Superstitious Christianity (122)

In this episode John and Gregg follow up from the previous episode where they both find it problematic when there is only one “politically correct” view on a given matter. Gregg offers an example of this, when he was living in Vancouver and attending a party. At the party a number of people were commenting on how their children’s personalities were directly related to / determined by the moon’s stage in its cycle on the date of the child’s birth.

Beyond the fact that Gregg finds this view very unlikely (if not hopelessly untenable), Gregg notes the difficulty in broaching the subject of what leads people to hold this view and / or inquiring about what would be sufficient for these people to change their minds.

John raises the example of a coaching seminar that he attended and how, if the “good vibe” that participants experienced during the seminar was experienced in a Christian context, this would explained with the blanket statement that “the Holy Spirit being present” Gregg agrees that in Christian contexts emotionalism (and particularly the experience of positive emotions) tends to be equated with the presence of the Holy Spirit, yet the Bible abounds with examples of God acting via the Holy Spirit to admonish, correct, and otherwise critique human beings. And such situations are not accompanied by “positive” emotions—just the opposite!

So Gregg notes that in situations like the coaching seminar or a church worship service we should instead begin looking at what went well on a human level, versus automatically assuming that God is the source of the matter. Gregg’s concern is how, approached in this way, Christian belief and practice becomes superstitious (where superstitions are programmatic or formulaic, such as: “do X to achieve Y”). Superstitions help us feel secure in a world that is threatening, but are ultimately problematic because they represent overly simplistic / reductionistic ways of living in with the complexities of the real world.

By contrast, Gregg argues that a credible belief has room for critique and implies dialogue, whereas with superstitious beliefs attempts to dialogue about the belief result in people being labelled (as unenlightened, close minded, etc.) and usually marginalized. Further, superstitious beliefs are uni-dimensional whereas a properly Christian belief is very multi-layered.

Gregg finishes by explaining that, in his view, Christianity has credibility because it integrates well with our human experience of not being in full control of our own lives. Thus from his perspective the idea “writing one’s own story” is a ridiculous notion, because life is always ‘bigger’ than you and me. Instead we try to occupy the narrator’s position in our own lives.

Further when Christians dismiss the absence of God’s response or what seems to be God’s absence at seemingly crucial moments Gregg sees this as rather Buddhist: there is no right or wrong, only neutral. So there is no need for justice and love is reduced in value and meaning. Alternatively many Christians hold the view that “what comes around goes around” yet this is a kharmic perspective—grace is very different.

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