The value of the secular
The Bible and Its Influence has a fascinating constellation of supporters and critics. Some of its more liberal champions, such as the American Jewish Congress’s counsel Marc Stern, feel that the republic can not only survive but will actually benefit from public school courses on a document as culturally central as the Bible — as long as the classes avoid being devotional. Evangelical heavyweight Chuck Colson hopes that God will speak to students even through a class that is secular in intent. Those opposed to the book include secularists who argue that it already violates the First Amendment and fundamentalists who see its approach as secular and therefore diluting the value of what they see as God’s inspired word.
What’s striking about this article is not that you can get a group of Christians, Jews, Secular intellectuals and even a fundamentalist like Colson to agree on a textbook. That’s really not too hard. All you have to do is create a work that is objective, accurate and clearly demonstrates the incredible effect Christianity has on culture and even many atheists will support it.
It’s not even striking that there are fundamentalists out there like this. It takes only the briefest research to discover that it’s not just Islam that has grown more fundamentalist. Evangelical Christianity and other faiths all over the world are all moving towards greater and greater extremism at alarming rates.
What is striking is the degraded nature of thinking process among these Evangelical-Fascist subgroupings. It goes something like this:
Spirituality is a magic thing we get from following rules and jumping through hoops — it is, by definition, good.
Spirituality is as different from the rest of life as outer space is from an atmosphere.
That which is not spiritual is of little value — should be suspect and combated.
Therefore, because it is not about rules and hoops, life and learning can not be spiritual.
Because life and learning is not spiritual, we must fight it.
Seems to me we’ve seen this thinking before — we saw it in and near the end of the dark ages when the religious leadership was trying to burn astronomers at the stake. The Roman Catholic church — in part due to reformers like Luther — was forced to finally cancel this absurdist distinction and embrace all of life as an encounter with the Divine.
For years, Evangelicalism has worn the label of Protestant. We protested an institution and a structure, yes, but really we protested the idea of a human mediator between us and God, the idea of the separation between the clergy and the laity and a split between the secular and the spiritual. We protested magic crystal ball spirituality and demanded that the truth of intimate relationship with God again be taught.
We were right — the release of a document called Vatican II finally even had the Roman Catholic Church agreeing. (Thank God)
The irony is, once we finally get the Roman Catholic Church to agree with us, we then adopt what they just rejected. Now that’s ecumenicism at it’s finest…