Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Newsflash: Gospels can be "Left Behind"

Slacktivist has an interesting explanation of a phenomenon that has always puzzled us atheists enormously: Why aren’t American Christian Evangelicals more…Christian? We atheists can read, too. And we read the Gospels and the words of Christ we think, “Wow, those Christians must be awfully moral. All that stuff about turning the other cheek and shunning wealth, I sure don’t have spiritual strength for all of that. They may have completely wack metaphysics, but there’s no denying their goodness and moral strength.”

But then we atheists look at “Christian” mega-churches obviously flush with cash, and hear their vicious attacks on homosexuals, see the support for wars of aggression and their wholehearted leap into the Republican party, and we wonder what’s going on. Instead of being all ascetic and non-violent and humble, we find them to be opulent, arrogant, war-mongers. What about all that stuff the alleged Son of God actually said? What gives? Well, it turns out that under some versions of Christianity, the Gospels don’t apply to us. Yes, you heard that right. I’ll let slacktivist explain:
The aversion to the Gospels is even stronger in L&J's peculiar subset of American Christianity -- premillennial dispensationalism. Most of Jesus' teachings, the PMDs say, do not apply to our current "dispensation," but only to some future time in Christ's millennial (literal) kingdom. Don't worry about the Sermon on the Mount -- about turning the other cheek or considering the lilies and the birds of the air -- because those don't apply to now or to us. They are, in this "dispensation," irrelevant.
Wow. That was a strain of Christianity of which I was completely unaware. It makes sense though. Maybe they think the U.S. Constitution doesn’t apply under this dispensation, either: perhaps the Founding Fathers were referring to some future nation when they passed that pesky first amendment.

(By the way, slacktivist gives this explanation during a scathing critique of the popular “Left Behind” series. I haven’t read those books, but his savaging of the passage he quotes is quite delicious.)

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