Exposing the pretense of Christian unity

Thanks to:  Nathan Lee

I sometimes think that moderate Christians are afraid to criticise their more extreme brethren. How many, for example, will openly criticise the large minority of Christians whe oppose evolutionary science. In New Zealand I estimate that about 40% of Christians oppose evolutionary science (see New Zealand supports evolution).

similarly, I often think Christians who accept the scientific picture of global climate change seem afraid to criticise those conservative Christians who actively campaign   against the science. And then there are issues such as women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, and so on.

On these issues it often appears that conservative and extreme Christian groups will pretend to speak for Christians as a whole. And they get away with it because fellow Christians are hesitant to stand up and openly criticise them

So I was pleased to see this initiative in Australia where some Christians are coming out against the conservative and extreme Australian Christian Lobby. They have launched a petition to the Prime minister to making her aware that the Lobby does not have the support it pretends to.

The wording of the petition is:

We are Australian Christians, and we’d like you to know that the Australian Christian Lobby does not speak for us.

We believe that its endorsements and policy statements rarely represent a helpful contribution to political dialogue in Australia, and we urge you and your government to listen to a broader cross-section of the Australian Christian community.

We are much more diverse than the Australian Christian Lobby.

via Australian Christians against the ACL Petition.

See also:
Christians turn back on lobby
Australian Christian Lobby … I disown thee
Australian Christian Lobby’s prayer for prejudice in Victoria?

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17 responses to “Exposing the pretense of Christian unity

  1. “I sometimes think that moderate Christians are afraid to criticise their more extreme brethren.”

    No… no we’re not… I constantly hear the sort of things you complain about being critized by moderate Christians – both in and out of the church… have you actually gone to some moderate churches and talked to people? And have you not seen the books/articles/newspaper editorials etc written by moderate Christians. The voices are there and not hard to hear… maybe you just spend too much lime listening to the fundies and have never noticed.

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  2. So in other words… Yes. I agree.

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  3. Max, you confirm that internally there is disapproval of the extremists. And the petition shows that. The difference here is that it is rarely obvious in the mainstream media. And thenh usually aimed at the real extreem crancks like “bishop Tamaki.”

    I am thinking more about criticism of those Chrtsitians promoting creationism, and the science religion conflict myth.

    And have a look at the active Chrsitan blogs in New Zealand. How many of them represent the mainstream Chrsaitian view? One would get a very distorted picture of Chrsitian outlook by reading Matt and Glenn and there hangers on.

    Sure there are some apparently more mainstream wed sites – but they are hardly active.

    You suggest I spend too much time listening to the fundies. Yet these arew the oens assuring me they are the true christians – and they are the most vocal.

    Anyway, I take it you would support this petition?

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  4. “The difference here is that it is rarely obvious in the mainstream media”

    I think you have hit the nail on the head there Ken. But this is a problem with the media who realize they will sell more papers etc. if they do an article about nutjobs rather than a problem with Christian willingness to critique itself and others.

    I think I would most likely support this petition… which I say without having read up on it…

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  5. I think what the issue is Ken is this:

    The more moderate Christians do not tend to have the same urge to spread their message and push it on other people – this is because they have more respect for other people’s views and tend to be more humble and admit that their knowledge/viewpoint is limited perhaps? This leads to the situation where only the extremists are pumping out their message constantly… there are some obvious exceptions. People like Spong (and in the past Geering) put a lot of effort into writing popular books. St Matt’s in Auckland put a lot of effort into having a large media presence and so on… perhaps these are extremists on the other side.

    One group which might interest you as a group which critiques the fundies is http://www.scm.org.nz/ for instance… but inevitable small. Forming strong groups of free thinkers is hard. Atheist groups tend to be small – as do christian groups where everyone is encouraged to think for themselves.

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  6. Yes, I realise the media and public consionciousness is schitzophrenic with respect to relgion, Max. It is far more willing these days to recognise most religious claims as being silly and therefore worthy of ridicule. But at the same time it doesn’t handle criticism of religion very well. Just consider the knee-jerk reactions to the so-called “new atheists’ who are not saying anything which would be considered unusual or disrespectful if it was in the fields of science, politics or literature. There is an unwarranted respect for protection of stupid ideas if they are religious.

    Yes, I have a lot of respect for people like Spong and Geering – and I suspect they would not be defensive. And I have worked politically with moderate religous groups in the past.

    But consider the reaction of people like Matt and Glenn and their hangers on to any critcism (eg public funding of relgion via tax exemption) or to simple questions about, for example, acceptance of evolutionary science. They go into all sorts of mental gymnastics which they are trained for instead of giving simple yes/n answers. Glenn even got caught up claiming Galileo was wrong about heliocentricism – purely, I am sure, because he couldn’t bring himself to agree with me, even though I was clearly right!

    Unfortunatley, the intuition of not criticising allies also seems to occur with more moderate christians to some extent. Perhap it is just a clan, “them vs us” thing. They are afraid to give a truthful condemnation of creationism etc to an atheist because the atheist is definitely not one of “us.”

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  7. Couldn’t you argue the same about moderate muslims and their fundamentalist cousins?

    It seems to me that this is a much bigger problem than Christians not criticising other Christians. The build up of “Londonistan” is a major headache for the UK right now.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with ID and creationism. It doesn’t affect me and no one is going to tax me as a result of their views. No one is going to spit on my wife for not wearing a veil, or force me to adopt Sharia Law.

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  8. Yes, of course JD. And it would be very ehlpful if moderate muslims stood up against that tyranny.

    I can apporeciate the problems in Europe with muslim activism and sharia law. But I wouldn’t neglect the creationism issue. If creationism can be imposed on science teaching in degrades education. it undermines science. And our society is very dependent on good science. There will inevitably be bad consequences.

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  9. An attack on one field of science is an attack on all.
    The same dirty tricks that ID supporters use to manipulate the media and peddle anti-science to a gullible public are the same that are used by climate deniers and the tobacco lobby and HIV deniers.
    Science denialism of whatever stripe must be confronted and exposed at every opportunity.
    Never let the rot set in.

    Michael Specter: The danger of science denial

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  10. “They are afraid to give a truthful condemnation of creationism etc to an atheist because the atheist is definitely not one of “us.””

    I have not experienced this… most Christians I know would and do happily mock creationists…

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  11. You committed an error there Max. You are not an atheist. You are part of the “in group.” I am not.

    Mind you I concede that I am also probably exposed to more of the extreme variety (god botherers knocking on my door, thenlocal bloggers and people who tend to particpate in debates). I obviously don’t particpate in any church and these days I am not politcally active – except on-line.

    Perhaps the moderates should particpate much more in public discussions – and on-line discussions.

    Or perhaps they just aren’t motivated.

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  12. You committed an error there Max. You are not an atheist. You are part of the “in group.” I am not.

    – Yes I understand… but i also know atheists Ken – And have watched the interactions even with these oddball outsiders.

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  13. Max, clearly your experience is different to mine. Hardly surprising.

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  14. Hi
    I wouldn’t get too carried away by this petition. A week on, and it’s only got 626 signatures. The ACL anti-gay marriage petition has (apparently) got over 20,000 signatures!

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  15. So what does this mean, Brian?

    Are the extremists more representative of Aussie Christians? Or do that have more money and contacts?

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  16. They certainly have more clout – the Sydney Anglicans and Catholics and Pentecostals, in particular. I’m not sure what numerical proportion they are, though .

    The Wallace story broke on a public holiday and got very little mainstream press, that I saw, beyond that day. Maybe it just wasn’t widely known among moderates – who I also suspect aren’t as alert for offending material as religious conservatives and gnus.

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  17. The liberal/ emergent/ open-theism/ questioning strands of Christian thought are relegated to the margins of Christian discourse. (e.g. Rob Bell, Karl Barth). More people are attracted to the security of big, bold, simple truths and the marketing of corporatised churches. There’s also a serious lack of education (in NZ anyway) or even basic Bible training among most congregants, and even a perverse anti intellectualism, probably derived from fear of “falling away” and little decontextualised biblical catchphrases such as “walk by faith, not by sight” or “lean not on your own understanding”.
    On the flip side of that however is that these people are my brethren in faith. I know that God is Love just as I know the sky is blue, and this is a precious truth we hold in common unity.

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