Hijacking + Projection

I love the headline “Rigid ideologues hijack the term ‘Christians,’ excluding all others

It’s so marvelously bold: claim yourself the real “Christian”, and the people who continue to insist that Christianity is what it has always been are now evicted from their own religious home, because they’re not materialist enough. It’s your home now, eh, Mr. Endicott? You’ll say who does and does not belong in the house, eh? Very Christian of you, one might say.

If Christianity does not have a place for people who wish to preference the spiritual over the physical, then where could such people belong? Or is that the point – that Mr. Endicott’s argument is that we should want a world where such people (“rigid ideologues”*) are not welcome anywhere?

(Speaking of diversity.)

It’s a hijacking, of course – a hijacking pretending to be a defense against hijacking. The person occupying the territory pretends the territory is and always was his, and these other people are the invaders. But ideas can be traced. We know which concepts come from Christianity and which thoughts come from some other place – in this case, from the European Enlightenment.

The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals in the 17th and 18th centuries, which began first in Europe and later in the American colonies. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method. It promoted scientific thought, skepticism and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition,[1] intolerance and some abuses of power by the church and the state.

(Where “superstition” and “intolerance” are their way of referring to Christianity.)

So what is it that divides “real” Christians from “false” ones, according to the Sacramento Bee? Mr. Endicott starts off with an anecdote about a “bigoted”** Christian, and then reveals his true issue:

The fact is that gay and lesbian persons, as with heterosexual persons, live many different lifestyles, and many are devout Christians, in the best sense of that word.

Because real Christians don’t believe in the God who deals in what the Enlightenment calls “superstition and intolerance” (aka Christianity). Real Christians reject the Jesus of the Bible for Jesus the Magic Teddy Bear®, who affirms all your choices no matter what.

(And giggles when you squeeze his belly.)

The “sleight of hand” tactic the Mr. Endicotts of the world rely on (here and elsewhere) is to argue that by resisting attempts to destroy the boundaries between Christian and non-Christian beliefs, I must obviously be motivated by hatefulness toward those who are not living in accordance with Christian beliefs. This is a form of the ‘false dichotomy’ fallacy; this has nothing to do with being gay. It’s about being honest.

Christianity is itself a lifestyle, and one can say the Christian lifestyle is not compatible with other lifestyles without making any value judgment on either lifestyle. You can live according to Christian beliefs or you can live according to humanist beliefs. You can be a kosher Jew or you can join the Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund für Leibesübungen. You can be a vegetarian or you can eat lots of beef. Opportunity cost continues to be a real thing.

If you’re talking about making Christianity be something it never was before, then you are not within your rights to argue that the people who resist your “improvements” are “not real Christians”. Neither language nor logic works that way.

If you want to argue that humanist beliefs are better than Christian beliefs, do it honestly.

*Another way of saying “rigid ideologue” might be to recognize the concept of integrity

**The “bigoted” Christian was a Protestant who believes Catholics aren’t really Christian. While I do not know how mean-spirited her comment really was, it is simply a fact that Protestants as a group believe that the Pope is a false idol (this is the basis of the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent split between the two groups). Some denominations believe this matters a great deal, whereas other denominations are able to be more laid back about it. Likewise, a lot of Christians don’t believe Mormons are “real Christians”. This may or may not be mean-spirited; whether one actually detests Mormons is a separate question than whether one believes Mormons are genuinely Christian – because the question of whether a Mormon “is” Christian or not depends on how one defines Christianity. Any group with a shared identity is naturally going to have struggles over where and how to set boundaries – and it is this struggle that Mr. Endicott is trying to exploit, arguing simultaneously that we should extend the charitable spirit to include Catholics and materialists (presumably because that charitable spirit is the essence of Christianity) even as he turns right back around by claiming that while Catholics and materialists should be included, people who object to either group being counted as Christian should not.

The ought-to-be-obvious problem with this is that materialism is the antithesis of Christianity. They are historical rivals. They are not compatible. This is why the so-called “mainstream” Christian denominations are disappearing: if you embrace the assumptions of humanism, you are by definition rejecting the core teachings of Christianity.