Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fathers Day

A couple of things always strike me on Fathers Day. The first is how this celebration of fatherhood has crept into our liturgical calendar. Most churches will unquestioningly add Fathers Day segments into their worship today without pausing to examine the theological, ecclesiological and pastoral sensitivies that might be in play. As all (2!) of my corps appointments have been to congregations where people have experienced high levels of parental abuse and many parents have lost access to their children in one way or another, this has been something I have had to reflect upon each year.

The second thing that hits me is the almost universal correlation of Fathers Day with the inevitable sermon on God's role as Father. I've never been able to see this as anything more than anthropomorphic shortsightedness - the projection by men of their own gender attributes to the divine image. It's narrow theology and, in the absence of any critical examination, can function as an unhelpful barrier to faith.

It seems like every time December rolls around, there is no shortage of well-meaning Christians calling us to forgo the commercialism that has overtaken the real meaning of Christmas. Let's apply the same rigour to other social constructs and use the opportunity to reflect upon some important community and theological themes.

6 comments:

David said...

You are expecting Christians to critically examine their beliefs.

In my experience, that is a rarity.

You do confirm my bias that most Christians behave like brainwashed automatons. With a faith that leaves no room for personal interaction with the world of non-believers. Unless, of course, said non-believers are on a "program".

JDK said...

Hi David,

Surely you don't think it's just Christians that fail to subject their personal belief systems to critical examination? This is a human flaw, from which Christians of course are not exempt, but which confronts all of us at some stage - whether we like it or not.

Perhaps it's most applicable for those whose efforts are largely spent focussing on the beliefs of others and don't spend enough time genuinely examining their own existential reality? ;-)

Regards, JDK

David said...

I find many beliefs cannot be sustained. Consequently, I have discarded most.

I'm happy to be made aware of any remaining beliefs which I might need to discard.

Most beliefs belong in the dustbin of the past.

Christians, however, continue to believe nonsense about talking snakes, magic trees, resurected bodies, miracles, invisible magic spirits, etc.

Why do you continue to associate with a group of people that hold such nonsensical beliefs?

JDK said...

Hi David,

I wonder if discarding your own belief system leaves a vacuum or whether other beliefs simply replace them? Some might suggest that the athiest assertion that there is no God is still a belief system of sorts rather just unbelief.

As I've suggested before Christians aren't totally uniform in their beliefs. I don't know about talking snakes or magic trees but its my experience of Christianity that I continue to find compelling. Something about being part of this tradition challenges me to be a better person and to be a part of making this world a better place. I identify that something as God, but you might well choose to find other explanations.

I don't see why or how I should try to force my experience upon anyone else though - and here I perhaps differ with some others. Religious experience can only exist as invitation and it is only in such a frame that our dialogue makes any sense. Otherwise all that remains is battle for conversions (to faith or atheism) and this doesn't interest me at all.

Regards, JDK

Anonymous said...

I have to say you two are the most interesting people that I have found amongst what I would describe as 'Salvo Blogworld'. Jason, because you choose to articulate Christianity beyond the simplistic 'turn or burn' version that so many seem to have. David, because you challenge the ridiculous statements made by many, although often I think a bit too aggressively. I find I currently sit somewhere in between the two of you - I am really struggling to believe in almost any aspect of Christianity, largely because there are too many things that don't make any sense at all, however there is much still to like in the peace, hope, meaning and purpose that Christianity provides for many. Or is that all delusion?

JDK said...

Thanks Anon.

I think one of the critical points at which David and I disagree is whether or not all Christians are deluded (and possibly whether this matters). There's a part of me that thinks that Collingwood have a chance at the AFL flag this year. This is almost certainly a delusion and will probably result in bitter disappointment. If my Christian beliefs are also ultimately delusional, then at least the outcomes will have been much better and I can live with that.

Regards, JDK