Top positive review
70 people found this helpful
RECLAIMING CHRISTIANITY'S HUMANISM
on May 27, 2009
Robert Jensen believes we in the United States are living in a dead culture, slowly decaying because our consumption of the world's resources is unsustainable and our policies are too often unjust. He also believes that capitalism is incompatible with democracy and leads to a system where the rich get richer and basically control the democratic process for their own selfish and greedy aims. Not a pleasant picture of the United States of America.
But Jensen has not just written another book about saving the environment or tempering capitalism with humanism. Jensen attempts to tie his secular views in to a philosophy that is, in his estimation, essentially Christian. Jensen does not come by Christianity in the usual way. He has not taken Jesus as his personal savior and he does not think Jesus rose from the dead. He comes to Christianity, not by way of theology, but by way of a point of view involving social activism. He joined a church because of its activities in support of a more sustainable and tolerant world, because he and the minister were friends who agreed on major social issues. His reasoning was reminiscent, for me, of President Barack Obama's reasons for joining a church, as related in his books. Obama too was attracted by the church's social activism for liberal causes. (Obama, of course, later got a lot of flack because of the radical views of his pastor and ended up resigning from the church).
Jensen takes his alternative views even further than Obama (who seems to have accepted Christian theology) in that he does not actually believe in God. At least not in the way most people do. While I found Jensen's desire to be a Christian a bit odd considering his actual beliefs, I also found his reasoning somewhat logical. He points out that we DO live in a mainly Christian society and those of us who grew up with Christianity have a right to claim some of its principles, even if we do not accept all the theology and doctrines promulgated by organized religion. We who doubt also have a right to find the message in Jesus' teachings.
At times, Jensen's book seems to be about too many things, with his wide-ranging interests in environmentalism, feminism and civil rights for minorities and gays. But he ties it together with the Christian philosophy, which in his case is far-left leaning (say, considerably left of Michael Moore and Al Sharpton). He claims his right to be a Christian and interpret its meaning in a whole different way from those fundamentalist Christians who take their religion to the far right, those who preach that God hates gays and that the righteous are those with the most material success. In Jensen's view, Christian living involves walking everywhere or riding a bicycle, eating a mainly vegetarian diet, using few power-eating gadgets and living in a small house. He argues that to live in a way that is sustainable for our planet means no one should consume more than would sustain us all if each one consumed that much.
He writes about being authentic as meaning that what we say and what we say we believe matches our actual behavior; when our thoughts, words and deeds are intimately related. This resonates with me because I have found the corporate world to be a place where you have to wear a mask each day and be what they want you to be. As Henry David Thoreau famously said, most people live lives of quiet desperation. I have seen that desperation in my working life in one person's willingness to betray another for even a small or only a perceived gain. We do not truly love one another. After years of conforming to a company standard and protecting self-interests, do people even know who they are? Shouldn't we be working toward a more loving and less fearful society?
Jensen asks a lot of people, and many will find his views offensive. He is so critical of American culture that some will think he is speaking treason. But I cannot find actual fault with what he says on these pages. The title of the book comes from a quote from the prophet Jeremiah, who was fearful of the consequences of his role as a prophet. For those who speak unpleasant truths, there will be opposition. "All My Bones Shake" thinking about the beating I will take when I speak in the prophetic voice or do what I think is right when others disagree. The Bible holds some universal principles and it's ok for all of us, regardless of how we interpret Christianity, to partake of its wisdom. And, YES, it's ok for someone like Robert Jensen to reclaim his heritage as a Christian.