Tuesday, September 05, 2006

#69 & #70

Falderdash and bowlderall! C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity is widely regarded as the great rational defense of traditional Christianity against modernist materialism, but while his prose is exquisitely honed and his case is nicely constructed, his entire enterprise rests on a dubious sand foundation. Mr. Lewis starts out with some absurd propositions regarding conscience as evidence for God's existence, and uses this faulty soil to plant more and more ludicrous seeds which whither and die under scrutiny. Along the way he makes offensive arguments about the necessity for women to defer to men in a Christian marriage (um, sorry C.S.--Jesus didn't spout that nonsense, but rather St. Paul did after Your Savior kicked off (or achieved apotheosis)), and says that Christians are responsible for "nearly all the great poetry of Love." I think Hafiz or Sufi and a few hundred Japanese, Indian, and Chinese poets might object...not to mention some atheists. He also makes no strong case that Christianity is better than or more correct than any other faith.

But Mr. Lewis argues for a very palatable and tolerant Christianity, and says any truly Christian society must adopt a 'leftist' government. I'll take that over what we have here in the US any time. He's also a gifted writer, with an elegant facility for useful analogy that entertained me throughout, and he is certainly less concerned with judging others than many who profess his faith. I enjoyed the book, and liked working out counter-arguments along the way.

I was forced for many years to attend hateful retrograde churches where the vitriolic rage spewed by parishioners against anyone slightly different from themselves was completely at odds with Christ's teachings. I could see this as a young kid of ten or eleven, and would often simply read the Bible in church, paying no mind to the damnation envisioned by some fulminating nincompoop behind the pulpit. As soon as my turn for Baptism arrived at age 12, I said 'no thanks' and took my gift Bible from the Church of the Brethren in Loganville PA and never looked back. I admire Kempis because he understands the New Testament the way I understand it: Jesus (and I don't think Jesus ever existed as anything other than a literary character) wants people to act like him, not worship him. It's difficult to bilk funds from people who give away all their shit and act like little children, however, so established churches have distorted his utterings down through the ages to justify doing so. Kempis cuts through all that bullshit, and provides a solid underpinning for a moral existence. Yeah, there's a bit too much of 'inviting Jesus into your heart,' etc., but whatever.

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