Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Christian Denial

Denial: some definitions...
disbelief in the existence or reality of a thing.
refusal to recognize or acknowledge; a disowning or disavowal
Psychology. an unconscious defense mechanism used to reduce anxiety by denying thoughts, feelings, or facts that are consciously intolerable
Evangelical Christians, or more accurately that element of evangelical Christians known as conservative Christians, right-wing Christians, Christian fundamentalists, Biblical literalists, or whatever the Christian right are currently calling themselves (or are in denial of calling themselves) seem to all share one pervasive aspect. They all live in denial. A good example of that is when you mention to them that George Bush is a liar, they respond, "Bush lies?" It's as if they have never heard that accusation before and certainly as if they don't believe that Bush lies. If Bush is a liar they are in denial of it, and if you have evidence they don't want to hear it.
Right-wing Christians are in denial of lots of things. They deny that the Middle East war is about oil or that it is a modern day crusade or that it is about economic imperialism or the New World Order. They deny that the US plans to maintain military bases in Iraq permanently. They deny that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people have died because of the US War on Iraq. They deny that American Jews subverted US intelligence prior to the war in order to persuade the American public to support the war. They deny that there is any evidence at all that there has been a cover-up in the 9/11 investigations. They deny that the US tortures war prisoners.
They are in denial of homosexuals and sexual predators in their midst.
They are in denial of evolution. They deny that human industrial activity and energy consumption is having an impact on global warming.
They deny that women should have a right to choose if they should continue or abort a pregnancy. Yet they deny that they want to charge women who have abortions with murder and send them to jail.
They deny that anybody other than those who share their specific religious creed will go to Heaven. Yet they deny that they actually think that way.
They deny that salvation has anything at all to do with the survival of humanity here on earth. They deny that earth has a future. Yet they deny that they don't care about earth's or humanity's future.
They deny that the Bush administration has been engaged in a process designed to erode civil liberties here in America and around the world. They deny that they want authoritarian rule even though they speak dreamingly of rule by a divine King.
This list of denials could virtually go on forever but the real question is this. If God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the Bible are all telling us that we need to open our eyes to reality (and who in their right mind would deny that!), why are Christians living in this paradigm of denial? Could it be that there is an underlying cause?
I've been thinking about this recently and it has dawned on me that the very basis of their belief is a form of denial. What do I mean by this, you might ask... Well, you might not ask that if you are one of these Christians. You might not want to know what I mean by that.
What is at the very heart of right-wing evangelical Christianity? What is at the core of their belief system? Salvation, right? Who is saved, who is not saved, and why are the saved saved? What is the meaning of salvation? Those are the core questions answered by their belief system.
To Biblical literalists, God created man perfect in every way. Man literally walked with God in the Garden of Eden. But for some reason, God planted temptation in that garden and Eve fell to it, then tricked Adam into doing the same. Eating the forbidden fruit brought sin into God's perfect creation. While this might not make sense to most people, it makes perfect sense to right-wing Christians. Let me go on...
You see, it is because of sin that mankind, the earth, and all of creation are condemned. Somehow when Adam and Eve sinned, God set entropy into action. If it hadn't been for the original sin of mankind, Adam and Eve and all of their descendants would have lived forever in God's perfect creation. Most of us just see the allegorical perfectionism in this story, but Biblical literalists actually believe that all this happened.
One thing is at the core of all this thinking. Sin.
Right-wing Christianity is focused on sin. Right-wing Christianity sees it this way:
All people are sinners. We all fall short of God's creation, Adam's perfection. The Bible assures us that death is the destiny of all of us because of sin.
It is because of sin that God will destroy humanity. It is because of sin that God will destroy the earth. It is because of sin that God will destroy all of His creation and begin again. It is because of sin that each one of us will suffer not just physical but spiritual death. Sin is the reason we die. And in case that weren't enough, we all deserve to spend eternity in Hell, in perpetual torture as punishment for living our life in sin.
But God gave each of us a way out of this destiny - salvation.
God provided a means to escape the inevitable consequence of sin. You see, God is a loving God. He really doesn't want us to suffer this way. He cares about our souls. He really wants us to spend eternity with Him in Heaven, not with Satan, the deceiver, in perpetual torture. But rules are rules. Adam and Eve broke the rules so there have to be consequences. God is the authority when it comes to the rules. The price for sin has to be paid no matter what.
So God sent His one and only Son Jesus into the world to be our savior. How does that work? Jesus was born a Jew. Not only that but the Bible links Jesus bloodline to King David. Jesus was born to be the King through Joseph's bloodline, but if Mary was a virgin as the Bible states, Jesus was born divine from the very seed of God. Jesus was the ultimate human being. Yet he didn't live to be King nor did he live forever. He died a torturous and humiliating death. Despite the fact that his life was perfect, he suffered death, the consequence of sin. And all of this happened according to God's plan, God's preordained will for His Son Jesus.
But why?
Atonement.
satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; amends
Theology. the doctrine concerning the reconciliation of God and humankind, esp. as accomplished through the life, suffering, and death of Christ.
In Jewish theology sin can be paid for, wiped off the divine record, through atonement, through sacrifice. The Old Testament describes this process where Jewish priests offered up young animals in sacrifice for atonement from sin.
In evangelical Christian theology supported by New Testament writings Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. God sent His own Son Jesus to be the sacrifice, the atonement, the payment - not for His own sin but for ours. Why? Because He really doesn't want us to suffer an eternity of torture. He cares about our souls. He really wants us to spend eternity with Him in Heaven, not with Satan, the deceiver, in perpetual torture.
Or so the theology goes...
But as with any doctrine, there is an ultimate simplification of the equation. Doctrine grows like vines around basic concepts. Seemingly at the core of Christian theology is the concept of sin, but in reality, that concept is the vine, not the solid core, not the structural rock. At the core of all this theology is the fear of death. This theology of sin and atonement exists in order to overcome the elemental fear of death, fear of the unknown, fear of the unseen, fear that exists because we don't walk with God.
Christian theology teaches us that although we all deserve death and we all have earned eternal torture for our rejection of God's authority, by accepting God's sacrifice of His only Son Jesus we can deny Satan his due. Through salvation we deny that we will pay the price for our disobedience to God.
At the very core of evangelical Christian theology there is this one denial.
From that one seed of denial springs denial after denial after denial for right-wing Christians. And if you think about it, isn't that to be expected? Isn't Christian denial all about denying personal responsibility for our actions? Isn't that what is accomplished by all the denials I listed at the beginning of this post?

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