I ran across this quote today by erstwhile Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia:
“God assumes from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools…and he has not been disappointed. If I have brought any message today it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”
Okay, well…I’m just going to get right down to it.
Here’s the translation of this vapid nothingburger of pointless, gnostichristian, doublespeak:
A Christian tells me the world thinks him a fool.
My first question is: Are you?
Indeed, this question is really the first thing that should come to mind when accused of being a fool by WISE and SOPHISTICATED people.
Because THAT? Is the surest way to know that you are not, in fact, a fool. As opposed to, say, clumsily lobbing forth some thinly-thinly veiled, narcissistic nonsense about how “the world” can’t begin to understand the depths of your inspired “truth” and the limitless degrees of your moral superiority (with humility, though!), and your poor, poor put-upon sensibilities as you sooooo selflessly strap on the shield of faith and give sooooo tirelessly to the thankless barbarian masses. Which is what usually happens when Christians are justifiably derided for their utterly senseless doctrine.
Friends, I have met many, MANY fools who call themselves Christians. I promise you, being “divinely gifted with the grace to perceive” and possessing the status of one of Christ’s “elect” is no inoculation against the ravages of rank stupidity and the inherent narcissism and mendacity of UNEARNED and UNFOUNDED moral virtue. Spend ten minutes discussing doctrine with the nearest available neo-Calvinist pastor and you will see exactly what I mean. I promise.
Here’s an idea we Christians might want to adopt: If the world calls us fools, let’s not shrug. Maybe…just maybe… we should try RATIONALLY explaining why we’re not.
But the unpleasant fact of course is that most Christians CAN’T. And this being the case, Scalia’s quote is simply another boring excuse to retreat into the narrow-minded shelter of baseless moral superiority and downright senseless ideological arrogance. Quite frankly, it’s disgusting, and it reminds me why I can’t darken the doorway of a church today without feeling the almost irresistible urge to cover my ears and collapse into the fetal position. My constitution simply cannot handle the abject presumption of so many rationally bankrupt, sub-par thinkers telling me that they have the right AND the OBLIGATION to hope and pray that the world adopt their folly…because GOD SAID SO!
Yes, Scalia’s quote is merely another example of the the long, ignoble Christian tradition of intellectual sloth.
God telling us that “the world will call us fools” translates into “this is the way it MUST always be”. Trust me, I know the metaphysics of protestant orthodoxy like the back of my hand. Of course, this is precisely the conclusion you’d expect from the intellectually indolent.
This assertion is not a boon to courage! Far from it! It’s emotional bromide, nothing more! Designed to swaddle the the poooor misunderstood Christian in a warm snuggly and rock him back to sleep. A state, by the way, eminently suitable for those so ill-prepared to discuss grown up ideas in the real world.
”The SMART people can’t inderstand you”, is a statement that, if intended as an encouragement to share our Christian beliefs, is the worst effing one I’ve ever heard. You see, once again the intellectually gifted—the diligent thinkers—the smart people—get the shaft. Sheesh…first the State trips over itself to tax the living hell out of their productivity, then the schools dumb down the curriculum to make the intellectually inferior feel equal, and now God’s chosen ones snub them as being divinely ordained idiots in disguise! I tell you they can’t catch a break.
I understand that we as Christians cannot necessarily control what people think of us. But this doesn’t mean that we should be complacent about it. Particularly when being called fools says as much about our own intellectual failures as it does about the “world”. Believe me, the primary reason the world thinks us fools is that we spend more time appealing to and retreating into the rationally barren non sequitur of “God’s mystery/will/determinism” than we do actually explaining what we believe with rationally consistent apologetics.
When we Christians make the claim that God has ordained that the world will call us fools, they are asserting nothing more than yet another all-too-typical Christian excuse to avoid having to actually figure out just what the hell it is we really believe at the most fundamental of levels. Inevitably, whether explicitly or implicitly, we shrug our shoulders and tell ourselves “Oh well. They’re going to call us fools no matter what, because God said so [He didn’t], so what’s the point in engaging people in any real way?” And by “real” I mean at the level of ACTUAL ideas, not merely the usual fare of moral condemnation and self-serving, ego-stroking, doctrinal haranguing. We preach at them and let God sort out their salvation à la “divine election”. (“Divine election” has been utterly misinterpreted as “divine salvific determinism”, which is merely the salvation of man according to God’s subjective whim, which is as stupid as it is false.) And when faced with our detractors’ legitimate criticism we blithely chalk it up to the fact that God simply hasn’t elected and enlightened them yet. Notice how a rational argument isn’t within a thousand miles of this tactic.
We Christians punt the truth into the cosmic abyss of God’s mystery and then cry foul at the world, wallowing in feigned innocence and the passive aggression of baseless self-pity, as if WE are ITS victims, when the reality is that it’s been the other way around for hundreds of years.
No, we need not worry that our spiritual witness is hindered by the fear of being called fools. It is hindered because deep down we know that we don’t really understand what we claim to believe. And our ignorance is embarrassingly revealed by even the most cursory and amateurish objections to the transparent (to everyone else) dogma which passes, shockingly, for reasoned orthodoxy. And that certainly DOES make one look foolish…for looking like a the fool is the natural consequence of preaching foolish ideas. Christians aren’t girding their loins against an onslaught of injustice directed at their evangelical mission by declaring that being called fools is a PERFUNCTORY aspect of sharing the faith. They are, rather, seeking shelter from the natural consequence of professing an ideology utterly steeped in rank intellectual error. Proclaiming the INEVITABILITY of insult because of God’s determinative will and the natural depravity of the vulgar masses is in reality nothing more than a palliative; and does little more than help Christians avoid the character-building ridicule which the sharing of dreadfully irrational ideas must naturally produce. And the church is clearly weaker for it. The church’s rational impotence is so transparent that everyone not immersed in the dogma can see that it is the obvious root of the ever-widening popularity of authoritarian polity amongst church leadership. When “calling” and “truth”, though they be entirely bereft of reason, are emitted directly from the Divine, church leadership is GOING to be more about coercion than convincing. It’s a simple logical progression: Revealed truth is truth beyond question. Which is truth that is by definition fundamentally incompatible with discussion. Which renders man’s will—the exercise of one’s free CHOICE to believe what he wants—entirely irrelevant. And this makes obedience, not reason, man’s only real moral obligation.
Friends, this evil needs to end. Let’s stop making excuses and go out there and make an ARGUMENT for a change. And I mean a real one. If we cannot even do that, then we simply cannot know God. Period. And thus we have a duty to stop talking about Him. Speaking of a God you cannot know because your knowledge has become a bed of pure divine mystery and a bog of muddy, abstruse determinism is to make a liar out of both you and the Holy One. And THAT is a very, very foolish thing to do.