Basset Hound Christianity (Part 3): The Old Man, The Cabin, and The Bear

Basset Hound Christianity is a series of sometimes random, sometimes coherent personal views of mine on Christianity.


“No one is without Christianity, if we agree on what we mean by that word. It is every individual’s individual code of behavior by means of which he makes himself a better human being than his nature wants to be, if he followed his nature only. Whatever its symbol – cross or crescent or whatever – that symbol is man’s reminder of his duty inside the human race.”  -William Faulkner, Paris Review (1956).


Years ago, one of my relatives gave me a quiz he learned from his college religion class.  I can’t recall the entire quiz, though the parts on religion stuck out for me.  I’m sure that someone out there has taken this quiz before.  I may be missing exact details, so feel free to correct me if I err.  I err often.

You come to a cabin in the woods.  A person is sitting on the porch.  Describe the person and your encounter.

The person is a very old man sitting in a rocking chair.  I stare at him.  He stares at me, but makes no movement.  I speak and he says nothing.  He is indifferent to me.

Step into the cabin.  Describe the cabin.

It is a very simple, warm, and cozy log cabin.  It has all the necessary comforts for one or two people to live in.

You leave the cabin and come down a path.  [I’m fairly certain I was asked to describe the path, but I can’t recall anything about it.]  A bear appears.  Describe the bear and its actions.

The grizzly bear stands up menacingly on its hind legs.  He makes one roar, but then looks at me silently.  He gets back on all fours, shrugs his shoulders, and returns to the woods.  The whole time I just stare calmly at the bear.

 

Now, according to my relative, I actually just described my relationship with Christianity.  The Old Man is God, the cabin is Heaven, and the bear is Jesus Christ.  I suppose I visualize God as a Condescending Wonka  (Not really “condescending,” just indifferent.)  The cabin as Heaven sounds acceptable.  I took this quiz in eighth grade, and I am impressed how I thought of a simple cabin as akin to Heaven.  The bear as Jesus Christ seems like the Condescending Wonka Dog (again, not really “condescending,” just indifferent.).  It wasn’t meant to be a completely accurate test, but, looking back years later, I’m amazed how it would eventually reflect my view on Christianity.  God as Old Man I can understand as Christian Deists might view God and the cozy cabin as Heaven is something many could relate.  But the 7-ft tall grizzly bear with sharp claws pretending to be mighty, but quickly deciding to just go back into woods to rethink his life is Jesus Christ, the Christian Messiah?  I got nothing.  I’m not a Catholic nor do I know much of its imagery, but apparently the bear could either be Persia or St. Euphemia… which makes things far more complicated.

I can’t do anything about the Old Man or the bear, but I think I can build that cabin.

Basset Hound Christianity (Part 2): Purity, Harmony, and Supremacy

Basset Hound Christianity is a series of sometimes random, sometimes coherent personal views of mine on Christianity.


“No one is without Christianity, if we agree on what we mean by that word. It is every individual’s individual code of behavior by means of which he makes himself a better human being than his nature wants to be, if he followed his nature only. Whatever its symbol – cross or crescent or whatever – that symbol is man’s reminder of his duty inside the human race.”  -William Faulkner, Paris Review (1956).


I’ve been playing Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth.  In this game, you lead a civilization to a new planet after Earth has been greatly damaged by an unknown catastrophe called “The Great Mistake.”  The game’s opening trailer hints that religion is still around on Earth as a Russian Orthodox priest blesses a spaceship, but it is largely absent when you first land on the planet and lead humanity to a new dawn.

In the game, you can choose three philosophies called “Affinities.”  These include “Harmony,” “Purity,” and “Supremacy.”

Harmony – You decide that humanity needs to embrace the new planet.  This means being friends with the aliens and morphing yourselves mentally, socially, and biologically to your new environment.  Basically, you are super space hippies wanting to be the adopted children of “Mother Planet.”

Purity – You decide that humanity needs to embrace the old ways of living on Earth.  You want the new planet to become a Second Earth and that requires terraforming and changing the planet to suite humanity.  Aliens are to be killed and made into hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and BBQ sauce.

Supremacy – You decide that humanity needs to embrace technology as a means to evolve beyond humanity’s current existence.  Transhumanism, by becoming cyborgs or downloading your civilization’s populations’ brains to quantum computers via the digital cloud, will lead humanity to a higher plane.  Think of the Borg from Star Trek.

Not long after you settle on the planet, other civilizations land and, at first, are usually friendly towards you.  There are other factors determining your diplomatic stance with them, but civilizations are most affected by the Affinity you choose to follow.  As the game progresses, you choose your dominant Affinity and others will either be friendly or angry with you for your choice.  Given that each civilization believes his/her Affinity to be the best hope for humanity, they are highly likely to retaliate against “heretics” by economic, diplomatic, or military means.

What does this have to with Christianity?  I notice, particularly with the hard-core evangelical Christians, the concept of the “World” come up in theological arguments.  I was never a Deep Thought Christian, but the theological definition of the “World” basically means the secular, material, non-Christian world.  It’s difficult to explain to those who never had at least a foot in the Christian worldview.  Christians want to engage in thoughts and behaviors that are biblically acceptable and will lead them towards the Kingdom of God, i.e. that that is not “of the World.”

I will likely anger many theologians and cause my former college religion professors to have heart attacks, but I see parallels between the Beyond Earth Affinities and the Progressive and Traditionalist Christians.  Progressive Christians have the Harmony Affinity while Traditional Christians have the Purity Affinity.  Think of the “World” as the new planet chosen by a given civilization.  Progressives acknowledge that we leave in the “World” and thus we must embrace it harmoniously, while Traditional Christians want to stay pure with their biblical worldview and regret the “World.”  Very few, I would concede, are 100% Harmony/Progressive Christian or Purity/Traditional Christian, but I do see a comparison.  On every argument on Internet, such as gay marriage, I see these two camps going at each other, sometimes civilly, but usually confrontationally.   William Faulkner once saidThe last sound on the worthless earth will be two human beings trying to launch a homemade spaceship and already quarreling about where they are going next.”  I think he was right.

From the arguments I have seen, I have never come across a Christian theological equivalent to the Supremacy Affinity.  Since Supremacy is basically Transhumanism, I Googled “transhumanism christianity.”  What I saw made me start singing this.  Oh, boy… what madness is out there!  Christian Transhumanism!?  Hyper-Evolution!?  I think of myself as a far-far-far left Progressive Christian of the Harmony Affinity, but… I don’t know about this, Davey.  This is scarier than Time Cube, Davey.  I… I think we need to gather all the religion bloggers on Patheos and figure out if this is a good thing or not, Davey.  I don’t think it is good at all, Davey!

Uh oh…

Run, Davey!  The Transhumanist Christians with the Supremacy Affinity are coming through the gate!  They'l put our brains in jars for the Lord!  Get Brian D. McLaren to safety!  Save Dan Kimball!  Image Source: Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth
Run, Davey! The Transhumanist Christians with the Supremacy Affinity are coming through the gate! They’ll put our brains in jars for the Lord! Get Brian D. McLaren to safety! Save Dan Kimball!
Image Source: Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth

Basset Hound Christianity (Part 1): This is not Christianity

Basset Hound Christianity is a series of sometimes random, sometimes coherent personal views of mine on Christianity.


“No one is without Christianity, if we agree on what we mean by that word. It is every individual’s individual code of behavior by means of which he makes himself a better human being than his nature wants to be, if he followed his nature only. Whatever its symbol – cross or crescent or whatever – that symbol is man’s reminder of his duty inside the human race.”  -William Faulkner, Paris Review (1956).


I dreamed I went to a Bible study.  We met in one of the out-buildings where banquets were held and the Boy Scouts gathered (until the church kicked them out for financial reasons).  We sat in a circle on metal chairs waiting for the study to begin.  There were no idle conversations or friendly chit-chat as there simply was nothing to say.

The Independent Southern Baptist preacher burst into the building flailing his arms frantically and angrily yelling, “I CAN’T STAND IT! I CAN’T STAND IT! I CAN’T STAND IT!”  He was your stereotypical white Southern Baptist with naught but a white undershirt and white underpants on.  The man was overweight with a rotund stomach and looked to be in his late-60s or early-70s.  In all likely-hood, he was in his late-40s or early-50s and his years of hard-living plus the austere life of an Independent Southern Baptist preacher had taken a toll on his body and, quite possibly, his mind.  He ran screaming to a large back bedroom, closing the door violently behind him.  We all took a minor note of the spectacle, yet we said nothing as there simply was nothing to say.

The preacher’s wife was a simple, plain, yet kind woman in her late-40s and early 50s.  She was mildly weathered in appearance, but she had not succumbed to whatever had harangued her husband.  She paid her husband no mind as he ran past her and slammed the bedroom door.  We had expected the preacher to lead the study, but now his wife began the study with an open Bible in her hands.  “Now,” she said, “I want you to turn your Bibles to 1st Corinthians.”  We did this and looked at the chapter before us.  This, however, was where Bible study deviated from its traditional form.

“I want you all to look up at the ceiling, place the Bible on your face at 1st Corinthians, and stand on your chairs,” said the preacher’s wife.  Everyone, but myself, did so.  Many began trying to out-do the others by standing on their tip-toes and yelling, “I feel You, Lord! I feel You!”  Of course, some on their tip-toes hit the ceiling’s fluorescent lights, causing large electric shocks to course through them as glass slivers rained down.  These devout parishioners felt something, but it was not the Lord.  I marveled at how the Bibles could stay on their faces since one would think the combined weight of the Old Testament and the New Testament before 1st Corinthians would have caused the Bibles to fall off.

No one publicly questioned this practice.  I simply sat there looking at my Bible turned to 1st Corinthians in silent thought and puzzlement.  I briefly considered joining in.  However, I looked around at my cohorts standing on their chairs yelling and some being mildly electrocuted.  The preacher’s wife was not standing on a chair, but she did have a Bible on her face and was actively taking part in the exercise.  A thought came to me.  I thought it in a matter-of-fact and logical way, but the implications were huge as it meant that the practices and ways of thinking of my church, perhaps even my entire religion, were wrong.

That thought was this:  This is not Christianity.