Sunday, October 29, 2006

Providence Center

I spent some time at the Providence Centre last weekend 'assisting' the second program of the Pursuit of Excellence series call 'The Wall'. This program is very thought provoking for the participants and the helpers too. The Centre has inspirational posters and painting scattered throughout the halls. This painting leaped out at me and the message attached, even more so.

Your Providence, O God, is what steers the ship You have opened a pathway even through the sea A safe path over the waves, showing that you can save Whatever happens so that even without skill A person may sail abroad. Book of Wisdom 14:3-4

Michael O'Brien illustrates this message in his icon entitled: "The Angel of Providence"

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Why debating religion doesn't work

Debating difficult issues like Same sex marriages is a pointless task. I have participated and watched from the sidelines many of these discussions and there is a pattern. While there as many viewpoints as there are people traveling the Internet, here is my summary of the beliefs and positions of the major players in this debate:
  1. Conservative Christians (CC) believe the Bible is written by God who is unchanging and perfect. Ipso facto, the Bible is perfect and not up for interpretation or debate.
  2. Liberal Christians (LC) believe the bible is an historical document created by people influenced by God. The bible has metaphorical stories with important moral messages. How far LCs go with depends on how liberal they are.
  3. CCs believe it is their duty to convince non-Christians (NC) that "Jesus loves them and that they should accept Jesus into their hearts" and that "Jesus died for our sins". To them acceptance of these facts are the only way to forgiveness. They also think that other religions are wrong especially if Jesus is anything other than Messiah.
  4. CCs also believe that because they have done 3 themselves, their sins are forgiven, even though they should not support sinful behaviors in themselves or those around them.
  5. CCs refer to the bible and assert that Homosexual relationships are sinful, not approved by God (see 1), that these sinners should do 3 and that same sex marriages should not be supported (see 4).
  6. LCs and NCs will take issue with CCs stance on homosexuality and call them either intolerant or hypocrites for not accepting everyone, as they are instructed to in the bible (see 1).
  7. LCs will then often state their view of the bible (see 2) and then start pointing out parts of the bible that contradict 1. It is my personal opinion that many have trouble accepting the statements in 3 as useful statements of faith, but LCs don't generally come out and say this.
  8. The CCs will point out the well used sections of the bible that prohibit same sex relations, referring to 1 as support of their case. The LCs and NCs may at this point dispute these examples with different interpretations of what they were meant to mean at the time of writing (see 2) and the CCs might object using 1.
  9. LC and knowledgeable NC, will use counter examples of things even CCs do not believe are true in the modern world. Examples: "Should not eat shellfish", "Prohibition on eating pork", "Men should have multiple wives".
  10. At this point CCs will retreat to "My faith is unshakable", because that is essential to them (see 3), "I pray for you and hope that you will change your mind" (also covered by 3).
  11. LCs and NCs will shake their heads and mutter about how closed minded and intolerant the CCs are. The CCs will shake their heads and mutter prayers for the NCs and think that the LCs should know better and that the LCs will be really surprised when they wind up in hell.
At this point the discussion is pretty much over. Everyone feels they have not been heard (perhaps they haven't) but that they have cleared the air, that they scored some pretty good points for their side (not likely), and that the world is a better place because of their contributions to the debate. If you feel like debating this post, I would welcome your thoughts. However, lets try to keep to the meta level that I started at and not delve into the details of what is or isn't in the bible. That has been discussed to death and regardless of what the CCs say, is almost entirely open to interpretation and a matter of faith.