Series Topic : Fundamentalist Myths
This post is the fifth in a continuing series that examines the origins of commonly held positions promoted within modern evangelical American Christianity.
- The links page for this series of posts can be found here: https://edgeofmindandbeyond.wordpress.com/category/fundamentalist-myths/
Comments, corrections and clarifications are welcomed, as always.
Beliefs vs. Myths
Throughout my lifetime some persistent themes have circulated in the conservative evangelical and fundamentalist Christian groups that have become almost mandatory beliefs of “true believers”. Some of these ideas I now consider to be myths or misunderstandings, since they seem to advocate support for agendas other than advancing the Kingdom of God.
Here are some examples (continuing the list from the previous post)…
12. The belief in a literal six day (24 hour day) creation event has always been the orthodox view throughout Christian history.
- Not so… once again, this belief has been debated throughout Church history, and Jewish history as well. Many notable early church fathers did not accept a literal six day creation event, but considered that a long creation event was more probable, without finding this belief to be a contradiction to their faith. The same was true among many Jewish scholars.
- The groups who have insisted upon forcing this “young earth” creationism as scientific fact did so almost purely as a self-declared ideological war against Darwinism through attacking scientific biology and geology. For the most part, scientists tend not to focus on the theological aspects of the debate, but stand by the facts and conclusions of the science within their own domain of knowledge. There are some scientists with a theological position they wish to advocate, but many consider the issue to be an apples to oranges comparison which does not warrant a debate with the scientific community.
- The facts are well established on the side of the “old earth” geology and evolutionary biological sciences while the “science” from the young earth creationists has been widely evaluated and thoroughly debunked. It is time for the young earth creationists to stop embarrassing themselves, the religious community at large, and God. This debate needs to remain within theology as a belief, where it belongs, not in the scientific domain.
- For anyone who may be skeptical of this conclusion, please do the research on your own, from legitimate scientific sources, not the pseudo-science and propaganda of the creationist groups. While you’re at it, look into the origins and history of the well known creationist groups. Several key figures in this movement have backgrounds which include scandalous personal and financial dealings that do not reflect well on their message. It would be wise to consider the possibility that these ministries might be more motivated by financial gain or personal recognition than advancing truth.
- If this “revelation” is unsettling for believers, then perhaps this discomfort is an indicator that some deeply held beliefs warrant reevaluation, because the scientific facts are now definitive. Please find the courage to pursue truth rather than comforting beliefs; question the basis of all teaching, whether the information supports or challenges existing opinions. Remember, it is not truth that hides from the light of critical evaluation, only untruth.
13. America was specially chosen by God to be a “city upon a hill” to shine His light to all the world.
- This has been represented as the earnest belief of many of the religious individuals and leaders among the early settlers and refugees in North America, rooted in the desire to show that a free and just society based on Biblical principles was possible.
- However, this perspective also became a rallying cry of specific religious groups who hoped that within a “godly” nation, their own influence in the sphere of governance would be enhanced (and perhaps preferred). Using such noble-sounding phrases and emotional appeals, they sought to gain support of the majority for their own religious perspectives or groups.
- Within America in particular, this manipulative type of pseudo-religious emotional appeal has been so effective that even unbelieving politicians have adopted similar religious language to garner support for election campaigns and political platforms.
14. Patriotism in America is almost a religious duty. To question the divine destiny of America is often considered tantamount to treason and heresy.
- Much of the rest of the world realizes that America routinely indulges in self-delusions and grandiose fantasies about our exalted and unique status in the world. Due to our Puritan heritages, we also tend to think that our success is due to God’s blessings upon our nation as a reward for our own piety, or an expression of His goodness.
- However the comingling of religion and nationalism is based in a flaw of human perception that has existed for thousands of years, and over time is usually proven to be a bad idea. Aligning earthly desires (for status, possessions, land or domination over other groups of fellow humans) with an assumed divine mandate to seek these things may be sufficient motivation for short term success, but a higher moral imperative eventually tends to win out. The greatest predictors of a civil society are equal justice, equal opportunity, religious liberty for all, and a common duty to seek the highest good for one’s fellow man. Once any factor becomes the basis for special treatment of any group, all others then seek equal treatment, so factiousness is the natural result.
- Unfortunately, many religions groups embrace and encourage an emphasis on differences such as chosen beliefs, social status, inherited life circumstances, race, national origin, etc. Due to a human instinct toward tribalism, in nearly every group there is a tendency to develop the “us” versus “them” mentality, even over trivial and superficial differences. This divisive instinct is easily manipulated by human leaders to highlight differences between America and “the others” as a cause for national pride. Taken a small step further, it is also the means to lead the populace, especially cohesive groups such as religious believers, into support for actions taken “in the national interest”. Unfortunately, the interests advocated are usually much narrower than advertised, and may often be against the general interests of the citizens of the country. This potential for manipulation by deception is a powerful argument against comingling religious and nationalistic agendas.
- From a historical perspective, claiming special sanction from some divine source has been a powerful tool to manipulate the populace to embrace some nationalistic belief or cause, especially war, for thousands of years. Considering the outcome of many of these wars, it seems certain that God was not the instigator of such conflicts, nor the champion of either side involved. As Americans, we should learn from history to keep an attitude of extreme humility when tempted to declare that God is on our side, or even that we are on God’s side.