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So Let it Rain
January 17, 2003 6:51 AM   Subscribe

Two score years ago, a great American, whose birthday we celebrate every year with a three-day weekend, stood in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial and uttered those famous words, "I Have A Dream." Five years later, older and weary, saddened and yet emboldened for a new task, that man was assassinated in Memphis. He has rightly become an American icon, a symbol of all that we consider great about our nation. And yet is is the very fact of his apotheosis that has done his dream the most damage. Safely iconized and sanitized, MLK has been used cynically by his most bitter opponents, to ends he very clearly opposed during his life. The man who considered himself a democratic socialist, and who supported both reparations and affirmative action is used by conservatives to stymie the efforts of his philosophical and activist heirs. Some of them, like U2's Bono, want to save Africans from AIDS. Others, like Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, suggest a 10-year moratorium on the famous speech, so that we can pay attention to other, more important statements. King's last great effort was not a march to combat racism but rather a new initiative to end poverty, the Poor People’s Campaign. Thirty-five years later, the gap between rich and poor is larger than ever in this country, and our president, who claims to follow the same religion that underwrote all King said, did and thought, is conducting a war not on poverty, but on the poor. How many of us who, like G.W. Bush, pay lip service to the ideas of King and of Christ will stop stalling and stand up for justice?
posted by eustacescrubb (47 comments total)

 
Dr. King's eloquence in writing, and even more so in speaking, never cease to amaze me.
posted by jsonic at 7:03 AM on January 17, 2003


I do not in any way pay lip service to the ideas of Christ.
posted by mischief at 7:04 AM on January 17, 2003


Two posts in and I get my first sarcastic one. I'm feelin' good...
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:18 AM on January 17, 2003


I remember one of the first reluctant MLK holidays in an area that fought against it tooth and nail. And to make things even more interesting, there was a university there, more liberal than the rest of the city. In town, "you may have silenced us, but you have not converted us", was the clench-toothed response in a city with almost no African-Americans. On campus, MLK had been so sanitized that they would not play more than single sentence sound bites. "Honor him, but don't repeat what he says--too controversial. You don't want to *offend* someone."

In other words, even on the more "liberal" campus, MLK was reduced to empty homilies. "Let's 'give' the blacks their little holiday and maybe they will shut up", was the message. "If they want their 'Juneteenth' and 'Kwanzaa', fine, just leave me out of it."

All in all, it was seen as "liberals" demanding a holiday to give one in the eye to "conservatives", since there weren't (and still aren't) very many African-Americans in the entire State anyway.

I really don't think I'm being cynical, here. And I don't think that what the locals were feeling there then is much different then what a lot of whites across the US feel every MLK day. MLK is NOT a holiday for everyone.
posted by kablam at 7:47 AM on January 17, 2003


Kablam, while I was interested by reading your memory of local reactions to one of the first MLK holidays, I can't attach much weight to your statement that MLK "is NOT a holiday for everyone." What holiday IS? Significant populations in this country don't observe Christmas; I'm sure that there are plenty of Native Americans and history buffs who aren't too hep on Thanksgiving. Don't even get me started on Easter and Valentine's Day.

Why would a holiday's receiving anything less than overwhelming societal approval and participation be any less legit?
posted by clever sheep at 7:55 AM on January 17, 2003


Awesome post. All of his words still resonate so strongly right now, and the approaches he offers are still so fresh and (in many cases) unheeded. He was truly a visionary.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 8:12 AM on January 17, 2003


At least MLK knew that his message was for everyone - unfortunately, many of the people who is resist it now are those it was meant for the most.
posted by luriete at 8:43 AM on January 17, 2003


A New Look at America's Most Unresolved Assassination
posted by muckster at 8:44 AM on January 17, 2003


MLK is NOT a holiday for everyone.

So Washington's Birthday is, what, a holiday for white slaveholding Virginians? Thanksgiving is only for those who can prove descent from the Pilgrims who ate at the first one? WTF?
posted by languagehat at 8:53 AM on January 17, 2003


Christmas is only for those who want to get smashed and stuff themselves until their bellies burst?
posted by biffa at 9:00 AM on January 17, 2003


Wait a minute. No, no, I was going to just let this slide off my back, but I just can't. How can you take the memory of a great crusader for justice and equality and use it for a troll against Bush? This is so wrong. I am no supporter of Bush myself, but attacking his religious convictions is one stone I refuse to step on and to bring Dr. King's messages in as fuel is just too much. Bush may very well believe that he is standing up for justice. He may believe that God views his crusade against a ruthless dictator as a righteous cause and will uplift the poor. criticizing someone's religion is NOT the path to fight a cause. I've heard or read Dr. King's messages on a whole lot of topics, but I never heard him call anyone's religious beliefs "lip service." If you want to debate the Bush policies, fine, debate, I'll be there right beside you, but fight fair. Joe Lieberman supports action in Iraq, is it because he's a pious jew? Please, fight fair.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:12 AM on January 17, 2003


By the way, a local (DC) Episcopal minister said that W is one of his most regular parishioners, he hardly misses a Sunday and it was at this church that Bush attended services on the anniversary of 9/11. I don't think I've ever heard of an Episcopal church, particularly the rather staid one in question referred to as "Evangelical Christianity" The Episcopal church is about as Unitarian as you can get and still be baptized! I think his "lip service" is to evangelism, not Christianity.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:24 AM on January 17, 2003


Great post.

I think the issue of many of Bush and the Right's relationship to economics and religion is always interesting. you have many of the religious poor and middle class voting for republicans because of the loaded social issues such as abortion, drugs, etc., whille these same voter's get the short end of the stick with regard to 'trickle down' and 'NAFTA-esque' policies.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 9:42 AM on January 17, 2003


I can understand Dyson's call for a moratorium on I Have A Dream, but I disagree with it -- we've all heard the speech so many times that we forget how great it is (or, for people my age, we've heard it so often since kindergarten that we've never really understood it in context).

The amazing thing about the speech is not that it's about about universal humanity, but that it's a speech about a bus boycott and some pieces of legislation that manages to also become about universal humanity. Follow that link and start reading, and this time pay close attention to the first few paragraphs: MLK is referring obliquely to all the specific causes the demonstration was supporting -- and he keeps referring to them more and more obliquely, with more and more abstraction, until eventually he's speaking with complete universality. A completely astounding piece of oratory; if MLK wasn't so important historically, he'd be remembered a long time just for his words.
posted by Tlogmer at 9:52 AM on January 17, 2003


Great post eustacescrubb.

Unlike pollomacho I see the obvious tie-in you've made by pointing out the rightful heirs of King's message and those who actively oppose that same message.

I would say Duhbya fits the second category perfectly and by his actions against the poor and oppressed is "objectively" (little instapundit reference there) against the teachings of Jesus and MLK.

Whether or where Duhbya attends church is of no consequence. Whether Duhbya "believes" he is standing up for justice is of little relevance. Also what he says in his speeches matters not to those impacted by his policies.
His actions, however, do matter and they are significantly harmful to the aforementioned.

Viewed through the eyes of a trust fund baby Duhbya may be a Godsend. Viewed through the eyes of the racist division of his party Duhbya may be a saint. But a model of Christian practice as was MLK he is most definitely not.
posted by nofundy at 10:00 AM on January 17, 2003


//I've heard or read Dr. King's messages on a whole lot of topics, but I never heard him call anyone's religious beliefs "lip service."//

Really? His whole beef with Southern white churches was just that - that they claimed to follow Christ but because of racism, they were only paying lip service. True, he may have never used the term "lip service."
Take this, for example, from the sermon "A Knock At Midnight":

"How often have men experienced a similar disappointment when at midnight they knock on the door of the church. Millions of Africans, patiently knocking on the door of the Christian church where they seek the bread of social justice, have either been altogether ignored of told to wait until later, which almost always means never. Millions of American Negroes, starving for the want of the bread of freedom, have knocked again and again on the door of the so-called white churches, but they have usually been greeted by a cold indifference or a blatant hypocrisy. Even the white religious leaders, who have a heartfelt desire to open the door and provide the bread, are often more cautious than courageous and more prone to follow the expedient than the ethical path. One of the shameful tragedies of history is that the very institution which should remove man from the midnight of racial segregation participates in creating and perpetuating the midnight."

So, yeah, King didn't accuse anyone of paying lip service to Christian values - he called their faith "blatant hypocrisy" and "a shameful tragedy."

My point above wasn't just that Dubya's claims of faith are also blatant hypocrisy (they are) but also that, as I said, there are many of us who are in that category of the people who are "more cautious than courageous ." Dubya's faith is a shameful tragedy, but how much more so those who know better and choose not to act for expediency's sake?
posted by eustacescrubb at 10:14 AM on January 17, 2003


eustacescrubb, you have missed the point.

Your post about Dr. King starts well, but turns into a 'hey, let's hate Bush" statement. If you study Dr. King's words, you'll see he really talks about what is right and wrong, and avoids personal invective and insults. He appealed to his listeners sense of justice because as a Christian he believed in the power of righteousness, and in forgiveness and redemption. In short, her genuinely believed 'love the sinner, hate the sin'. He never said 'follow me because others are evil'. His goal was to get others to confront what the evil of their own thoughts and actions.

eustacescrubb, if you have any kind of positive agenda to advance, you can do it with out telling us who is bad or who not to like. By actually working for what is positive in your agenda you can help people to change by confronting the error of their own ways. Just like Dr. King did. But if you mean that in order to agree with you I have to say or think bad things about someone else, even the dreaded Bush, then you don't understand Dr. King or his religion.
posted by Jos Bleau at 10:37 AM on January 17, 2003


Jos Bleau: Very well put.
posted by jsonic at 10:48 AM on January 17, 2003


[more inside]
posted by quonsar at 10:50 AM on January 17, 2003


//Your post about Dr. King starts well, but turns into a 'hey, let's hate Bush" statement. //

Pointing out that Bush and, again, most of US, are only paying lip service is a "let's hate Bush" statement? Is this the new political correctness or what? Any statement remotely critical of Bush means the speaker "hates" Bush?
King called individuals out for their behavior often in interviews. He spoke many times with frustration over the slowness of LBJ's administration to act for justice. He, unlike you, did not confuse criticism with hatred.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:03 AM on January 17, 2003


Thank you J B, much more well put. I think it is the implication as well as statements like:

Dubya's faith is a shameful tragedy

that really turned me sour on this post. No one's faith, however YOU may feel they have strayed from YOUR interpretation of their faiths belief system is a "shameful tragedy." In my interpretation of Christian belief, I agree with you, that Mr. Bush is off track, but it is not right to call his religious beliefs wrong or hypocritical because he has a different interpretation, but I suppose that is the difference in a free interpretation of scripture and fundamentalism. I do not subscribe to fundamentalism, therefore I am unwilling to accuse someone of being wrong in a religious debate. It is my contention that there is not a black or white polarization in questions of religion and so I cannot accuse Mr. Bush's religious beliefs as being "lip service" "blatant hypocrisy" nor "a shameful tragedy."
posted by Pollomacho at 11:11 AM on January 17, 2003


"Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another's flesh." -- MLK

Biographies of King speak of his Christianity, but also detail enormous influences by ideas from great figures like Ghandi, and great movements like Buddhism and Jainism.

Your post about Dr. King starts well...

Well, Jos Bleau, I'd like to say your post started out well, but it didn't even make it that far. Hopefully you can learn to make your point without constructing straw Bush-bashers, reading into things that didn't take place, and distorting the words of others: "let's hate Bush" (never stated), "personal invective and insults" by eustacescrubb (weren't made), "telling us who is bad or who not to like" (wasn't done), requiring that you "think bad things about someone else" in order to agree with something (only in your own mind).
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:11 AM on January 17, 2003


He, unlike you, did not confuse criticism with hatred.

Your goal is to advance the ideals expressed by Dr. King. There are many ways to attempt this goal. I think Jos Bleau was pointing out that calling Bush a hypocrite and claiming his faith is a "shameful tragedy" is not the most expediant method of accomplishing your goal. Those statements about Bush may or may not be true, but I do not think they will inspire people to evaluate themselves and change.

Instead, I offer as a suggestion, stay positive, promote your ideas, and be an excellent example of them. Just my opinion though.
posted by jsonic at 11:17 AM on January 17, 2003


I think F&M, that it was terms like "blatant hypocrisy" and "a shameful tragedy" directed at Mr. Bush's personal religious beliefs, that make it seem as if there are some that HATE him.

If anyone disagrees with his policies, judge him on that, attack what you see is disagreeable in his policies, but don't automatically assume that your interpretation of the teachings of Jesus are universally interpreted in the same manner, and thus accuse him of heresy! Why don't we just strap him to a pole and burn him while we're at it? Attacking the core of someone's spirituality is hatred, judge Bush on the rotten content of his character, not that he interprets some phrase from some book of mythology differently than you do.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:32 AM on January 17, 2003


Great post, thank you. I recently listened to MLK's "Beyond Viet Nam" speech on NPR, and was close to crying. He describes the military endeavors of the United States, the nation which he claimed was propagating violence more than any other, as a symptom of a larger problem. That problem? That we are an object oriented society, and not a people oriented society.
MLK goes on to say that if we do not shift this fundamental focus of our society to people that we will soon see wars protecting the material interests of the rich in many nations across the world, and the continual death of the poor of the impoverished for the profit of the wealthy.

I think it's fairly clear that the paradigm shift King was looking for never happened, and we are now living in his hypothetical nightmare.

We need to focus on people, and we need to do it now.

GET OUT AND MARCH TOMORROW!


P.S. I think that the post would have benefitted from omitting Bush references, but while King may have never mentioned his name specifically if he were speaking today, I feel that Bush is a perfect token example of the root of the problem. Nevertheless, to avoid unnecessary reactionary posts as seen above, and more importantly, to emphasize the fact that it is OUR problem, I would weigh in on the side of "don't mention Duh-bya."
posted by zekinskia at 11:36 AM on January 17, 2003


In the "A Knock At Midnight" sermon quoted above, both taken as is and in context of the sermon as whole, Dr. King is not criticizing so-called white churches for paying lip service to Christianity. In fact, he is calling on them to re-define their Christianity in terms of social-justice - the 'bread of freedom' of which he speaks. Later in the sermon he also criticizes the "(t)wo types of Negro churches have failed to provide bread. One burns with emotionalism, and the other freezes with classism(,)" and later goes on to explain how these churches avoid giving the "bread of freedom" - once again, that means social justice.

even later in the sermon he mentions two of the racist white officials in Montgomery who attempted to block the bus boycott by name (mayor Gayle and Judge Carter) . Somehow, he manages to discuss them and their actions, using them as part of yet another argument to prove his point, without calling their religious faith "blatant hypocrisy" or "shameful tragedy".

He didn't need to do so - no matter how bad they were, their badness in and of itself is not an argument for social justice - just an argument that they are bad.

If you can't advocate social justice without criticizing someone else's religious faith, your audience (or at least me) is forced to wonder if social justice is really what you want to advocate.
posted by Jos Bleau at 11:48 AM on January 17, 2003


You make no sense, Jos. In what way did I ever say Bush's badness is an argument for social justice?

King might have been calling on southern white churches to redefine their idea of Christianity, but he would've been doing so because he believed that his understanding of it was closer to its essence than theirs, and because he really believed that claiming to be Christian came with moral responsibility to behave as Christ did.
You're wrong though - that paragraph does indeed imply that the southern white churches were paying lip-service - he doesn't say they're misinformed - he calls them hypocrites. To be a hypocrite is to profess one set of ideas and behave in opposition to that. That's the same thing as paying lip-service.

//I do not subscribe to fundamentalism, therefore I am unwilling to accuse someone of being wrong in a religious debate.//

So believing that someone else is wrong is fundamentalism? King believed his opponents were wrong, morally and religiously. The claims he made about justice were not relativistic- they were quite absolutist - he really believed in wrong and right, and based his ideas on that. Yet few would call him a fundie.

// I think F&M, that it was terms like "blatant hypocrisy" and "a shameful tragedy" directed at Mr. Bush's personal religious beliefs, that make it seem as if there are some that HATE him.//

You're using hate in a strange way here. Hate is a strong word - it means to want to murder the hated.

To know someone is wrong, and further to know that they have made a mockery of the faith they claim to have is not to hate them - it's just to know that they're wrong. Bush is entitled to his faith, but when he tries to claim, as he did, that he follows Christ, that can be fairly objectively evaluated based on Christ's behavior and teachings. Christ favored the poor over the rich. Christ advocated turning the other cheek and being nonviolent. Christ advocated forgiveness.
Christ also called hypocrites out. He did not spare words for political expediency. He called the religious establishment of his day "whitewashed tombs" and compared them to chamber pots. He did so because there was a marked difference between what they professed and how they behaved. King did the same in his day, and I'm not ashamed to do it now, no matter what the Republican political correctness says - Bush is a whitewashed tomb if I ever met one. When he publicly claims to be a Christian and follow Christ and yet enacts policies like his new war on the poor tax cut, then his faith is a shameful tragedy. He is a hypocrite.
But does that mean I hate him? No. I don't want him dead, or even to experience pain. I don't think he's totally evil. But he's a liar and a hypocrite, and I call a spade a spade.
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:21 PM on January 17, 2003


So believing that someone else is wrong is fundamentalism?

Yes, exactly, in a religious context it is. You are saying that one person is not subscribing to specific fundamentals and is thus not a "good" Christian, that is what fundamentalism is in definition.

To know someone is wrong, and further to know that they have made a mockery of the faith they claim to have is not to hate them - it's just to know that they're wrong. Bush is entitled to his faith, but when he tries to claim, as he did, that he follows Christ, that can be fairly objectively evaluated based on Christ's behavior and teachings.

It is NOT objective criticism, it is based purely in what YOU believe is the correct interpretation of Jesus's teachings and actions. Calling Mr. Bush's beliefs a "mockery of the faith" is EXACTLY what I am talking about. He claims to be a Christian, he interprets the teachings of Christ differently than you may, that does not mean that his interpretation is invalid simply because it is not the same as yours, unless it is your contention that your point of view is the only correct one, thus you are subscribing to fundamentalism. To attack someone solely on what you may believe are his religious beliefs and to call them a "bad" christian is purely prejudicial, prejudice is hatred.

Dr. King may be a bad example as he was a member of a fundamentalist organization, he preached in churches subscribing to fundamentalism, we may find a whole lot of universalist messages in his statements, but he was in essence a fundamentalist.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:38 PM on January 17, 2003


So then if King was a fundy, then by your logic, he was prejudiced and hateful.

// he interprets the teachings of Christ differently than you may, that does not mean that his interpretation is invalid simply because it is not the same as yours//

Bush's interpretation requires reading Christ's teachings and passing them through whatever interpretive mechanism he has so that they end up meaning the opposite of what Christ said/did.
I don't think my view is the only correct one - I know that I might be wrong, but one can know that one might be wrong and still know also that some others definitely are wrong. The Catholics might be right that there are seven sacraments and not two; the Calvinists might be right that all is predestined; the Universalists might be right in that one need not be a Christian to get to heaven.
But all of them agree that Christians should turn the other cheek. Bush claims to be a Christian and does the opposite of what Christ taught.

If I say I'm a Buddhist, then proclaim that desire does not result in suffering, I may have a right to believe it, but it's not Buddhism.

//prejudice is hatred//


Wrong. Prejudice is to have a preference or inclination for a certain way of seeing things in spite of available evidence to the contrary; hatred is, in the words of Christ, wanting someone dead. All of us are prejudiced toward something. You've defined fundamentalism in such a way that all of us end up being fundies - if merely believing someone else is wrong is the definition of a fundy, then you're a fundy, since you believe that I'm wrong for saying that King isn't a fundy.
Except that you want fundamentalism to only be about religion. That is, you have a special category for religious belief that says it can't make absolute statements. This trivializes any religious belief, since all beliefs rest on one absolute or another.
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:54 PM on January 17, 2003


Wow - lack of money suddenly becomes a virtue! Logical extension of slave morality...
posted by Veritron at 12:57 PM on January 17, 2003


Christ favored the poor over the rich

That's a little confused. Christ didn't favor (whatever that really means) one person over the next. Christianity teaches that Jesus came to save all people. Your statement makes it sound like Christ cares for one more than the other.

Christ advocated turning the other cheek and being nonviolent

Definitely true, but don't mis-understand this to mean that defending oneself against authentic threats is incorrect.

Christ also called hypocrites out.

True, but he did so without hate or anger towards the people. It was their actions he was against.

And since you seem interested in pointing out supposed failures in another's faith, here is an interesting quote for you from Luke 6:36: "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven."
posted by jsonic at 12:58 PM on January 17, 2003


I am sorry that I was not able to adequately summarize the subtly of Dr. King's argument in the sermon "A Knock At Midnight". eustacescrubb, you say that Dr. King calls the white churchmen 'hypocrites'.

This he does not do.

He says that the white churchmen greet the Negroes with "a cold indifference or a blatant hypocrisy". hypocrisy is an action or a state of mind. A hypocrite is person, not an act - and calling someone a hypocrite is very different from accusing them of hypocrisy.

As a Christian, Dr. King was careful to make a difference between describing actions and states of mind that were wrong and saying that individual people are bad.

Still later in the sermon he states, "During the last two world wars, national churches even functioned as the ready lackeys of the state, sprinkling holy water upon the battleships and joining the mighty armies in singing, 'Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.'" Even here he makes a careful distinction between actions of groups and the hearts of individuals.

eustacescrubb, you read that sermon as an attack on those who pay lip service to their religion, and I read it as an cry for all churches to embrace social justice. Since I disagree with you on a matter of religion, am I, like Bush, a shameful hypocrite?

And if you answer 'yes', how does my incorrectness (or would that be apostasy?) make you or anyone else right?
posted by Jos Bleau at 12:59 PM on January 17, 2003


So then if King was a fundy, then by your logic, he was prejudiced and hateful.

I didn't say that, I said that he was a fundamentalist who made many Universalist statements, you and he are free, in my opinion, to believe whatever fundamental tenets you like, or not.

Bush's interpretation requires reading Christ's teachings and passing them through whatever interpretive mechanism he has so that they end up meaning the opposite of what Christ said/did.

Somehow, I don't think you are understanding what I am saying. Bush processes the teachings of Christ possibly differently from what YOU interpret them as. There is a vast difference between what YOU think and what is objective. The same could be said for anyone's beliefs, subjective interpretation is the OPPOSITE of objective interpretation! The only one who knows what goes on in W's head is W. If he is, secretly agreeing with YOUR interpretation, then yes, that's pretty far from righteous. He could look at the same story, teaching, writing, whatever and see a completely different meaning. Maybe he thinks tax cuts will be beneficial for the poor, I don't happen to agree, but I don't think he's going to hell if he does!

You've defined fundamentalism in such a way that all of us end up being fundies

No, I've defined fundamentalism as having fundamental beliefs to which there is NO deviation in opinion. Bush may have a different interpretation than you, if you feel that he is mocking your beliefs or that his Christianity is a "tragedy" because he does not subscribe to the SAME set of beliefs that you do, that is pure fundamentalism. Being wrong on an issue is a completely separate thing from calling someone a bad Christian or saying that his entire belief system is bull shit because it differs from what you believe on a political issue.

Just because an issue is referred to by a buzz term like "war on the poor" does not make some minor wrangling in the tax code is an actual attack on poor people. I don't agree with his policy, I think it sucks, but Bush is not going to fry in hell because he gave Ken Lay a tax break. He is not a "bad Christian" because he is a Republican, he may be a moron, that's debatable, but he's not a heretic!

since you believe that I'm wrong for saying that King isn't a fundy.

He was the preacher at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL, I have a feeling that a group that calls itself a Baptist Church, subscribes to the tenets of the Baptist Church, tenets which are based on "Fundamentals" These "fundamentals" are unwavering according to Baptist Church doctrine, so one might be lead to believe that a preacher hired to lead such an institution would need to follow those "fundamentals" Dr. King was hired to lead that church, I would have to conclude that he follows the "fundamentals" of the Baptist Church, thus he is a Fundamentalist.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:28 PM on January 17, 2003


Pollomacho, kudos for your separation on the religious aspect of the post.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:21 PM on January 17, 2003


// eustacescrubb, you read that sermon as an attack on those who pay lip service to their religion, and I read it as an cry for all churches to embrace social justice. //

I actually read it as both. And your entire argument has boiled down basically to the difference between saying Bush does hypocritical things and Bush is a hypocrite. I'm willing to meet you i the middle there - I can amend my statement to: Bush does hypocritical things. Of course, I think those hypocrisies make a mockery of that which he claims to believe, (all hypocrisy does that).

//Since I disagree with you on a matter of religion, am I, like Bush, a shameful hypocrite?//

Well Jos, to be a hypocrite you'd have to not disagree with me, but rather claim to believe a certain thing and then act as if you did not.

Pollomacho, I'm calling you on your two statements. Above you write that "Bush processes the teachings of Christ possibly differently from what YOU interpret them as. There is a vast difference between what YOU think and what is objective." So I suppose I can apply your reasoning to your statements about fundamentalism and King - YOU interpret King's membership in a Baptist church to mean hes a fundy, but hey, man, that's just YOUR interpretation. There is a vast difference between what YOU think went on at Dexter Ave. Baptist church and what is objective."

Regardless I don't agree with you - I think that there are definitely things left up to interpretation, but whatever interpretation one has ought to carry its own weight. If Bush's reading of the text returns a concept of Christ that allows for retaliatory preemptive violence, then he's had to do serious violence to the text to get that interpretation.

//That's a little confused. Christ didn't favor (whatever that really means) one person over the next. Christianity teaches that Jesus came to save all people. Your statement makes it sound like Christ cares for one more than the other.//

Good point. What I meant was that Christ understood (monetary) riches to be something which stood in the way of entering the kingdom of heaven, and his disciple, Paul, declared money to be the root of all evil. Christ said that is was easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Christ constantly advised rich people to give away their money. Christ advocated poverty in spirit as well as in pocket - but he did say blessed are the poor and I don't recall him saying blessed are the rich.

//Definitely true, but don't misunderstand this to mean that defending oneself against authentic threats is incorrect. //

But that is precisely what Christ meant by it. Hence his statement to his (Jewish) disciples that if a Roman soldier makes you carry his pack for a mile, volunteer to carry it for two. The Romans were occupying a nation they'd conquered in war - and their treatment of their conquered peoples was unjust, cruel and immoral. The Jews had every right to revolt and yet Christ did not advocate revolt.

//True, but he did so without hate or anger towards the people. It was their actions he was against//

Why then do the Gospel describe Christ as being angry at the Pharisees? Why does he call them names? He doesn't say "you have committed hypocritical actions" but rather: "You hypocrites!"
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:27 PM on January 17, 2003


There is a vast difference between what YOU think went on at Dexter Ave. Baptist church and what is objective.

Very true, but then again I didn't claim that members of Dexter Avenue were bad Christians or bad Baptists or that if they waver from what the title of their church proscribes to then they are making a mockery of their religion either! I have been to services there, they seemed to be following the tenets of the Baptist Church, I might be mistaken, who knows except the members and their Lord? Have you been to a prayer session with Bush? I haven't, I wouldn't even guess what he believes in his heart, I could be wrong about him, he could be a hypocrite, but I'm not ready to make that call based on what I believe about Christianity.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:41 PM on January 17, 2003


... don't misunderstand this to mean that defending oneself against authentic threats is incorrect.

But that is precisely what Christ meant by it.


eustacescrubb, that is by no means a settled question. There are a lot of issues that Christ did not address directly, and which have been left to theologians to work out. One such issue is the idea of defensive war, or "just war," an idea which was developed by the theologian Reinhold Neibuhr. Here's a short bit about the debate between Reinhold and his brother. H. Richard Niebuhr, who advocated "a principled 'inactivity' based on radical trust in God."
posted by Ty Webb at 2:53 PM on January 17, 2003


There are a lot of issues that Christ did not address directly, and which have been left to theologians to work out.

Theologians like C.S. Lewis who wrote the Narnia tales to bring WWII children into understanding the theological issues confronted by a justified war against evil.
posted by Pollomacho at 3:36 PM on January 17, 2003


jsonic wrote: "[eustace]Christ also called hypocrites out.

True, but he did so without hate or anger towards the people. It was their actions he was against."


untrue. re-read the passage where he knocks over the tables of the moneylenders in the temple. he's pretty wrathful as he does it.

also, i believe he referred to the sanhedrin as "serpents and sons of serpents" or something to that effect. i think you'd be hard pressed to argue that calling someone a serpent is not done out of anger or hatred.

he also had harsh words for people who made a big show of praying in public.

it's been a while since i read the new testament, so i'm not sure if there are other instances of such behavior on his part; these 3 stand out in my mind.
posted by lord_wolf at 4:36 PM on January 17, 2003


Yeah, but there's a problem with the analogy - Bush is not analogous to the Pharisees of Christ's time. He's analogous to Caesar (Tiberious, I believe), the leader of the empire. Do you remember what He said about Caesar?

Also, another note about hypocrisy. eustacescrubb hits the nail on the head. "to be a hypocrite you'd have to not disagree with me, but rather claim to believe a certain thing and then act as if you did not." Indeed, hypocrisy is about fidelity to one's own mores. So a bad man can believe in logically inconsistent things, and do bad things, and still not be a hypocrite.

The problem for eustacescrubb is that Bush has never, as far as I know, elaborated on just what are the aspects of his belief. He could well believe in a form of Christianity that has no call to social justice. We (and eustacescrubb) just don't know.

Since he cannot be sure what Bush believes, eustacescrubb accuses Bush of not being faithful to what eustacescrubb calls Christianity. When you accuse others of not being faithful to your version of a religion, they are not hypocrites, but you are accusing them either apostasy of heresy, depending on the circumstances.

Heresy charges are pretty rare around MeFi, but I really do think this qualifies.
posted by Jos Bleau at 5:05 PM on January 17, 2003


jos bleau:

what you posted is well-said, but just for the record, i was not in any way trying to draw an analogy between bush and the sanhedrin or any of the other groups of people i mentioned.

i was merely pointing out examples of how jesus christ did in fact, contrary to jsonic's claim, engage in personal attacks and wrathful actions towards people .

i decided quite some time ago that i would no longer take sides in any political discussion i run across on the net, but i try to chime in with facts whenever i can contribute them.

peace,
wolf
posted by lord_wolf at 7:35 PM on January 17, 2003


Pollomacho , you sure are full of clever reasons why there should be limits on my claims to objectivity and none on yours. The fact is that if you're going to create a special category for religious speech which makes it so that one can make statements based on objective reasoning unless those statements are about religion, then you're creating a double-standard and you're trivializing the very religious speech you're trying to protect.

//Very true, but then again I didn't claim that members of Dexter Avenue were bad Christians or bad Baptists or that if they waver from what the title of their church proscribes to then they are making a mockery of their religion either!//

Ah, but see you didn't do that directly. You have, however, implied several times that being a fundamentalist is bad, because fundamentalists think other people are wrong, and thinking other people are wrong is prejudiced, which is, according to you, hate. Then you called Dr. King a fundy, and by extension, the people at Dexter Ave. Baptist fundies. So it's okay to imply someone's bad, we just can't say it directly?

Ty, Neibuhr didn't come up with the idea of a just war - he built on a centuries-old tradition, dating back to St. Thomas Aquinas. I doubt either Neibhur or St. Thomas would agree that preemptively striking an enemy with flimsy to no evidence, especially when the nation that wants to make war is guilty of similar and worse crimes and especially when the person pushing for the war just might have a revenge motive counts as a just war. Read King's speech on Vietnam linked above. It draws heavily from Reinhold Neibhur's thought. One of King's (and St. Thomas's, and Neibhur's) big arguments is an important consideration in defining a just war: what happens to the bystanders? Our nation's record in the previous Gulf War w/r/t the bystanders is terrible - we used depleted uranium antitank weapons, the fallout from which has been linked to a leading cause of death amongst Iraqi children, we encouraged the Kurds to rebel, then sat around while Saddam slaughtered and gassed them, etc.

Jos:

// Yeah, but there's a problem with the analogy - Bush is not analogous to the Pharisees of Christ's time. He's analogous to Caesar (Tiberious, I believe), the leader of the empire. Do you remember what He said about Caesar?//

Um, that people should pay their taxes? Bush is not analogous to Ceasar; Ceasar practiced a different religion than Christ. Bush is analogous to the Sanhedrin, who were somewhat political leaders and who made use of claims to piety for political ends.
But also, this is not an allegory. So Bush doesn't need to analogous to the Sanhedrin.

I have no problem accusing Bush of heresy or apostasy, but before I do:

// Since he cannot be sure what Bush believes, eustacescrubb accuses Bush of not being faithful to what eustacescrubb calls Christianity.//

This argument sounds nice and might would work except for one thing: Bush isn't departing from "my" version of Christianity on some matter like baptism or sacraments or the trinity, but rather, he behaves in a way that happens to be the exact opposite of behavior Christ advocated. Bush is entitled to his beliefs, but I'm trying hard to imagine any serious Christian thinker in the last 2000 years who believes that preemptive strikes are not in violation of Christ's admonition to "love your enemies, bless those who curse you." Or who believes that Christ, who considered riches dangerous for those who wanted to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, would have thought well of Bush's war on the poor. It's almost like we can safely bet that if Christ taught something, Bush will do the opposite - Jesus was against the Mosaic idea of retributive justice; Bush is for retributive justice in the form of the death penalty. Jesus told every rich person he met to give all they had to the poor; Bush takes measures to protect the wealth of himself and his daddy's friends.
But, it occured to me that there's a strong chance you might be right - Bush may not be a hypocrite - he may be so phenomenally stupid as to not understand Christ's plain-spoken teachings. His stupidity has been well-documented in other areas, and it very well may turn out that it was idiocy, and not hypocrisy, that put G.W. where he is today. This is, after all, a man who said "Every vote counts" afterDecember 2000 with a straight face.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:01 PM on January 17, 2003


Christianity can be personalized to accomodate well-intentioned hypocrisy. Christianity can be personalized to accomodate almost anything.
posted by Opus Dark at 11:52 PM on January 17, 2003


i decided quite some time ago that i would no longer take sides in any political discussion i run across on the net, but i try to chime in with facts whenever i can contribute them.

I don't know—this sounds dangerously subversive...
posted by languagehat at 6:44 AM on January 18, 2003


languagehat:

shhhhh! don't blow my cover! ;-)
posted by lord_wolf at 9:25 AM on January 18, 2003


Ty, Neibuhr didn't come up with the idea of a just war - he built on a centuries-old tradition, dating back to St. Thomas Aquinas. -

Yes, I'm aware, which is why I used the word "developed." Neibuhr is the only idea's most notable modern apologist.

I doubt either Neibhur or St. Thomas would agree that preemptively striking an enemy with flimsy to no evidence, especially when the nation that wants to make war is guilty of similar and worse crimes and especially when the person pushing for the war just might have a revenge motive counts as a just war.

I agree with that, but I don't think any of the qualifications you've mentioned are relevant here. If, at long last, you've not been convinced that Saddam poses a danger to the region, then I won't waste time trying to convince you.

The idea that the U.S. is guilty of "similar and worse crimes" than Saddam's government, however, I reject flat out. It is true that the U.S. government's record is far from perfect, but that's irrelevant to whether war against Saddam is justified now.

And to think that George W. would risk the lives of U.S. servicepeople to satisfy his lust for revenge, while it would make a great play, is a little too Shakespearean for me. I don't like the guy either, in fact I take the idea that such a spoon-fed non-achiever could become president as a personal insult, but I just don't think he's that evil. I mean, that's like cartoon evil.
posted by Ty Webb at 7:06 PM on January 18, 2003


What is sad the discussion went south as far as role models. I thought a lot of this discussion and concluded one thought.

You could not have picked a better man to give a holiday to as a role model, The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr..

Thanksgiving: Your Thanks.
Christmas & Easter: God.
New Years: Thanks for the years closure and the celebrattion of the beginning, new.
Labor Day: Workers.
Memorial Day: Those who sacrificed to defend our country.
4 th of July: Country, not one man.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:38 AM on January 19, 2003


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