Friday, October 14, 2005


It was once the operative saying: Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. In looking at the news about the allegations against and the clouds over Bill Frist, Tom DeLay, and Karl Rove, together with the close ties they claim to have with the Religious "Right," I am led to conclude that that should be amended: Relgion is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

I want to close there, but I'm I, so I have to say a little more: This really highlights the distinction Karl Barth drew between religion and faith. (Does anyone dispute that Karl Barth was simply the greatest theologian of the 20th Century? I don't think Pannenberg or Jenson or Rahner or Ratzinger [he's not really in the systematic pack with the rest of them] or von Balthazar [though he may be the most "cultured"] come even that close.)

At root, religion is the effort to manipulate the divine to one's own or one's people's benefits and desires. This may be more or less cynical, savage, or selfish. Faith, on the other hand, is a receptive relationship with the divine in which, at least in Christian terms, one allows God to be God and to be the measure of life for oneself and one's people.

Hence, "religion is the last refuge of the scoundrel."


Now come on, people, you have to give me points for brevity.


Anonymous said...

10 points to Griffendor for Dwight's brevity. And 50 points from Slytherin if anyone complains...

Eric Lee said...

Good remarks! I'll give you another 10 points.

Luthsem said...

Lutherans Love Karl Barth. Well,most do. My big problem with Barth is his view of Baptism(not Lutheran). Reformed theology influenced by Anabaptism I suppose.

Dwight P. said...

Well, now, I think Barth can be criticized for a lot of different things (none of which comes to me at the moment -- and not that I'm this great Barth scholar: I can barely lift the individual volumes of the Dogmatics, let alone read and digest them!) But it seems to me that "Reformed theology influenced by Anabaptism" seems like something we could all stand a taste of.

Now, I'm as staunch a supporter of infant baptism IN THE RIGHT CIRCUMSTANCES as anyone. But I am also, as you may have gathered, not at all a fan of this "if you baptize them, perhaps they'll believe" school that is at operation in most parishes of the Lutheran persuasion. We have robbed Baptism of all possible meaning by making it little more than a birthing ritual -- s/he's through the birth canal, not lets get her/him through the Suez, i.e., the baptism canal and be done with it. Never seen a church? Parents never been to church? Parents really don't believe? NO PROBLEM. It's not the kyd's fault.

If that sounds passionate, it's because I have not yet resolved the anger and frustration over a bishop's rebuking me for not baptizing the baby of an avowed atheist who only wanted the child baptized to ward off possible evil on a trip the parents wanted to take with the baby. (Actually, I didn't refuse to baptize the baby, I refused to baptize the baby until I'd met with the parents. I received the request by telephone from someone I'd never met and who had no connection to my parish.) The bishop said I was being rigid and unevangelical. (Perhaps there's more than one reason I longer wear "the cloth.")

I'd like to make Christian faith a life-and-death thing again -- and dam* the torpedoes of upset granparents and the loss of a member or two.

Sort of a digression from the topic, eh?


Dwight P. said...

And I've figured out why spellcheck didn't work on my computer -- so in future "religion" will be the spelling, not "relgion."