Author Topic: How Can Christianity Progress?  (Read 29533 times)

flowerbells

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Re: How Can Christianity Progress?
« Reply #30 on: August 22, 2012, 12:34:33 AM »
I still don't know how to do "quotes" from other posts.  Sorry, Matt -- I didn't quite "get it" when you explained.  So I am using quotation marks.  Sorry.

I'm enjoying and learning from reading what people have written in this topic.

Matt wrote in his first post on this topic:  "This topic (although I hope for it to remain respectful) is not meant as an ideological powwow either for or against Christian dogma.  It is a discussion or debate about the religion's value and meaning."

The value of church to me is, I find my closest and loving friends in a spiritual "body of believers" in some way or other.  When I went to a 12-step group some 30 years back (Al-Anon for friends and families of alcholics) I found my best friends there.  When I attended a progressive Christian church (a United Church of Christ -- UCC --, not all of which are "progressive," and not the same as so-called [name of city] Church of Christ, which is dangerously dogmatic and hostile toward anything not the same sort of "Christianity" as their narrow focus) I found my best friend there.

I stopped going to my local UCC because I did not like the minister, having to do with her personality, not her sermons which were excellent.  A lot of other members left for the same reasons.  Anyway, she resigned and a new minister starts in 2 weeks, at which time I will go with the same friend as above to meet the new minister.  I will try to be open minded about the Bible verses that are repeated over and over ad nauseam seasonally every year.  I'm told there is some Christian umbrella organization that selects these verses, which is why almost all Protestant religions use the same ones.  Does anyone know more about that?  Anyway, I am hoping to get back to active membership, since the atmosphere there is beautiful.   

I also have experienced the power of prayer to change circumstances and attitudes, my own and others'.  I never pray for God to intervene in world affairs.  I don't try to tell God how to be God, but I ask for guidance and enlightenment in situations.  I recognize that the power of prayer could in fact be many other things, such as: the placebo effect in medical matters or faith healing; telepathy; or some other unknown.

Finally, I must add that prayers for healing and thanks for healing, protection, or rescue from adversity are a form of cruel hubris.  For if one person is saved from, say, a plane crash where scores die, are we to be grateful that this life was "miraculously" saved?  Does this, then, mean that the scores, hundreds, thousands and millions who die horrible deaths are somehow un-Christian?  And even more tepid is the belief that people with plenty of money are "blessed" by God.  Does this mean that the poor in money are somehow un-Christian?

Matt Koeske

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Re: How Can Christianity Progress?
« Reply #31 on: August 22, 2012, 10:05:13 AM »
I still don't know how to do "quotes" from other posts.  Sorry, Matt -- I didn't quite "get it" when you explained.  So I am using quotation marks.  Sorry.

Not a problem.  You just need to locate the Quote icon in the two rows of icons above the posting window (and directly above that line of smiley faces/emoticons).

It looks like this:

If you click on this icon you will get the following code in your post:

     
Code: [Select]
[quote][/quote]
You just paste the quote in between the two quote brackets, i.e., in between the inner ] and [.

Alternatively, you can select a block of text in your post and then click the quote icon.  This will bracket the selection and make it appear as a quote once posted.

-Matt

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flowerbells

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Re: How Can Christianity Progress?
« Reply #32 on: August 22, 2012, 01:41:21 PM »
Quote
You just paste the quote in between the two quote brackets, i.e., in between the inner ] and [.

Great!  Thanks, Matt!

Matt Koeske

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Re: How Can Christianity Progress?
« Reply #33 on: August 22, 2012, 04:47:37 PM »
The God of debate between two very similarly entrenched attitudes (Hitchens, Dawkins, et al, and the typical God bother-ers) is an argument about the merits of the stone wheel in a modern age as far as I'm concerned.

I agree, David.  It frustrates me that the "New Atheists" can be seen as the epitome of progressive atheism today.  Their approach polarizes with that of creationists and fundamentalists without a constructive dialog or possibility of progress.

I've found it difficult to be a self-described atheist in Jungian communities (which are predominantly faith-based).  I don't think I am anything like a New Atheist or Bright, but I have somewhat problematically clung to the label "atheist".  I suppose I mean to be an "atheist of conscience".  Like many Jungians, I am a "deeply spiritual individual", but I have seen spiritualism used (and been guilty of using it) in ways that I find unethical.  It made me start to feel like spiritualistic language and attitudes eventually become obstacles to the more genuine objective of spirituality, which I feel is a devoted relationship to the Other and to others.  I've been using the rather overloaded term "valuation" to condense what the spiritual life is about for me.

I am an atheist, but I am an atheist because in my own journey to facilitate, understand, and valuate God or the Divine or the Self, I felt it necessary to sacrifice belief and many of the common spiritual attitudes.  But I didn't choose to sacrifice these things because they were "irrational" or because I was rationally enlightened (a la the "Brights").  I choose this because I felt it was what the facilitation of the Self and the care of my relationship with it required to remain genuine.

Also unlike the Brights, I do not see my choice on this as something to prescribe to others.  It is not a universal "Truth".  For me, spiritual attitudes and beliefs were obstacles.  They were also precious things that came into conflict with ethical consciousness.  It is really in the spiritual or mystical tradition that I decided to relinquish these things.  They were, for me, the earthly indulgences and desires that could delude or distract me.

But this is really not a viable choice for anyone who would remain even the slightest bit "Christian", and I certainly have no solution to propose for the question this topic poses.  I can only reflect on what holds Christianity back.  But I don't know what it would need to or could possibly be able to sacrifice in the name of progress.  My guess is that the sacrifice would be too extensive for one who endeavored to make it to still call her/himself "Christian".

On the other hand, I still call myself an atheist . . . and a Jungian . . . and these tribal identifications are extremely problematic in both instances (mostly due to my significant differences from my tribe members in both cases).  When I was still a practicing poet and became involved with a radical, anti-establishment poetry group, I choose to identify (problematically) as a poet in order to make a kind of statement or demonstration and to exhibit solidarity with other disenfranchised poets, even as I had many radically different ideas and attitudes.

So, perhaps if I had any real affiliation with Christianity, I would strive to call myself a Christian, but a Christian of conscience who meant to keep my otherness within the Church as a kind of oddball activism.  Jung, I think, was such a Christian.


Perhaps if all religious people found their own answers without being fed what to believe, we would see a different face on all religions. I don't know.

I think this flexible spiritual independence is part of Jungian religiousness, but as superficially progressive as this approach can seem, I can't help but feel that Jungians are babes in the woods of the modern religious problem (and as an aside, the last time this kind of New Age religious diversification and eclecticism developed, i.e., in the Roman Empire at the turn of the common era, we ended up with a totalitarian backlash that obliterated that diversity and saddled us with almost two millennia of Christian monotribalism). 

There are many institutions of thought and belief that Jungians are failing to see through in their various quests for religion and spirituality.  Perhaps most prevalent of them all is the institution of modern egoism.  Jungianism pays a lot of lip service to the critique of modern egoism, but I don't think it manages to either understand or come close to transcending it (although one of the problems I would note is the inability to genuinely transcend it, and the inflation that results from believing such transcendence possible).

The cultural construct and prevailing belief about modern egoism or individualism is that each of us is, or is capable of becoming, "whole" unto her or himself.  The modern (and Jungian) quest for such "wholeness" is an introverted and personal quest.  I feel this is wrongheaded.  There is no such thing as a personal wholeness, a perfect kind of inner balance and contentment.  Humans are inherently social animals, and the imprint of the human Divine is not a singular personality or small-s self, but the tribe.  The closest thing to wholeness we can imagine to be tangible is the "mystical participation" of a monotribe in a shared construction of identity.

Religiosity and spirituality move naturally toward monotribalism and monotribalistic identity constructions, which are often confabulated (today) as individual "wholeness".  But what is "whole" about them is the participation in a monotribal structure.  "Whole" is not something we can achieve or become, but something we feel (or can begin to imagine) through connectedness.  I think religiosity is going to inevitably struggle with a kind of sociality instinct that self-organizes into a monotribal pattern.  It's a struggle, because the modern world is not monotribal, but polytribal.  True (premodern) monotribes, we might say, cannot compete well in this environment.  But psychologically or internally, monotribalism is the most significant gravitational force.

Perhaps this works much like gravitation among massive bodies in outer space.  That is, gravitation may be comprehendible where you have two bodies exerting force on one another directly related to their mass, but when you have billions (or unimaginably many) gravitational forces acting upon one another in incredibly complex ways, there is no way we can reduce this to an equation.  We are left with the approximations and probabilities of theoretical physics instead of absolute laws.  But the self-organizations of these gravitational patterns, however complex collectively, do not mean that, for each body, gravitational attraction is not a relatively "linear" dynamic.  [This is a poor analogy, since gravity is still a relative unknown in physics, but I'm sure you get my gist].

What even "polytheistic" and New Agey Jungianism has failed to grasp is that there is no religiosity without the gravity of monotribalism.  Even as individuals might maintain "polytheistic" and highly flexible notions of "the spiritual", they are still drawn together in their belief systems and into a monotribalistic pattern (that governs the construction and imagination of the Divine).  There is a subtle or unconscious monotribalism in Jungianism today, which resists the environmental pressures of the modern.  It resists, but does not understand or seek to functionally adapt to the modern.

This Jungian unconsciousness of the instinctual predisposition for monotribalism works as a detriment to Jungian spirituality/spiritualities.  These spiritualities persist in the dogma that "wholeness" can be attained through "individuation" and on a personal level, that "wholeness" or "enlightenment" is a personal mental state unrelated to others and aloof from sociality (of course, this transcendence never actually occurs, because it's impossible . . . but that kind of thing has never actually curbed religious belief . . . which is not really concerned with some kind of actual transcendence so much as with the valuing of transcendence as a shared ideal).

I'm not saying there is nothing to be found in inner work, only that this work, in the conventional Jungian paradigms, is a totem signifying an underlying movement toward or longing for monotribalism.  In other words, the Jungian "worship" of the unconscious does not tell Jungians very much about the organization of that unconscious or about the Self.  What is really sought is an engine for identity construction and maintenance, a mystical participation with other similarly-believing and -valuing Jungians.

As a result, little to no progress is made in Jungian thought in the psychological investigation of the autonomous psyche ("unconscious").  The "object" itself is not studied or pursued.  What's more, because it is guarded by a tribal identity-constructing totem, movements toward any objective investigation of the autonomous psyche are often compulsively defended against (as these threaten to violate the totemic sanctity of Jungian identity).  Therefore, the objectification of the psyche is resisted in favor of a growing subjectification.  It is as if Jungianism would have to look itself clearly in the mirror to then be able to see beyond that reflection into the objective psyche.

This is a deviation from Jung's initial project.  Although Jung was concerned about the possibility of obtaining an "Archimedean point" from which to view and study the psyche, he was also deeply interested in the psyche as object.  His conceptions of archetypes, the collective unconscious, and the psychoid all amount to an effort to study the psyche as objectively as possible.  His continuous assertions that he was an empiricist scientifically concerned with phenomena of the "real psyche" and his resistance to interpretive theory also support this.  Jung strove (albeit imperfectly) to be a kind of psychic naturalist.

All of Jung's attempts to do this point to the biological and some kind of objective level of mind/body unity, and the biological underpinning of the psyche is anathema for almost all Jungians today.

Classical Jungians are generally "anti-science" and not interested in biology and the brain.  Archetypal Jungians reject objectivism in psychology fundamentally in favor of subjectification and "storying".  And developmental Jungians, although they are interested in aspects of science and biology, see and would like to prove that psyche is an almost entirely developmental and environmental phenomenon, which would have no more scientific objectivity or inherent "naturalness" than a text (after all, it would be a story that develops in cultural contexts after birth, one that is told by "events" rather than by, and essentially excluding, genes).  Texts are understood in historical contexts rather than evolutionary ones.

This is all quite a simplification, but it generalizes and outlines the basic predicament.  Jungian spirituality suffers for this, as well, because it is without (or without direct access to an) object/Other.  Without an Other, there is no genuine mysticism.  Instead of communion with the Divine/object/Other/Self, Jungianism is now concerned with its tribal totems and dogmas.  It cannot make "mystical" progress, because mysticism (like the alchemical opus or individuation) requires the dissolution of identity constructions in order to access a "source" or autonomous principle of psychic organization, the Self.  So long as Jungianism resists the dissolution and reorganization of its identity constructions, it cannot pursue a genuine mysticism or "individuate".

Jungian "individuation" itself remains a tribal totem, something to collectively believe in and raise up as a value-infused ideal . . . the raising up of which helps identify one not as an "individuant", but as an indoctrinated Jungian.


Well, as usual, I've drifted pretty far afield, so I'll stop here.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

cappellanus

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Re: How Can Christianity Progress?
« Reply #34 on: August 24, 2012, 11:02:09 AM »
It's difficult to be described as anything "other" in relation to any closed system. Those systems tend to be unimaginative outside of their own agreed upon tenets and beliefs (even those that are based in fact.) Thus, my own Christianity (wonky and tenuous as it might seem) does not fit into neat closed systems, thus I an summarily dismissed. (I avoid this by trying not to be too forthcoming so I can at least have the conversation.) As too the atheist/Jungian in the closed system of Jungian belief systems, finds himself dismissed. What convinces me I'm not outside Christianity, or Jungian-ism for that matter, is that my experience tells me I am in fact both.

As to Hitch/Dawkins/et al, their vehement disagreement with the traditional Western God (and by this I mean the Judeo/Islamic/Christian God) is based in the idea that these religions do evil. And if we focus on the crux of it, this evil is in the form of fundamentalism/extremism of the kind seen in Jihad today and Crusade of the early 1st millennium. In my mind, this is like throwing out the loaf because there is a speck of mold on the corner of one piece of bread. IN other words, it's simplistic and lacking in seeing the big picture. Maybe it's a consequence of my logic classes in college, but I tend to try hard to judge based on circumstances and not from the particular to the universal. These religions are bigger than the parts who malign them.

As for the progress of religion in general and specifically of Christianity, I have to say it has progressed and continues to progress. (As well as regress, for the concept that progress is an ever continuing process in the positive vein, is also a simplistic concept based on the assumption that progress is always good.) I don't mean to assert that we are on the cusp of a great revival and progressions (for the better) for that view is the same kind that sees these days as the "final days." It's simplistic, naive, hubristic and sees this very day as the culmination of all time. Taking a broader and more long sited view of history, we see progress, regress, dark and light, good and bad, and these seem to weave in and out somewhat like a historical neurosis.

The simple question is "can Christianity (and religion in general) progress?" The answer is yes, and this can be shown by a scientific reading of history. The second question is, "Is Christianity in the process of progressing right now. The unsatisfactory answer is, we'll know in 50 or 500 years. The most important question I think is, "are you progressing as a Christian/Buddhist/Atheist, (i.e. as a "human being"). This makes me think of individuation which could be seen as a progression. (And this assumes that progress is indeed a valid concept for such things.)

As with Matt, I feel I've begun to convolute, so I'll end my thoughts here for now.


cappellanus

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Re: How Can Christianity Progress?
« Reply #35 on: August 24, 2012, 01:57:40 PM »
For the modern atheist/christian debate, here is an interesting, if somewhat onesided (and uniformed) discussion of the debate with Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennet and Harris.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-869630813464694890

flowerbells

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Re: How Can Christianity Progress?
« Reply #36 on: August 24, 2012, 02:10:06 PM »
Quote
These religions are bigger than the parts who malign them.
  capellanus, this is very useful. 

Sealchan

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Re: How Can Christianity Progress?
« Reply #37 on: August 24, 2012, 04:32:16 PM »
I like to describe myself as a Christian who likes to stay in relationship with his inner atheist.  I was originally an atheist but once I started doing some dreamwork and had some visions and some eductional and other psychological experiences involving various religions and comparative mythology (aka Joseph Campbell) I found that there is a great value in faith and in the Christian tradition.

I've also discovered that not feeling like I belong to a tribe or community of belief is par for the course.  As my brand of Christianity indicates it is precisely this dichotomy of belief systems which I nurture in order to feel I am engaged.  In fact, my own understanding of Jesus is largely based on this, that a Christian must, in some way, embrace the opposites in his or her world and with good character suffer the conflict until they can find a way to transcendence.  Jesus is the model of this being caught between many attitudes and communities of belief even to the point that the Romans and Jews are juxtaposed in the Gospel narratives.

One way that Christianity is progressing is probably through the web where information and ideas can be shared without the same direct pressure of meeting in person together in a building in your neighborhood.  I assume this because I see that the internet is transforming every other social sphere...why not Christianity?

Also, there is a growing literature of Biblical translation by the likes of Willis Barnstone and Robert Alter which takes on the Bible as literature first and faith, if at all, second.  This allows us to finally relate to the Bible in a more modern context.  For me Christianity doesn't make sense unless you believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins...but that doesn't mean that you get away with literally just saying "I believe that...".  I think that the modern Christian must explain what that means in modern psychological language.  I can do that for my own part, but I don't think that 99% of self-proclaimed Christians can.


flowerbells

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Re: How Can Christianity Progress?
« Reply #38 on: August 24, 2012, 05:32:27 PM »
sealchan, you wrote:

Quote
One way that Christianity is progressing is probably through the web where information and ideas can be shared without the same direct pressure of meeting in person together in a building in your neighborhood.  I assume this because I see that the internet is transforming every other social sphere...why not Christianity?

In our city, there is a restaurant that is geared and for the most part patronized by houseless people.  It's based on socially conscious, loving Christian (Catholic) family values.  There are also at least two other churches which have essentially transformed themselves into community centers.  These are also very loving, and I can feel the Christianity and values there.  I spend a lot of time in the coffeehouse/restaurant at one of these.

You also wrote

Quote
I think that the modern Christian must explain what that means in modern psychological language.  I can do that for my own part, but I don't think that 99% of self-proclaimed Christians can.
  I hope you don't mind explaining this in modern psychological language, as the notion of "I take Jesus for my personal saviour" has always seemed fatuous and empty to me.

Matt Koeske

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Re: How Can Christianity Progress?
« Reply #39 on: August 25, 2012, 01:20:26 PM »
David,

First, allow me to loosely define what I mean when I use the word "progressive".  I mean to root this usage in the "progressivism" of modern politics.  We might look to the magazine "The Progressive" or to a radio show like Democracy Now! or to a progressive political thinker like Noam Chomsky.  What is "progressive" in these philosophies and movements is the treatment of the modern polytribal world as populated by equal individuals whose humanness is seen to have many common bonds while the particular cultural and tribal identity distinctions each has are seen as much less significant.  This philosophy is rooted in secular, Enlightenment humanism.  It does not seek to conform others to one's own standards, but seeks to understand and respect others and relate to them rather than convert them to something more familiar.

I also see progressivism as change that is adaptive, survivable, and sustainable . . . that seeks to develop a kind of equilibrium or "homeorhesis" with one's environment (and ecosystem) and to overcome the problems of maladaptation that challenge that sustainability.  It treats adaptation as complex and subtle and positions it as a personal project rather than seeking only to control or reconstruct one's environment so as to make one's lack of dynamic adaptiveness less of an issue.  Many attempts to control and convert one's environment end up having destructive effects on the environments and organisms we are integrated with ecologically or culturally.

Progressive adaptations don't look to make changes that are only good for the individual or for his or her tribe, but that will work for all individuals, tribes, and species involved in the ecosystem (even if that ecosystem is the whole planet).  So, consciousness of natural dynamic complexity is essential.


As to Hitch/Dawkins/et al, their vehement disagreement with the traditional Western God (and by this I mean the Judeo/Islamic/Christian God) is based in the idea that these religions do evil. And if we focus on the crux of it, this evil is in the form of fundamentalism/extremism of the kind seen in Jihad today and Crusade of the early 1st millennium. In my mind, this is like throwing out the loaf because there is a speck of mold on the corner of one piece of bread. IN other words, it's simplistic and lacking in seeing the big picture.
. . . These religions are bigger than the parts who malign them.


I agree with you in general, but I also think that the concern that these religions promote or perpetuate "evil" through their ideologies and practices is the strongest part of the New Atheist argument.  It is easy and unbalanced for them to focus on religious terrorists or extremist evangelicals who try to kill doctors performing abortions, etc.

Still, in my opinion, the question needs to be seriously asked (rather than "tribalistically" asked or asked in an attempt to rally one's constituents as the New Atheists tend to do): Are the specific doctrines, dogmas, and teachings of any religion not only incongruous but potentially dangerous to modern "others" in today's societies?  And there are quite a few doctrines and values expressed in the sacred literature of the Western monotheisms that easily lend themselves to the rejection, dehumanization, and potential abuse of those declared "others".

But the texts are always considered equally "sacred" today, so the hope that these passages will be edited out is pretty slim.  In fact, one has to ask of this unwillingness to revise sacred texts, if it might actually be an indication of a "dead" religion that can only be expressed through anti-modern fundamentalisms and can no longer grow or adapt.

I am pretty critical of early Christianity and its often violent tribal squabbles and politicking, but one thing that may actually be a positive to this formative period was that Christian texts were being written, re-written, revised, and rejected again and again as various Christian tribes jockeyed for the monopoly on the Christian God and His Word.

Afterward this revising took place in the realm of theology, but numerous movements (most notably, the Protestant Reformation) fought to change and diversify the nature of Christianity.  When I contemplate the possible progress of Christianity, I can't imagine it occurring without some kind of massive rupture like this.  The idea that Christian institutions operate like science, where there is always a steady progress in the acquisition and refinement of knowledge due to the principles of the scientific method, seems extremely optimistic and un-edivdenced to me.

Science has a built in ethic of revision, adaptation, and progress, but religions don't.  They are more rooted in tribalism, the preservation of tradition, and the perpetuation of dogma.  Where Christianity "progresses" today, it is usually a matter of finding more effective and more modern ways to evangelize and recruit new Christians.  It's doctrines and philosophy have not changed . . . or, where they have seemed to, all that has happened is that the doctrines have had to compromise with the common values and habits of modern individuals (some of which might actually include more contemporary and sophisticated ethics).

Also, when we look at the philosophical origins of Christianity (by a literary rather than a historical reading), we see a foundational revision of Judaism that supposedly caused a splintering of Christianity from the Hebrew tribes.  That splintering was so radical that it led to the execution and scapegoating of the Christian founder.

My guess, simply based on a general knowledge of how human psychology and sociality work, is that any significant philosophical or spiritual progress for Christianity today will have to come through rupture.  That is just the nature of wide scale change (and of individuation).


The simple question is "can Christianity (and religion in general) progress?" The answer is yes, and this can be shown by a scientific reading of history.

It is not obvious to me how a scientific reading of history is capable of determining the progress of Christianity.  Jung obviously felt that Christianity was in decline (especial the Swiss Reform Protestantism he grew up with), that its sense of faith had grown (as in his father) hollow, and that the immediacy of its symbolic language had dried up.  From his childhood vision of God shitting on the church all through his life, Jung felt (and tried to study and treat) the gulf of separation between God and the conventional Christian understanding of God.  Jung felt God was dissatisfied with the churches and theologians.

Historically, Christianity began in a very ugly way, with a great deal of infighting, politicking, and demonizing.  I am not including the Christ story, as there is no adequate corroborating evidence for it.  I just mean the machinations of the early Christian churches, the eventual yoking of Christianity to Constantine's martial quest for ultimate power, and the subsequent Christian emperors' rule that sought to oppress and violently dispose of all "paganism" and many of the great social, intellectual and technological achievements of the ancient, pre-Christian world.

It took many centuries for Christian institutions to move toward progressive reform, but that reform can't be seen as especially significant until the Enlightenment (coming some time after a reintroduction of ancient Greek and Roman thought via Islamic cultures) produced secular critiques and contextualizations for Christianity and managed to "out-adapt" older versions of Christianity and depotentiate them.  History is, of course, much more complex than this vast simplification, but what I mean to say is that Christianity did not reform itself for ethical or progressive reasons.  It was out-competed and forced to adapt somewhat.  It has never adapted more than it has been forced to in order to preserve the bulk of its constituency.  It has never made big leaps out of its own ethical self-reflection.  It only changes when it is backed into a corner, and then only enough to slip out a bit.

I think this legacy of grudging slipperiness is what is behind much American Christian Evangelicalism.  This Evangelicalism is a regressive or monotribalistic movement that recoils from the modern environment.  Some of it resembles some of the pre-Christian Jewish movements that longed for militant messianic destruction of the Roman Empire and civilization and a return to "pure", premodern monotribalism.  Like those 1st century CE and earlier sects, these modern Evangelicalisms are anchored by their outrageous and vengeful eschatologies.  This is not an inward looking ideology like Buddhism, etc.  This kind of Christianity looks at the "rest of the world" and thinks, "If only these things were gone, my life would be sacred and content."


Of course, many good things have been done in the name of Christianity and have been faithfully attributed to Christian ethics, ideals, and the "love of Christ".  Historically and scientifically (i.e., biologically) speaking, this faith-based notion has no support.  Yes, there are some central ethics described in the Gospels (and some shakier and more dated ethical instructions in other Christian scriptures like Acts and the various epistles), but there were variations of these ethics (often in much more sophisticated, philosophical renderings) long before Christianity emerged.

It is a common habit of religiosity to ascribe ethical consciousness and behavior to religions teachings and a belief in the tribal gods, totems, and laws.  It is also a part of the great modern myth (as Freud also famously expounded) that human civilization is what transforms animals into "Man".  But this is largely falsified by modern sciences like evolutionary biology that have increasingly demonstrated a capacity both for sociality/cooperation and empathy, self-sacrifice, generosity, and (mostly reciprocal) altruism in genetic predispositions (as well as in game theory reconstructions of strategic and survivable social behavior).

I'm not saying all ethics are instinctual or that society and social education do not have significant corrective and conditioning effects on ethical behavior.  I'm saying that the vast majority of religious and societal ethics, their more superficial particulars, are very arbitrary.  They don't really tell us how to be empathetic or sympathetic or cooperative or altruistic.  They mediate when we should exhibit these behaviors and when we shouldn't . . . they determine who such inter-tribal niceties are for and who they do not apply to.

One of the most ethical "communities" today is the secular humanists or "progressives" whose philosophical roots lie in Enlightenment ideals, who value science and rationalism and are generally not religious.  Their philosophical roots help orient them to modern polytribalism and reject the predisposition for monotribalism, or rather, reinterpret the monotribalist instinct so that it abstractly applies to and includes all other tribes.  This is typically accomplished more effectively than the more romantic, less-introspective Christian "universal love", because it includes a conscious ethic of trying to understand and sympathize with others.  Christian love, on the other hand, has traditionally been less interested in tolerance and respect for the others its seeks to help or influence, operating more along the lines of a conversion ideology.  After all, if one is not Christianized, s/he cannot go to heaven.

More sophisticated modern Christians often reject these notions of evangelism and conversion, but I would argue that any concept of tolerance and respect for other cultures these Christians have does not come from their Christian-ness, but from their exposure to modern, secular humanist philosophies.  A (potentially painful) thorough investigation of the history of Christianity and the history of ethics demonstrates that there was nothing whatsoever original or innovative about Christian ethics.  They only defined a particular "in group" or tribe, differentiated from other tribes.  This lack of ethical innovation is by no means unique to Christianity.  I merely feel that the progress of Christianity today depends on the dissolution of a lot of the Christian, in-group, or "Chosen" hubris that continues to protect and defend Christian identity constructions and totems.

The reason I felt I needed to eventually throw off my remaining reliances on Christian ideas and images was that the only thing left to Christianity after thorough analysis was its tribal identity differentiation, its sense of "Christian-ness", not some sense of deeper truth.  It has always been an identity-making institution, not a "truth-seeking" one.  That many truth-seekers have been Christians and sought truths within Christian contexts and languages is not a testament to Christianity but to these individuals (and of course, most of the Christian centuries did not allow extra-Christian quests for truth).

Equally, for any progressive Christians today, what they might have to contribute is not a matter of what Christianity can give to them, but what they can give to Christianity.  That is, reform of Christianity will flow only from the individual's relationship with God.  The Christian dogmas have run their course.  Christianity is no longer (if it ever really was) an engine of salvation.  It is a drifting wreck in need of the care and dedicated craftsmanship of skilled shipwrights.  Even God (in the Christian imagination) is a wounded being in need of the devoted nursing of brave and innovative caretakers.  Christianity today is not some Ark of the Covenant that Christians can carry around to demonstrate their specialness and feel protected by.  It is a burden and a quest to find something that has been lost or fix something that has been broken and neglected.

Any self-righteousness in this quest is, in my opinion, an indication of ethical failure.  I take the exact same approach to Jungianism.  I don't felt "chosen" or saved by my Jungianness.  It is an obligation and responsibility I feel to try to constructively contribute to it and "treat" it to the best of my meager ability.  And this is best done, it has seemed to me, through constructive criticism and reformist suggestions rather than cheerleading for Jungian pride (as is most common in the contemporary promotion of Jungianism many Jungians are engaged in).  That pride is self-serving.  It does not help the tribe or treat its wounds.

The critical efforts of fringe Jungians like me are not likely to have much impact on the tribe and its centralized membership.  When I am not ignored, the only effect I can usually have is to annoy other Jungians.  It is a frustrating and unrewarding enterprise, but it is what I feel is ethically sound.  It is a quest of faith.  It is done in the name of what I feel is right, not what is likely to work or win me friends and allies and the acclaim of my tribe.  It is something like this that I would like to see and would respect in the Christian tribe, what I would consider progressive.  But that can only begin where Christian individuals throw off the attitude that Christianity is a force that saves and protects and buoys them rather than an obligation to the Christian tribal God.  That throwing off would constitute an extremely radical shift in the Christian mindset.  It would be a heresy.  It would be dangerous and burdensome.  It would threaten a kind of inflation, because its self-sacrifice would have "Christ-like" tones, and working through that threat would be often "excruciating" and very time-consuming.  Yet that is what a progressive "faith" demands, I think.

-Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Sealchan

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Re: How Can Christianity Progress?
« Reply #40 on: August 27, 2012, 02:14:46 PM »
Quote
I hope you don't mind explaining this in modern psychological language, as the notion of "I take Jesus for my personal saviour" has always seemed fatuous and empty to me.

I would be happy to explain...in my personal view that Jesus died for our sins is true as follows...God became man (Jesus) in order to indicate His expectations and the nature of the Universe He created.  Jesus being "perfect" then simply follows from that fact because God is typically understood as beyond corruption, all-knowing, etc.  Now, just so you know, I don't necessarily prescribe to this as being an historical fact, but my sense of faith doesn't require that.  I only claim that the Gospel tell a story that contains truth (mythological/psychological) and I do not concern myself in that context with the historical facts.

Jesus died on the cross willingly, meaning consciously.  He suffered.  He chose not to exercise powers to manipulate or punish or even help all of those whom he came into contact with.  If He had then Jesus would just be another avatar who did not really participate in the human experience of creation.  As significant as His actions are those actions he refrained from performing.  His suffering was caused by a refusal to sin, to act in ignorance, to act out of a simplistic judgement or the first story that came to mind or to react to the emotional distress of anyother and to become infected by the ignorance/sin inherent in that emotional distress.  Only if people came to Him with faith in God did He help them.   

Although we can never be as good (sin-less) as Jesus which is to say that we are not one with God (which might be okay to say in Eastern religions), we are to know that if you follow in Jesus' footsteps as follows, we are doing what we are meant to do...namely, just as Jesus was caught in many different instances between two opposing perspectives with seemingly conflicting truths, He did not give in to the temptation to side with either side.  He held His own middle ground expressing the truth that you should not quickly judge on the whole against any one side or person.  But in not committing to one side versus the other, he suffered the anger, resentment, confusion of those who engaged with him.  People who do this are a bridge between opposites even when they themselves do not know a solution.  It is hard not to take sides when everyone around you, family, friends, etc...are complaining to you to make more sense, to take a clearer path, to take their side.  But if you act within your own limits and do not judge (make assumptions without understanding that or whom you may fear or not understand) then you are avoiding sin and effectively performing God's will.  That will may or may not bring new understanding to yourself or others, but it is the best and only true hope of doing so in any case.   

If you acheive a reconcillation through your suffering patience then you become a healer of sorts.  You exemply Jesus' teachings.  You are a peacemaker.  You calm the fears and concerns of some if not all those who engaged with you.  You bring the world one step closer to "heaven".  You also teach yourself patience, forgiveness, compassion, mercy and you show people a path beyond quick judgement and shall I say "tribalism". 

Your faith in the process in the abstract (where Jesus is the ideal model of the principle) is your Christian faith at work in the world.  God became Jesus so that He could clearly show us this is the way to salvation through how you act in the world.  Have faith in this view and you will see the world's drama dissolve in the light of God's "will" (or you could say, God's world and how He made it to work). 

So to understand Jesus you should find a set of opposing views that is close and personal and relevant to your life, whether it is within or without your circle of friends or family or communities with which you engage.  You embody the truths in both views and do not let go because you are being crucified by the conflict that each side will come to blame you for.  That blame will come to you precisely because as you listen to both sides and evidence understanding and empathy to each of them, your failure to full go in with one side or the other will make you a natural target for anger and resentment.  For as you show up the greatest darkness in another, they will take the greatest pains to turn that against you.  It shows up the quick-to-judge attitude in the accuser who does not want to see that blindness within themselves.  It breaks their projection and they have to fight to sustain it.  You get to be the punching bag, so to speak.

But chances are this is as much an inner conflict as it is an outer conflict in any case.  While you are indirectly allowing God to use you to work understanding into others you can focus on working on yourself and making yourself clear to truth and hesitant to act impulsively and out of fear and ignorance.

Now this explanation isn't strictly couched in psychological theory, but I think it makes claims that a modern ear can digest and opens the way for specific application and validation.  But two theories I am familiar with come to mind with the above:

1.  Jung's idea of psychological conflict arising from conflicting beliefs that through one means or another can be resolved in a third perspective (like Hegel's thesis, antithesis, sythesis)
2.  "Crucial Conversations" a popular business psychology book and training program uses the idea of the Sucker's Choice, the engaging choice created by two conflicting beliefs that makes it seem (because, perhaps, there is a great emotional/libidic charge to a good conflict) that one must choose a or b rather than engage in a process that holds out for a better choice c.


Sealchan

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Re: How Can Christianity Progress?
« Reply #41 on: August 27, 2012, 02:39:22 PM »
i always re-read what I write and have something to add...

Faith is important and Jesus' extended tale of suffering as well is so important because psychologically we should expect to be in this state ourselves a great deal in our lives.  That this is true is akin to truly believing in what Socrates said that wisdom consists of knowing that you know nothing.  It is really hard to persist in a state of not knowing, of being open to truth, of not wanting to make a judgement when the stories we tell ourselves and each other seem to cry out for belief and complete acceptance.  But another voice that believes that the implications of that story go a bit too far...that voice needs focus.  And that is what Christianity should be all about.

flowerbells

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Re: How Can Christianity Progress?
« Reply #42 on: August 27, 2012, 02:54:41 PM »
Thank you very much for your kind and thoughtful response to my and this topic's post.

You wrote:

Quote
His suffering was caused by a refusal to sin, to act in ignorance, to act out of a simplistic judgement or the first story that came to mind or to react to the emotional distress of any other and to become infected by the ignorance/sin inherent in that emotional distress.  Only if people came to Him with faith in God did He help them.   

Actually, have you read that the reason Jesus was arrested was because he healed on the Sabbath?  Here is Mark 3:1-6 on that:

3 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

Your idea of finding "Plan C" is very helpful to me, with regard to the political situation in the USA, also with local politics.

Thank you very much for these good ideas.  They will, hopefully, help me when I go back to church, if I decide to stay after hearing and meeting the new minister next Sunday.

Sealchan

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Re: How Can Christianity Progress?
« Reply #43 on: September 18, 2014, 02:22:46 PM »
One insidious thing in our Western culture, for many of us, is that it is so Christian.  For good or ill, Christianity saturates our thinking and knowing.  When we speak thoughtlessly or otherwise in the idiom of Christianity we grasp a lever-arm that does work on the minds of our fellow acculturated Western Christians.   

Matt, I would never try to want you to change anything about your critical attitudes towards Christianity.  Christians should own up to the great evils of their (my) religion.  These are, in fact, the very truths that should be focused on when progressing Christianity. 

For me a small evil was done to me when I was young by Christians.  I was intimidated into professing my faith in Jesus Christ without understanding what it was I was doing.  I looked up and wordlessly smiled at all the adults who had formed a ring around me.  That managed to get me off the hook.

Even now I feel the injustice of that moment.  However, my atheism cannot asuage my suffering.  Rather I would prove myself more sincere in my faith than any man or woman who stood in that room might even know.  I would have them feel ten-fold the fear and humiliation I felt at what I now know, or believe, to be "true" through faith and reason.  But that is for God to deliver, not me.  However, I feel upheld in the knowledge of my righteous suffering and that I might one day return to dismantle such simplistic and evil practices that require adults to pass on their faith through intimidation rather than demonstration or testimony or inspired revelation.

I've just finished reading Richard Dawkin's "The God Delusion".  I found that book to be irritating to my faith and also profoundly focusing.  All Christians must acknowledge the great evil that has been done in the name of their faith.  They must realize that the Bible is not the unerring word of God because man wrote it and in committee compiled it. 

Part of the personal burden I am doing out of my own inspiration is to compile a list of books for what I call the Expanded Bible.  These are other works that I feel are instructive of Christian faith that could be considered as part of an expanded reading list for Christians.  One book, the historian Jonathan Spense's "God's Chinese Son", seems to be a solid candidate for such a list.  Just as a large number of the books of the Bible, this book is history and faith.  Albeit, this book would amuse the heck out of any vociferous atheist.  It also happens to have been a significant event (both comic and tragic) in Chinese history.  And it revolves around one man's belief that he is the younger brother of Jesus.

Aside from such deconstructive books I would also include stories from modern motion pictures such as "Dances With Wolves" and the Matrix Trilogy.  These stories show how the tension of opposites is resolved through personal sacrifice (in Dances With Wolves this is embodied in the first scenes and in the Matrix trilogy by the final sacrifice of Neo).  They indicate the basic Jungian process of a limited ego consciousness maintaining its own integrity but holding out for a third possibility acting only once it presents itself.  For me the mythos of Star Wars is also instructive and also presents the conflict between good and evil and the power of willing sacrifice to resolve that conflict.  The recent Noah movie is excellent as well.

« Last Edit: September 18, 2014, 02:32:05 PM by Sealchan »