Sunday, July 3, 2011

America And Abraham...July 3, 2011..(edited Nov 7, 2012...note to Edward Fudge

Edward,(His essay is below.) thank you for  putting some balance on what  is a highly diverse situation then and now; but what many citizens have turned into a single ideological picture. I would say many who have such a simplistic view of the founding Spirit of America are nationalistic idealists who try to confine  the nation to their one sided, monolithic,  religious  outlook.  You are surely warning of such  attitudes whether they come from the left or right. Not only is the Christian religion clearly   seen in the founding documents in the general way you describe,  the founders were also highly educated in the secular knowledge and thinking of the day.  They were products of the European Age Of Reason with a strong rationalistic reasoning emphasis of  reality. Such  classical education also though   tied them to what may be considered the 'ancient collective wisdom' of humanity. This  'ancient wisdom' is  significantly more central to the documents than is the Judeo-Christian religion alone. But how many of us have anything close to a Classical Western Education in order to better understand the founders' deeply pondered  intentions?

You may be discounting an actual important strength of America by some of the things you seem to  list as idolatries such as Jewish synagogues, Muslem mosques, Buddhist temples and Hindu shrines,.entertainment(if as art and culture), pleasure and physical beauty( as important and real elements of  essential Eros). Views of America that in heart or literally  reduce legitimate parts of the whole of America as ones  the nation would be better off without  abound but are short sighted and generally self-serving.

It should be noted also that Thomas Jefferson was very informed and interested in religion though he was not an orthodox Christian. His Declaration of Independence makes numerous references to the Sacred. The very last words seem to me tobe ones we, as a nation, are especially needing to hear in our present time...And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
Jefferson also had a strong interest in Jesus. He is likely one of the first people who openly  'wondered' what Jesus may have actually said compared to what, as the gospels unfolded, was said about him. He thoughtfully  wrote  a list of those things he thought  Jesus of Nazareth likely  said. This has been a continuous project of Biblical scholars ever since. It is tempting to say,   'Well you either  take the gospels as totally historically accurate or you don't.'  That may seem like a clean and easy way to handle the Bible, some even say this is what faith is about, but Jefferson and  certainly the majority of  devoted post-modern Bible Scholars tell us it is simply not that way. Like everything that captures our strongest emotions, that genuinely causes us to 'wonder',  Biblical themes are  not 'easy and clean' but require the strongest use of the human mind and heart to honestly explore.  This over simplifying of the Bible or believing that 'common sense' is all one needs to responsibly interpret the Bible are attitudes that  seem to demand, " I must have a direct Bible statement for all I believe, a 'book, chapter and verse.'"  I've often thought that had chapters and verses never been added to our English Bible  such an over simplified, divisive  and inconsistent use would be more apparent. One would be required  to read a larger section of the Bible in religious discussion and not so easily use  verses of  the text out of total context. Would that more Christians develop the honest  kind of questions about Jesus and the Bible  that Jefferson modeled. 

I'm just back from a small gathering for early church. Hearing again the story of Abraham and Isaac(Abraham's willingness to kill his only son in obedience to God.) Such a story should not be left to stand by itself without much questioning of the  god image who demands obedience to an arbitrary will. And who is more than willing to use domestic violence images to  impinge his overwhelming power onto  the 'weaker' human ego. (I'm fortunate to have a  gracious local pastor with whom to reflect on these things.) If a person came to church with his child in the car and happened to tell someone that God had told him to kill the child as a sacrificial obedience, any sane and caring person would know we were dealing with a very disturbed person. If we felt reasoning would help, which we would likely know wouldn't, we would urge the parent to question the 'voice of God' and refuse to be obedient to it. I agree there may be times in human life when a person must do what seems the unspeakable but it is so important that this be a free and moral choice of  a strengthened human ego, not obedience to an arbitrary  and external 'voice of God.'  There is all the difference in these two motivations for  risky behavior. I don't think we use the Bible very well to help people see the difference between blind, irresponsible, arbitrary obedience and  courageous willingness to  walk the 'other unusual path.' when life calls for that. 
Inflicted Human Trauma And Threat Of Murder

Here is a clear example of a powerful and ominous archetype of the Collective Unconscious  erupting into consciousness and threatening  to overwhelm an individual human and thus possessing him, robbing him of his own true will. That which is able to cause a father to inflict trauma and even murder against his own son. Is this to be idolized in our day without a question of its source and responsibility?  If that archetypal demand is not questioned by the 'weaker'  human ego then tragedy is one step away. Perhaps the left out parts of the story are  that Abraham did question this 'voice of God' and that is why the story says there was suddenly a 'ram in the thicket.'  Maybe we hear this strength in Abraham when he tells the servant that both he and the son 'will return after worship.'  This can be seen as an example of  a person finding the ego-strength and personal integrity to stand against the negative  religious archetype and thus come into possession of himself  rather than the opposite. The opposite is always a religious/psychological  possibility and  happens to various extents all around us every day.  Chances are that  across America today many churches with red, white and blue streamers will  hear this story and not  have such questions and realities brought to their attention. They will hear and believe the same things uncritical listeners have heard for hundreds of years. That is tragic.

I too can say  I believe that America is a grand experiment, and a spiritually based one, where the seeds of  that 'ancient wisdom' are still present though not fully conscious to all citizens. Hopefully each of us is  becoming more of an intentional  part of a cooperative national community which  is yet to make its greatest contributions to the well being,  not only of its own citizens but, of the world. This is no small thing, America and all who are a part of it. As our president  recently said, " It is an importat thing."  I pray with much feeling and thought, ' God Bless America.'  Respectfully, Jim 


On Sun, 03 Jul 2011 00:41:44 -0400 "Edward Fudge" <> writes:

Edward Fudge

A gracEmail reader asks, "Is America a Christian nation? Was it ever one?"
* * *
There are two extremes on this topic, both to be avoided. Secularists often seem unaware that our nation's founders assumed a Supreme Being and a broad biblical morality, and that they wrote these convictions into the nation's charter documents. James Adams was apparently a committed Christian believer, and perhaps George Washington was as well. However, pietistic reconstructionists today often fail to mention Thomas Jefferson's rejection of Scripture's supernatural elements, including the deity of Christ. Likewise, they seem unaware that regular churchgoers in 1776 constituted a smaller percentage of the general population than is the case today.
Demographically, the United States as a whole is still largely populated by professing Christians. However, the day is past when American Christians could assume that their neighbors shared the same faith in Jesus Christ. I write this gracEmail in Houston, Texas, where the landscape is speckled with Jewish synagogues, Moslem mosques, Buddhist temples and Hindu shrines. If we draw the picture to include the less tangible gods of power, wealth, entertainment, pleasure and physical beauty, the whole city appears given over to idolatry.
I am not ashamed to say that ours is a great and good nation, but honesty requires us to admit its blots and blights as well. These include ruthless slaughters (from Native Americans to the unborn), the abomination of human slavery, and the support of foreign dictators who persecute believers and deny basic human rights. And, often enough to generate stereotypes, the party in power advances political agendas grounded in cold-hearted selfishness on one hand and in flagrant immorality on the other. In the end, "Christians" are not nations, however noble. They are individual men and women, exactly like you and me.

You are currently subscribed to edwardfudge as:
Add to your email address book to ensure delivery.
Forward to a Friend  |  Manage Subscription  |   Subscribe  |   Unsubscribe

No comments: