"Transcend and include... this is the self-transcending drive of the Kosmos—to go beyond what went before and yet include what went before... to open into the very heart of Spirit-in-action." Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if a group of people somewhere were for something and against nothing?" Ernest Holmes

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Why the Strange Book Title?

Update Sep 2009: The book has been retitled "The Bishop and the Seeker: Wrestling for the Soul of the 21st Century." We figure it will generate enough controversy even without an in-your-face-title.

Comparing "total depravity" to negative thinking

Some people have gotten the wrong impression from our draft book title, "Wicked and Evil Isn't That Bad: A Fundamentalist and a New Ager Wrestle for the Soul of the 21st Century." It definitely does not excuse evil or excuse those who use religion for intimidation.

The phrase "Isn't that bad" refers to several themes that recur throughout the book. Teri learns that the view of salvation presented by Bishop Thomas isn't as bad as her preconceptions about it, and Bishop Thomas learns that the motives of most people in alternative religion aren't as selfish as many Christians believe. They even discuss how moral relativism isn't that bad--when it is practiced with an intention to seek the highest good of all. Bishop Thomas amazes Teri by claiming that Christians are the original moral relativists charged with promoting the spirit of the law over its letter. "All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient." he quotes from the New Testament.

Then at one point half way through the book, Bishop Thomas tells a friend of Teri's that EVERYBODY is wicked and evil.

"That's sad!" the friend exclaims.

It takes a moment for Bishop to realize she means it's sad that he thinks that way. "No wait," he says. "Wicked and evil isn't that bad."

Everybody blinks in astonishment until Bishop T. explains that he sometimes uses "wicked and evil" to refer to the petty jealousies, judgments, and self-centeredness inside us all, even those of us who are outwardly compassionate. This doctrine of total depravity is a hopeful thing because it reminds us not to judge others, he says. And then he compares his doctrine to Teri's New Thought belief that everyone must guard against negative thoughts.

It is a moment that ruptures preconceptions on both sides, thus making way for something new.

Do you think it would be more clear if we changed the title to "Total Depravity Isn't That Bad"? Or how about, "A Fundamentalist and a New Ager Join Forces to Transcend Extreme Moral Relativism?"

Catchy, heh?

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