Posted by: gmscan | April 26, 2012

The Vapid Mr. Sullivan

Newsweek and the Daily Beast were pleased to publish a message from Andrew Sullivan for Easter. The uplifting theme is “Christianity in Crisis.”

This is the same Andrew Sullivan who has spent the last four years obsessing about Sarah Palin’s womb. He is convinced, without any evidence whatsoever, that the real mother of Palin’s child Trig is Bristol Palin. The man is – quite simply – unhinged. See this wrap up from the NewsBusters web site.

But, believing in redemption, as I do, I decided to tale a look at what he has to say about Christianity. Alas, like so many Leftists commentators, Mr. Sullivan proves himself a fool by thinking he knows more than he does.

The best example of this phenomenon is a delightful clip from the Chris Matthews show mocking Sarah Palin for reading C.S. Lewis for “divine inspiration.” Matthews’ guest, Richard Wolffe, can bare contain himself – “divine inspiration from a series of kid’s book?” Hoo, hah, snigger, snigger. The man is apparently completely unaware the C.S. Lewis was perhaps the greatest writer of Christian apologetics of the 20th Century.

Sullivan is in very much the same tradition. He is greatly impressed and begins his article with the story of a 77 year-old Thomas Jefferson cutting out all of Jesus’ words from a Bible and re-assembling them into a much slimmer version – the “most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.” He thinks everything else in the Bible is a “dunghill.”

I am a great admirer of Thomas Jefferson, but we can all be forgiven for doing silly things when we are 77. Mr. Sullivan doesn’t have that excuse.  He is so taken by this idea that he says these words of Jesus represent – “the purest, simplest, apolitical Christianity, purged of the agendas of those who had sought to use Jesus to advance their own power decades and centuries after Jesus’ death.“

Where to begin?

First, if the writings of the Apostles are not to be trusted, how can we trust them to accurately quote the words of Jesus? If everything else they wrote was designed to “advance their own power,” why would we assume the words they attribute to Christ not also be invented for that purpose?

It is also hard to see how the Apostles were trying to “advance their own power” when their witness ended in imprisonment, torture, and death. Their power would have been better advanced if they had renounced the whole thing.

Next, Christ was a man not only of words, but of deeds. The essence of Christianity is not only in what Jesus said to us but what he did for us. This is the proof of the pudding. The Apostles reported both his words and his deeds. Why should we trust them for one but not the other?

Plus, even the words Jesus spoke cannot be understood without an understanding of the rest of the Bible. Much of what he said was invoking passages from the prophets and the Psalms, with the assumption that his listeners knew the references. He said repeatedly that he was here to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament. How can one possibly know what he is talking about if one doesn’t know what those prophecies were? Even in his cry from the Cross – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – is in fact a quote of the first line from Psalm 22 and is meant to invoke the whole Psalm which goes on to say, for instance,

            All who see me mock me;

they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

“He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;

let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

(Psalm 22:7-8 ESV)

Which is precisely what the crowd at the Cross was saying. Adam Hamilton, in his book “24 Hours That Changed the World,” notes that, “the Psalm ends on a note of triumph and hope,” and that was the message Jesus was conveying. Not only despair, but ultimate triumph. Without knowing the reference, one would think Jesus was expressing hopelessness, when it was just the opposite.

Now, there have always been people who would like to pick and choose those passages from the Bible that justify their lifestyles, so Mr. Sullivan isn’t doing anything new. He may think he is a cutting edge thinker, but really he is performing a very old parlor trick.

Similarly with his conclusion that “Christianity is in crisis.” He believes this because there are many people who use Christianity for their own political ends. He bemoans the “gospel of prosperity,” and fundamentalists who believe the earth is 6,000 years old, and Christians who support “torturing terror suspects.” But they aren’t doing anything Mr. Sullivan isn’t also doing himself. He is an active homosexual and would like Christianity to endorse his lifestyle, so of course he would as soon purge those inconvenient passages. He writes:

“It seems no accident to me that so many Christians now embrace materialist self-help rather than ascetic self-denial—or that most Catholics, even regular churchgoers, have tuned out the hierarchy in embarrassment or disgust. Given this crisis, it is no surprise that the fastest-growing segment of belief among the young is atheism, which has leapt in popularity in the new millennium. Nor is it a shock that so many have turned away from organized Christianity and toward “spirituality,” co-opting or adapting the practices of meditation or yoga, or wandering as lapsed Catholics in an inquisitive spiritual desert.”

Christianity is always “in crisis.” There are always people who use it for their own ends, who twist and distort it for material gain or narcissistic purposes. But, in fact, Christianity is currently undergoing enormous growth across the globe. Atheism may be “the fastest-growing segment of belief” in Mr. Sullivan’s Upper West Side neighborhood, but in Ghana, in Korea, in Brazil, evangelical Christianity is exploding.

Mr. Sullivan’s model of a good Christian is Francis of Assisi. What does he admire so much? He writes:

“Francis renounced his inheritance, becoming homeless and earning food by manual labor. When that wouldn’t feed him, he begged, just for food—with the indignity of begging part of his spiritual humbling.”

Now, isn’t that convenient? Christians should go off, be homeless, and beg for food. Never mind using the gifts God has given us to proclaim the Gospel — something Christ himself actually instructed us to do. Instead, Mr. Sullivan would have a Christianity that:

… is as meek as it is quietly liberating. It does not seize the moment; it lets it be. It doesn’t seek worldly recognition, or success, and it flees from power and wealth. It is the religion of unachievement.

Yes, Christians should sit down and shut up. Of course, Mr. Sullivan is referring only to those Christians he disagrees with. I expect he was more than happy to cash the check Newsweek provided for writing this gibberish. No homelessness or begging for food for this fellow, no sirree.

Personally, I would encourage Mr. Sullivan to go back to fretting over Sarah Palin’s womb.

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