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Showing posts with label tolerance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tolerance. Show all posts

Monday, June 12, 2017

Persecuting Christian Belief for Public Office


Religious liberty is a key right recognized by all civilized people. The ability for one to not only worship as he believes but to live out that faith is enshrined in the United States Constitution as our first freedom, and it points back to the Pilgrims' efforts to settle a new land where they could do just that.

That's why I'm particularly bothered by the inquisition Senator Bernie Sanders recently inflicted upon White House nominee Russell Vought, as David French highlighted in his piece. There, Sanders interrogates Vought on his Christian beliefs asking him about points he made in an article written for Wheaton College's magazine:

Sanders: You wrote, "Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned." Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?[1]

Vought responds by denying the Islamophobic charge, but as he tries to explain how he as writing from a theological viewpoint for a theological audience, Sanders interrupts him and doubles down, asking "Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?" Certainly this is a question of theological belief. "Stand condemned" is a phrase relating to the belief of one's relationship to God, not with other citizens or the body politic at all. Yet, any time Vought tried to explain that he was restating a core tenet of the Christian faith, Sanders would double-down:

Vought: Senator, I'm a Christian, and I wrote that piece in accordance with the statement of faith at Wheaton College…

Sanders: I understand that. I don't know how many Muslims there are in America. Maybe a couple million. Are you suggesting that all those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?

Vought: Senator, I'm a Christian…

Sanders (shouting): I understand you are a Christian, but this country are made of people who are not just — I understand that Christianity is the majority religion, but there are other people of different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?

Vought: Thank you for probing on that question. As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that's how I should treat all individuals…

Sanders: You think your statement that you put into that publication, they do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned, do you think that's respectful of other religions?

Vought: Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly in regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.

Sanders: I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about. 

The Question of Christian Exclusivism

You can watch the entire exchange yourself, but notice what Bernie Sanders was objecting to was Christianity, although he did try to paint is as Voght holding a bias. Sanders is right in recognizing there are other belief systems out there, like Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews. But any faithful Jew must believe the Hindu is violating God's first commandment to have no other gods before him. Muslims hold that Christians and Jews who reject the prophethood of Muhammad stand condemned before Allah. Atheists write books condemning Christians as being deluded and telling how their faith poisons everything.

The objection that Sanders voices is an old one. How can Christianity be about love if you think everyone else is going to hell? But the problem is simply this: all beliefs carry truth claims. Therefore, if you don't hold to the the belief, you reject the truth claim that comes with it. If Muhammad was truly Allah's prophet, then Christians are wrong, but if Jesus is truly the resurrected Son of God, then Muslims are wrong. Both cannot be right.

Even Bernie Sanders himself castigates others for not abiding by his economic beliefs. A Washington Examiner story recently highlighted Sander's tweet exclaiming: "How many yachts do billionaires need? How many cars do they need? Give us a break. You can't have it all."[2] Is THAT what Sanders thinks this country is supposed to be about?

Sacrificing Tolerance for Confusion

By positioning Vought's beliefs as disqualifying, Sanders is guilty of his own standard. He's condemning Vought's beliefs which he expressed in that Wheaton article. Sanders' belief in non-offensiveness is itself contradictory! But this is the problem with many progressives today. They cannot grasp the fact that a person can believe others have inestimable intrinsic worth while still believing they are in danger of offending almighty God. Heck, Sanders thinks it is OK for him (a millionaire with three houses) to tell others how much they should or shouldn't possess, but not for a Christian man wring for a Christian college's magazine to state basic Christian doctrine.

Sanders is completely wrong. One should be able to be appointed to public office even if his orthodox religious views are not shared by a senator from Vermont. That is exactly what this country is about and what it always has been about. It's what makes America—dare I say—exceptional.

References

1. French, David. "Watch Bernie Sanders Attack a Christian Nominee and Impose an Unconstitutional Religious Test for Public Office." National Review. National Review, 07 June 2017. Web. 08 June 2017. http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/448393/watch-bernie-sanders-unconstitutionally-impose-religious-test-public-office.
2. Chaitin, Daniel. "Bernie Sanders Slams Billionaires, Gets Reminded He Owns 3 Houses." Washington Examiner. Washington Examiner, 20 Apr. 2017. Web. 12 June 2017. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/bernie-sanders-slams-billionaires-gets-reminded-he-owns-3-houses/article/2620865.
Image courtesy Gage Skidmore and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Three Ways Religions Pluralism Fails



Is it bigoted to claim that Christianity is the exclusive way God desires humanity to approach him? Many people think so, citing the importance of being tolerant of others' beliefs. But to simply allow a lot of different religious systems exist within a society would be a culture that allows for religious liberty or religious diversity. Episcopal Bishop John S. Spong has stated, "The idea that Jesus is the only way to God or that only those who have been washed in the blood of Christ are ever to be listed among the saved, has become anathema and even dangerous in our shrinking world."1

In today's parlance, tolerance doesn't mean we should allow others to practice their faith even though we believe it is false. Rather, it is interpreted to mean all religions are equally true or worthy. That seems to be the positon taken by Scotty McLennan, Dean of Religious Life at Stanford University, who preached a sermon entitled "Religious Pluralism as the Truth" at Stanford Memorial Church. He opened that message by declaring:
There are many roads to the top of the spiritual mountain. There's not just one way through Jesus Christ. As a Christian pluralist, I personally affirm Jesus as my way, as my Lord and Savior, but I also believe that the exclusivist claim is wrong. I have no doubt that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, at least figuratively speaking, but I believe that Moses, Muhammad, Krishna, the Buddha and Socrates do too, among others. They're all there at the top of the metaphorical spiritual mountain — they are all the way and the truth and the life — and no one comes to the Father except through a multitude of them, or by having walked in many footsteps, or by being in a large presence (whether one fully realizes that or not).2
I wonder just how carefully those who hold to such a view have considered their position. It seems to me that to hold the idea of equal worth of all religious faiths, one is forced into one of three positions: all faiths are true, all faiths are false, or the very concepts of true and false are meaningless. I'd like to look at these one at a time and see if they make any sense.

Knee-jerk Pluralism — "They're All True"

The first way one may intend the statement all religions are "way and the truth and the life' would be to make the claim that all religions are equally true. This may be what Dean McLennan is asserting above. However, as I demonstrated in a recent article, such claims make no logical sense. God cannot be the Christian's Triune deity and the Muslim's monadic deity and the Advaita's brahman (the non-personal ultimate soul of the universe3) as well. These are simply contradictory claims and logic tells us it is unreasonable to believe contradictions.

Sophisticated Pluralism — "They're All False"

Sometimes academics will recognize the contradictory nature of different faiths, but still hold a sincere belief that all religions offer the same worth. They are simply trying to communicate that all religions are in fact feeble attempts to express our approach to the divine. In other words, religions are simply cultural developments to explain the unknown or to establish certain moral guidelines and frameworks for the benefit of their particular society and the true reality is simply unknowable. One proponent of this view is philosopher John Hick who writes, "We cannot attribute to the Real a se any intrinsic attributes, such as being personal or nonpersonal, good or evil, purposive or nonpurposive, substance or process, even one or many… It is only as humanly thought or experienced that the Real fits into our human categories."4

This strikes me as an equivocation. It isn't illogical to hold the possibility that all faiths have it wrong, but it doesn't explain anything. It leaves us as agnostics who want to feel the warm-fuzzies of transcendence. But if everything is wrong, why should anyone believe there's a transcendent reality at all? Also, I don't think such a position takes the details of faith seriously enough. There are reasons why I am a Christian, good solid, rational reasons. Those should not be dismissed so easily.

Religious Relativism — "There Is No Truth"

The last option for the pluralist is to simply discount the notion of religious truth altogether. Alister McGrath summed up the view with the question, "How can Christianity's claims to truth be taken seriously when there are so many rival alternatives and when 'truth' itself has become a devalued notion? No one can lay claim to truth. It is all a question of perspective."5 Such a person would hold there is no way anyone can tell what is true since truth is different for each person. Therefore, beliefs are a personal matter based on the holder's perspective and they become true for that person.

However, to hold this is to become a relativist and give up any idea that statements of God have any significance at all. We cannot ascribe the existence of the universe, why there's something rather than nothing to God because we cannot make any meaningful statements about God that would be objectively true. The problem becomes in the grounding of the belief that "No one can lay claim to [religious] truth." How does the religious relativist know that claim is true? That strikes me as a claim about ultimate reality that applies to all people. How can one be so sure this belief objectively holds and then dismiss all other ultimate claims about reality as preferences and not objective?

Each of the three different approaches one must take to hold to religious pluralism fails in some way. Thus, exclusivist claims about religion are a much more rational position to hold.

References

1. Spong, John Shelby. A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith Is Dying and How a New Faith Is Being Born. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001. Print. 179.
2. McLellan, Scotty. "Religious Pluralism as the Truth." Stanford Office for Religious Life. Office for Religious Life, Stanford University. 22 May, 2011. Web. 14 Oct 2015. http://web.stanford.edu/group/religiouslife/cgi-bin/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/sermon_5-22-11_McLennan1.pdf
3. "Brahman | Hindu Concept." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 5 Mar. 2015. Web. 14 Oct. 2015. http://www.britannica.com/topic/brahman-Hindu-concept.
4. Hick, John. "A Pluralist View." Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World. Ed. Dennis L. Okholm and Timothy R. Phillips. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1996. 50. Print.
5. McGrath, Alister E. "Understanding and Responding to Moral Pluralism." Center for Applied Christian Ethic. Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. February, 1994. 5. Web 14 Oct 2015. http://www.wheaton.edu/~/media/files/centers-and-institutes/cace/booklets/moralpluralism.pdf
Image courtesy Jyri Engestrom. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Liberal Philosophy is Backfiring on Its Champions

There aren't many people championing Marx and Lenin anymore. The New York Times reported that the Socialist party has only about 1,000 registered members, the Communist Party U.S.A. has about 2,000 members, and the Democratic Socialists, 6,000. Compare that to their heyday; in the 1932 presidential election, their combined votes numbered nearly one million. 1



Why are these parties so unsuccessful today? One reason is Communism as an idea has proven to simply not work in the real world. It was tried across many countries of Eastern Europe, most notably within the Soviet Union. The Communist experiment ran some 70 years, but it didn't improve the lives of the citizens, it worsened them. In fact, in every country where communism was attempted, it became an utter failure. Even today, citizens of Communist countries like Cuba are still suffering in third-world conditions. Once Communist China adopted Western/capitalist economic models (while using communism to hold onto political control) it began to thrive.

I use this example to highlight a fairly simple point: there are a lot of theories that sound good on paper, but when applied in the real world, they simply don't work. In fact, that's one way to identify if your worldview makes sense—see how it matches up with reality.

Political Correctness Eating Its Own

I've been watching with interest how liberal advocates are now suffering the consequences of their own dictums. Universities have been beating the drum on non-offensive speech, relative morality, and political correctness for decades, but now those who have promoted such views have been finding themselves subject to condemnation by the very students they instructed.

One example is Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University and a self-described feminist and cultural critic recently wrote an article decrying the "sexual paranoia" happening at college campuses. She didn't name any names nor did she point to a specific example, yet according to the Fiscal Times, two students filed harassment charges against her claiming that her essay had "'a chilling effect' on students' ability to report sexual misconduct ."2 Since in Title IX cases, the university basically treats the accused as guilty until proven innocent, Kipnis had to undergo an arduous ordeal trying to show how the feelings of the students who felt victimized didn't count.

Edward Schlosser, a professor at "a midsize state school" admits in an article on Vox that "my students sometimes scare me — particularly the liberal ones."3 He recounts how a class discussion on the housing crash where a student challenged a film presentation on the underlying cause of the crash because the video did not talk about race as a factor. The student filed a complaint with his director.

Schlosser said the new feelings-based standard has him modifying his teaching style. He reports:
I have intentionally adjusted my teaching materials as the political winds have shifted. (I also make sure all my remotely offensive or challenging opinions, such as this article, are expressed either anonymously or pseudonymously). Most of my colleagues who still have jobs have done the same. We've seen bad things happen to too many good teachers — adjuncts getting axed because their evaluations dipped below a 3.0, grad students being removed from classes after a single student complaint, and so on.4
I believe Schlosser is scared. In fact, he was so scared he chose a pseudonym to write the article.

There seems to be no one who is safe from the rebid demand to not hurt feelings by students today. Even Dan Savage, the sex columnist and homosexual advocate was caught the double-edged sword of hurt feelings. You may remember Savage from his castigation of Christian students at a student journalism conference last year. He was hoisted on his own petard when speaking at the University of Chicago. Savage was explaining that he used to use the word "tranny" to talk of transgenders, but even using the word in his explanation caused students to accuse him of committing a hate crime and set up a petition on change.org providing guidelines for future speakers so they will not offend anyone. 5

Tolerance Crumbling Under Its Own Weight

There are many more stories such as these coming out of universities. Christina Hoff Sommers experienced this many times when she speaks, eliciting charges of triggering students and faculty alike. Sommers is also a self-identified feminist, although she likes to present the facts as they pertain to things like wage differences or biases against women in vocations. Those facts are enough to make her an enemy of those who simply want to believe the narrative rather than the truth.

I've written before about living in the age of feeling. I've recognized that by abandoning the traditional moral understanding of sex, colleges have opened themselves up to more sexual miscreancy.. Now, we can see the fruition of the "tolerance" and "do not offend" ideology. Liberal professors, who have taught such poorly defined  concepts are now beginning to reap the consequences of that position. All I can hope is that like communism, the culture abandons those failed ideas and returns to search for the truth, for that's the only thing that will withstand the test of time.

References

1. Berger, Joseph. "Workers of the World, Please See Our Web Site." The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 May 2011. Web. 08 June 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/23/nyregion/leftist-parties-in-new-york-have-new-appeal.html?_r=0.
2. Morrissey, Edward. "Why College Professors Are Afraid to Teach Millennials." The Fiscal Times. The Fiscal Times, 4 June 2015. Web. 08 June 2015. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Opinion/2015/06/04/Why-College-Professors-Are-Afraid-Teach-Millennials#sthash.esBfHAvK.dpuf.
3. Schlosser, Edward. "I'm a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me." Vox. Vox Media, Inc., 03 June 2015. Web. 08 June 2015. http://www.vox.com/2015/6/3/8706323/college-professor-afraid.
4. Schlosser, 2015.
5. "Univ. of Chicago Students Offended by Gay Activist's." Illinois Review. Illinois Review, 4 June 2015. Web. 08 June 2015. http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/06/university-of-chicago-students-offended-by-gay-rights-activists-use-of-transphobic-slur.html.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Contradiction of the Tolerance Brigade

Imagine the sacrifice that's involved in becoming a vegetarian. Certainly, such a decision comes at some significant sacrifice. You would have to renounce your ham and sausage breakfast sandwiches and learn to enjoy different types of meals. And you'd have to be more selective when eating out as your choices will be more limited. You would have to clean out your kitchen of meat products or meat-derived sauces and flavorings. You would need to learn a whole new way of preparing food.



So, in order to be better prepared for the vegetarian lifestyle, you decide to enroll in a vegetarian culinary course at the local college. Here, they promise to help all vegetarians learn ways to prepare well-balanced and healthy meals that fit their chosen lifestyle. Yet, after you arrive, you notice that some chefs are teaching their students the different seasoning choices for trout, salmon, or halibut. Another is discussing how to make chicken tacos while a third is demonstrating the proper temperature to cook a steak!

You first complain to your fellow students, but you're told you're judgmental and intolerant. "But, this is supposed to be a vegetarian cooking course," you say. They answer, "We stand with teachers in rejecting culinary clauses that impede their freedom, including the right to choose what to use when preparing a meal." I would imagine that after all your personal sacrifice and hard work, this would not only be offensive to you, but you would walk into the office and demand your money back!

Sacrificing Morality in the Name of Morality

The same thing is happening right now in San Francisco. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco has set forth a set of rules for all instructors of primary and secondary Roman Catholic educational institutions in the San Francisco archdiocese to be adopted in the fall of 2015. It includes certain moral actions, such as teachers should affirm and believe in the churches teaching on chastity, and "only in marriage between man and woman that the intimacy of sexual union" is allowed while extra-marital relationships, including homosexual relationships are defined by the church as "gravely evil."1

None of this should be surprising, as these are well known beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, people are protesting the statement, rallying under the hatshtag #teachacceptance. They have asked for volunteers, stating:
We believe that the students and employees at our schools deserve to go to work and attend classes free of fear and discrimination. In addition, the Archbishop has mandated that all faculty and staff be reclassified as "ministers," which will leave them without workplace protection.

We affirm and believe in the value of diversity of thought within our Church. We also affirm and believe in the value of diversity and inclusion within the halls of our school. It is unconscionable that any employee or student should fear discrimination.2
Their Facebook group, Support SF Teachers, even organized a rally to protest these changes to the schools' handbook. They write "We stand with teachers and faculty working in the San Francisco Archdiocese in rejecting morality clauses that impede their freedom, including the right to choose who to love and marry and how to plan a family." Basically, they want it all; they want to be called Roman Catholic while opposing some of the most fundamental moral standards held throughout the church's history.

What's Left to Distinguish?

So, can you call someone who dines on T-bone steak every Saturday night a vegetarian? Just because I have oatmeal for breakfast each morning, it isn't enough for others to consider me a vegan. Why would groups like the Support SF Teachers demand the acceptance and tolerance of values antithetical to that define the Roman Catholic Church? Because they just want to call themselves Catholic?

The rife contradiction in this isn't even lost on the left. Slate.com has never been a destination to find conservative thought, yet, Slate's William Saletan recently wrote an article about the ridiculousness of those demanding the church change its position.3 Saletan nails it when he states:
The protesters are confused. They reject morality clauses but call the archbishop's behavior sinful, shameful, and wrong. They belong to a church but seem to think it shouldn't forbid anything. They insist that no one can be judged, except for issuing judgments that contradict their own. They can't explain or even acknowledge the moral differences between homosexuality, contraception, and abortion. The nonsense of nonjudgmentalism has turned their brains to mush. It's clouding their ability to think and speak clearly about society's mistakes—and their own.
I agree. How is one to define the distinctives of any faith if none of those distinctives are allowed? Such an approach isn't tolerance, its ridiculousness. Vegetarians are vegetarians because they don't eat meat. If you want to teach how to cook a steak, don't apply at a vegetarian cooking school. Likewise, believers are believers because they follow the tenets of their faith. If you want to be morally promiscuous, don't apply at a school where they demand that you act morally responsible. Today's demand for tolerance makes as much sense as a vegetarian owning a butcher shop.

References

1. "Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church." Catholic San Francisco. Catholic San Francisco, 4 Feb. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. http://www.catholic-sf.org/ns.php?newsid=25&id=63175.
2."Volunteer Form for #TeachAcceptance." Google Docs. Support SF Teachers, n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1QeY03_-_P1o0JlUlIurFwTnoEbFYdyNrrb6_5ImcAPg/viewform.
3.Saletan, William. "Why San Francisco Catholics Are Wrong About the Church's New Morality Clauses ." Slate. The Slate Group, LLC, 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/frame_game/2015/02/san_francisco_catholics_are_protesting_salvatore_cordileone_s_morality_clauses.html.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Questions to Ask Skeptics: Why Are You So Intolerant? (video)



Those critical of Christianity seem to always have a lot of objections they throw at Christians. They ask question after question, seeing if the believer can answer what they believe are seemingly intractable problems.

Well, the reason-giving game goes both ways. In this short video clip, Lenny offers one of five questions the Christian should ask of the skeptic: Why are you so intolerant? These questions are designed to show how many of the critic's own beliefs can be contradictory and why Christianity makes sense.


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Friday, March 31, 2006

California's Tolerant City Showing Its Ugly Side...Intolerance


Below is an editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle concerning the recent backlash of a "Christian Youth Rally" that took place within the city of SF.
EDITORIAL
Intolerant City
Tuesday, March 28, 2006

THE IRONY was obviously lost on the clueless San Francisco supervisors when they passed a resolution warning that a Christian youth gathering could "negatively influence the politics of America's most tolerant and progressive city."

Spare us the doomsday hyperbole, supervisors.

We can safely report that the politics of San Francisco suffered no discernible shift in ideological alignment from the convergence of 25,000 Christian teenagers listening to rock 'n' roll music and words of inspiration. There was no evidence of any surge in support for the Iraq war, affection for President Bush or oil drilling off the California coast. The medical-marijuana clubs were still doing business as usual, public dancing was still legal, the petition gatherers were still working Market Street for the latest save-the-planet cause.

The supervisors' reaction to the evangelical Christians was so boorishly over the top that only one word could describe it: 
Intolerant.

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, was quoted telling counterprotesters Friday that the gathering Christians were "loud, they're obnoxious, they're disgusting and they should get out of San Francisco." On Monday, however, Leno struck a more reasoned tone, acknowledging that his rally cry was "not one of my prouder moments." He said the youth group was "welcome in San Francisco," even though he does worry that its religious rhetoric could "under a cloak of love" feed a "fearful world's appetite for hate."

In fact, concern about heterosexual sex by unmarried youth gets equal treatment from the Battle Cry campaign. Its goal is to spread Christianity and to help young people recognize and resist the cultural influences of a "stealthy enemy" that includes "corporations, media conglomerates and purveyors of popular culture." Its Web site (http://www.battlecry.com/) speaks of "casualties of war" that include drinking, drug use, teen sex, pornography, abortion, suicide and violence.

We may disagree with certain aspects of the Battle Cry agenda -- on issues such as abortion rights, religion in schools or acceptance of an individual's sexual orientation -- but the attempt by counterprotesters and some of the city's elected officials to call them "fascist" and "hateful" was totally at odds with the tone of the ballpark event and the approach of the Web site.

The gathering was not an "act of provocation," as the supervisors claimed. It was a get-together of young evangelicals whose lifestyles and religious views just happen to be in the minority here -- apparently making them open season for politicians to chastise.

The young people who came to San Francisco to affirm their faith and enjoy a day of rock music deserved better. They deserved to be welcomed by a city that was as tolerant and progressive as its sanctimonious supervisors like to profess.

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