What Christianity means to me

morning stars sang together

Feed The HungryI’ve been thinking a lot about what Christianity means in an increasingly non-Christian believing country. This 2019 Pew survey notes that “both Protestantism and Catholicism are experiencing losses of population share. Currently, 43% of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009. And one-in-five adults (20%) are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009.

“Meanwhile, all subsets of the religiously unaffiliated population – a group also known as religious ‘nones’ – have seen their numbers swell. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up modestly but significantly from 2% in 2009; agnostics make up 5% of U.S. adults, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as ‘nothing in particular,’ up from 12% in 2009. Members of non-Christian religions also have grown modestly as a share of the adult population.”

You might find it odd for me to suggest that I think it’s a rather good thing. Purported faith when everyone else is just like you is comparatively easy, perhaps even theologically lazy.

I believe should always be considering how this passage in Matthew 25:37-40 applies to our lives.

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Sing, sing a song

My friend and Bible Guys buddy Eric sent this out. It occurred to me that it’d be an appropriate post for Christmas.

God has prepared for Himself one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter the community of God join in this song. It is the song that the ‘morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy’ at the creation of the world (Job 38:7).

It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea, the Magnificat of Mary after the annunciation, the song of Paul and Silas in the night of prison, the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their rescue, the “song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3). It is the song of the heavenly fellowship.

―Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Wikipedia says: “Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship has been described as a modern classic.”

Merry Christmas.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Stupidity

a brief and minimal reduction of maximum personal freedom

Quackery: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 3.0 Unported License
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a noted German theologian and resister. “So despondent had been the German people after the defeat of World War I and the subsequent economic depression that the charismatic Hitler appeared to be the nation’s answer to prayer — at least to most Germans…

“Hitler’s anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions intensified — as did his opposition, which included the likes of theologian Karl Barth, pastor Martin Niemoller, and the young Bonhoeffer.” You should read the whole passage, as it is instructive. “On April 9, 1945, one month before Germany surrendered, he was hanged with six other resisters.”

Now his biographer, theologian Charles Marsh has brought these words to our attention. “You can apply them … as you see fit.”

“Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force…

“Against stupidity we are defenseless; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed, and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one.”

A couple things I read recently came to mind. One was from a friend of mine IRL that she had posted on Facebook. It started: “From Yale Epidemiologist Jonathan Smith: As an infectious disease epidemiologist, at this point I feel morally obligated to provide some information on what we are seeing from a transmission dynamic perspective and how they apply to the social distancing measures.” Then 16 more paragraphs of rational thought about how to fight COVID-19.

He blinded them… with science!

Yet I wrote: “Yeah, science, blah blah blah. The audience who believe this already knows. And the ones who refuse to listen, you lost them at ‘Epidemiologist.'”

Opposing Social Distancing Isn’t About Freedom, Tim Wise wrote. It sure the heck isn’t about science either.

Scenario One: For the next six months, everyone masks in crowded public places such as stores, restaurants, and office buildings. It’s a minor irritant that no one enjoys, but it helps reduce infection, saves lives, and makes more people willing to go out and engage in commerce. This, in turn, puts us on a path to economic recovery, at the cost of just a brief and minimal reduction of maximum personal freedom.

Scenario Two: For the next six months, people are allowed to mask if they want to, or not, in crowded public places, and many — chanting freedom and liberty — choose not to. As a result, there is more infection, more illness, and more death of persons with underlying health issues (but who nonetheless have to do things like getting groceries and who engage with otherwise healthy people who may spread the virus to them).

And as a result of a much slower reduction in COVID cases, commercial activity returns more tentatively as many people remain afraid to venture out for much of anything beyond necessities. This, in turn, slows the recovery but maximizes the personal freedom of those opposed to masking (even as it reduces the true freedom of everyone else by forcing them to take greater risks).

Is there any doubt what the Gadsden Flag wavers and MAGA faithful would choose? Of course not.

Do unto others…

Tim Wise calls those people sociopaths. “What do we call those with such a cavalier attitude about the well-being of others? What is the word for persons who lack a seemingly functional conscience about the consequences of their actions?” While I’m not yet willing to slap that label onto these people. I will say they are, apparently intentionally, woefully ignorant.

The number of cases begin to rise worldwide as restrictions are lifted. But this isn’t just a function of pandemic exhaustion. There was an article, “I’ll do what I want”: Why the people ignoring social distancing orders just won’t listen back on March 24.

I’ll stick with Dietrich Bonhoeffer on stupidity as the root of the problem. Not just here and now, but crossing time and place. Or to quote the philosopher Forrest Gump, “stupid is as stupid does.”

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