The Digital Mailbag: Feedback edition


I got a couple of well thought out responses to Austin Carty‘s Fresh Eyes piece in this week’s Triad City Beat.

Austin’s a friend, and a great writer. And I think his brand of Christianity resonates with a lot of people around here.

But the whole point of the Fresh Eyes column — the whole point of an opinion section in general, I think — is to present different positions on issues, different takes on life. And while I believe Carty’s piece strikes a chord out there among the Triad readership, I know this one, by reader Daniel Foster, will as well.

Thanks for reading and responding, Daniel. We love that.

The problem with trying to tease out Austin Carty’s universal humanism from ancient texts is that the position is at odds with evangelicals who simply dismiss the idea using the exact same text. His citation of Timothy Keller highlights this fissure of humanity.

In The Reason for God, Keller writes: “If you insist on a secular view of the world and yet you continue to pronounce some things right and some things wrong, then I hope you see the deep disharmony between the world your intellect has devised and the real world [and God] that your heart knows exist.”

Keller may believe in the disingenuous atheist but there is no reason for it. I think Carty would agree that a good deal of well-being has originated beyond the strongholds of Keller’s dogmatic Christianity. Morality, regardless of faith, is the understanding that there are certain forms of suffering that you don’t want to wish on yourselves and others. Admitting this doesn’t require disharmony or a belief in divine mandate.

To say something is tribal is only to say that groups of people form borders around ideas. It’s a tribal idea to think that social progress is the result of bad ideas losing out to good ideas. Some ideas, for example, lead to institutionalized homophobia, while other ideas acknowledge that consenting adults should be extended full and equal rights.  To acknowledge the difference isn’t an invitation to dehumanize.

Keller’s curious support for same-sex marriage underscores the tribal tension within Christian denominations. The taboo he’s promoting, at least to a number of very upset evangelicals, is that he believes man’s law should come before god’s law. It’s the sort of tribal belief that I can agree with him on.

We should acknowledge the intrinsic value of every human because it’s the right thing to do, not because god wills it.  After all, it’s the will of god that permitted the suffering in the first place. Believers will respond that the father allowed suffering for us to grow and to worship him so there will a place for us in heaven. But our fear of mortality, our insistence that this über-powerful entity demands our worship, and our projection of paternal dynamics onto ancient texts are phenomena of the brain to find meaning in an indifferent universe.

Then there are those who are absolutely certain that this loving god punishes us for our prehistoric garden antics. I’ll admit that what I’m arguing will probably be lost on that crowd. This is the tribe that responds with an indignant “Yes!” to the question of codifying marriage as between one man and one woman. Their identity is so entrenched with the biblical narrative that only the transition of power from one generation to the next will provide the kind of inclusive community that Carty grasps for.

As the millennial generation continues to be shaped from a dynamic social network, the ideas of Timothy Keller or CS Lewis or the Golden Age of American Prosperity will increasingly be on equal footing with Islam, conspiracy theories and Deepak Chopra.  Hopefully, the secular fishers of humanity (including the faith based) can help others from falling out of the boat that we all share.