Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Good Christian"

As I have stated before, I don't like to delve into religion on this blog. I have no special expertise in this area, and there are no real truths that everyone can agree upon. Faith is faith, and should be respected as something personal.

However, I am willing to say that faith and truth have to be reconciled, that one cannot deny reality just because it seems to conflict with words in a book that may have been inspired by a deity, but were recorded by people who had an understanding only of the world that existed in their particular context. That is to say, even had God (or whatever word you may use to describe your deity or deities) spoken 4000 years ago about, say, stem-cell research or nuclear physics, it's unlikely that the scribes taking down his words could have had a frame of reference that would have allowed them to write their scriptures accurately.

The religious people I have most respected make this attempt at reconciliation, and do a good job of walking the tightrope between literal interpretation of a text and the advances we have made in understanding our world. They have accepted that their faith does not require them to ignore the body of knowledge that humans have been blessed with the ability to build.

There is another group of religionists, people who use their faith as a bludgeon against anyone who does not hew to every piece of "wisdom" they've received. I happen to have someone like this in my family, and this person is the most intolerant and rigid person I've ever met. Despite a self-professed Christianity, this person has learned nothing of the true message that Jesus expressed, one of tolerance and acceptance and love.

Based on my own experience, then, I give no special credit to someone for being openly religious, nor is that an automatic negative. Ultimately, it comes down to behavior, regardless of whether it is motivated by faith or a lack thereof.

That's why I find it more than a little offensive when some public person makes the assumption that professed faith is somehow a necessarily positive component of someone's character. Therefore, I'm growing weary of the college football announcers who say, "Bubba's not only a great linebacker, he's also a solid student, and a good Christian." I heard this again yesterday, and I always find it jarring. It doesn't seem to me that the audience should be asked to accept this equation, that all of these things are somehow the same. That a collegian is devout tells me nothing about his behavior or his moral worth, but the statement does suggest that we should credit a Christian with extra points, and there is nothing in my experience which grants that as fact.

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