I’m often asked (well okay, almost never, but you have to admit it’s a good lead in) what my problem is with fundamentalists.
My answer is not that I have such a serious quarrel with somebody saying there are five or six things one must adhere to in order to be “Christian.” Actually, I do, but that’s not the point today.
I have issues with fundamentalists on many levels, but most assuredly that I find them intellectually dishonest. Of course that charge can no doubt be leveled at many believers, those who give lip service to whatever their denomination tends to expound on as “truth” all the while not bothering to think about it, let alone actually investigate.
Today I want to look at the third in a series of statements made by Deepak Chopra.
There is no reliable guide to behavior outside your own heart and mind.
Now on first glance, that no doubt seems outrageously wrong. It can be seen as giving license to everyone to “do their own thing.” But on deeper analysis, this is not at all true.
For it does not mean that we are free to merely act wantonly, disregarding truth or morality. It requires that each of us discern as best we can, what is right or wrong in behavior. We do this in any number of ways, some good, some not so good, but we all do it.
Religious folks are want to claim sometimes that there can be no morality outside of religion, that it is the moral barometer of the world. This of course is not true, the human mind has the ability to define morality without reference to any God. Common sense at worst would guide most rational people to conclude that murder is wrong, so is thievery, and so on. Religion merely stamps these conclusions with some “higher” reason–God wants it that way.
Many of us are raised in a certain faith tradition, and thus we often adopt it’s morality scale as our own. At least for a time, that is. As we mature, go off to college, the real world, experiences sometimes conflict, sometimes re-enforce that. We stay, we change, we discard our religious affiliations accordingly.
Before I say more, let me acknowledge that for many people these thoughts never are entertained. Faith is a “part” of life they don’t think much about. They dutifully attend to faith matters as required, with little or no thought. Nothing jarring is occurring in terms of what they hear on Sunday and what they naturally believe, so all is well.
So, some of us actually evaluate our faith tradition against our personal beliefs, some of are vaguely aware that we are in sync or not, and others of us don’t think about it much at all. Those who claim they adhere to a particular theology because it is “the truth” have merely without really thinking about it, gravitated to a faith tradition that seems in keeping with their own natural proclivities. We are in essence “guided” to the place that sets out in detail our general beliefs.
This is true of the fundamentalist, though they would be loathe to admit it. The fact is, they read the bible, or hear the preaching, and they agree with this and that of what they take in. It agrees with how they have come to view the world. Happy are they when they see that witches are to be burned or that homosexuals are to be vilified, for they believed this independently of the bible, and long before they found affirmation in it.
To protect this affirmation, they overlay it with a tight canvas of “infallibility.” The Bible becomes the actual “WORD” of God, correct to the last tittle, as they say. But of course, this is the great fallacy. For our fundamentalist friends all too quickly forget that they ignore a good deal of the bible all the time. Inerrancy doesn’t prevent them from eating pork, or not properly blooded animals. Nor does it keep them from lending with interest.
All kinds of nice ways are found around these difficulties, when pointed out, such as “the OT is superseded by the NT, we don’t have to follow those old Levitical laws.” They say this, by of course denying Jesus’ own words in the NT. Pick and choose is all they are doing, and while we all do so, most of us admit that fact. They do not.
We, (sane people like myself) know that the bible is in a sense like the constitution, a living document in some ways. Meant to show us how faith was expressed by others, and as a guide for how to figure out how to act today. The bible doesn’t purport to answer all of our questions today, but it can act as a framework for figuring out how we should decide these new issues.
For me, God must make sense. I cannot deal with a God who doesn’t. So for a good deal of my life, the only God I knew was that offered me by the fundamentalist, and I couldn’t relate to God in this way. A God of wrath, a God of anger, vengeance, and one who demanded me to feel deep guilt for my sinful existence was not a God I cared about knowing.
I got away from that God in Catholicism for a while. I was able to reconcile some of my confusion. Catholicism is, or so I thought, a fairly logically consistent faith tradition. Until it wasn’t. When I began to find that my heart was guiding me elsewhere, I began to see as well the fallacy. Logic was there, but it was based on a house of cards, each a supposition, unsupported, but supporting the next. I realized that logic doesn’t always mean truth.
Thus my foray some years ago into the more Eastern and “new thought”
traditions. For I cannot abide the uncomfortable feeling when God doesn’t “hang together.”