February 24, 2007

The God Who Wasn't There?

Well, itís open season on Christianity and the Bible at California State University-East Bay where I work and go to grad school. The Philosophy Department sent out announcements to view a documentary film that attacks Christianity and to join in a discussion afterwards. I couldnít resist the challenge.

This unprofessional amateurish film is called The God Who Wasnít There, a particularly stupid effort on behalf of its creator Brian Flemming, a disgruntled Christian school graduate who doesnít like the threat of hell standing in the way of living a life of debauchery. Poor simple fool! 

I donít think I have ever listened to so much drivel in my life. The poor idiot couldnít distinguish between the actual teachings of the Bible and the many inane groups over the years who have used Christís name to promote their own warped spiritual views. In his collage of Christians he lumped together Charles Manson, Pat Robertson, a psychotic mother who killed her babies, Jenkins & LaHaye, and David Koresh. And he used the Jesus Seminar spokesmen to back him up. He also highlighted the Aryan Nation bigots and the "God Hates Fags" guys as representative of the nature of Christianity. He called it a blood religion.

Brian Flemming narrated the documentary all the way through, projecting himself into the picture frame ala Michael Moore. His voice had a sarcastic tone throughout. He pointed out the fact that the apostle Paul never actually saw Jesus when He walked the earth, and then took a ridiculous leap in logic and said, "Paul didnít acknowledge that Jesus lived." Wow, what an abundance of ignorance. And the worst thing about it is that the students and academics who sat in the classroom viewing this reacted with oohs and aahs as if the film hit on something profound.

Flemming also took umbrage against the teaching on the end times and the rapture. He found fellow atheists who gave sound bites on the dangers of anyone with apocalyptic beliefs being in high positions in government. He warned about the possibility of fundamentalists being in charge, saying "The Inquisition was not a perversion [of Christianity], it was an expression of Christian doctrine."

To further impugn the Christian faith the film showed images of Danteís Inferno of the devil and demons tormenting the naked dead. And he listed various ancient pagan religious myths and found instances of virgin births and rebirths to imply that Christianity is no different. And then the film ended with Flemming looking into the camera and cursing the Holy Spirit publicly in defiance of Jesus saying that would be the one sin that would never be forgiven.

I sat in the back of the classroom during the showing of the film, but the action began after the closing credits. The presenter, Russ Abrams, a man with a Harvard Ph.D., took a poll with a show of hands of how many in the room believed in the Bible Ė at least that it was 50-50 in its accuracy. Four hands out of about thirty went up. Then he asked of the four, how many would say it was the word of God and I was the only one who responded in the affirmative.

The next 45 minutes was one prejudicial remark after another, followed by my attempts at correcting the false statements. The hate speech included:

  • No Bible translations can be trusted because they all say different things;
  • Jesus just taught that we are all gods;
  • Christians want to kill all homosexuals;
  • Christianity causes wars.

I pointed out the hypocrisy of showing an anti-Christian film and not one against Islam or other religions.  "If this film had treated Mohammed and Islam in such a manner, you would all be ducking for cover by about this time," I said very graciously. One guy defending the idea that the Bible teaches Christians to kill said, "Didnít Jesus say he came to bring a sword?" I responded, "Yes He did, and He added that "mother would be against daughter, and son against mother-in-law, etc. And you are seeing the truth of it played out right here as I defend Jesus and get all this hostility from you. There certainly is a division between us over Him"

When we were dismissed I tried to hand out literature to those who attended, a tract I wrote called "Urban Legend: Christianityís Roots are in Ancient Paganism" and a Christian response to the film by James Patrick Holding called "Great Expectorations: Or, The Apostate Who Wasnít All There." I could count on one hand how many accepted the information. They just didnít want to have any facts, being content with their own unfounded notions.

But there was one young man who sat in front of me, a foreign student from China, who stayed afterwards to ask me honest questions. We talked for a while and then he said, "Why donít these people believe the Bible? It makes sense to me." I responded, "Because they are afraid it might challenge their sinful lifestyles and they just donít want anything to cramp their style. Theyíre not willing to change." He indicated that he wanted to know more and so I told him to email me with any questions and to read more about the Bible on the links I provided in the tract.

One older lady was particularly angry at me. She appeared to be a liberal church woman who is open to all religions and picks and chooses what parts of the Bible she wanted to believe in, rejecting its inerrancy. As I tried to hand her the papers, she reacted angrily saying "I donít want anything you have to give." And I responded, "I guess you arenít open-
minded." And she snapped back, "I have news for you. I am a Christian and youíre nothing but a fundamentalist." And she stormed off.

I followed up with a letter to the editor of our college newspaper and hope that they will run it unedited. Hereís the letter:

Dear Editor:

"Hereís a film thatís going to debunk Christianity," CSUEB lecturer Russ Abrams announced as we gathered February 21st in Meiklejohn Hall to view a film that was widely promoted by the CSUEB Department of Philosophy. I had been surprised when I received an invitation two weeks before from Professor Jennifer Eagan, Chair of the Philosophy Department, inviting our campus community to see a documentary, "The God Who Wasnít There," knowing the filmís reputation as a smear campaign against Christianity. And then when another mass-mail invitation arrived in my in-box from Diane Daniel, Publicist for the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences, I decided to go and join in on the discussion. After all, admission was free and popcorn and beverages were going to be provided.

The film lived up to its reputation as the ravings of a anti-Christian bigot painting a false image of Christianity and making up outright lies about what the Bible teaches. He constructed his straw man and then tore it down and, to my amazement, the Lecturer and most of the audience received this propaganda without objection. The filmmakerís crazy claims can easily be refuted and I became the lone voice debunking him in the discussion that followed. I came prepared for the discussion by bringing along copies of a Christian response to the film (http://www.tektonics.org/books/godthere.html), but of the 30+ people who attended, only a very small percentage would accept the paper from me. Apparently, they did not want to hear both sides of the story.

The Lecturer, Russ Abrams, knew even less about Christianity than the filmmaker Brian Flemmings. In the discussion after the film Abrams stated that Jesus said things like, "bring that man over here so we can kill him." I objected and asked him to give me chapter and verse as to where Jesus ever said any such thing and of course he could not, but he wouldnít back down. I pointed out that on the contrary, when the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus, he responded by saying "let the one without sin among you cast the first stone."

Abrams also attacked the Bible, saying that it canít be trusted due to its many translations that donít agree with one another. I was shouted down when I objected that that was not true but that the various translations used different choices of words that bear the same meaning. Then Abrams stated that the original Bible was written in Aramaic. It is shocking that a lecturer who teaches "Philosophy of Religion" at our institution of higher learning does not know that the original books of the Bible were written in Hebrew and Greek. If he doesnít know anything as basic as that, he sure canít be relied upon to speak authoritatively on the subject of religion in a country where Christianity is the predominant one.

It reflects very badly upon CSUEB when hate speech against a major religion is presented as having some educational value. The students who attended were sold a bill of goods. One of Russ Abramsí students summed up his educational philosophy when s/he wrote: "god is fake after this class" (www.ratemyprofessor.com). Is that listed as one of the outcomes for students majoring in Philosophy?

 

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