Thursday, November 26, 2015

Reza Aslan on Authentic Christianity

In his NY Times op-ed urging people to have a more sophisticated view of religion, Reza Aslan starts talking about varied perspectives in a religion with these examples of Christianity:
What a member of a suburban megachurch in Texas calls Christianity may be radically different from what an impoverished coffee picker in the hills of Guatemala calls Christianity.
I think many Christians who have traveled or otherwise engaged different cultures have seen their faith transcend cultural and socioeconomic barriers. (There are such barriers to be transcended even within a "suburban megachurch.")  Given though the centrality of Reza places on "social justice" and a hyper-Marxist "chilling new reality," Guatemala seems like this is a veiled reference to the "liberation theology" advocated or supported by many Jesuits in Latin America.

I was introduced to the historical Jesus at Santa Clara University [in California] by a group of brilliant, academically trained Jesuits. The Jesuits see Jesus through the lens of his preferential option for the poor. Now I also tend to believe that there is really no way to read the Gospels either as a person of faith or as a historian without recognizing Jesus’ preferential option for the poor. But some people — for example, [megachurch pastors] Joel Olsteen and T.D. Jakes, and frankly a great many Republicans in the U.S. Congress — would disagree because they are using the Gospel in an attempt to do away with food stamps and welfare, which blows my mind.*

First of all, as far as I know neither Joel Osteen nor most conservatives I've talked to are attempting to do away with food stamps and welfare.  A more fair generalization would be that conservatives question the explosion of food stamp use in the last 8 years and its efficacy in fighting poverty, and progressives are opposed to it being questioned, content to dismiss it as an unavoidable consequence of the recession.  There is a growing movement to draw deep principles of balancing accountability and liberty in a Christian context, but that is largely orthogonal to the "prosperity gospel," something that cannot be understood in isolation from the "healing gospel."
"The argument of the prosperity gospel, if I can put it flippantly, is that Jesus wants you to drive a Bentley. That is basically what the argument is.*

Aside from how lucrative the gospel of redistribution has been for this apostle of neo-Marxism, this is pure caricature.  It should be beneath a "scholar of religion" though it is par for the course with a political pundit.