So I watched the OCF Debate and a bit of the same stuff elsewhere with Christopher Hitchens. And I gotta say, “our” folks seem to give a good show against the Atheists, but a good show simply tends to mean they don’t embarrass themselves. And who wins tends more often than not to have something to do with whom you agreed before the whole thing began.
The sad truth is I find it hard to see how these sorts of things accomplish much. So like my wife’s once-favorite show, “What Not to Wear”, I started puzzling over what not to think. First I thought our basic problem is that we allow ourselves to be trapped into a logical or philosophical argument as if it mattered. It doesn’t. And then we bring up the blood thing, and y’know, there’s a point here, but it’s not going to go well for either of us. So you wonder doesn’t the real problem start somewhere else… like in the attitude department.
And more than that, I thought it seems you might start with the intentions: what we think we’re about is making saints, and what they think they’re about is living in peace. And I don’t think these are necessarily incompatible, nor do they require one to see the other as evil. But more of the sad truth is that both of us tend to think mostly of the other as evil, and therefore spend less of our time either making saints or living in peace. Moreover, both of us have really good reasons for fearing each other, as so often one uses one’s point of view to trudgeon the other whenever it’s proved handy. And at least as the story goes – maybe not the facts but certainly the popular understanding of the story – it’s proved handy more often than not.
So there’s just not a lot of peace, love, tie dye or Bobby Sherman in these things and protests on one side about victim status doesn’t carry much weight with the other side trying to claim the same thing. Rather, from a bystander’s point of view (which I’m not entirely), I’m not sure how convincing either side’s arguments are to an unbiased observer.
I guess in my own naive way, I rather thought an honest to goodness living and breathing saint might make a better impression than an argument, but if you really carry that one through, you find yourself high and dry given that our Lord found it pretty doggone hard to convince many of the devout monotheists of his time in the flesh. So it’s just as likely the theists would give the saint as much if not more trouble than the atheists when you start to ponder it. Hence no matter how I tried , I was coming up pretty lame on my own.
But who cares what I think anyway, right? I’m just a guy in the audience. So I set the whole of it aside and picked up Archimandrite Zacharias’s much more worthwhile “Remember Thy First Love” and read further on the three stages of the spiritual life, past the chapter on the parable which he wishes were known as “The Love of the Heavenly Father” and on to the chapter titled, “An Invitation to Overcome Death”. And with the Atheist debates rattling in my head, I stumbled on his recounting of the two greatest commandments which I’ll render here from Matthew 22 in full from the KJV:Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
And it struck me almost immediately that assuming the best of both sides (a charitable and yet honest assumption of fair debate), it might be said there’s a preference for the theist for the first commandment, and in truth there might even be a preference for the atheist for the second. And it might equally be wondered whether in fact what we face is an assumption that this is some sort of typical either-or exclusionary argument rather than a classic Orthodox solution of “both plus”. No one suggests this — just like no one suspects the Spanish Inquisition — and yet they do! So I’ve gotta say this inspiration might earn me a good chew on someone else’s ABC gum lying on some broken pavement smeared with tire grease, but you weren’t expecting much now were you? I know I sure wasn’t… and I even know me. So… just shows… well, y’figured right. Sorry to live down to it… but that’s my bit now, ain’t it?
So maybe this means that we still have this sort of hullabaloo going on because it’s good theater… like the Science vs. Religion, Aliens vs. Predators, Bambi vs. Godzilla and all the rest… or maybe these folks just can’t seem to take up the matter at the right point and instead get trapped in that whole victim thing where contentment with living in the moment trumps working for a real solution. And then again… sometimes… you find a passage by finding all the dead-ends first.