Tuesday, January 13, 2009

W@H: Appendix B

Molly Worthen asks the question Who Would Jesus Smack Down? in the New York Times. It's an article about Mark Driscoll, a macho Neo-Calvinist who basically combines the worst of Wild at Heart with the worst of Calvinism. And Christians are eating it up. Beyond the fact that I graduated from high school with Molly, and it's always cool to see a familiar name in the paper of record, it's a fascinating article. Some of the people I least want to have anything to do with from my old fundagelical days are the self-same people who are passing Driscoll's videos around on Facebook. The article also has a special guest appearance by Brett and Alex Harris, who I talked smack about over a year ago. Anyway, for those who are wondering, Calvinism represented one of my first breaks with the evangelical culture I grew up in. I spent a lot of time hearing about how America was supposed to be a "Christian nation" and how we were supposed to fervently desire that divine transformation. But as much as I was a Christian, I was fledgling historian. I knew of John Calvin's Geneva. I knew of Oliver Cromwell's England. I knew of the real story of why the Pilgrims traveled to the New World. I knew that cultures under religious domination are less, not more free. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about radical Islam or radical Christianity, a theocracy restricts freedom and the only people who thrive are the ones on top or the ones who find restricted freedom a good thing. I gradually began to side with the Enlightenment, which according to the descendants of Calvin is the root of all modern evil. My historian ways gave me the words and the platform to speak against the ideas I kept hearing of the great godly America. "I don't know about that," my replies would go, "I wouldn't have wanted to live in Calvin's Geneva." And people listened, even if it was simply to take it as a cautionary tale of theocracy gone too far. Moreover, Calvinism takes a glitch in the religious story and turns it in to a feature. The question that has best been able to stop theologians in their tracks is that of theodicy: namely if there is an omnipotent, omnipresent, omni[insert third part of the O-O-O trilogy here] god who cares and is good, how is there evil and suffering in the world. Theologians best respond with the free will answer, namely we bring it on ourselves. Calvinists negate the free will answer by saying god preordains everything. Therefore, both good and evil come from god. Happiness and suffering come from god. And god chooses who to save, thereby also choosing who to damn. The Calvinist god created humans only to direct their lives minute by minute and then send the majority to Hell because they displeased him. And we're supposed to say this is good and want to go to Driscoll's church and watch his YouTube videos. Anyway, read the article. It's good. And Molly makes some of the points I made above but with a different focus. I think, too, that the reason I'm attaching this to the Wild at Heart project will be readily apparent. And when you're done, please join me in the lobby for in a hearty chorus of, "Fuck you, Mark Driscoll." There will be coffee and cake afterwards.

16 comments:

PersonalFailure said...

fuck you, mark driscoll!

*looks around* where's my coffee and cake? i was promised coffee and cake!

hapax said...

The triple O is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent.

I resolve it by not thinking about it. Sorta the way I deal with the internal combustion engine.

Oh, and fuck you, Mark Driscoll.

Geds said...

Thank you, hapax. Between that and the heads-up on Augustine I feel less bad about not bothering to do any research. Although I'm not sure why being shown up makes me feel comforted...

Also, I could totally explain internal combustion engines. Those are easy compared to theodicy and the all-important question of, "Why would anyone bother to follow Calvinism?"

PersonalFailure:

I'm surprised you even managed to find the lobby...

Your cake will be faxed to your shortly. Just as soon as I find the fax machine.

petcarbocation said...

At catholic school I learned that the three O's were omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. They never said anything about benevolence.

hapax said...

Well, there's lots of O's in the omni-omni, but the "omnibenevolent" is necessary for theodicy to be a problem.

Otherwise you can easily resolve it by assuming that God is doesn't know better (not omniscient), knows but can't fix it (not omnipotent), knows and can fix it but doesn't care or is a sadistic bastard (not omnibenevolent).

The standard theological resolution to the difficulty is the Inigo Montoya solution: "You keep using those words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean."

Geds said...

Exactly. I was having a conversation with a friend not long ago. He concluded that you have to pull back god's willingness to give a crap and do anything about it. I concluded that you have to pull back god's powers of observation or intervention.

Either one (or both, really) works. But anything where you make god all-powerful and all capable and say that god is loving and then look at the world with anything other than total misanthropy and say that you're on god's side is stretching plausibility.

petcarbocation said...

I'm now thinking my school did select those specific three O's to avoid having us torturing the nuns with theodicea questions during religion classes. It makes a lot of sense.

Geds said...

Follow-up:

In what could be the least shocking news ever, word from Molly's Facebook page is that her inbox is filling with letters from irate Mark Driscoll fans.

Who saw that coming?

Oh. Everybody, I guess.

the woeful budgie said...

Fuck you, Mark Driscoll!

Also, I brought cookies.

the woeful budgie said...

where's my coffee and cake? i was promised coffee and cake!

Personal Failure, don't you know?

The cake is a lie.

Geds said...

I'm so glad I didn't have to make the reference...

Anonymous said...

Fuck you, Mark Driscoll!

Though I have to say, this article/post is about the least-scary Jesus one you've done. I didn't even have to put on my tin-foil pirate hat and hide under the bed. I guess I like Driscoll about a billion times more than I like anyone who tells you salvation is easy or can be bought. This dude might be wrong but at least he's wrong for the right reasons.

P.S. I always heard omni present, potent, scient.

Fiat Lex said...

I have coffee and cake, but I will settle for tea and oatmeal instead. Mm, breakfast.

Well, now we know which flavor of religious paramilitary group will spring up in the ruins of Seattle after the apocalypse. (Assuming the rapture is mid- or post-trib, which I always favored.) At least it ain't Nazis.

I kind of approve of what Driscoll stands for theologically. Too many money-grubbing bastards watering down the Christian message. Driscoll's an asshole, but an asshole I can respect because he's chosen a platform and stays consistent with it.

I don't agree with his platform, and his hatred of gays saddens me. But he is a worthy foe for intelligent, thoughtful non-Christians in a way that Osteen or Willow Creek style evangelists are not.

Professor Timonin said...

The problem that I have with the Calvinist construction is that there is the underlying assumption that because God CAN damn some he HAS damned some. By the same token, though, if God decides who is saved, why not operate under the assumption that the "who" is everyone?

Incidentally, followed you from Slactivist, and am enjoying this series re: WatH - not a feature of my own fudagelical period, thank goodness.

Nenya said...

I knew of John Calvin's Geneva. I knew of Oliver Cromwell's England. I knew of the real story of why the Pilgrims traveled to the New World. [...] "I wouldn't have wanted to live in Calvin's Geneva."Yes! Even though I was raised fundamentalist charismatic, quite literally in a mini-theocracy, I knew from about age 10 that trying to run the civil government on theocratic terms would be a giant FAIL. Why? Because my dad had studied church history and told us about it. Calvin was a great Christian thinker, etc etc (even if you disagree with him, which I do, he was important in the development of Protestant thought), but oh dear God no he made a horrible civil leader. And many of the people who came to America from England did come for free expression of religion--though they also tried to set up their own little religious societies once they got here.

(Which, as a friend in New Hampshire says, may be why New England is all going for gay marriage now: they tried Puritanism and found it didn't work, so they won't be fooled by *that* one again.)

Anyway--belated commentary on your series of posts, here; I'm very much enjoying them. My dad owned W@H, and just from the "men want adventure, women want to be thought beautiful" I was pretty sure I didn't want anything to do with them. So I'm glad for your detailed breakdown.

Nenya said...

Oh yeah and eff you, Mark Driscoll. :D