Christianity (8-9; November 3 & 5)

I mentioned in the previous journal how I had a sort of revelation in relation (say that five times fast) to Avalos and his scarce resources—this reading has only served to enforce that.

Basically, these two chapters are the Christian equivalent of the past two chapters—they examine Christianity and its academic defenses of violence.  The first thing I took note of was the scholarship Avalos is exhibiting—I’m not entirely sure that it’s very good.  We joked in class about sending all of our notes to Avalos and having him write Fighting Words:  Everything I Left Out the First Time.  Maybe that’s not such a bad idea.  Man, that’s arrogant.  =)

On page 186, Avalos cites 2 Timothy 3:16 and the reader is left over thinking that Paul wrote 2 Timothy—when in fact few scholars believe that it was.  In fact, many believe it was written in the late first century or early second century—of course, this means that it must refer to the Hebrew Bible, which, unfortunately, doesn’t jive with our dear Hector.  Is Avalos guilty of selective reading to enforce his points?  Were Kimball to discuss this book with the author, would he not-so-discreetly cough, “Selective cough reading cough”?  He’s trying to show how people came to believe that the New Testament was God-inspired; he claims that others misinterpret their sacred texts, but it’s a two way street—what does he want to do to determine who’s right?  Flip a coin?

I know I mentioned—maybe  even in my first journal for this book—that I had the feeling Avalos made an observation, slapped a name on it, refined it a bit, and presented it as a theory.  The words on the bottom of 180 didn’t alleviate my concerns—“The episode also shows that Jesus thinks the temple was a scarce resource, not available to all or for every type of activity.”  Now, is it just me twisting words/meanings, or is that sentence able to be interpreted as to mean anything that is not immediately available to all people for any form of activity is a scarce resource?  Well, yeah!  I mean, hello?  Of course, if you’re that broad Avalos’ theory is sound.  That’s like saying that the people who discovered America were from the Earth.  Is this his entire point?  I had thought he was narrower than that, but I’ve certainly been wrong before and I’ll certainly be wrong again.  But could Avalos be saying everything is a scarce resource?  Is this a case where the viewpoint is everything to determination?

One other very prominent aspect of these chapters that I noticed, was that Avalos using only ancient examples of Christian history to demonstrate his points—he uses the Crusades, for example, instead of a more modern example of Christian violence.  While they may be able to think of immediately, there are plenty that range in scale.  Some people believe that as society has progressed and technology has developed, people have become more docile—bollocks.  Well, maybe not total bollocks, but at least partially.  Ancient times weren’t always violent, no more than modern times are.  He should have extrapolated.  And, you know, if he’s trying to give examples of a time when the church was more unified than it is now, he needs to realize (oh, man I do sound arrogant) that there have always been Christianities, because there have always been people who feel strongly about one thing over another or who are unwilling to give up some sinful facet of their life. 

Also, Avalos should keep his reader in mind—he’s absolute rubbish at that.  Contemporary times, contemporary minds and all that lovely stuff.  As hell-bent as he is on convincing us that his theory is applicable, one would take into account that we might be persuaded a little more by something we could relate to. 

Do you remember the horror that people felt when we read about Enuma Elish?  How the world was beget in the dead body of a woman and that if the world had started so violently, what was the relation to religion being inherently violent?  Christianity was beget of violence, too.  Somehow, people seem to forget that they walk around with dead man hung on torture devices around their neck.  If Jesus had lived in modern times and died by lethal inject, would his followers wear his dead body with a needle?  Christianity began with the killing of Jesus and the dual fact that that was when Jesus died for everyone’s sins.

As a point of interest, on page 202, Aquinas is compelling to Jews to become Christians—if they hear the Word (uppercase ‘w’), they should follow it.  Although we like to think we’re passed such things, we can see an extremely parallel example in the case of Ann Coulter advising the people on public radio that we should being invading Muslim lands to convert them to Christianity.  I was recently to dinner with my grandparents, and my grandmother began talking about how great Ann Coulter is.

We are so not passed such things.

Its chapters like these that make me wonder why we can’t all just get along.  Oh, that’s right.  Because just within this chapter’s topic, everyone thinks everyone else who is different from them is going to hell.  Which brings me to…[insert drum roll]

Missionary work!

I admit that’s what I thought of with Aquinas.  Does “love thy neighbor” take on new meaning?  Salvation becomes a scarce resource—although anyone can be saved, certain conditions must exist for them to be so.  There’s an old joke I’m sure you’ve heard, but I’m going to type it out anyway:

A nondenominational Christian man dies and goes to heaven.  St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates, welcomes him in and begins showing him around. It’s beautiful, but one thing puzzles the man—there are walls everywhere, blocking off certain sections.  Confused, he asks St. Peter, “Hey, why are all these walls up here?”

St. Peter chuckles and points to the left side of the road, “Well, over there are the Protestants, up there the Baptists.”  He hesitates for a moment and then leans in, “Just wait until you see the Catholics.”

The man is still perplexed.  “But why do you have them all divided up?”

St. Peter looks surprised that he didn’t automatically realize the answer.  “Because they all think they’re the only ones up here!”

Salvation is so a scarce resource, though I did initially have some reservations upon placing it in that category.  I remember the missionaries visiting our church and all the things they talked about—I thought they were just the bees’ knees.  Now, however, I find missionary work to be tasteless, rude, and intrusive. 

I have one major question before I close:  doesn’t it make people nervous to worship fear?  I questioned that before I even knew what questioning the faith meant.  Fear can be a great motivator—the best teachers are often either feared or adored, but I’m not so comfortable with the idea that fear is a basis for a religion.  Oh, not for all people, but for some I’m sure it’s a primary motivator—I believe because I don’t want to go to hell.  Even after I left the church, I always had my fingers crossed that I was right, because if not I was especially effed.  Group privileging leads from that as well—stick with us, and you’re good; if not, you’re out.

You know, Avalos’ main four things—inscripturation, group privileging, sacred space, and salvation—remind me of Kimball, kind of.  All of these things can be taken as being central to religious violence and one could easily compare them to Kimball’s warning signs, which, by the way, I think you could stretch to be signs of an abusive relationship. 


~ by spim on November 17, 2008.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: