Damn My Secular Soul


The Wrestling Match for Reason, God, Opinions. . . 

The Secular/Spiritual merry-go-round can be a dizzying carousel sometimes. Comment becomes a little conversation with potential for dialogue and meaningful debate. Or not.

Engaging believers CAN be productive and interesting. And sometimes the opposite.  There’s just no hope.  The following exchange between Chaplains may sound familiar to those who wander out on the minefield of blog commenters. . .

I recently came across a Priest who refers to himself as a Chaplain. He posted an alarmist article about the U.S. Air Force cracking down on a Chaplain in Alaska who was posting sermons attacking Atheists. The Priest was obviously agitated about this “censorship” and the “religious freedom” under attack (notice how quickly this becomes an attack on Christians, when the problem began as Christians attacking Atheists).

So, being who I am, I commented. Here’s my first one:

“In nearly every instance of “an attack on religious freedom” it is conservative Christians crying out they are persecuted when there is no evidence of this. Those who want Christians to continue to dominate chaplaincy seem to have no memory of “do unto others,” which remains the most difficult teaching for Christians to actually follow. If the military of our secular nation has to have Chaplains (and I’m not convinced we need them) there has to be accommodation to all faith and ethical traditions.
This post is yet another alarm bell for special privileges. It sounds rather tinny.”

This seemed to set the Priest off. Our back and forth began with him telling me he’s a retired British Intelligence officer (oh oh, what have I stepped into now) and the whole secular culture has lost the “Judeo-Christian doctrine and ethic.”

I scribbled back,

“Ok, sir, yet the article is on the American military and, in my opinion, the violation of the establishment of religion clause in our constitution. Hard to see your point regarding the “loss” of any Christian influence (dominance) in our cultures, though the point could be made that there is a decline in some ethics when any religion takes power and arrogantly dominates. Why wouldn’t Christians support chaplains of all ethical groups if they really care about all personnel?”

I’ll spare you the details of his life, but he isn’t happy with this “secular” stuff:

“Speaking for myself, a “secular” chaplain is a most oxymoron, a real opposite! But in this time of both modernity & postmodernity, I am certainly not surprised!”

When he started quoting “born again” passages, I was irritated and tried some good old sarcasm:

“Well, sir, I’m not sure much discussion can come from our perspectives here, but you may be correct in suggesting I’m both an oxy and a moron (smiling here). Welcome to the U.S..  I apologize for our godless constitution and secular nation built on freedom of religion (free to choose a religion, or not). Sorry we were never or will never be a Christian country. I often wonder, what is the goal of those who preach for a “return to Judeo-Christian” things? “Jesusland” USA only exists in some peoples’ fantasy world.
By the way, my almost 30 years as a Chaplain in one form or another, faith and no faith, taught me one main thing: no one owns or controls the truth, and, truth is, people are in need of much more than preaching (and quoting holy books simply doesn’t help).
I wish you well.”

Well, the preacher-priest wasn’t finished, and he obviously didn’t appreciate the sarcasm.

“Funny Chris, and I never said the American Constitution was “godless” and “secular”, your words and conclusion, not mine.”

He went on about being a “Biblicist” (bible worshipper?) and a “neo-Calvinist” so I knew I was done (well done, burned to a crisp, in Calvinistic Hell). He mentioned my eternal soul, so I finally concluded (duh) it was time to turn down the volume and sign off.

“I guess I asked for the preaching, by commenting here. As a former seminary-trained minister and a student of the bible for many years, I have to say it sounds quite hollow to have it pushed back in my face. But, it’s your blog, so expected.
Beyond that, one final comment: in your passion to convert the world to your opinion you might keep in mind that it is often secular people like me (and like Jefferson, Franklin, Paine and other freethinkers) who most protect your right to believe as you wish and speak freely. This is the strength of a secular state where religious freedom is vigorously supported by a Constitution and Bill of Rights based on reason and diversity rather than on one dominant theological opinion. Yes, a clergyman signed the declaration, alongside Deists and Freethinkers. Independent minds working together. Quite impressive. I wish you well.”

After my “sign off,” I went back to visit and found that he had left 3 more comments for me beginning with,

“Yes, this is a blog, and a religious blog mate, and not really a secular place, i.e. modernity and postmodernity!”

And, he was a vet who fought for “God and Country.” Great.

Well, gosh, and damn my secular soul too.

Was I asking for this? Did I bait him? A little. But what was the purpose of his post and responses to me? To preach. To go after nonbelievers in the service of their country. To quote the bible and show me his profound faith and pietistic patriotism (implying all along that I could not possibly have ethics or be patriotic, and my soul is lost!).

So, I suppose this little “conversation” can be taken as a caution, a warning. We choose our fights over these emotionally charged things. Or, we simply choose not to fight but to seek constructive dialogue (CD). For some of us, we can quickly see when CD is not going to be possible.

Have you had similar exchanges with preachers and believers?  When did you know Enough was Enough?


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