Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama--a Rebuke to Fundamentalism of All Stripes

In all of the commentary I've read today on the historical and momentous election of Barack Obama to the presidency, there is one piece that really struck me as unique, because of its religious dimensions. Frank Schaeffer, the son of Francis Schaeffer--literally one of the founding fathers of the modern evangelical movement known as the Religious Right, argues that Obama's election is a rebuke to religious fundamentalists and the so-called "New Atheists" like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and even Bill Maher, etc. Here's a taste:

Okay, so a lot of religious people are nuts, or worse, intolerant. That still doesn't address the baby swirling down the Maher/New Atheist anti-religion drain along with the right wing bathwater they're flushing.

President-elect Obama brings another perspective to faith . It goes something like this:

How do cultures define themselves if not through ritual? In the "big moments" of life; birth, marriage, sickness, death "who" -- in the inimitable words of Ghost Busters -- "you gonna call?" As President elect Obama has said, and I paraphrase: Strip the human race of our spiritual language and what do we tell each other about hope?

As President elect Obama has pointed out, a world of all math but no poetry is not fit for human habitation. If everything feels flat and dull, stripped of mystery and meaning who will bother to do the science? Why bother, if all we're doing is serving those selfish genes for another round of meaningless propagation?

So does this faith always make "sense?" No. Because our perspective is from the inside, something like paint contemplating the painting of which it's a part. We're all in the same boat, all stuck on the same "canvas."

So let's admit we all share the problem that was best articulated by Darwin in his dairy: "Can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?"

As our new president recognizes, self-awareness and mortality are already such a mutually exclusive (and terrifying) contradiction that accepting a few more contradictions is par for the course! And President elect Obama has a generous enough spirit and a large enough intellect so that he can do with his spiritual life, what the Religious Right and the New Atheists have not done: understand that there is no shame in embracing paradox.

The younger Schaeffer has a book called CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back where he describes his own journey from extremely conservative evangelical to his current status as a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. Sounds like interesting reading to me.

Grace and Peace,



Andrew said...

Wow, that is really remarkable. It is not a perspective I considered.

Schaeffer has had some very interesting articles at HuffPo. Thanks, Rev!

Bill R-H said...

I'm with Andrew. This got me to reflect differently and I appreciate that opportunity. Well done.