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January 20, 2006

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First of all, thanks for the post. I am hoping that what you perceived is in fact reality. I am tempted to make an overly long comment, but I will try to rein myself in without too much rambling.

First of all, I have a lot of trouble with the terminology being used, specifically the term Evangelical Christians. By definition, the Roman Catholic Church, of which I am a member, is an evangelical church, and its hierarchy was strongly against the war. So to was the church to which Bush claims nominal membership.

The term "evangelical" in the usage in your post really, in my experience, refers more to those churches with a strong fundamentalist bent, with special focus on the Old Testament, rather than the New Testament.

However, the term "evangelical" rings better with the public than "fundamentalist", especially when we are struggling against extreme fundamentalist Islam.

Secondly, the Republican Party has for years been working very hard to cultivate a lot of the more conservative Christian churches, including the megachurches, such as Willow Creek here in the Chicago area.

They are very much against abortion and homosexual rights. During 2004 there was a big todo about the RNC trying to obtain membership lists from many of these churches.

I suspect that much of the sermonizing seen in the buildup to the war was a form of quid pro quo. Support what we are going to do and we will support the agenda you want.

I think you saw this come to fruition in the uproar over the nomination of Harriet to the SC. The loudest complaints came from the Christian right, who felt they were being betrayed.

Is there remorse now? Is there shame now? That's hard to say. As long as many of them see this as a religious battle between Christianity and Islam, which many do, that shame or remorse may be constrained. However, some of the more recent activities, including the corruption scandals and the NSA intrusion may well be causing some of them to reconsider.

The term "evangelical" in the usage in your post really, in my experience, refers more to those churches with a strong fundamentalist bent, with special focus on the Old Testament, rather than the New Testament.

Yes, I agree, but Marsh himself (as do the "evangelicals" I know in Ohio) use the term to mean "born-again" Christians...which, basically, boils down to Pentacostals and the like.

or Pentecostals, even... ;-)

Last time I was up on these matters, pentecostals and fundamentalists were very clear that they should not be confused with one another. Fundamentalists believe in the literal truth of the Bible as the guide to all things, which is flatly opposed to the pentecostal belief in personal guidance/revelation from the Holy Spirit. To outsiders, they seem similar, being hard-core conservative Christians, but they were (again, as of a decade or so ago) different.

The willingness of Christians to align themselves with the Republican party has always been a complete mystery to me, and especially to the ex-Christian in me. What Republican doctrine has to do with a concern for 'the least of these', with the willingness to follow Christ in humility and suffering while ministering to those in need, escapes me.

But then, the even more obvious similarity between a lot of right-wing religious leaders and the Pharisees has gone unnoticed by so many people that I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

I don't want to get into a theological debate, and I understand what you mean. Agin, though, the term "born-again" is one of those that sounds nice, and has very serious meaning for many.

By my baptism I was "born-again." Again, a basic Catholic premise.

For many of those who preach the "born-again" concept, it really means having turned one's back on what came before and accepting a very narrow definition of Christ. It is the "saved by faith alone" argument. It unfortunattely gives too much freedom to dismiss one's actions because one is already saved because they have accepted Christ. It also means that I can support one thing because it will allow something else more important to happen. Again the quid pro quo philosophy.

Or, perhaps more accurately, the ends justify the means.

I think what you may have witnessed is the gradual waking up of some people to the fact that the ends doesn't justify any and all means.

One of my favorite evangelical Christians is Slacktivist, who's on Hilzoy's blogroll. I like him partly because he's a terrific writer, very funny and witty and mordant, but also because he shows another face of evangelical Christianity: one which I, familiar with the principles of Christianity, can actually recognize as Christian, as opposed to the haters and warmongers who are a more public face of evangelical Christianity. (I've actually seen it claimed that "liberals are irreligious" - a notion that would have hugely surprised Martin Luther King, to say the least.)

Rather OT:
I am so very curious about what the fundamentalist Southern-style churches will do and say if Mitt Romney runs in 2008.

Hilzoy: "What Republican doctrine has to do with a concern for 'the least of these', with the willingness to follow Christ in humility and suffering while ministering to those in need, escapes me."

Actually, the issue is who is to take care of the "least of these." Many of these churches are very active in terms of social services, usually for members of the same faith. They just don't believe the government should be involved.

There is still, also a lot of the Puritan ethic which promoted the idea that those who are poor or needy have ticked off God, whereas those who are wealthy have obviously received God's favor.

My biggest gripe, which I didn't bring up in my first post is the way they use the phrase "God bless America.'

They seem to think the phrase is "God blesses America" instead of realizing it is a request of God, not a statement of fact.

Breaking my self-imposed ban again, darn it. "Evangelical" is a term that is unfair to Catholics, no doubt, but it's been the traditional term to use for conservative Protestants (not just Pentecostals) for a very long time. The joke about "evangelicals" is that they are fundamentalists with social ambition--the truth behind the joke is that they are often college educated professionals who don't like to be stereotyped as snake handlers and holy rollers. "Christianity Today" is kind of the flagship magazine of evangelical Christians--"Books and Culture" is their "New York Review of Books". I haven't looked at it for awhile--they were typically a bit more liberal than the rank and file evangelicals. Jim Wallis and the Sojourners magazine crowd (I subscribe) are the far left wing of this bunch. Evangelicals overseas, btw, are often more liberal, something like Jim Wallis, as demonstrated by John Stott. More liberal on war and peace and social justice issues, anyway, not necessarily the abortion and gay marriage issues.

Okay, back to pretending to exert some self-control over my posting habits.

No, traditional (as opposed to pentecostal) Christians will not avoid the "born again" label, although the term is more popular among pentecostals and the like.

"Evangelical" refers to theologically conservative Protestants, whether pentecostal or not. Not all theologically conservative Protestants are politically conservative. You won't find a great many liberals except among African-Americans, but a vast segment of evangelicalism is basically apolitical - you just don't hear about them much if everything you know comes from reading the political media (naturally).

The "Religious Right" is a political movement and is different.

A lot of this is red state/blue state stuff as well, and perhaps more indicative of local culture than theology. There are some very theologically conservative churches in New York and Boston, but I doubt that they were beating the drums of war back in 2002.

Back when I was christian, my only problem with saying I had been born again was that I wasn't clear how, exactly, I would know. I hoped I had been, and tried to act in such a way as to make it true, but how I would tell a real from a fake conversion, in my own case, wasn't clear to me.

(I was, as a teenager, very struck by, and scared by, the idea of the devil disguising himself as an angel of light. This led rather naturally to a lot of skepticism about my own spiritual state, and the thought: all I can really do is my best, is to act as I would had I been saved; and the rest I can only leave up to God.) (Yet another source of bafflement, for me, about the religious right.)

I've actually seen it claimed that "liberals are irreligious" - a notion that would have hugely surprised Martin Luther King, to say the least.

So many generalizations I used as a matter of course have been destroyed that I'm not even sure I'd use "Liberals are liberal" anymore.

JP, you are right about the Religious Right being a political movemnet. Unfortunately, it is not really seen that way by the majority of people. Kind of like the wolf in sheep's clothing thing.

Hilzoy, for a lot of Christians, conversion is an ongoing process, rather than a Pauline lightning bolt out of the blue type of thing.

I personally have difficulty with two aspects of some "religious" people. Those who claim they somehow "Know" the unknowable, who confuse faith with knowledge are particularly galling to me. I consider myself to be fairly religious and faithful, but at least am able to recognize that this is my faith and belief system and is quite different from knowing for a fact the existence of God, the divinity of Christ, etc.

The second issue I have difficulty with is those who say that one must never question one's faith. If one's faith has some merit, an examination of it, doubts and all, will usually allow it to come out of the process even stronger. It may be slightly altered, but there is nothing wrong with that.

As a third item (I know I said two) are those that believe a person cannot have moral values unless they have a certain faith structure. This was part of the big todo in 2004.

Back when I was christian, my only problem with saying I had been born again was that I wasn't clear how, exactly, I would know. I hoped I had been, and tried to act in such a way as to make it true, but how I would tell a real from a fake conversion, in my own case, wasn't clear to me.

I think it's just trust. It says straight out in the Bible, "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." It isn't mainly about "feeling chosen" or anything. Instead, if you confess and believe, then it's just a matter of trusting that God lives up to his promises.

Slarti: "So many generalizations I used as a matter of course have been destroyed that I'm not even sure I'd use "Liberals are liberal" anymore."

Based upon the last couple years, I could say the same thing re conservatives.

The world really is turned upside down.

JP: I was always concerned about whether I really believed in my heart or not. Especially since the parable of the sheep and the goats seemed to propose a different standard for salvation, and reconciling the two seemed to require (what seemed obvious in any case) that I think of the 'belief' in question as involving considerably more than, say, being inclined, when someone asked me 'So, do you think God raised Christ from the dead?', to say, 'well, yeah, I guess.'

I didn't exactly worry about it, though: as I said, I just decided that all I could do was my best, and the rest was in God's hands.

"Some tried to square the American invasion with Christian "just war" theory, but such efforts could never quite reckon with the criterion that force must only be used as a last resort. As a result, many ministers dismissed the theory as no longer relevant. "

I think this is a very squishy paragraph. "Just War" theory isn't a unitary concept. The Catholic version leaves the possibility open for far fewer wars than the Evangelical versions. The Catholic version is focused much more on proportionality and 'legitimate authority' while the Evangelical version tends to focus more on 'just cause'. The Evangelical version focuses on a duty to make war in some situations (not always respected of course, see the Sudan). The fact that the Iraq war violated Catholic just war doctrine doesn't speak at all to the Evangelical understanding of the concept.

I understand what you're saying, hilzoy. Regarding the sheep & goats, I think the evangelical view is that mercy/compassion for one's fellow man is a necessary result of salvation, but not a precondition. If you give to the poor as your method of getting into heaven, it won't work.

But you're right that "belief" isn't the same thing as what you said. It dovetails a little bit with what john miller was saying about faith vs. knowing something for a fact. The way I understand it is that faith is more like a decision, while knowledge is more like a feeling. It's funny because non-Christians usually think of faith as being sort of a second-rate version of knowledge. But to Christians, it's knowledge that falls short of faith. Even the demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and so forth. They're apples and oranges.

I don't know if this analogy works, but I think knowledge is like having verifiable proof that the World Series is fixed. Faith is like betting your savings on one of the teams whether you "know" they're going to win or not. In practice that's a little amorphous, since in this case there isn't any specific outward act that shows you've made that "bet". It's more like an internal commitment - "I'm going to follow Christ from here on out, on the basis that he's alive and is going to return." Even though it's subjective, it's still a conscious decision that a person makes, not a feeling that just develops on its own and that you can only tell is there by analyzing oneself.

I was, as a teenager, very struck by, and scared by, the idea of the devil disguising himself as an angel of light.

Yes, but what if he disguised himself as a whale?

JP, even from the Catholic point of view, which emphasizes works, just doing the right thing is no guarantee. And for Catholics faith is actually a gift from God. We can reject it, we can misuse it, but its offered to us.

Ultimately, the only way to salvation is to have God grant it.

Works without faith may be nice, but ultimately, in terms of salvation, don't mean much. At the same time, faith without works is also empty.

All of this is somewhat off-track from the main point of the thread.

BTW, Sebastian, I believe even the Evangelical principle of "just war" still uses the "last resort" principle quoted in the post.

I think a lot of people have come to realize that war in this case was not really a last resort.

John, I think I was just unclear. Works clearly aren't the way to salvation under any Christian viewpoint, and according to evangelicals it's by faith alone. My point was just that faith isn't an unconscious feeling but a conscious commitment. I don't think that's inconsistent with the idea that only God can grant salvation - only God can grant somebody the ability to make that commitment. But yes, this is off topic.

The new Atlantic Monthly has a breakdown of religious Americans into twelve "tribes" which have different political orientations (some solidly Republican, some solidly Democratic, some persuadable). The article's not online, but it's kind of interesting.

Also, I wonder if the response you're seeing is specific to Ohio because of the truly exceptional (even for Republicans) degree of political corruption there (Coingate and Bob Ney, for starters). But as a native Buckeye, I hope you're right.

"Also, I wonder if the response you're seeing is specific to Ohio."

Dunno, but just one anecdote from someone still living there. Two weeks ago my brother and his wife, both serious Bush supporters, living in Boehner's district, mentioned they were getting really fed up with the GOP in general and Bush in particular. My wife and I almost fainted, we were so shocked.

I wonder if the response you're seeing is specific to Ohio because of the truly exceptional (even for Republicans) degree of political corruption there

Since this is a little OT already, I'll mention Wisconsin, which is way more of a mess and this comment in Instapundits link

In an extremely open election system like ours (same-day registration and no photo ID requirement), it's important to have aggressive, tough prosecution of election-law violations so that there's SOME deterrent against people doing it.

I think that same-day registration is a terrible thing. It cannot be monitored well, and if someone is interested and informed enough to register before election day, why should they be voting?

I think that same-day registration is a terrible thing. It cannot be monitored well, and if someone is interested and informed enough to register before election day, why should they be voting?

The snarky reply is 'because it's their right', but that's not so fair (especially to a co-blogger:^)) However, one should note that if you register one time in a 4 year period, you are registered to vote, so I think the argument is to try and increase the voter rolls and the possibility of initial chicanery is offset by the ability to develop a comprehensive voter roll. Also, the problem seems to stem from special registration deputies who tried to submit large numbers of forms that were problematic, so the problems of same-day registration is not in the voters but up the chain a bit. Also, Wisconsin's history of Progressive government (This Wikipedia entry gives a bit of background on Bob LaFollette, as well as a rather disturbing anecdote about breaking a filibuster), it seems in line with the historical patterns of Wisconsin politics, so until they come up with an national election system, I don't think it is possible to restrict any one state's system. It's not the system I would go for, but it's the one they've decided on.

Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition.

speaking of passing the ammunition, has anyone ever read that document Marsh refers to in his op-ed, the Lausanne Covenant? The rhetoric, if it were offered up by any other religious groups, would be denounced most soundly as radically militant:

We believe that we are engaged in constant spiritual warfare with the principalities and powers of evil, who are seeking to overthrow the Church and frustrate its task of world evangelization. We know our need to equip ourselves with God's armour and to fight this battle with the spiritual weapons of truth and prayer.

Sounds harmless enough, given the qualifications of "spiritual" and "God's" before the tools of war, but when you add it up, with the declarations of the Manila Manefesto (of 1989 at Lausanne II), you get a much more aggressive picture...

We affirm that other religions and ideologies are not alternative paths to God....

We affirm that spiritual warfare demands spiritual weapons....

We affirm that world evangelization is urgent and that the reaching of unreached peoples is possible....

We affirm that God is calling the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world....

So, they feel they have an obligation to convert the entire world and feel that it's urgent they do so with the "weapons" they must use to do so.

Again, they qualified these weapons in 1989 as "spiritual" but as Marsh points out, they're moving away from the gentler aspects of their doctrine in order to support a military assault on a country that was most definitely not a last resort. In essence, they're supporting using real weapons to convert the world. Marsh again:

As if working from a slate of evangelical talking points, both Franklin Graham, the evangelist and son of Billy Graham, and Marvin Olasky, the editor of the conservative World magazine and a former advisor to President Bush on faith-based policy, echoed these sentiments, claiming that the American invasion of Iraq would create exciting new prospects for proselytizing Muslims.

Christ is screaming "That's not what I meant!"

If conservative Christians are now having second thoughts, or perhaps even experiencing some remorse, about their support for Iraq or any other Bush policy, I suppose that's great. In fact, if they give it a few moment's thought they may begin to suspect that they've been used. It's a thought they should consider.

In any case, if that's the direction things are taking, I encourage them to get out and vote based on their new understanding of the situation.

What I am emphatically *not* interested in are apologies or claims of "we didn't understand". The facts were available to anyone who wanted to see them. The damage has been done, and it's too late for "sorry" now.

Talk is cheap. If they want to lend a hand cleaning up the mess, that would be welcome. Otherwise, they can keep their regrets to themselves.

Christ is screaming "That's not what I meant!"

Ah, so you too have a direct tap into heaven? I think He's more upset at "Piss Christ", myself.

Ok, more directly: projection.

Slarti: Ok, more directly: projection.

On Billy Graham's part, certainly. On Edward's part? I doubt it.

The man described in the gospels seems hardly likely to get more upset over a work of art doing no harm to anyone, than over a war that has killed at least a hundred thousand people.

On Edward's part? I doubt it.

Ah, so you too have a direct tap into Heaven? Interesting. What are they doing right now?

Marsh offers some damning criticism of Evangelical leaders who enthusiastically supported the war and illustrates how they trampled Evangelical doctrine in order to do so

Which is why the evangelicals are ultimately responsible for what goes on in Iraq:

Abu Ghraib: Hell House of the Religious Right

Slarti- Not a Christian are you? All of Christians have a "direct line" to heaven. You see after we become saved the Holy Spirit enters us.

Ah, so you too have a direct tap into Heaven?

Sure. So does Edward, if he has Flash installed. But you can too.

More seriously, Slarti, I have the benefit of a Christian childhood and a nerdy adolescence: I had a passing acquaintance with the gospels in childhood, and read them through several times in adulthood. Honest, there is nothing in them that suggests to any careful reader that Jesus wants Bush to kill a hundred thousand Iraqis so that Billy Graham can try to convert the rest to his brand of Christianity.

My boyfriend works in a mental hospital and there are lots of people there who can speak with God or Jesus any day of the week.
Snark aside, I think the desire for people to have a moral government and to choose the candidate that seems most clearly to have a moral perspective is legitimate and I think the Democrats have been very remiss in ceding that sort of voter to the Republicans. Many of the current Republican Congresspeople got elected by appealing to people who wanted their Representative to be a person of strong moral values. Well instead those voters got a bunch of manipulative sleaze bags who love money more than anything else. Perhaps this is the insight that struck Edward's evangelical friends. In any case the Democrats, the party that did not sell itself to K Street, the party that realizes that there is more to morality than abortion, need to start presenting issues and policies within a moral framework. This does not mean adopting the hate-gays-ban morning after pill mentality of religious extremists. (most evangelicals aren't that extreme) It just means explaining what seems obvious to us: that our positions on everthing from the environment to the war are linked to our moral values.
So I don't think we should get into a blame those evangelicals mode. Our candidates need to show how our positions are moral and we can get the church-goers vote. After all we have what they want: moral values.

So I don't think we should get into a blame those evangelicals mode.

Yes we should. We need a country where "evangelical" does the same for someone's chance at election as "klansman" would.

I'm not here to defend Christianity or people who claim to speak for or know the will of a deity, but Slarti, are you claiming that it's reasonable to think, based solely on extant Biblical evidence, that Jesus Christ would have approved of invading a country militarily just for a chance to convert its citizens? I'm fairly certain that, when charging the Apostles with the Great Commission, he told them specifically to go unarmed.

I'm fairly certain that, when charging the Apostles with the Great Commission, he told them specifically to go unarmed.

While I opposed the Iraq war, FYI:

Luke 22:36
[Jesus] said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."

Scott: "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."

Taken in context, however:

31. And Jesus told Simon. "Simon, behold, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.
32. "And I want for you not to lose your faith. And in time you will also fight back and affirm your brothers' [faith.]"*
33. Simon then told him. "Lord. I am within your Grace and with you to prison and to death.
34. And Jesus told him. "I am telling you, Simon, that the rooster will not crow [at the dawn of] the day until you have blasphemed three times that you did not know me."
35. And he said to them, "As I sent you without sacks and without [water] jars and shoes, were you lacking anything?"
36. He said to them, "From now on, whoever has a sack [take it along,] and likewise the [water] jar, and whoever has no sword, should sell his new [garments] and buy himself a sword.
37. "For I am telling you, that even this that was written about shall be fulfilled, that he will be counted among the outlaws*. For everything has been fulfilled in me."
38. And they told him. "Lord, we already have two swords." He said to them, "They will suffice." cite
Jesus is warning the disciples that they will be outlawed - as opposed (when they went out before) to being slightly-dodgy itinerant preachers. It reads like the aphorism attributed to Mohammed: "Trust in God, but tie your camel well". It does not - especially when you see that he's talking about two swords for a group of a dozen people - suggest an adjuration to aggressively attack non-Christians (non-Jews, rather, at this point) to convert them.

It does not - especially when you see that he's talking about two swords for a group of a dozen people - suggest an adjuration to aggressively attack non-Christians (non-Jews, rather, at this point) to convert them.

I said I opposed the Iraq war in the very comment where I quoted the verse. I brought up that verse to address the claim that we must "go unarmed". Being armed and engaging in preemptive strikes are not synonymous.

Scott: I brought up that verse to address the claim that we must "go unarmed".

I think using that verse to justify Christians going armed works only if you live in a country where being a Christian makes you an outlaw. That is what Jesus is saying: you're going to be outlaws, so don't be completely unarmed. But when one of his disciples uses one of the swords to strike at a soldier coming to arrest Jesus, famously Jesus tells the disciples "That's enough" and heals the soldier who's injured. Notably, even though the Apostles seem to have drifted a bit from the principles outlined by Jesus, there is never any reference to any of them going armed or attacking anyone.

That's what I get for not reading the Bible anymore. :) Still, I think the point stands. One doesn't have to have a direct pipeline to heaven to have a pretty good idea what principles the person these preachers claim to worship had to say on these matters.

Slarti,

I can understand that if you feel the invasion of Iraq was a necessary and central part of the war on terror, that you might believe Christ would have approved, but my "projection" as you call it is not to suggest true Christians are supposed to turn the other cheek or let themselves be crucified if directly threatened, but rather to suggest that when Christ expected his disciples to spread his word, it most definitely wasn't to covert others to Christianity through force. His true message was more powerful than any man-made weapon.

What Graham et al. have done is so antithetical to Christ's message of peace, that if he's not screaming "That's not what I meant" at them, it's only because he's busy screaming "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" to the rest of us.

Yes, I know, you don't think I have a direct line to heaven. But you see, I was taught I do, so...

Two right-wing Christians in response to September 11:

JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."

PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we're responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system. Snopes


A bunch of left-wing satirists who were just going by what they read in the Bible:
Growing increasingly wrathful, God continued: "Can't you people see? What are you, morons? There are a ton of different religious traditions out there, and different cultures worship Me in different ways. But the basic message is always the same: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism... every religious belief system under the sun, they all say you're supposed to love your neighbors, folks! It's not that hard a concept to grasp."

"Why would you think I'd want anything else? Humans don't need religion or God as an excuse to kill each other - you've been doing that without any help from Me since you were freaking apes!" God said. "The whole point of believing in God is to have a higher standard of behavior. How obvious can you get?"

"I'm talking to all of you, here!" continued God, His voice rising to a shout. "Do you hear Me? I don't want you to kill anybody. I'm against it, across the board. How many times do I have to say it? Don't kill each other anymore - ever! I'm fucking serious!"

Upon completing His outburst, God fell silent, standing quietly at the podium for several moments. Then, witnesses reported, God's shoulders began to shake, and He wept.The Onion


For all I know, Jerry and Pat do have a direct line to God. But it sure isn't any God I'd want to worship.

Honest, there is nothing in them that suggests to any careful reader that Jesus wants Bush to kill a hundred thousand Iraqis so that Billy Graham can try to convert the rest to his brand of Christianity.

Sure, I'll buy that. It's not even a bit painful, as I never said anything remotely contradictory of that notion. Edward STILL cannot possibly know whether Jesus is screaming anything at all, though.

Ohio is not the simple-minded place you portray, now or four years ago.

However, there is a shift, much of it to do with sour economics, and much to do with Iraq.

The conservative pro-life culture is very much in place thank you, although I've never seen anyone bullied back to New York (If it was your family then it is your problem).

but Slarti, are you claiming that it's reasonable to think, based solely on extant Biblical evidence, that Jesus Christ would have approved of invading a country militarily just for a chance to convert its citizens?

Reading between the lines doesn't seem to be your calling, pard.

but Slarti, are you claiming that it's reasonable to think, based solely on extant Biblical evidence, that Jesus Christ would have approved of invading a country militarily just for a chance to convert its citizens?

Dang, I gave up snark for a while. Answer: I have no idea, but I have no reason to believe that's the case. If you thought so, you were doing some highly creative between-the-lines-reading.

Edward STILL cannot possibly know whether Jesus is screaming anything at all, though.

I'm not at all sure what the take-away message from that is supposed to be Slarti. It seems to be that Christ might in fact support the idea of Christians using war to convert Muslims. If that's indeed what you're suggesting then I'd say we have radically different ideas about who Christ was and what he stood/stands for.

Fair enough, I think, Slarti, although I'm going to chalk this one up to your frequent inability/disinclination to simply say what you mean.

Slarti: as I never said anything remotely contradictory of that notion.

Actually, you did. Very directly, too. When Edward said that it was wrong to suppose that Jesus wants Bush to kill a hundred thousand Iraqis so that Billy Graham can try to convert the rest to his brand of Christianity, you told him he couldn't possibly know that, and you have kept repeating that claim. Are you back to your familiar pattern of being deliberately obscure and then complaining that people just don't understand you?

When Edward said that it was wrong to suppose that Jesus wants Bush to kill a hundred thousand Iraqis so that Billy Graham can try to convert the rest to his brand of Christianity, you told him he couldn't possibly know that, and you have kept repeating that claim.

I suppose that's probably the result of you reading what you thought I meant, rather than what I actually wrote.

I'm not at all sure what the take-away message from that is supposed to be Slarti.

Try being literal, Edward. There is no hidden message.

Fair enough, I think, Slarti, although I'm going to chalk this one up to your frequent inability/disinclination to simply say what you mean.

Or perhaps it's your inclination to add extra meaning where there isn't any, Phil.

OK, let's take this one apart and look at the pieces.

In the context of saying Evangelical leaders have supported invading Iraq in part so that they could get in there and try to convert Iraqi Muslims, I said Christ is screaming "That's not what I meant!"

By arguing that I don't have a direct line to heaven (something that on the face of it is so obvious that a literal interpretation is hard to accept as your intent...I mean, it's like saying I'm not the President...and so???), you seemed to be suggesting that I might be wrong. That Christ might approve.

But let me push that all aside (because, let's face it, we could dance this dance all day and bounce back and forth between literal and contextual intepretations), and ask you directly. Do you think, knowing what you do about Christ's message to mankind, that he would approve of religious leaders enthusiastically supporting a war as a means to convert Muslims?

As I said above: no, Edward.

I can see that it is indeed a long swim back from Conclusions, so I'm going to explain my first response to you. Why I have to do this, I have no idea, but I'm a giver.

1) You have no idea what Christ is or is not doing. Screaming, weeping, laughing...you just don't know. I personally think that God in His various manifestations doesn't concern Himself with such things as unimplemented policy ideas, except to the extent that people who espouse these ideas may be in for a severe thrashing in such Afterlife as there is. I rather think that God would have been MUCH more upset at such things as the Inquision(s) and various other atrocities done in the name of spreading and maintaining the purity of Christendom.

2) (This is really secondary, but I was thinking of it when I wrote my response, so it's fair that I bring it up here) Your comment sort of presumes to speak for Christ, which is...isn't this what you pick on Robertson et al for?

Hope this clears some things up.

I personally think that God in His various manifestations doesn't concern Himself with such things as unimplemented policy ideas, except to the extent that people who espouse these ideas may be in for a severe thrashing in such Afterlife as there is. I rather think that God would have been MUCH more upset at such things as the Inquision(s) and various other atrocities done in the name of spreading and maintaining the purity of Christendom.

...but I'd just as soon avoid saying that IS in fact what God is/was doing, which is sort of my point.

Given that, as you point out, Christ doesn't call or email me to share his thoughts on such matters, I, like all other people, am left to take what we have as his recorded statements and project them onto today's events as a means of deciding what he would have us do in such situations. As much as you might feel it's a fool's game, it's the only game in town.

Your comment sort of presumes to speak for Christ, which is...isn't this what you pick on Robertson et al for?

Not at all. It's Robertson et al.'s actual, literal job to interpret what Christ would have us do in such situations. In this case in point, however, they have been grossly negligent in that responsibility, as Marsh pointed out. Just because I don't have their job, doens't mean I can't tell when they're not doing it well either. I paid attention in Sunday School and when I read the Bible...there's nothing I've ever seen that suggests Graham et al. haven't erred deeply here.

Besides, and this is what really makes me scratch my head...how could anyone not see "Christ is screaming, 'That's not what I meant'" as anything other than a point made through humor? Your serious response to it, again, suggests I'm wrong. I know you're taking a stand here on principle, but in this context that seems misguided.

Let's just say that I agree with you that Robertson and his knockoffs are profoundly wrong, while also disagreeing with you that you can adopt some of their own tactics and speak for $DEITY. One can quote the Bible, but one can frequently err in doing so. One can claim that one understands God's will by citing Bible passages that seem to express it, but we've all seen where that can lead to error as well.

I also profoundly disagree with using Bible passages to justify one's actions. I think the best one can do is use whatever faith, morality, what have you as a guide, and act with the knowledge that ultimately the responsibility and consequences for action are one's own, for good or ill.

If I missed that it was intended as humorous, my bad.

Slarti: I suppose that's probably the result of you reading what you thought I meant, rather than what I actually wrote.

No, Slarti: it's the result of me reading what you actually wrote, rather than whatever it was you wanted to say but never actually got into words.

Bush to kill a hundred thousand Iraqis so that Billy Graham can try to convert the rest to his brand of Christianity, you told him he couldn't possibly know that, and you have kept repeating that claim.

Show me where I said this. I didn't say Edward couldn't possibly know anything at all about Billy Graham; in fact I haven't even referred to anything Edward said about Billy Graham.

Have a nice swim back.

Show me where I said this.

Repetitively, all the way down this thread, you keep saying it: here, here, , and here.

I presume, since you keep saying that you weren't saying what you were saying, that you're back to your old habits of being obfuscatory and then complaining that you're sadly misunderstood. So, since last time there was a row about this you promised you'd explain yourself if you were asked, I am asking you, quite seriously, to explain yourself.

You're saying, all down this thread, that Edward is wrong to suppose that Jesus would object to Christians invading another country in order to convert the surviving inhabitants to Christianity. You say that's not what you meant to say. What did you mean?

When Edward said that it was wrong to suppose that Jesus wants Bush to kill a hundred thousand Iraqis so that Billy Graham can try to convert the rest to his brand of Christianity, you told him he couldn't possibly know that, and you have kept repeating that claim.

Just want to point out here that even though Billy Graham does have a sort of religious affiliation, his success was due to the fact that his volunteers who counsel with the people who come forward generally try to match the newly saved people with established local churches of various denominations. Certainly Graham would support Christian churches in Iraq and elsewhere, and as a matter of fact, so would I, (I think that Christians in Indonesia, Sudan, Lebanon, Nigeria, Palestine and elsewhere are deserving of my support as well) but I doubt that this is the same as some sort of forcible conversion.

You're saying, all down this thread, that Edward is wrong to suppose that Jesus would object to Christians invading another country in order to convert the surviving inhabitants to Christianity.

If you're determined to misinterpret me, Jesurgislac, knock yourself out. I think Edward gets it, and that's really all I'm shooting for. But, a hint: your links, they do not say what they claim they say.

Slarti: If you're determined to misinterpret me, Jesurgislac, knock yourself out.

No, Slarti, as I've repeatedly said, I'm not "determined to misinterpret you". I was disagreeing with what you were saying, and since you claim what you were saying is not what you meant, I was then asking you to explain what you meant. As you've been advised before: if you get a kick out of being obfuscatory, it then doesn't become you to whine about how you're being misunderstood.

Or perhaps it's your inclination to add extra meaning where there isn't any, Phil.

Perhaps it is, Slart. Given that three people who otherwise share very little in outlook or demeanor appear to have interpreted what you wrote in exactly the same way, though, I'm going to vote "No." When ten men all tell you you're drunk, it's generally best to lie down a while.

I wish to retract the word "whining" as inappropriate, however. ("Grumbling" would be fair: I'm tempted to say "snarling".)

When ten men all tell you you're drunk, it's generally best to lie down a while.

Ah, but when ten drunks tell you that you're drunk...

I invite you to go back and examine how much you've added to what I actually said. This isn't so much a case of misinterpretation as it is of outright making things up.

Slarti: Ah, but when ten drunks tell you that you're drunk...

...that should not be regarded as proof you're sober.

Slarti, I already read what you wrote, quite carefully, at least twice. If you're not interested in explaining what you meant, well, you have a right to be obfuscatory: I just think you shouldn't then complain that people are misunderstanding what you wrote.

We had this argument before, and you did finally agree (I thought) that if you were asked politely to explain what you meant, you'd do it, rather than grumble that people ought to understand and should go re-read what you wrote again.

I just think you shouldn't then complain that people are misunderstanding what you wrote.

I'm not complaining about anything of the sort. I'm simply pointing out how you just made shit up about it, and then complained about your own work of fiction.

Silly, that.

Oh, and I did explain quite clearly what I meant upthread. If you were still unclear after that, all you had to do was ask.

If you were still unclear after that, all you had to do was ask.

I did. You refused to answer. *shrug*

Hey, when I provide an answer that you then completely ignore, then I think I have every right to exhibit a little impatience. If I say outright that I agree with Edward in his criticism of religious leaders who think Christianity gives them license to convert others at the point of a sword, and you respond with:

>When Edward said that it was wrong to suppose that Jesus wants Bush to kill a hundred thousand Iraqis so that Billy Graham can try to convert the rest to his brand of Christianity, you told him he couldn't possibly know that, and you have kept repeating that claim.

I've got to suspect that you're just not paying attention.

Anyway: done here.

Let me just just two cents from the perspective a rather different branch of Christianity.

It's incredibly problematic to try to stake out what Christ's message was, should be, or has been. All Christian traditions have had to deal with the rather unforgiving (if not to say tribal and homicidal) God of the "Old Testament," and how they have done so marks their exegetical school in ways that cannot simply be erased by citing chapter and verse. So, for example, in my own church experience, my favorite Biblical chapter, John 14, has a different weight than does my religious cultural memory of my people's having been chased out of Missouri and Illinois.

In dealing with recent American religious communities--many of which were until the early 20th-c marginalized--we have to remember the recent past rather than hand-wavingly refer to ancient text. The latter is analogous to analyzing trends in the modern Muslim world by reading them all through the Koran and the history of the 1200s. Religious culture has been much more vivid, much more frought, and, frankly, much more present than such simplistic structures can allow for.

Continue as you were.

To "Save the Rust Belt"


The fact that you've never seen anyone bullied by the conservative pro-life culture in Ohio doesn't mean that Edward hasn't. Saying it's his fault without knowing what he experienced is pre- judging. Cultures are very capable of bullying those who are different without those who are "normal" memebrs of the culture being aware of it.

In short, your statement that it was Edward's problem that he was bullied makes me suspect of the culture you represent may be pretty closed minded.

The conservative pro-life culture is very much in place thank you, although I've never seen anyone bullied back to New York

To clarify my point, during the Religious Right's ascent to power and my trips back to Ohio where I was often outnumbered in social settings, trying to engage the RR's supporters in debate led no where. They were right, and I was wrong, and they're absolute conviction would squash any dialog. I made a point they couldn't dispute, they would indeed start attacking me personally, and more than once insist that my opinion was based on a twisted worldview because I live in New York (never mind that they still couldn't counter my point effectively).

This past trip, there was a radically more humble tone to the debates. Self-doubt had entered into their assertions.

How you interpreted any of that to mean I felt all of Ohio was a " simple-minded place " is a pretty good example of the specific problem I'm talking about as well. Absolutism reigned supreme in most of those debates...there was no room for doubt. They were 100% right, about everything. So, essentially they were not listening to my POV, and I had no option but to return to NYC feeling we were never going to meet eye to eye.

This last trip I got a sense that was changing. My point of view was't immediately shut down. Folks were listening more.

YMMV.

Edawrd, your last point resonated with something I have been thinking about lately.

Ironically, it was primarily instigated by what I have been seeing on some threads on this site lately.

I gravitated to thsi site primarily looking for what I, from my biased liberal viewpoint, would be reasoned debate from conservatives, something I found lacking in the blogosphere or my personal experiences.

What I have seen more recently, as evidenced even upthread, is a lot more sniping at each other. (BTW, I tend to agree with Slarti above.)

Your statement that folks were listening more is critical. It needs to happen here and in the general discourse more often. And this extends far beyond the religious issue.

We can't really disagree with what someone is saying if we don't really know what it is, but only have our general perception of what it is. Nor can we hope to convince anyone of the legitimacy of our views if we spend most of our enegries attacking what we think their views are.

My biggest fear is that, as more of the more radical perceptions of the right begin to be question by the non-radical right, the left will suddenly jump onto an "I told you so" mode without ever attempting to understand what drove the acceptance of the more radical views to begin with.

In reference to some of the comments on this thread, Slarti is right that noone can really know what God or Christ would think about what is happening today. We can have a belief of what that would be, and operate accordingly.

And in reference to a couple comments above, Billy Graham is fine, but I personally worry a little bit about his son.

john and Ed_, I posted my disagreements with y'all about the term "Evangelical" over at the Hating website.

Of course, I was not quite right. Check out the Wheaton College link.

DaveC, I am honored to be mentioned at HoCB. However, and I think this is akin to my previous comment, I don't know if I asserted anything as a general statement of truth.

I happened to mention what my experience is about what a lot of people confuse "evangelical" to mean, not what it really represents.

However, as I was, as is my usual wont, not precisely clear in my phraseology, any such misunderstandings are at least partially my fault.

I will either try to avoid overgeneralization, specially in regard to religious matters, which is a hobby of mine, not a specialty, or be very, very, very clear that what I say is an opinion, not to be confused with some universal truth.

I don't have a dog in the main fight here, though I was raised (decades ago) as a fundamentalist/evangelical, my brother went to Wheaton, and my sister is an ordained minister active in the evangelical women's movement. But having given up Christianity 40 years ago, it ill behooves me to opine publicly on what Christians ought to believe.

I am, however, an active teacher, and as such have some experience in communication, which leads me to comment on the quality of the discourse in this thread. "What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate." (Cool Hand Luke, of course.) Those interested only in the substantive issue may therefore skip the rest of this.

What I learned as a teacher is that the lecture is not just what I said, it is what the students heard (thought I said), not necessarily the same thing. And if I'm going to be effective, I need to take responsibility for that (in general), not just fail students who didn't "get" what I said (or remembered that I said, since my lectures are always improvised in delivery, though structured in outline, and are not tape-recorded). Nowadays whenever I deliver something capable of misinterpretation (well, likely to be misinterpreted), I do a lot of "When I say A, I'm *NOT* implying B," just to save later grief.

With that as background, I reviewed much of the thread above, and I focus here on a specific period of just over a day, between 10 AM on Saturday the 21st and 11 AM yesterday (Sunday, 22d). I'm not linking to the specific comments, but I will provide time-codes alongside my summary.

Saturday 10 AM, Edward says "Christ is screaming" at the end of a screed on Christianity and the war in Iraq.

12:21 (PM) Slarti responds, in full:

Christ is screaming "That's not what I meant!"

Ah, so you too have a direct tap into heaven? I think He's more upset at "Piss Christ", myself.

Ok, more directly: projection.

This simple yet cryptic response leads directly to much of the misunderstanding that follows.

How this was interpeted by several commenters (e.g., Jes at 1:40 and 4:07 PM, Phil at 5:16 PM, and Edward at 6:37 PM) was as a contradiction of the thrust of Edward's remarks, that Christ would disapprove of the war in Iraq, and was thus seen as a veiled defense of that war. (At best, it suggests that war is less important than symbolic sacrilege in the eyes of God.)

What Slarti intended seems to be revealed at 10:42 (expanded at 10:44 AM) the following day (Sunday 22d):

I can see that it is indeed a long swim back from Conclusions, so I'm going to explain my first response to you. Why I have to do this, I have no idea, but I'm a giver.

1) You have no idea what Christ is or is not doing. Screaming, weeping, laughing...you just don't know. I personally think that God in His various manifestations doesn't concern Himself with such things as unimplemented policy ideas, except to the extent that people who espouse these ideas may be in for a severe thrashing in such Afterlife as there is. I rather think that God would have been MUCH more upset at such things as the Inquision(s) and various other atrocities done in the name of spreading and maintaining the purity of Christendom.

2) (This is really secondary, but I was thinking of it when I wrote my response, so it's fair that I bring it up here) Your comment sort of presumes to speak for Christ, which is...isn't this what you pick on Robertson et al for?

Hope this clears some things up.

Aside from the gratuitous snark in the first quoted paragraph (why in the world should I have to explain myself to you lowly peasants?), this is a reasonable explanation of a quite different meaning from that which others inferred from Slarti's original message: not that Christ would (or would not?) have approved of the war in Iraq, but that it is presumptuous of anyone to claim that they know what Christ is doing. This raises some interesting theological issues, mentioned by various commenters in passing (e.g. Frank, at 3:59 PM on Saturday), about how people know what Christianity is, but this alone does not account for the acerbity of the commentary on both sides.

The real "communication" problem, as I see it, is that no less than five times between his original posting and his "explanation" posted just over ten hours later, Slarti posted again:

3:04 PM - snark to Jes about her "direct line"
11:19 PM - assertion that "I never said anything remotely contradictory of that notion,", in spite of the fact that at least three reasonable readers had inferred this from his comment. (To say "I didn't mean that" is one thing; to say "I never said anything remotely like that" another.)
11:21 PM - snark to Phil for reading between the lines.
10:14 AM - snark to Jes for "not reading what I said."
10:16 AM - snark to Phil for "adding extra meaning."

Each of these postings, IMHO, was unhelpful to communication. "That's not what I meant" is fine, but absent a clear statement of what you did mean, it does not clarify. And the fact that at least three intelligent readers, independently, drew a certain inference from your original comment, in context, suggests that the comment was capable of an alternative interpretation.

My usual response in this situation (I would like to think) is "Apparently you thought I meant B. I'm sorry if I misled you by the way I phrased it, but I actually meant A." To refuse to do this for 24 hours, while piling insults on those who don't penetrate the inner meaning of your gnomic utterances, bespeaks either an unwarranted self-confidence in the clarity of your prose or an unspoken desire to stir up trouble, since there's apparently not enough of that in the world as it is. (Or not enough controversy on ObWi?)

The result, in any event, was the stirring up of even more trouble, another 24 hours or so of trading insults, rather than careful consideration of the substantive questions involved: (a) Can we ever know what Christ wants?, and (b) Would Christ approve of the war in Iraq? (The latter, of course, leads into the larger question of whether the war in Iraq is a Good Thing or not, a game that can be played by the atheists and agnostics among us as well.)

This to my mind is a pity. Such piteous results might, in my opinion, be avoided in the future by a bit more humility of discourse. Communication involves both a speaker and an audience, who must agree on the meaning of what is said if any progress is to be made. And such agreement is not reached by insulting those who do not discern the cryptic meaning of the speaker and bow to his authority. Consider that you may be wrong - or at least consider that your words may lend themselves to misinterpretation even by reasonable readers.

Here Endeth Today's Lesson.

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