What's Christianity Got To Do With It?

Matt Yglesias points us to this post from Erick Erickson of Red State (Disclosure: I had frequent personal interactions with Erickson in the past and in my experience, on a personal level, Erickson was a nice, decent guy. The public Erickson is of course, another matter):

Secular leftists and Islamists are both of this world. Christians may be traveling through, but we are most definitely not of the world. In fact, Christ commands us to throw off our ties to this world. But the things of this world love this world and hate the things of God. Thatís why secular leftism can embrace both activist homosexuals and activist muslims when the latter would, when true to their faith, be happy to kill the former.

(Emphasis supplied.) In that post, Erickson is writing about the Oslo terrorist attack. I for one don't see the terrorist attack as representative of Christianity. And I don't believe we need to look to Christianity to try and understand the Oslo terrorist attack. Similarly, terrorism in the name of Islam is not, in my view, informed by the religion of Islam (I'm not expert in Islam so I certainly could be wrong.) More . . .

I do know more about Christianity, having been raised Catholic (I am now agnostic.) there are many strains of Christianity, but the essence of the religion is stated in the Apostle's Creed. To boil it down even more, I refer you to the baptism scene in The Godfather:

The key text:

An interrogative form of the Apostles' Creed is used in the Rite of Baptism (for both children and adults). The minister of baptism asks the following questions (ICEL, 1974):

Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

To each question, the catechumen, or, in the case of an infant, the parents and sponsor(s) (godparent(s)) in his or her place, answers "I do." Then the celebrant says:

This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord. And all respond: Amen.

That's it. That's the essence of being a Christian. Now there are many teachings in Christianity that go well beyond these core beliefs, as there are in almost all religions. To some, the core teachings of Christianity come from the Sermon on the Mount.

It is from the Sermon on The Mount, and Jesus' statement that His Kingdom is "not of this World" that Erickson draws his assertion that "In fact, Christ commands us to throw off our ties to this world."

In practice though, there has been no throwing off of ties to this world and instead a firm commitment to draw Christianity into the secular world. Of course, the Christianity that is brought into the secular world often bears little resemblance to the Sermon on The Mount.

Consider the issue of taxes. Conservative Christians oppose taxing the wealthy, while the Sermon on The Mount admonishes:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

[. . .] No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

To be a Christian of the Sermon on The Mount mold is to forswear wealth and thus to favor taxation of the wealthy.

To be a Christian of the Sermon on the Mount mold is to oppose war and violence:

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

My own views are not based on the teachings of any religion, for I do not adhere to any religion. I am a secular person, as Erickson might say.

And in reality, so too is Erickson, much though he may deny it. His Christianity does not inform his political views.

Much as I respect the views of the religious, I am skeptical of the attempts to imbue political views with religious significance. By that road leads many evils. Terrorism is one of them. Intolerance is another.

This is not a flaw in Christianity. Or any religion. It is a flaw in Man.

Speaking for me only

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    Bob Dylan summed it up. (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 03:41:14 PM EST
    "You don't count the dead when God's on your side."

    The problem is man and his personal interpretation of God.  Another way to say it is the trouble with man is that he to frequently uses "God" as an excuse.

    But Islam has unique problems compared to other religions, and I deliberately don't consider the Mayans or Aztecs or other sacrificial type bodies of belief usually associated with clever savages.

    Islam has built into it a lot of reasons to be a martyr for whatever reason.  The offer of a bunch of virgins come to mind.  To my knowledge, Christianity and Judaism and other religions don't promise such corporeal pleasure for being strong in the faith.

    We thank God for deliverance from the storm, from the wreck, from the disaster, but then it seems God chose some to deliver and some not to deliver.  Usually we can't distinguish easily why God might have chosen some and not others.  So did God really make these choices?

    I think it comes back to the Religious term: "Miracle."

    When God does intervene the formal church calls it a "Miracle."  By definition Miracles are rare, so perhaps God's intervention is rare and not a common daily occurrence that we can gain constant reassurance from.

    Now does that mean religion is a sham?  I think not.  I am religious, but I don't thank God for my ability to destroy my enemies.  I do pray for guidance about important things in my life, but I don't think that he really chose me to go to the Naval Academy or to marry any one of my particular wives.
    I also pray most seriously for my own soul but I don't think God excuses me for the things I have done just because I pray. He may give me strength to be better.  

    In other words I don't consider God to be of this world or even willing and able to deliver a few dozen virgins the next.

    Well said (none / 0) (#16)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 05:07:47 PM EST
    God gave man free will. And faith without works is dead, and work without faith is failure.

    People use religion (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by themomcat on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 05:20:11 PM EST
    for their own means to an end. Extremism using religious belief is abhorrent.

    I am Wiccan, raised a Jew with a Catholic extended family and fairly well versed in Islam and Zen Buddhism. Wiccans accept and respect all religions, as well as, those who are agnostic or atheist.

    The tragedy in Norway should not be used as a condemnation of Christianity, any more that 9/11 should be used as a condemnation of Islam. Terrorism is a criminal act and should be treated as a crime against all. We need to regain our perspective on the rule of law both here in the US and internationally.

    My heart and my condolences go out to the victims and the families of this horrendous act of a criminal. Blessed Be.

    Great post (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by AngryBlackGuy on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 05:22:16 PM EST
    Agree with all of that.  There are crazy people in every religion.

    Sorry, no sale. (3.00 / 2) (#1)
    by observed on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 02:57:30 PM EST
    It  is like the apologies by  marxists for Stalin, claiming he was not a true marxist. The inherent irrationality of belief is the problem. Btw, the idea that Islam is a religion of peace is nauseating. Islam was  spread by horrific bloodshed. Unlike xtianity, the violence was  there right from the start. Whether or not Islam takes the prize for violence today, it certainly appears the least tolerant.

    In general, history doesn't (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by jeffinalabama on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 03:30:58 PM EST
    support your view of Islam, unless you're only looking at European history...And even then, in Spain, Islam was more accommodating and liberal than what came before AND after.

    European history? I would think you mean (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by oculus on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 03:35:03 PM EST
    history of the Middle East, or did Islamists other than the Ottomans who slaughtered the opposition to Islamic rule?  

    The Slavs can tell (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by observed on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 05:47:53 PM EST
    you plenty about Muslim 'Tolerance'. I believe that millions died in creating the empire you praise. There is no question that Islam today is the least tolerant major religion.

    You didn't. (none / 0) (#27)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 06:30:57 PM EST
    You dropped into the middle of the conversation to bestow your wisdom upon us without consideration for the context.

    telling the truth is (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by observed on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:33:48 PM EST
    not bashing. Many people do not know the history. None  of these facts make either religion more attractive, do they? Why cling at all, or defend these outmoded belief  systems? After all, we mostly  ridicule astrology.

    BS (none / 0) (#53)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 08:07:06 PM EST
    You waltzed on in here and proceeded to tell us why Islam wasn't really all that bad a system of rule, once it had, so you claim, ironed out that 'documented history of violence' bug. And you did it because you ASSUMED that anyone criticizing Islam must be a right wing Christian, and that's red meat to you.

    This is typical (none / 0) (#44)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:45:16 PM EST
    of people like you. Assume that anyone criticizing Islam MUST be a Christian. That's why you defend Islam so much - because you dislike Christianity so much. Cut it out.

    I think a better position is to judge each religion on its own merits. I do so, and that is part of the reason why I don't believe in any of them.


    man, you are an idiot (none / 0) (#54)
    by observed on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 08:08:08 PM EST
    today. MY religion? I don't have one, you unliterate imbecile.

    Once they completed their (none / 0) (#23)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 06:06:13 PM EST
    wars of conquest they were pretty good masters. It's all good.

    It was fundamentally (none / 0) (#28)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 06:32:01 PM EST
    undemocratic, un-American and unjust. Stop apologizing for it.

    it was ALSO between (none / 0) (#31)
    by jeffinalabama on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 06:50:03 PM EST
     the 8th ans 12th Centuries. Give it a break and some context, please.

    Laughable (none / 0) (#33)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:07:56 PM EST
    4 Centuries of behavior counts for nothing. NOW they have their act together, so 4 Centuries of war and conquest doesn't count. Ok

    Ask yourself what put a stop to it? Did Islam decide to be better behaved after 4 Centuries? Or did their victims start to fight back? It was the latter.


    356 years (none / 0) (#55)
    by MO Blue on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:38:48 PM EST
    The Spanish Inquisition

    That was a Christian (none / 0) (#57)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:50:31 PM EST
    crime, not a Muslim one. If your point is that there are Christian atrocities in history, I agree.

    Yes that was the point (5.00 / 1) (#58)
    by MO Blue on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:08:08 PM EST
    400 years or 356 years both religions have a long history of violence for extended periods of time. Also, even in this day and age there are elements in most of the major religions who preach violence against those who do not believe as they do.

    this gives context (none / 0) (#35)
    by observed on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:24:09 PM EST
    to the claim that Islam was founded as a religion  of peace. Doesn't it give one pause? Not to mention that mohammed married a 6  year old, and had sex with her before she was 10. This child rape was accepted practice in some Muslim areas, e. g. India, centuries later.  

    Child rape? (none / 0) (#56)
    by MO Blue on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:43:08 PM EST
    Good thing no members of a Christian religion have even indulged in that type of activity. If it ever happened in the past, I'm sure that they put a stop to it immediately. Oh, wait.

    indeed. However, we (none / 0) (#59)
    by observed on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:31:28 PM EST
    are talking about  the very  founder of that religion. How many Islamic countries  have the death penalty for homosexual acts, or stoning for adulteresses? How many allow free expression of religion? Why take this as a defense of Christianity..it is not. Look, living in, say, the bible belt is like having AIDS. I wouldn't like to get cancer too!

    Of course it's historical (none / 0) (#39)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:37:17 PM EST
    but that doesn't change the fact that it was thoroughly indefensible behavior by modern standards. Why do you keep apologizing for history's crimes?

    the Persians (none / 0) (#29)
    by observed on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 06:34:33 PM EST
    enthusiastically converted
    , too!  All nonsense aside, nothing you say bears on Islam today, anymore than 1st century vows of poverty have to do with the bloated  RCC.

    i believe a vigorous (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by observed on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:45:45 PM EST
    free discussion of the facts is healthy. You seem only to want to talk about the good side of Islam, or the bad of Christianity.

    Donald has fallen into the (none / 0) (#49)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:52:01 PM EST
    liberal trap of believing that everyone who voices criticism of Islam must be a right-wing, conservative, bible-thumping Christian, so he immediately falls into apologetics mode, and then finally resorts to saying 'well Christianity is just as bad' without every noticing that the people he is arguing with were never defending Christianity.

    Liberals need to be every bit as critical of Islam as they are of Christianity. Islam is a thoroughly illiberal belief system.


    'Documented history of violence' (none / 0) (#50)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:52:59 PM EST
    is freeform bigotry? LOL Donald. Give it up, man.

    Why do you feel the need (none / 0) (#41)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:40:01 PM EST
    to apologize for Islam? Or is Islam apologetics an obsession with you?

    Donald, seriously, (none / 0) (#42)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:40:48 PM EST
    if a 'documented history of violence' isn't a means to attack something then I don't know what is.

    I would be so happy (none / 0) (#47)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:47:17 PM EST
    if you never replied to one of my comments again. Aloha.

    I will have to look (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by observed on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 03:46:03 PM EST
    up the numbers on how many were slaughtered in the first years of Islam. I know there were rivers of blood and mountains of skulls. Is Islam tolerant of other religions today? The evidence suggests not. By the way, no thanks to the medieval version of its tolerance.

    Muhammed (none / 0) (#7)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 03:42:33 PM EST
    spread Islam throughout the Arabian peninsula by military conquest. Immediately following his death Muslims conquered Mesopotamia and Persia, Roman Syria and Roman Egypt and established the Rashidun empire. Early Islam was very aggressively expansionist and not the least bit peaceful.

    Byzantine (none / 0) (#60)
    by Stellaaa on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 01:09:22 AM EST
    And the Christian Church was not the continuation of the Roman Empire?  

    Both religions had exactly the same trajectory: Co-opted by those in power.   All the arguments about the virtue of one religion vs. the to other are ludicrous.  It was always about the political elite using the religion for power.  

    If Christ and Muhammed came back again they would truly be shocked by both versions of their teachings.  


    that is the nature (none / 0) (#61)
    by observed on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 06:38:16 AM EST
    of religion. Wishing does not make it less violent or oppressive.

    I agree (none / 0) (#4)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 03:34:02 PM EST
    I'm tired of religion always getting a free pass whenever one of its most zealous followers commits an atrocity. They were always members in good standing right up to the moment they committed their crimes. And many of them, such as child raping Catholic priests, get to remain in good standing even afterwards.

    probably a small (none / 0) (#30)
    by observed on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 06:44:05 PM EST
    fraction of the number killed in the 1st  century of Islam. Do you know the numbers? Btw, I fail to see your point. Are you arguing that Islam truly is a religion of  peace?

    actually you have (5.00 / 1) (#51)
    by observed on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:56:21 PM EST
    Emphasized the tolerance of Islam, which comes close. Look, most people know how brutal Christianity has been.  Many do not know the same of Islam. You are arguing, correctly, that by historical  standards, Islam was average.  That is hardly a compelling reason to  respect its tenets  today.

    Then why are you (none / 0) (#52)
    by Warren Terrer on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:59:03 PM EST
    arguing against the critics of Islam if you agree with them? What is your beef, for chriminey sakes?

    I try to follow (1.00 / 1) (#8)
    by the capstan on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 03:44:32 PM EST
    a man who died because he rejected the 'domination system'* of his time.  Many years ago, when I was young, I thought charity and justice were 'American values.'  I was naive, but I still try to make those my values -- even if I stand alone.

    *Marcus Borg

    Given the strong opinions at DK re (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 03:32:34 PM EST
    this diary, why the relative silence here?  Not religious?  More tolerant of religious diversity?  

    imo, BTD's take (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by observed on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 03:53:57 PM EST
    faces a tough dilemma. If religion is institutional, the evidence shows its violence. If not, then personal conscience allows the legitimacy of violence.

    I gathered from the DK comments our (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 04:04:51 PM EST
    diarist does not subscribe to the perfectibility of humankind idea.  

    Neither do I. Maybe not subscribing to "original sin" but humans, whether Christian or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist or whatever do not become perfect just because they "get" religion.  Neither do atheists.    


    There's a big difference between (none / 0) (#13)
    by jeffinalabama on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 04:17:31 PM EST
    "faith " and "Religion,"  or even "beleif" and "Religion."

    In sociology, we separate the two. I can't measure a person's faith, but I can measure their religiosity-- prayer, attendance, and many other factors.

    Religion is a social institution. Regrettably, the first and most important tenet of all social institutions is maintenance of the institution by whatever means necessary.

    Institutions usually wind up with an oligarchy in charge, thus, the "iron law of Oligarchy."

    But faith/belief is certainly not the same. Yes they are connected, but not the same. There are even civil religions... the communist party in China, the cult of personality in North Korea, both of these are examples.


    Potentially needless drilling down (none / 0) (#11)
    by Addison on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 04:02:30 PM EST
    To be a Christian of the Sermon on The Mount mold is to forswear wealth and thus to favor taxation of the wealthy.

    I think this is going a bit too far. To be a Christian of the beatitude mold is perhaps to forswear material wealth. But I think it simply requires a lack of care/concern whether your individual material wealth is asked for or not,  and the further belief that "individual" material wealth is an illusion. On the question of how one divests themselves of wealth (or is divested by a third party) there's really no specific policy proscription regarding marginal tax rates. Essentially, if you have something of "Caesar's", and if he comes around and asks for what's his, give it up readily. Or burn it. Or give it all to some poor people instead and go to jail for tax evasion. Whatever.

    xtianity and Islam (none / 0) (#14)
    by observed on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 04:32:39 PM EST
    both claim to be the only  answer.  That  is NOT a flaw of man alone.

    Why is it that (none / 0) (#21)
    by observed on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 05:56:23 PM EST
    contempt for religion elicits such opprobrium in the US? I  sincerely hold that religion is irrational and harmful. On a national level , religious prevalence has negative correlations, many of which you can see in the South.

    it's interesting that "Ditchens" (none / 0) (#62)
    by jondee on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 04:25:39 PM EST
    as Terry Eagleton refers to Hitchens and Dawkins, both have almost nothing to say about art and the aesthetic experience, when there is such an obvious historical tie-in between the aesthetic experience and expression and mysticism.

    I can almost hear Plato banning the poets from his Republic when I read some of Hitchen's warmed-over (Russell redux) diatribes against religion..

    I'd refer people to Nietzche's tracing of the theatre from the rites of Dionysus in the Birth of Tragedy, Bach's self-described composing "for the glory of God", and Blake's "the vision of Christ that thou dost see, is my vision's greatest enemy" for reminders that, perusual, historically, one man's institutional meat is another man's poison.


    Erik Erickson (none / 0) (#32)
    by Ga6thDem on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:04:02 PM EST
    has been so misled by the evangelical or even fundamentalist ministers that he doesn't even know what he's talking about. He's a Randian yet Anne Rand was one of the inspirations for the Church of Satan. Some Christians are realizing this a little too late unfortunately.

    It seems that people don't understand that it's not the particular religion but fundamentalism in any religion that's the problem. In fundamentalism literally everything in life is black and white hence the guy in Sweden thinking that it was okay to kill those people because they were Satan in his eyes.