I have a confession to make: I watch Bill Maher’s show on HBO. Why, you ask? Because sometimes there is real debate, because sometimes Maher is funny (not as often as he thinks he is, BTW) and sometimes he has a point (we can talk about my masochistic tendencies later).
Ever since Pope Francis took over, a recurring joke of Maher’s is that Francis is a closet atheist. His entire justification of that assertion is that Francis doesn’t subscribe to what Maher thinks is the Christian party line. I have yet to hear Maher say anything about Francis’ recent statements about faith and evolution, but I suspect if Maher does say something, it will be mixed in with an atheist joke.
Very quick recap of Pope Francis’ statement: evolution does not contradict faith.
Bill Maher will likely disagree with this. And he will be right…for certain values of Christian.
Let me explain: in some corners of the world (apparently including Maher’s little niche) the Christian faith is a package deal; it is naturally assumed that if someone believes one thing (e.g. Christianity) that they believe every other item in the ‘package’ (e.g. the Republican party is the Lord’s Anointed, the earth was created in six days about 6500 years ago, pro-life, global warming is a hoax, Obama is the Antichrist, etc.).
Some Christians (like myself) prefer to be on the the cafeteria plan.
Back in 1977, Arthur E. Holmes published a book titled All Truth is God’s Truth. I haven’t read it (which will surprise some people), but the underlying idea of the phrase, which was used by Rob Bell in his more recent book Velvet Elvis, is that maybe a faith that can grow, that can adapt, that isn’t afraid of new ideas, but is able to hold those ideas in tension and still maintain faith may be closer to the faith that is seen by people in the Bible. When God called Abram in Genesis 12:1, Abram was called to follow God to a ‘land I will show you’. I sometimes wonder if Christians of the stripe that believe in a six day creation would be willing to follow God without explicit turn by turn Google Maps (or GPS) directions.
By extrapolating Maher’s Christian gripes to the franchise that holds those beliefs, Maher has issues with fundamentalists. Which is actually scary, because I have some of the same issues with fundies as Maher does.
Because I am not sure that people who hold fundamentalist views have thought those views through. That they haven’t fully thought through who Jesus was and expanded that out to all corners of life. Because as far as I can tell, that is the purpose of the Christian life: to figure out what Jesus looks like today and try to look like him.
One final thought on Bill Maher, thinking about him today made me think of something G. K. Chesterton once said about a contemporary of his, Oscar Wilde:
‘Oscar Wilde said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde.’