A Time to Speak

Voices of Dissent

Stephen Bau
Feb 3, 2018 · 6 min read
Freedom of speech. Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash.

I did not tend to get involved in personal confrontations over political and religious matters as a general rule, but lately I have become more vocal about my opinions as a form of protest.

It seems that the lack of protest over the past 40 years have enabled an extreme element of fundamentalist, right-wing zealots to be emboldened to speak for all of Christianity in a cynical grab for power to institute their toxic conception of Biblical theocracy.

My parents have been devoted fans of some of these charlatans, enabling them by giving time, money, merchandising and real estate.

I can’t say that I have found the right balance:

a time to be silent and a time to speak…

— Ecclesiastes 3

John Pavlovitz is now the recipient of a huge amount of blowback as a result of his recent article about the rationalizations of the religious right.

You can tell a lot about people by what gets them angry, by the causes they choose to defend, by the stuff that moves them to speak after being silent for so long.

John Pavlovitz

A year ago, I said something similar:

When people cry “racism,” it is revealing when people immediately become defensive rather than coming to the defence of those who have been maligned. By your response, you unconsciously choose sides. That is implicit bias.

I’m still not sure what to think about my most recent outburst, that was a result of posting John Pavlovitz’s letter to White Evangelicals. I wasn’t winning friends or influencing people, but it was a satisfying release of suppressed anger against the toxic culture I was raised in.

Original Blessing

A book by Danielle Shroyer, Original Blessing, questions the more recent and toxic concept of original sin.

Original Blessing by Danielle Shroyer.

I continually come across the assumption that there are only two options available to us: we believe in original sin, or we believe in some idealistic view of humanity as perfect, or at least capable of being perfect. But these are not the only options. We aren’t forced into some “people are evil” vs. “people are perfect” binary. Neither of these extremes are helpful (extremes rarely are), much less realistic, because they are deeply at odds with our own experience of the world. The most honest thing we can say is that people can be good, and people can be evil. They can often be both in the same day, even the same hour. It’s problematic to categorize people as entirely one or the other, and also a little naïve. Even a criminal has loved ones; even a saint has skeletons. As with many things, human nature is not an either/or, but a both/and.

Shroyer, Danielle. Original Blessing: Putting Sin in Its Rightful Place (Kindle Locations 413–419). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

Can Anything Good Come From That Sh!#h@le Country?

The question arises out of the idea that original sin is a misconception. What, then, does Jesus save us from, if not our sin?

One of Shroyer’s answers comes near the end of her book, explaining how we have focused on the negative without accentuating the positive.

And that is why he came. Not to fix our sin problem but to fix our blessing problem, which is that we are in the terrifying and tragic habit of forgetting we have one, and that it comes from a God who will do anything and everything to be with us.

Jesus saves us from amnesia, from forgetting who we are.

Jesus saves us from forgetting to live in the many blessings we have been given.

We skip to Genesis chapter 3, this moment in time that has become the fulcrum around which everything has moved.

Somehow we forgot everything that came before: billions of years of love, imagination, creativity, and goodness that gave us a world and a vocabulary for glimpsing into the mind and character of the divine and beginning to understand that we are not alone in the universe.

The literate, hierarchical, legal, and corporate mind reduced this rich vocabulary into rules, dogmas, laws, and restructuring strategies with sticks and carrots, punishments and rewards. After thousands of years of authoritarian hierarchy, we forgot what freedom looked like.

Wheat Supremacy

History’s Biggest Fraud

Wheat supremacy (AKA the Agricultural Revolution). Photo by Nonki Azariah on Unsplash.

Scholars once proclaimed that the agricultural revolution was a great leap forward for humanity. They told a tale of progress fuelled by human brain power. Evolution gradually produced ever more intelligent people. Eventually, people were so smart that they were able to decipher nature’s secrets, enabling them to tame sheep and cultivate wheat. As soon as this happened, they cheerfully abandoned the gruelling, dangerous, and often spartan life of hunter-gatherers, settling down to enjoy the pleasant, satiated life of farmers.

That tale is a fantasy. There is no evidence that people became more intelligent with time. Foragers knew the secrets of nature long before the Agricultural Revolution, since their survival depended on an intimate knowledge of the animals they hunted and the plants they gathered. Rather than heralding a new era of easy living, the Agricultural Revolution left farmers with lives generally more difficult and less satisfying than those of foragers. Hunter-gatherers spent their time in more stimulating and varied ways, and were less in danger of starvation and disease. The Agricultural Revolution certainly enlarged the sum total of food at the disposal of humankind, but the extra food did not translate into a better diet or more leisure. Rather, it translated into population explosions and pampered elites. The average farmer worked harder than the average forager, and got a worse diet in return. The Agricultural Revolution was history’s biggest fraud.

A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Kindle Locations 1241–1255). McClelland & Stewart. Kindle Edition.

Life became nasty, brutish, and short, and humans lost their humanity in a war over words, definitions, systems, and metanarratives.

Remembering Our Humanity

We forgot about art, music, play, laughter, peace, joy, and love and the one who made it all possible.

That baby from Bethlehem, that carpenter from Nazareth, that convicted and executed seditious traitor to Caesar and the Roman Empire, that disappeared dead man and spiritual leader of an obscure relgious sect, saves us from forgetting our humanity by reminding us what it means to be human, relieving us of the delusion of trying to be gods.

Stephen Bau

Written by

Designer, writer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective, Leading with Design. https://stephenbau.com

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