Modern day abecedarianism

Just before Easter, my pastor concluded a great sermon series on the Ten Commandments and their practicality in our lives.  (In fact, it was some of the messages in this series that prompted the creation of this blog).  One of the more recent messages, of course, was the one delivered on the ninth commandment, the one prohibiting “bearing false witness against your neighbour”.  (I suppose I’m even progressive in my Bible translations, as I never was comfortable with the loquacious language from the KJV the Ten Commandments are usually presented in, complete, of course, with “thou shalt not”s).  One topic which wasn’t covered in the sermon though (seriously, give it a listen, you’ll hear someone better at presenting God’s message to us than I, you can come back here for any progressive response to any non-progressive points brought forth.  😉 ) was presenting the truth online.

I know Jesus never had a Facebook page or an internet email address, but I’m wondering if His Facebook page would be different from a lot of ours.  I’m sure everyone is familiar with Snopes, the online fact-checker of persistent Internet rumours.  Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of the rumours  that the site checks out are ones passed along by Christians to others. The one about “NASA’s lost day” and the one about “Einstein proves the existence of God to atheist professor” are both ones that get passed around by Christians as fact without people bothering to check; this Slate article mentions another about Darwin recanting evolution on his deathbed, all have crossed my inbox or Facebook wall and all are false.

This trend worries me in a few areas.  First it makes me wonder as to how people can assume it’s true because they read it on the Internet or it got passed down to them somehow.  Are we really that susceptible to any suggestion with just the flimsiest pretext that we don’t bother checking to see if it’s true?  I hope that Satan isn’t aware of this, as that’s a great way to get people to believe anything.  (Satan doesn’t read this blog, does he?  Remind me to check the IP logs.) Secondly, and most importantly, we are presenting the gospel to others who don’t believe as the truth, how would it look if we say on one hand that God came down to earth, became a man, to give us his message of love, and on the other hand also say that we believe that, say, Bigfoot is real?  This is probably why Zechariah 8:16 and Ephesians 4:25, as well as other passages, say that we should speak the truth to others because we are to make the Gospel credible from a credible source.

Another way Christians lie – actively lie – is to somehow trick people into belief.  I hope that things like are mentioned in this article are not at all common, but the statistics at the end of the article worry me.  (I know a few Christians here in Canada that volunteer with Christian-run pregnancy crisis centres, I hope that they aren’t taking pages from their American cousins.)  Why would anyone tell a lie to get them to believe in their side?  After all, they didn’t come to the program believing in a lie, they chose to actively tell them something that they know is false, that they don’t believe themselves.  If we have to lie to convince people, it seems that we are more needing to convince ourselves than others, because if we don’t believe what we believe is the truth, and have to lie to get others to believe it, then we aren’t following the truth.

There is an elephant in the room here that I haven’t addressed yet (although I touched on it by linking to the Slate article earlier) and that is the topic of such subjects as evolution and the scientific view of the creation of the world.  It seems to be commonly believed, especially among the non-religious, that one cannot be a Christian and believe that scientific theories are valid, and indeed it would seem that there is a difference between those who interpret the Bible literally and those who hold to scientific proofs.  An article by my favourite progressive Christian blogger deals with this in a wonderful way, he reminds us that Christians are focussing more on the “how” than the “who”.  The message that Genesis 1 presents to us is simply “In the beginning, God”.  He is reminding us of his constant presence.  The story that follows of how the world was created, we have to keep in mind who it was written for.  Let’s look at it this way, if your three year old asked you where he came from, we aren’t going to launch into a detailed explanation of human reproduction complete with a description of fertilization, cell division, the growth of organs, and the mechanics of human reproduction.  Rather, millions of parents have used the story that begins “when a mommy and daddy love each other very much” and this is what the child understands, he or she can’t wrap their minds around cell division or how an egg becomes fertilized, but he or she does know they have a mom and dad, that they love each other, and they show that love in an affectionate manner by hugging and kissing.  The explanation may be technically wrong, but the basic information is there based on their comprehension level.  As the child gets older, for example in their teen years, they would be able to learn more about it because their experiences have broadened and they have the mental capacity to understand the science involved in the reproductive process.  Such is the case with the story of creation.  Written thousands of years ago, it was written to a society that had no way to observe the forces of the earth, that were thousands of years away of inventing a telescope to observe the universe, and couldn’t comprehend how to interpret the data through experimentation.  What they did know is that they had a God that “loved them very much” and attempted to explain how the earth came to be through their limited scientific understanding.  When we got older, as a species, we were able to understand more about science and we used the wisdom God gave us to learn more about his creation.  We understood more than what we did thousands of years ago, but still there was God.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. – 1 Corinthians 13:11

This isn’t a new phenomenon in Christianity, back in the early days of Protestantism there was a sect called “abecedarianism”, which basically said that all learning, even that of the alphabet (which is where the name comes from) is idolatry, and they stubbornly refused to learn anything.  It seems that abecedariansm is making a modern-day comeback with conservative Christians.  Rick Santorum, a prominent American right-wing conservative politician, who often likes to mix politics with his particular brand of conservative Christianity, once said at a summit that “the smart people will never be on our side.”  He would make a great abecedarian.  Progressive Christians, on the other hand, realize that knowledge is a gift from God and that we should get to know Him with the brains that He gave us.  We are to use that knowledge to always speak the truth, whether it is about God coming to earth as a man, or about how God used the scientific process that we discovered to create the world, or about the latest bit of Internet rumour that’s clogging up your inbox.  We want the smart people on our side, because the Good News is smart.

Thank you very much for following The Friendly Neighbourhood Progressive Christian.  I love hearing feedback from my followers, it encourages me to write more (especially on days when the blogging software doesn’t necessarily want to cooperate).  I recently added a link to email me on the left hand side bar, please feel free to reach me that way.  You can also comment on the articles, and hopefully comments will be respectful whether or not you agree with me.  But I would most appreciate it if you pass along the word of this blog to your friends, whether they are progressive or not.  My goal in starting this blog is to show Christians who aren’t acting towards others in a progressive manner that this is not what Jesus wants for us, but rather to “seek justice” and “defend the oppressed” (Isaiah 1:17).  Ideally the message of equality and justice and putting away ourselves will reach those who use Jesus’ name for hate and we can start doing what He wants us to do.  Please tell others about this blog.  Pass it on!

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