Sunday, November 23, 2008

The confused dogmatism of the "I'm pro-God, anti-organized religion!" crowd

Good points over at InsightScoop:
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the senior pastor of Advent United Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio. She attended two different seminaries (Yale and United Theological Seminary) and has written four books. Her message, according to this post on the Washington Post "On Faith" blog?
Organized religion is too often a turn-off for people trying to figure out life. Religions tend to be dogmatic, too doctrinaire, with policies, premises and practices which honor the human spirit at the expense of the God mandates.
On this side, the Bad Stuff: organized religion, dogma, doctrine, policies, premises, and practices. On that side, the Good Stuff: the God mandates. Since Smith, the critic of organized religion, is the senior pastor of a church, I do wonder: is her church organized? Does it have set meeting times? (Yes, it does.) Does it have recognized leadership? (Of course!) Does it have any clearly defined beliefs, doctrines, policies, premises, and practices? (I bet so.) And did it take time at two seminaries to learn that organized religion is bad, while "God mandates" are good? (Probably.) While complete answers to those questions might not be readily available, some of Smith's dogmatic, doctrinaire remarks suggest that those answers, if available, would not make much sense:
God says love everyone; religions at least imply that it's OK to love some people and treat others badly.
How, I wonder, does Smith know that God says we are to love everyone? I hope she doesn't say, "The Bible," since the Good Book is, by all accounts, both a product of organized religions (Judaism and Catholicism) and full of dogma and doctrine (Ten Commandments, anyone? Sermon on the Mount? Paul's Epistle to the Romans?), not to mention policies (see Acts 15, for example), premises (how about John 1:1-3?), and practices (read, say, 1 or 2 Corinthians, or James). And if not the Bible, what? On what premise does she base her claim about God and love? And on what factual basis does she say, carte blanche, that all religions "at least imply" it's okay to treat some people badly? Really how, what does she mean by that?

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