The case against Richard Dawkins: Challenging anthropological bigotry

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It may shock most of my fellow Christians when I say, ‘I believe Richard Dawkins is one of the greatest intellectuals of the past 20 years. I’ve enjoyed reading Dawkins’ literature, he simplifies science in an easy to read manner and I’m fascinated by things like atoms, relative movement, and the genetics of life. Yet reading through his book The Magic of Reality, it isn’t his blatant scientific grudge against God that deters me from taking his pro-Darwin stance seriously; rather it is his biased assertion that cultural narratives belonging to the full spectrum of human diversity are nothing but primitive myths.

I get the whole thing about science vs. religion but what I don’t get is his overt bigotry towards other stories other than the ‘Gospel of Natural Selection.’ With the same tunnel vision that justified the Church’s exploitation of indigenous cultures, Dawkins too affirms a ‘one-law-for-all’ approach with his science of modern-imperialism. Name dropping Darwin like the Messiah, it is evident that the religious supremacy he denounces in Christianity is contradicted by his soap-box preaching of science as the only ‘Truth.’

For me, ‘Truth’ is subjective, nothing is unbiased nor is anything objective – history is written by the victor. Truth in one cultural milieu is foolishness in another, yet it seems like at times we all fall prey to the human syndrome of playing God; we all have moments of asserting ‘our way’ as the ‘right way’ or ‘the only way’ to make sense of the world around us. Dawkins is a literary and scientific genius but what he lacks is the will to step back from his Darwinian discipleship and acknowledge the universal relevance of ‘Worldviews.’

I’m not saying that ‘true truth’ is beyond us all, all I’m saying is that we are all blind mice grabbing different parts of an elephant, with one asserting that an elephant is a trunk, another proclaiming it as an ear and another a tail. Truth is culturally loaded, that includes the ‘non-culture’ culture of science, and we must all realize that subjectivity should never be elevated to objectivity. If I assert ‘my’ truth over another’s, I cease being part of the family of humanity; rather I essentially become a god onto myself. We need to remember that everyone has threads of truth to offer to the tapestry of human history, progress and social politics.

“The self cannot be self without other selves” – Martin Luther King Jr.

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We must all learn to live together as brothers. Or we will all perish together as fools – MLK

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There seems to be a problem with interpreting Jesus as a religious line in the sand, in which one side gets flights and accommodation to paradise, and the other side…well, you get the drift.

Re-reading John 14:6 in the context of the whole account of John, which in turn is situated within the context of the Bible, which in turn is situated within the context of the existential metanarrative of divine love; Jesus’ so-called assertion as ‘the way to the Father’ looks a lot different than the norm of dominant church culture.

Indeed, Jesus is in the middle of a long conversation with his followers, they’re concerned that Jesus (after 3 years of telling his disciples to follow him) is now telling them that he’s going somewhere and they can’t come. Here are 4 exegetical points that end up portraying John 14 as a call to love others not a call for religious exclusion.

‘Where I am going you cannot come’ – Here Jesus is talking about his suffering and death, in which he will destroy ‘the temple’ and raise it up again in 3 days (remembering that the temple has moved from being a structure to being people-in-loving-communion-with-God-and-others through the leading character of Christ). Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, EVERYONE can commune with God (not just a select few worshipping in an exclusive building);

‘My Father’s house has many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you’ – Jesus isn’t talking about gaping it to heaven and building mansions for the elect few (remembering back to John 2 when Jesus went berserk in the temple because the religious authorities had turned the building into a shrine of exclusion and exploitation of ‘the other’). Here Jesus is ‘preparing’ himself for his death and resurrection (namely the destroying of the old temple of exclusion and the re-building of the re-newed temple in which it shall be a house of prayer for all nations). Through the passion of Christ, Jesus prepared a community (not just for ‘Christians’) in which everyone is invited to join and build a society of loving ‘the other’.

‘I will come back and take you to be with me…’ – This isn’t a reference to Jesus’ second coming and that he’s going to ‘rapture’ the elect and take them to their heavenly mansions, meanwhile destroying everyone that ‘doesn’t know the way.’ Jesus is talking about his resurrection, in which after three days he will reunite with his disciples before his ascension.

‘You know the way…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ – this has nothing to do with post-mortem travel arrangements or religious supremacy, rather it is a reflection back to Moses and the Levitical law (in which the Israelites used the Torah as the way to interpret life as a Jewish person living in the post-exodus era). Jesus’ giving of the great commandment to love others is a parallel to Moses giving the Israelites the 10 commandments. Basically Jesus is saying that without love and acceptance of ‘the other’, one ends up with the opposite of God (which could be termed ‘exclusive selfishness’ – I must stress that non-adherence to ‘the way of love’ doesn’t condemn people to hell, rather I believe that God is forever chasing people with his love, patiently waiting for them to embrace the embrace).

Jesus quite pointedly IS the way, the truth and the life because he is the perfect expression and character of the greatest commandment: love others. In the character of Jesus, we find the embodiment of what it means to love God and love people. Over his 3 year ministry, whether it was by his deeds, his words or through his character – over and over again, Jesus reminds us that God (‘the way’) is inclusive love and the will to embrace ‘the other’ in all their diversity. “When you are kind and respectful to followers of other religions, you are not being unfaithful to Jesus; you are being faithful to him” (McLaren, 2010, p. 285).

With this in mind, I dare propose that ‘the kingdom of God’ isn’t exclusive to the Christian saved, rather it is a global house with many rooms, inhabited by differing people, all unified through the mission of transforming the world into a society of ‘loving the other’.

“We must all learn to live together as brothers. Or we will all perish together as fools.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Works Cited

McLaren, B. (2010). A new kind of Christianity. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

 

 

No to U.S airstrikes! Yes to aid and international sanctions!

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Obama is more similar to Assad than he is to Martin Luther King Jr. Evidently, just because Obama is the first black president, it doesn’t make him the messiah. As the U.S administration sits on the edge of their seats waiting to strike down Assad’s hold on Syria, it just seems like there is going to be another justified trigger-happy invasion from the west into the Arab world (that will result in more civilian casualties not less).

Like his predecessor, Obama is a war criminal who has tortured and killed just as many civilians as Syria’s defiant president. Yet besides the fact that the U.S government is just as guilty of heinous war crimes as the Assad family’s 42 year reign, something needs to be done about the crisis in Syria. I’m not advocating for a U.S led airstrike nor am I advocating for a fully-fledged military invasion, but I am promoting the dire need for imminent and comprehensive humanitarian aid and the will to embrace democratic conversation for the sake of the Syrian people.

We live in an ultra-connected globalized age of human society, yet it is apparent that when suffering arises in our neighbouring countries, their sufferings don’t bother us until they actually ‘bother’ us. I’d like to think that the international community is one big-little neighbourhood; if that is the case then we need to find a staunch yet democratic way of stopping the crisis in Syria. Humanitarian aid needs to be at the precipice of discussions as well as the need for heavy international sanctioning upon the Assad regime. Hear me out, I’m not advocating for the ‘rebel forces’ (for they have also killed and displaced many civilians) but I am promoting a change in government in which the country’s authorities prize the wellbeing of its citizens above their own pride.

There needs to be a change in the political status quo of mapping the global community into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘us’ versus ‘them’, the ‘righteous’ as opposed to the ‘terrorists’. Then and only then can the international community galvanize past the sectarian categorization that prohibits truth, justice, human rights and the reciprocal accountability of living in a big-little neighbourhood.

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension, but it is the presence of justice and brotherhood.” – Martin Luther King Jr. 1961

Stuff international law, get into Syria and help the people

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The late ‘possibility’ of international intervention from Obama and Co. should not be seen as the heroic west coming to rescue the Syrian people from chemical weapons, rather it should be perceived in context as a ‘saving face’ tactic that could be likened to someone offering an amputee a band-aid…two years after the limb was cut! Indeed, the civil war didn’t magically begin a week ago; the Syrian people have been suffering since April 2011.

This was always a human rights and social justice issue, a concern that hasn’t been adequately addressed either by the Arab league, the European union or the United States. Over 100,000 people have died, over 4 million remain displaced within the boarders and over 2 million people (of which 1million are children) are displaced just outside the war torn country.

Due to international law, the UN Security Council (in spite of the mass killings that have occurred since 2011) are continuing to be overly PC about when to act with their pittance of a response. As UN weapons inspectors attempt to establish definitively whether or not chemical weapons have been used and by who; I would imagine the millions of Syrian civilians (in and just outside the boarders) are scratching their heads, thinking something along the lines of: “where have you guys been for the past two years?”

Stuff international law, for if the UN Security Council religiously abided by international law, then a lot of social atrocities would not be tolerated as they are (i.e. Australia’s economic neglect of their Aboriginal people; the Israeli apartheid government and their treatment of the Palestinian people; Canada’s land rape of the First Nation’s for oil; and the plight of Egypt’s civil turmoil). Evidently the people who make the rules don’t really stick to them, and when they do it is usually too late.

The Syrian people have been calling out for help for the past two years, if the international community is indeed one big diverse global family unified by human rights, then it’s about time we act like it. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Now is the time to act…for the people, for the people, for the people.

 

 

Criminalizing the homeless: A man named Harry

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Last Wednesday I met a man named Harry (pseudonym), sitting on Queen Street with no money. He didn’t bash me with the Bible, harass me with a petition, or eyeball me to donate towards a cause I don’t believe in. Actually, he never said a word to draw my attention.

Offering my hand towards his own I introduced myself and sat down beside his cup of coins. “How’s your week been bro?” So starts a conversation that neither myself nor he expected to receive on a cold Auckland morning.

45 minutes with a total stranger that I will forever remember as Harry.

The new by-law that essentially criminalizes beggars is a disgrace to democracy let alone what it means to live in society. Time, money, a listening ear, an attentive heart, and the will to see the humanity of another; we have forgotten what it means to encounter someone’s needs other than our own. I’m all for giving to charity, but you can go your whole life giving to charity and never see poverty humanized, incarnated, fleshed out, and needing help in the NOW. The new by-law has fundamentally killed the spirit of the Samaritan, just to justify the ignorance of the priest and the neglect of the Levite.

“People walk past…but they don’t see me… If someone just gave me a chance…” – Words that I will never forget.

Bob McKoskrie and hetero-phobia: The fear of people different from yourself

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It is incredibly sad that even though today is a historic moment in New Zealand’s social history, there are still trolls trolling about ready to pounce on the fun and dampen the party. ‘Hetero-phobia’ can be described as the fear of something or someone different, and as Bob McKoskrie has shown yet again – trolls be trolling (http://bobmccoskrie.com/?p=9066).

McKoskrie’s creativity seems to be limited to stale boundaries of hyper-fundamentalism, in which apparently he holds the universal truth of the definition of marriage, in which he has and still does vehemently defend. The use of the Bible as an authoritative weapon of mass distraction obviously does more harm than good. Why, why, why do fundamental evangelicals continue to paint a violent, judgemental, racist, condemning and bigot of a Jesus? As the popular maxim goes, ‘what would Jesus do?’ It is obvious that the actions of the fundamental right differ extremely from the ethos of Jesus the liberator of the oppressed and healer of the broken. This reminds me of the passage in scripture when Jesus gave up his last breath and cried out “it is finished!” In which the curtain in the temple was torn in two, and the division that kept people from encountering God freely was done away with.

It seems to me that whether it has been slavery, colonization, segregation, apartheid, and now same-sex marriage – the Church has always been the one justifying the dehumanizing of ‘the other.’ One could say that throughout history, the Church has metaphorically taken the torn curtain and repaired it to once again separate people from fully encountering their humanity.

I beg of the so-called ‘defenders of THE definition of marriage’ – everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when it is discriminating against others then serious analysis needs to be considered. I’m no pastor or theologian but I think it’s pretty straight forward that Jesus’ message hung on two paradigms in which it seems dominant Church culture has neglected: LOVE God, and LOVE people. Difference is wonderful and should be celebrated.