Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ascending Secularism

About a year ago, a traveling exhibition of The Dead Sea Scrolls went on display at the local museum near where I live.  These early manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible dated as far back as the 3rd century before Christ and are the second oldest known manuscripts of the type in existence.  The finding of these scrolls was a truly remarkable discovery.  I figured it would be fascinating to see these in person, so I sauntered on down to the museum to spend the afternoon perusing them.

Immediately upon entering the exhibit, I noticed the museum placards describing various artifacts and scroll fragments were all listed in the ridiculous Before Common Era (BCE) and Common Era (CE) notations.  At first I was borderline amused, which quickly turned into extreme annoyance.  A museum placard at the beginning of the exhibit explained with politically correct reasoning that the museum did not want to upset those people viewing the exhibit that might be offended by the notations of Before Christ (BC) and Anno Domini (AD) [Latin for “in the year of our Lord”].

Really?!?!

I would bet that anyone that was interested in coming to see these scrolls which were a part of the Hebrew Bible (aka part of the Old Testament) would probably not be offended by the non-secular “BC” and “AD” notations.  While I had been aware of the ever-encroaching foolishness of political correctness manifesting itself in hyper secularism, this really sent me over the edge and made my teeth itch.  Had the most remarkable religious discovery of the 20th century fallen victim to politically correct secularism?

Secularism.  What the hell is that?  It is not necessarily the same thing as atheism, although the two often go together like the ACLU and hypocrisy.  Secularism, in the classical understanding of the term, is used to mean those things that dealt with earthly matters or the temporal order.  Today, the term seems to be used in the context of an absence of religious belief or participation thereof.  Indeed in the modern era, seemingly more and more people embrace a type of purely self-sufficient humanism – a secularism aimed at one’s material flourishing without any consideration whatsoever of a transcendent order and reality.  And that in and of itself is fine with me, if such is a person’s choice.  More power to him or her. After all, we still live in a free country – well, kind of anyway.  

That said, America as a nation was founded with an acknowledgement of our “firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence” and those most precious inalienable rights bestowed upon us not by the government, but by our Creator; thus states our Declaration of Independence.  Regardless, the idea was that Americans could worship as they choose, in public and indeed in government buildings and institutions, or they could choose not to do so.  Today, with the rise of this seeming virulent secularism, some twisted notion that faith should never intrude into the public arena seems to be the rule of the day.

And so we see this infectious secularism now spreading to a historical religious exhibit at the local museum in the guise of BCE and CE notations. This is really nothing more than a mere change of a name.  It is as if some secularist decided, “Don’t bring this Lord stuff into the debate!”  Okay.  Fine, but then tell me, what is the single defining event that separates BC and the silly BCE from AD and the sillier CE?  Is it not the birth of Christ regardless of the terms?  I suppose if one were to ask some quasi-scientist or politically correct historian what was The Event that delineated BCE from CE, he could shuffle his feet and mumble something about a non-theologically significant event --- or he could tell you about Christ.

Whether one accepts the divinity of Christ or not, the historical fact of His existence and the undeniable fact that He changed the history of the world since His human incarnation is the lone event that ends the era “Before Christ” and ushers in the era “In the Year of Our Lord”.  The changing of the names of the eras to something that is politically correct does nothing to change the actual event that delineates those eras.  Rather it simply points out in glaring fashion the degrees to which secularism has ascended in our Western culture today.



The BC/AD to BCE/CE debacle is only one small thread in this new secularist tapestry being woven by many of the politically correct and secular humanists today.  There are other issues on the secularist’s loom that they are trying to remake too.  For example, a denial of our country’s history and its founding as a Christian nation is a pervasive meme found taught by many of higher academia’s teachers today.  Even President Obama has insisted in the past that we are not necessarily a Christian nation.

The secularist’s axiom seems to be as science and reason spread, religious belief will wane.  The notion that science and faith are inextricably linked seems like an utter impossibility to the secularist, and any mention of God or faith in the public sphere is something to be shunned lest it lead society backwards into the dark ages of superstition and the supernatural.

Because of these new ideals, public prayer or Christmas nativity displays are often banned in many cities today.  And yet debauchery is on display in some of those same cities with gay pride parades and the like where members openly mock Christ and those things that a majority of Americans still consider sacred.  Even during the Christmas season, it is often seen as an affront to PC Secularists to wish someone “Merry Christmas!” instead of the more benign and ambiguously indifferent “Happy Holidays”.

And what have we gained by this metastasizing secularism?  Are we a kinder, more generous and caring people because of this?  Is ours a society that strives to take care of the least of our brothers and sisters in desperate need?  Or do we simply focus on the humanistic secularism that says we must “get ours first and foremost” in a Darwinian survival of the fittest?

It has generally been my experience that those people whom are the most militant in their secularism are often times the most disagreeable and abrasive of souls too.  They seem to be very unhappy, and indeed how could they not be?  If one believes in nothing more than materialism and temporal matters alone, how could one be truly happy?  Love, beauty, and life itself are not magnificent gifts from God to the militant humanist secularist.  They are subjective things to be used as tools for a means to an end to further one’s earthly gains.  With such an outlook, I suppose I would be grumpy and acerbic too!

Unfortunately though, it is not enough that they alone hold this merely as a personal opinion.  Rather, it becomes incumbent upon them to spread this secularist mindset to all of society so that nobody might be offended by God, His son Jesus, or religion at all.

Myself having once traveled down an atheistic, if not secular road before, I found life to be very unfulfilling.  It was lacking in purpose – in meaning – and certainly in true agape love.  My heart was restless and often very saddened until, through God’s grace and mercy, I eventually was lead back to Him.  Indeed I pray that this secularism is nothing more than a trend that will eventually pass like a strong winter storm.  In its passing, we will once again come into the Spring of God’s blessings and perhaps many of those lost secularists will return or perhaps for the first time come into Christ’s fold. Their need to replace or wipe away any vestige of things that are overtly religious or even having religious connotations, such as replacing BC and AD with secularist substitutions in our museums, will no longer be necessary for them.  Perhaps these would-be secularists can then finally find some semblance of peace.  St. Augustine said it best regarding God, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they find rest in you.”


Indeed!

5 comments:

Unknown said...

Saw the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Franklin Institute in Philly two years ago, I thought the exhibit was fascinating! I even sprung for the additional audio tour where there were recordings for the various segments and sections of the exhibit. Very interesting!

As for the use of BCE/CE instead of BC/AD, I'm sure it's a sensativity thing. One may think of it as secularism, but how is that a bad thing? These scrolls are not just significant to Christians but to Jews and Muslims (And others!) as well. It's just common courtesy for those not believing in Jesus as their Lord but still seek to learn and experience the exhibit, don't you think? Having "Before Christ" and "Anno Domini" is disrespective of other individual's religions and beliefs. The Christian Calendar, such that it is, isn't really just for Christians anymore. It's use is widespread throughout society around the world, Christian and non-Christian alike. I don't view it as an absence of religious belief, just a means for a society to track dates in a collective manner.

All that being said: The Dead Sea Scrolls are the property of Israel (Or Jordan, or the Palestinian Authority). Which, as we all know, is not a Christian nation. Just be glad they don't reference dates and year from the Hebrew Calendar and that they use a universally used, accepted and inclusive calendar system.

If changing from BC/AD to BCE/CE "does nothing to change the actual even that delineates those eras", than why the diatribe? Why does it bother you? Does it change your feelings, faith and relationship with God?

You should re-evaluate your understanding of secularism. Secularism is the seperation of God and State. Nothing you spoke about in this post had anything to do with the government, but with society. And as you stated in the post, people are free to worship as they choose. It appears people choose differently than you or people accomodate those that choose differently than you.

Last but not least: Glad to see you active on your blog again! Oh, and Go 'Hawks!

John Myste said...

“That said, America as a nation was founded with an acknowledgement of our “firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence” and those most precious inalienable rights bestowed upon us not by the government, but by our Creator; thus states our Declaration of Independence.”

The Creator was not assumed to be Christ. Jefferson, who wrote this document, did not believe that Christ was the creator, nor was he a Christian, as you mean when you say Christian. He denigrated Christianity as we know it. I recommend “American Gospel” for a scholar analysis of this topic. I do agree that the majority of Americans were of some Christian flavor, though many of the most prominent ones diverged from mainstream Christianity in favor of a more natural God.

I use CE / BCE and BC / AD interchangeably. I prefer BC and AD, but I use the other as often. The calendar, as we use it relates to the “First Century,” which relates to the advent of the Jew who rejected the Oral Tradition, later to be known as the Mishnah, and who Paul, Luke and others used as a representative for the new religion they invented, ironically a religion Jesus would have defined as Pagan, since he was a card-carrying, Torah Loving Jew. As noted above, He did reject Oral Torah, or Mishnah, the very thing embrace by the Pharisees and to a lesser extent by the Sadducees. He considered Oral Torah to be a human construction masquerading as divine. Unfortunately for him, most Jews of the time (and even today), consider the Mishah more useful than the Written Torah (the Pentateuch), which is obscure and seemingly contradictory.

“Whether one accepts the divinity of Christ or not, the historical fact of His existence and the undeniable fact that He changed the history of the world since His human incarnation is the lone event that ends the era “Before Christ” and ushers in the era “In the Year of Our Lord”.”

He did not change the world. He was a Messianic claimant, who, like the other dozen or so in the first century, was crucified for sedition. He did not fulfill the Jewish prophesies. He did not liberate Israel (by the sword), and following His death a 2000 year diaspora took place, which was the exact opposite effect of what a Jewish Messiah was assumed to do. Paul and Luke changed the world, and thank God they did, if there is a God. I am a huge admirer of Jews, but I don’t’ want to live in their ritualized and pedantic world. I much prefer the Hippie world of Paul.


“And what have we gained by this metastasizing secularism? Are we a kinder, more generous and caring people because of this? “

Secularism is really a search to live in truth (just like Christianity partially is). It is not ultimately an attempt to make us better or worse, but more aligned with reality.

“Is ours a society that strives to take care of the least of our brothers and sisters in desperate need?”

No, that’s liberalism.

“It has generally been my experience that those people whom are the most militant in their secularism are often times the most disagreeable and abrasive of souls too.”

I agree with this. Something to believe in and a mandate to love is VERY valuable.

“Myself having once traveled down an atheistic, if not secular road before, I found life to be very unfulfilling. It was lacking in purpose – in meaning – and certainly in true agape love.”

Amen, brother Paine.

T. Paine said...

Unknown, I suspect I know who you are, but am not positive.

Regardless, I am glad you found the Dead Sea scroll exhibit to be as fascinating as I did, the BC/AD issue notwithstanding.

As for the naming controversy, I guess I find it objectionable to change a naming convention used for two millenia merely because there is a minority element in today's society that finds it offensive to their sensibilities.

This is particularly so since the event delineating year one is still the birth of Christ.

T. Paine said...

Myste: The Creator was not assumed to be Christ. Jefferson, who wrote this document, did not believe that Christ was the creator, nor was he a Christian, as you mean when you say Christian.

Paine: Yes, I am aware that Jefferson had a more Unitarian predilection when it came to his faith. That said, Jefferson was writing the Declaration for the nation and therefore it was not reflective merely of his own personal views on faith. It was meant to be a more inclusive, all-encompassing statement.


Myste: The calendar, as we use it relates to the “First Century,” which relates to the advent of the Jew who rejected the Oral Tradition, later to be known as the Mishnah, and who Paul, Luke and others used as a representative for the new religion they invented, ironically a religion Jesus would have defined as Pagan, since he was a card-carrying, Torah Loving Jew.

Paine: Wow! We could do a long post just on that assertion! First, for someone that didn’t embrace Oral Tradition, Jesus sure seemed to add to it, considering his teachings to his disciples was all oral. The New Testament was not assembled and canonized until the fourth century. All of the Christian teaching up to that point was largely passed on orally. And this new “made up” Christian religion you attribute to Paul would seem to be quite contradictory to the character of Saul of Tarsus who was a devout Jew and Pharisee bent on the persecution of Christians. It seems to be quite the stretch to think he would give that all up to “reinvent” Christianity in his own image. That hardly seems like something a zealous Jew who was persecuting Christians for blasphemy would do. Not to mention, he would have had to make up that whole road to Damascus conversion story too. That all takes a greater leap of faith than believing in the divinity of Christ to my simple mind.

Myste: He did not change the world. He was a Messianic claimant, who, like the other dozen or so in the first century, was crucified for sedition. He did not fulfill the Jewish prophesies. He did not liberate Israel (by the sword), and following His death a 2000 year diaspora took place, which was the exact opposite effect of what a Jewish Messiah was assumed to do.

Paine: The Jews assumed the Messiah would come to liberate the Jewish people from the Romans riding a war horse and brandishing a sword. Instead Christ rode into Jerusalem on a the back of a donkey and conquered death. He did fulfill the Old Testament prophecies found in Isaiah and elsewhere, but not in the expected way that the Jews thought he was supposed to do.



Paine: “Is ours a society that strives to take care of the least of our brothers and sisters in desperate need?”

Myste: No, that’s liberalism.

Paine: No, liberalism purports to care about and help the least of our brothers. Liberalism gets credit for good intentions even though the results of its programs typically only exacerbates the problems. The war on poverty is a good case in point. After many decades and untold billions of dollars, there are still as many living in poverty today as there were when the “war” began during the LBJ administration.

John Myste said...

I currently don't have the time to devote to a full response, but:

" First, for someone that didn’t embrace Oral Tradition, Jesus sure seemed to add to it, considering his teachings to his disciples was all oral. "

Jesus never added a tittle to the Oral Tradition of which I speak, nor would He. I mean the Oral Tradition that is “the other part of the Torah,” to a Jew.

When Moses was given dictation by I Am, he ran out of stones and so was not able to write it all down.

Fortunately for him, and unfortunate for the children, little Jewish boys had to memorize the rest, just like they had to memorize the part that was written down.

This narrative that was Oral, but not written down because of the stone tablet shortage, is called the Mishnah.

Without time to re-research specifics, in the New Testament, Jesus is always bickering with His church, meaning the Temples of the Pharisees, (and Sadducees inasmuch as they can be considered worthy), and not meaning the Pagan Pauline Ministry, over Torah. As Jesus proclaimed, He did not intend to abolish any part of the Torah.

The problem was, His main points of dispute were often what would today be considered Mishnaic in origin, and were NOT mandates of the written Torah. Without the Mishnah, the Torah is hard to interpret and seems contradictory. To a Pharisee, so what? There is no difference between the two. One is an extension of the other. Both are the words of God.

To Jesus, however, what?! One is hearsay you are using to make illogical claims and the other is The Law.

We have those types of arguments still today. Christians argue over what it means to be the Trinity, for example. The dispute does not make one a Christian and the other not. They are all basic followers of Paul, after all.

Secularists argue what the Original Intent of the Constitution is. One of us will say that what it says matters, and not our divination about intent. Another will say that it is nothing more than communication and to the degree that it does not communicate the intent, we have to fix that, and then the most reasonable of us will state that what it intended does not matter so much, because we need to be able to evolve. How it can best be used to suite democracy is what matters. These are three distinct notions, but we are still all American Christians, right?

Jesus was Jewish and was a “card carrying Jew, and NEVER lead a revolt against Judaism and NEVER founded a new religion. He would have been beyond devastated if He had learned that that pagan practices were embraced in His name, and that the Torah was abolished in His name. I tell you this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

So, that is what I meant by “rejecting oral tradition.”