The Christian Narrative to the Rescue—Why?—because the Secular Narrative Sucks and it certainly Inspires No One to Change Anything

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To achieve the moral goal of equality of opportunity for future generations and distant peoples we have rapidly got to change our way of living now and in the present. This will require the committed actions and participation of billions of people in every home and organisation on the planet.

This is not something that the mechanistic target driven culture of our politicians can achieve, any more than it has achieved higher quality education or better health care.

The moral climate that the ideology of the “free market” has engendered throughout the West is one in which commitment to the common good is no longer a respectable goal for public policy or private lives. Instead, each individual is called to act rationally in his or her own interests and by the magic of the market can selfishness be turned into increased welfare for all.

This mechanistic politics, like the mechanistic cosmology of Newton, and the instrumentalism of coal-fuelled industrialism, has committed us as a nation to an idolatrous simulacrum of political and social life that is also endangering the very future of human life on earth.

And so even when a government and parliament attempt to take the moral lead on an issue like climate change they cannot escape the disabling infection of the very monetary morass that is dragging the earth ever closer to irreversible climate change.

The Christian moral vision begins in the commandment to love God above all things and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Liberalism and neo-liberalism both promise that we can fashion a just society and collective welfare without the people sharing a conception of justice or acting for the common good. The government or the market – or some combination of the two – will siphon off some portion of collective goods to conserve a minimal common life while private companies and individuals are free to pursue their own interests without regard for the common.

But the climate system is a vast commons and our fossil fuelled civilisation commits every one of us to daily rituals that are continuing to lay waste to this commons.

Selling rights to carry on polluting it is not a Christian or a moral solution to this problem. Only by engaging the head, heart and hands of every citizen and every community and every corporation in every nation can we hope to turn our civilisation from its collision course with the carbon sinks of the earth.

And here is the telling point. When we hear people talking about “game theory” or “mutual conduct toward one another” or “utility” or “rational” and “logical” conduct, we see an approach (modern) of believing that information is the answer. That if one simply pours enough information into someone’s head, they will then go and do “good.” Well, the 20th Century is a testament to that failure of thinking. It is also very ironic that those who claim morality is subjective and we can rely simply upon our “feelings” to sort out “good” and “evil” tell us this within a narrative that is so boring, unimaginative, ugly, and wooden that it could hardly inspire a person to get out of bed in the morning let alone care about global warming.

Unless one can move people’s hearts, no amount of “theory” or information will matter. And the only thing (witness Martin Luther King, Jr. or any other movement of moral change) that moves people’s hearts is a grand narrative held to be objective and true for everyone. Obviously we need education and information, but such has to be given in the context of a narrative that makes it meaningful or significant. The Secular (as informed by materialism) robs information of any such value, because there can be no “ought” only an “is.” A sure recipe for cultural disaster and exactly where the secular has brought us.

Oh, and I forgot to mention in my title that the secular narrative also happens to be false. So there is that too.

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4 Responses to The Christian Narrative to the Rescue—Why?—because the Secular Narrative Sucks and it certainly Inspires No One to Change Anything

  1. Burk Braun says:

    I search the gay rights movement in vain for significant Christian narrative assistance.

    On the other hand, the news that being gay is a matter of being, not choice, has been fundamental to the progress made.

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  2. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    Did you miss this story: http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/sexandgender/4822/presbyterians%2C_change_hearts_%26_minds%2C_begin_ordaining_gays/

    Or were you aware of this: http://www.loveisanorientation.com/about-2/

    As a matter of fact, the Church has been involved on both sides of the issue. Many gay people find the Christian narrative, when helpful, to be of very significant assistance. The Church is as conflicted on this issue as it has been on many other issues. So what? The fact remains that both sides want an objective narrative on their side (whether scientific or religious). No one is shouting, “Give me equal rights because my feelings are right and yours are wrong!” Why is that?

    You make the point yourself. If being gay is a matter of being (objective) and not a matter of choice (subjective) it then becomes powerful in a way it never would have if it remained simply a subjective choice. I’m glad to see you think the move from subjective choice to objective truth is progress. I couldn’t agree more.

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  3. Burk Braun says:

    What they are shouting is.. give me equal rights because my feelings exist. This is true for any number of outcast groups.

    Now, you seem to mangle the whole objective/subjective issue. Our social institutions are engineered to satisfy the majority- straight people get marriage, schools for children, tax deductions, etc. What they want is what they get. Everyone is trained to want the same things, as well- a knight in armor, a princess with a slipper, etc. It all goes swimmingly for those in the majority, meeting their subjective needs & archetypes.

    People who are gay wouldn't really have a problem with all this in principle- they are trained as everyone else is. But it fails to “take”, since they have different feelings than the majority. The critical element of progress was for the majority to realize that gay people weren't just being willfully perverse out of spite or a wish to destroy society, etc., but rather that they are objectively different, harboring fundamentally different feelings / subjective gestalt.

    So, given that objective difference in (or at least permanent nature of) subjective positions, society asks itself- should those feelings be accorded respect and support? Not all feelings are, such as of pedophiles, etc, but barring any such serious problem, the principle of live and let live certainly applies. Looking at the long, term, we realize that married gay people are actually a very positive influence- on gay culture, on community values, not to mention their own happiness- it is totally win-win.

    Of course we have hashed over the golden rule, live and let live, at some length. I would just say that the church is not the first institution I would think of in connection with such forms of tolerance or progress. But then I didn't live back in the days of the apostles, when they had to make do with society's outcasts, and were temporarily an agent of change! In Marin, I am sure things are a bit different, on the progressive end of things. But still it takes a bit of swallowing of long-held tradition and “objective” morals… to value the feelings of others outside the straight and narrow.

    The real question is- has anyone necessarily appealed to objective morals? No- the majority has a self-image as tolerant, good people, which was played on by the gay rights movement, as by all non-violent movements past. In order to feel good and decent ourselves, the majority are moved to recognize the feelings of others, the non-harming nature of gay rights and gay marriage, etc., and its positive benefits, especially to the those involved. Likewise, they/we are moved to give up our normative fixations on what relationships and families in the society “should” look like to some degree. There is nothing mysterious or theological about it.

    One can certainly paint it all with a theological brush if one wishes, citing scripture, heaven, and so forth. But that isn't necessary or central. It totally cracks me up, tangentially, that Eric spends so much time on his theory of heaven, hell, universalism, etc.. it is so many angels on a pin.

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  4. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    I hate to keep harping on this, but let’s try it once more…

    “What they are shouting is.. give me equal rights because my feelings exist. This is true for any number of outcast groups.”

    This is just wrong. That their feelings exist is a given. No one disputes that. The question is what are those feelings tied to and what is the referent. What they are shouting is, “My feelings exist and they are not just some subjective feeling/choice I made!” “They exist because this is who I am objectively by birth!” This should be rather obvious. The stress is on the objective (I have no subjective choice here—this is what I am by birth—just like a leopard cannot change his spots) aspect to being gay. Again you are citing “feelings” as if they had no referent or context.

    Everyone knows that a murderer could shout, “My feelings of anger exist and therefore…” but no one would take that as justification or explanation for his actions. That feelings exist is obvious and is also irrelevant. The question is what is the referent and justification for those feelings.

    “People who are gay wouldn't really have a problem with all this in principle- they are trained as everyone else is. But it fails to “take”, since they have different feelings than the majority. The critical element of progress was for the majority to realize that gay people weren't just being willfully perverse out of spite or a wish to destroy society, etc., but rather that they are objectively different…”

    Well, there, that is my point. You see then the critical difference it makes when something is seen as objectively true rather than simply a subjective feeling (“willfully”) or choice. I think we agree here. I have no idea why you then keep contradicting yourself.

    “The real question is- has anyone necessarily appealed to objective morals? No- the majority has a self-image as tolerant, good people, which was played on by the gay rights movement, as by all non-violent movements past.”

    Again, you are just wrong here. Historically and now, what you suggest is simply not the case. You can wish this is what is going on, and that is fine, but the “facts” are otherwise. Whether it is Christians appealing to the Bible or secular people appealing to science, the vast majority of people appeal to an objective narrative to inform their morality or the ethical way in which they believe they should see and treat gay people. Even to know one should be “tolerant” and “good” is done by some appeal to an objective narrative. What was “played on” was their conscience and the fact that even though maybe they “felt” feelings of hatred or intolerance toward either gay people or people of other races, that such was objectively wrong and that they should align their “feelings” with that objective truth. You have been unable to provide a single case, historically or present day, where a movement to change the way people should think about morality or ethics was not done outside an objective narrative, whether Christian or otherwise. Again, you are living in a fantasy.

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