Deloria on nontemporal theological categories

“In almost every instance in which other religions were considered as invalid, it was because the categories of explanation on which they were judged to be false, were those derived primarily from temporal considerations of how the world ought to be. If the categories are turned around and the Christian religion is judged by nontemporal categories, the story becomes somewhat different. In most cases Christianity either has no answer or an extremely inadequate answer to the problems that arise. The difference is notable. While Christianity can project the reality of the afterlife – time and eternity – it appears to be incapable of providing any reality to the life in which we are here and now presently engaged – space and the planet Earth.”

–Vine Deloria, Jr.,¬†God is Red: A Native View of Religion, 75

I’ve said a couple posts back that Deloria’s analysis of American Christianity suffers from its generic character of sweeping everyone into either mainline liberal Protestant camps or into what he terms the “fundamentalist religious right”. This is reflected here. It is not at all clear to me that all Christians have such an overwhelming focus on the afterlife so as to prevent their ascribing any meaning to life in the present. (He may be right about various wings of evangelicalism, but certainly not about the Protestant mainline).

In reading his analysis, I wonder how he would react to Anabaptism or to other Christian movements which prominently emphasize their distinct social practices as central to their practice of Christian faith. These movements seem to be better able to stand up against some of his critique.


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