Thursday, May 03, 2012

Should We Lie For Christ?

Perhaps it is a product of reading Marci McDonald's The Armageddon Factor. At least that has brought fresh light to the idea that some Christians, especially in my Charismatic/Pentecostal world, seem to think it is ok to lie to further their ideological agendas. I framed the title of this blog deliberately because I'm sure that is what they think they are doing. Just today Canada in Prayer posted a dire warning about a supposed Wiccan festival this weekend in Mississauga. The post is filled with fearful language about lengthy pagan rites and sending curses on the land. When I first read it I was thinking that they were simply misrepresenting a psychic fair or something. I was going to comment but then thought I'd do some digging. When I found nothing I called bullshit on the post. So the most audacious response so far was even if it isn't true praying can't hurt. Seriously? So it is ok to spread lies about people and events just cause it might cause them to pray some prayer against some imagined threat/event? What would that accomplish?

Well let me tell you what that will accomplish. Spiritually - nothing. However, it will entrench an ideological bias against spiritual seekers who happen to be tracking with neo-paganism. I'm sure that will really bolster our ability to witness to them, not. It will also foster fear amongst those people already afraid that Satan is lurking around behind every tree ready to trounce on them. It will also foster an unrealistic relationship to the land. If we buy the lie then we do not have to own our own culpability for the state our society and world is in. We don't have to act to change things - we just have to pray. It was telling that one poster cut and pasted a long all-caps prayer in response to this imaginary threat.

Stuff like this makes me want to shake people and tell them to wake up.


Wikkid Person said...

Truth is connected with reality. If you deal in lies, you aren't dealing with what's real. This could well be a symptom of having resigned yourself to a "faith" or "spirituality" that is made up and is about making things up. If that's what it's about for you, you will reap no real benefits, and you will be sidelining yourself from anything real that could be part of it all.

One of Freedom said...

The awful thing is when lies and reality are all mixed together. The problem with the charismatic imagination is that it fails to critique its own mediation of experience. In fact there is too little reflection on the experience and what that experience might mean. When a meaning is settled it becomes entrenched and absolute. So the imagined becomes the reality. If you follow that thread you will see many competing mediations of similar experiences. (Most recently someone interpreted the light flickering when reading the post to be divine confirmation.) One poster observed (and this was removed later) that the people in that thread were "batshit crazy". I think he was on to something - but here is where it gets tricky. I actually buy into a worldview that has some of the potentials they are projecting on this imagined event. At least I don't buy that everything is benevolent in the world. But if that is taken to an extreme - as it is in that particular thread - then everything has that immediate potential to be malevolent. Indeed a demon hides behind every bush, and fear motivates the most bizarre of responses.

One of the things I appreciated about John Wimber's clinical approach to spirituality was that it took the time to ask questions, to probe deeper and not just let imagination lead (I do think imagination is helpful, but not when it is the only mode of interpreting experience). So in this case I actually know wiccans, neo-pagans, and others who are often most vilified by the charismatic imagination. For the most part these folks do not send curses on the land as was claimed, nor are their rites somehow manifesting evil that needs to be combated (any more than a Christian rite does so anyway). They are people, real people, trying to find a spirituality that works within a post-modern mileau. Often drawn to neo-paganism for the same reasons charismatics are drawn to their own spiritualities.

This does not mean all spiritualities are equal or all lead to God - but that the human dynamic is the same despite the particular accretions associated with the religion. As a survivor of Jonestown said, "nobody joins a cult." We adhere to groups that both shape and match our mediation of experience. So it becomes more important to develop evaluative tools - ie. questions about the mediation that happens within our spiritualities, because some of it is not good. In fact I wonder if the not good here is the "bat shit crazy" that happened in that thread.

Now the whole issue of mediation is a hard one. Basically I am insisting that we always play a role in interpretation of experience. We always put our spin on it. But we are often not aware of the act of mediation (interpretation). This is why questions are helpful. Healthy spiritualities always have room for questioning and even doubt. Even though neither of these things are all that comfortable - we need to remember that healthy spirituality is about human growth which is not a comfortable subject. Growing is hard.

Unknown said...

Thank you for being one of the only people to respond on that wall without sounding like you're crazy... I can't imagine how the church of Christ would react if every time they got together to "ask for the nations" (a quote already taken terrifyingly out of context), pagans posted it everywhere and began rambling off absurd counter-prayers for all the things they might imagine a Christian doing, or worse, saying the city was under attack...
Some of my friends are charismatic, and it makes me worry when i start counting how many curses they imagine are coming to the land, and how their only solution to this at-least-partially-fictional problem is to "pray into it" and "stir up the gifts" and "stand in the gap" and ... well, you get the idea.
I'm a Christian, but I'm also not afraid to think, and I'm glad to have someone like you trying to mitigate the damage (even if, in the end, it just ended up about them attacking your purposes in the name of God for some reason). If the light shines in the darkness, and we are children of light, then our job is to shine, not to defame or prejudice or revert to some kind of unthinking knee-jerk response full of all-caps cliches pointed at "enemies" we don't even care to understand. If the truth will set us free, then I wonder what lies will do...?

One of Freedom said...

Thanks so much. I think the expectation is that we should not speak up - and if we do it is 'obviously' because we are not spiritual enough to understand. The early Church faced this too and branded gnosticism a heresy. In our day it is how we get people to vote how we want, toe the line, and maintain the status quo - no matter how unjust it is. Lies go deep and they never lead to freedom - you got that spot on. Thanks again.