Rimshots #18 “Elitism”

William A. Henry in Defense of Elitism wrote, “The very essence of school is elitism. Schools exist to teach, to test, to rank hierarchically, to promote the idea that knowing and understanding more is better …” In essence, schools exist to make distinctions. Therefore you could argue that by elitism Henry means the making of distinctions and when appropriate, ranking what you have distinguished.

Carl Sagan said, “The well-meaning contention that all ideas have equal merit seems to me little different from the disastrous contention that no ideas have any merit.” When these observations are applied to religion the question that begs an answer is which religious idea is the meritorious one, which approach to God is correct? This question, when asked of Christianity brooks only one answer. It claims uniqueness, that it alone is the true path to God.

Is Christianity, by Henry’s definition, elitist? Absolutely. It brooks no other way or no other truth leading to life eternal. In doing so it makes distinctions: between right and wrong, between sin and righteousness, between the elect and those destined for damnation, between itself and all other religions. It considers itself alone right and true and demands that every other religious expression is wrong at best and demonically inspired at worst.

However, the hardest part about defending elitism in the context of Christianity is dealing with individual Christians, since while the religion is obviously elitist, making absolute distinctions, Christians should not be. By that I mean they should never fall into the trap that befalls almost all individual elitists, that of being arrogant and condescending. Instead they should be loving and forebearing, like the God who forms the foundation of their belief. As Paul says in Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” And futher in Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;”

That is the challenge then, to present without deminishment the elitism of Christianity, never shying from its distinctive uniqueness, while at the same time keeping oneself humble and loving. Well Christian, have at it.

  2 comments for “Rimshots #18 “Elitism”

  1. Pingback: Wittenberg Gate
  2. February 3, 2005 at 10:44 am

    The fact is, everyone is elitist when it comes to their beliefs. Everyone believes that their belief is the best. That is why they believe it. It is astoundingly hypocritical and delusional to say that no belief is no more important than any other belief. If people really belive that, they why do they get upset when they are told they are wrong?

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