Friday, February 5, 2010

Theology Matters

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - FEBRUARY 04:  A member...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
My entire life has been wrapped up in theology one way or another.  Being given the scary image of God I was given as a child made me realize at a very early age that what we think about God has a very real impact on our lives.  I know most of us go through life quite nicely ignoring theology and God.  Nexus (the church I attend) has the slogan- Faith. Life. Connected. as we commit to making a conscious effort to bring faith and our real lives together.  Events in recent days have reminded me that the results of bad theology can bring real, serious and even tragic consequences right here in the real world.  

The conviction of Scott Roeder who shot George Tiller the "abortion doctor" as the doctor worked in church was a natural extension of a world view that views abortion as murder (which I'm not 100% convinced  is a theological position).  I hate the term "abortion doctor" by the way.  It makes him seem less than fully human.  George Tiller was more than an "abortion doctor".  The idea it was good and right to shoot George Tiller stems from the idea that it's good to do "God's work" even if God's work involves premeditated murder. Roeder is now facing mandatory life in prison with the possibility of parole when he's 76.  Just motives or not, Scott Roeder is a murderer.

And, we have the missionaries in Haiti caught smuggling children out of the country.  when I first heard the story, I thought it was a misunderstanding, that they simply didn't have the proper paperwork and were on a humanitarian mission. But, it appears they knew they didn't have permission to get the kids, may have even lured them with promises of living in riches in the United States and may have known some of the kids were not orphans.  Their justification it seems comes from a theology that says God only loves Christians, God will only "save" Christians and anyone who is not a Christian will go to eternal torment.  If you believe that, it's certainly logical and justifiable to do anything to save someone, including kidnapping them.  I am also guessing there is a certain amount of American arrogance there thinking the children are better off with white strangers in America than with their own families in Haiti since Haiti is such a poor (and maybe accursed) place. 

As the missionaries went to court yesterday, what may have been their arrogance and their misguided theology showed up again.  They were all smiles thinking they were headed home.  They had chartered a flight. They said (in the same sentence) that they hoped God's will would be done and that they would be headed home soon. Apparently, in their minds God's will was for them to be exonerated. No such luck.  They were sent back to jail and are facing the possibility of life in prison.  Just motives or not, the missionaries were trying to kidnap children.

May God bless the missionaries, their families and the Scott Roeder, his family and the family of Dr. Tiller (his victim).  What tragedies we create when we do whacky things in the name of G-d.  Murder , kidnapping, flying airplane into buildings.  And Americans have the gall to criticize Islam because it supposedly produces terrorists.  What does our Christian theology produce?  Murderers and kidnappers?

I explained to the girls last night that the plight of the missionaries is a natural consequence of their theology. A theology that says God only loves a certain group and, will torment everyone he doesn't love for all eternity is one that justifies any means to "save" people.  As  a Christian singer  I used to love to listen to sang "You don't ask a drowning man if he wants to be saved.".  Kayla told me she didn't like that view of G-d.  Neither do I Kayla.  And, more importantly, I don't believe it anymore.

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kc bob said...

I so agree with you Brian that theology matters.. especially the stuff that leads to violence. Most pro-lifers I know condemn Roeder's actions in the same way that most Muslims condemn suicide bombing.

I also agree with you about the image of God that many young children are exposed to in fundamentalist churches. Most folks on my blog and Facebook page agreed with me that the whole "judgment of God" theology is an erroneous one.. of course some people sadly still believe in a god who is out to get you.

I guess I think that theology is a mixed bag.. it is very personal.. one person has the ability (like Prez Obama) to sit under extreme teachings and sift out the fringe stuff.. and some are not able to sift it out but sometimes takes it to a next level (like Roeder).

In the end it comes back to why we embrace fringe theologies. For me it was a broken concept of authority and church that kept me in fundamentalism for so long.. I did sift out some of the bad theology but unfortunately embraced some of it.. especially the stuff that stroked my religious ego.

Brian said...


It's interesting that you mention Obama under Reverend Wright. I listened to several of the Reverend's sermons and, overall (overall mind you) found him to be a very good preacher. But, I digress.

I embraced what I now perceive as "fringe theology" (a god who is out to get us) because I felt I had no choice. It was presented to me that this is the way God is. You either accept it or you are his enemy. As a child I had no ability to defend myself against this. As soon as I had the ability to choose for myself, I began moving away from that garbage. But, it took me a couple of decades to learn I could be a Christian and not believe in the god many Christians still believe in.

I feel very badly for both Roeder and the missionaries. They thought they were doing G-d's work. But, if I'm going to have compassion for them, I should have compassion for the 9/11 perpetrators because they were driven by the same (crazy) motivation. If I believed in such a thing, when they arrived at the throne on Judgement Day, I can hear God saying "Depart from me, I never knew you." because they certainly don't know Him.


Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

If your theology leads you to love, compassion, and respect of others, I don't care if you worship Papa Smurf. If your theology leads you to anger, disrespect, and hatred then I'm more concerned about what you worship.

The thing I like to remember about the parable of the sheep and the goats is that the goats had no idea they were goats.

In the words of the great sage Ice Cube "You better check yo self before you wreck yo self"

kc bob said...

This story creeped me out Brian:

"A 16-year-old girl was buried alive by relatives in southeast Turkey in a gruesome honour killing just because she reportedly befriended boys, the Anatolia news agency reported Thursday."

I do understand that Christianity has its fringe factors like Roeder but it seems that Islam has a lot of "cultural" issues with the way that they treat women.

Do you think that some of these issues are rooted in theology or are they more reflective of their culture? Guess I don't understand Islam well enough to know how reflective their culture is of their theology.

okiedragon said...

Imagine living in the desert with only your sheep and a tent and marauding bandits stealing and taking your wife - so you think, well, if she covers up all the way no one will think she's all that, and if they take her, I'll kill em. Barbaric comes to mind when I think of how the middle east has had to exist. Abraham lied about his wife, Lot slept with his daughters. I don't know how sordid the stories got in the telling and retelling but even in this country women are beaten by their husbands - upon occasion, women beat back.

I am amazed you didn't recount Roberson's view of Haiti or maybe you did recently - I've slept some lately. Women used to have to wear iron panties - had their heads lobbed off, children have been in coal mines in this country - the world is just barbaric - parts moreso than others but all have been barbaric at times.

Look at how the far right Mormons treat their women - Southern Baptists won't let the feeble minded women preach - culture moves slowly when religion rules it. It doesn't matter who's religion it is, if it causes harm to any of us - it's a problem. I know an American muslim who seems as nice and kind as any Christian lady I've known - got 3 adorable kids. I know a Christian lady who has kicked her own daughter off her property with the help of the police - and she's about as hateful as any mad bomber.

It sure is hard to like mean people - harder for me to like the ones who hide behind religion of any kind and then blame God for their stupidity.

Brian said...

Bob, exactly right. It is cultural in some parts of the MIddle East. I don't know I'd lay the misogyny at the feet of Islam though. Remember, in Judaism (the predecessor of Christianity), men use to be able to divorce their wives for no reason, women were treated like children, women were considered property. Even in our country our history with women isn't all that great.

I think it's just that the West has evolved past some of the tribal stuff that still exists in the Middle East. I don't think the way they treat women has anything to do with their religion.

Frankly, we are more evolved than a lot of Muslim countries. But, I don't attribute that to our religion being better than theirs.

Brian said...


I think you're on to something. There's something about religion that allows people to commit atrocities they would otherwise never commit. Islam or Christianity, it really doesn't matter.

kc bob said...

Culture is involved for sure Brian. There does seem to be a difference in the evolutionary progress of the West, East and MidEast. I have always thought that freedom of religion was a major part of the West's evolution. Places where religion is either forbidden or controlled seems to have evolved slower. Just a few random thoughts for a snowy Saturday.

Brian said...


It took me a while to understand what you meant when you said:

"Places where religion is either forbidden or controlled seems to have evolved slower."

I agree. Theocracies are bad for cultural evolution. I know there are Christians who overtly or covertly wish America were a theocracy. But, I for one, am very glad we are not. It seems that when people are free to worship as they please that tolerance carries over into the society.


kc bob said...

Not only theocratic governments Brian but I think that countries ruled by atheistic regimes have also hindered the cultural evolution of those countries. The freedom of religion is a core freedom and only allowed in countries that really believe in freedom.

And ditto your thoughts on a theocratic America.. I have never really met anyone that wants that but I am guessing that you have?

Brian said...

Oh yeah. I've met them.

I've met many people who do wish to have a separation of church and state. I've met many people who think American law is based on the 10 commandments. I've met many people who want to pass laws based on what they think the Bible says (for example, God created Adam and Eve, not Adam Steve).

kc bob said...

I read this Wall Street Journal article this morning that seems to paint a different picture than the one that the Haitian govt is painting. Maybe the correct phrase should be alleged kidnapping?

Don said...

Can't say that I disagree with you Brian. The complexity of the relationship between culture and religion (or the lack of it) is never to be underestimated. They can rarely be separated, if ever.