Christians in the Hand of an Angry God
September 15, 2010 1:36 PM   Subscribe

In a five part series he wrote a few years ago, blogger J. Brad Hicks breaks down how, in the mid-1960s, the Republican party made a conscious decision to rebrand themselves as the party of Christians, and in doing so, how they had to shift the ideology of the churches to what he calls a "false gospel".

Part 1: The False Gospel
Part 2: The Republicans and fear of the Communists
Part 3: Homosexuality versus the "Holiness Code"
Part 4: Abortion and Contraception
Part 5: Public prayer and Conclusion.

The overall essay is fairly long, but provides some uncommon and unconventional insights into the shift from what the Republicans and modern Christianity were, what they've become, and why.
posted by quin (208 comments total) 340 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read this a couple of days ago when Pope Guilty linked it in a comment, and have found it impossible to view anything in current politics without seeing it through this lens. Great stuff; recommended reading.
posted by hippybear at 1:43 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cool. Part 1 is fantastic. I look forward to reading the rest. I'm a little surprised that he didn't cite James 2:20, though (or perhaps I'm not reading closely enough).
posted by The World Famous at 1:48 PM on September 15, 2010


See also: Christians making a conscious decision to rebrand themselves as the religion of Republicans.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:51 PM on September 15, 2010


From part 3:
Jesus was specifically asked whether or not we as human beings should continue to enforce the holiness code in the Law of Moses, and Jesus very specifically said no. (John 8:1-11)

A fascinating take on a well-known Bible passage. I'm keeping that one in the mental back-pocket.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:02 PM on September 15, 2010 [10 favorites]


Nyarlathotep, of course, remains their true lord.
posted by Artw at 2:09 PM on September 15, 2010 [18 favorites]


Although Slacktivist is best known for his evisceration of the Left Behind series,he writes pretty extensively about this kind of collision; his posts are essential reading for anyone wanting to explore the collision of Faith and Political cultures.
posted by verb at 2:11 PM on September 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


I love Metafilter.

Just saying.
posted by Decimask at 2:51 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


There are not enough favorites in the world for this article.
posted by JHarris at 2:58 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Many tens of millions have died believing that by performing this little ritual, they have saved their souls from damnation. A very large percentage of those who did so will find themselves burning in Hell for all eternity, and completely baffled as to why. Why? Because they were lied to.
Is the author being ironic here, or obtuse? I don't think this is a statement that any educated Christian can make.
posted by muddgirl at 2:58 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nyarlathotep, of course, remains their true lord.

But his is a big tent, made of the glabrous skin of a million night-gaunts! What I'm saying is Nyarlathotep's economic policies (sabotage agriculture and industry to maximize suffering in the world) appeal to independents while his stance on civil rights (slay anyone you choose) are red meat to liberals.
posted by Mister_A at 2:59 PM on September 15, 2010 [16 favorites]


Is the author being ironic here, or obtuse? I don't think this is a statement that any educated Christian can make.

Yes, read the last part.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:01 PM on September 15, 2010


Some telling passages, from page 1:
If you think that your faith is in Jesus Christ but that faith allows you to callously neglect, feel contempt for, or actively despise the poor and unfortunate, then yours is not a gospel of Jesus Christ, but of the Devil himself. If you allow that urge to neglect to influence you, if you show that contempt, if you actively spite the poor and unfortunate because that false gospel taught you that it was OK to do so, then Jesus Himself says that you will burn for it.

From page 2:
State political party conventions run a lot like regional SF conventions. The big national political party conventions that happen every four years are more like Worldcon than you might otherwise know. Oh, the standards in funny costuming are different, but no weirder. One difference: the sexily dressed women are paid professionals at the national political conventions, and generally kept more out of sight. But otherwise, there are more similarities than differences. Sometimes it's even the same people; former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was a science fiction fan before he was a successful politician. (Does this surprise you in the least? I thought not.)

Oh wow.
posted by JHarris at 3:07 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


But his is a big tent

Well, he is the Crawling Chaos who manifests in a thousand guises.
posted by Artw at 3:09 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


So this is insider baseball stuff--one Christian theology attacking another? Delicious, my favorite way to re-arrange deck chairs.
posted by muddgirl at 3:10 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Great stuff, I'm willing to bet that if this, John 8:1-11, happened today with our current crop of evangelical/fundamentalists they'd be falling all over themselves trying to be first.

What I most commonly see among this set of goofballs is their steadfast belief in their own self righteousness which I'm pretty sure wasn't something Jesus was trying to teach.

Caveat: I don't believe in any gods.
posted by Max Power at 3:15 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've known Brad for mumble mumble years. He is nothing if not thought provoking.

His Low BS Guide to St. Louis would, pretty much be the answer to every AskMe about the city if I could still find it on line somewhere.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:16 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree with a lot of what he's saying, but when he uses rhetorical devices like: "The traditional Republican party is the party of Satan himself," then he loses me.

As someone who is both gay and poor, I have no particular love for the Republican party, but even I think that this is a bit over the top, no matter how he justifies it scripturally. Maybe it's because I've been a Christian who has heard that I was going to hell, and felt that it was unfair, but I just don't like seeing that same kind of rhetoric applied to anyone -- even the kinds of people who applied it to me in the first place.
posted by Katrel at 3:19 PM on September 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


In it, he "proved" that the US State Department and the US Department of Education had both been completely subverted and taken over from within by Russian-backed Communist Party cells. (Oddly enough, when the KGB archives were opened in 1989, he turned out to have been right about the State Department. It's not terribly surprising, really; Foggy Bottom has long been manned by people who identified more with foreigners than with their own countrymen, and has a long history of forgetting which country pays its salaries.)

Oh, give me a fucking break.
posted by longdaysjourney at 3:25 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


When talking about the incompatibility of Christianity with conservatism, I have been kind of wondering for a while what happened to the idea of Mammon. It seems like the ideology of the free market and materialism would be a pretty obvious application of the idea of Mammon.
posted by jefeweiss at 3:25 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


I was up all night reading (part of - I'm not even through the first awful book) Slacktivist's critique of Left Behind, and then this morning I read that Fundamentalists are calling for FoxNews to dump Karl Rove as an analyst because his analysis (rightfully) called Christine O'Donnell a whack-job who would prevent the GOP from winning the seat in Delaware.

Think about that for a moment. People who would claim, if asked, that Fox is actually "fair and balanced" are calling for the most major GOP strategist since Attwater to be shitcanned for not telling them what they wanted to hear. Or, more accurately, for not parroting the party line enough. In any case, we're deep into the realms of doublethink here.

In my own brief tenure as a Christian, James was by far my favorite book. Not only because it makes so much sense, but also because I was a little shit-stirrer even then and loved seeing the dispensationalists react to me asking about James's "faith without works is dead" message, trying to find ways to interpret the quotes to mean exactly the opposite of what they explicitly say.

I love this article, but when people know what they want to hear, and will fight anyone explaining otherwise, there's a bit of an impasse.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:31 PM on September 15, 2010 [16 favorites]


So this is insider baseball stuff--one Christian theology attacking another? Delicious, my favorite way to re-arrange deck chairs.

I'm linking this MeFi post to all my Christian friends, so I would appreciate it if you didn't post generalized LOLXTIANS snark that has nothing to do with the content of the articles.
posted by shii at 3:39 PM on September 15, 2010 [11 favorites]


I am reminded of Bill Hicks, circa 1993: That's another good thing about Bush being gone, man, cos for the last 12 years with Reagan and Bush, we have had fundamentalist Christians in the White House. Fundamentalist Christians who believe the Bible is the exact word of God, including that wacky fire and brimstone Revelations ending, have had their finger on the fucking button for 12 years. [Eyes roll back in head] "Tell me when Lord, tell me when. Let me be your servant Lord."

Thank god that nuclear war went out of fashion before the, if anything, even more batshitinsane Bush administration.
posted by Artw at 3:42 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Best essay I've read this month, possibly this year. I think it's pretty obvious to anyone who has read the bible, cover to cover, that the current incarnation of Christianity is wholly divorced from anything Christ taught.

The essay referenced a book called "The True Believer" by Hoffer, and here's a quote (via the first review on Amazon):

...in order to be effective a doctrine must not be understood, but has to be believed in. We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand.
posted by notion at 3:44 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I admire Christians who think--and more important live their lives--like this. (I get that the fellow writing is an ex-Christian.)

I loathe "Christians" who pilot their hypocritical, hateful selves to multi-million-dollar churches to listen to a pastor wearing a $2,000 suit who pockets hundreds of thousands per year tell them that driving BMWs and buying second homes is OK because the poor deserve what they don't have. Observed from outside, it's madness.

I would posit if you're certain you're going to heaven you're not doing it right. Doubt about your reward--have I done enough, can I do more?--is the only thing that seems like it could bring it about.

I mean, how could a "Christian" even be against something like health care for everyone? It's a bit mind-boggling.
posted by maxwelton at 3:46 PM on September 15, 2010 [25 favorites]


Something I've said before, though I can't recall if I've said it here on MeFi is that many contemporary American "Christians" aren't all that interested in the words and deeds of Christ and his apostles. "Christianity" to many people is just a team jersey, a shorthand for saying "people like me."

It's not surprising that people like that are easily misled. If you don't know what Jesus said, it's easy to simply assume it was whatever words you want to hear. Especially when those with something to gain are lining up to tell you so.

But this blurs the distinction about what "Christian" means. The same word now covers two entirely different groups of people. Half of them are utterly immune to any discussion like Hicks' because they just don't much care about deeply thinking from a Biblical perspective,
posted by tyllwin at 3:47 PM on September 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


muddgirl: "So this is insider baseball stuff--one Christian theology attacking another? Delicious, my favorite way to re-arrange deck chairs."

I'd say it's more like a fight for the soul of Christianity, which doesn't look in any danger of sinking in America any time soon (though the reverse may be true) and the arrangement of the deck chairs (which voices get attention) might be meaningful. The distinction between true and false Gospels is critical to understanding "the words that pervert" our understanding and their use by the alliance between the elites and a racist, fundamentalist Christianity to basically wreck America.
posted by psyche7 at 3:51 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


But what may not be clear to you yet is just how equally obvious this fact was to any Christian with any knowledge of, or connections within, the field of missionary work in Asia. When the communists took over Russia, they expelled all foreign missionaries, and nearly all Christian ministers were internally exiled to slave labor death camps in Siberia. When the communists took over China, they were even less subtle: all missionaries and Christian clergy who didn't escape the country were simply murdered in cold blood. When the communists took over North Korea, they made the Chinese look gentle and friendly: missionaries, ministers, Christians who refused to renounce their faith, and their children were brutally tortured to death.

I don't think this point can be emphasized enough. Christians interested in missionary work probably had the closest ties of anyone in America to the victims of the anti-Christian atrocities in the Communist countries.

While people on the Left were bending over backwards to defend Communist regimes, many Christians had personal ties to people who had been imprisoned, tortured, and killed by these regimes. It's no wonder they were drawn to the anti-communist movements in the Republican party and disgusted by the pro-communist sentiments among some of the Democratic party.
posted by straight at 4:06 PM on September 15, 2010 [18 favorites]


Hicks does a great service by explaining why Republicans do some of the things they do. I have always wondered about these things, which are frequently in contradiction to other things they profess to believe. Now his explanations may be wrong, or incomplete, or whatever - but they are the only ones I have ever seen that make any sense whatsoever.

This also explains the philosophical rift between old Republicans like my father and the Republicans of today. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, my father complained bitterly about the "fundies" trying to take over the GOP (taken from his own personal experience as an active Republican delegate). He really hated them.

I remember reading a lot about the union of the religious and political right in those days. I had always thought it was sort of an organic progression, two parties finding each other and realizing the opportunity. Whether or not the union was crafted and manipulated into being probably merits further study, but Hicks has certainly opened my eyes to the idea.

Last year, my father, now getting into his late 70's, told me he was "no longer a Republican". I knew better than to take the bait, but I wonder if he really meant that literally, or what. He's alive and well, I suppose I could just ask him. Unfortunately, he and my brother have gotten into the local Tea Party scene, so maybe it's just out of the frying pan and into the fire.
posted by Xoebe at 4:06 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


From Part I:

And what's worse, I am not the only one who knows this. Many of the pastors who preach this false gospel know it to be false. They went to academically rigorous seminaries. In those seminaries they studied God's word as I did. They were then carefully told what they could and couldn't say to their congregations if they wanted to hold a job in the ministry.

I think he may be underestimating their credulity. Upton Sinclair famously remarked, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:08 PM on September 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


I have to add, that there is a recurring theme here: fear. It's always about fear-mongering, isn't it?
posted by Xoebe at 4:17 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]



I have to add, that there is a recurring theme here: fear. It's always about fear-mongering, isn't it?


No, it's always about the money. Follow the fear, the racism, the hatred, and the lynching, and at the very end of that despicable, rancid trail is someone who made a shit load of money off the misery, ignorance and naïveté.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 4:29 PM on September 15, 2010 [14 favorites]


the pro-communist sentiments among some of the Democratic party

To the extent it existed at all, it was vanishingly small.
posted by ibmcginty at 4:30 PM on September 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yeah, just reading the "essay" on abortion I can tell that he's either astoundingly ignorant for someone who professes to know something about theology or he just doesn't care about accuracy.

"So what does the Bible say about the intentional termination of a pregnancy? Nothing. That's right, nothing. It never comes up. Even in the holiness code, which takes time out to preach about the evils of mildew, there isn't a single thing about the intentional termination of a pregnancy. Lest you think this is because abortion didn't exist back then, suffice it to say that there's at least some evidence that human beings have known which plants were abortificants since, well, since before there were human beings. Cultures much older than the post-captivity Jews knew how to induce an abortion at will; one must assume that there were Jews who used that knowledge. And yet somehow the Bible never gets around to saying even word one against the practice."

But early Christian writings do have something to say about abortion and Catholics (despite his claim about seminary faculty) don't in the first place appeal to scripture for the condemnation of abortion. They appeal to the natural law, which can be known without appeal to revelation. Since he can't get the theology right, any attempt to integrate the theology with political history is fruit of the poisoned tree.
posted by Jahaza at 4:40 PM on September 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yeah, just reading the "essay" on abortion I can tell that he's either astoundingly ignorant for someone who professes to know something about theology or he just doesn't care about accuracy.

Having read several of his earlier articles, I get the impression that it's a little bit of both.
posted by The World Famous at 4:49 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Ronald Reagan taught an entire generation of Americans that it is morally acceptable to hate the poor."

Sorry, but if you're going to spend a bunch of time "explaining" a movement -- and a five-part essay series is definitely a lot of time -- this kind of sweeping generalization has no place. I spent my time with the same fundamentalists that writer did. I went to homeschooling conventions, I subscribed to the crappy newsletters, I went to the conferences and read the books and called the radio shows and had the bible studies and helped stuff envelopes with "Christian Voters' Guides" and wah wah wah.

And you know what? Aside from a few sociopathic manipulators -- the kind you find in any group -- none of the rank and file folks seem to be motivated by "thinking it's okay to hate the poor." I would say instead that they've been given a set of tools for rationalizing inaction. We're talking about people who have really, honestly, legitimately come to believe that the skewed tax cuts and the welfare cuts and the eliminated unemployment benefits and so on are in everyone's best interests. Of course, they would say the same -- that the 'Welfare state' is just a way for people to avoid the messy work of helping their neighbors personally. It gets tangly, the idea of pure communal support vs. engineered systems, and collapsing the complexity in either direction to make your side's arguments look better does nothing to further your cause.

There's hatred, sure -- there's othering and there's suspicion and there's xenophobia. But the writer does everyone a disservice by focusing his laser on a couple of key verses, a couple of key instances in the anti-communist timeline, and collapsing the late 70s, early 80s Christian conservatism movement to "Reagan told people it was okay to hate the poor."
posted by verb at 4:50 PM on September 15, 2010 [23 favorites]


There's a part of me that still holds out hope that this is a generational thing, and a part of me that shrinks from that hope.

The world is currently run, for the most part, by a generation of people who, if they weren't early-adopters of technology, have watched that world shrink by leaps and bounds over the past two decades, and simultaneously become less under their personal control.

That was awkwardly worded. The powerless and powerful are of the same generation, is what I'm saying. Their children grew up accustomed to the smaller world, a world where going from any point A to any point be is exponentially easier than it previously was, a world where going from point A to point B is largely irrelevant, a world where people are far more willing to be that thing which makes the different from the majority, because finding their own minority is so simple, etc.

The rising generation is prepared for that world. It is what they know. The prior generation grew up prepared for a different world. A world where cars were king. Where communism was indeed a menacing force threatening not just their way of life but their lives themselves. A world with neighbors that you knew and a functioning middle class. They understand what's neat about the new world that their children have inherited, but they don't understand that world itself, and frankly, that's frightening. Being told what they want to know, and being told that it is the Word of God, is a very precious thing.

On the other hand, Youth Ministers across the country are bridging that gap. They know how to turn teen's sexual anxiety into holy fear. They know how to turn the need for identity into the need for a mantra. They know how to use feelings of isolation to bring kids into groups. And they honestly believe they are doing God's work.

In my lifetime, I have seen the fundamentalist upbringing shift from the purview of a few, unfortunate, and bullied kids (think Carrie) to that of the bullies. That might be anecdotal, but I doubt it.

So as the rising generation takes power, we're going to end up with an odd situation, where people have grown up more interconnected and accepting than ever before, but more of them grew up believing this shit was the Gospel.

And that's to say nothing about the economy in which they'll take over.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:58 PM on September 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


I agree with a lot of what he's saying, but when he uses rhetorical devices like: "The traditional Republican party is the party of Satan himself," then he loses me.

He's not writing for you. He's using the language of the people he's addressing.

But early Christian writings do have something to say about abortion and Catholics ...

He's talking about Fundamentalists in particular. (See, e.g., the first sentence of Part 1.) The Magesterium of the Catholic Church isn't something that would be particularly relevant here (except possibly as a counter-argument.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:22 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


"He's talking about Fundamentalists in particular. (See, e.g., the first sentence of Part 1.) The Magesterium of the Catholic Church isn't something that would be particularly relevant here (except possibly as a counter-argument.)"

Actually, if you read the article on abortion, he also writes about Catholics.
posted by Jahaza at 5:26 PM on September 15, 2010


I think this article is absurdly tendentious. Does the author really believe that US theologians are somehow divorced from the last two millennia of Christian thought and incapable of actually reading or thinking for themselves? Apparently so. Does he really believe that the Republican party is "the party of Satan"? Once again, apparently so. Would anyone here bother reading this sort of claptrap if it were some right-winger arguing that Jimmy Carter is secretly a puppet of Satan? Well, I hope not - so why bother reading the inverse argument?
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:33 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


They know how to turn teen's sexual anxiety into holy fear. They know how to turn the need for identity into the need for a mantra. They know how to use feelings of isolation to bring kids into groups. And they honestly believe they are doing God's work.

All of these things are possible because our society isn't providing them, the ministers in question are filling a need. Lack of sex education allows the first, and lack of alternatives that aren't school or directly commercial (malls) allows the second and third. These things are important, the fact that our society has abdicated responsibility in these areas has allowed churches to fill the gap, and they carry with them that agenda.

Why are churches able to use soup kitchens as outreach? Because no one else is feeding these people! That principle extends out and across the world. To limit the pernicious influence of religion, it's less important to provide an alternative to it than it is to simply fill its niches of alleviating suffering and isolation.
posted by JHarris at 5:33 PM on September 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


Interesting links. Thanks.
posted by jonmc at 5:48 PM on September 15, 2010


Actually, if you read the article on abortion, he also writes about Catholics.

Technically correct. (The best kind of correct!) But only twice, where it's used in the form of "Fundamentalists and Catholics."
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:55 PM on September 15, 2010


For a slightly different take, consider this excerpt from the book Kingdom Come:
In the course of one of the sessions, Weyrich tried to make a point to his Religious Right brethren (no women attended the conference, as I recall). Let's remember, he said animatedly, that the Religious Right did not come together in response to the Roe decision. No, Weyrich insisted, what got us going as a political movement was the attempt on the part of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to rescind the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because of its racially discriminatory policies.
The Weyrich in that excerpt is Paul Weyrich, founder of the Heritage Foundation.
posted by mhum at 6:10 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think this article is absurdly tendentious. Does the author really believe that US theologians are somehow divorced from the last two millennia of Christian thought and incapable of actually reading or thinking for themselves?

A lot of these U.S. theologians are charlatans and hucksters, the whole evangelical movement is so much stuff and nonsense. Bob Jones University was founded in, what the late 1920s?

Pat Robertson's Regent University, founded in 1978. For what? To "think for themselves" indeed, and teach, of course, that their god did indeed create the world in 6 days.

Remember how many Regent U. grads got hired at the Dept. of Justice during Dubya's reign?

That worked out great didn't it?
posted by Max Power at 6:17 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think this article is absurdly tendentious.

Coming from a background in which I was directly exposed to many of the things he describes, I can tell you it is not exaggerated in the least.

Does the author really believe that US theologians are somehow divorced from the last two millennia of Christian thought and incapable of actually reading or thinking for themselves? Apparently so.

I hereby tell you directly: many of them are. (This is by no means limited to that group, however.)

Does he really believe that the Republican party is "the party of Satan"? Once again, apparently so.

Not only does he believe it, he makes a damn good case for it.

Would anyone here bother reading this sort of claptrap if it were some right-winger arguing that Jimmy Carter is secretly a puppet of Satan?

Absolutely they would.

Well, I hope not

I am here to tell you, abandon that hope.
posted by JHarris at 6:37 PM on September 15, 2010 [13 favorites]


But early Christian writings do have something to say about abortion and Catholics (despite his claim about seminary faculty) don't in the first place appeal to scripture for the condemnation of abortion.

If you read all five articles, you'll see that his real aim here is to undermine the political stance of fundamentalist evangelical Protestantism by revealing its hypocrisy. I think it succeeds admirably at that purpose. The author isn't a Christian, and so he's not really interested in uncovering what God really wants or what one truly ought to believe. He's just interested in showing that the fundies' arguments don't hold logical water.

And a central doctrine of fundamentalist Protestantism is that the Bible, as they construe it, is the complete, exact and infallible Word of God. They aren't interested in early Christian writings that aren't included in the Bible, and they don't believe in the Roman Catholic conception of natural law. So arguments involving these things are irrelevant to the topic of the essay.
posted by magnificent frigatebird at 6:48 PM on September 15, 2010


A lot of these U.S. theologians are charlatans and hucksters

You're confusing theologians with preachers.

Does he really believe that the Republican party is "the party of Satan"? Once again, apparently so.

Not only does he believe it, he makes a damn good case for it.


I don't think he believes it. He doesn't even believe in Satan, does he? If he doesn't believe in the religious tenets of Christianity, he shouldn't make assertions about what the "real" theology is. Pointing out that, pursuant to what Christians "ought" to believe, Christians ought to believe that the Republican party is the party of Satan. But asserting, outright, that it is, while also not believing that there is such a thing, is problematic.
posted by The World Famous at 6:55 PM on September 15, 2010


In it, he "proved" that the US State Department and the US Department of Education had both been completely subverted and taken over from within by Russian-backed Communist Party cells. (Oddly enough, when the KGB archives were opened in 1989, he turned out to have been right about the State Department. It's not terribly surprising, really; Foggy Bottom has long been manned by people who identified more with foreigners than with their own countrymen, and has a long history of forgetting which country pays its salaries.)

Oh, give me a fucking break.


Precisely. This is totally made up or, more likely, urban legend repeated as truth. What KGB archives were opened up in 1989? Does he mean the Mitrokhin Archive, which was not so much 'opened up' as smuggled out of the country by a dissident, which was vastly smaller in size than the whole KGB archive, and which said nothing about the State Department being taken over by subversive cells? Or is he talking about some other KGB archive which only he got to look at?
posted by Dreadnought at 6:58 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he doesn't believe in the religious tenets of Christianity, he shouldn't make assertions about what the "real" theology is.

Oh, blerg. He's making assertions based on what the Bible itself actually says, in the context of the fact that the Fundamentalists he's writing about claim to live by the Bible as the inerrant word of their god.

There's all kinds of hooey in this, and hearsay that he himself admits to not accurately remembering, but there's no reason that someone who doesn't believe in Christianity can't point out that certain people aren't doing Christianity right, according to their own scriptures. Hell, it's been driving me crazy since I was a little kid.
posted by padraigin at 7:04 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


there's no reason that someone who doesn't believe in Christianity can't point out that certain people aren't doing Christianity right, according to their own scriptures.

I agree. But when he says the Republican party is the party of Satan, he should probably edit that to say that, if one accurately interprets the scripture, the Republican party should be seen as the party of Satan (or words to that effect).
posted by The World Famous at 7:07 PM on September 15, 2010


Nyarlathotep, of course, remains their true lord.

Look at your God, now look at me, now back to your God, now back to me...
posted by homunculus at 7:19 PM on September 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


On the other hand, Youth Ministers across the country are bridging that gap. They know how to turn teen's sexual anxiety into holy fear. They know how to turn the need for identity into the need for a mantra. They know how to use feelings of isolation to bring kids into groups. And they honestly believe they are doing God's work.

In my lifetime, I have seen the fundamentalist upbringing shift from the purview of a few, unfortunate, and bullied kids (think Carrie) to that of the bullies. That might be anecdotal, but I doubt it.
I can't favorite this hard enough. I keep clicking, but it doesn't do anything more.
posted by verb at 7:35 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he doesn't believe in the religious tenets of Christianity, he shouldn't make assertions about what the "real" theology is.

I like and respect ya, TWF, but this claim is false and simply absurd on its face. I am a secular humanist who was reared by Roman Catholics, studied theology and philosophy at a Catholic high school and a Catholic university, and am now (among other things) paid to teach Thomistic philosophy at (among other places) a Catholic university. I know this stuff, sorry if that does not sound suitably humble, even though I reject it as epistemologically suspect.

Expand this claim to other religious / theological / philosophical systems and you will see how seriously problematic this is. I am no Platonist or Zen Buddhist (for example) but that does not disqualify me from commenting on or critiquing various interpretations (especially when we are talking about interpretations of texts/doctrine that are flawed on their face out of ignorance, selective reading or whatever) of Platonism or Zen Buddhism. I am confused why you think acceptance of a particular set of beliefs is a necessary condition for challenging competing interpretations of said beliefs. That just strikes me as, well, weird. And wrong. Apologies if I misread you, here.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:40 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think it is interesting that he makes a side reference to Jerrold Seigel's excellent book Bohemian Paris. One of my favorites.
posted by ovvl at 7:41 PM on September 15, 2010


I think you're misunderstanding me, joe lisboa. I'm not saying he cannot comment on or critique various interpretations or that he's disqualified from such commentary or critique because he's a non-believer. In fact, I agree with his interpretation in many respects (being, as I am, a member of a religion that is a big fan of the book of James). I'm saying that if he's going to critique interpretations, he should frame it as such, rather than stating his position as if it is a statement of gospel truth that he believes in.
posted by The World Famous at 7:46 PM on September 15, 2010


I'm saying that if he's going to critique interpretations, he should frame it as such, rather than stating his position as if it is a statement of gospel truth that he believes in.

Okay, that I get, I guess. And again I apologize for putting words in your mouth. But the fact that he was reared as a literalist fundamentalist and at one time self-identified as such, in my opinion, gives him latitude to speak in terms that will be grasped by his intended audience. He gets this stuff because he used to sincerely believe in this nonsense, so I think it is appropriate for him to express himself in the language of his aforementioned beliefs to reach others swindled by such gross misreadings and misappropriations of the literature. He lived it (and suffered greatly as a result, based on what he has written) so I am not going to judge him for using the language of the flock (their term, no offense intended) to hopefully reach at least a handful of said victims.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:04 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


And again I apologize for putting words in your mouth.

Don't worry about it. I don't think you put words in my mouth. I should have been clearer. And I generally agree with your larger point.
posted by The World Famous at 8:06 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


They know how to turn teen's sexual anxiety into holy fear. They know how to turn the need for identity into the need for a mantra. They know how to use feelings of isolation to bring kids into groups. And they honestly believe they are doing God's work.

All of these things are possible because our society isn't providing them, the ministers in question are filling a need. Lack of sex education allows the first, and lack of alternatives that aren't school or directly commercial (malls) allows the second and third. These things are important, the fact that our society has abdicated responsibility in these areas has allowed churches to fill the gap, and they carry with them that agenda.

Why are churches able to use soup kitchens as outreach? Because no one else is feeding these people! That principle extends out and across the world.
JHarris, I keep reading over that post and... I can't figure out how those statements can be resolved with reality. Church-as-a-social-hub is not related to the rise of malls or the shrinking of other social spaces. It's related to a deliberate attempt to position the church as a social hub, and to burn through lots of money in order to ensure that they spend their time in an environment where they will hear the message of Christianity repeatedly.

It is no different than a mall in the sense that a social place is being provided in order to ensure that kids will stay there long enough to hear a message. The rise of Mall-Churches in the Willow model reflects that more than anything, and the fundamentalist strains that people seem all het up about in this thread aren't exactly pulling in bored kids who are angry at crass commercialization.

A societal lack of sex education providing fertile ground for Youth Ministers to talk about sex? I... I don't know how to say this properly, but I know, absolutely that I must be misreading you. I can't see how, but I know I must be misreading you because there is absolutely no way I can imagine someone honestly saying that Fundamentalist youth leaders are the ones who want to talk openly and honestly about sexuality, and our society has dropped the ball -- leaving kids with no option but to go to a youth group. I'm just kind of flummoxed. So I'll reiterate that I have to be misreading you. I must. Surely?

Soup Kitchens, too. It's one thing to suggest that church soup kitchens fill a need that is unmet by everyone else, but that's simply untrue. Fundamentalist Conservatives are engaged in an ongoing war against the welfare state in large part because they believe it will lead to the state replacing the Church. Some say that it will be more expensive, or more corrupt. Others are quite open that they simply don't want people to be able to get a meal for free without having to hear the Gospel.
To limit the pernicious influence of religion, it's less important to provide an alternative to it than it is to simply fill its niches of alleviating suffering and isolation.
It's also critical to recognize that the combative fundamentalist culture-war crowd actively attacks any alternatives because they lack the influence of religion.
posted by verb at 8:07 PM on September 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's the earnestness of his critique that bugs me. I can't figure out how he means that today's "republicans" or those who whorl in their evangelical vortex, will "burn in hell" because they preach a false gospel. That's so worried sounding. Most careful readers of the biblical text will steer clear of saying anything certain about what the writers intended when they described what evangelicals characterize as eternal damnation. There's certainly no inkling of it in the Old Testament, and it's a late arrival to gospel accounts (ie. Christ says next to nothing about it.).

Frankly, hell is the lynch pin in any of this wackiness. If you take away Milton and Dante, you're not really left with much in the biblical text (and for Milton and Dante hell was more of a Tolkienian fantasy, built as an element (central to be sure) of their epic fictions expressing a desire that bad humans will "get theirs". As long as someone refers to hell as if it really exists, I can't take them seriously.

That he repeatedly uses this inflated and inflammatory language makes me want to shut him off. Sure, perhaps he's preaching to that choir, and hopes that by using their inflammations he'll catch their eye, but I really doubt the possibility of this aspiration. (Since we're 'fessing up here ...) When I was in that world, nothing could have dragged me out rationally or otherwise. From the inside the arguments are lock tight. You hear the outsiders with radical cynicism, since they are the "anti-Christ".

Referring to the biblical text in any sort of "proof-texting" way is a precarious, dare I say, misguided business. The Bible is not coherent in any "I've got proof!" kind of way. It's a kind of cultural anthology. It's an amazing artifact. It contains (is?) great literature. As Northrope Frye in The Great Code says: "The primary and literal meaning of the Bible, then, is its centripetal or poetic meaning. ... There are various secondary meanings, derived from the centrifugal perspective ... concepts, predications, propositions, or a sequence of historical or biographical events, and that are always subordinate to the metaphorical meaning" (61).
posted by kneecapped at 8:29 PM on September 15, 2010


Referring to the biblical text in any sort of "proof-texting" way is a precarious, dare I say, misguided business. The Bible is not coherent in any "I've got proof!" kind of way. It's a kind of cultural anthology. It's an amazing artifact.
In fact, one could argue that taking the "But my reading of it is correct!" approach with Fundamentalists isn't combating fundamentalism, just fighting for control of it.
posted by verb at 8:31 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


As long as someone refers to hell as if it really exists, I can't take them seriously.

Heaven (heh) forbid you mention this on MetaFilter, though, and treat people who do believe (indeed, relish) this hateful garbage as if they mean what they say.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:32 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


verb:
JHarris, I keep reading over that post and... I can't figure out how those statements can be resolved with reality. Church-as-a-social-hub is not related to the rise of malls or the shrinking of other social spaces. It's related to a deliberate attempt to position the church as a social hub, and to burn through lots of money in order to ensure that they spend their time in an environment where they will hear the message of Christianity repeatedly.

I'm thinking about churches as places for meeting people, when the alternative is bars. And positioning a church as a social hub is exactly what I'm talking about; that looks more attractive because of a lack of other things. I mean I don't have any figures to back me up, it's more a result of personal observation, but...

A societal lack of sex education providing fertile ground for Youth Ministers to talk about sex?

No, I mean that a lack of information about sex leading to a vacuum which the church fills with anxiety. Thinking about it, many of my own social awkwardnesses probably can be traced directly back to my churchgoing upbringing.

It is no different than a mall in the sense that a social place is being provided in order to ensure that kids will stay there long enough to hear a message.

I wasn't really trying to make an anti-commercialism point there so much, when I was thinking that sentence through I cast around for what the real alternatives were, and commercial places were really the only thing I could come up with, so I decided I should at least nod to malls. Beyond churches and malls, there are maybe community centers which aren't really common things around where I live, and quasi-religious places like the Y(M|W)CA.

Soup Kitchens, too. It's one thing to suggest that church soup kitchens fill a need that is unmet by everyone else, but that's simply untrue. Fundamentalist Conservatives are engaged in an ongoing war against the welfare state in large part because they believe it will lead to the state replacing the Church.

Er, you phrase this in terms like you're disagreeing with me, but I agree with what you're saying? Am I missing something? Did I misstate something above? Whether the state or some private, non-religious concern helps the poor is immaterial to me, but there should be someone helping them that is not the church, or at least the horrible, fundamentalist concerns being primarily discussed here. I'm fine with the church helping them too, but only if it's not being used as a tool towards proselytism, which smacks of taking advantage of misery.

The World Famous:
I don't think he believes it. He doesn't even believe in Satan, does he?

I don't either, but I recognize the Republican Party platform as being roughly in line with the tenants of the Church of Satan, which itself doesn't really believe in a literal devil. To my understanding, they use Satan more as a symbol of a philosophy that is generally opposed to Jesus' teachings, so any "services" run by them are performed in an ironic sense. Their beliefs are more in line with Ayn Rand than those of any spiritual entity, and I think that's what the author was getting at.
posted by JHarris at 8:57 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


kneecapped: and for Milton and Dante hell was more of a Tolkienian fantasy,

Ooh, now that is an idea that for some reason I find awesome. Why don't people dress up as Virgil for DragonCon?
posted by JHarris at 9:00 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


padraigin: “Oh, blerg. He's making assertions based on what the Bible itself actually says, in the context of the fact that the Fundamentalists he's writing about claim to live by the Bible as the inerrant word of their god.”

I've just started reading this – I've only gotten through the first part so far – but, while I sympathize with the author's point of view, this is what I really disagree with in his approach. And I have a strong feeling he's aware of this problem in what he's doing. He claims that many pastors know they are lying, because they know Scripture well enough to know that what they're saying doesn't accord with it. At the same time, he believes that his reading of the Bible is the correct one – and yet the source of his "knowledge" is some years at seminary. How does he know that he wasn't getting the lies instead of the truth? How does he sort that out?

The trouble is that once you peel back the veneer of simplicity that inheres in the superficial modern Protestant claim to believe in "the literal Word of God," things get complicated. Because the fact is that there is no such thing as a "literal" text; never has been. This is a way we talk, but particularly in the context of a beautiful and profound spiritual text, looking for a simple, immediate, obvious "real meaning" seems pointless. And if you really consider this problem, I think it becomes clear that it extends to the whole subject of Biblical reading.

Mr Hicks tries to skirt around this difficulty by making a basic appeal to expertise and familiarity. He's read the Bible more thoroughly and more carefully than most Christians, and he's more familiar with it than many of them are; that's why his opinion about what it really means to say should be respected and trusted. But I don't buy this argument about authority and familiarity any more than I buy the notion that one can know its 'literal' meaning. Plenty of people can be utterly familiar with a thing, can even study it their whole lives, and still be completely wrong about it. That's not their fault; in fact, in those cases, quite the contrary.

In fact, an integral part of Christian faith, I think, is the pursuit of wisdom. And that indicates that maybe you do have to be a Christian to really understand what the Bible itself actually says; the pursuit, and what is granted one during that pursuit, is what brings wisdom and shows us the light of truth. It's hard for anyone who's actually looked in a careful way at the Gospels to ignore the importance of the light of truth there.

I accept that he's dealing with the 'fundamentalists' on their level, to a certain extent at least. I just worry that someone might get the impression that his reading of the Bible is the completely correct reading of the Bible.

By the way, I sense that a lot of people find this breed of informed criticism of the Evangelical Right very refreshing. Anyone who does is advised that there are a lot of Orthodox Christians in the United States, and they provide a pretty good counterpoint to the Evangelical paradigm. You might not always agree with them, but they take their faith seriously, and they are generally more thoughtful and interesting to talk to than the typical Evangelical. And a lot of them have blogs.
posted by koeselitz at 9:04 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Because the fact is that there is no such thing as a "literal" text; never has been.

This, a million times over.

In fact, an integral part of Christian faith, I think, is the pursuit of wisdom.

This, not so much. The early Church specifically positioned itself as a distinct alternative to the so-called pagan pursuit of wisdom that the Stoics, Epicureans and others working in the Greek tradition embodied, or at least sought to. Wisdom is not the goal, here, so much as eternal salvation, worldly wisdom be damned (no pun intended). Yeah, I get that you could argue that they simply sought to redefine wisdom in terms of salvation but that simply highlights the distinction at work here. The very phrase pursuit of wisdom is so deeply entrenched in the largely humanistic Greek context that gave it birth that I do not think you can just graft it on to the Christian tradition without doing it massive conceptual damage (though of course they attempted to do just that: e.g., John or whoever(s) co-opting the Stoic Logos to describe their deity, etc.).

I am tired (taught from 8 AM to 9:30 PM today) so I am likely not expressing myself clearly and am pretty burned out, so apologies if I seem combative, just do not think this is a charitable reading. There is no wisdom to be pursued in this theology because the metaphysical path is set already FOR you: accept resurrection of the dead and the fully human-divinity of Yeshua ben Joseph or you are doing it wrong. No journey here, just a preexisting roadmap to be accepted or rejected (with the threat of eternal torture later leveled against those who reject added as the uniquely cruel icing on the theological cake).
posted by joe lisboa at 9:16 PM on September 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


The guy has listed, in his list of books in his library on the edge, Three Fisted Tales of Bob by Ivan Stang. There is a possibility that he's speaking ironically about them burning in hell.
posted by JHarris at 9:17 PM on September 15, 2010


And believe me, I know that the exegetical and doctrinal history is far, far more convoluted and complicated than the broad-brushing I did above. I just wish more folks (Christian or otherwise) conceded this (or bothered to learn about it) too, even if I did not do justice to it here. Peace.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:19 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, seriously: last thing. I just know this phrase:

There is no wisdom to be pursued in this theology

will be taken out of context, so before snarking please read in context. Peace be unto y'all again.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:23 PM on September 15, 2010


He claims that many pastors know they are lying, because they know Scripture well enough to know that what they're saying doesn't accord with it. At the same time, he believes that his reading of the Bible is the correct one – and yet the source of his "knowledge" is some years at seminary. How does he know that he wasn't getting the lies instead of the truth? How does he sort that out?

His entire point is that if you take Fundamentalism to its logical conclusion, you end up with something entirely different than what Fundamentalism proclaims today.

A lot of commentators are getting too caught up in whether that constitutes 'truth' or not. Rather besides the point, as far as this argument is concerned.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:24 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Of course, they would say the same -- that the 'Welfare state' is just a way for people to avoid the messy work of helping their neighbors personally.

i think the real motivation is that these people are more than happy to take care of "their own" under circumstances of their control - when they want to help the poor in their community, they mean THEIR community - and the poor in some other community can be helped by THAT community

the thought that those other communities might not have the resources that they do - or that our country isn't going to thrive as a set of balkanized communities, doesn't occur to them

which is where the welfare state comes in, to take care of those they don't have any contact with and aren't willing to have contact with

also, to paraphrase raymond chandler, they don't want to save america - they just want to look like they're saving it
posted by pyramid termite at 9:25 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why don't people dress up as Virgil for DragonCon?

Well, for one thing, they don't want some doofus in a mid-life crisis to expect to be guided around and told what everything is. For another, they all know that, as Virgil, they will not be allowed to go to the best parts of the convention.
posted by The World Famous at 9:34 PM on September 15, 2010 [13 favorites]


.. they all know that, as Virgil, they will not be allowed to go to the best parts of the convention.

Wait, didn't he get an All-Areas pass?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:47 PM on September 15, 2010


Wait, didn't he get an All-Areas pass?

Virgil? No. He got stopped by security at the top of the stairs.
posted by The World Famous at 9:48 PM on September 15, 2010 [12 favorites]


"[My mother] also raised us to believe that faith without works is dead. She said that if we wanted to hear God's voice we'd have to get quiet and listen with our hearts, but if we wanted to see God's face we'd have to look for it in the eyes of others, especially the eyes of those in need."

-- Bonnie Amesquita, Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett, The Beauty and Challenge of Being Catholic, May 1, 2008 [link]

My parents are strictly anti-evangelical, to the extent that they would not even proselytize to their son. So I did not formally join the Catholic Church until I was an adult. I don't know if every Catholic adult-baptism/adult-confirmation ("Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults") process does this, but at St. Vincent de Paul in Lincoln Park, Chicago, charity was stressed as one of the most important parts of being Catholic. You aren't permitted the sacraments of baptism or confirmation without logging time in both individual and group charity activities.
posted by thesmophoron at 9:48 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Just a quick pedantic lesson here about the difference between an argument being "logical" and it being "sound." A "logical" argument is on which is internally consistent. The conclusions follow from the assumptions. A "sound argument" is logical, and has the added benefit of the assumptions themselves being correct.

Hicks isn't arguing that his interpretation of the Bible is sound. He isn't even really arguing that it's logical. He's pointing out that Fundamentalists are claiming their agenda arises out of Biblical literalism, which is true.

So, the idea of Biblical literalism is - well it's fraught with a lot of the same bullshit as Constitutional originalism, but that's a story for another day - but the idea is that these messages, this agenda, it all comes directly out of this literal, can't-not-be-true Word of God.

In other words, the Fundamentalists in this case are saying, "this is logical because we are following the book to the letter, and it is sound because the book is the absolute truth."

And Hicks is showing that they are not following the book to the letter, or really at all. And that, if their argument for soundness is for real, then they are actually going absolutely against the book they claim to follow.

His cites for where their positions come from are spot-on, from my experience. You don't need to believe in heaven, hell or Jesus to make the argument that he's making. You just have to know the material better than those who claim to be basing their lives off of it. And he does.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:50 PM on September 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


Er, you phrase this in terms like you're disagreeing with me, but I agree with what you're saying? Am I missing something? Did I misstate something above? Whether the state or some private, non-religious concern helps the poor is immaterial to me, but there should be someone helping them that is not the church, or at least the horrible, fundamentalist concerns being primarily discussed here. I'm fine with the church helping them too, but only if it's not being used as a tool towards proselytism, which smacks of taking advantage of misery.
Actually I think we are on the same page -- this is why I'm pretty sure that I misread what you were saying. I took it as, "Secular society has failed, and the Church fills those much-needed roles! Don't complain about it!" The sex education thing in particular may have just short-circuited my reading comprehension capabilities given how mind-boggling I find that reading of things.

So, yeah. I didn't want to lash out but I did find that idea ('secular society has failed to provide perspectives about sexuality, and the church fills a gap') unfounded, at least in my experience. I was busy throwing my stones during the height of the culture wars, talking about how secular society was inundating people with unGodly sexual perspectives. So saying that there's a vacuum just doesn't parse for me...
posted by verb at 10:14 PM on September 15, 2010


i think the real motivation is that these people are more than happy to take care of "their own" under circumstances of their control - when they want to help the poor in their community, they mean THEIR community - and the poor in some other community can be helped by THAT community

the thought that those other communities might not have the resources that they do - or that our country isn't going to thrive as a set of balkanized communities, doesn't occur to them

which is where the welfare state comes in, to take care of those they don't have any contact with and aren't willing to have contact with
I've known enough people who traveled from the safety of the suburbs to work with prisoners on death row, or to do day-in day-out community building work in inner city projects, or who actually moved to trashed urban grinds like the heart of Philly to know that this isn't the truth. It's true for some, certainly, but the argument can just as easily be made that liberals want to pay taxes so that they don't have to get their hands dirty like REAL TRUE CHRISTIANS do.

There's truth and lie to both narratives. Recognizing the profound dangers of depending on 'communities' to self-support when the entire community is hit hard? That's very important. Recognizing that there are many who believe that [i]and put their money where their mouths are[/i] is also important. The problem, as many in the Evangelical world are starting to argue, is that they have been taken advantage of by a political movement that convinced them robber barons are okay on the national scene as long as every town's got a soup kitchen run by genuine True Believers.
posted by verb at 10:20 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, didn't he get an All-Areas pass?

Virgil? No. He got stopped by security at the top of the stairs.


When I was in high school and reading Dante for the first time, Beatrice Foods was just starting their major public awareness campaign, having become one of the biggest food suppliers in the world at that point.

I found them oddly hysterical.
posted by hippybear at 10:21 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, the idea of Biblical literalism is - well it's fraught with a lot of the same bullshit as Constitutional originalism...

The big difference, at least in theory, is that you're supposed to be able to amend the constitution.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:27 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Does he really believe that the Republican party is "the party of Satan"? Once again, apparently so.

He provides a clear justification for why he believes that. You know, if you read the article.

Can't say I disagree with his reasoning. It reminds me a bit of Franken's line about how if you took all the stuff about the poor out of the Bible, it would be a great place to hide Rush Limbaugh's drugs.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:30 PM on September 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


Hrm. maybe "hilarious" is a better word than "hysterical"

My brain... it plays games.
posted by hippybear at 10:35 PM on September 15, 2010


Ooh, now that is an idea that for some reason I find awesome. Why don't people dress up as Virgil for DragonCon?

Trust me. It could be very much not awesome.
posted by straight at 10:43 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The early Church specifically positioned itself as a distinct alternative to the so-called pagan pursuit of wisdom...There is no wisdom to be pursued in this theology because the metaphysical path is set already FOR you

Joe lisboa, you are, I think, right about Christianity's rejection of a sort of pursuit of wisdom for its own sake. And I'd add that I think a lot of people get Christianity wrong when they try to characterize it (usually in an attempt to get at what various religions have in common) as fundamentally about an attempt to follow the wisdom or insight or teachings of Jesus and the other New Testament writers.

On the other hand, I think koeselitz is right in pointing to a long Christian tradition of seeing wisdom as one of the fruits of pursuing a relationship with God. Christians have long said that it is only by becoming a disciple, following Christ, seeking to know him, that one gains the necessary wisdom to understand the scriptures.

That tradition would reject the fundamentalist idea that there is a "literal" meaning of the Bible that is plain and simple to anyone who reads it. It would also reject the idea that someone like Hicks who rejects the path of discipleship could be an authority on the "true meaning" of the Bible, no matter how many years he spent in seminary.
posted by straight at 10:59 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Christians have long said that it is only by becoming a disciple, following Christ, seeking to know him, that one gains the necessary wisdom to understand the scriptures.

That tradition would reject the fundamentalist idea that there is a "literal" meaning of the Bible that is plain and simple to anyone who reads it. It would also reject the idea that someone like Hicks who rejects the path of discipleship could be an authority on the "true meaning" of the Bible, no matter how many years he spent in seminary.


What beautiful cover. "My interpretation, no matter how at odds it may be with the actual words that are written down, is the true one, because I am a disciple of Christ. Your interpretation, on the other hand, no matter how true it is to the actual words that are written down, is false, because you are not a disciple.

Now go, my minions, and kill in the name of Jesus!"
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:52 AM on September 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


The awesome extends even into the last article. If it's all tl;dr for you, you'd miss this paragraph:

It's a fact of my biography that if it weren't for a fundamentalist high school that I attended from September 1974 to May 1978, the aforementioned Dr. Stormer's private school Faith Christian Academy, I probably never would have amounted to anything in life. While I was in the public schools, I was coasting ... and still blowing the curve. The Hazelwood School District's schools, teachers, families, and students lived in a culture of deep antipathy towards all-out effort at anything other than (a) team sports and (b) making and wasting money -- in that order of descending importance. When I got to Faith Christian Academy, it wasn't the faculty or the staff that knocked me out of that mindset. It was my fellow students. Can you believe that? It goes beyond that. The first two fellow students to ask me, with obvious emotional concern, why I wasn't trying to do my best were a basketball star and a cheerleader. At Faith Academy, because of how they were almost all raised, because of the cultural norms of people who put their kids into private schools (even tiny little low-prestige ones like Faith), even the kids knew that trying to learn all you could and excelling in scholastics to the best of your ability was something any sane, healthy person would want to do.

There's indictments of more than just fundies and Republicans handed out here....
posted by JHarris at 2:19 AM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Does he really believe that the Republican party is "the party of Satan"?

He clearly states in the Comments:

"I personally don't believe the Bible, nor do I believe in Hell. My complaint is about people who claim to believe in the Bible, but who preach a gospel entirely antithetical to the one in that Bible."

It seems to me that the use of Hell, Satan, etc, is a both a rhetorical device and a way of addressing the contradictions in his subject. That is, if you (as a Fundamentalist) truly believe in Satan, why haven't you noticed that this stuff (Republican doctrine AKA Mammon) seems rather Satanic.
posted by jet_manifesto at 4:25 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm linking this MeFi post to all my Christian friends, so I would appreciate it if you didn't post generalized LOLXTIANS snark that has nothing to do with the content of the articles.

(1) No snark was intended, but I can see where you're getting that. My apologies.

(2) I straight up don't appreciate when one kind of Christian (or in this case, a non-Christian who is code switching) tells other Christians that they're going to "burn in Hell". Yes, even if they have Biblical justification. Log in your own eye vs. the speck in your brothers, and all that.
posted by muddgirl at 6:19 AM on September 16, 2010


What beautiful cover. "My interpretation, no matter how at odds it may be with the actual words that are written down, is the true one, because I am a disciple of Christ. Your interpretation, on the other hand, no matter how true it is to the actual words that are written down, is false, because you are not a disciple.

Actually, Jimmy Havok, it's more an acknowledgment that the essence of being a Christian cannot be summed up by cherry picking a few verses out of the Bible, especially not by an outsider. The essence of being a Christian is the experience of a life lived in dialogue with the Bible and the community of other people trying to do the same.

What Hicks is doing is like an ethnomusicologist who personally hates jazz and hardly ever listens to it but who has studied it in school and read lots of books about it lecturing jazz fans about what counts as "real" jazz.
posted by straight at 6:32 AM on September 16, 2010


Man, do I wish I'd come across this post earlier. A lot of people have expressed serious misgivings about the validity of Hicks' argument, but a lot of other people have expressed serious belief that he is describing an accurate phenomenon.

I think I can explain this: Hicks is right for the wrong reasons.

Let's start with the first article. The crux of his argument is that contemporary Christianity has replaced the gospel of the Scriptures, which requires a certain amount of doing good, with a gospel based purely on faith, which does not. In other words, he's identified the issue which, after the debate on the nature of papal authority, was the single most contentious issue of the Reformation. And he dispenses with it entirely without so much as even a "Rome was right." Which is significant, because the Roman Catholic Church remains the largest singled denomination in the country and the majority religion in almost every county outside the South. Even worse for him, Roman Catholics are not exactly a reliable Republican demographic. So the idea that American Christianity has somehow gone completely off the rails because of this issue is just silly on its face.

Besides, the interaction of, and indeed, the tension between faith and works is an incredibly fraught subject about which enough books have been written over the last five centuries to fill a library. Simply declaring that one side is right without even bothering to engage this ongoing conversation is just ignorant, and renders the rest of the argument suspect.

Don't get me wrong: I'm entirely willing to argue that most of contemporary Christianity is preaching a false gospel. Read through my posting history and you'll see that I'm not one to shrink from criticizing the church. But this isn't how you make that argument, and as a result, almost his entire thesis unravels.

That being said, there was a pretty dramatic political realignment in the middle of the twentieth century. The Republican Party of the early part of the century was pretty much exclusively the party of fat cat businessmen, and most churches--of every stripe--wanted little to do with it. And I think he completely nails the fact that it was the rise of international communism which caused the realignment. Even today, most American Christians are aware of the persecution that missionaries and native Christians suffer at the hands of communist regimes. China routinely disappears ministers who are not part of the officially sanctioned state church, and meeting together in homes is a dangerous thing to do. Most theologically conservative churches sponsor missionaries either directly or indirectly through missions bureaus, and as a result, most theologically conservative Christians know about this stuff. Large scale, systematic, government-sponsored persecution of Christians has happened in the Soviet Union, Mexico, China, and across the Muslim world, and the American Left has almost completely ignored it.*

Small wonder that Christians turned to the Republican Party, the only US political group of any serious power consistently opposed to communism, during the middle part of the twentieth century. This coincided with the rise of Evangelicalism, where theologically conservative Christians--and entire congregations--started leaving mainline denominations in droves and establishing their own, independent denominations and cultural presence. The National Association of Evangelicals was founded in 1947, if that helps to put things in perspective. So we've got this emergent religious movement, which happens to be pretty concerned with missions, coming into being in the 1940s-60s, and when it looks around for political protection from what it views to be an absolutely existential threat... the Democrats look useless if not downright dangerous. McCarthy may have been on a witch hunt, but people were legitimately concerned about the infiltration of the Democratic party. Even organized labor had communist overtones, and guess who labor supports?

But Hicks is also right in observing that religious conservatives and the Republican Party are not exactly natural allies. And though it's taken a while, I think we're starting to see that alliance come apart. Notice that the Tea Partiers don't seem to give two shits about the party establishment. And there's mounting evidence that the broader evangelical movement no longer feels any inherent loyalty to the GOP as a party. Evangelical leaders are becoming more and more comfortable going their own way, e.g. Rick Warren participating in Obama's inauguration.

Most of the rest of Hicks' posts, particularly the ones on homosexuality and abortion, are simply impossible to take seriously. The Roman Catholic Church, which is almost completely immune to his charges because it explicitly teaches that works have a significant role in salvation and has never been a solid GOP demographic, is perhaps the tradition which is the most uniformly opposed to homosexual rights and abortion on demand. The arguments he advances in support of his position can only be adopted if he abandons the hermeneutical framework which he describes in his first post. The result is that he winds up arguing that contemporary Christianity is wrong about its positions on homosexuality and abortion, but he simply does not argue that it is wrong on its own terms, which is what he wants to do.

As a matter of fact, his last three posts don't even work in support of his main thesis, which is that contemporary Christianity has modified its basic tenets to be compatible with Republican ideology, because the church has always believed that homosexual conduct and abortion are wrong. Even worse for him, Protestants stopped believing that contraception was wrong starting in the 1930s, a movement in the entirely opposite direction. So a lot of the things that he seems to dislike the most are, rather than part of some "Faustian bargain," a serious attempt to be faithful to the Bible on its own terms.

The reason the contemporary church makes so much noise about them is not because they've somehow changed their theology, because these have been the Christian positions all along. Rather, the reason for fixation of homosexuality and abortion is that those the points where the church is taking the most heat from secular culture. No one really made that much noise about homosexuality in the seventeenth century, because it was viewed by pretty much the entire society to be abnormal and morally repugnant. It just wasn't something the church viewed as being particularly dangerous. Instead, you saw imprecations against popery and witchcraft, both of which were live issues at the time. Hicks needs to pay a little more attention to his history if he wants to make historical arguments like this.

Let me conclude: I completely agree that the modern evangelical church is morally and spiritually bankrupt and that it has abandoned the historic faith in exchange for political and cultural influence and relevance. But I have significant issues with Hicks' explanation of the theology at work in this process.

*So cut the religious right a little slack in your charges of fear-mongering. Any restriction on religion in the public square looks a lot like how the Soviet Union started out, and as the Left has consistently ignored the persecution of Christians across the globe, the connection is really hard not to make.
posted by valkyryn at 6:35 AM on September 16, 2010 [20 favorites]


They know how to turn teen's sexual anxiety into holy fear. They know how to turn the need for identity into the need for a mantra. They know how to use feelings of isolation to bring kids into groups. And they honestly believe they are doing God's work.

I saw this in the religion of my youth, Orthodox Judaism, as well. Take an ordinary adolescent and teach him that it's wrong to have sexual thoughts, let alone to engage in sex or even masturbation, and all of the sudden you have a kid who thinks there's something seriously wrong with him. And you, of course, have the cure! All he has to do is pray three times a day and spend time learning Torah and of course stop watching movies television and avoid places with women not dressed like Orthodox Jews, etc. etc. And obviously, secular colleges are out of the question -- you wouldn't believe how the women dress there!

And then when I was at a (secular) college, I watched the Chabad organization create a warm, hospitable atmosphere and then draw in the misfits and the outcasts and the socially inept and welcome them into their community... and then turn them Orthodox. It was systematic and it was intentional.
posted by callmejay at 6:36 AM on September 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


Any restriction on religion in the public square looks a lot like how the Soviet Union started out, and as the Left has consistently ignored the persecution of Christians across the globe, the connection is really hard not to make.
I hear you, valkyryn, but the Right has ignored it just as consistently. Other than basing their party's identity around ideological opposition to communism a generation ago, conservatism and Republicanism haven't done jack about persecution of Christians. The awakening of the Protestant Church in the late 70s and early 80s to abortion and euthenasia as "culture war" issues... And the Republican party's deliberate decision to court anti-abortion Protestants and Catholics, did much more, IMO, to broadly shape what we now see as religious/political conservatism than any anti-communism history.

And 'Any restriction on religion in the public square looks like the Soviet menace' is no excuse: any restriction on abortion looks like the witch trials to some people, too. At the end of the day the strongest force for religious intolerance in our country is those self-same Christians who complain that they're being persecuted here in the United States. We're talking about a group that talks about the ACLU hating Christianity even as the ACLU launches suits defending the rights of annoying street-preachers to stake out public places.

I've known them, worked with them, I've been with one of them, and participating in the culture wars was not a way to protect brothers and sisters in Christ threatened by Communists. It was a way to pretend that our actions had the same exciting frission of conflict and danger that theirs did. A generation raised on God's Smuggler couldn't deal with the fact that they were simply disliked, rather than persecuted, so they created a more exciting narrative for themselves.
posted by verb at 6:59 AM on September 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


Guess who's got two thumbs and makes sweeping generalizations?

This guy.
posted by verb at 7:08 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Other than basing their party's identity around ideological opposition to communism a generation ago, conservatism and Republicanism haven't done jack about persecution of Christians.

Politically? No, not a bit. Which is actually one of the reasons a lot of serious theological conservatives are starting to feel a bit betrayed, realizing the Faustian nature of the bargain their fathers made.

But concern with the persecution of the global church does animate a lot of serious Christians. Missionaries are careful to use bcc: fields and avoid discussing the nature of their work if they're in a closed country. There are missionaries and missionary agencies whose work is devoted, at least in part, to serving the persecuted church, and churches across the country play host to refugees from persecuted areas.

Again, the political and religious activities are something of a disjunction here, but I don't think it's accurate to say that the concern with persecution is entirely disingenuous. It may be for some people, particularly the more public ones, but for plenty it isn't.
posted by valkyryn at 7:48 AM on September 16, 2010


Valkryn wrote: Any restriction on religion in the public square looks a lot like how the Soviet Union started out ...

Er, do you actually know how the Soviet Union started out? You seem to have the idea that it involved some sort of gradual imposition of a secular tyranny upon citizens of Russia.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:57 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


You seem to have the idea that it involved some sort of gradual imposition of a secular tyranny upon citizens of Russia.

Give me a little credit. All I was getting at was that Soviet persecution was not uniform or constant, and that what started with overt and mutual tensions between the organized Russian Orthodox church and the Soviet state did not immediately translate into wider religious persecution. Even concerning the Orthodox, most of the worst atrocities do not appear to have happened until the late 1930s. Over the next few decades, the degree of persecution would wax and wane.
posted by valkyryn at 8:05 AM on September 16, 2010


joe lisboa: “The early Church specifically positioned itself as a distinct alternative to the so-called pagan pursuit of wisdom that the Stoics, Epicureans and others working in the Greek tradition embodied, or at least sought to. Wisdom is not the goal, here...”

Fair enough; I was tired, too, so I was grasping a bit. I still think the Church aims at 'wisdom,' though I agree that that's very subjective and it's up for debate what 'wisdom' means. However, my point is sort of separate from that – I meant to indicate that the Church asserts that you can't really understand the Bible unless you believe it and follow it. And one may well disagree with that assertion; still, I think it's a possibility that it's worth remaining open to, and you can't explain Christianity (as the author of the essay here tries to) without at least confronting it.
posted by koeselitz at 8:28 AM on September 16, 2010


The Roman Catholic Church ... is perhaps the tradition which is the most uniformly opposed to homosexual rights....

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is a departure from the natural law; but it also teaches that no unjust discrimination against them is permissible. By this they mean that discrimination that isn't necessary to fulfill Catholic teaching, such that a civil law against gay marriage may be permissible, but firing someone for the simple fact of being gay wouldn't be. "We call on all Christians and citizens of good will to confront their own fears about homosexuality and to curb the humor and discrimination that offend homosexual persons. We understand that having a homosexual orientation brings with it enough anxiety, pain and issues related to self-acceptance without society bringing additional prejudicial treatment." Human Sexuality: A Catholic Perspective for Education and Lifelong Learning 55 (1991). The Church won't perform gay marriages any time soon, but priests are permitted great latitude in their approach to pastoral care of gay persons, and there are a great number of parishes throughout the country and the world where gay men and women are accepted. My RCIA director, in fact, used her position on gay marriage as an example of how the Doctrine of Conscience plays out. A friend of a friend, who is openly gay, used to be on the Parish Council at St. Teresa d'Avila in Chicago. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a pastoral letter called "Always Our Children" to parents of gay teenagers insisting that it is unacceptable to reject them or their orientation in anyway: you may not stop loving them, you may not kick them out, you may not force them into therapy, you may not interpret labels like "gay" or "lesbian" through a political lens; it also reaffirms that chastity is a principle that applies to everyone, with the logical conclusion that gay sex outside of marriage is no worse than straight sex outside of marriage.

When you compare this to almost any evangelical denomination and a great number of mainstream Protestant ones, I think it's pretty clear that the Catholic Church is a bit more progressive than you give it credit for.

valkyryn needs to pay a little more attention to his doctrine if he wants to make doctrinal arguments like this. Let me conclude: I completely agree that the modern Catholic church is deficient in how it treats gay persons. But I have significant issues with valkyryn's explanation of the teachings.
posted by thesmophoron at 8:34 AM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Jimmy Havok: “What beautiful cover. ‘My interpretation, no matter how at odds it may be with the actual words that are written down, is the true one, because I am a disciple of Christ. Your interpretation, on the other hand, no matter how true it is to the actual words that are written down, is false, because you are not a disciple. Now go, my minions, and kill in the name of Jesus!’”

It may seem like a "cover" to you, or like some sort of 'convenient fiction,' but the fact is that life is often like this. Sometimes things have to be experienced to be understood. Is that so strange a thing to believe?
posted by koeselitz at 8:42 AM on September 16, 2010


valkyryn needs to pay a little more attention to his doctrine if he wants to make doctrinal arguments like this.

I am aware of the position you describe and completely on board with it. But Rome does not accept homosexuality as normative, homosexual marriage as legitimate, or homosexual conduct as moral. And it never has. So Hicks' argument that homosexuality was somehow transformed into an issue for Christians around 1950 is just wrong.
posted by valkyryn at 9:02 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've read Brad Hicks on LJ and posted in his comments for years (or until he stopped posting on anything resembling a regular basis). He's not Christian, he's a Hellenistic Reconstructionist pagan.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:14 AM on September 16, 2010


So Hicks' argument that homosexuality was somehow transformed into an issue for Christians around 1950 is just wrong.

The Mattachine Society was founded in 1950, but I'd be surprised if there was much attention spent on homosexuality before Stonewall ('69). It wasn't really an issue for most people (excepting, obviously, homosexuals) until around then.

The rise of homosexuals as a self-identified group prompted a counter-reaction amongst people who previously thought of it as a personal failure, but now saw it as a potentionally threatening 'movement.' That reaction is what Hicks is talking about.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:23 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why are churches able to use soup kitchens as outreach? Because no one else is feeding these people!

It depends where you live. It's not hard to find free, secular food in San Francisco. I donate to the SF Food Bank, and Food Not Bombs is out with free food A LOT. You may have to suffer through some pacifism, however.

I straight up don't appreciate when one kind of Christian (or in this case, a non-Christian who is code switching) tells other Christians that they're going to "burn in Hell".

I don't appreciate when Christians tell me I'm going to "burn in Hell."
posted by mrgrimm at 9:23 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Separation of church and state are critical to our survival as a country and a people. Just sayin'.
posted by flyawaygal at 9:32 AM on September 16, 2010


Of course, I'm now thinking about how the dirty, commie, hippies in Food Not Bombs are more "Christian" than a lot of actual "Christians" ... (I guess that makes sense, since Jesus was a dirty, hippie, commie homo himself.)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:33 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't appreciate when Christians tell me I'm going to "burn in Hell."

I don't appreciate it, either. But I have to ask: What sort of situations are you in where someone is telling you that you're going to "burn in Hell?" The reason I ask is that I know without question that every Evangelical Christian on the planet thinks that I'm going to burn in Hell, and I know lots of Evangelical Christians, but I have never, that I recall, been told by anyone that I'm going to "burn in Hell," aside from once when I was about 6 years old, when a Catholic friend told me something to that effect as a substitute for swearing at me about some petty fight over Legos or something.

I assume that I'm just not participating in the sort of social situations that you are, and that accounts for my never having been told that. Seriously, what sort of situations are you in where someone is telling you that you're going to "burn in Hell?" Are you trolling Evangelical Christian internet forums or something?
posted by The World Famous at 9:35 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, what sort of situations are you in where someone is telling you that you're going to "burn in Hell?"

A lot of young people with good intentions get their start in political activism by volunteering as escorts at medical clinics. It happens there. (Not as much as depicted, but it happens.)

People with literature or on missions (Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons) have told me that I'm going to hell, but I engaged in conversation with them willingly. (They started it.) Usually on buses.

I once took up an offer from two students in college to discuss Jesus Christ. In that (very civil) conversation they told me I was going to hell.

But to support your point, only the protestors told me (and it wasn't really directed at me personally) that I was going to "burn" in hell. The others just said I'd be going there.

Also, although I do mostly agree with your general point (I think most Christians are pretty good people, and don't sentence other people to hell; heck, a lot probably don't even believe in it), Christians indirectly tell me that I'm going to burn in hell all the time. They're not mentioning me specifically, but watch your local religious broadcasting channel. I would bet you'll find someone talking about non-Christians burning in hell very soon.

/derailapology
posted by mrgrimm at 9:47 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


So what does the Bible say about the intentional termination of a pregnancy? Nothing. That's right, nothing. It never comes up.

Wrong. Very wrong.

Off the top of my head:

From Numbers 5:

"Concerning an Unfaithful Wife

11 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 12Speak to the Israelites and say to them: If any man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him, 13if a man has had intercourse with her but it is hidden from her husband, so that she is undetected though she has defiled herself, and there is no witness against her since she was not caught in the act; 14if a spirit of jealousy comes on him, and he is jealous of his wife who has defiled herself; or if a spirit of jealousy comes on him, and he is jealous of his wife, though she has not defiled herself; 15then the man shall bring his wife to the priest. And he shall bring the offering required for her, one-tenth of an ephah of barley flour. He shall pour no oil on it and put no frankincense on it, for it is a grain-offering of jealousy, a grain-offering of remembrance, bringing iniquity to remembrance.

16 Then the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the Lord; 17the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. 18The priest shall set the woman before the Lord, dishevel the woman’s hair, and place in her hands the grain-offering of remembrance, which is the grain-offering of jealousy. In his own hand the priest shall have the water of bitterness that brings the curse. 19Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, ‘If no man has lain with you, if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while under your husband’s authority, be immune to this water of bitterness that brings the curse. 20But if you have gone astray while under your husband’s authority, if you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has had intercourse with you’— 21let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse and say to the woman—‘the Lord make you an execration and an oath among your people, when the Lord makes your uterus drop, your womb discharge; 22now may this water that brings the curse enter your bowels and make your womb discharge, your uterus drop!’ And the woman shall say, ‘Amen. Amen.’

23 Then the priest shall put these curses in writing, and wash them off into the water of bitterness. 24He shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter her and cause bitter pain. 25The priest shall take the grain-offering of jealousy out of the woman’s hand, and shall elevate the grain-offering before the Lord and bring it to the altar; 26and the priest shall take a handful of the grain-offering, as its memorial portion, and turn it into smoke on the altar, and afterwards shall make the woman drink the water. 27When he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall discharge, her uterus drop, and the woman shall become an execration among her people. 28But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be immune and be able to conceive children.

29 This is the law in cases of jealousy, when a wife, while under her husband’s authority, goes astray and defiles herself, 30or when a spirit of jealousy comes on a man and he is jealous of his wife; then he shall set the woman before the Lord, and the priest shall apply this entire law to her. 31The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman shall bear her iniquity."

Exodus 21:22-24:
"When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. 23If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot"

The issue is not that abortion isn't mentioned in the Bible - the issue is that the Bible is clearly at odds with the Pro-Life movement's demands.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:51 AM on September 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


I assume that I'm just not participating in the sort of social situations that you are, and that accounts for my never having been told that. Seriously, what sort of situations are you in where someone is telling you that you're going to "burn in Hell?" Are you trolling Evangelical Christian internet forums or something?
Uuuuhhhhhmmmmmm.... Mayyyyybe?
posted by verb at 9:52 AM on September 16, 2010


Seriously, what sort of situations are you in where someone is telling you that you're going to "burn in Hell?"

I get that from the 'missionary' guys (and they're always guys, oddly) that are handing out tracts downtown.

Now, I may be partially responsible because I usually tell them, "Piss off, I'm Catholic" (nominally) to cut them short. (It does occasionally backfire, though, usually with the younger ones who think they've got a chance.)

Now that I think of it, there was a time I was living in a small town and we had a couple of those Mormon bicycle missionaries. At the time, my housemate and I were fascinated by the history of Vatican II and were reading, e.g., Papal Bulls for the fun of it. One of the Mormons approached my housemate and he invited them over to discuss things. They evidently smelled a trap and never came to our house.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:53 AM on September 16, 2010


Jesus was a...commie

Jesus tortured, killed, and imprisoned people for their religious beliefs?
posted by straight at 10:01 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


So cut the religious right a little slack in your charges of fear-mongering. Any restriction on religion in the public square looks a lot like how the Soviet Union started out, and as the Left has consistently ignored the persecution of Christians across the globe, the connection is really hard not to make.

Saying that a State cannot encourage or deny any religion is exactly the opposite of what Communist dictatorships did in the 20th Century. Right wing Christians have been on the wrong side of that argument for a long time now. And as we see from the downtown Manhattan Islamic center controversy, they still are.

As far as martyrdom goes, aren't Christian missionaries aware that they are putting themselves in danger to proselytize their religion? Aren't they glad to do so, and assured of everlasting life in heaven for their good works? If you think that the West is somehow above the persecution of proselytizing foreigners, you're right, but only slightly. Muslims trying to bring Sharia Law to Europe and the United States aren't exactly welcomed with open arms. Why should they treat a group that never shuts up about a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values any differently? We may not slaughter them on American streets, but we're glad to treat them as second class citizens and show callous disregard for the lives of their religious brethren in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead of standing up for the rights of Muslims to proselytize their religion, just as they want their own missionaries welcomed with open arms in Saudi Arabia, the Christian right is busy proving that religious freedom is a one way street for Jesus Lovers Only. As someone who has even a passing knowledge of the hell of Christian sectarian violence in the past, I say that counts for fear mongering, QED.
posted by notion at 10:03 AM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Jesus tortured, killed, and imprisoned people for their religious beliefs?
Knowing a nontrivial number of Christians who live and work in a religious commune, I think you're confusing an Instance with a Class.
posted by verb at 10:03 AM on September 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Other than basing their party's identity around ideological opposition to communism a generation ago, conservatism and Republicanism haven't done jack about persecution of Christians.

But that's still a very big deal to a lot of conservative Christians, they give Reagan credit for hastening the fall of the Soviet Union, ending one of the largest persecutions of Christians in history.
posted by straight at 10:09 AM on September 16, 2010


People with literature or on missions (Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons) have told me that I'm going to hell, but I engaged in conversation with them willingly.

That surprises me (the Mormon part, anyway). The Mormon missionaries who told you that must have been painfully ill-informed about their own religion, since Mormonism doesn't believe in a Heaven-Hell dichotomy or in a place called "Hell."

The word "Hell" does pop up here and there as sort of a metaphorical description of a miserable state of being. But "burn in Hell" is a distinctly non-Mormon phrase. Indeed, we believe that the lowest degree of the afterlife available to nearly everyone who has ever lived is orders of magnitude more glorious than mortal existence and that the only way to go any lower than that is to literally have a 100% certain, first-hand witness of Christ in the flesh and to then apostatize.

Anyway, the specific doctrinal framework is irrelevant - the point is that Mormons don't really believe in "Hell" as a place where people "burn" who are not "saved" in any sense other than the very occasional (and, in my opinion, ill-suited) metaphor. And Mormon missionaries are expressly instructed not to say that sort of thing to people, both for doctrinal reasons and for PR reasons. Mormons (especially missioinaries) are also taught that passing judgment on what someone's afterlife destination or state-of-salvation might be constitutes, in and of itself, a significant transgression. So it surprises me that a Mormon missionary would have told you that you're going to hell or that you're going to burn in hell.

Actually, now that I think about it, I do recall a time or two when I was a Mormon missionary and I was told by a Jehovah's Witness or an Evangelical (I don't remember which - I tried not to talk to either if at all possible) that I would go to Hell if I didn't convert to their religion. But being a missionary is sort of asking for people to tell you your religious beliefs are wrong, I think.

I do have to admit to using "burn in Hell" as a jokey thing to say at times. But that has always been more mockery of religions that use that phrase than anything else.

Uuuuhhhhhmmmmmm.... Mayyyyybe?

I must be missing something. I don't understand what you're linking to there.
posted by The World Famous at 10:13 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Muslims trying to bring Sharia Law to Europe and the United States aren't exactly welcomed with open arms.

This sort of attempt to draw some moral equivalence between the way Muslims are treated in the USA and the way Christians were treated in the Soviet Union is exactly the sort of rhetoric that drove Christians away from the Left.

Yes, we need to do much, much better at ending prejudice against Muslims in this country, but to pretend that it's anything like the persecution Christians faced in China and the Soviet Union is disgusting.
posted by straight at 10:14 AM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't appreciate when Christians tell me I'm going to "burn in Hell."

Yeah, I totally agree, but that doesn't mean I get to gleefully turn it around on them. It's not cool no matter who the target is.

I'm not a Christian any more, by the way. Or rather, I said the Magic Words when I was like 9, and was raised in a Calvinist tradition that sort of muddled through the whole "free will" thing, and now I just don't care.
posted by muddgirl at 10:22 AM on September 16, 2010


I must be missing something. I don't understand what you're linking to there.

[Context Needed]
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:23 AM on September 16, 2010


That reaction is what Hicks is talking about.

No, it isn't. And I quote:
In the opinion of the apostles, and of nearly every Christian scholar from that time until the Republican party takeover of the Church starting in the 1960s, the vast majority of the holiness code, all of the weird little nitpicky details, was not a set of universal laws for all people for all time but a very specific set of laws for a very specific group of people (Jews) in a very specific place (Palestine) during a very specific time (the transition from nomadic tribes to agricultural kingdom).
His thesis is that homosexuality used to be something Christianity didn't care about at all, and the implication was that it was something Christianity was more or less okay with. In more detail, his thesis is that homosexual conduct was always classified in the same way as the dietary laws which were abrogated in Acts.

But that just isn't true. Idolatry, murder, and sexual immorality have always been considered the sort of unholy trifecta of major sins. And with good reason. More than that, you'll find theologians and pastors from every era of which we have records decrying sexual immorality. Granted, homosexuality as such wasn't really something the church had to think about much before the 1950s, but the position has always been the same. He's just wrong here.

His dodge about the translation of the Greek doesn't really help him either, because that translation wasn't really suggested until the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, at least not as far as I can tell. So again, what we have is not the church changing its position to ally itself with the Republican Party, but the church re-emphasizing--and arguably overemphasizing--a position which it has always maintained. Whether or not the position is correct is irrelevant: Hicks' needs the position to be a recent one, and it just isn't.
posted by valkyryn at 10:36 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


His thesis is that homosexuality used to be something Christianity didn't care about at all, and the implication was that it was something Christianity was more or less okay with.

Ooh! Ooh! Is this the part where we get to talk about Dante again!?
posted by The World Famous at 10:39 AM on September 16, 2010


Uuuuhhhhhmmmmmm.... Mayyyyybe?

I must be missing something. I don't understand what you're linking to there.
Sorry, that was a little oblique. There's a smallish evangelical/independent Christian web board that I have been a part of for a little over a decade. As I left the church, I still maintained contacts with friends from that forum. Now there are semi-regular side arguments between some of the less friendly regulars about the fact that I'm going to hell, and whether or not I was ever Really A True Believer.
posted by verb at 10:40 AM on September 16, 2010


Jesus was a...commie

Jesus tortured, killed, and imprisoned people for their religious beliefs?


I may be mistaken here, but the actions of repressive governments attempting to impose communism on their subjects probably shouldn't be conflated with the actual meaning of "communism", which doesn't really speak to torture, killing, or imprisoning people for religious belief at all.
posted by hippybear at 10:48 AM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Is this the part where we get to talk about Dante again!?

I dunno. But the idea suggested above that hell is also a recent or unessential part of Christianity is silly. Augustine certainly believed in it, and there's no evidence to suggest that he is in any way unusual or even the first to arrive at such a conclusion. The Biblical text is pretty suggestive on that front, even to one inclined towards a poetic interpretation.
posted by valkyryn at 10:49 AM on September 16, 2010


the actions of repressive governments attempting to impose communism on their subjects probably shouldn't be conflated with the actual meaning of "communism", which doesn't really speak to torture, killing, or imprisoning people for religious belief at all.

That wasn't a distinction most people were making at the time. Communism was what communists did. "The actual meaning of communism" was essentially conflated with "actions of repressive governments". As far as your standard American was concerned, there was no difference. The belief does not need to have been accurate to motivate a political realignment.
posted by valkyryn at 10:51 AM on September 16, 2010


His thesis is that homosexuality used to be something Christianity didn't care about at all, and the implication was that it was something Christianity was more or less okay with. In more detail, his thesis is that homosexual conduct was always classified in the same way as the dietary laws which were abrogated in Acts.

Yeah-ish.

The brunt of his thesis is how, using their own logic, Fundamentalists ought to behave vs. how they actually do. The crux of this is how the New Testament supersedes the old. So the sexual stuff *should* be treated the same way as the shellfish stuff is.

I think that gets mixed with the more practical approach of *what actually happened.* The Church (or churches) were always against homosexuality, if you asked them, but didn't get so worked up about it until they saw it as a movement, which was fifty to sixty years ago.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:54 AM on September 16, 2010


Jesus was a...commie

Jesus tortured, killed, and imprisoned people for their religious beliefs?

I may be mistaken here, but the actions of repressive governments attempting to impose communism on their subjects probably shouldn't be conflated with the actual meaning of "communism", which doesn't really speak to torture, killing, or imprisoning people for religious belief at all.


I'm no New Testament scholar, but I don't remember Jesus advocating the abolition of centralized government, collective ownership of property, organization of labor, or the necessity of an uprising of the working class to overthrow the Roman government, either. I do recall something about paying taxes to Rome.
posted by The World Famous at 10:55 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Now that I think of it, there was a time I was living in a small town and we had a couple of those Mormon bicycle missionaries. At the time, my housemate and I were fascinated by the history of Vatican II and were reading, e.g., Papal Bulls for the fun of it. One of the Mormons approached my housemate and he invited them over to discuss things. They evidently smelled a trap and never came to our house.

Heh. When my folks were first married, they were hanging out with another married couple they were good friends with, and everyone had gotten pretty tipsy when the Mormon missionaries knocked on the door. They excitedly let them in and kept leading them along, until the new puppy came over and lifted his leg on the picture of Joseph Smith. The meeting kind of ended there.

Incidentally, when I was a kid I remember asking my Christian, Republican mom, "hey, wouldn't Robin Hood count as a communist?" "Yes, she replied. But then again, so would Jesus. Well, maybe not communist, but Jesus was definitely Socialist."

My folks are still Christian, but no longer Republican.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm no New Testament scholar, but I don't remember Jesus advocating the abolition of centralized government, collective ownership of property

Well, Jesus maybe didn't talk about that, but in a recent comment in another thread, I do point out that the early Christian church certainly did advocate communal living, under threat of divine retribution.
posted by hippybear at 11:01 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Communal living and Communism are not quite the same thing.
posted by The World Famous at 11:03 AM on September 16, 2010


Labor unions and Communism aren't either -- but the idea that "Democrats and Communism" are inexorably linked has been thrown around in the original article and in this thread a number of times.

"Jesus was a communist" and "Unions are communist" and "Democrats are socialist" are all equally valid statements. If you're willing to paint with such a broad brush that Bill Clinton and Stalin fall in the same camp, there's no ground for falling back on semantics when Jesus's politics come up.
posted by verb at 11:09 AM on September 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Are you trolling Evangelical Christian internet forums or something?

How else do you suggest I get my kicks?
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:13 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Jesus was a communist" and "Unions are communist" and "Democrats are socialist" are all equally valid statements.

Which is to say that none of the three is even remotely a valid statement, and they are, therefore, equally valid.

If you're willing to paint with such a broad brush that Bill Clinton and Stalin fall in the same camp, there's no ground for falling back on semantics when Jesus's politics come up.

Are you talking to me, or to some other "you?" Asserting that, for example, "the Democratic Party is no more Socialist than Jesus was" (though inaccurate given that the Democratic party is a political movement while Jesus was, for the most part, unconcerned with governmental structure) is a very different statement than "Jesus was a Communist." If you are the one making the assertion, it is preposterous to defend it as accurate by saying that it's just as accurate as the completely-inaccurate statements of your opponent.

How else do you suggest I get my kicks?

Travel my way: Take the highway that is best.
posted by The World Famous at 11:16 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The brunt of his thesis is how, using their own logic, Fundamentalists ought to behave vs. how they actually do. The crux of this is how the New Testament supersedes the old. So the sexual stuff *should* be treated the same way as the shellfish stuff is.

Until the rise of the homosexual rights movement in the middle of the last century, I am not aware of any orthodox theologian who suggested that sexual ethics and dietary laws were in the same analytical category.
posted by valkyryn at 11:22 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, Jesus maybe didn't talk about that, but in a recent comment in another thread, I do point out that the early Christian church certainly did advocate communal living, under threat of divine retribution.

That's lazy exegesis. Even the text you quote says that lying to the Spirit is the problem, as Peter tells her explicitly that she could have kept it herself.
posted by valkyryn at 11:24 AM on September 16, 2010


Are you talking to me, or to some other "you?"
Nah, I'm just talking to the generic "you" -- sorry if I came across differently. ;-)
Asserting that, for example, "the Democratic Party is no more Socialist than Jesus was" (though inaccurate given that the Democratic party is a political movement while Jesus was, for the most part, unconcerned with governmental structure) is a very different statement than "Jesus was a Communist." If you are the one making the assertion, it is preposterous to defend it as accurate by saying that it's just as accurate as the completely-inaccurate statements of your opponent.
Well, that's the thing. I'm willing to roll with whichever definition the person I'm speaking to is more comfortable with. But what I insist on is that they apply it consistently. I know many Christians -- personally -- who insist that our President is a literal Communist. When I clarify that he is not, in any way shape or form, and that actual communists find him basically equivalent to the Republican party in terms of his politics, they explain that they weren't talking about the technical defintion but all sorts of fuzzy things like 'taking from the rich' and 'weakening the military.'

They argue, vigorously, for a definition of 'Communism' so broad that the Biblical Christ and the early Church can literally be considered Communists. They must either accept the implications of their broadened definitions, or acknowledge they were just saying shit to be provocative.

Sadly, I suppose that it's this line of reasoning that brings me back full circle to the original articles that started the thread. Strict literalists want to be literal about things like women not teaching in church, but they're horrified (politically) at the idea of, say, enforcing wasteful and inefficient farming practices to ensure that the poor get free food. (Yay gleaning.)

But at this point I think we're all just sort of swirling around in a big discussion, talking about our pet peeves on either side. Nothing wrong with that, of course.
posted by verb at 12:23 PM on September 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Saying that Jesus is a communist (small C) seems as accurate as claiming that Republicans are a bunch of satanists (small S - the Church of Satan actually has little to do with Satan - CoS doctrine is generally anti-secular-humanist atheism).
posted by muddgirl at 1:23 PM on September 16, 2010


I am not aware of any orthodox theologian who suggested that sexual ethics and dietary laws were in the same analytical category.

Neither am I. Nor is he. What are you on about?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:26 PM on September 16, 2010


China routinely disappears ministers who are not part of the officially sanctioned state church, and meeting together in homes is a dangerous thing to do.

China is not a democracy. They don't promise to safeguard anyone's freedom.

It is Not Cool to round people up and kill them, no matter who they are. Duh. BUT... the missionaries knew what they were getting into. We're not talking about people from China invading the United States here, but rather what looks like, to them, the other way around. Waging a worldwide anti-communist effort for the benefit of missionaries is disproportionate response.

The feeling at the time was to stop it (fundies: the persecution, Republicans: the spread of communism) before it happened here. And believing it would happen here was hysteria, fuel in part by the culture and politicians like McCarthy, but also fueled by the American Church's persecution complex. That persecution complex has been triggered again and again, far beyond reason, and is in large part responsible for their bizarre behavior today regarding Islam and gun rights. To remind, Jesus said the way to respond to persecution was to turn the other cheek in all cases.

verb: I know many Christians -- personally -- who insist that our President is a literal Communist. When I clarify that he is not, in any way shape or form, and that actual communists find him basically equivalent to the Republican party in terms of his politics, they explain that they weren't talking about the technical defintion but all sorts of fuzzy things like 'taking from the rich' and 'weakening the military.'

That's incredibly infuriating. What assholes.
posted by JHarris at 1:51 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Saying that Jesus is a communist (small C) seems as accurate as claiming that Republicans are a bunch of satanists (small S - the Church of Satan actually has little to do with Satan - CoS doctrine is generally anti-secular-humanist atheism).
You know, I grew up in a church where it was said, flat-out, that witches, Hindus, and New Agers were literally Satanists. Because their beliefs were "Satan-inspired."

I'm not saying that makes it correct, but this tendency towards rhetorical bizarro-definitions is something that runs pretty deep in the fundamentalist community. Perhaps it's the need to take a text "literally," but the ability to argue about definitions of words to squirm around tricky problems, that makes it so appealing.
posted by verb at 1:56 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


muddgirl :“I straight up don't appreciate when one kind of Christian (or in this case, a non-Christian who is code switching) tells other Christians that they're going to ‘burn in Hell’. Yes, even if they have Biblical justification. Log in your own eye vs. the speck in your brothers, and all that.”

mrgrimm: I don't appreciate when Christians tell me I'm going to "burn in Hell.’”

muddgirl: “Yeah, I totally agree, but that doesn't mean I get to gleefully turn it around on them. It's not cool no matter who the target is.”

Exactly - in fact, it's the glee that's wrong about it, I think. And this is an important point – one that people seem to miss all the time. A lot of people nowadays seem to resent religion because it speaks of punishments on a grand scale like hell – they resent it that Christians tell them that they might be going to hell, because they think that that's judgmental and condescending. And it can be – in fact, the precise phrase "you're going to hell" is almost always said with condescension.

But it's the condescension that's wrong – not the statement itself. If I am going to hell, and someone knows that I am going to hell, I'd certainly want them to warn me about it. In fact, if they didn't warn me about it, then I'd think seriously about whether I can regard them as a friend.

This is the thing: I've got a family of evangelicals – hell, my sister goes to the infamous New Life Church in Colorado Springs – and I've felt that painful twitch you get when somebody starts keening and moaning over your fate. In point of fact, it's hard when people you care about are convinced that you're going to hell. But I've thought about it, and I am convinced that that difficulty is a necessary part of living among people with whom you might not agree. And any time we disagree with someone we care about on something important, it's the same, even if not so immediately or strikingly. That kind of concern isn't inherently self-righteous; although of course I'm well aware that the point is more often than not raised by self-righteous people.
posted by koeselitz at 1:59 PM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


ChurchHatesTucker: “Neither am I. Nor is he. What are you on about?”

He just meant to indicate that any Orthodox theologian would disagree strongly with Mr Hicks on the status of sexual ethics.
posted by koeselitz at 2:01 PM on September 16, 2010


Exactly - in fact, it's the glee that's wrong about it, I think. And this is an important point – one that people seem to miss all the time. A lot of people nowadays seem to resent religion because it speaks of punishments on a grand scale like hell – they resent it that Christians tell them that they might be going to hell, because they think that that's judgmental and condescending. And it can be – in fact, the precise phrase "you're going to hell" is almost always said with condescension.
I think I need to make extra sockpuppets to keep favoriting this.
posted by verb at 2:03 PM on September 16, 2010


If I am going to hell, and someone knows that I am going to hell, I'd certainly want them to warn me about it. In fact, if they didn't warn me about it, then I'd think seriously about whether I can regard them as a friend.

When the author in the above piece is saying, "You are going to Hell", he's condemning whole churches of people without considering individuals. Even if they are taught what he calls a "false gospel," that does not mean that each individual is a goat.
posted by muddgirl at 2:24 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is Not Cool to round people up and kill them, no matter who they are. Duh. BUT... the missionaries knew what they were getting into. We're not talking about people from China invading the United States here, but rather what looks like, to them, the other way around. Waging a worldwide anti-communist effort for the benefit of missionaries is disproportionate response.

It was almost always the indigenous Chinese Christians who suffered more than the expatriate missionaries. But the missionaries were often the reason the stories of persecuted Chinese Christians were heard in the west.

To remind, Jesus said the way to respond to persecution was to turn the other cheek in all cases.

It's one thing to turn the other cheek when I'm being persecuted. It's quite another to turn my back on someone else who is being persecuted. American Christians saw the anti-Communist movement as, in part, trying to help their defenseless brothers and sisters in Communist-occupied countries.

but also fueled by the American Church's persecution complex. That persecution complex has been triggered again and again, far beyond reason, and is in large part responsible for their bizarre behavior today regarding Islam and gun rights.


This, however, I agree with 100%. It's pretty amazing and pathetic how Christians in America can convince themselves they are a persecuted minority.
posted by straight at 2:25 PM on September 16, 2010


It's pretty amazing and pathetic how Christians in America can convince themselves they are a persecuted minority.

The majority of Americans are Christians, but Fundamentalist Christians aren't a majority. And they've traditionally been regarded as low-class, wrong-side-of-tracks denominations. (A higher proportion of their membership is poor or lower middle class than other protestant churches, and there's a good bit of class prejudice that goes along with that.)

I don't think "mainline" prostestant churches in the US feel persecuted at all.
posted by nangar at 3:31 PM on September 16, 2010


He just meant to indicate that any Orthodox theologian would disagree strongly with Mr Hicks on the status of sexual ethics.

Oh, I see. Hence the non-sequitur about Orthodox theologians and their views on sexual ethics.

You should probably know that my poly-blend suit isn't Kosher.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:34 PM on September 16, 2010


You should probably know that my poly-blend suit isn't Kosher.

It's more kosher than my bacon speedo, buddy.
posted by The World Famous at 3:38 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's more kosher than my bacon speedo, buddy.

Hrm, I don't think something can be 'more' or 'less' kosher. From what I understand it either is or isn't.

Also, I'm clearly overdressed.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:48 PM on September 16, 2010


Hrm, I don't think something can be 'more' or 'less' kosher.

Even though I don't believe in kashrut laws, I would be happy to write a 5-part internet article, without cites, explaining why everyone but me totally interprets kashrut law wrong. Something can totally be more or less kosher.
posted by The World Famous at 3:52 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Link?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:14 PM on September 16, 2010


the essence of being a Christian cannot be summed up by cherry picking a few verses out of the Bible, especially not by an outsider. The essence of being a Christian is the experience of a life lived in dialogue with the Bible and the community of other people trying to do the same.

What Hicks objects to is people cherry picking a few verses out of the Bible and ignoring everything else, in fact, going completely counter to everything else. If that's a "life lived in dialogue with the Bible," the Bible doesn't seem to be getting many words in edgewise.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:23 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jimmy Havok wrote: What Hicks objects to is people cherry picking a few verses out of the Bible and ignoring everything else, in fact, going completely counter to everything else.

Yes, but his interpretation only works because he ignores other verses. There really are bits of the Christian scriptures which imply that faith saves, works aren't necessary. For instance, there's the famous bit in Luke 23:38-43 about the thief on the cross. Every branch of Christianity has found it necessary to emphasise some passages and pass over other ones, and I can't see how he could honestly claim otherwise.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:41 AM on September 17, 2010


Just an aside, but all through the essay I was wondering whether he'd deal with the possibility that Christianity might exist without being so heavily emphatic on scripture. Yes, evangelicals misunderstand scripture; but ironically the whole 'sola scriptura' thing is more of a protestant deal than it is a Christian deal. The Orthodox Churches (and the Catholic Church as well) are much more balance, teaching that there is an extent to which the Church and the body of Christians are a source of tradition and of the essence of Christianity. That adds an essential context, I think, that one doesn't get in evangelical protestantism.
posted by koeselitz at 1:20 AM on September 17, 2010


For instance, there's the famous bit in Luke 23:38-43 about the thief on the cross.

Does that negate the point of Matthew 25:31-46, about how every person in need is Christ, and how you treat those people sets you apart as a sheep or a goat? Does a person who confesses their sins and then walks out and sins again get a free pass every time, especially when their sin consists of encouraging others to sin? There are plenty of passages that say "no," and Hicks's point is that the ethos of the Republican Party is diametrically counter to the ethos of Jesus, right down to the way he forgave the thief on the cross for his sins.

I was raised in the Methodist Church, I've read the gospels, I've read Revelations, I've read Acts. (Paul leaves me cold, I got bored with him pretty quickly.) Everything Hicks says about Scripture is right in line with what I learned.

None of those passages that are used to justify sola fide negate the ones about works, but the ones about works specifically rule out the idea that as long as you claim to be Christian you can do whatever you want and Jesus will be cool with you. In fact, some of the sola fide verses specifically say that professions of faith are not enough.

That line that "I'm a Christian, so I can do whatever I want and claim I'm following Jesus, and you can't say anything about it because you aren't One of Us" is pure bunk.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:53 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jimmy Havok: “That line that ‘I'm a Christian, so I can do whatever I want and claim I'm following Jesus, and you can't say anything about it because you aren't One of Us’ is pure bunk.”

But nobody's saying that you can't say anything about Christianity unless you're a Christian. Much to the contrary.

Frankly, I know evangelicals, and even they never assert this. The trouble is more often with atheists who seem to think that they're better experts on Christianity than the people who actually believe in the stuff. Seriously, I have to face this all the time, and it gets tiresome.

Can't we just respectfully talk about this? Can't I for example say: 'I don't agree with you on X, and I'm not likely to be converted to believing in X, but I accept that you have your own reasons for believing X, and I respect you for it enough not to act like I know X a hell of a lot better than you do'?

“I was raised in the Methodist Church, I've read the gospels, I've read Revelations, I've read Acts. (Paul leaves me cold, I got bored with him pretty quickly.) Everything Hicks says about Scripture is right in line with what I learned.”

I know this is neither here nor there, but hip Paul-hating really annoys me. I know it's popular these days to act as though Paul is the one who made Christianity go sour – to act as though one liked Christianity's "first two albums, but after that..." – but Paul doesn't say anything that the Christ didn't say in the Gospels. Everybody goes on this ridiculous trip about how Paul, one of the most loving and thoughtful writers in history, is some kind of crazy cult-starting guru. I blame Nietzsche, as dear as he is to me, for starting up this nonsense.
posted by koeselitz at 2:11 AM on September 17, 2010


hip Paul-hating really annoys me

I hated Paul 25 years ago. I'm not new to it. He went from being one kind of Zealot to another, so far as I could see. All he did was switch teams.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:08 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


...claiming that Republicans are a bunch of satanists (small S - the Church of Satan actually has little to do with Satan - CoS doctrine is generally anti-secular-humanist atheism).

Isn't the Church of Satan's doctrine based largely on the philosophy of Ayn Rand? If so, Republicanism and Satanism may be closer than we thought.
posted by acb at 5:13 AM on September 17, 2010


The trouble is more often with atheists who seem to think that they're better experts on Christianity than the people who actually believe in the stuff...

There's that, and then there's the zeal of the converted. The latter are at least as bad.

I know it's popular these days to act as though Paul is the one who made Christianity go sour...

See above.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:03 AM on September 17, 2010


The trouble is more often with atheists who seem to think that they're better experts on Christianity than the people who actually believe in the stuff.

Many (and in the US I might even assert a majority) of atheists grew up in a Christian tradition. Many of us have read the Bible. We probably even believed it once. Yes, I think that qualifies us as pretty damned good experts on what the Bible actually says. Sure, we're not experts on what any individual Christian believes, but I don't think individual belief should be important to anyone but that individual. Clearly many people disagree.

I know it's popular these days to act as though Paul is the one who made Christianity go sour – to act as though one liked Christianity's "first two albums, but after that..." – but Paul doesn't say anything that the Christ didn't say in the Gospels

Yeah, I used to be a Paul-hater... until I realized that Paul's letters in all likelihood pre-date the Gospels by quite a bit. It's really fascinating to read Paul's letters without the context of the Gospels or of Acts.
posted by muddgirl at 8:19 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's that, and then there's the zeal of the converted. The latter are at least as bad.

Do you mean the zeal of the converted as referring to enthusiastic and adamant young atheists, or just to religious people?

Many of us have read the Bible. We probably even believed it once. Yes, I think that qualifies us as pretty damned good experts on what the Bible actually says.

Your definition of "experts" is ridiculous. At best, the background you describe qualifies one as an expert on their own memory of what they recall that they understood the Bible to have said, filtered through what they believed, tempered by however biased a reading they may have given it and how much they actually read.

Having read the Bible, or some portion thereof, in some unspecified manner in the past and believed some interpretation of it does not make someone an expert on it in any way, shape, or form. It most certainly does not make them a "pretty damned good expert" on it.

Someone who has an undergraduate and a Master's degree in it is almost in a position to start thinking about the steps they would need to take in order to eventually be qualified to be referred to as an expert on what the Bible actually says. "Biblical Scholar" is a step on the way to "Expert On What The Bible Says." If you haven't reached the former, you haven't reached the latter. And if you've reached the latter, you still have a long way to go before the "Pretty Damned Good" level.

The idea that a former believer, having had no more formal training, study, or qualifications than a current rank-and-file believer, somehow knows more about what they used to believe than a current believer of the same exact faith is one of the most preposterous recurring themes in discussions about religion. For example (and yes, I'm ranting now), I cannot even tell you how aggravating it is as a Mormon to be told that my understanding of Mormon beliefs is totally wrong because the person I'm talking to has a friend who used to be a Mormon "Elder" 20 years ago who said something that contradicts me.
posted by The World Famous at 9:01 AM on September 17, 2010


Do you mean the zeal of the converted as referring to enthusiastic and adamant young atheists, or just to religious people?

It's an old phrase, and refers to the over-enthusiasim of the newly converted (to whatever religion.)

It totally applies to atheists as well, which is why I regard the Evangelical Atheists as a religious group (as opposed to those who are merely disillusioned with their/all religion.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:47 AM on September 17, 2010


Someone who has an undergraduate and a Master's degree in it is almost in a position to start thinking about the steps they would need to take in order to eventually be qualified to be referred to as an expert

True: apologies for my sloppy language.

I consider myself as well-informed about the Bible, considering my own biases, as any laity Christian who is joining a general discussion on the internet or in real life, considering both their biases and the biases of whoever is preaching or leading their Bible study group.

Just because I'm an atheist doesn't mean I've thrown out my Bibles and never refer to the online ones. I recognize that I live in a "Christian nation", and to understand what is going on in the heads of others I must understand their influences. Yes, I have become an atheist but I still know how to read commentaries.

I'm not an expert, but neither is Joe Churchgoer who insists that I couldn't possibly understand because I don't have the faith of Christ in my heart, or whev.
posted by muddgirl at 9:50 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I agree, ChurchHatesTucker. Generally, I think zeal of the converted is a far more substantial obstacle to sound analysis than most people acknowledge.

I consider myself as well-informed about the Bible, considering my own biases, as any laity Christian who is joining a general discussion on the internet or in real life, considering both their biases and the biases of whoever is preaching or leading their Bible study group.

For whatever my own opinion is worth, I tend to agree that you are, based on other comments of yours that I've read on MetaFilter.
posted by The World Famous at 10:02 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


The trouble is more often with atheists who seem to think that they're better experts on Christianity than the people who actually believe in the stuff. Seriously, I have to face this all the time, and it gets tiresome.

koeselitz, as an agnostic, I can honestly say that the indoctrination at most modern churches entirely secular. I grew up as the grandson of a Jehovah's Witness. I've read the bible cover to cover, and read many parts of it multiple times, and not just the New World Translation. (Score one for the JWs. They're a little cultish, but they want you to read the book before you are baptized.) Many atheists and agnostics are the same way -- they don't believe something until after they read it, and many also read it because the Bible is probably the most important book to know if you want to understand Western literature.

Put more simply, agnostics and atheists read the Bible because they do not have a priori faith that it is divinely inspired. Modern Christians place no importance in biblical literacy, because to read the Bible critically is to deny their faith that it is the word of God. I can't tell you how many conversations with self-identified Christians ended because I knew too many scriptures off the top of my head, too many instances that contradicted the bits and pieces they were fed one Sunday at a time. This is by design, for the same reason any corrupted leader wants their flock kept in the dark: it's easier to pick their pockets.

Modern Evangelical Christianity is big business and little else. It can be proven empirically. Go to Joel O'Steen's website. Go to Rick Warren's website. Do you see any serious discussion about obtaining biblical literacy? Do you see anything but advertisements about what YOU should buy in order to make YOUR life better? I cannot even conceive of something so contrary to traditional Christian principles, but it's a heck of a lot easier to sell the idea that God wants you to be rich and happy than it is to sell you the idea that God wants you to endure hardship and still be a good person, and give up your riches for the treasures in Heaven. It's also much easier to make boat loads of money preaching prosperity than the words of Christ.

Here's another way to tell that much of modern Christianity has nothing to do with Christ, and everything to do with money: I have yet to meet a Christian, in person, who knows of the only time Christ displayed his anger.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market! -John 2:13

How many churches are built with bookstores and coffeeshops as part of the building? How many pastors sell their books instead of giving them away to spread the Good News? According to the Bible, if Jesus returned, he would make a whip out of cords and chase nearly every pastor with a microphone out of their own church for turning His Father's house into a marketplace.

Since that Biblical reality is bad for business, you're not going to hear it in a church. Especially not from the wolves in sheep's clothing who have the audacity to tell you that God will provide for them, but only if you provide for the Pastor. You're especially not going to hear Jesus talk about how people who advertise their own goodness and pray in public:

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. -Matthew 6:2


How many millions of people do Joel O'steen and Rick Warren and anyone on TBN pray in front of on a weekly basis?

Almost everyone I've spoken with and read who has studied the bible without "helpful" instruction from someone pushing a particular sectarian message arrives at the same conclusion: the radical ideas that Christ presented were in total opposition to prevailing ethics. He was the first of the messianic rabbis preaching that his victory over the Romans would not be with a sword. He was the first to preach that you do not need a formal organization to communicate with God. He was the first to preach that turning your cheek, fighting injustice with willful suffering, and loving the person who did it to you was the proper ethic for peace loving people. That's why he was hated by the establishment, and that's why his message spread so quickly.

Much of modern Christianity has discarded this philosophy, which is truly revolutionary, in order to turn Jesus into a Get Out of Hell Free Card, who even lets you pass go and grab $200. All you have to do is show up for one hour a week in an airconditioned building, hang out with your friends, listen to some trite lyrics about how loving God is, and of course, give the Pastor some money. Sure, some fraction of that money goes to help the needy, but so does my cup of coffee at Starbucks.

For any outsider, this outrageous, undeniable, and plainly un-Christian hypocrisy is beyond obvious. Just like the Catholic church that preceded them, the new churches have perverted and co-opted Christ for their own material gains in wealth and power.
posted by notion at 10:37 AM on September 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


Here's another way to tell that much of modern Christianity has nothing to do with Christ, and everything to do with money: I have yet to meet a Christian, in person, who knows of the only time Christ displayed his anger.
Does cursing the fig tree count? I love this game!

No snark, just nerdism.
posted by verb at 11:45 AM on September 17, 2010


And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. -Matthew 6:2

How many millions of people do Joel O'steen and Rick Warren and anyone on TBN pray in front of on a weekly basis?

This is exactly the sort of biblical interpretation I was complaining about. Taking a passage and trying to understand it without any connection to the people who try to order their lives around Jesus and the teaching of the scritptures.

When that passage was written down by whoever wrote the Gospel of Matthew, Christians had been engaging in the practice of standing up in a group meeting and praying out loud for at least 50 years. The guy who recorded those words from Jesus had likely spent most of his life at that point worshiping with Christians who prayed that way.

Christians have (with very few exceptions) had an unbroken tradition of praying aloud in groups that stretches back 2,000 years to before the Gospels were written down.

So the idea that you can whip that passage out and claim it obviously condemns any pastor who stands up and prays in public means you interpret the passage differently from the guy who wrote it down in the first place and almost every Christian who has read it for the past 2 millennia. You'll excuse me if I regard you as an outsider who might have some worthwhile criticisms of Christianity but who largely doesn't get it.
posted by straight at 11:56 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is exactly the sort of biblical interpretation I was complaining about. Taking a passage and trying to understand it without any connection to the people who try to order their lives around Jesus and the teaching of the scritptures.

For quite a while, I worked with a guy who listened to a fundamentalist radio station. It was quite interesting stuff, especially the way they explained away all the different passages about the evils of riches. The church that owned the radio station taught prosperity theology, so of course those parts of the scripture were a big problem. Their approach was to say that "riches" was a metaphor for anything that you valued more than God, and that the preacher's own extensive riches, and the riches that you were going to receive as a Christian, were perfectly fine, since, as true Christians, you and he obviously didn't value those riches above God. Now send money, and you will be rewarded by God in proportion to the amount of money you send as proof that you don't value riches above God. Now that is 1) directly contradictory to what the Bible actually says, and 2) incredibly profitable for the person who is preaching it, even as he claims to be following the literal Word of God.

That's the kind of thing Hicks is talking about. He's talking about people who take the Bible as an isolated set of verses, throw out or explain away the ones they don't like, and preach a theology that is directly at odds with the New Testament taken as a whole. And if you really do believe in the Bible as the literal Word of God, those people are condemned in it as false prophets.

And the defense against that critique, as presented by several different people here, is "You're not one of us, so we don't have to listen." That's a position that is very convenient for those false prophets who are living lives of wealth on the backs of their congregations, and perverting a religion for political power.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:59 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


One thing I've discovered since my church-going days is, if you control the context, if you get to put your framing material around it, then you control the content. This is the biggest problem (theologically) with the church these days, the Bible is getting re-framed in all kinds of bizarre ways. slacktivist talks about this a lot in his posts about the dispensationalists.

I remember, when problematic verses came up in church or (depressingly Christian private) school, often someone would be on-hand to interpret them to the Accepted Meaning. What no one asked is, hey, didn't the Protestants complain about this with the Catholic Church?

But this doesn't even matter ultimately. The actual books of the Bible are of such uncertain providence that they basically mean what the early church fathers wanted them to mean. The further I get from my church-going days, the better a critical thinker I've become, the more that the entire structure of Christianity looks like a huge makeshift scaffold build to uphold the faith at whatever cost. The Bible is defined to be infallible axiomatically more to prevent questions of its authority than anything else. That leads to people lending tremendous weight to stupid things like niggling wording differences in random scriptures, and ultimately to people twisting the words to mean what they think they mean, attempting to siphon some of that axiomatic certainty for whatever purposes they have.

Taken on the whole, the Bible is the furtherest thing from an internally-consistent logical argument there can be. It's also not (as I've heard it described) a "guidebook to life," or "book of rules." All kinds of things in it contradict other things. That's why people go to seminary to study and understand it from the perspective of its origins and history. It's a large collection of ancient documents of wildly varying "providence," and attempting to use single verses to decry whatever thing you personally don't like (I call it playing Scripture Tennis) is foolish, just another way to allow you to impose you own meaning upon it through contexting.
posted by JHarris at 1:06 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's another way to tell that much of modern Christianity has nothing to do with Christ, and everything to do with money: I have yet to meet a Christian, in person, who knows of the only time Christ displayed his anger.

It was throwing the money-changers out of the temple. (Of course, I'm not a Christian anymore.)

Jesus was a pacifist, but he does act violently in that case, although he doesn't take physical action against people, only their tables.
posted by JHarris at 1:10 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


straight,

I call shenanigans. What's your scriptural support for Jesus promoting the idea that men should pray in public? If you can't find it in the Bible, or even in a rejected gospel or book from that era, it isn't Biblical. It's just dogma.

"They have their reward" means the hypocrites are receiving what they ask for - the praise of men and not God. How is it possible to not see this as a direct criticism of modern Christianity?
posted by notion at 1:28 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


That's the kind of thing Hicks is talking about. He's talking about people who take the Bible as an isolated set of verses, throw out or explain away the ones they don't like, and preach a theology that is directly at odds with the New Testament taken as a whole. And if you really do believe in the Bible as the literal Word of God, those people are condemned in it as false prophets.

I agree that a lot of fundamentalists are ignorant of where their beliefs come from, of how much their reading of the Bible is dependent on the traditions of the Church or of all the ways their reading of the Bible is at odds with so many other Christians, past and present.

But to me, Hicks is fighting ignorance with ignorance. To the extent that his critiques have merits, they are borrowed from faithful Christians who have spent their lives in submission and dialogue with the Bible and in community with others who are doing the same. But then he tries to cobble together the bits and pieces of wisdom he picked up in seminary into some kind of pseudo-fundamentalist/anti-fundamentalist rant and I just don't think it's very relevant. He doesn't get it.

One thing I've discovered since my church-going days is, if you control the context, if you get to put your framing material around it, then you control the content.

This is true of any community or tradition of inquiry. Try to read modern physics without real physicists giving you context and you get Time Cube Guy. Try to read the Bible without the tradition of people who have been wrestling with it for 2000 years and some of what you get is the worst parts of fundamentalism that Hicks rails against, and some of what you get is the stuff Hicks is saying.
posted by straight at 1:32 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


some of what you get is the stuff Hicks is saying.

I'm curious as to what parts of Hicks's argument you dispute.

So far all I've noticed is "he's not authorized" and "he's cherry picking." The first claim is crap, and the second one depends on the fact that he can't include the entire text of the Bible in his argument.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:36 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you can't find it in the Bible, or even in a rejected gospel or book from that era, it isn't Biblical. It's just dogma.

Yeah, but you can say the same about the Bible.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:41 PM on September 17, 2010


Yeah, but you can say the same about the Bible.
Indeed. It's why Jefferson wrote his own version of the Bible. I believed he called it "separating diamonds from a dung hill."

Getting back to the discussion, the point is that even those who believe that the Bible is literally true are practicing a highly perverted type of Christianity that mirrors the excesses of the Catholic Church during the height of their power. Only now the Bible is in English, everyone is literate, and they all seem too apathetic or too ignorant to study their own words with disastrous results if, in fact, the Bible turns out to be true.
posted by notion at 2:47 PM on September 17, 2010


But to me, Hicks is fighting ignorance with ignorance. To the extent that his critiques have merits, they are borrowed from faithful Christians who have spent their lives in submission and dialogue with the Bible and in community with others who are doing the same.
I agree with your first sentence -- it's the equivalent to saying, "You're lying... so I'll lie to prove how absurd you are!" it's interesting and amusing as an isolated rhetorical technique, the sort of thing that John Stewart's reporters can get away with because of the clearly delineated lines between 'saying this ironically' and 'saying this sincerely.' But unless you're very careful to erect some firewalls around the rhetorical technique, there's nothing to keep the plague from spreading and you're just as much a part of the problem.

Which actually brings us to the second problematic sentence -- you seem to be implying that only faithful practicing Christians can interpret Scripture. People who "have spent their lives in submission and dialogue with the Bible," etc. Unfortunately, that quickly becomes a catch-22. Those who come to conclusions about Scripture or Christian belief that leads them to leave the community of faith are automatically disqualified, even if their practice and study occurred while they were part of the faithful. How is this not a cyclical get-out-of-unfavorable-interpretation-free card?
This is true of any community or tradition of inquiry. Try to read modern physics without real physicists giving you context and you get Time Cube Guy. Try to read the Bible without the tradition of people who have been wrestling with it for 2000 years and some of what you get is the worst parts of fundamentalism that Hicks rails against, and some of what you get is the stuff Hicks is saying.
Physics, though, does not claim that even a small child can understand, or that the foolish who believe in it will confound the wise who are blind to its truths. A physicist can explain to you -- pretty clearly -- what portions of the body of knowledge are working theories that everyone accepts to keep moving forward, what portions are laws that everyone agrees on, and what issues are simply different schools of thought fighting for evidence. In religion -- specifically Sola Scriptura Christianity -- there is no admission of those things. There cannot be, because admitting them would eat away at the premise.

To some extent I understand that you're describing a more Orthodox strain of Christianity, one that embraces the experience of faith in tradition and community. But comparing that embrace of mystery and ambiguity to physics -- a field that is simply complicated, is deeply flawed. In Protestant Christianity, Time Cube Guy declares himself an expert, sets up a church, starts burning Korans, and gets on CNN.
posted by verb at 3:19 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


You'll excuse me if I regard you as an outsider who might have some worthwhile criticisms of Christianity but who largely doesn't get it.

Then you'll excuse me for calling you a hypocrite -- and a terrible Christian -- if you pray in public for the express purpose of calling attention to your own righteousness. Or, you know, what notion said above. While there is no text that fails to require interpretation, this does not mean that every interpretation is equally plausible, meaningful, or insightful. No one is cherry-picking here. Except for those who find the ostensibly Biblical truths they claim to live by might just actually be at odds with their, you know, actual behavior, and who recoil defensively as a consequence, lashing out at those quote-unquote outside of the tradition. I am familiar with the tradition, so much so that I know that is epistemologically indefensible. But keep on with the resentment: Nietzsche loves when you prove him right. Of course, you have to forgive him (and me), but do not worry: your reward is in heaven. Or something.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:32 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is true of any community or tradition of inquiry.

More than that, it's true of all communication.

Try to read modern physics without real physicists giving you context and you get Time Cube Guy.

Those real physicists are also the ones writing the physics books, so your analogy is flawed. They provide content, not context.

Try to read the Bible without the tradition of people who have been wrestling with it for 2000 years and some of what you get is the worst parts of fundamentalism that Hicks rails against, and some of what you get is the stuff Hicks is saying.

Actually no. Read the Bible without that context and you don't get an awful lot out of it, due to the contradictions. You also then don't take it as literal, infallible truth. What you get is a lot of stories, some clearly fictional, but with a ring of truth to some of it. You also get some wonderful poetry, some actual pornography, some ancient lineages, an awesome guy who becomes prominent starting around Matthew whose words are all printed in red for some reason, and then near the end it becomes BATSHIT INSANE.
posted by JHarris at 6:21 PM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm curious as to what parts of Hicks's argument you dispute.

To start with, I disagree with his big boldface paragraph on the first page:

And here is what I say that it says: The gospel that is being taught in almost every evangelical and fundamentalist church in America is a false gospel, and it has condemned tens of millions of people to eternal damnation in the fires of Hell.

As much as I disagree with fundamentalists and evangelicals, I don't agree they are teaching a gospel so false as to lead millions to damnation in the fires of Hell.

I call shenanigans. What's your scriptural support for Jesus promoting the idea that men should pray in public? If you can't find it in the Bible, or even in a rejected gospel or book from that era, it isn't Biblical. It's just dogma.

I reject the fundamentalist claim that anyone can understand the meaning and application of scripture by taking a paragraph and saying, "It seems clear to me from this paragraph that Jesus wants me in the 21st century to do X." Fundamentalists (and other Christians) don't actually use the Bible that way. In practice, their reading and application of the Bible is heavily filtered by Christian tradition. Dogma, as you call it.

I could give you a small window into the two-thousand-year discussion which supports the Christian practice of praying in public. I could point to references to the practice in Paul's letters (written decades before the gospels) as well as in Acts. But I'm not going to say, "Here's my Bible verse that proves I'm right." I'm not going to pretend that the details of Christian practice make sense to someone who has rejected their premises.

Then you'll excuse me for calling you a hypocrite -- and a terrible Christian -- if you pray in public for the express purpose of calling attention to your own righteousness. Or, you know, what notion said above.


What notion actually said, which I quoted in my original objection was:

How many millions of people do Joel O'steen and Rick Warren and anyone on TBN pray in front of on a weekly basis?

God knows whether Osteen and Warren have been praying for the express purpose of calling attention to their own righteousness. I don't think that you, I, or notion know that.

I've got to run right now, I'll try to respond and explain my position in more detail later.
posted by straight at 3:13 PM on September 18, 2010


I could point to references to the practice in Paul's letters (written decades before the gospels) as well as in Acts. But I'm not going to say, "Here's my Bible verse that proves I'm right." I'm not going to pretend that the details of Christian practice make sense to someone who has rejected their premises.
straight, just a point of clarification -- just because someone has rejected the premises of Christianity doesn't mean that the details of Christian practice are a mystery to them, that they don't make sense, or that they are somehow beyond comprehension.
posted by verb at 4:08 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


As much as I disagree with fundamentalists and evangelicals, I don't agree they are teaching a gospel so false as to lead millions to damnation in the fires of Hell.

The guy is a practicing neo-Pagan, did charity work with someone high-up in the Church of Satan, and has a link to Three Fisted Tales of Bob in the sidebar; the chances that he is speaking ironically about his Bible examples and warnings of hellfire are very high. What he's really doing is showing that, even by what they claim to be doing to arrive at their beliefs, the fundamentalist Christian movement is woefully deficient. If the Bible really is literally true, then they are going to Hell, full stop. Since they continue to say what they're saying, then they're ignorant about the true nature of the document they refer to, or they are actually lying.
posted by JHarris at 5:22 PM on September 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


straight,

Now I call bullshit.
I reject the fundamentalist claim that anyone can understand the meaning and application of scripture by taking a paragraph and saying, "It seems clear to me from this paragraph that Jesus wants me in the 21st century to do X." Fundamentalists (and other Christians) don't actually use the Bible that way. In practice, their reading and application of the Bible is heavily filtered by Christian tradition. Dogma, as you call it.
If traditions trump the Word of God, of what use is the Word of God? What man or group of men are entrusted with telling the others what traditions are true or false? Is that person a Catholic? Mormon? Lutheran? Baptist? Gnostic?
I could give you a small window into the two-thousand-year discussion which supports the Christian practice of praying in public. I could point to references to the practice in Paul's letters (written decades before the gospels) as well as in Acts. But I'm not going to say, "Here's my Bible verse that proves I'm right." I'm not going to pretend that the details of Christian practice make sense to someone who has rejected their premises.
You have no scriptural legs to stand on, so your defense is that no can can understand that deep mystery of Christian tradition. Though I have studied it off and on for fifteen years, I have not pled fealty to "tradition" and volunteered to turn of my reasoning brain, though Jehovah directs us to "Come, let us reason together." But to the bawling young teenager still wiping the dampness from behind his ears, as long as he professes faith to believe what you say, you can tell him anything.

As Paul told to Timothy:

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
posted by notion at 6:43 PM on September 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


If traditions trump the Word of God, of what use is the Word of God? What man or group of men are entrusted with telling the others what traditions are true or false? Is that person a Catholic? Mormon? Lutheran? Baptist? Gnostic?
notion, I'm never one to step between someone and a good Sola Scriptura takedown, but it needs to be noted that there are basically three major strains of the Christian Church (unless you accept Mormonism, and that boils down to trinitarian theology more than anything else, but we'll leave it aside for now).

Both the Orthodox and Catholic churches believe that tradition, as captured in the historic practices of the Church, are an essential part of the Christian faith and experience. The details differ in some ways, but the idea is that someone can't simply pick up the Bible and arrive at Christianity any more than someone can pick up Gray's Anatomy and arrive at modern medicine.

A lot of the fundamentalism that's being discussed by the original poster, and that's being nailed in this thread, and that's frustrating to the people talking here, comes from the Protestant side of things, where Sola Scriptura is king. Most Protestant Christians in America aren't even aware that there is a different approach to things, other than The Pope's Brand Of Aberrant Christianity. Ironically they don't realize that they are the aberration, historically and theologically speaking.
posted by verb at 7:17 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


verb,

The issue I take with straight is the pretend mysticism. If you have reason, even in Christian tradition, for saying what you are saying, then there is no plausible excuse for not telling another person what that reasoning is. That's why things like paying for indulgences fell apart under the lightest scrutiny. It's the same reason the Catholic Church denounced as heresy the printing of the scriptures in local native tongues, because it erodes their authority to tell you what the bible says. It's the same reason why the Catholic Church tortured and killed countless thousands, and fomented and backed wars that killed millions. Pure and cynical power politics, of exactly the same type Christ decried as hypocrisy when he was alive. The same political solipsism is now responsible for countless dead and dying victims of AIDS across Latin America and Africa, by people who know that condoms will save lives, but are too attached to dogmatic principle to admit they are wrong.

As a follower of Christ in strictly philosophical terms, I take the time and care to read what the man (probably) said. I even take the time to understand the cultural backdrop of Judaism and it's development as it was exposed to other cultures so I'm getting all of the context possible. I take the time to read early church apologetics and early criticism from outsiders to get more context there. I'm prepared to listen to learn more, but straight makes the unsupported claim that I can't know it because I demand evidence.

So what options are we left with? If straight is denying that the Bible instructs it's followers to reason, and that "all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness," then I demand 1) scriptural support of his claim, 2) early church support in writing, or 3) admission that he is wrong.

Do you know why I demand these things? Because that's what it says to do in the Bible!
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. -Colossians 2:8
Christmas has nothing to do with Christ, it's a union of existing festivals that celebrate the return of spring. That's why you decorate an evergreen tree, and that's why it falls on the Winter Solstice. Easter has nothing to do with Christ, it's also a union of existing traditions that celebrate the spring. That's why you are surrounded by the fertility imagery of eggs and rabbits. You cannot tell me that they are important for God if he decided not to put them in the Bible. And as a follower of Christ, you can't tell me they were important to him if he didn't mention them either. (Keeping in mind remembrance does not equal bunnies and eggs.)

In that same vein, if you're trying to tell me that you are a follower of YHVH, but the things you believe can only be known to people who also believe exactly like you, I. Call. Shenanigans.
posted by notion at 9:17 PM on September 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


notion: “If traditions trump the Word of God, of what use is the Word of God?”

This isn't even a question that makes sense. The Word of God is a tradition. They are one and the same. The whole history of the Church, the Acts of the Saints, the Martyrs, the Desert Fathers, the Apostles, all the way back to the Christ himself – these are traditions. The Word is a written manifestation of that tradition – a manifestation of the thing that exists in whole as the tradition handed down from generation to generation by the Church.

There is no really meaningful distinction to be made between the Scriptures and the Tradition. They are the same thing.

“What man or group of men are entrusted with telling the others what traditions are true or false? Is that person a Catholic? Mormon? Lutheran? Baptist? Gnostic?”

The Scriptures make no claim about this, either; they only claim to teach what is true. In fact they are pointed about this matter, and it is sometimes quite humorous to note how little interested the Scriptures are in creating separations and divisions where there were none before. It only seeks to reveal the truth.

“You have no scriptural legs to stand on, so your defense is that no can can understand that deep mystery of Christian tradition.”

Hey, you're the one who started off this conversation by insisting that believing in the truth of the Bible is ridiculous at best and "disastrous" at literal worst; and now you're insisting that Christians always and everywhere believe that the Bible is the only authority? Putting two and two together, you seem like you're really in a rush to say that Christians are idiots.

Putting it more simply: your retort that straight has "no scriptural legs to stand on" seems more than a little circular to me.

“Though I have studied it off and on for fifteen years, I have not pled fealty to "tradition" and volunteered to turn of my reasoning brain, though Jehovah directs us to "Come, let us reason together." But to the bawling young teenager still wiping the dampness from behind his ears, as long as he professes faith to believe what you say, you can tell him anything. ¶ As Paul told to Timothy: ¶ ‘You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’”

Then you have to be aware that you're quoting probably the most-misquoted and most-misinterpreted verse in the whole Bible. I have a hard time believing you haven't considered what exactly Paul could possibly have meant by "the writings" considering that the reference certainly doesn't seem to be some newly-written but unmentioned Gospels, nor of course to the actual text of the letter to Timothy and all the other letters that form the Scriptures now. Although in fact – oddly enough – the reference does seem to be to the text of Timothy – because Paul doesn't say “the Jewish scriptures,” or “the Torah,” or even “the holy Scriptures from ancient times.” In the oft-quoted bit, the bit that seems the most pointed to me, he simply says “the Scriptures” – which of course doesn't mean Scriptures but actually means "writings."

What Paul says in this verse is that all writings are God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Which is exactly the kind of shocking, strange, amusing stuff that Paul is constantly saying, though sadly almost nobody notices it anymore.
posted by koeselitz at 12:24 AM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


notion: “So what options are we left with? If straight is denying that the Bible instructs it's followers to reason, and that "all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness," then I demand 1) scriptural support of his claim, 2) early church support in writing, or 3) admission that he is wrong. ¶ Do you know why I demand these things? Because that's what it says to do in the Bible!”

This is ridiculous. And one of the greatest Christians who ever lived, Saint Thomas Aquinas, explained clearly why: because in argument you cannot assume premises that those you wish to convince do not accept. Why argue on the basis of scripture with people who do not accept the primacy of scripture? It makes no sense.

“Christmas has nothing to do with Christ, it's a union of existing festivals that celebrate the return of spring. That's why you decorate an evergreen tree, and that's why it falls on the Winter Solstice. Easter has nothing to do with Christ, it's also a union of existing traditions that celebrate the spring. That's why you are surrounded by the fertility imagery of eggs and rabbits. You cannot tell me that they are important for God if he decided not to put them in the Bible. And as a follower of Christ, you can't tell me they were important to him if he didn't mention them either. (Keeping in mind remembrance does not equal bunnies and eggs.)”

Christmas has everything to do with Christ; it's the season and the feast-day when his birth has been celebrated by many generations of Christians. Easter has everything to do with Christ; it's been a celebration of the day of his sacrifice and triumph for thousands of years. Christ has everything to do with these human celebrations of moments in time because the Christ is God become Man.

One of the major misunderstandings of the Scriptures (since you seem to be so into them, I'll talk to you about them) that seems particularly prevalent in our time is the misconception that the Christ represented God become a man. He did, but in an ancillary sense; the point is that the Christ represented God become Man, that is, God become humanity itself, with all of the attendant meaning in that phrase. Hidden like gems in the muddled and confused traditions of the Protestants there still exist echoes of this original significance; so they tell us to "accept Him into our hearts" because they were once taught that in Christ's birth and death he became the human part of us, such that it is now the choice of every human being who exists to either reject this part of ourselves or accept it and enter into a relation with the Godhead. This has been the teaching of the Church Fathers from the beginning – in us are enacted all the stations of His life: he is born in us every moment; he lives in us every moment; he performs his miracles in us every moment; he is crucified in us every moment; and every moment, within our chests, he rises again. The path of every Christian is to accept and to inbreathe this truth about ourselves.

But there are necessary sacrifices and responsibilities that come with that path. For one, when the awareness of the presence of the Christ is understood and made a constant reality, we no longer have the option of rejecting all of humankind. We find ourselves compelled to love humankind, and to accept as good and right the things they do that bring them closer to Him. That means accepting His Church – as painful as that might sometimes be for some of us, as difficult and as harrowing. (It has always been painful and difficult for me.) It means accepting that people must find truth where it comes to them, and must make use of things that may seem to us sometimes to be unworthy.

And, yes: it means accepting that there is beauty in these things, in the Pagan-inspired holidays, in the strange rituals and accretions of tradition, in the odd robes and weird incense and all the rest. There is beauty in them because they're the practice of a tradition that has been the only thing that can bring this into the lives of millions of people. And we're not called to hate those people; we're called to love them.

This is the point of the Christ-story: that the absolute, the infinite, the never-ending, the all-knowing, came down into these tiny particles and miniscule molecules, into this fabric that makes up our reality, and it wove itself into that fabric so deeply and so miraculously that we, finite, truculent creatures though we may be, can see God. The Holy Scriptures proclaimed this thousands of years ago: that God had become Man. If you believe that, then you have to accept the sometimes inconvenient corollary that God has a habit of being found in the most outrageous and egregious places, and that he can often shockingly be discovered in the strangest and least fit places if we only keep our eyes open to this promise. As one of the prophets once said: the East belongs to God; and the West belongs to God – so wheresoever you turn, there is His face! – so there he is, even amid the traditions of the Christians. Which is in itself shocking nowadays. I think I know Paul well enough (I hope I do, anyway) to say that I'm certain he would have laughed about this.
posted by koeselitz at 12:51 AM on September 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


But there are necessary sacrifices and responsibilities that come with that path. For one, when the awareness of the presence of the Christ is understood and made a constant reality, we no longer have the option of rejecting all of humankind. We find ourselves compelled to love humankind, and to accept as good and right the things they do that bring them closer to Him. That means accepting His Church – as painful as that might sometimes be for some of us, as difficult and as harrowing. (It has always been painful and difficult for me.) It means accepting that people must find truth where it comes to them, and must make use of things that may seem to us sometimes to be unworthy.

Our LOLXIAN abuse here has been heaped on people who, through their very obvious public actions, reject what you are saying here, even as they publicly proclaim their devotion to it. I may not believe in the Godhead in Man, but I can respect people who live it, and because of that I feel only the deepest contempt for people who abuse the idea for their own gain, and for their victims who allow themselves to be manipulated through appeals to their worst impulses and emotions.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:10 AM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


to start with, I disagree with his big boldface paragraph on the first page:
And here is what I say that it says: The gospel that is being taught in almost every evangelical and fundamentalist church in America is a false gospel, and it has condemned tens of millions of people to eternal damnation in the fires of Hell.
That's not his argument, that is his conclusion. His argument is that if we look at the entire New Testament, all the teachings of Jesus as a consistent whole, they are entirely at odds with Conservative Christian practice, and if we take those teachings as divine truth, then we can only conclude that Conservative, Republican-allied Christian leaders are condemning themselves at the minimum, and their followers at worst, to Hell.

Your rebuttal of that has been two-fold, one a claim that he has no authority to speak on the matter (an inversion of the fallacy of appeal to authority, but just as fallacious), and second, that he is merely cherry-picking a few isolated verses to make his point. Now, Hicks obviously can't quote the entire New Testament, but as someone who has read significant portions of it, I have to say that I find his characterization of the teachings of Jesus to be much more accurate than those of the Republican-allied Christians he is critiquing.

Your rebuttal breaks down to a claim that only appeals to authority are valid arguments. Perhaps we could construct a logic that worked that way, but the only "work" it would actually do is serving the interests of whoever was designated as an authority.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:43 AM on September 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hmm. This is gettin' far into tl;dr territory for me, so I would just like to say:
¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶¶
posted by JHarris at 2:26 AM on September 19, 2010


There is no really meaningful distinction to be made between the Scriptures and the Tradition. They are the same thing.
So the tradition of pedophile priests getting away with rape without punishment under the Tradition of the Catholic church is the same as the Scriptures? Come now. No one is buying that schlock. While Christ would certainly still love those Priests as human beings, I'm fairly sure he would support Scriptural rebuke of such practices, again, because that's what he did:
"Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.'"

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men. And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!" -Mark 7
It is absolutely staggering to me how you can talk for paragraphs, spouting mystical post-modern reinterpretations of Jesus' life, and decide that it's more important than what he did, what he said, and what he told others to do. In effect, you make Jesus' words meaningless and impotent, because you attach more meaning to your imagination and your human traditions than to the guy you supposedly follow. This whole Buddy Jesus message where everything is okay, and doing the absolute least you can do to get into heaven may be the current tradition, but if you appeal to the authority of what Jesus himself said, that argument doesn't even hold marbles.

Now, we can get into arguments over what Paul exactly meant, even though it's doubted by some that he wrote 2 Timothy. But how is it that the authority of that scripture carries weight for you if the rest does not? It would be awfully convenient if your own ideas trumped anything in the Bible.

...

I feel a little bit insane saying that because I do believe that the Jefferson Bible is a more accurate representation of Jesus than the KJV or NIV. I think that the history of Judaism and the early Church belief in diabolical mimicry perfectly explains the development of that religion, and the attachment of pagan beliefs to the historical Jesus. But for anyone who's claiming that Jesus is God, drove out demon spirits into pigs, cured blindness, raised the dead, and himself was raised from the dead, it's hard to reasonably arrive at the conclusion that the rest of the claims of the bible can be discarded out of convenience for modern lifestyles.
posted by notion at 8:51 AM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


So the tradition of pedophile priests getting away with rape without punishment under the Tradition of the Catholic church is the same as the Scriptures?
No, but launching wars of agression against people is no longer Church Tradition either, and that's certainly in the Scriptures. The point is that tradition and Scripture can't realistically be treated as two separate entities the way Fundamentalists pretend. That's what a number of people have been pounding on throughout this thread, and what you seem to be taking offense at.
In that same vein, if you're trying to tell me that you are a follower of YHVH, but the things you believe can only be known to people who also believe exactly like you, I. Call. Shenanigans.
I would agree: that's the heart of Gnosticism, really. But I don't see straight or anyone else in this thread claiming that. What I see them claiming is stuff that you could construe as being kind of like that, but no one has been claiming that "understanding Scripture" is a secret privilege of the initiated.

What people have said is that you can't simply take the raw text, extracted from the context in which it was written, shaped, and practiced, and pretend that you have The Whole Kit And Kaboodle, Ready To Be Analyzed. Church tradition shaped what is the Scripture, after all.
posted by verb at 9:04 AM on September 19, 2010


Church tradition shaped what is the Scripture, after all.

and even what isn't scripture shaped church doctrine. A certain amount of Christian cosmology (from what I understand) is influenced by the Book Of Enoch, which isn't really canon to much of Christianity.

But all this aside, the basic conceit of the essay(s) listed in the FPP is more about politics and religion and how they mix than strictly about christian doctrine. And THAT is what I find most interesting about the essays. They really do make a lot of the situation in which we currently find ourselves more clear, as there is this element within US politics which purports to be based in a religious tradition but seems to work against the very tradition it claims to be part of. And the roots of that alignment, coming out of fear of communism (which maybe shouldn't be feared, but certainly was cast in the role of "that which we are against" decades ago) and its influences on even today's conception of what the political parties stand for... THAT is what is most interesting to me.
posted by hippybear at 11:15 AM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


verb,

In the context of this essay, the author was saying that if you're a fundamentalist and practicing modern Christianity, you are more or less sentencing yourself to Hell. Everyone saying you can't treat scripture and tradition separately isn't a fundamentalist, so they are responding to an argument that doesn't apply to them. If traditions cannot be treated separately from scripture, then there is no such thing as scripture, just older and newer writings. (I tend to agree with that statement - the councils were made of men, after all.)

In essence, you are either in the circular logic of the Bible being inerrant because the Bible says it is inerrant, or you are not. But the moment you break that cycle, you have no justification for pretending that anyone else's interpretation is incorrect. By that definition, a Muslim is a Christian, and a Baha'i adherent is as well, since they accept and deny various claims that Jesus made.
posted by notion at 11:33 AM on September 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


launching wars of agression against people is no longer Church Tradition either

I wonder if you noticed the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq? I was listening to that Christian radio station when they were happening, and they were presented as part of a universal culture war that Christendom must win. That culture war is still being preached among the Conservative Christians, with great enthusiasm toward an attack on Iran being its latest aspect.

These are the people Hicks is talking about. Either they are Christians, and thus representatives of a Christian tradition, or he is right and they have perverted Christian doctrine to the point that it is no longer Christian.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:43 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fundamentalism is a tradition. The version of Sola Scriptura that many fundamentalists hold up (and that notion seems to want me to follow) is not an accurate description of how they actually read and interpret the Bible.

If you give someone a Bible and have them read it without a pastor or teacher guiding them, they will never on their own come up with a system of beliefs that a fundamentalist would say is correct. The only way someone comes to believe what fundamentalists call the "plain, literal" meaning of the Bible is if they have someone at their elbow telling them, "First read Romans 3:23, then read John 3:16..." Their reading of the Bible must be guided and interpreted by the fundamentalist tradition. And although it deviates in many places, the fundamentalist tradition still owes a great deal to the historic Christian tradition from which the Orthodox and Roman Catholics openly acknowledge their descent.

If you look at the passage from the Gospels quoted above about praying in public, some people interpret that to mean that Christians should never pray in public. Others interpret the passage to be primarily concerned with motive, meaning that Christians should never pray publicly to impress other people.

There is no scientific experiment we can do to determine which of these interpretations is correct. No matter how many years you spend in seminary, you will never be able to say, "This is the interpretation that anyone with a PhD in New Testament Studies will agree is correct." A fundamentalist will pick one, call it "the obvious literal meaning of the text," and accuse anyone who disagrees of willfully misreading it.

What is required to decide between these interpretations is judgment and wisdom. Christians believe it requires the kind of wisdom that only comes though a life devoted to God and and the scriptures and the community of believers. This is not some mystical, anti-intellectual process. It involves discussion and debate and the use of reason, but in the context of a lifetime of character formation in the virtues that produce wisdom.

What is true for the interpretation of a single passage is even more true for an attempt to proclaim the true essence of the the Gospel and how it should be applied to contemporary debates about politics and social programs. I think Hicks is right in some of his critiques of the Religious Right, but not because he does a better job at the fundamentalist game of quoting selectively from the Bible. Rather he happens to coincide with (or is repeating) the critiques of faithful Christians whose wisdom I respect and whose reasoning I find persuasive.
posted by straight at 3:19 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


In essence, you are either in the circular logic of the Bible being inerrant because the Bible says it is inerrant, or you are not. But the moment you break that cycle, you have no justification for pretending that anyone else's interpretation is incorrect.

My point is that, in practice, no one is really inside that circular logic, because everyone's reading of the Bible is guided and shaped by their tradition. And that's why Hicks's essay doesn't work.
posted by straight at 3:20 PM on September 19, 2010


I think Hicks is right in some of his critiques of the Religious Right, but not because he does a better job at the fundamentalist game of quoting selectively from the Bible. Rather he happens to coincide with (or is repeating) the critiques of faithful Christians whose wisdom I respect and whose reasoning I find persuasive.

This is an even worse example of appeal to authority. You're saying that you agree with Hicks, but you still don't think he has the authority to make the argument, therefore you won't respect his argument. But people you regard as having authority make the same argument, and because of their authority you will respect their arguments.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:09 PM on September 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


straight, I'm afraid I have to second Jimmy Havok here. You seem to have a thing for ancestor worship, which relates to Christianity only by chance. I don't know who decides which people are legitimate members of the Jesus Club, but apparently, reading what he wrote and what is followers have written since doesn't count as much as some faith test that I would be pleased to see.

To say that two different people reading the same version of the bible will end up in two very different places is to admit wholeheartedly that the work is incoherent. This is typical of literature, but you'd think God would have a way of communicating in a more, shall we say, omniscient manner.
posted by notion at 5:28 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


notion, I'm going to have to say that you're criticizing Christianity from within the assumptions of Protestantism. That doesn't mean that Catholic and Orthodox strains of the Christian faith are correct, but the critique you are leveling is a critique of Sola Scriptura Protestantism, not a criticism of Christianity. It's like saying that computers are unusable because Windows is crap. What you've done is critique a piece of software -- rightly so, in my opinion -- but incorrectly extrapolated the critique to a larger class of things based on your own inexperience.

tl;dr: all fuzzy things are not bunnies.
posted by verb at 5:49 PM on September 19, 2010


verb, that's fantastic. Now I can ignore all criticisms of any morality I have because of the other person's "inexperience." This Christianity thing is easier than I thought.

Unfortunately, since you don't agree with me, you are going to hell. I'd love to tell you the reasons, but you wouldn't understand because of your inexperience.
posted by notion at 6:41 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry that came out sounding more cynical than I had planned. But it's an approximation of what I hear when someone says that you can't understand something because of inexperience, when what they mean is they don't want to be subject to outside criticism.
posted by notion at 6:51 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


verb, that's fantastic. Now I can ignore all criticisms of any morality I have because of the other person's "inexperience." This Christianity thing is easier than I thought.
This thread really feels like it needs a time-out. That is not what I said. If what I said can be misunderstood as meaning that, then please -- accept my heartfelt apologies because it is not what I meant.
But it's an approximation of what I hear when someone says that you can't understand something because of inexperience, when what they mean is they don't want to be subject to outside criticism.
And that isn't what I said either. Let me explain what I've been saying and what I think several other people have been saying.
  1. Some strains of Christianity believe that the contents of The Bible are the be-all, end-all authority of belief. This is the heart of Fundementalist Protestantism.
  2. Many people -- both inside and outside of the Christian faith -- believe that this strain of Christianity ultimately eats itself alive, because The Bible doesn't appear to be a book meant or qualified to carry that kind of burden. For example, it provides no interpretive framework for interpreting itself.
  3. Although it's philosophically weak, Fundamentalist Protestant and related strains of Christian faith became really, really popular in the United States and many people have never even experienced any other form of Christianity. This is the strain that became joined at the hip with Republican conservatism.
  4. Some people notice that the "Nothing but Scripture" nature of Fundamentalism can be used to undercut itself: in other words, you can proof-text the proof-texters.
  5. Because the Prooftexters are so predominant in American culture, though, it's easy to think that this line of reasoning applies to Christianity, not just a particular strain of it.
  6. Ironically, when people make these Prooftext-oriented critiques of those non-prooftext strains of Christianity, they end up making Fundamentalist arguments in favor of prooftexting to defend their gotcha arguments.
This doesn't mean that non-prooftexty strains of Christianity are immune from criticism, it just means that making these particular criticisms of them is basically a category error. It's like criticizing Buddhism because Buddha never died for your sins. I saw this kind of "My argument works, If I encounter someone it doesn't work against, I need to make them fit it" approach a lot when I was in the church and people "trained" to evangelize atheists but encountered lapsed Catholics, wiccans, etc.

I don't mean to dismiss you, and I don't mean to suggest that you must be "one of the initiated" to understand or critique Christianity. But it's no different than muddling the differences between Sunnis and Shiites.
posted by verb at 7:29 PM on September 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


To say that two different people reading the same version of the bible will end up in two very different places is to admit wholeheartedly that the work is incoherent.

I disagree. Would you say that the U.S. Constitution is incoherent because people disagree about the meaning and application of it?

You're saying that you agree with Hicks, but you still don't think he has the authority to make the argument, therefore you won't respect his argument. But people you regard as having authority make the same argument, and because of their authority you will respect their arguments.

No, I'm saying the way Hicks makes his argument is flawed, and so as an attempt to define the "true gospel" and the "false gospel," it fails. But that he nevertheless makes some points in criticizing the Religious Right that I agree with.

verb, the part of my argument that your summary is missing is that I'm claiming that no one, in practice, reads the Bible purely using the "prooftexting" method, not even the fundamentalists. Everyone's interpretation of the Bible is shaped by the communities and traditions that influence them. So when an atheist tries to pull a "gotcha!" on fundamentalists using the "prooftexting" method of reading the Bible, it doesn't work, because in practice, that's not really how fundamentalists (or anyone) determine what they believe.

You seem to have a thing for ancestor worship, which relates to Christianity only by chance. I don't know who decides which people are legitimate members of the Jesus Club, but apparently, reading what he wrote and what is followers have written since doesn't count as much as some faith test that I would be pleased to see.

In your snarky way, you're asking me, "Well then, who has wisdom? Who has insight? Whose judgment can be trusted? Are there really people whose life experiences give them better understanding of the Bible than I have?" And I agree, that's not an easy question.

As a protestant, I'm not willing to just say, "The Pope" and blindly assume that he has the necessary wisdom by virtue of his office. But I do think that as you live in community with other Christians, reading the Bible, thinking about it, discussing it, reading what earlier generations of Christians have said about it, you begin to identify people who are not just more knowledgeable, but who are wise. People who are not merely better informed, but who have better judgment.

And I'm not saying Christians should never read the Bible and just let "wise" people do all their thinking for them. But I'm trying to point out that no one reads the Bible in a vacuum. Our understanding and interpretation is always influenced by the culture and traditions that shape us, and so we should try to be influenced by the people whom we respect and trust the most.
posted by straight at 9:47 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Agreed. Let me try to tone things down.

I grew up surrounded by three strains of Christianity: Catholicism, Non-Denominational Protestantism and Baptism, and the Jehovah's Witnesses. This is gross generalization, but the Catholics were crazy about tradition but had no real knowledge of the bible. The Protestants were, as you said, crazy about the bible but largely illiterate about it anyway. The JWs were crazy about the Bible and extraordinarily steeped in scripture. I can't remember exactly, but I think a three year tour in all of the classes they offer will take you through the bible from A to Z.

Growing up, I caught it from all ends. The Catholic side of the family didn't like me because I would talk about diabolical mimicry and the pagan imagery that they surrounded themselves with at holidays. The Protestants disliked me because I refused to accept that everything in the Bible was true until I'd read it -- which I did, after I was "saved", and promptly became a teen atheist (what a treat for everyone!).

The Jehovah's Witnesses, well, they are sort of like the Stepford Christians. Their buildings and elders were modest, and they knew and followed the Bible to perfection. The Bible says, go out and spread the news, so they do. The Bible says show compassion to the unwanted, and they do. When I was a young teenager, I would sometimes go out in service on Saturdays. And they would approach anyone, from any background, and try to share their literature with them. Five in the morning, in seedy parts of town at gas stations, preaching.

So, when someone tells me I've got no experience, it tends to ruffle my feathers. I've been in the moment, when my best friend at the time saved me over the phone, sure as I was breathing that I felt Jesus in my heart. I've also felt the raw hatred for authority when my uncle was murdered and the JWs didn't want to associate with him, so they broke my grandmother's heart in ways I can't describe. And I've read arguments from Gnostics to Greek and Russian Orthodox to Unitarians, Quakers, Mormons, and even strains of Judaism. I suppose I'm open to criticism for lacking depth in that respect, but again, if you appeal to the authority of yourself or to your church's authority, that's not enough for me. It carries no weight unless there's some rational path you can show me about how it was arrived at.

I've sat through a few hundred services in six different sects, and in the end, none were satisfying. Even shoving aside the prosperity preaching, which almost makes me wish for hell to be real, it seemed like a self-defeating exercise. Read ten lines out of a twelve hundred page work about charity and helping the poor. Then, get back in your car, and go to breakfast, with your life not changed in the slightest. I got in the habit of trying to imagine Jesus sitting there, wearing a suit, the keys to his Lexus dangling in his folded jacket. Just like I try to imagine him taking the place of any one of his believers, and then I realized that church is the last place Christ would be. For me, the idea that ignoring his words and showing up an hour a week to listen to someone speak in glittering generalities is the modern manifestation of the Pharisees, the hypocrites, the men who have heaped tradition and personal beliefs and dogma on top of a very simple message that doesn't require a building, or a preacher, or a ritual: love everyone as you love yourself, and prove your commitment to that ideal with action.

It's a radical rejection of primate and tribal ethic that continues to be revolutionary today.

It's why I laugh when people talk about America being a Christian nation. A Christian nation would not have a single person in need, would not live by the sword, and would never respond to acts of terror with more terror, but with heartfelt and genuine charity.
posted by notion at 10:35 PM on September 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Jimmy Havok: “Our LOLXIAN abuse here has been heaped on people who, through their very obvious public actions, reject what you are saying here, even as they publicly proclaim their devotion to it. I may not believe in the Godhead in Man, but I can respect people who live it, and because of that I feel only the deepest contempt for people who abuse the idea for their own gain, and for their victims who allow themselves to be manipulated through appeals to their worst impulses and emotions.”

Precisely. And I respect that stance of yours. It's clear, it's honest, and it's true to what you believe: you feel contempt for that kind of manipulation. It's even a noble reaction – at least the most noble one can have, I think, considering the perspective you're coming from. This is a random religion that you've been open-minded enough to accept has some good things about it, and you're charitable enough to grant that people who really follow it are probably good people, whereas you feel contempt for those who bend it to their own purposes or manipulate others to serve their own ends. I think that's a fair way to see things.

The perspective is different, however, for notion and I – and that's what I wanted to point out to him, the purpose of my response to him. You have room to have a certain disinterest and a certain disgust for the purveyors of self-serving, greedy Christianity; but those of us who, for whatever reason and in whatever way, identify deeply and strongly with Christianity itself don't have that luxury. It's like confronting the issue of the enslavement of African-Americans in the past half a millennium; if I were Asian, I wouldn't have any personal relation to the issue, so my perspective would be different; in some ways, I think it'd even help my perspective be more correct, because I could be more disinterested and thus more fair. But I'm white; these are my ancestors we're talking about who enslaved a race. I have a personal part to play in this, and I have to confront that.

Christianity isn't slavery, of course, but there sure as hell are some painful things back there to deal with. And there are a number of possible reactions a person can have to those painful things. The reaction most Christians seem to have is one of ignorance, whether willful or unintentional; it's really and truly odd to me how many of us are willing to talk about this. But there are other reactions one can have. I want to say this gently, because I don't mean it as an indictment: I think the contempt you have for the tragic side of the Church's history is fundamentally different from the contempt notion seems to have. Your contempt is disinterested, and it's not very emotional; it's just a reaction to the injustice, and a natural human rejection of it. It's a dispassionate contempt. Whereas – I am open to correction here if I'm wrong – it seems to me that notion's contempt is distinctly personal and quite passionate. I think I recognize this outrage of notion's because it's an anger I've had before myself; it's often very difficult for a sane person not to be livid at the state of the Church today.

I don't begrudge notion that anger; as I say, I wanted to point out that we have a personal stake in this. But there's something more here beyond the close relation we have to the thing, the necessary personal equation between us and the Church. That is: Christianity – both the Church and the Scriptures – has something to say about contempt, and about our reaction to other people. Specifically, it teaches love; love and acceptance, and a dispassionate embrace of our fellow Christians, as well. The hard lesson I feel like I'm being given – honestly, this is constant for me, and it's very difficult, perhaps the most difficult lesson – is love and acceptance of Christians and their ways, of the Church and her realities, as painful and terrible as some of her actions have been. Not acceptance in the sense of a condoning of the terrible acts; but acceptance at least that these people are human beings, that their perspective and experiences over the last two thousand years are not merely a mistake, that they (for better or for worse) share something with us. That's very painful to accept; but it's necessary.

me: “There is no really meaningful distinction to be made between the Scriptures and the Tradition. They are the same thing.”

“So the tradition of pedophile priests getting away with rape without punishment under the Tradition of the Catholic church is the same as the Scriptures? Come now. No one is buying that schlock.”

I didn't mean to make any grand stroke of a statement; and I wasn't trying to be controversial or bold. My statement was almost a tautology. Scripture is a tradition. How does Scripture come to us? Through tradition; Scripture consists in books that have been passed down through the centuries as traditionally revered texts. That's why we have Scriptures in the first place. I think it's possible to have discernment about which traditions are worthy and true and which traditions are not – even about which parts of a tradition are good; which is why I'm distinctly not saying that the 'tradition' of pedophilia in the priesthood is on the same level as the Scriptures. (In fact, paedophilia among the priesthood is not really a tradition, only a common practice – there is a difference, chiefly that pedophilia has never been taught spoken about by the Church, but rather covered up and hidden.)

I think it's possible to say you reject lots of things about the Christian tradition and the Church; you might even reject hundreds of years of her history. But I have a hard time seeing how you can coherently reject that tradition wholly while at the same time revering the Scriptures. That would be like rejecting James Joyce completely, and having an utter contempt for him and for everything he ever did, and yet loving and revering Ulysses; you can go ahead and do that, but I think you'd have to at least accept the possibility that you're ignoring or suppressing something in him that you actually admire. He can't be utterly divorced from the works he creates; and the Scriptures are the work of the Church, for better or for worse.

“It is absolutely staggering to me how you can talk for paragraphs, spouting mystical post-modern reinterpretations of Jesus' life... ”

I just want to stop here and mention something that I think is important: I am distinctly and pointedly not spouting "mystical post-modern reinterpretations" of the Scriptures. Please be clear on this point: I am describing what has always been the position of the Church. These have been the teachings of the Church from the very beginning, from St Paul to St Dionysios the Areopagite to Justin Martyr to St Irenaeus of Lyon to St Athanasius to St Augustine to St Thomas Aquinas and all the rest. I can quote them if you like, but I don't want to be tedious; if you disagree with me that this is their teaching, however, I will happily point out where they teach this explicitly.

All this stuff about the Godhead in Man and the Christ as the manifestation of the Absolute in the context of the finite isn't just some abstraction. It is Church teaching.

More to the point, it's the teaching of the Scriptures.

“It is absolutely staggering to me how you can talk for paragraphs, spouting mystical post-modern reinterpretations of Jesus' life, and decide that it's more important than what he did, what he said, and what he told others to do. In effect, you make Jesus' words meaningless and impotent, because you attach more meaning to your imagination and your human traditions than to the guy you supposedly follow. This whole Buddy Jesus message where everything is okay, and doing the absolute least you can do to get into heaven may be the current tradition, but if you appeal to the authority of what Jesus himself said, that argument doesn't even hold marbles.”

I agree. I want to say that I don't claim that these "reinterpretations of Jesus' life" are more important than his acts and his teachings. My claim is that they are his acts and his teachings; that they are one and the same. I agree completely that the modern evangelical movement's conception of the Scriptures is deeply flawed; but that doesn't change the fact that there is a coherent teaching promulgated by a historic Church, a teaching which is in accordance with the Scriptures.

“Now, we can get into arguments over what Paul exactly meant, even though it's doubted by some that he wrote 2 Timothy. But how is it that the authority of that scripture carries weight for you if the rest does not? It would be awfully convenient if your own ideas trumped anything in the Bible.”

I think I was horribly misleading earlier in this thread, and for that I apologize. I don't think my ideas or anybody's ideas trump Scripture; and I agree with the notion that it's God-breathed. I happen to disagree strongly with the Protestant notion of "Sola Scriptura;" and I value the tradition very highly as something very worthy in itself. As I said earlier in this comment, that's not independent of my reverence for Scripture.

“I feel a little bit insane saying that because I do believe that the Jefferson Bible is a more accurate representation of Jesus than the KJV or NIV. I think that the history of Judaism and the early Church belief in diabolical mimicry perfectly explains the development of that religion, and the attachment of pagan beliefs to the historical Jesus. But for anyone who's claiming that Jesus is God, drove out demon spirits into pigs, cured blindness, raised the dead, and himself was raised from the dead, it's hard to reasonably arrive at the conclusion that the rest of the claims of the bible can be discarded out of convenience for modern lifestyles.”

Hmm. There are a lot of stimulating things in the paragraph. A couple of things:

First, I have to confess that I still don't understand exactly what you mean. What do you mean by your reference to "the early Church belief in diabolical mimicry?" Honestly, I don't know, and I also can't think of anything in the early Church to connect in that way to "the history of Judaism."

You do mention "the attachment of pagan beliefs to the historical Jesus," and I guess I have a few things to say about that. I don't think much of the Jefferson Bible myself, even though I have great respect for Jefferson; I just don't think he was a deep thinker on these things – he was a product of his time. But that's a side-note, really.

More to the point: I don't share your apparent regret or disdain for the pagan beliefs that were attached to the Scriptures and the teachings of the Christ. C S Lewis lived a varied life, and he had many virtues and many faults; but I think one of his supreme contributions to Christian thought has been his firm belief that paganism is not an evil from days gone by, or a perversion of faith, or a silly superstition, or a blind clinging to old lies. C S Lewis believed in the nobility of paganism – he understood in a deep and powerful way that it is at least our heritage; that is, the heritage of the English-speaking peoples in particular, and Europeans in general. When Christianity supplanted the old worship of the fire and the hearth that had subsisted amongst the Aryans, Greeks, and Syracusans for thousands of years, it could not do so wholly; it had to accept in some way the noble things that that old paganism had sometimes represented, and it had to cling to some aspects of that nobility. And when the political authority of Rome spread over the northern continent, it imposed its will on the pagans there, insisting that they change with the times; but, though they did this in the main, their identity associated with earlier things had to remain.

In turn, in fact, I think that Christianity's willingness to embrace some pagan things – the placement of holidays, the trappings of festivals, etc – has at times been one of its most noble aspects. Christianity caught on because it was the most welcoming and accepting religion.

I'm sorry this comment has been so long, but I've been thinking hard about the things we're talking about in this thread, and I wanted to give you those thoughts.
posted by koeselitz at 10:45 PM on September 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your contempt is disinterested, and it's not very emotional; it's just a reaction to the injustice, and a natural human rejection of it. It's a dispassionate contempt.

My contempt is hardly dispassionate. It's rooted in the fact that these people are destroying not just my country, but the world for their own benefit, and their dupes, despite having the tool in their hand to see what is going on, the Bible, continue to be dupes.

Excusing them because they say they are Christians and you have to respect Christians no matter how bizarre or dangerous their practices strikes me as the worst expression of ecumenicism I can imagine.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:58 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't want to excuse any of it. My parallel was in earnest: this is very much the same thing for me as being a white person and having to face what my ancestors did to black people in my country. Sincerely, I'm not minimizing any of that or explaining it away. I hope I wasn't unclear on that point.
posted by koeselitz at 12:27 AM on September 20, 2010


(Also, I meant dispassion as a compliment. It's something I admire. Sorry; I understand that might have been unclear as well.)
posted by koeselitz at 12:27 AM on September 20, 2010


What do you mean by your reference to "the early Church belief in diabolical mimicry?"
Many critics of Christian theology in the first few centuries noted that the story of Jesus did not offer anything different than existing pagan beliefs. There were a number of mysteries of dying and resurrected gods, some that predate Christianity by thousands of years like Horus, an Egyptian God. Just from the top of my head there was also Dionysus and Mithras and I think a few things from Zoroaster. Anyway, if you read the works of Celsus and Justin Martyr and Tertullian, you can get a decent view of the criticisms and apologies in the first few centuries of Christianity. The traditional Church view, since the criticisms could not be refuted outright, was that Satan had foreseen the coming of Christ and the story of his life, and had planted these Pagan beliefs to fool future believers. They called it diabolical mimicry.

I have taken the view that Christ was a revolutionary philosopher, and just as you can trace the development of Judaism as it was exposed to more advanced cultures in Egypt and Babylon, the Pagan traditions were bolted on to the Gospels after the fact. The puzzle piece missing for me is the reason why that was done, but my hunch is that it was a unification measure performed by the Roman Empire after they failed at exterminating the Christian movement.
posted by notion at 7:34 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, when someone tells me I've got no experience, it tends to ruffle my feathers. I've been in the moment, when my best friend at the time saved me over the phone, sure as I was breathing that I felt Jesus in my heart. I've also felt the raw hatred for authority when my uncle was murdered and the JWs didn't want to associate with him, so they broke my grandmother's heart in ways I can't describe. And I've read arguments from Gnostics to Greek and Russian Orthodox to Unitarians, Quakers, Mormons, and even strains of Judaism. I suppose I'm open to criticism for lacking depth in that respect, but again, if you appeal to the authority of yourself or to your church's authority, that's not enough for me. It carries no weight unless there's some rational path you can show me about how it was arrived at.
A perfectly legitimate statement, and I apologize for the off-handed comment about inexperience. Even as I wrote it I had a twinge of "Wait a minute..." but I felt the point I was making was general enough (as opposed to specifically directed towards you) that it didn't need clarification. I see how it could have been (and was) taken though, and that's not the message I wanted to convey.

FOr the record, I'm not longer a Christian either, and my responses weren't about defending authority or covering my "people" from criticism. Rather, I cam from a similar background that you seem to describe and I have experienced how easy it is to apply the same totalizing language to the Church that originally pushed me away from it.
posted by verb at 7:37 AM on September 20, 2010


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