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Robertson and Dawkins: There They Go Again

January 28, 2010

So, Pat Robertson is at it again.  In response to the devastating human tragegy in Haiti, Robertson once again weighs in with his insights on things.  If you want a simple, wordless picture on how most people feel about Pat Robertson, please see the editorial cartoon of Atlanta's Mike Luckovich from January 15.  You can find it on the website of our Atlanta newspaper at ajc.com

Then, in response to Robertson's statements, along comes the noted atheist, Richard Dawkins, who has a couple of noteworthy assertions to make.  One, Dawkins suggests that Robertson represents traditional Christianity.  And, two, he suggests that Christians like us who wish to resist Robertson's statements have no basis from which to do so, since even "modern, enlightened, theologically sophisticated Christians" practice a religion that is founded on sin, punishment, and atonement.

I have a few thoughts.

One, Pat Robertson needs to hush.  See the Luckovich cartoon, please.

Two, Mr. Dawkins, please stop lumping all Christians together.  There are hosts of Christians, ancient, modern, post-modern, enlightened, and theologically sophisticated who do not practice a Christianity that is based on simplistic and unhealthy notions of reward and punishment.  As far back as our monastic mothers and fathers in the 3rd and 4th centuries, there have been Christian people who reject the childish notions of God as the Santa Claus who keeps a list, checks it twice, has goodies for all those good folks, and coal for all those bad ones.  People who are spiritually mature have already fashioned a Christianity that has left behind such narrow notions.  Just ask my Wednesday morning study group!  We are always and forever talking about the need to rescue Christianity from the prison of punishment and reward. 

Another thought about this is a thought that's not original with me.  I ran across an article/blog today on the website of The New York Times.  It's written by Russ Douthat, who is an op-ed columnist for The Times, and it's appetizingly entitled, "Fundamentalists and the Atheists Who Love Them."  In this article, Douthat echoes some of the excellent insights of Karen Armstrong in her book, "The Battle For God," in which she traces the history of religious fundamentalism in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

Douthat refers to the unhealthy symbiosis that exists between Christian fundamentalists like Robertson and fundamentalist atheists (my term) like Dawkins.  And, what I want to stand up and scream is that each of them stands on such a narrow fringe, between which is a huge thought world occupied by most people on the planet and certainly occupied by most Christians.  Most Christians think Pat Robertson is off his rocker, and most Christians do not love to be lampooned, caricatured, and pigeonholed by the likes of Mr. Dawkins.  But, in their dialogue/diatribe, and in whatever other dialogues/diatribes are waged between those on the fringes of belief and unbelief, the overwhelming majority of us Christians are left out!

So, Pat, please stop speaking for us!  And, Richard, please stop assuming that Pat speaks for us!  And, you and me?  Well, that's one of the reasons Day1 exists, so that people of faith can celebrate the best of Christianity and share with the world our deeply-held conviction that the Christian story really does contain good news!

Now, that's off my chest.  I do hope that I said something akin to what you would have wanted to say.


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