Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chris Hedges and the Dilemmas of the Liberal Christian

Writer and intellectual Chris Hedges facing the camera with blurry background
Chris Hedges
There is often a strong imbalance when it comes to the media and its coverage of religion. The media mostly focuses on the more sensational and often downright outrageous events and claims and is not so much interested in showing a balanced perspective. This is not necessarily out of vicious or deliberate intentions but rather because news must sell and the best kind of news is of the sensational type.

As a result, religion, a highly personal and controversial topic, is given ample treatment but predominantly of its most extreme aspects. In such cases, Islam becomes willy-nilly intimately tied with Islamicism and Christianity with the fundamental Christian right movement hence ignoring a large part of both Christian and Muslim communities that are more liberal and tolerant in their views and attitude and that continuously promote peace and understanding. Just to give one example on the Christian side, based on the media coverage one can get the bloated or distorted impression that all Christians believe in the pseudo-scientific claims of creationism and that hardly any Christian accepts the theory of evolution.

In reality, there are various theists who advocate evolution theory and have done so in the past. Not every Christian denomination claims that the Bible never errs, especially when it clashes with generally held and understood scientific claims. There are other instances such as the belief in slavery which every true Christian would -- or rather must -- object to on moral grounds but which seems rather commonplace and accepted in the Holy Book. That being said, I am certain that most Christians are opposed to the idea of slavery.

My intention here is not to discredit or bash certain rather irrational aspects of Christianity. I strongly embrace the healthy view of equilibrium. My focus here is mainly a defense for “god-fearing” intellectuals like Chris Hedges who share an uneasy fate and find themselves in no man's land because they are in the crossfire from both sides: a) The liberals who often deny the existence of God, b) Those who consider themselves devout believers and who think that being liberal betrays the foundation of their religion.

Many liberals nowadays opt to turn their back on religion, which they may regard as a limiting ideology. The fact that there are even people who believe that Creationism should be even taken seriously, let alone taught in schools, is demonstrated as evidence for a narrow-minded and misguided perception of the world. In addition, many intellectuals are wary of religious dogma, which has unfortunately been used to control and manipulate people and which is, has been and will be the cause of many wars because of its tendency, intentionally or not, to support bigotry, prejudice and hatred.

Furthermore, most scientists who embrace the scientific method find no reason for an existence of God since the mechanical view of the world does not need to make room for a creator. Science may have created some certitude and bragging rights regarding predictions on nature, yet at the same time, it has made us humble showing us that we are not at the center of the universe and that physical laws can explain various processes without having to resort to an omnipotent creator and controller of the world. As such, intellectuals like Chris Hedges who mainly subscribe to the liberal ideas but continue to believe in God by finding a compromise between the realms of science and religion are sadly in the minority.

Yet such a Christian liberal faces opposition at his own camp, so-to-speak. Many religious groups are wary of putting any sort of limits on the Bible and the powers of the Almighty. These people subscribe fanatically and unconditionally to the will of God and eye advances in science with suspicion.

They believe that technological and medical advances would infringe on the powers of God. If stem cell research continues and cloning is practiced at a fuller scale, it is considered interference and tampering not only with nature but with God's (often inscrutable and mysterious) plans. In other words, the scientist and the liberal are regarded with great suspicion for they seem to be playing God; they are the ones who are constantly eating from and digesting the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge, an act curiously enough considered a grave sin.

So the liberal Christian becomes isolated and has no friends on either side of the spectrum. He finds himself in a comprising situation, but it makes him so much more courageous because he is defying the general stream. He is swimming against the current by holding onto his own truly felt and experienced beliefs. And at the same time, he is free and tied to no specific side or dogma.


Karen said...

liberal Christianity is in lots of places, thank, well, god. I attend a very wee United Church here in Kitsilano and it has an EXCELLENT bible study let by a woman who is a hebrew scholar and smokin smart. The bible was never meant to be taken literally -it is the story of a certain people''s in history's take on god (bad grammar there me thinks) Check into the Jesus Seminar a bunch of scholars who basically determined what in the new testament Jesus actually said - very little in some bits. When the author Anne Rice recently announced her departure from Christianity, what she meant was the fundy type. I wrote her and said, Anne, there are liberals everywhere, just look you dumb dumb (paraphrased). She wrote right back so that was fun.No need for the liberal Christian to be lonely in Vancouver - heck just go to the Vancouver School of Theology out at UBC. Some of those folks don't even believe in the literal Christ.
- Karen

Karen said...

Internation Musing said...

Christianity is not logical since religion is illogical and the Bible is something you don't take literal (completely agree with Karen her exple. here). There are sooooooooooo many different 'Christians' but one message unites: God loves (you)
Dont use the quran as benchmark.

FishHawk said...

What could possibly be more illogical than wanting to believe that everything just came into existence one day, and then mutated along an evolutionary path, without the hand of a Creator behind it? Granted, I do not believe that anything has ever actually evolved on its own, but even if it did, was this accomplished through self-determination? Remember, we are talking about amoebas swimming around in the primordial ooze in the very early stages here. I can't say that I can blame them for wanting to get out of that stuff, though.

John Myste said...

I am changing the subject, not for lack of interest, but because I read an article the other day that I could have sworn Arash wrote if I did not know better. It was astoundingly good and I want to point him to it:

Satre's Nothingness

Now, back to the subject at hand: I know plenty of liberal people who are religious. I sometimes refer to religion as irrational, but it isn't. it is a-rational. It is not unreasonable or reasonable. It lives or dies in a context of faith.

Some religious people try to merge religion and science, and while it is a fine goal, it is an unworkable one and should be abandoned. Religion can no more resist the truths of science than science can refute the facts known by faith. The two worlds can co-exist, but they cannot co-decide, and they certainly cannot have an intelligent discussion with each other, each in its own language.

FishHawk said...

I may be woefully deceived, my dear John, but I don't see a problem with mixing science and religion (so to speak). That is, as long as it is not taken beyond the limits of honesty. For science is ordained by our Heavenly Father to show what He has done and is doing, but when both sides go too far, it makes a mockery out of both. Therefore, those on the religious side should recognize that the there is no way to prove creation without our Creator openly revealing Himself unto all, and those on the scientific side should not be making theories out to be facts without absolutely unimpeachable empirical evidence to back it up.

John Myste said...

@My Dear Fish,

I am glad you prefaced your opinion with "I may be woefully deceived, my dear John". It sames me a some time, sir.

Arashmania said...

Thank you for all your wonderful comments and sorry I have taken a while to respond. I have been caught in a whirlwind of busyness and have written little but have had many ideas.

Thank you, John, for pointing out the link to me. I agree! For a moment I thought it was written by me ... In other words, I could not have done a better job myself : )

In fact, I am planning another post coming up in a week or so which has been inspired by the comments posted here. I offer that in lieu of answering to each one of you... Hope you will enjoy and it will involve cake!

FishHawk said...


John Myste said...

I can already tell that Fish Hawk is going to take my share of the cake. He is going to have his cake and eat it too.