Episcopal priest, Father Matthew Moretz, responds to the Blasphemy Challenge, hoping to foster reconciliation between Christians and Atheists. Peace be with you, from St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Yonkers. www.spcy.org
Father Matthew has done an excellent job getting at the gist of this movement. Why would people be interested in a "Blasphemy Challenge?" Because they are tired of being assaulted by fundamentalists. I am extremely sensitive to this, as I spent a good part of my childhood under the spiritual assault of these same people. My experience with fundamentalism is that many people who hold to this world view are actually in a constant state of agitation about their salvation. They have a need to convince themselves they are righteous by positing that others are unrighteous. They tell themselves that they are doing evangelism by spouting threats of hell and damnation that they say should convert people. but that they subconsciously know will turn them off, therefore maintaining an "enemy" they can measure themselves against. These are people who want to be "martyred" so that they can feel assured that God loves them. The Early Church Fathers had very unkind things to say about people who actively seek out martyrdom.
Unfortunately, this is not seen by the secular world as a psychological disfunction, but as an indictment of Christianity and all religion. This is a double standard. What if I said we needed to eliminate science because the Nazis twisted genetics into eugenics, or because pro-slavery activists used science of the time to "prove" that Africans were inferior? What If I said science had no value because of the cold fusion or cloning fiascos?
No, science and faith both have value. Both have been twisted by ideologues and criminals in the past and in the present to grab power and oppress. Both should be judged by the times they are able to transcend the human condition, not the times when they get caught up in it.
From general to specific. The Blasphemy Challenge uses the fundamentalist method of "proof-texting" scripture. Let's look at the context of the passage quoted, (Mark 3:22 - 3:30):
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”
And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.
But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter;
but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—
for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
It is clear from the context of the passage that "Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" is not DENIAL of God, Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit. It is attributing something done by the power of God to the power of Satan. It is a pronouncement leveled against the religious community for claiming that something revealed by the Holy Spirit is actually evil, usually to maintain their own certitude and privilege. I often maintain that this passage is why people need to be very careful about making negative pronouncements about the movement for the full inclusion of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered folk in the church. If this movement is not the intention of the Holy Spirit, it is simply sin. If it IS a movement of the Holy Spirit, then those that call it evil are judged under this passage.
I would say the Blasphemy Challenge folks are not getting it right. However, since the people they are directing the polemic against use proof texting, it will probably have its desired effect, getting flaming, unthoughtful diatribes from the fundamentalists.
I just wish that more people could understand that Fundamentalist Christianity is a recent, American phenomenon that does in no way reflect the broad sweep of historical catholic Christianity.
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