Sunday, November 19, 2006

You Are Who You Are

I couldn't help but notice the following argument in a post on The Beginner's Mind which asserts:

Those folks who risked their lives for the good of others practice their religion in such a way as to reflect that compassion for others. Being religious didn't cause them to help end slavery or further the civil rights movement. I'm not religious and I find common cause with the enemies of slavery and champions of civil rights. Religious beliefs reflect the believer not the other way around, in my opinion. Just as an atheist like myself gladly works for civil rights, a Christian wearing the hood of the KKK would likely have little problem with black slavery.
That's what we'd like removed from the public sphere; this notion that true morality and social justice flows from religion and nowhere else. And, yes, this is what conservative Christians believe.

The author presents two ideas in this statement: First, that we are who we are and our beliefs and life choices simply express this - they don't change us into something we were not before. Second, if you are a conservative Christian, you believe those who are not Christian are inherently immoral - incapable of knowing right from wrong.

The first point the author makes is not only wrong, in my opinion, but also irresponsible. He states an idea that has been popular for quite a while now - Eddie Vedder sang about it in a rather bland song of his entitled "Who You Are" on Pearl Jam's "No Code" album. The refrain was "You are who you are". a nice little New Age mantra, perhaps, but not worth an awful lot when you're dealing with social issues of the day. Nevermind the fact that the remainder of the lyrics were, in Eddie Vedder's trademark fashion, mumbled incoherently. Not that it would havea mattered, for it seems the remainder of the lyrics were chosen largely because their rhyme and meter, not for any particular meaning. It's interesting to note that when one of alternative rock's premier bands writes a song about the meaning of humanity, it amounts to a song about nothing...

All of this, of course, is also contrary to what Christianity teaches in 2 Corinthians 5:17:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

What the author argues is fatalistic and, in my opinion, unsustainable in the face of documentable human behavior. For example, Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade publicly repudiated the abortion right for which she so ardently strove in that landmark 1973 case, but she only did so after becoming a Christian. Theodore Weld became a Christian under the preaching of Charles Finney (a man whom he hated) and began the American abolition movement in the early-mid 1800's. In both cases, we see people ultimately behaving contrariwise to who they once were. This raises the question, did they really change? If so, then "You are who you are" loses it's definitive, fatalistic edge and becomes a meaningless mantra not quite worthy of Yogi Berra.

The "You are who you are" philosophy does not admit change. It's a popular lie that is told especially loudly in homosexual circles to keep gays who do not wish to be gay from seeking treatment. The philosophy hinders true social change, and while I'm certain the author wouldn't express it in these extreme terms, if we apply that philosophy everyone, then who can fault John Mark Karr for being addicted to kiddie porn? After all, that's just the way he is, right?

Grotesque humanistic New Age philosophy aside, one issue remains: that conservative Christians believe that morality can only be found in Chistianity. As a conservative Christian, I reject that outright - and always have. Most any Christian who knows their faith well enough knows that is false. We need only cite Romans 1 or, better yet, Romans 5:14,15 to point out that everyone knows the difference between right and wrong. After all, why would a non-Christian demand justice for wrongs committed if they had no sense of morality to begin with? While I know some in Christianity may express it in those terms, most would not. From the conservative Christian viewpoint, an atheist civil rights activist who has righted numerous social wrongs in their lifetime has no more claim on heaven than any professing Christian wearing a KKK hood.

Christianity clearly teaches it is not about what you've done or what you know. It's about Who you know and what He's done.

- Graffy

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