What I Write About

I write about the infinite number of intersections between every day life and the good news of the God who has come to get us.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Place Where Fundamentalism and Atheism Intersect

So my dad grew up in a very conservative Christian church environment. The primary ethical mantra of his growing up years: Don't drink. Don't smoke. Don't dance. Don't chew [that's tobacco, in case you're confused]. And don't consort with those who do.

There are many problems with this from a Christian perspective. The most obvious is that Jesus himself would have failed on at least one or two of these imperatives and he certainly hung out with people who did all of them.

But another reason why this is poor is that it builds the primary ethic around the negative: it's all about living into the "no."

Very few people find it compelling to build their lives around being primarily against something or primarily about not doing something. It's not very emotionally or psychologically satisfying.

This is especially true in the west, and particularly here in the U.S. where much of our culture is about pressing ahead into the future...for better or for worse.

And this is why I think atheism will never have much luck in establishing itself as the 'religious preference of the masses.' It's just not that invigorating to build one's life around the belief that something does not exist. I don't believe in UFO's. I'm not really all that excited about getting all that excited about that.

So here, let's take a moment to pity the would-be evangelistic atheist. Not only are we all built to worship something and not only are we all made in God's image and so we tend to search for God--all these are unfair competitive advantages in and of themselves for us spiritual/religious types.

But on top of all that, the atheist also has to work hard to convince us that it's worth getting amped up about the hypothetical fact that God does not exist.

And then if he/she can convince us (although let's face the fact that atheism over the centuries has been overwhelmingly the exclusive property of power-hoarding white males, with a few notable exceptions) that this might be the case, they have to then try to get us on board with spreading the good news about nothing existing.

And so the super-fundy Christian church and the evangelistic atheist make for strange bedfellows and both have an important lesson to learn: we were made to live our lives for something much, much greater than simple, dull negations. We were made to live for something more than a "no."

And so it is with great joy that the Scriptures sing out, "no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'yes!' in Christ Jesus!" We were made to live our lives for that yes.

Christian leaders, we've got to be the ones who are leading with God's yes...even and especially where it includes a very clear 'no.'

I'm quite sure that all of this is about much greater things than drinking, dancing, or smoking...and it might have everything to do with consorting with those who do.

1 comment:

Brad Phillis said...

One of the TACs at Governor's School this summer made a related point at a panel discussion we had on metanarrative: she identified as an atheist and then confessed that she struggled with wanting to praise SOMETHING for the beauty of the earth but having nothing to praise. Very honest, and very refreshing.