A Christian Conservative Goes to College, part 10 (World Religions: From the Frying Pan into the Fire)

Stephen J Drain's picture

“For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21-22).

I knew that in taking World Religions (Philosophy 251) as a general elective, I was probably jumping from the frying pan into the fire.[1] In World Religions Class, I certainly felt as though I was in a place “where Satan has his throne” (Revelation 2:13, NIV).

Certainly there is nothing wrong with seeking a better understanding of the major religions of the world. It is important for a Christian to gain as much knowledge and understanding as possible in order to avoid false characterizations, especially of other religions. Prior to the date of the first class my trepidation was real, however, as I expected Christianity to be attacked. And where Christianity is attacked, I expect to be attacked. “Certainly zeal for your house consumes me; I endure the insults of those who insult you” (Psalm 69:9). These fears drove me to the Lord in prayer many times, even before the semester began. I asked God to grant me wisdom (James 1:5); that when the time came, He would let me know when to speak and when to hold back, that when it came time to speak He would give me the words to say.

Then again, it was possible that I might get a decent and fair professor who just gave the facts about the tenets and beliefs of each religion. But it was certainly possible that I would get some whacko, lefty, nut-burger professor who just wanted to belittle and slander Christianity. The decision was up to God (Jeremiah 10:23, Proverbs 16:33).

I got the whacko, lefty, nut-burger.

I guess that’s ad hominem, so forgive me. But let the story play out in the next few episodes and then make your own decision. He was Chinese and his name was Dr. Yu.[2] He fancied himself an entertainer. He loved to joke around and command the room. "When I teach a class I get excited," he said to us, "I was teacher of the year at Temple in 2007." He loved to be the center of attention. (I know; it takes one to know one.) And like many other professors I’d had, he liked to stand before the class as the all-knowing professor-sage, philosopher king.

He introduced himself as being a Taoist[3] priest. “I had an out of body experience at the age of nine years old," he said. "I’ve had two of them in my life. That is why I study religion.”[4] He painted himself as being religiously eclectic (what appeared to me to be nothing more than religiously relativistic). He told us he’d been to or participated in Hindu ceremonies, Muslim mosques, witch ceremonies, Native American earth traditions, etc. “I have been at ceremonies where the shaman call energy from the north, east, west, and south, and if the person doing this is very powerful, you can feel the energy pulsing through you.” Oh, and by the way, "I'm going to be preaching at an Episcopal church this coming Sunday morning." What?! He said that he had grown up in a culture where Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism[5] were all practiced and that sometimes people practiced all three.[6] He found it strange that people in the west were less likely to practice multiple religions.

Even though he spoke so wonderfully of all the world’s “religious traditions” he seemed to have a bias against one or two of them in particular. (Can you, the reader, guess which ones? Come on, I have no doubt you can answer this.) The undermining of these two particular “traditions” began subtly enough: “When I came to America I dated a Christian girl who said she could not marry me unless I converted. Eventually we did get married and then we got divorced. I dated many Jewish women and had the time of my life with them. Dating them helped me to learn about the Jewish tradition and their two-hundred holidays.”

When discussing the list of potential term paper topics he said, “You can compare the role of women, or views of the afterlife, or the role of sex. For instance, in some Hindu traditions, sex is necessary. In the Roman Catholic Church it is a sin. That is why priests cannot marry, but maybe they should and that would keep them from molesting children.”

Now that was certainly unbiased, wasn’t it?[7]

His first lesson was on a theory of top-down vs. bottom-up religions where, according to him, a top-down religion is one where people claim to have seen, spoken to, or been given a book by God. “Moses was alone and he talked to a burning bush,” the professor said. “But we can fake that. He ate nothing? Maybe he ate some mushrooms.[8] Mohammed had a seizure and thought he saw the angel Gabriel. His wife actually had to tell him it was God.[9] After all, no one has ever seen God. I agree with Buddha on this one. When Buddha was asked about God, he said, ‘Why worry about things we cannot know?’ No one has ever seen or talked to God. Even in Jesus’ first epiphany moment he was not talking to God, but with Satan in the wilderness.”

What can I say about Professor Yu?

“Some things in these letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).

The professor continued: “Top-down religions are very easy. You don’t have to think. Thou shalt not kill? Thou shalt not have sex before marriage? But life is more difficult than that. Thou shalt not kill? What if someone breaks into your house at night? You might need to kill. God doesn’t deal with that. What if you’re a soldier on the battlefield? God doesn’t talk about that. He just says, ‘Don’t kill.’”

His words were so one sided, lacking context, lacking truth, lacking intellectual honesty, fair representation of the Bible, and 2000 years of Christian thought; everything was simply Professor Yu’s opinion. (Wait… Was he supposed to be teaching or giving opinions? Hmmm…)

But he continued: “No sex before marriage? In top-down religion, the rule is already decided for you, but in eastern and other religions you work to figure it all out for yourself. No sex before marriage? Try it…” he said the last line with a laugh as if he was only joking. “God says, ‘No sex before marriage’? How do you know what’s best until you try it for yourself?"

Hmmm, sounds like the same voice that spoke in Genesis saying, “Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not…’?” (see Genesis 3:1-5.) Was I hearing the serpent’s hiss coming from the professor’s throat?

In another class he continued pursuing the same line: “God says, ‘Do not worship other Gods,’ but then you meet a Buddhist who is a decent person and you fall in love with them. You want to know, Can I go out with them? Your church says, ‘no.’ But your experience tells you he’s spiritual.[10] What do you do?”

So he was, essentially, espousing a subjective feelings-based morality or truth. (Relativism again?) Sure, “Follow your heart” is always good advice. Not! It’s almost always horrible advice as “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV).

So, back in that first class I sat silently as he slowly turned up the heat, jesting about Christianity, slighting it, lying about it. That first day I struggled greatly, feeling as though I was sinning by remaining silent and not speaking up. Yet I also felt that the first class was not yet the most appropriate time to disagree or debate with the professor. I sat with my blood boiling. I sat praying. By the grace of God my time to represent would come…

“Wise people don’t make a show of their knowledge, but fools broadcast their folly” (Proverbs 12:23, NLT).

 

 

Feel free to read my other columns at http://www.examiner.com/christian-perspectives-in-philadelphia/stephen-j....

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[1] Philosophy 111 was the cause of enough grief. See the last few columns in this series to see what I mean.

[2] Not his real name. I chose “Yu” because, from what I found on the web, it means “Foolish” in Chinese. (See http://www.ehow.com/video_4402864_write-word-foolish-chinese-radicals.html.)

[3] Definition from Wikipedia: Taoism (pronounced Daoism) refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao, which is the mechanism of everything that exists. The word "Tao"… is usually translated as "way", "path" or "principle", although the word literally means "nature" as in the nature of all things as well as the natural world…. Taoist propriety and ethics emphasize the Three Jewels of the Tao: compassion, moderation, and humility, while Taoist thought generally focuses on nature, the relationship between humanity and the cosmos; health and longevity; and wu wei (action through inaction). Harmony with the Universe, or the source thereof (Tao), is the intended result of many Taoist rules and practices (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoism).

[4] By this time in my school career, if any class discussions, lessons, or lectures, were anti-conservative or anti-Christian, I was making detailed notes, writing down much of the comments and conversations almost verbatim.

[5] Many would say that Confucianism is not really a religion but a social, ethical, or political philosophy.

[6] Interestingly enough, our textbook for that semester was Huston Smith’s World Religions, A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions, in which he wrote, “Traditionally every Chinese was Confucian in ethics and public life, Taoist in private life and hygiene, and Buddhist in matters relating to death, with a healthy dash of shamanistic folk religion thrown in for good measure” (from page 120 of Huston Smith’s, World Religions, A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions, text copyright 1991, 1994 by Huston Smith, published by HarperOne, a division of HarperCollins).

[7] Believe me, I have huge problems/disagreements with Roman Catholic doctrine and teachings. But some of the Roman Catholic bashing I ran across in college was very unfair. In a case like this, it once again appears that the professor ignored the counter claim that the problem within the Roman Catholic Church was with homosexual pedophiles. How often did one hear of girls being molested? Was it not most often boys? No matter what, it was not an issue related to marriage or not marrying. It was not an issue with Roman Catholic doctrine at all. Such arguments are always non-sequitur (they do not follow): "Because priests are forbidden to marry, they molest little boys." He built a straw man and then knocked it over, philosopher-king that he was. (That’s sarcasm, of course.)

[8] The last comment was a reference to a book that had been published around that time, a book that suggested Moses was high on hallucinogenic mushrooms. (Note his major mistake about Moses receiving the Commandments from the burning bush, when Moses actually received the Commandments on Sinai.)

[9] Some think Mohammed suffered from fits, seizures, or epilepsy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Muhammad#Psychological_and_medical_condition). Others say that when Mohammed received his first “revelation” he thought he might have been possessed by an evil spirit or a jinn. (Reference to jinn: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jinn#Jinn_in_Islam). Supposedly, Mohammed was so distraught about this that he considered committing suicide. However, his wife and cousin convinced him that “God” was speaking to him through an angel. (See these interesting articles: http://kashmirherald.com/featuredarticle/elst-wahi-part3.html or http://thetruthwon.com/2011/05/islam-part-1-the-prophet-mohammed/, http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?t=29259.)

[10] “Spiritual.” What a loaded word. What a nonsense-word in the modern west. It means nothing. It certainly never comes close to the words of Christ: “But a time is coming – and now is here – when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). Where is the Truth in their beliefs? And what spirit might they be listening to? (See 1 Kings 22.) Do they realize their “spiritual,” or better said, their “spirit” could be “the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:2, NIV)? “They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world’s perspective and the world listens to them. We are from God; the person who knows God listens to us, but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit” (1 John 4:5-6).

Comments

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                     Thanks 

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