Everyone repeats the same line: Sunday is the most segregated day of the week, and remains so. Why does some Christians fight so hard for racial justice, and others do not? This is a question that has been going through my mind a lot recently. God made all human beings in God’s image, the Imago Dei. Every person is of invaluable worth. This is an enduring truth of Christian tradition passed on for centuries. Racism is a denial of not only the Imago Dei in every human being, but also, a denial of Christ’s resurrection. In order for racism to be a persistent force in U.S. American politics, systems of death targeting specific populations (primarily People of Color) must take root as the norm. When they go unchallenged by the Church, that is a denial of the Gospel, the Good News of Christ’s victory of sin, Satan, and death, and God’s work of reconciling us to each other.
One of the many sins that Christians refuse to repent of is that of the genocide of First Nations persons. These wars and injustices are relegated to the past, as professor Andrea Smith points out, rather than instances of the present as well. Smith puts it this way, “One possible reason that the “exception” of Native genocide is not fully explored is that it is relegated to the past. That is, Omi and Winant argue that the United States has shifted from a racial dictatorship characterised by “the mass murder and expulsion of indigenous peoples” to a racial democracy in which “the balance of coercion began to change”.9 Essentially, the problem of Native genocide and settler colonialism today disappears.” for more see : Indigeneity, Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy. The laws in which our First Nations sisters and brothers live under were made under the presumption that, #1, Native Americans were not Christian, and therefore not American, and #2, that First Nations people were not competent enough to rule themselves. Unfortunately, Christians in the past as well as today are far more invested in the nation-state than they were/are in the Gospel. What we as the Church need is a commitment to the Gospel of the Unsettling God who calls us to oppose the White Supremacist nation-state for the cause of justice, and to work towards a more just and loving community.
At a men’s discussion group I get to participate in every now and then, we have started to hammer out some interestings aspects of the free will v. determinism debate. Anyone who knows the debate, knows that it is not as clean cut as the “v” may represent.
But, the question came up about determinism and moral responsibility. Unlike moral influences and free will which suggest the person is still ultimately responsible, I am unsure if it is either logical or moral to place upon a pre-determined individual responsibility for his or her actions. If the person is born a predetermined immoral agent, then his or her actions are simply the result of the processes of the machine.
But, I wanted to argue the other side.
In determinism, the moral responsibility may not lay with the immoral agent, but I believe it does lay with the society as both a moral and legal entity. Therefore, if an immoral agent does what he or she is predisposed to do, it is not their fault; however, the moral society has a responsibility to correct the damage as well as to prevent such actions from occurring again in whatever means they find necessary. For the moral society, they act under the protection of the legal system — therefore, their actions or neither unjust or brutal, but necessary. They alone, after all, have the moral agency.
Thus, it becomes the moral responsibility of the legal society to remove from their midst the immoral agents if they act immorally.
I know I’ve missed something along the way…
Thoughts? As a determinist, are people morally responsible for their actions when they are pre-determined to be immoral?
Recently, I’ve been involved in several discussions related to Free Will and the such. I do not hold to Free Will or Determinism, but lean to a mixture of both. I do not believe in ultimate determinism (yet), as I believe we do have a few options when presented with a decision.
But Free Will is philosophically, logically, scientifically, and theologically impossible. One of the things that fascinates me is the transference of memory via DNA. This corporate and hereditary memory influences our actions.
Memories can be passed down to later generations through genetic switches that allow offspring to inherit the experience of their ancestors, according to new research that may explain how phobias can develop.
The results may help to explain why people suffer from seemingly irrational phobias – it may be based on the inherited experiences of their ancestors.
The notion of a pre-existing influence is what drives me away from Free Will. Whether or not we ultimately assign to this influence “God,” we are influenced by something predating us. For those of us who believe in the (so-called) Big Bang, I would offer a speculation that the emerging of those atoms and energy, etc…, created a nice path to where we are now.
Anyway, I wanted to include the article for future reference and maybe some discussion.
For instance, the pastor who died over the weekend because he “had the truth.” The truth for him is in the KJV. He doesn’t rely on humanities or theology, nor on the simple science that if you get bit by a snake you may die, regardless of prayer.
I get the sentiment, that science is not all there is, but surely it can be better expressed than this?
So I finished reading the book over my vacation. Since I’m still on vacation, I will keep this short. Just a note, this is a collection of thought, not a review of the book.
I found the premise of the book to be interesting. Since my philosophical education stopped at modern philosophy, I was not familiar with postmodern philosophy. So I appreciate that Smith breaks down the “bumper sticker” readings of Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, and Michel Foucault. I even consider this to be one of the greatest strengths of the book.
As for the chapters dealing with the different philosophers’s, I really enjoyed the discussion on Derrida and Lyotard, but found myself losing interest in the discussion on Foucault. Honestly, I can’t say why that was.
I also found the discussion in the final chapter (Applied Radical Orthodoxy) to be hit or miss. There were parts of this final chapter that I found myself agreeing with and there were parts that I thought were harder to get through.
Overall, I found the book to be informative. Since I had little to no exposure to postmodern philosophy in my undergraduate philosophy courses, Smith gave me some of the background on some of the influential postmodern philosophers.
I am still unsure as to what postmodernism has to offer the church. I do not believe it to be the great monster that some in conservative Christianity has made it out to be. Until this book, my only knowledge of postmodernism has come from Chris Rosebrough, an LCMS blogger/podcaster (Fighting for the Faith). I am looking forward to reading some of the other books in this series.
This isn’t going to be a actual book review, but rather will be my thoughts and observations as I read through the book.
I don’t know too much about postmodernism as a philosophy, so I picked up this book to hopefully learn a little more about the postmodermism.
The philosophies of French thinkers Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault form the basis for postmodern thought and are seemingly at odds with the Christian faith. However, James K. A. Smith contends that their ideas have been misinterpreted. In an introduction and four fulsome chapters, Smith unpacks the primary philosophical impulses behind postmodernism, demythologizes its myths, and demonstrates its affinity with core Christian claims. Each of his accessible chapters includes an opening discussion of a recent representative film and a closing “tour” of a postmodern church in case study form–with particular application to the growing “emerging church” conversation.
Why is it that I want to learn more about postmodernism? In my time as a blogger, it has become apparent that most people talking about postmodernism have no idea what they are talking about.
The notion of postmodernism is invoked as both poison and cure within the contemporary church. To some, postmodernity is the bane of Christian faith, the new enemy taking over the role of secular humanism as object and fear and primary target of demonization. Others see postmodernism as a fresh wind of the Spirit sent to revitalize the dry bones of the church. (Location 168-171)
The extreme positions that people take concerning postmodernism amazes me. This is especially true in Lutheranism. On one hand, the ELCA appears to embrace postmodernism, while all other Lutheran denominations demonize it. But I wonder how many people in the church misunderstand postmodernism. Hopefully this book will shed some light on the subject for me. Looking forward to reading it.
Lesley over on Heretics Anonymous fears there are two Christian Churches divided by fundamental beliefs. Whilst Lesley highlights four beliefs, I want to focus on the following:
On Church views humans as ‘essentially fallen’ whilst the other as ‘essentially good’.
Lesley is entirely correct in this observation. I would posit this difference is a product of theology and that perhaps there is room in the one church for fundamentally different perspectives, but that is another matter.
I used to be in the ‘essentially fallen’ camp derived from a hyper-Calvinistic and somewhat pessimistic view of humanity, but now incorporating and taking on board Catholic teaching, view humans as ‘essentially good’ as a by-product of being made in the image of God.
And it looks like some recent research supports this.
The best way to get under the bonnet of human hard-wiring is to conduct research on those of us with the minimum of cultural influences, and that of course is babies.
At this point I’d like to direct you to a blog post on this issue over on Mind Hacks, detailing a fascinating experiment which indicates babies not only infer motive, but have an in-built preference to towards ‘good motives’.
“Some of the people in these cults (which is what they look like to me) I’ve met: Foucault (we even have a several-hour discussion, which is in print, and spent quite a few hours in very pleasant conversation, on real issues, and using language that was perfectly comprehensible—he speaking French, me English); Lacan (who I met several times and considered an amusing and perfectly self-conscious charlatan, though his earlier work, pre-cult, was sensible and I’ve discussed it in print); Kristeva (who I met only briefly during the period when she was a fervent Maoist); and others. Many of them I haven’t met, because I am very remote from these circles, by choice, preferring quite different and far broader ones—the kinds where I give talks, have interviews, take part in activities, write dozens of long letters every week, etc. I’ve dipped into what they write out of curiosity, but not very far, for reasons already mentioned: what I find is extremely pretentious, but on examination, a lot of it is simply illiterate, based on extraordinary misreading of texts that I know well (sometimes, that I have written), argument that is appalling in its casual lack of elementary self-criticism, lots of statements that are trivial (though dressed up in complicated verbiage) or false; and a good deal of plain gibberish”