Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Paul Kivel and his challenge to the Church of Jesus Christ

In the early 20th century and beyond dark and atrocious tales were told about a people who intentionally controlled the world through various avenues such as banking and business. All evil was attributed to the Jews and their history was fictionalized. This led to genocide, the killing of 6 million people. But this posting is not about the Jews but about Christians. Paul Kivel, a workshop speaker, who continues to lecturer at the White Privilege Conferences, offers the same kind of scenario for Christians. He believes Christians are the cause of most existing evil. Kivel calls it ‘Christian Hegemony.’

Kivel in fact has a project called, “Challenging Christian Hegemony.”  On his site there are various articles and videos explaining his views. He writes about his definition of Christian hegemony, stating:

“I define Christian hegemony as the everyday, pervasive, and systematic set of Christian values and beliefs, individuals and institutions that dominate all aspects of our society through the social, political, economic, and cultural power they wield. Nothing is unaffected by Christian hegemony (whether we are Christian or not) including our personal beliefs and values, our relationships to other people and to the natural environment, and our economic, political, education, health care, criminal/legal, housing, and other social systems.

Christian hegemony as a system of domination is complex, shifting, and operates through the agency of individuals, families, church communities, denominations, parachurch organizations, civil institutions, and through decisions made by members of the ruling class and power elite.

Christian hegemony benefits all Christians, all those raised Christian, and those passing as Christian. However the concentration of power, wealth, and privilege under Christian hegemony accumulates to the ruling class and the predominantly white male Christian power elite that serve its interests. All people who are not Christian, as well as most people who are, experience social, political, and economic exploitation, violence, cultural appropriation, marginalization, alienation and constant vulnerability from the dominance of Christian power and values in our society.”

Kivel also explains his concepts in a video:

These videos of Kivel lecturing at the Pacific School of Religion are on his project site. In them he attempts to say that he is not attacking Christianity nor is his concern about Christian beliefs. And yet he attacks some of the most important biblical teachings of the Church. For instance, in one video he attacks the biblical view of humanity’s sinfulness and need for a savior. He adds to this his disdain for the Christian view that Jesus is the only way to salvation.

In several other videos he gives a history of Christianity touching on all the events he finds evil. Kivel points to some truly evil times in Christianity, such as the inquisition, but most of his “facts” are false. Kivel’s lecture on Christian history is filled with misunderstandings, misstatements and falsehoods.

One misunderstanding is that Christianity is related to Manicheism and holds to the same types of cosmic battle between good and evil. But no, the biblical God is sovereign and has already, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, won the battle. Biblically there is no concern about losing to an evil force; that idea belongs strictly to Manicheism.

Kivel speaks about the Crusades highlighting only the evil that various smaller groups caused. He fails to comprehend the whole history of the Crusades. They were, at first, a defense against a militant Islam which ruled much of the Middle East by means of war. A good comprehensive history of the Crusades has been written by Thomas F. Madden for Christianity Today. Madden is associate professor and chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University. He has written The New Concise History of the Crusades.

In his 2005 article, “The RealHistory of the Crusades,” Madden explains the reason for the first crusade. He writes:

“With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed's death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt—once the most heavily Christian areas in the world—quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.

That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.”

Madden goes on to write about the terrible killing of the Jews by some crusaders and how both Pope, Bishop and preachers condemned it, in particular focusing on St. Bernard of Clairvaux. He writes of the tragic events that led to the misguided and horrific ruin of Constantinople by some crusaders which hardened the rift between the Christians of the East and the West. Unlike Kivel, Madden explains history from the biblical understanding that humanity is broken on everyone’s side.

Kivel suggests that the Holocaust was caused by Christianity, when in reality it occurred within the combined forces of German cultural paganism, extreme nationalism and a progressive Christianity that accommodated the culture of the time. In another place, Kivel, using a picture insert and one paragraph, attempts to use Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth as good examples of those who stood against Christian hegemony during the Nazi era.

What Kivel seems ignorant of is that Bonhoeffer, Barth and the Confessing Church stood against the secularism of the schools and the use of sports and other youth activities to draw young people away from church. They decried the various kinds of public pagan rituals that the Nazi government used to replace the rituals of the church. Kivel, undoubtedly, has not read the Theological Declaration of Barmen, with these words:

“We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but o other lords—areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him. (8.15)

Kivel gives a list of some of the parachurch groups that he believes are fueling Christian hegemony. And he doesn’t seem to make a distinction between a denomination and a parachurch organization. For instance, he lists World Vision and the Episcopalian Church, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Christians United for Israel, the Southern Baptist Convention and Christian Hospitals. As the reader can see he condemns anything that is Christian!

How does Kivel believe that Christian hegemony should be challenged? For Christian allies some of his suggestions are:

“* Examine how you may have internalized judgments about yourself based on Christian teachings. Have you cut yourself off from your body, from natural expressions of your sexuality or spirituality or from connections to the natural world?”

“* Work for religious pluralism, and support the separation of church and state.”

“* Avoid assuming other people you meet are Christian - or should be, and challenge missionary programs.”

The most I can find in writing or video about challenging Christian hegemony from the position of a non-Christ is this video:

Some of these ideas assume what is not true. Importantly, ideas about not bringing the good news to those of other faiths are anti-Christian. This is truly the great challenge that Christianity faces—evangelizing the lost peoples of this world. In the face of all opposition it most continue.

Of course the other challenge is learning how to live faithfully in the midst of a nation that is now rushing toward the scenario that Kivel and others are preparing. The promise is “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-39)


Andy Vloedman said...

Viola I appreciate your analysis. I don't consider myself naive but I am constantly surprised by the public interest that is generated by cockamamie theories that lack any coherence and don't correspond to present reality or history. Their popularity as far as I can tell is directly related to the number of nasty things they'll say about Jesus Christ, Christianity or Christians. It's like the junior high school kid whose popularity is based on the number of cuss words he knows and is willing to utter. It is a battle and it's growing but we have the most powerful weapon in history, the truth. Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth and the life".

Viola Larson said...

Andy, I am often surprised too. One of my concerns with this was Kivel's constant presence at the main white privilege Conference and there are mainline church leaders who do recommend them.

Greg Scandlen said...

You might enjoy my write-up on the crusades based mostly on Rodney Stark's excellent book. --http://thefederalist.com/2015/03/04/like-most-people-president-obama-gets-the-crusades-wrong/#.VwQ4rhiesBJ.facebook

Greg Scandlen
Waynesboro, PA

Viola Larson said...

Greg can you give me that without an app?

will spotts said...

Given the way the mainlines talk about white privilege and similar faulty notions, it is only a matter of time before they start talking about Christian privilege in the same exact terms. Of course, the mainlines will not mean their privilege - it will generally be directed to the 'conservative' (biblical) Christians either living as embattled religious minorities within their ranks, or those in other denominations.

Viola Larson said...

Among some I know they, in a sense, already do. Try visiting https://www.facebook.com/groups/56387121170/