Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.


Another book for you to pick up, in case you don't, you know, have a job or a family or a lawn to mow or anything.

Bart D. Ehrman's Jesus, Interrupted is the latest review in Salon's ongoing series of "Conversations About Science and Faith."  Looks like it's worth your time, too, if you're not afraid of feeling a little burned when the whole thing is said and done.

Ehrman's another classic case of someone who's come up through the evangelical track and ended up an academic and an agnostic.  Sigh. Why is it that when we actually invest scholarly time and energy into studying the real historical facts going on here, it becomes so hard to maintain a genuine faith in Christianity?  (Projection, sorry.)  

It's a long interview, but a sharp one, a bit wistful, frank.  Ehrman seems to have a good sense of the state of American Christianity right now.  I wonder what the future will hold.  It seems like no matter how many of these sharp deconstructions come out, the Religious Right just keeps on firing its empty literalistic shells.

Comments

Jess(ica) said…
Great interview. Ehrman's books are going on my ever-growing list. Your blog will be responsible for a large Amazon order soon-ish. :)

p.s. I share your "sigh."
paul lefeber said…
I gotta say...

The only response isn't empty literalist shells. That seems like a bit of a false dichotomy. Further, there are plenty of reasonable and reputable scholars who maintain their faith. Plenty.

It’s easy to dismiss Christians under the label of literalist, fundametalist, etc. Under that banner they make an easy target. It’s like picking on the dumb kid in the classroom knowing full well that there are some smart kids sitting in the back. It’s easier to pretend like the smart kids aren’t there.

Combative or conversant? That’s the question.
Rach said…
That's what I find most disappointing, I think. I used to feel combative. Before that, I felt conversant. Now, I just feel resigned. And not interested in the fight OR the conversation.

I don't think it's stretching to talk about the RR firing "empty literalist shells." It's a battle that's increasingly a matter of bumping one's head against a brick wall. How can you have a conversation when both parties (oneself included) are not open to hearing what the other says? It's not a matter of changing minds, or of having conversations.

I think Ehrman, for instance, was interested in doing that. Stretching people's minds. Finding a middle way that allowed for faith while considering real historic scholarship. And the course of his work led him to the spiritual place he occupies today, which is largely agnostic.

There seems to be something problematic about trying to have rational conversations about matters of ultimate faith. An oxymoronic losing battle. Which is, I think, why I several years ago lost the interest or energy in having those measured rational conversations in the first place.

(Resignation, much? Sorry.)
paul lefeber said…
I feel you. My main point is that it's not so black and white. There are streams of Christian thought beyond the RR. In fact, the RR is a relatively recent development and occupies a surprisingly small amount of real-estate (yes, they're loud). There are movements of Christianity around the globe that don't know anything about the American Religious Right, nor do they really care. It's a much broader picture.

Sure the RR throws bombs. There are also plenty apart from the RR who have very insightful and respectable things to say. There are loads of vibrant religious scholars exploring the issues and having the conversation (debate, monologue, dialogue, whatever). Have you read much N.T. Wright? Certainly he gets heat from both sides, but no one dismisses him as a lightweight.

I understand the struggle to apply rationality to matters of faith. Honest I do. I also think I understand the resignation. In the end I guess I don't know if faith and reason have to be mutually exclusive. Perhaps I'm blinded by my own biases and am just a country bumpkin, but I think there's harmony to be found there. Certain brands of faith, yeah, there's probably some incompatibility. Still, the conversation is much larger than any one brand.

Also, are you really disinterested? Or are you just being a diva?

Oh Lord, I'm gonna' get myself in trouble.

Thanks for the exchange. I hope I'm not too annoying. I love this stuff.

with love,

your evangelical brother in law
Rach said…
Yeah, see, here's the deal. That's exactly WHY I did a Masters in Systematic Theology in the first place. Because I believed there WERE living breathing alternatives to the RR, and I wanted to spend my life arguing on their behalf. And I discovered neo-orthodoxy and existentialists and process theologians and eco/feminist and mujerista and queer theologians, blah blah blah. They're out there. Saying great radical things. But are they living and breathing? Do they command any audience AT ALL outside of the academy? Not so much. Because the dialogue's been co-opted by the RR. Conservative Christianity wields the social and institutional power to define what Christianity "is" in this country, in this moment. Period. And I think it's waaaaay too far gone to ever soften and return to the middle from its far-right veer.

I never imagined that studying what I thought I loved would make me doubt its truth and its relevance. I guess that's why I so identify with Ehrman in his loss of faith.

I know you love these conversations, and some people find them invigorating, but I hate them. It's not a diva thing. I find them wearying. Draining. Annoying. I hate blogging them, I hate talking about them in person, they exhaust me, they seem pointless to me. I don't want to parse verses or time frames or historical facts vs. fictions. I hate arguing. What's the point? It is what it is. I'm fine with other people fighting those battles. But I don't have the energy to invest in them anymore.

You can. :)
Jess(ica) said…
Wanted to add a couple more cents here...

I fully agree with what Rach is saying about any radical (or even not-so-radical) thought staying on the periphery. I read Marcus Borg's book--"The Heart of Christianity"-- last fall and hoped to identify with his non-literalist approach to Christianity--belief in an extrapersonal God, finding meaning in the metaphor of the traditions, etc. It is very similar Ehrman's "soft Christianity". But I was told firmly by people who identify themselves as evangelicals that "soft Christianity" was NOT Christianity.

I suppose not only did those dialogues cause me to want to disassociate with these evangelicals, but led me to the conclusion that using the term "christian" to describe myself was misleading in light of the prevailing culture. So I don't use it anymore. It turns out you can't be an "agnostic Christian" in our country.

So be it. I agree with Rach that the RR has set up a stronghold on the Christian culture, but I think that can always be revolutionized. Luther managed an insurmountable task, so there is always hope.
paul said…
Rach,

I was trying to make a joke with the diva comment. Sorry.

I suppose I presumed that because you frequently touch on the topic with your blog you had some residual interest in it.

Here's the deal. I struggle Rach. I can't tell you how many nights I've been unable to fall asleep. Often I carry a pit in my stomach and anxiety in my heart. I don't have the energy for the conversation either. Lands! Most the time it gives me the runs. I don't find the conversation invigorating. But I suppose I do love it. I love it because the conversation keeps me going. Without the conversation I know full well that I would be consumed by my doubt and despair. Consumed. Or, I would be taken over by certitude. I love the conversation because I find beauty and truth in many different places, including the Religious Right.

I don't know much Rach, and we both know that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. My journey has been one of pruning. I'm not looking for any kind of battle. I'm simply looking for peace and trying hard to learn what it means to follow Jesus. I know...for many people that makes me this, that, and the other thing. But Fuck it. That's what I choose. I choose to believe that Jesus matters.

I respect where you're at Rach. I appreciate it very much. Please don't read judgment into any of my messages. I'm not trying to change your mind or convince you of anything. I respect you a lot and love to learn from you, that’s why I frequent your blog. I get that this sort of thing wears you out, really I do. Don't worry; I'm not going to make you the new target of my religious zeal. I don't believe in "projects." I'm just sharing my perspective, a little bit of my story, even though no one asked. Ah the blogosphere.

Perhaps I'm just in a strange mood today. I guess something about this exchange struck a chord and I felt like getting a little raw.
Kim said…
I'm joining what's left of the conversation late. I've abandoned the word "Christian." There are too many negative connotations for Christians and Christianity...too much baggage that doesn't describe me and that I don't want to own.

When I think about it rationally and academically, it's hard for me to justify holding on to "faith." I'd prefer certainty. And it's clear to me that what's understood as "Christian" in America doesn't describe me.

But there's something that makes it impossible for me to abandon the idea that God is real. And even though I struggle between doubt and faith about Jesus and his godness, I can hold on tightly to one idea...that he was a real person who figured out something really powerful about how to live.

So I'm rejecting the literalism of the RR and rejecting the institutionalism that has come to define "the church"....but I'm holding on to following Jesus. Faith is a verb for me instead of a noun or an adjective. And I just keep living in the ambiguity

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