Monday, November 17, 2008

It Must Be Nice Being Huge

Debates over how many adherents one can justifiably excommunicate from the ranks is a privilege of the powerful religions. Smaller players, such as my own faith, have learned that such intra-sectarian squabbling gets downright dangerous when your numbers are already rather tiny (and the other guys are going for your head).

Certainly, lots of ultra-orthodox Jews think I really suck at being Jewish, and some more extreme sects would go further and label me a heretic. Fortunately for me, they're in the minority. But by and large, Judaism has learned that we must hang together to avoid hanging separately. The majority of Jewish denominations in America, for example, do not hold that the Bible is the literal word of God. But yet, somehow we don't engage in cannibalistic theological warfare to expel the unbelievers. It must get tiring after awhile, and it's energy I'd really rather expend elsewhere.

Via Southern Appeal. Hey, President Obama -- if you're no longer Christian, we're happy to take you in! We can bond over how annoying it is for really self-righteous people taking it upon themselves to pray for our immortal souls.


PG said...

Fortunately for Christianity, it is not made up solely of folks like Joe Carter who enjoy sitting in judgment of other people's beliefs to sift out the True Believers from the false. As a little Hindu kid, I appreciate that Obama finds it hard to believe that his God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell, and I like Obama's God a lot better than Carter's.

Actually, I'd be really worried by having someone who held Carter's beliefs and took them very seriously as president of the U.S. Wouldn't that oblige the president to devote huge amounts of money to spreading the gospel in order to ensure that all us heathen don't burn in hell? Or is the president's role constrained to doing earthly good -- and if so, why do we give a damn what his religious beliefs are, so long as his secular moral ones are sound?

Steve Dillard said...

Fwiw, I don't profess to know whether Obama is a Christian, and I don't think anyone really can make that judgment. What I can say is that he sure doesn't sound like one.

I mean come on guys, there are certain core beliefs of Christianity, and Obama sure doesn't seem to accept many of them. Whether that disqualifies him from being considered a Christian is above my paygrade.

David Schraub said...

I grant that at some point, an apple isn't an apple, but it's tough to say that when you're talking about definitions which would exclude massive chunks of the putative group. Define "Jew" only by those who believe the Torah is the literal revealed word of God, and you start running out of Jews real fast. I have no idea how many Christians don't actually believe Jesus is the literal son of God, or that I and my entire family are bound to an eternity of hellfire and damnation, but I presume it's a lot.

Particularly since y'all seem to love subdividing into ever more arcane factions (Baptist, Southern Baptist, Lutheran, Evangelical Lutheran, Missouri Synod Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian....), it all seems kinda crazy from an outsider's perspective that now we're drawing the line.

PG said...

Does believing Jesus was the literal son of God require believing in a Virgin Birth? Because from what I understand, MLK Jr. didn't believe in a Virgin Birth, and it seems to be getting a bit tight on definitions to exclude him as a Christian. It also would exclude Jefferson, of course, which then would throw into a bit of doubt the ongoing claim that our Founders were all Christians and our founding documents drawing upon Christianity.

Incidentally, if Christianity requires the "literal son of God" belief rather than just the "sent by God, died for our sins, was resurrected" belief (to which Obama clearly adheres), someone needs to tell the American Heritage dictionary.

"Christianity - The religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, sent by God. They believe that Jesus, by dying and rising from the dead, made up for the sin of Adam and thus redeemed the world, allowing all who believe in him to enter heaven. Christians rely on the Bible as the inspired word of God."