Saturday, May 14, 2016

Theology defined by numbers makes an interesting religious marketplace!

To atheists, this is perhaps the best of the times.  Unless one is in Bangladesh!  By and large, there is no equivalent of a Spanish Inquisition that tortures infidels.  For another, it is immense entertainment watching the religious tie themselves into knots (re)defining what god supposedly said.

Take the case of Quakers.  Until yesterday, I had no idea that of the about 300,000 Quakers in the world, "over one-third of them live in Kenya."  This factoid, by itself, is pretty darn interesting.  But, this atheist is more interested in this:
Today, there are more Quakers in Kenya than in any other country in the world.
But it wasn’t until 2007 that a major international Quaker gathering was held in Kenya. The meeting, and the ones that ensued, weren’t without controversy. In 2012, a gathering held in Nairobi was almost canceled halfway through because of arguments between liberal and conservative Quakers over same-sex marriage.
What did god say about same-sex marriage?  What is the theology here?  The believers beat their chests on how they know what god said about this issue, or other such contemporary social issues too.  However, in the Western tradition, ever since Martin Luther opened the door for democratization of thinking, it is usually the numbers that redefine what god said.  As the numbers in favor of contraception became huge, for instance, the theological interpretations changed on whether contraceptives were allowed by god, which meant that whether sex for pleasure--as opposed to sex for procreation--was allowed by god.  Fun times here on the sidelines!

The future of Christianity is in Africa.
The Pew Research Center estimates that there will be two and a half times more Christians in Africa than Europe by 2050. Currently, the numbers are about equal.
Which is why every denomination, from Roman Catholics to Quakers, and even the Mormons, are targeting Africa.  Demography is destiny!

But, the Quakers are not the first ones to raise same-sex issues as a deep theological struggle for believers.  Earlier this year, the Anglican church suffered a rebellion.  There, too, the numbers are with Africa.  I recall one NPR segment in which a senior church leader from Nigeria complained that Europeans were imposing their colonial liberal bleiefs over them.  But then wasn't Christianity itself a result of European colonialism?

Recently, the Anglican Church held a summit in Lusaka.    The Archbishop of Canterbury writes:
There are plenty of problems, I’ll come to those in a moment, but the central news is that if God, by his Spirit, is working among us, that the future is one of hope, of purpose and of blessing in our call to fulfil the mission of God in the world.
The challenges in Lusaka flowed from issues that we have been facing for many years, especially those around human sexuality, and most recently the decision of the Episcopal Church (TEC) to change its canon on marriage in order to accept same-sex marriage in its churches. It should be noted that at the same time they also decided to make provision for those who disagreed, and no diocese could be compelled to accept this change, nor can an individual priest.
So, what exactly god said will be a negotiated truth after all!

As in any negotiation, here too some of the major disagreeing parties boycotted the summit:
There was no hiding the fact that we had great differences, nor diminishing the sorrow that some Provinces (Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda) had chosen not to attend for reasons which I fully understand.
I wonder who amongst the seven billion-plus knows what god really thinks!


Ramesh said...

I know !! God didn't say a thing about sexuality. People imposing their biases as God's word is an age old problem.

How about living your own belief and respecting every other belief rather than imposing one's one. If somebody wants to marry in the same sex, that is their choice and belief. If another doesn't want to do it, don't. Simple , isn't it ?

Sriram Khé said...

Yep ...
The believers of most (all?) religions have problems with sex and that is where the problems begin. I can't understand why they are so afraid of people having sex--whether it is a man and a woman, or gay/lesbian ... it is almost as if sex is the cornerstone of their belief itself--oh wait, it is ;)

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