through some personal journey on your own. (nature, daily experiences, personal revelation...)

but what I'm been trying to express in my posts about Christianity is that is should be both. one can't be without the other. the the latter could be with out the former if it HAD to be (such as if you're were perhaps stranded on an island alone with no other Christians?)

There is God's calling on our hearts which is individual... and there is God's commands to adhere to fellowship with other believers and share the gospel with people who are around you. But see... something so important is that the personal JOURNEY is first and foremost and should NEVER end. it happens all day long every single day and never ends. the corporate devotion/worship stems from it. or rather, it should. But that also doesn't mean the corporate aspect doesn't need to exist either.

But as I wish my children to obey from the heart - I want them to hear my words from the heart AND act on the rules. it's most important to me their heart's intent... but from that I should see their obedience to the rules. One is the fruit of the other. HOWEVER in so many homes (and churches) it is polar opposite. one obeys the church rules, and fellowships regularly and "witnesses" to the "unsaved masses" but neglects (or perhaps doesn't even recognize) his own daily personal journey.

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I think you would have to be very careful with this passage from the Narnia books. Not that it doesn't represent Lewis' views but it could easily be misinterpreted on it's own. To get a clearer view of his ideas you really need to look at his non-fiction.

I think, as you point out, that Lewis is saying that God looks at what is in our hearts, in our hope and yearning for him. He also knows, better than we do, the limitations of time, place, and nature that we face. It is with all of this knowledge that Aslan judges the young man in the story.

However, Lewis makes it quite clear in his writings that he does not accept the "many paths/one God" theory. He agrees most religions have real truths to them, and are working from a real perception of the divine. That is to be expected, since we all learn about God in much the same way; by considering the nature of our own soul, from reasoning, and observing the natural world and other people. All of these things are the creations of God, and so reflect his nature. This is what would be called "natural religion" and is what the ancient Greeks, Romans, and many other people had.

Jews, Christians, and Muslims, however, have something which has a different character though. They believe that God revealed himself to us directly, and that is quite different than revelation through creating. Christians in particular believe that God became incarnate and so we can really see, touch, and have interaction directly with God. This is what, in Lewis' view, destroys the equality of natural religion for Christians. Christians believe they have a kind of truth that is much more than that of other religions, because God proclaimed it himself.

Now, Jews do tend to be agnostic about natural religion, but they also believe they have extra, special knowledge which God revealed to them. But they also believe that the Law given by God was not intended for everyone to follow. That being said, practices by pagans which contradict the revealed nature og God are seen as negative. Also, Christianity and Islam, which make, in their view, spurious claims about revelation, are also seen negativly. So they don't really go for the many paths/one God theory either.

I am not sure Buddhists really do accept it. From their view, all of it is illusion, so is equally untrue, if I can put it that way. In any case, we'll all be stuck in the illusion until we realize it's nature, which the tenets of Buddhism describe. So other religions might be part of an individuals movement to enlightenment, but he or she won't be enlightened until he realizes their illusory nature. To my mind that implies Buddhism has a kind of truth other religions lack.
Sure, I've read C.S. Lewis' non-fiction too, I understand what you are saying. I think we essentially agree but are getting stuck on semantics, different ideas of what "many paths" and "one path" means. I've said several times that *to me* the multiple paths concept does not mean that all religions are equal. Even Buddhism believes, as you point out, that it is superior in that it is usually (not always) the final step before enlightenment. But it also says that other religions are valid because they teach morality and moral living is the first step on the path to enlightenment. In other words, the other religions are doing good, not harm. C.S. Lewis was one of Christianity's great apologists so naturally he considered Christianity superior to other religions, but he also indicated that people of other religions could make it to God. I don't know if he would say other religions are doing good, not harm, but at least he did leave the door open to people of other religions. This is a stark contrast to what *to me* is the one path concept, which is that other religions are doing harm, not good (because they are inferior substitutes distracting people from the real Truth) and that people of other religions will never make it to heaven.

Many paths, to me, means that some paths may be rocky with lots of brush, others may be barely a foottrail, and others may be paved with gold and have lots of lemonade stands along the way , but they all lead to the Divine, or at least get close enough that God then meets the traveller partway. Buddhism would probably say that other paths are country roads whereas the Dharma is a super highway, and C.S. Lewis might only be willing to say that other paths are winding donkey trails compared to the superhighway of Christianity, but it is still many paths to the same destination. One can believe that your religious tradition is the best/highest/clearest/most definitive revelation of God, but as long as there is room in your belief system for non-believers (that doesn't involve them languishing in eternal torment) then the chances for peaceful co-existence goes up dramatically. Because you are free to let people to work out their own salvation, like HP said, without feeling like they will go to hell if you don't spread the Word.

Does that make sense?

As I said, I know I muddled it because in the beginning I talked about the multiple Gods in the old days. But even back then, there was a current of thought that all the Gods were but different aspects of one Divine Reality. You see that when one culture would identify a foreign God as being the equivalent to one of their local Gods. Now I know that is another can of worms and I want to make it clear that I am not talking about something as simplistic as Yahweh = Allah = Nirvana = Brahma. 'Cause obviously all the stories contradict each other. Rather I am saying that all of these names are pointing to certain aspects of the Divine Reality. They all "see through a mirror darkly". Now a person might believe that the Yahweh stories see through the mirror more clearly than the others, which is fine. But at the same time, it is possible to believe that a person who believes in the Allah stories could also grasp certain parts correctly, just not as fully. Like maybe the Yahweh stories describe 3/4 of God correctly while the Allah stories only get the big toe right (and of course the person who believes in Allah is thinking that the Yahweh stories only get the big toe right LOL). To me, it's all good as long as it is recognized that all the stories participate in something valid, even if your own story is the best.

ETA: I just wanted to add that while your characterization of Buddhism is accurate, the whole "life is illusion" thing is often misunderstood to mean that nothing is real, and that is not what Buddhism teaches. But that is REALLY off topic, so I won't say any more.
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What I suppose may be behind it is they perceive Christianity as supporting secularism and individualism. And I think that may be true. Even the Christians on this thread have made it clear they think religion must be assented to by the individual, and that each person has the right or power to decide our own beliefs.It does seem to be opposed to ideas, present in many traditional cultures, which emphasize authority, the group, obedience to family, clan, church and government. The individual is seen as having less importance, and there is more of a collective feel to society. People are defined more by their relationships and connections with others.

Now, it could be argued that Christianity gives rise to secularism and individualism, which give rise to materialism and hedonism.
That is a very good point! The question is, did Western individualism spring from Christianity or did it spring more from cultural sources (like the Enlightenment) and then get grafted onto Christianity?

Traditionally, the Catholic church doesn't have the emphasis on individual choice that Protestantism has, does it? I'm thinking of things like infant baptism and submission to church authority, which don't exist in Protestantism.
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#48 of 54 Old 03-03-2009, 12:11 PM
 
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That is a very good point! The question is, did Western individualism spring from Christianity or did it spring more from cultural sources (like the Enlightenment) and then get grafted onto Christianity?
I would say the latter.

IMO Christianity "fits" much better with traditional cultures in terms of behavior, morals, and practices found in the Bible. It can be practiced in any culture but it differs less radically from "traditional" cultures than from the materialistic, individualistic Western culture.

Although my dh is very, very evangelical (as in, he will tell completely random strangers about Jesus ) he is not American and is very annoyed with the way Westerners have decided that their culture goes hand in hand with Christianity. IOW, it bothers him that the first thing some people do after converting to Christianity in Muslim countries is for the women to start running around in tight Westen clothes and uncovering their heads. He experienced real persecution for his faith, but when people deliberately offend their local culture where the Bible does not require them to, claiming it's because of Christianity, he really doesn't have much sympathy if they're harassed for it.
Same with FGM. It is a cultural practice that does need to change IMO. But those who practice it would be less resistant to change if the "education" against it didn't come from people who's culture they view as wildly sexually loose and immoral. FGM is practiced in large part for "cleanliness" and sexual purity. And those concepts are an important part of the culture. So traditionalists correlate "uncircumcised women" with American sexual values, and therefore continue FGM, even within the evangelical Christian churches, because they don't want their daughters to be "loose like Americans". Biblical Christianity would keep people from mutilating girls but not lead to sexual looseness--rejecting a particular cultural practice but not rejecting the cultural values behind that practice.
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Maggie,

you made a lot of good points!

(I was hoping you'd join the thread soon, I always like what you have to say)

it depresses me what impressions we christians have given of ourselves to other people. like I said, the few loud, proud and obnoxious always seem to take the front seat. nobody sees the rest - the real passion of the religion. the part that keeps it going...

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#50 of 54 Old 03-04-2009, 09:16 AM
 
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That is a very good point! The question is, did Western individualism spring from Christianity or did it spring more from cultural sources (like the Enlightenment) and then get grafted onto Christianity?

Traditionally, the Catholic church doesn't have the emphasis on individual choice that Protestantism has, does it? I'm thinking of things like infant baptism and submission to church authority, which don't exist in Protestantism.
I thing that Western individualism does spring from Christianity, though many of the ways it asserts itself are unchristian.

In Christianity the emphasis shifted, historically, from an external to an internal focus. Now, that internal stuff was still there is pre-Christian Judaism and paganism, but there is defiantly a shift of emphasis, so the Law, for example, became something to be applied internally as much as, or more tan externally. So when Jesus tells us that lusting after someone in our hears is adultery, it is not just what we are doing, but what we are thinking.

I'm going to give an example because I am not sure I'm being very clear:An example of how this has played out might be seen in cappuccinosmom's story about changing to Western clothing. Suppose Christianity is brought to two new lands. In one women traditionally cover most of their bodies and their hair. In another the people wear little or no clothing. How to interpret what Paul said about women covering their hair in these places?

Now, how Christians have answered this has not always been the same, but it hasn't been seen as a straightforward question, "just follow the law Paul gives us." In many cases the answer has been that Paul was talking about modestly, and people should be modest within their culture. So naked ladies in the jungle do not necessarily need to wear hats to church. Nor should the covered ladies necessarily uncover more than they are if that would be culturally immodest. Modestly is about expectations, about intent, not about hair, per se.

But as soon as we recognize that a person's religious life has a very personal element, and that God has given them free will and we must try to respect that, we will begin to see people that take that freedom in ways we, and perhaps God, don't approve of.

I think your point about the Roman Catholics is a good one and also applies to the Orthodox - there is less a sense of individualism. But people are still free to reject the Church, and nowadays both those churches do support religious freedom. So in a primarily catholic society you might find less individualism? I wonder if that is actually the case, I will have to look in my atlas and see what I come up with!

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it depresses me what impressions we christians have given of ourselves to other people. like I said, the few loud, proud and obnoxious always seem to take the front seat. nobody sees the rest - the real passion of the religion. the part that keeps it going...
I wonder if by saying this you are referring to "pushy" evangelicals? The ones who are smuggling Bibles and knocking on people's doors to share the Word? If so, I don't think it is accurate to set up an "us" and "them" paradigm where "they" are wrong and "we" have the true interpretation of the Word. I certainly prefer your interpretation of the Bible, but I would disagree that the more fundamentalist interpretation is wrong. Christianity is an evangelical religion, it has been from the day Jesus himself instructed His disciples to go to all nations. There are also multiple verses talking about how Jesus is the only Way, and that God sent Him so that people "may not perish but know everlasting life". Really, there is a lot of Biblical support for the evangelical doctrine of hell and eternal punishment. Believe me, I studied it a lot back when I was a Christian, trying to find a loophole, and I couldn't find one! Because of this, there are a lot of people who out of compassion (not arrogance or pride) feel the need to evangelize. Personally I disagree with them, but I would not assume their motives, and I would assert they they are very much Christian, not some sort of perversion of Christianity. They are passionate about their beliefs, and their beliefs are firmly based on the scriptures.

I used to stand on street corners with others from my church and play the guitar and sing hymns. I used to hand out tracts. I'm sure I pissed off some people when I did those things. But I can assure you that I was never doing it out of arrogance. I actually didn't even like doing it, but I felt that if God used me to save one person from eternal torment, it was worth it.

Forgive me if I misunderstood you, however!
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#52 of 54 Old 03-04-2009, 03:07 PM
 
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In Christianity the emphasis shifted, historically, from an external to an internal focus. Now, that internal stuff was still there is pre-Christian Judaism and paganism, but there is defiantly a shift of emphasis, so the Law, for example, became something to be applied internally as much as, or more tan externally. So when Jesus tells us that lusting after someone in our hears is adultery, it is not just what we are doing, but what we are thinking.
But the shift you say happened with Christianity actually happened 500 years earlier with Buddhism. It is so introspective and individualistic there isn't even an external God involved. Yet it spread all over Asia without displacing the local customs or encouraging a culture of individualism in the way Christianity does. Maybe Christianity was the first religion to make the shift in the West, I don't know, but the shift had already been made in the East, and it didn't play out in the same way. Which makes me think that Western individualism may have sprung more from cultural rather than religious roots.

I don't think that Catholic communities in the West are going to be less individualistic than Protestant communities, that's not what I meant. After all, they are still Western, and so participate in the Western culture of individualism. What I was thinking when I wrote that is that Catholicism is the older branch of the Church and so when its traditions were formed there was apparently more of a culture of community and less of individual choice. Protestantism arose in large part as a rebellion against those values - Church authority, barriers between the individual and God, etc, which is why they dumped traditions like confession and infant baptism. So it seems a shift happened sometime after the Catholic church was established and before the Reformation.

Mind you, I'm not saying religion didn't play any role at all, but maybe just not the decisive one.

Fascinating topic, I'd love to hear what you think!
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I wonder if by saying this you are referring to "pushy" evangelicals? The ones who are smuggling Bibles and knocking on people's doors to share the Word? If so, I don't think it is accurate to set up an "us" and "them" paradigm where "they" are wrong and "we" have the true interpretation of the Word. I certainly prefer your interpretation of the Bible, but I would disagree that the more fundamentalist interpretation is wrong. Christianity is an evangelical religion, it has been from the day Jesus himself instructed His disciples to go to all nations. There are also multiple verses talking about how Jesus is the only Way, and that God sent Him so that people "may not perish but know everlasting life". Really, there is a lot of Biblical support for the evangelical doctrine of hell and eternal punishment. Believe me, I studied it a lot back when I was a Christian, trying to find a loophole, and I couldn't find one! Because of this, there are a lot of people who out of compassion (not arrogance or pride) feel the need to evangelize. Personally I disagree with them, but I would not assume their motives, and I would assert they they are very much Christian, not some sort of perversion of Christianity. They are passionate about their beliefs, and their beliefs are firmly based on the scriptures.

I used to stand on street corners with others from my church and play the guitar and sing hymns. I used to hand out tracts. I'm sure I pissed off some people when I did those things. But I can assure you that I was never doing it out of arrogance. I actually didn't even like doing it, but I felt that if God used me to save one person from eternal torment, it was worth it.

Forgive me if I misunderstood you, however!
hmm maybe there is confusion in how I've stated myself....No I don't have problem evangelicalism at all. I think it's a big part of Christianity! I have problem with uneducated people, and newbies preaching about things they don't yet understand. they are generally very loud and proud with very little substance behind it... sets up things to be quite problematic.

I think in the modern day church pushes people out to evangelize before they really get set on their feet within Christianity. I mean really, if I joined another religion (lets say I decided to become muslim for instance) I can't imagine that it would be a good idea for me to start preaching and trying to convert others until I spent PLENTY of time getting to know about the religion and practicing in myself for a good while so I could better understand it on a spiritual and experiential level. I mean really it's like this with anything - I am a veyr health conscious person. I spent a great deal of time reading and studying about the body and how it works and how foods and supplements are assimilated into the body. BUT when I first started getting into a "healthy diet" - I had much interest and passion and very little knowledge and experience. it would have been very foolish of me to start preaching to everyone around me on how to eat! infact I could have been very wrong and advised someone on something that could be very dangerous to them.

when someone goes out proselytizing too soon it often becomes them trying to "sell" the religion for some kinda points. no religion should be sold... it should be shared generously. but in other to share it, one must have some experience with it first. (I'm not putting a time long on how much b/c that would be silly - but I think it would depend on situation to situation and person to person...)

In most cases the first "proselytizing" should be by example and quiet word. keeping opinions to ourselves and showing our changes through our daily actions. it just seems... well... common sense if nothing else. if this was done in this away under normal circumstances, I think Christianity would have a much better standing with other people. and I also think Christianity would have a much better standing with it's own people.


I'm not exactly sure what you meant about the "them vs. us" part.... maybe you could better explain?

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I guess I misunderstood you. You've talked several times on this thread about being very sad how some people give Christianity a bad name, and most of the thread is about evangelism, so I thought that is who you were talking about.

I'm not sure who the "uneducated, newbie" people you mention are though. I doubt the image problems Christianity has are caused primarily by overenthusiastic new converts; rather more by people like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Debbie Pearl who are neither uneducated nor newbies. I imagine those Westernizing missionaries also had to go through lots of training, even seminary before being sent overseas; they were not newbies either. It's not that they don't know God or the Bible, but rather that they have come to very different conclusions than you have.

That's what I meant by the us vs. them comment. In any religion, it is tempting to say about people with whom you strongly disagree "well, they aren't REALLY Christians, they are not following the Bible (or Koran, or whatever)". But if the scriptures actually DO support (if interpreted differently) their actions, as the Bible does in the case of evangelical fundamentalists, then in fact they are following the Bible, just a different interpretation of it. So it is not accurate to try to place those people outside your religious tradition (us vs.them). Like it or not, they are your brethren.

I guess I wasn't sure if your approbation was directed at evangelical fundamentalism in general (since they are usually the ones being criticized as being pushy, "scaring" people into salvation, etc.) or just certain people in that group that get really nasty about it. Like that horrible preacher who demonstrates against homosexuality at funerals .
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