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The Rev. Mark Sargent Mark Sargent

Mark Sargent is a retired United Methodist minister who works in the private sector and resides in Rome, GA.

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On Dr. Kervorkian and Christianity With Brains

April 28, 2010

I appreciate the recent blog of my colleague, Ken Carter, on the not-so-wonderful reputation we Christians have these days.  I have written about this important topic in a sermon broadcast last year on Day1, entitled "The Thunk, The Gap, and The Six A's."  If you missed it, I commend it to you.

I've also preached on Day1 about the importance of engaging both brain and soul in our work.  It is sad when religion emphasizes one at the expense of the other.  In order for us to be whole, our brains, souls, and bodies need to be meaningfully wedded to one another.

This has been on my mind again lately after watching one of my favorite television programs again last week.  If you have never caught an episode of Bill Maher's "Real Time" on HBO, I invite you to check it out.  There is an almost steady dose of religious caricaturing, and we don't come off looking very good!

Last week, Maher's interview guest was Dr. Jack Kervorkian, the subject of a new docudrama on HBO.  Maher and Kervorkian began to delve into the question of assisted suicide, during which conversation Maher asked the Doc about his claim that medical doctors are "cowards."  In response, Kervorkian went on to share his conviction that medical doctors in the West operate according to religious ethics and not medical ethics.  This is a holdover, he said, from the long-ago time when hospices and such were run by religious orders. 

Well, that took the conversation in the inevitable direction of religion.  And, Maher served up a softball question that Kervorkian hit out of the park.  Here's what he said.

"Religion alters your thinking ability.  You sacrifice your reasoning power.  You have some religious person basing his reasoning, so-called, on mysticism and mythology."

And, there you have it.  In his recent blog, Ken Carter mentions that most young people consider Christians to be homophobic, judgmental, and hypocritical.  I would add a fourth perception that we enjoy among many people on the planet--not so smart.

Look, friends.  Modernity happened.  That would make a really good bumper sticker.  And, that means that any faith claims we wish to make must include the scientific, historical, and psychological insights of modernity, both for the sake of our own spiritual health and for the sake of our witness in the world.  Anything less than that leaves us looking like one gigantic anachronism.

By the way, using our brains in matters of faith has a long and wonderful history.  In my United Methodist tradition, there was a fellow named John Wesley who was deeply convinced about the need to engage our brains and the amazing power of reasoning we have.  It's just that the world doesn't know that about us.  Of course, that's why Day1 is so important, since it helps us introduce the world to a vision of Christianity that is not only kind but smart as well.

So, how about throwing a message on your church sign sometime soon?  "Modernity Happened.  We Get That."  "Brains Welcome Here."  Or, how about this one?  "Come, Let Us Reason Together." 

Think on, friends!

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