Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Invitation or call?

Have you noticed that "invitational" is the current buzzword in some Christian circles? It describes a way of relating to the other such that the inviter would like the invited to do or listen to something. It seems to be a correction to un-Christlike ways of relating which involve some form of (verbal but sometimes physical) coercion. For instance: "Accept Jesus as your personal savior if you want to avoid the eternal damnation which you are certainly headed toward if you don't do it right now!" Hopefully, people will see a problem with that way of relating (evangelizing).

Enter the new(er) buzzword: "I invite you to hear my story of what Jesus means to me." This sounds much nicer than the above fiat. But I would argue that something is missing. It seems too watered down. If I get an invitation to a Columbus Day party, I might respond "Hey! That sounds like a blast! I'll bring a dead Indian!" or more likely "Meh. I'll be busy watching re-runs of The Sopranos that night." The invitation gets tossed without a second thought; no biggie, no consequences.

Is that what the call to follow Jesus is? Merely an invitation, or is there more? I think that what we are calling the other to accept ought to be clear. Give them a chance to grasp what it is they might be rejecting and what kind of world is created when the call of Jesus is rejected (weeping and gnashing of teeth?).

I think that "call" is the better word anyway. We can look at Jesus' way of calling his disciples as our example. Invitational? Yes, but also quite urgent and serious - "Follow me and you'll end up fishing for people" and eventually "Take up your cross and follow me."


Universal Moral Grammar... or Babble?

The psychologist Marc Hauser asserts that morality comes from our biology, not our "religion." In this article, he spells out his thesis. I think his reasoning has big gaps and is based on ill-defined terms and popular but poorly-informed history.

Firstly, I wonder what phenomenon qualify as religion. No doubt he throws Christianity, Judaism and Islam into the mix. But I wonder what he would say about nationalism. Yes, I know it's not a theistic religion, but many sociologists note that it certainly functions like one and today is even the most powerful one in America. It's the one religion for which people willingly give up there own bodies in a form of subjection (military service) and, even further, blood sacrifice (dying for one's country). Hauser might have done better to use the term "totalizing ideology." That takes into account nationalism as well as Marxism, capitalism, and any other "ism" which captures people's imaginations in such a way that their lives are oriented by it.

He asserts that religions which "teach compassion, forgiveness, and genuine altruism" are good. I want to know what tells him that these things are good. I'd also like to know what he thinks they mean. Does compassion have a limit in some cases? And I've heard many people (religious and atheist alike) speak as though certain crimes are unforgivable.

If what is morally right does not need to be taught since we get it biologically, then does the same principle apply to truth? If so, then why does anyone need to read Marc Hauser's babble? Apparently, we have already obtained the truth from the oracles of biology.