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peacemover

Bill Maher's Grudge Against Christians

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My wife and I went to hear Bill Maher (of Real Time w/Bill Maher, and formerly of Politically Incorrect), live in concert on Saturday.

 

I really like and wholeheartedly agree with most of his views on social issues; as well as his critique of the hypocrisy of conservatives in our nation, as well as the Religious Right.

 

I love his rants about Bush, because it is truth that needs to be said but few have the courage to stand up to our Cowboy in Chief, as well as the wimpiness and lack of vision of the Dems.

 

I have been frustrated and disappointed by the strident anti-faith agenda he pushes...

 

I love his critique of "The Religious right" and believe it is right on...

 

He opened up his monologue by coming out and saying "Praise Jesus!", and basically saying that the conservative politicians in congress just invoke Jesus to justify their corrupt policies...

 

I agree with that...

 

What I have problems with is his assertion that one "cannot be a thinking person, and a person of faith."

 

Here are some of the characterizations he makes of people of faith:

 

morons, psychopaths, hypocrites, moralistic bullies trying to control other people's private decisions...

 

 

I think with the exception of perhaps someone like Jim Wallis, many if not most of the voices in progressive politics and social change, like Bill Maher are very hostile toward religion and people of faith...

 

Where is the middle ground??

 

Have any other Christians with progressive social values observed this concerning trend?

 

 

Peace,

 

John

Edited by peacemover

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Have any other Christians with progressive social values observed this concerning trend?

 

Is it a trend John? My sense of it is that its always been this way. I spent the biggest part of my adult life believing I had to make a choice between progressive politics/thinking and faith in god. Only recently realised it might be possible to have both. Perhaps some of the problem is that the only christians that are usually that visible are the kind that he describes.

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Is it a trend John?  My sense of it is that its always been this way.  I spent the biggest part of my adult life believing I had to make a choice between progressive politics/thinking and faith in god.  Only recently realised it might be possible to have both.  Perhaps some of the problem is that the only christians that are usually that visible are the kind that he describes.

 

I don't know how long it has been this way, but I do think that part of the reason that progressive candidates have not been able to win national elections recently is because they have failed to appreciate that spirituality is very important to most Americans.

 

I also think that figures like Maher, who obviously have a social conscience and want to see it become more of a part of American public life, also alienate many people of faith (who may otherwise agree with what they stand for) by the anti-religion rhetoric.

 

It is almost a sort of secular fundamentalism that he would like to see replace the Christian conservative fundamentalism that is so rampant in conservative politics today.

 

I don't know what the middle ground is, but I think if progressives are going to have a serious and influential voice in national politics, a middle ground of dialogue and mutual respect needs to be found.

Edited by peacemover

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I think that the problem begins when people "return" to thoughts of faith around/after college. If you look at most public/visible christians, most thinking, socially conscious, functioning people will say something along the lines of, "I don't know what I am, but it's NOT that!!!" Been there.

 

The people who, perhaps, grew up with or gained knowledge of good, intelligent, thoughtful people with faith are in the minority.

 

I think that the conservative right should be brought to task for the numbers of people they have driven away from Jesus and any vision of God.

 

Much praise to Wallis, Borg, Spong, Campolo, and McLaren for helping people understand that it is not an either or situation.

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I think that the conservative right should be brought to task for the numbers of people they have driven away from Jesus and any vision of God.

 

Much praise to Wallis, Borg, Spong, Campolo, and McLaren for helping people understand that it is not an either or situation.

 

Cynthia,

 

I wholeheartedly agree with you about the need for accountability and dialogue.

 

I also deeply respect the people you mentioned there, because they understand that a thoughtful dialogue needs to be cultivated in order for more people to embrace progressive Christianity as a viable path.

 

I would also say that an important part of that dialogue is acceptance and affirmation of people even if we disagree with their particular theological views.

 

While I agree with much of Borg and Spong's theological views, I also think they can tend to come across as intolerant of and unwilling to dialogue with people who are more moderate or conservative in their views.

 

That is what I really like about people like Wallis, Campolo and McLaren- they are bridge-builders, and call people of faith with a committment to social justice to pursue a more fruitful, accepting dialogue, rather than constantly handing down theological ultimatums.

Edited by peacemover

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I haven't read enough Spong to know, but with Borg, he is clear that if fundamentalism is working for someone, then you should not challenge it. He sees his theology as being for people who cannot be christian in a fundamentalist way; who need a different take on the Gospels. At least that's how I hear him :)

 

You're right about Campolo, McLaren, and Wallis - they are purposefully and admirably building bridges.

 

I just finished Generous Orthodoxy - it's a gotta read y'all! :P

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I just finished Generous Orthodoxy - it's a gotta read y'all!

 

I'll wholeheartedly "ditto" that recommendation. :D

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I just finished Generous Orthodoxy - it's a gotta read y'all!

 

I'll wholeheartedly "ditto" that recommendation. :D

 

I'm about 3/4 of the way through it now... McLaren gives a solid overview of many of the different Christian perspectives and traditions, although I believe some of his characterizations about certain faith traditions, such as Methodism, for instance, are a bit skewed and somewhat inaccurate.

 

I love the whole premise of the book, though- calling for greater unity among Christians and people of faith...

 

After completing the 12 week "Living the Questions" course, however, one of the themes that kept getting drummed into our heads by Spong, Borg, Crossan and others was this notion of being unafraid of being heretical... like somehow being considered heretical was a badge of honor...

 

I think a lot of the "progressive scholars" in Borg & Spong's camp want no part of any sort of orthodoxy... a la G.K. Chesterton, Brian McLaren or otherwise...

 

It often seems to me that Borg & Spong in particular have an on-going experiment to see how far they can go with their deconstruction and metaphorical approach to Christianity while still calling what they practice Christian.

 

I am all for much of what they stand for, but I think there is an air of elitism in it that concerns me- i.e. not making an intentional effort to dialogue with people of faith with different views, but by the same token not hesitating to label and slam them in books, lectures and videos (i.e. all the talk about the so-called "earlier paradigm" or "Christian fundamentalism" without also critiquing "secular fundamentalism" in the same way).

 

We are probably getting into a whole other can of worms here beyond the scope of this thread, but it is certainly a good dialogue...

 

Also, Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times, wrote a very thoughtful, provacative piece on John Shelby Spong and progressive Christianity that appeared in his column about a month ago:

 

EDITORIAL DESK | May 15, 2005, Sunday

 

Liberal Bible-Thumping 

 

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF (NYT) Op-Ed 823 words

Late Edition - Final , Section 4 , Page 15 , Column 1

 

DISPLAYING FIRST 50 OF 823 WORDS - Even aside from his arguments that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and that St. Paul was a self-hating gay, the new book by a former Episcopal bishop of Newark is ... John Shelby Spong...

 

Did anyone here happen to read that?

 

There needs to be more open dialogue and less labelling and elitist grand-standing, in my opinion, if progressive Christianity is ever going to get a wider audience....

 

Anti-Christian, anti-faith, secularist rants by leading progressive commentators and pundits, like Bill Maher, Al Franken, and others shows that there is still a great divide between the liberal media and liberal people of faith...

 

We must close the gap by cultivating an open dialogue in the public square, while also continuing to uplift the distinctives that make us progressive people of faith.

 

Peace,

 

John

Edited by peacemover

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I'm about 3/4 of the way through it now... McLaren gives a solid overview of many of the different Christian perspectives and traditions, although I believe some of his characterizations about certain faith traditions, such as Methodism, for instance, are a bit skewed and somewhat inaccurate.

 

I couldn't say yay or nay as to whether McLaren's views are skewed because I come from a very religiously sheltered background and have no basis for comparison. But I will say he is the first author to make me go "Hmmm, perhaps I'd fit happily as a Catholic or as Eastern Orthodox after all".

 

He's helped me to see that much of Traditional Christianity has very deeply embedded mysticism, which I've never truly appreciated before. I thought you HAD to be a "heretic" to even find mysticism within Christianity (ala Gnosticism). Who'd a thought that an idea like "Theosis" even existed within ORTHODOXY?! ;) Those dang church fathers had some pretty cool ideas. :lol:

 

Other authors for the most part have turned me off anything remotely traditional because they give the impression that Traditional Christianity = Fundamentalism and that the only other option is to deconstruct the Bible to the point where it doesn't mean anything (to me) anymore.

 

McLaren's book showed me that there is a third option between "Spong style Liberalism" and "Falwell style Fundamentalism". :D

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McLaren's book showed me that there is a third option between "Spong style Liberalism" and "Falwell style Fundamentalism".  :D

 

I definitely agree with that aspect of McLaren's book, and others like it... it is a call for greater Christian unity in the midst of the rich diversity of each of our faith traditions.

 

For me it is a breath of fresh air.

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I haven't read enough Spong to know, but with Borg, he is clear that if fundamentalism is working for someone, then you should not challenge it.  He sees his theology as being for people who cannot be christian in a fundamentalist way; who need a different take on the Gospels.  At least that's how I hear him  :)

 

yeah, that's how I heard Borg Cynthia. i've only seen the first session of Living the Questions, but I think Borg came across very well. very aware of him saying that if fundamentalism works for someone and they're not using it to beat up on other people, then its OK. don't feel so easy with Spong though I've not read enough of him to decide. feel very grateful to Borg for helping me find a way through not being able to 'believe in' very much.

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I haven't read enough Spong to know, but with Borg, he is clear that if fundamentalism is working for someone, then you should not challenge it.  He sees his theology as being for people who cannot be christian in a fundamentalist way; who need a different take on the Gospels.  At least that's how I hear him   :)

 

yeah, that's how I heard Borg Cynthia. i've only seen the first session of Living the Questions, but I think Borg came across very well. very aware of him saying that if fundamentalism works for someone and they're not using it to beat up on other people, then its OK. don't feel so easy with Spong though I've not read enough of him to decide. feel very grateful to Borg for helping me find a way through not being able to 'believe in' very much.

 

Midgecat, for the rest of the "deconstruction" of traditional Christianity, by Borg et al, you need to tune in for sessions 2-5 of the Living the Questions, because they really seem to state very strongly what the answers ARE NOT, without really lifting up a convincing vision of this "new paradigm."

 

They do really lay out the vision in the later sessions of the course. I particularly liked what Crossan and Cobb had to say, as well as Hauerwas (although he only appears in about 2 of the sessions). Borg has generally good ideas, but I think his tone comes across as ivory towerish and arrogant at times- like when he rejects the value of prayer as basically being nothing more than a spiritual placebo. And basically dismisses anyone who views scripture as anything more than "a metaphorical human product written by and for an ancient community."

 

I also appreciated the meditation thought at the end- either at the potter's wheel or walking the labyrinth, etc.

 

Interesting discussion...

 

by the way, is there a thread for Living the Questions??

 

If so, perhaps we should move our discussion of the series there...

 

Peace,

 

John

Edited by peacemover

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I actually kind of like Spong, and enjoyed several of his books. What I don't like so much is that he always seems to be in a sort of argumentative/debate and even attack mode. It's kind of nice if, say, you have been surrounded by fundamentalists for a week or so (which I could be in my family). However, after awhile I don't want to be in debate/argument mode any more. I appreciate Borg and others (haven't really read that much of McLaren) for being able to "give a response" vs respond/argue. I also enjoy someone like Matt Fox, for being able to capture (or recapture) the mystical. So much arguing as Spong does and you kinda lose that as well.

 

BTW, back to the original topic of Bill Maher. Well he is a very honest agnostic/atheist with a keen moral compass (yes it is definitely possible). However, I think he enjoys the outrageous and so forth, and likes the response he gets just about as well as he likes saying it. Of course he did pay for it with his comments right after 9-11 re: "courage of terrorists" and the countries rampant flag waving. But while I thought these statements were outrageous and overstated, he certainly had a pt., imo. Some of what he says about religion is in that category. Not sure he even knows about liberal/progressive beliefs.

 

 

--des

Edited by des

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BTW, back to the original topic of Bill Maher. Well he is a very honest agnostic/atheist with a keen moral compass (yes it is definitely possible). However, I think he enjoys the outrageous and so forth, and likes the response he gets just about as well as he likes saying it. Of course he did pay for it with his comments right after 9-11 re: "courage of terrorists" and the countries rampant flag waving. But while I thought these statements were outrageous and overstated, he certainly had a pt., imo. Some of what he says about religion is in that category. Not sure he even knows about liberal/progressive beliefs.

 

--des

 

I agree to a point- he makes his statements for their effect in some cases- that is what satirists and comedians do.

 

As for his remarks after 9/11, he said basically that night that his honesty got him canned because the network wimped out and caved in to pressure from politicians and corporate interests...

 

Actually, I noticed that there are several targets/straw men, that Maher likes to "stick it to":

 

-religion and religious people

-big corporations

-conservative politicians, especially if they are religious

-anyone against legalizing marijuana

-anyone against the idea of gay marriage

 

Those are kind of his main themes, I have found.

 

He is definitely funny- I will say that for sure...

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"There needs to be more open dialogue and less labelling and elitist grand-standing, in my opinion, if progressive Christianity is ever going to get a wider audience....

 

Anti-Christian, anti-faith, secularist rants by leading progressive commentators and pundits, like Bill Maher, Al Franken, and others shows that there is still a great divide between the liberal media and liberal people of faith...

 

We must close the gap by cultivating an open dialogue in the public square, while also continuing to uplift the distinctives that make us progressive people of faith.

 

Absolutely!!!!!

 

 

"They do really lay out the vision in the later sessions of the course. I particularly liked what Crossan and Cobb had to say, as well as Hauerwas (although he only appears in about 2 of the sessions). Borg has generally good ideas, but I think his tone comes across as ivory towerish and arrogant at times- like when he rejects the value of prayer as basically being nothing more than a spiritual placebo. And basically dismisses anyone who views scripture as anything more than "a metaphorical human product written by and for an ancient community."

 

 

This is interesting - I'm not familiar with Living the Questions (off to Google :) ), but I've heard Borg speak a couple of times (as recently as March, 2005) - and he prays so beautifully. He generally chooses ancient prayers and, I can't know his heart - but - his presence, voice, tone (and all the indefinables) - speak of the presence of God. He struck me as much more spiritual - for real rather than ivory tower - when I saw him than when I read his books.

 

Basically, Borg gave me the intellectual gift of being able to accept Jesus and christianity without feeling foolish or feeling that I had to do it on popular terms (I live in the South). This was phenomenally huge to me and I will always be grateful to him. Seeing him in person made me think that he has a much deeper spiritual life than comes across in his books.

 

Since making peace with God, church, and my approach to following Jesus, I find the argumentative, angry approach less appealing. It has a place and has value - it's just not my thing at the moment. :rolleyes:

 

Working to bring people together strikes me as Godly. All this division (remember the Church Lady from SNL)... could it be....... :P

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This is interesting - I'm not familiar with Living the Questions (off to Google  :) ), but I've heard Borg speak a couple of times (as recently as March, 2005) - and he prays so beautifully.  He generally chooses ancient prayers and, I can't know his heart - but - his presence, voice, tone (and all the indefinables) - speak of the presence of God.  He struck me as much more spiritual - for real rather than ivory tower - when I saw him than when I read his books.

 

Basically, Borg gave me the intellectual gift of being able to accept Jesus and christianity without feeling foolish or feeling that I had to do it on popular terms (I live in the South).  This was phenomenally huge to me and I will always be grateful to him.  Seeing him in person made me think that he has a much deeper spiritual life than comes across in his books.

 

Since making peace with God, church, and my approach to following Jesus, I find the argumentative, angry approach less appealing.  It has a place and has value - it's just not my thing at the moment.  :rolleyes:

 

Working to bring people together strikes me as Godly.  All this division (remember the Church Lady from SNL)... could it be.......  :P

 

Cynthia, first, here's a link to the LTQ site:

 

http://www.livingthequestions.com/

 

First of all, they bill it as "an unapologetically liberal alternative to the alpha course." I have completed both courses and there is no comparison- they are completely different in their goals and scope, so the LTQ people need to be more original and stop trying to cash in on people who weren't satisfied with ALPHA.

 

Secondly, I agree with much of what you say about Borg and prayer. He definitely encourages prayer and meditation but he also is very critical of intercessory prayer. I am as well, but to suggest to people who believe in its efficacy that it does not make a difference as Borg seems to do, goes too far I think. Borg is a panentheist, which as I understand it is a branch of natural theology that asserts that God is not an intervening God, but rather a participating God.

 

About the "argumentative approach" I definitely agree that is not the way to go- that is part of why I found people like Crossan and Cobb to be more convincing, because they back up what they say with scholarship rather than just throwing a lot of catch phrases out there like "newer paradigm," "earlier vision," "biblical literalists vs. metaphorists," etc., like I sense Borg and Spong do quite a bit.

 

Interesting and fruitful discussion here. Glad to know there are others like myself seeking a more progressive, thoughtful approach to the Christian faith.

 

Peace,

 

John

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Wikipedia has a thoughtful entry about Borg and his theology:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Borg

 

Here is an excerpt:

 

Borg advocates entering into relationship with God as more important than belief about God. He has a panentheist understanding of God, which sees God as both indwelling in everything and transcendent. He teaches that a historical metaphorical approach to the Bible is more meaningful for today's world than is Biblical literalism

Peace,

 

John

Edited by peacemover

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Borg is a panentheist, which as I understand it is a branch of natural theology that asserts that God is not an intervening God, but rather a participating God.

 

A panentheistic view of God allows for a God that could be intercessory.

 

Some panentheists believe God intervenes. Some panentheists believe God COULD intervene, but will not, or perhaps will only do so in very unobtrusive and small ways. Some panentheists (like Process Theology) believe God CANNOT intervene.

 

I think Borg falls into the "could but won't" category?

Edited by AletheiaRivers

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Borg is a panentheist, which as I understand it is a branch of natural theology that asserts that God is not an intervening God, but rather a participating God.

 

A panentheistic view of God allows for a God that could be intercessory. Some panentheists believe God intervenes. Some panentheists believe God COULD intervene, but will not, or perhaps will only do so in very unobtrusive and small ways. Some panentheists (like Process Theology) believe God CANNOT intervene.

 

I think Borg falls into the "could but won't" category?

 

You may be right, but I got the very strong impression that he does not believe that "intervening" is something that God does. In the session on prayer, he and others also seem almost to mock anyone who prays to God seeking intervention.

 

His belief seems to be that prayer changes us, but does not change God.

 

Perhaps he has something there- I just do not think these views were presented in a way that invites dialogue, but rather one that seems to mock people who may have different views about prayer. Interesting...

 

Perhaps I'll look for or start a thread on LTQ...

 

Peace,

 

John

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I got the very strong impression that he does not believe that "intervening" is something that God does.

 

I agree. That's the impression that I got from Heart of Christianity as well. I was just seeking to clarify different positions on the idea of an "interventionist God" that I've come across from different panentheists. :)

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This is interesting.

 

Thinking about prayer... I do believe that God intervenes. I have experienced it. To state that He cannot seems to put limits on God which, to me, seems inappropriate... hubris??? I'm not fragile or hostile about this, I'd be interested in other people's experiences and beliefs.

 

As far as praying if God doesn't ever intervene... it seems that would involve getting yourself in line/sync with God??? (part of intercessionary prayer too) Perhaps meditation? (Which I practice and find very worthwhile).

 

Anyway, just thinking "aloud". I love having people to discuss these things with! :P

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I have experienced times when I feel God was "nudging" me (for want of a better term) in a particular direction. I have also had times when I felt God's love and comfort in very DIRECT ways. I guess you could call these happenings "intervention"? I dunno. I wouldn't call them that, but perhaps I'm nitpicking. :P

 

As far as people who believe that God CANNOT intervene, I don't actually know of any group outside of Process Theology that believe that. I don't want to speak for those that take this stance because we have some very learned Process leaning people on this board. :) Perhaps we can lure them into this discussion? (Much of it was discussed on the Panentheism and Panentheism 101 threads.)

Edited by AletheiaRivers

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I think that the belief among non-Christian progressives that Christianity is inconsistent with progressivness is, in large part, a reaction to their having been told by non-progressive Christians that that progressiveness is inconsistent with Christianity. It has been my observation that this is the case with Christianity and science. I grew up in West Texas. I know from first hand experience that many Christians believe that a scientific viewpoint is inconsistent with Christian faith. While I have always had deep religious beliefs, I was also drawn to science. It was only when I got a physics teaching job at church related college that I was able to resolve some of the tension that had been imposed on the relationship of science and Christianity by non-scientific Christians and non-Christian scientists.

 

I want to be clear that I mean a real scientific viewpoint, and not that pseudoscience where they try to show that evolution isn't real or that the existence of God is provable. I believe that evolution is real, the earth is about 5 billion years old, humans of one sort or another have been around about 1.5 million years, and that the existence of God is a matter of faith, not proof.

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"I have experienced times when I feel God was "nudging" me (for want of a better term) in a particular direction. I have also had times when I felt God's love and comfort in very DIRECT ways. I guess you could call these happenings "intervention"? I dunno. I wouldn't call them that, but perhaps I'm nitpicking."

 

It seems to me that any interaction would be intervention.... but that may be research training. :) The experiences I mentioned would fall into the same categories you describe above.

 

So, if not intervention, then what would you call it? For me, those times of nudging or intense knowing have a significant impact on my life/decisions/etc. How about you?

 

:)

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It seems to me that any interaction would be intervention.... but that may be research training.   :)   The experiences I mentioned would fall into the same categories you describe above.

 

So, if not intervention, then what would you call it?  For me, those times of nudging or intense knowing have a significant impact on my life/decisions/etc.  How about you?

 

:)

 

Borg in his book "The Heart of Christianity" does speak about what he calls "thin places" which, as I interpret it, he refers to places on one's spiritual journey in which one directly experiences the divine in a powerful way. He stops short, though of the possibility of such encounters happening through an intervening God.

 

Borg also rails against the notion that God is in the business of punishment and reward.

 

Have you read "The Heart of Christianity," by Borg? If not, it would be well worth reading. He lays out an inviting vision for what progressive Christianity could look like...

 

Peace,

 

John

Edited by peacemover

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