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How much zeal!?
June 2, 2009 9:18 PM   Subscribe

An incredibly long, ten-day (so far) discussion in response to a letter to the editor in regard to "'God's law' and homosexuality" from an East Tennessee newspaper.
posted by pwedza (36 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
If I were going to troll the Letters to the Editor, that piece is almost exactly what I'd write.
posted by Maximian at 9:26 PM on June 2, 2009


It’s been said that we are to hate the sin, but love the sinner, and that is true.

Well, that settles that then, right?



Right?
posted by lekvar at 9:27 PM on June 2, 2009


love

You keep using that word.


I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:33 PM on June 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


We have the laws of the local and federal governments, and these laws make us aware, and prevent us from doing the things which have been determined to be legally wrong. These laws help us to be a law-abiding citizens and keep us out of trouble and help us to determine what’s right and what’s wrong, for without them, how would we know right from wrong

This guy is either not the brightest bulb in the bulb bucket or doesn't know how to present an argument. I think I know what he's getting at, but boy is this worded as if it were written by a young child.
posted by Justinian at 9:41 PM on June 2, 2009


The law says abortion is legal. Therefore, according to this fellow's "argument", abortion can't be wrong. Since the law helps us to determine what is right and wrong, apparently the letter writer must determine that abortion choice is right.
posted by orthogonality at 9:59 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I say again: is it possible this is some type of flamebait? Maybe I'm jaded, but this combination of literacy, inflammatory clichés, and taking the trouble to write to the newspaper smacks of craft. I've long felt that an effective way to oppose the political program of the neo-conservatives would be to pose as a bible-thumper and proudly wear a "Republican Party 4 Evar" sash. I wonder if this is what that idea looks like in practice.
posted by Maximian at 10:35 PM on June 2, 2009


It's very possible Maximian.

On the other hand putting together some kind of Drake Equation of psi-ops: Number of Liberals x Percent of Liberals who think this sort of thing might be useful x percent of those who would actually do it x percent of those who would do it well enough that it wouldn't be an obvious hoax....

Yeah, this could be a hoax. But if every liberal type on Earth was predisposed to fighting dirty AND had special training to write like Snuffy Smith AND on meth to stay at it 24/7 they'd be hard pressed to do this AND Conservipedia AND MyChurch AND GodTube and all the other alternate reality, Newt Gingrich is a little to far to the left for our taste web sites that are out there.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:56 PM on June 2, 2009


I know, deep in my heart of hearts, that when someone offers to pray for me, that, in their mind, at the very least, they have some sort of noble intentions at heart, right? But, well, Mr. Flanagan, he comes off as a flaming asshole, as has nearly every other person who has ever offered to pray for someone who is clearly not interested in that. When I say something like "there should be separation between church and state" and hearing "I'll pray for you" in return, it just smacks of holier/more pious than thouishness.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:05 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not really seeing how this is the best of the web.

Don't we have enough of our own lolxtian flamewars without having to link to them on other sites?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:34 AM on June 3, 2009


I may have mentioned it before, but it is really a pet peeve of mine:

I hate it when people conflate the concepts of morality, sinfulness, and legality.

Let me explain: an action can usually be placed along a scale ranging from "good" to "bad", indicating a value in this dimension. For instance, an act can be said to be "more immoral" than another, or it can be classified as "immoral" if it falls on the negative side of the "morality" dimension.

What most people do not realize is that the three axes constituting "morality", "sinfulness", and "legality" are orthogonal - a point having a value in one of the dimensions does not mean that it has a certain value in another. These attributes exist completely independent of each other (yes, I know that legal concepts are supposed to encode the values / ethics of a society, but this is quite clearly often not the case).

This means an action can be considered both legal and immoral - selling magnetic healing wristbands, for instance. An action can be sinful (as defined by your set of beliefs) but morally ok or at least neutral - eating food in conflict with your religious dietary proscriptions, for instance. An action can be illegal, but morally justifiable - like using deCSS to be able to watch DVDs under Linux.*

What I want to say is that it is completely wrong to imply that the fact that an action has a certain value, positive or negative, along one of those axes it automatically has the same value along the others; I hate it when people try to make the point "it is illegal, therefore it has to be both immoral and sinful", "it is not a sin, therefore it is both legal and morally right" or any permutation thereof. I really would like people to be careful with labels like "good" or bad" without explaining what their frame of reference is; it should be clear that one of the arguments in the case at hand is that the author of the letter thinks that because an act is sinful it must be immoral and should be illegal. And that is not a logical argument.

*:Thinking up examples for all possible combinations is left as an exercise for the reader.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 12:40 AM on June 3, 2009 [57 favorites]


PontifexPrimus, that has got to be the most logical, well-thought-out phrasing of my mindset that I've ever come across. Now I have some inkling how to explain to people that good≠moral≠legal for all values thereof. Thanks for that lucid description.
posted by StrangeTikiGod at 1:13 AM on June 3, 2009


Metafilter:

Here is a picture of a dog with a pipe in his mouth. Your argument is invalid.

And stop yelling.

posted by louche mustachio at 1:30 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't really look to letters to East Tennessee newspapers for coherent, logical arguments, ever since I once saw a letter in my old local paper from a local minister explain how overpopulation is a myth because an area that is 10 miles by 10 miles in 10 square miles and goes on to prove that the carrying capacity of the earth is something like 50 trillion people.
posted by gregvr at 1:37 AM on June 3, 2009


I've long used the moral vs. legal discussion with people. I had not heretofore considered the "sinful" dimension, which adds a whole new layer of interesting implications.

Thank you, PontifexPrimus!
posted by Scattercat at 3:33 AM on June 3, 2009


Look, all I know about God's Law is that it prevents conception 100% below pH3. Exceptions eternally? Absolute none!
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:13 AM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Here is a picture of a dog with a pipe in his mouth.

The dog is humanity and the pipe is religion. Or vice versa.
posted by Sparx at 4:57 AM on June 3, 2009


I've heard that one Gregvr. I let them go on a while and said something like, "I'm not really interested in your dead baby jokes."
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:32 AM on June 3, 2009


Those of you who think this is a hoax must not have much experience with East Tennessee.
posted by absalom at 6:05 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always figured I'd take up writing crank letters-to-the-editor in my golden years, the way other men take up fly-tying or building ships in bottles. These days, I just hope that, if and when it ever happens, there's still an editor somewhere to send a letter to.
posted by box at 6:37 AM on June 3, 2009


This debate, as far as I read it, isn't interesting or unique, it's standard god-the-internet-is-depressing-sometimes fare. Beyond this Flanagan guy's weird posting style, there's not much to be seen here. Beliefs aside, he's clearly a little touched in the head, so arguing with him seems like so much wheel-spinning on an insignificant little corner of the internet.
posted by picea at 6:41 AM on June 3, 2009


I live in Nashville and letters to the paper condemning homosexuals and homosexuality are a dime a dozen in Tennessee, even in major metropolitan newspapers. The original letter isn't even all that "touched in the head" compared to many other letters to the editor I've seen on the topic. I don't think that Jeremy Flanagan is even all that obnoxious. The thinking isn't original, the Sodom-and-Gomorrah-sky-is-falling proselytizing is tedious and absurd, the size of the thread isn't all that out-of-control given the contentiousness of the topic, and yes, Tennessee is in the South and it is part of the Bible Belt. None of this is news.

While I'm on this topic, comments condemning homosexuality and homosexuals and hollering that teh gayz need to repent or the entire edifice of Western civilization is doomed are a dime a dozen in almost every community you care to mention in the United States and many other places in the world. That includes big-city liberal newspapers that aren't in the South or the Bible Belt. I saw hate letters about sinful homos in the Contra Costa Times (East Bay, California) when I lived there every single day.

Letters to the editor and online newspaper comment sections tend to attract people spoiling for a fight. This particular example is no exception.

Is the point of a link to a Wikipedia entry about East Tennessee to underline that it's East Tennessee that we're talking about, that nowhere else would anyone be so backward and ignorant as to write such hateful comments? I see that pwedza is apparently posting from the Comoros, where I'm pretty sure it's safe to assume that homosexuality is not exactly a welcome phenomenon either.
posted by blucevalo at 7:44 AM on June 3, 2009


I really don't see what the point of picking up the troll bait is, here. Homosexuals = totally a-ok, god's law = doesn't exist, everyone living near a metropolitan population center = rolls their eyes and continues along their way.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:12 AM on June 3, 2009


This was even more tedious than I thought it would be.
posted by Mister_A at 8:20 AM on June 3, 2009


everyone living near a metropolitan population center = rolls their eyes and continues along their way.

Not everyone. Like I said, letters like this appear in major metropolitan newspapers every day of the week, and not just in the South. Whether it is necessary to pay them any attention is another matter altogether.
posted by blucevalo at 8:25 AM on June 3, 2009


Like I said, letters like this appear in major metropolitan newspapers every day of the week, and not just in the South.

a similar debate has been raging for months in the pages of the kalamazoo gazette
posted by pyramid termite at 8:41 AM on June 3, 2009


Those of you who think this is a hoax must not have much experience with East Tennessee.Mississippi
posted by absalom at 8:05 AM on June 3 [+] [!] No other comments.


/better Faulkner joke
posted by shakespeherian at 8:55 AM on June 3, 2009


Then at the bottom was the biggest line of all, which said:

LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ADMITTED

“There,” says he, “if that line don’t fetch them, I don’t know Arkansas East Tennessee!”
posted by box at 9:18 AM on June 3, 2009


I grew up in East Tennessee. That's not a troll. That's real, and the writer thinks he has an airtight argument.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:38 AM on June 3, 2009


You know, I had debated for a while whether to apply to Vanderbilt or the University of Alabama-Birmingham for graduate school, but now I'm seriously considering crossing all southern grad schools off my list. Because I'm not sure I could tolerate living in those places.
posted by kldickson at 9:50 AM on June 3, 2009


I live and work in one of "those places" and it's fantastic on both counts, not just tolerable. Also, Nashville and Birmingham are really not the same thing as Kingsport. But if you want to stereotype and dismiss a place based on a letter to the editor, be my guest.
posted by blucevalo at 10:10 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


In 2003 or so I happened past an anti-war protest in Knoxville. In addition to the usual suspects with "no blood for oil" and "bush: one-term president" signs, there was one guy wearing all black holding a sign that said "Worship Satan." When cars would slow down to pass the protest he would scream "Fuck you!" and "Eat Babies!" The "real" protesters seemed displeased to have him around but unwilling or unable to throw him out.

These editorials are probably genuine, but who knows.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 10:52 AM on June 3, 2009


In 2003 or so I happened past an anti-war protest in Knoxville. In addition to the usual suspects with "no blood for oil" and "bush: one-term president" signs, there was one guy wearing all black holding a sign that said "Worship Satan." When cars would slow down to pass the protest he would scream "Fuck you!" and "Eat Babies!" The "real" protesters seemed displeased to have him around but unwilling or unable to throw him out.

Is it okay if I think that's really funny?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:18 PM on June 3, 2009


Part of my family is based in Bristol and Kingston. It is a very conservative place, but for some reason a smoke shop on Euclid ave in Bristol sells the best bats I've ever smoked from.

I almost hooked up with a brain-addled stripper in Johnson City. According to my family living in the area, Johnson City has a large population of gay people, one of the highest in the state. My family is, of course, scared of Johnson City because of this. but then again, my family is mountain-folk and may never have actually met a gay person in real life, only hearing about them in sermons, FOX news, etc.

Anyway, this discussion seems to be one neener sitting on the website while everyone calls him out on his prejudice. Not too terrible for TN if you ask me.
posted by fuq at 12:19 PM on June 3, 2009


Well I sure as hell thought my story was funny.

I like to think some of those upstaged liberals grew spines and put on the white flour rally (discussed here) a few years later. But maybe that was a different crowd.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 4:36 PM on June 3, 2009


Just last week in the blue, someone quoted H. L. Mencken saying "most people who write letters to newspapers are fools; intelligent people seldom do it."
posted by neuron at 6:47 PM on June 3, 2009


Now I have some inkling how to explain to people that good≠moral≠legal for all values thereof.

As always, D&D makes it even simpler.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:27 PM on June 9, 2009


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