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Give Me That Old Time Religion It’s Good Enough for Me – Not!

Written by: on March 16, 2017

 

BAD RELIGION by Ross Douthat

Douthat shared his views on the American Christianity, i.e. Contemporary and Liberal. He shares how Christians integrated within the political arena, and it was a negative impact. Can a Politician force their Christian views and values on the country they lead?

Douthat addressed the history of Christians and their effect on political changes. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his era did not seek a political seat to change the views and laws of America. He remained a nonpolitician and addressed the equal rights issue by challenging the religious communities’ values to seek a change in the laws which resulted in the Civil Rights Movement. Billy Graham did not seek a political seat to change the hearts of Americans through the political arena to become a Christian. He created a crusade to tell the people about Jesus, and he served around the world changing lives. This is in sync with the views of the book “Changing the World” by James Hunter. Hunter stated that we must “understand the culture to understand how to change it.” [1]

Douthat said being a Christian in the political arena has had a negative effect on America. It is difficult for a Christian to understand God’s view of the political state of the country and humanity. One needs to consider both political parties’ views and see what is at stake. He states that it is hard for one to identify as a Christian first then a Republican or Democrat second. America is in that state now. Some of the Evangelical Republicans convince themselves that they are a Christian political party, i.e. they are the one who seeks family values. If you are a Republican, you are a Christian. Liberal Christians identify themselves as a Democrat but is challenged with the different views among the local and national party. [2]  Author Oppenheimer in his review of this book says, “American Christianity was a uniter, not a divider. Evangelicals remained a major part of the New Deal coalition, and white pastors, even in the South, tended to be ahead of their followers on civil rights, rather than lagging behind them.” [3] I wonder what his view would be now on the American Christianity.

Douthat introduces writer Elizabeth Gilbert views on Christianity. She dressed her experience when she heard from God as ‘God’s voice within herself in her voice.’ She began her divine experience with God as he made his presence known to her. He shared her theological views:

  1. All organized religions offer only partial glimpses of the God or light of Being that all of them pursue               and that the true spiritual depth must seek to experience. Go through feeling rather than reason,         experience rather that dogma, a direct encounter rather that a hand-me-down revelation.
  2. God is everywhere and within everything, but at the same time the best way to encounter the divine is     through the God within, the divinity that resides inside your very self and soul.
  3. God’s all-encompassing nature means that sin and death and evil-or what seem like sin and death and             evil will ultimately be reconciled rather than defeated.
  4. The Beatitude is still available. “God is right here, right now” and eternity can be entered at any moment          by any person who understands how to let go, let God, and let themselves be washed away in love. (216)

 

He touched on different Christian presentations, for example, prosperity preaching. He has an issue with Joel Osteen who is more of a motivational (as some would say, feel good) preacher. I would not group him with prosperity. In his bias statement, he persists to believe that Osteen is a prosperity preacher but cannot support that he has ever preached as one. Rather he says that he is indirectly preaching in that matter.  There are many pastors one could label a prosperity preacher. Osteen is not one. He has also included Joyce Meyers in that category of prosperity preaching. I find his vision tunnel, and he has little to no experience with either of these preachers. Because they are wealthy due to their teachings does not make them a prosperity preacher. How do you define a prosperity preacher?  Preachers that say, “God said if you would vow or seed $1,000 and you will receive…” to me is a sign of prosperity for them and not for me.

As a Preacher, I make every effort to seek the guidance of God in what he wants me to speak on and to order my steps through the process. I want to ensure that I do not present God’s Word as alternative facts. I have have been journeying to identify my beliefs between God’s truth and religion traditions. It has been a challenging task and sometimes bringing my religion to question. For example, how many of the things I was taught and witnessed were the way of God was true?

This book is titled Bad Religion. What is Bad Religion? I define it as a misrepresentation of the facts or as “alternative facts” according to one White House Official. Douthat seems to generalize Bad Religion to include: Christians entering the political arena focused on trying to force the people they serve to follow their rules; Christians becoming contemporary rather than staying with the traditional ways, and One’s misinterpretation of the Bible. Many have supported their actions by stating “God told them to do this.” They misinterpreted the scripture to support their hatred of others. Some Christians seem to live their lives by their standards and find the scripture to support their decision rather than understanding the scripture to live their lives by. The Bad Religion has manifested its self through the current political battles in the name of God. Is America being guided by Bad Religion?

 

[1] James D. Hunter, The Change The World, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 6.

           [2] Ross Douthat, Speaker, “Bad Religion: How we became a Nation of Heretics,” Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Ca,  October 19, 2012, accessed 3/15/17, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRD0KxWuz9M&t=782s.

           [3] Mark Oppenheimer, “When American faith transcended differences,”  accessed 3/15/2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/19/books/in-bad-religion-ross-douthat-criticizes-us-christianity.html,

About the Author

Lynda Gittens

6 responses to “Give Me That Old Time Religion It’s Good Enough for Me – Not!”

  1. Mary Walker says:

    Lynda, this is such a thoughtful presentation. I really like the way you apply it to your situation. “I have have been journeying to identify my beliefs between God’s truth and religion traditions. ” I know that growing up a Roman Catholic I sure had some biases! Especially against Protestants! I am so thankful to the Holy Spirit for helping me to understand what the Bible says about love and unity among all Christians imperfect as we all are.
    Douthat did seem to use some unfairly broad brush strokes. Since he said so much in one book, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. But like most historians, he surely presented a biased picture.
    Looking forward to hear more at the chat!

  2. Stu Cocanougher says:

    I’m going on a tangent here. Your outline of Gilbert’s view of faith reminded me that there is nothing new under the son…

    “All organized religions offer only partial glimpses of the God…”
    This i the main premise of Unitarian Universalism.

    “God is everywhere and within everything,”
    Animism at its core.

    “but at the same time the best way to encounter the divine is through the God within, the divinity that resides inside your very self and soul.”

    Here we have modern Buddhism.

    “God’s all-encompassing nature means that sin and death and evil-or what seem like sin and death and evil will ultimately be reconciled rather than defeated.”
    This sounds like Star Wars theology…”The one who will bring balance to The Force.”

    “’God is right here, right now’” and eternity can be entered at any moment by any person who understands how to let go, let God, and let themselves be washed away in love.”
    Back to Eastern Religions (Hindu / Buddhist / Taoist).

    • One of my biggest frustrations is Christians who call others heretical without talking with them or engaging with them directly. From Douthat’s summary of Elizabeth Gilbert, I can tell he has done neither.

      I have to push back against some of your descriptors here. The view that God is everywhere and is in everything is actually a traditionally orthodox panentheistic view as opposed to animism. Of course it can be twisted to support animism (or worship of trees, etc.) but the idea that God is in everything and is everywhere is not heresy.
      Some of the things Douthat ascribes to heresy he does so not because he has studied orthodoxy, but because they come from Eastern orthodoxy as opposed to his Catholic foundations. This is just one reason I find it difficult to trust his analysis.

  3. Thanks Lynda for your balanced perspective. Yes, I would agree he was a bit off point with Osteen and Joyce. We have enough issues to address with religion without making it bigger or mislabeling successful spiritual leaders.
    On another note, I would love to hear you preach! I bet you really deliver it.

  4. Lynda great summary. I find it challenging and frustrating that as leaders we often times spend more time trying to pass judgement based on a limited point of view. I think in many cases this book does just that. I do agree that politically we have associated God to one party versus another. This is frightening because He has no party affliations. He is God all by himself. As believers we need to live out our faith in accordance to his Word and lead with love! ?

  5. Thanks for this Lynda, I really appreciate your perspective. Having said that, I have to disagree with your comments about Joel Osteen.
    I think Douthat is right on in his critique of Osteen – and beyond my training and background, it is really my personal experience that gives me such strong disdain for Osteen.
    Several years ago, while leading a youth ministry mission trip to Philadelphia, myself and several of our youth ‘worked’ a Joel Osteen event at the old Spectrum (12,000 seats)…. A long story behind why, but basically one of the organizations we were working with received canned/non-perishable food donations if they came and collected them and provided other ‘support’ to the event.
    Anyway – we were all pretty amazed as we saw bus after bus pull up and unload large groups of people from area churches. Most of these people were African American, many were older, and a higher percentage than you might expect required a wheelchair/walker/etc. And based on the locations for many of the churches (It was part of my job to get that information), many were lower-income or at least from lower-income areas.
    Literally thousands of people poured in to the arena to listen to Osteen. And they did – they all listened to a message that was much more focused on ‘personal empowerment’ than Jesus or the power of God’s Holy Spirit or anything else universally recognized as the ‘gospel’….. Which you could maybe chalk-up to theological differences or matters of taste (I don’t think so, but I am trying to be generous, so…maybe)… but the part that I could not and will not explain away is the strong push – given as part of the message, not as an announcement before or after – to buy the books/CD’s and various programs available for sale…. To make matters even worse – books and programs were so overpriced that I think most secular concert promoters would have feld guilty about the mark up: $25 for the latest book; $250 for the ‘financial freedom’ program, etc…..
    And of course, many of the people stood in line and bought the courses and books, etc. But they weren’t buying the book or the CD, what they were buying was the promise that Osteen was selling of reward and blessing in the here and now, not the gospel of Jesus Christ……likely because he can charge more for this
    His success and wealth are built on the backs of desperate people wanting hope and peace – and he sells them something that promises all that and more- which is fine. What isn’t fine is that does it while claiming to share the good news of Jesus – that, in my opinion isn’t compatible with his message or his tactics (even if they are smooth and well-delivered).
    I have never more fully identified with the ‘angry’ Jesus that cleared the temple than I was the day I attended that Joel Osteen event

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