Sunday, June 25, 2006

Press Biter

Pastor Jim Rigby (of the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church) is a troublemaker... of the good kind*! He has brought heat down on his neck for blessing same-sex unions, ordaining an openly gay elder and general activism. I have heard him speak at the UU church a couple of times, and believe me, the promise of hearing a talk given by a Christian minister will make me groan, but each time I've heard him he received and deserved standing ovations for his comments on social causes and human rights.

What he's in trouble for this time is accepting an atheist into the congregation. Yes very confusing, I know. This requires a little background. It's UT professor Robert Jensen, a professor who professes his atheism among other things, notably controversial post-9/11, anti-war, and social commentary [Articles]. He explains this action in the Alternet article, "Why I am a Christian (sort of)." Here is Rigby's accompanying article called "Why we let an atheist join our church."
Religion is not about groveling before a savior, it's joining in the work of saving our world. -- Jim Rigby

Like a breath of fresh air from a Christian minister, huh? -- Blueberry

Well, people are pissed off and disgruntled. Not only the Presbyterians, but atheists as well. Both sides wonder "Why would you do this?"

OK, this is controversial, and here's my take. Jensen identifies with and supports the teachings of Jesus, the mortal man. Because of this, he considers himself to be Christian. Great! The problem comes in when he joins a Presbyterian Church. The church is a club of sorts (all churches are) that has particular rules as to who can be a member and who can't. Private clubs do not have to admit people who don't fit the criteria for admittance, you must qualify. There's nothing wrong with this in my thinking**. An atheist, who going to continue to continue to deny the existence of God and the divinity of Jesus is NOT a Presbyterian. He might be a Christian by his own definition, but shouldn't be allowed to join this particular church.

If avoiding controversy was the idea here, (and it isn't), Jensen could join the Unitarian Universalist Church (UU). I am a member of it, and there are several atheists who are members there. It's completely alright because the church is not Christian, it's all about finding your own way, and questioning your beliefs or lack thereof at every turn, being a heretic in other words. CHOOSE, don't FOLLOW. It would be considered wrong and inappropriate (not to mention disrespectful) to try and change another person's beliefs to match your own. At least that's way it's presented at our church. Unlike the Presbyterian Church, being creedless is the intent and goal.

It's actually helping me to come to terms with... well... terms. Terms like religion, prayer, spirit, gods, sacred. They are concepts that can mean many things... and they do, of course. The sermons are thought-provoking, and you are meant to have just that reaction, they are not attempts at controlling (brainwashing) you. The terms are becoming much less offensive to me the more open-minded I become about concepts, and the more I realize that tolerance takes work no matter who you are and where you're coming from.

Here are some of Davidson's sermons on the topic of atheism and there are more in the archives:

What if There Isn't a God?

Religion for Atheists

*If a teacher/pastor/leader doesn't stir the pot and get people thinking, what should their purpose be? (yes, I know teachers "teach" but isn't a lot of teaching just making people think for themselves? and if leaders and pastors are just turning people into sheep, then damn them and ban them)
**The issue of whether or not churches, or private clubs, should be given tax breaks or other government support is another matter and another issue.

- Check out , at Daylight Atheism on July 9 - - -


Michael Bains said...

Excellent post, and I'm really glad you entered it this time, Blueberry!

I just went looking and STILL can't find it in my email, though I know I've read it. I didn't know that's why it wasn't in the CotG I hosted. I just didn't have it at hand when posting.

Very cool!

Per the story: Jensen sounds much like the guy who made the movie, "The God Who Wasn't There". His name is Brian Flemming, and he's got a pretty good blog. No comments allowed on it, though.

"See ya" later Lady.

Blueberry said...

hey thanks, MB! Actually I didn't send you this one for the CotG, I sent the one from late June on celebrity atheist Joss Whedon, his show Firefly (movie "Serenity") and the atheist lead character Captain Malcolm Reynolds.