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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Maudlin Thursday, Bad Friday, and the Tenebrae in which there is no light

This Easter and Passover season is one more of skepticism than contemplation. The current Newsweek features a story about the decline of Christianity in America, while polls show that fewer and fewer people claim religious identities.

For many people of faith of my acquaintance, including ordained ministers and professors of theology, it is a time for pondering the moral and spiritual failures of Christianity. As a graduate of and a professor who taught at a denominational college and has close relationships with former colleagues and students, I share the chagrin over how Christianity has become identified, but also note that disaffection in religion often leads to reformation.
The catalyst behind the growing religious doubt is Islam and 9/11. Although many Muslim clerics insist that their religion is one of peace and good will, that is not the face of Islam that has glowered over world events in the last decade or so. Rather, we saw and heard hatred and indiscriminate violence while the 9/11 terrorists crashed the planes into the World Trade Centner while shouting "God is great." We have seen the constant violence between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq as the perpetrators preach hatred and violence and demonstrate a spiritual nihilism that overshadows any claims of benignity.

While we may recoil in disdain from the acts and messages of hatred and destruction, we are forced to consider the ill will and violence on earth perpetrated by our own faiths. It is a discomfiting time for Christianity. It is also a time when people of faith are confronted with more messages of ill will and despair than of good will and hope.

One need go no further than the South Dakota blogosphere to be immersed in the fact that we live in a nation divided, and allegedly Christian motives cleave the divisions. The South Dakota blogosphere is a typical killing field for the teachings of Christ. Looking at the blog aggregations of the South Dakota Blognet and one is besieged with the malign, accusations of perfidy, and constant defamations of person.

Then the purveyors of malice presume to send messages of the hope of Easter. I think of a blues from an underground musical of the 1970s.

Don't lay none of your Christianity on me.

Don't try to play that game with me.
What it did to you is play to see.
Ain't no fool going to mess that way with me.

On the blogosphere, the religion of peace and good will offers, with few exceptions, the message of 9/11. Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do. They profane Easter.

1 comment: said...

Dear Mr. Newquist,
Thank you for contributing your thoughts regarding the collective psycho-spiritual
metamorphosis of homo sapiens living in western culture today.
You opined, above, that in your view "The catalyst behind growing religious doubt is Islam and 9/11." From what I perceive about your background and personal intellectual and psychological development in your overall essay, I believe that on further reflection you would agree that the current mutation of our species which is well underway can be traced to many other and older events and cultural developments in the west.
Should we not first distinguish between the living power of Christ's personality and transformative power to still come through the 4 gospels that were "chosen" among the 55 currently estimated accounts of His Life and teachings,
and that human-organized worldly institutional church organized at the initiative of a Roman emperor and his select group of bishop-decisionmakers? Indeed, it is a prevalent scholarly view, which I share, that, for example, the Gospel of Thomas - which was one of the best and earliest (and uncensored!) accounts of the 50 or so others excluded at the Council of Nicea, is almost certainly one of the accounts of His Life and specific Statements that was written down much closer in time to Christ's actual human embodiment on earth than the so-called synoptic gospels. It's style and content so humbly arranged, but with the clear ring of truth and a lack of some of the ubiquitous stereotypic "miracles" found in the numerous other4 approved accounts - and thereby shoring up the institutions of Empire dictatorships, patriarchy and sexism for an "extra 1600 years - and still counting today in most of the human world.
Today, in the new age I call Cyberland, in which consumerism has been jacked up on the steroids of media mind manipulation, human beings ARE mutating into 'consumeroids' - should global multi-national
cabals of the elite continue to have their way.
I heard Bobby Kennedy's son speaking during an interview this week, and he contrasted the love of "American culture" he found throughout the world as a boy when his Dad took him to a dozen countries, with the current hate he dared to say much, if not most, of the world today feels toward "America". Let us celebrate Easter by continuing to struggle to spread the only positive road open to us which could stop or temper imminent global catastrophe: celebrating diversity and friendship and making a stand against "any more killing". Lastly, we only receive images of Islam and its adherents as hate-filled terrorists. This not only plays right into the goals of terrorism, but is simply patently, factually false. Happy Easter. My name is Tom Lucas and my 4th album is being released in April. Although titled "The Struggle of Love" it is, like my first 3 albums, concerned with the inability to nurture openness and love in a world without justice. Be well David.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States