Wednesday, October 1, 2008

the new atheists

a couple links bumped into each other this week that need comment. first, this friday bill maher's satire film, religulous, hits theaters, and it is sure to be a "borat" type success. i've commented on the bill maher and the film before, but we should be ready for the onslaught of derision. and, from the clips i've seen as previews, he picked the most ridiculous examples of wacky-religion to showcase.

second, robert parham of ethicsdaily.com wrote an editorial on the new atheists (go here), tying the rise of atheism with the crack-up of fundamentalism. one statement was especially to the point:

"Fundamentalists are seen as the God-believers who soil the public square. They are symbols of intolerance and violence. They are intolerant of those inside and outside their faith traditions, those who prioritize a competing set of values. They reject those who see gradations of gray in what should be a world of absolutes—black and white, light and darkness. Diversity and ambiguity are not virtues for fundamentalists."

i weary of trying to explain to questioners why, "we're not like that." but all such explanations are really to no avail. and i guess, by now most of us are used to being painted by the same broad brush.

the genuine response must be to act. that is, to offer threadbare theology in the face to such withering criticism will do nothing but further our demise. said another way, to argue is to lose. our only defense is to participate in the continuing incarnation of that first century carpenter, who loved those who despised him.

this, of course, has nothing to do with a romantic view of the world -- us against them, where we condescend to toss a little help over the wall. no, we are all of us hip-deep in the blood of others, no romance there. and while we argue among ourselves over who has the greatest influence, the most bodies on sunday, the most political clout, or the most cutting-edge ministry, the culture disintegrates before our eyes. children still eat lead paint; they are still bitten by rats and abused by relatives and religionists.

the time for talk is over, and unless and until the church -- and i mean all flavors and versions -- acts credibly toward the watching world, we should just shut-up and take our lumps. we've gottem coming...