A few items of theological interest in las noticias caught my eye in the past few days. The theology in some cases is very bad; one is very good.
Huckabee's Christmas ad: Yes, Mike, we get it. You're a Christian, and, just like Mitt Romney, you want Christians to vote for you. You're a warrior in the *cough* War on Christmas (Ain't it nice that when there's a real war(s) going on that you'd pick the one that doesn't have any risk or casualties?). And while it seems like a nice message and all ("Let's forget about politics and just have a MerryChristmas with your loved ones"), it'd be nicer if you weren't pimping Baby Jesus for campaign purposes. But hey, you must know what you're doing, you've got a theology degree ... oh wait, you don't! Yes, I know, you've got a B.A. in biblical studies; I've got a B.A. in religious studies, myself, but I wouldn't call that a theology degree. But I got my sheepskin at a secular university and you got yours at a Baptist university, so I'll grant that maybe you're closer to it that I am. We didn't get to study much theology at CrimsonU (well, I did, but it was independent work). But surely as an ordained Baptist minister you've got a seminary degree ... oh wait, you were only in seminary 1 year? Well, seminary's tough. I've just finished my first year, and it's kicking my butt on a daily basis.
More Christmas warriors: So the OKC city manager sent out a memo reminding city workers not to publicly display religious decor during the holidays, to ensure that there would be no church-state crossover problems. And wouldn't you know it, two workers decided that their First Amendment right to religious expression was being oppressed, and they're suing the city. Yet another case of people confusing public square with government, and confusing a privilege with a right. Let's clear it up: you can do whatever you want in non-government public space, especially if you own it. You can decorate the snot out of your office, if you own your office. You can put a big-ass lighted cross on the side of your skyscraper that can be seen for miles and miles, if you own the skyscraper. You can even wish your customers "Merry Christmas" if it's your store. But if you work for someone else, your office is not your office; thus you can't surf for porn on your work computer, and you really shouldn't send e-mails to your co-workers about how bad your boss' B.O. is. There are lots of things that you can't do at work that you can do at home, in your car and put on your person if it meets your dress code. The government has these rules even moreso, because it's not just guarding the integrity of the office space, but the whole damn country. And it has these rules to protect your religious rights (and anyone who's ever looked at the reason why we have an establishment code would understand this: Aren't we all glad that we don't have to be Anglicans? Aren't we all glad that no one forces us to go to a specific, government-approved church? Don't you want it to stay that way? Then stop being a dick.). A loss of the privilege of getting to put your Baby Jesus creche on your computer monitor is not the same thing as having your rights trampled on. The reason why we work so well is that we give a little to get a little. So give a little.
Evolutionary theology: I stumbled across this article on Salon and it just blew me away. And, of course, it's the comments from the so-called progressive atheists who really ended up pissing me off. Sam Harris' book The End of Faith was one of the factors that made me turn away from stepping over the line to become an atheist, simply because I didn't want to be that much of a smug jerk. Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens all take the worst, most hateful and most closed-minded theologies and hold them up as examples of the true faith, and they write off examples like Oscar Romero, Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X, Mother Theresa (well, Hitchens wrote an article about her loss of faith with the glee of a bully pulling the wings off flies) and so many more. Theologian John Haught's new book, God and the New Atheism, takes on these guys and takes them to the mat. His basic theme: Theology is not static, and we cannot keep relying on 1,000-2,000-year-old ideas of how the world works to frame how we see our world. Theology is faith seeking understanding, and that understanding is grounded in the real world. As that understanding continues to change and, yes, evolve, so must our theology. And of course it does! Like I said when I was snarking on Huckabee, seminary is hard. It'd be a crapload easier without theology, without having to think about the things we think about, which because we're all crazy about religion tends to be about religion. But there's theologies upon theologies upon theologies, all crafted as people try to understand why the world is as it is. I'm hoping maybe to create one myself. Anyone who thinks that we all have one theology and it's all based on Aristotle hasn't been keeping up with the trends.
I'm not exactly sure that I agree with Haught's position that science will never achieve ultimate meaningful answers -- like Ghosthunters before they started believing their own press and started calling all the weird shit they encountered "ghosts" instead of "unexplained phenomenon," I honestly believe that the things we don't understand are not understood because we don't have the science yet, but someday we will -- but I do agree with him that a statement like this is a faith principle, not a scientific one. And, like the good nontheist, quasi-apatheist that I am, I'm good with waiting to see if I'm right or wrong. That's a faith statement, too, that someday I might get an answer. Anyway, I'm glad to see someone taking on the atheist blowhards, who are just as bad as the fundamentalists and, judging from the comments attached to the article, are all over the damn place.
(What I'm listening to as I blog: Aterciopelados' Oye