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November 25, 2004

Comments

David Huff

Pontificator wrote:
You are promising you will die with your brothers and sisters in Christ should they ever come under persecution for their beliefs.

OK, maybe I'm getting distracted from the main topic, but what is it with conservative Christians and this melodramatic "we're being persecuted" thing ?! Darn it, when people believe they're being persecuted, they can get dangerous. Here's what "persecution" really means:

"The act or practice of persecuting; especially, the infliction of loss, pain, or death for adherence to a particular creed or mode of worship." From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998

What conservative fundamentalists are experiencing is being disagreed with. They're experiencing not being able to force their way of belief upon others in an involuntary fashion. That is not the same as being persecuted.

People used to be persecuted, and some still are, because of their race. Gays and lesbians are being persecuted because of their inherent sexual orientation. The Jews were persecuted during the 1930's and 40's in Germany. You, Mr. Pontificator, you are not being persecuted simply because the majority of your fellow citizens disagree with you.

bls

I think the claim being made is that the Nicene Creed is somehow related to the early persecution of Christians.

But in fact, it seems to me that the Nicene Creed is the line of demarcation of the end of persecution of Christians. It was an effort to theologically unify Christians of varying beliefs in varied places - and to exclude certain other beliefs from claiming the imprimatur of Christianity. Christianity was made mainstream at that time, IOW; this was the point in which Christianity first merged with the State. Good for its survival, bad for its soul, I'd say. (I should add that I don't know much in depth about this period, and actually this is inspiring me to learn more.)

Jews (and others) lost many of their previous rights under this regime, BTW.

bls

As for what parts of the Creed I wouldn't say? None, really. Perhaps I shouldn't say it at all, given what I just wrote in the above post; Christianity started to become exclusive at the time of this Creed.

I find the Creed to be poetic - in the same way I find the Gospel of John to be poetic (and extraordinarily beautiful). That is how I appoach both, and I don't take either one word-for-word literally. That both the Gospel of John and the Nicene Creed ended up being sources of persecution of Jews and others is something that is a continuing difficulty for me, for sure. History is full of atrocity, though; I still love the United States and the fact that the American Revolution happened, even though slavery existed at the time and for almost a century afterwards. Human beings are fallen and there is no perfection in this world.

Perhaps being reminded of these things is a good thing, and one of the benefits of their being part of the service or of the canon. Perhaps their negative example is just as important as their positive one.

I would be just as happy, though, if the Creed weren't part of the service; I don't think it's really necessary. And I didn't say it for a long time, and who knows? I may stop saying it again if it starts to bother me again. IMO the bottom line is always to do what you feel comfortable doing.

David Huff

Interesting comments bls, thanks :) So to get myself back on topic, I suspect the AAC-types intend to use their narrow interpretations of the creeds to weed-out those they disagree with and label them "not real Christians." After all, we disagree, so we must be persecuting them (oops, sorry - back off the soapbox again ;)

So can I say the entire Nicene Creed w/o crossing my fingers ? Sure ! esp. considering my definition of "creed" as I commented on in a previous post with respect to Marcus Borg's view. Does this mean that your typical AAC/"Network" member would recognize my saying the creed as valid ? Most likely not. However, they (currently) don't get to make that decision for me. This could change quite easily though in Network dioceses like mine, and I wouldn't be too surprised if it did...

bls

Does this mean that your typical AAC/"Network" member would recognize my saying the creed as valid ? Most likely not. However, they (currently) don't get to make that decision for me. This could change quite easily though in Network dioceses like mine, and I wouldn't be too surprised if it did...

Sorry to hear it, David.

D. C.

David, I think Pontificator was merely using persecution as an illustration of what true faith might call on us to do. I don't see him as wanting to impose his particular beliefs on others.

David Huff

Well, hopefully so. It's just that the "we're a persecuted minority" idea is such a central meme complex for the religious right, and it seemed so, well...weird for him to bring that up in a conversation about the Nicene Creed like that.

/me shrugs. Oh well, back to the conversation at hand :)

bls

David, I think Pontificator was merely using persecution as an illustration of what true faith might call on us to do.

But again: Christians died for the faith long before the Nicene Creed existed. They didn't seem to need long involved statements of theology to do that; they were in love with Jesus Christ, and I seriously doubt they ever worried about whether or not the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son, or only from the Father.

This is Church doctrine, not "faith." To me there's a big difference.

(Sorry - I know you were talking to David, but I've always had a "thing" about this issue. I really identify with what you've been writing about it, in fact - I went through exactly the same internal argument.)

John Wilkins

DC, first, you should sing the creed, if possible. That's best.

I say the creed because I trust that the faith of the church will overcome my own personal shortcomings. I know that my faith is broken. I say it because I'm a member of the church, and I want the church to say, and believe it.

A skeptic can say the words, because it is the faith of the church that redeems, even the faithful ones who know that their faith is inadequate.

Pontificator

I confess the various comments made above by BLS and Huff bizarre, to say the least. An average of 160,000+ Christians are killed each year because they are Christians. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," declared Tertullian.

One doesn't have to be a right-winger or fundamentalist to recognize that in many parts of the world explicit identification as Christian is a dangerous thing to do.

As a general rule, I think it is safe to say that generic theists are not usually persecuted or killed for their faith today. But the public recitation of the Creed in Pakistan or China might well get you arrested and/or killed.

bls

I'll repeat: I think the claim being made is that the Nicene Creed is somehow related to the early persecution of Christians.


And BTW, what about your own statement? It was this: You are promising you will die with your brothers and sisters in Christ should they ever come under persecution for their beliefs. Am I allowed to find that "bizarre," also, given your last post?

Of course it's true that Christians are persecuted in China and other places. No one has or would deny this, but many others are so persecuted: Jews, women, gays, etc. What has any of this to do with reciting, or not reciting, the Nicene Creed?

David Huff

Uh, what bls said :) Tho' I should have been more explicit and said that my concerns with the fundamentalists' persecution complex meant fundamentalists in the Western World (N. America and Europe).

I certainly agree that Christians in places like the Sudan are in real danger. But the most socio-politically dangerous behavior comes from fundamentalists in the West who believe that they are being "persecuted" for their beliefs :-P

bls

Anyway, there actually are some new and interesting things happening in China in many places in re: Christianity.

Falun Gong practioners, though, I think, are still heavily persecuted.

Celinda Scott

The above discussion from four years ago is the first item one comes to by Googling "why some Christians have difficulty with the Nicene Creed." An item which comes soon afterwards is Norman Pittenger's commentary about the issue, written some time in the 1950s or 1960s. I liked Pittenger's comment about "deeper wisdom than I know" when he wrote about continuing to say parts of the creed with which he had difficulty. Late in 2008 some vocal leaders in the Episcopal Church are saying what DC Toedt says about the Nicene Creed, and many fear that his views will prevail and that the Nicene Creed will indeed be shortened or omitted in a future revision of the Book of Common Prayer. I hope Pittenger's view is more widely shared than Toedt's. It's one thing--as a lay person--to express a questioning view of the faith. It's another thing when the leadership of a whole denomination not only poses the questions, but answers them in a way which contradicts traditional understandings. At that point, serious schism begins.

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