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Location: Montgomery Area, Alabama, United States

Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Friday, April 07, 2006

Christian Carnival CXVI

This week's Christian Carnival is hosted by The Bloke at In the Outer.

There are several excellent posts this week. I'll highlight one, from Adam at WhereIStand, who takes on the secular Weltanschaung's argument that Christianity is just "an opiate for the masses" and a means of social control:

Mister E writes Christianity thrived because it represented a "Method of Control":

An Unnecessary Control

Mister E writes the following:

I see religion as a method of control. If you found yourself a leader of millions of people in a period where there are swords and castles, wouldn't you be a little concerned about how to control all these people? I mean, they could at anytime march up to your castle and use your bathroom without asking! Or kill you and try and take over... so, what would you do? I'd tell you what I'd do, I'd listen to this rumor that people in the middle east were actually believing that there was some dude floating in "heaven" and he had a set of rules which everyone had to live by or they'd be forsaken, and that a messiah, a chosen one had graced them and showed them his magic powers, and then died for them, and they all were so convinced that this magic guy and his friend in heaven were keeping track of them, that they had to be good... anyway, I'd convince the people in my nation of this same thing, so that they would be bound by divine rule to obey me and all these rules. It would have instilled fear in the people of a higher power that could shoot fireballs at regular people and regular people could not, and this fear would dictate their lives and keep them from doing things that might threaten my power.... so you see, try and remember that if something appears 3-dimensional, it may only be 2, just specially designed to trick you dear reader.

One has to begin with an honest acknowledgement that some people have used religion and even Christianity as only a means of control. However, the point of MisterE goes far beyond this in stating that Christianity itself is a method of control and this is where we disagree

If Christianity were an effective tool for control, than every non-Muslim Country on Earth would practice it. Marx hated it and so did all the Communists. The reason is that Christianity drives many people to resist. Consider those who operated the Underground Railroad. The founders who dared to declare Independence and make their appeal to the God of Justice.

Christianity is a religion full of characters who didn't just go along to get along. We have Jesus calling his nation's leaders "a brood of vipers", "whitewashed sepulchers," and "wicked". We have John the Baptist getting thrown into prison for calling King Herod an Adulterer. Stephen was stoned after his first sermon. We have martyrs unafraid to say the truth no matter the cost.

I'll also argue that this issue of control is somewhat silly in the life of the individual. Who is not controlled? People are controlled by drugs, alcohol, sex, people, and money. Is not the person who ruins his life with STDs from premarital sex and can't controlled by sex? Aren't so many people controlled by food?

Are people not controlled by advertisers who play on their fears of being alone, being left out, voting for the wrong candidate, not drinking the country's favorite soft drink or not eating the Breakfast of Champions? Are we not all puppets, our backs full of strings, constantly being yanked by the desires of our own flesh, lust, greed, hatred, bitterness, our fears of the past, death, the future, of rejection, of being a failure, and the manipulative people who exist subtlely in each of our lives? Every political philosophy has it, as well as every profession. There's no escaping being controlled. The person who believes no one is controlling him an idiot, knave, or liar.

Read the whole thing.

I agree that Christianity has sometimes been misused as a system of social control, but this has only happened when the visible church has been distorted into a form of secular government and the Gospel has been distorted into a promise of heaven for those who follow a set of rules. This happened under Catholicism and pervaded Western civilisation until the Reformation. The latter is a demonstration, however, that the Gospel, rightly understood, is more often a force for revolution, not social conformity. There is a built-in tension between the visible church and the state in Christianity and there has been ever since both the existing state mechanisms of the Jews and the Roman Empire came together to put Christ to death. Comforming Christianity into a state with secular power always entails a fundamental distortion of the Gospel message and makes Christianity into something more closely resembling islam, which has always claimed it is a comprehensive system of government as well as "just a religion." It is not a coincidence that nuns' habits resemble burkhas. Nor is it a coincidence that Midieval Europe under the church controlled from Rome resembled islam. If anything, the latter was more cohesive and less fractious. The central message of Christ is always fundamentally revolutionary and is often subversive of secular social control.


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