Robert Jensen on religion


An interview with Robert Jensen, who has stirred up a fair amount of controversy within the Presbyterian church over his unorthodox views, can be heard on a podcast from the series "The God Complex".

I found this interview somewhat interesting from the get go simply because one of the moderators of the podcast series--and one of Jensen's interviewers in the podcast--is the pastor of a church that I blogged about a while ago when I noted a seeming incongruity between statements on the church web site ostensibly promoting diversity and other statements on the same site that provided a list of very orthodox statements describing what "we"--the church--believed. In any case, the interview was respectful and friendly and gave Jensen an opportunity to discuss his own values and theology and his own non-dogmatic take on what he thinks church community is about.

Here are a couple of great quotes from the interview. First this one:

I hadn't bothered to pay attention to the range of thinking in Christianity, and for that matter in other faiths as well (Islam, Buddhism, others). So I started a kind of education that exposed me to a wider range of thinking. Like a lot of people I think I had always rejected organized religion because I assumed the only way you could find a place in a Christian church today was to accept what I just generally call the supernatural claims, the idea of God as a distinct entity or force or being out in the world that directs our lives; and the idea that the resurrection must be understood literally as a historical fact. I assumed that to be Christian was to accept those two fundamental supernatural claims, and what I realized as I started to read more progressive theology and look at the range, not even today, but historically going back actually to the beginnings of Christianity--I realized there were people who had always had a range of ideas, and that I could in fact find a place in that tradition.
And then this one:
I think in a funny way the New Atheists and the traditional fundamentalist Christians...kind of have a field day with each other, and they love to argue with each other. And I think the reason is because both of them share an essential assumption, that the only way you can be religious, the only way you can be a Christian, is to--without question--accept those supernatural claims and a set of dogmas that come with it. Now the fundamentalists believe that, and the New Atheists believe that as well. So I've had a number of discussions with people who would subscribe to the kind of New Atheist philosophy, and when I talk about my own questions, my own theology, and talk about it in the context of a progressive Christianity, they always say the same thing; they look at me and they say, "Well, you're not a real Christian." And I always say, "Well tell me what a 'real' Christian is," as if, in a 2000 year history, one can...nail down this easy definition of what it means to be a Christian.