Friday, August 17, 2012

Faith + Ethnocentrism = Ignorant Dumb-Ass

Pastor Ortberg seems to have a pathetically weak grasp on both historical research and critical thinking. His "Six Surprising Ways Jesus Changed the World" is based on little more than his own interpretation of Christianity and a woeful lack of historical knowledge. None of the six areas he lists (Children, Education, Compassion, Humility, Forgiveness, and Humanitarian Reform) originate with Christ or Christianity. Though it is true at various points in time Christianity has led various reform movements, it is not proof that this is uniquely or even consistently Christian. It isn't. Virtually all the ideas and activities referenced by Otberg had been carried out by other cultures and belief system before, during, and after the advent of Christianity.

This all, of course, assumes that every point he brings up is valid in itself. They are not. Many are highly debatable. For instance, his simplistic views on education are incredibly inaccurate and naive. His first example, monasteries, is a particularly telling one. The monastic system was far more diverse than most people realize. The level of education offered varied widely. In some the eduction, though very focused and propagandistic, was pretty good. At others it was virtually nonexistent. In every instance it was limited in regard to who received it. Education was not valued for itself but was a means to an end. It had nothing to do with public education as Ortberg implies. It also was not "academic." If I had to choose an educational system from ancient times through medieval I would go with a Confucian style of education. Oh yeah, other cultures had formalized education before the rise of Christianity. I could go on but the point should be obvious to anyone not blinded by their own biases.*  Every area he mentions has similar problems. He seems blissfully unaware that most of what he claims as Christian predates Christianity. He also doesn't seem to be aware of how inconsistent and spotty Christianity's record is on all six.

Yes, I have biases too. I do, however, consciously try to set them aside when trying to determine what is or isn't likely to be true. I try not to let my own preferences interfere with any research I am interested in or impede critical thinking.

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