I'd like to take a moment and announce a new semi-running feature: the insane comment thread rant contest, focusing on the comment threads over at TeamPyro. Those guys do a great job unapologetically expounding God's word, and of course whenever that happens it brings out some real wonderful responses, the type that deserve to be brought to light more than buried in a comment thread. The type that provides a great lesson on how not to argue if you wish to be taken seriously.
Every couple of weeks someone will just go on a rant which is completely devoid of coherent thought, or completely misrepresents scripture in a particularly amusing way, or otherwise was written on a typewriter in a shack in Montana. When that happens and I remember to get around to it, I'll reproduce it here for posterity and maybe add some comments on why it's so bad. Then if you want to be taken seriously, just don't write your comments like that. Think of it like How to Write Badly Well, only for theology comment threads.
Our first entry for 2010 comes just two days into the year. Well done. It's a response to this post by DJP, in which he lays out some basic theology on how our plans and God's sovereignty intersect. This prompted a beauty of a rant from (new?) commenter 'healtheland' which gets our year in insanity off to a strong start (at 9:29 AM, January 2!). Some of the great elements of a terrible comment that get squeezed into this one rant include:
1) Start off with a horrible interpretation of scripture, and a passage that's especially hard to misinterpret at that! Somehow the clear teaching of Matthew 6 becomes something opposed to "act wisely and trust God's sovereignty". Ooooookay.....
2) An appeal to "ethnocentric" issues, because somehow what God says is different based on where you live or something.
3) The horrible interpretation seems to become horrible application, as he insinuates that there's something holy about just wingin' it through life and/or living in abject poverty and stone age conditions. Shane Claiborne would be proud.
4) Politics! Can't have a good insane rant without bringing in completely-unrelated political issues now, can we?
5) Katrina (?!?)
6) R-rated Movies and Blackberries
7) A passive-aggressive accusation that all Christians in the West (except the author, of course) are worldly, syncretistic pagans
Wow. Not a bad start. I give it a 6 points for awful handling of scripture, +2 for the attempted appearance of political neutrality, +1 for being so Claiborne-esque, a solid 9. It'll be tough top that one, but I'm sure it'll be done. If nothing else, we'll have our monthly update from Russ the Reformed Charismatic, which is always nice, and I'm sure someone else out there will step up to the plate. The gauntlet has been thrown down, and the trolls are getting their keyboards ready. Let's rock.
First, I would have liked to see your analysis attempt to deal with Matthew 6:24-34. Also, there is an ethnocentric issue here, as the preoccupation with planning is far greater in modern western cultures than they are in other times and places, where people are much less likely to have the idea that they have very much control over their lives or circumstances, where lives do not move according to schedules (except for very rudimentary agricultural ones), and even their very concept of time is different. And yes, the culture that produced the Bible - one where wars, plagues, droughts, famines, etc. were very capable of altering best laid plans - is a lot closer to those than it is to our modern, technologically driven American culture. (Keep in mind: the very reason why paganism, animism and spiritism were such a snare to those in Biblical times was the FALSE promise of being able to impose a spiritual system of control over uncertain and chaotic lives. But where those cultures relied on the false gods of heathen religions, our culture has its own idols: our economic, political, military and technological systems. And yes, Christians are very much wedded to those. Witness the ferocious anger of so many Christians at Obama's threats to change our economic, military and cultural traditions. And yes, there was similar anger directed at George W. Bush.
A classic example is the "conspiracy theory" stuff. Rather than admitting the temporary, precarious nature of things, it is far more easier for one group of Christians with a foot in this world to believe that Obama is weakening our economy and throwing open the door to terrorists on purpose. And on the other hand, Christians of a different political stripe would rather believe that George Bush allowed black people to die in New Orleans because of some alleged racial animus rather than admit that there is only so much a government can do when a historic hurricane like Katrina strikes such a vulnerable area. While people may have legitimate grievances with the ideology and competence of Bush and Obama, the main point is how "the American way of life" is idolatry and how so many American Christians are heavily steeped in it.
Well, most of the Christians in the world cannot afford such delusions, because most Christians now live in the third world, with daily lives not much different from those who lived in Israel at the time of Jesus Christ. And while those Christians still have to deal with the very strong temptations of their traditional local primitive religions - especially when they are syncretized with Christianity - they do not have to deal with the temptations associated with Blackberries and daily planners and our own Tower of Babel-esque myths that we have so much power, influence and control within our own borders and exert it throughout the world.
Worldliness is a huge enemy, and in order to prevent being esnared by it, Matthew 6:24-34 and Romans 12:1-2 are vital. So many of us Christians view "worldliness" as listening to rock music or watching R-rated movies (or, as it were, patronizing "Christianized" versions of those forms of entertainment), but it really goes much further and deeper than that into a person's entire values and worldview.
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