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September 20, 2006

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"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:27-36 (NIV)

"I am become like a bottle in the smoke" -- isn't it wonderful? What on earth does it mean?

I don't know why it sticks in my memory, but I would have sworn my (seminary teaching) father told me something like: "Think wineskin hardened in the fire".

humans are too stupid, loathsome and ugly to be the creation of an all-knowing, loving, omnipotent God. any entity with those qualities could surely do better.

it's simple vanity that makes people think something as powerful as a supernatural being would bother creating something as horrible as humanity, let alone a slug like TVC Chairman Rev. Louis P. Sheldon.

Seb: I think that's right -- after I posted this, it occurred to me that checking more modern translations would answer my question, and I came up with something like "I have become like a wineskin hardened by smoke", or something. I definitely prefer the completely enigmatic King James, just as I always thought it was a loss when I learned that the "voice of the turtle" was, in fact, just the cooing of a turtle dove. I really preferred the thought that turtles had some sort of unheard voice that would be heard in the land.

Not sure how accurate this guy is, but the sermon is entertainingly 19th-century:

The figure of "a bottle in the smoke" is essentially oriental; we must therefore go to the East for its explanation. This we will supply to our hearers and readers in the words of the Author of the Pictorial Bible: "This doubtless refers to a leathern bottle, of kid or goat-skin. The peasantry of Asia keep many articles, both dry and liquid, in such bottles, which, for security, are suspended from the roof, or hung against the walls of their humble dwellings. Here they soon become quite black with smoke; for as, in the dwellings of the peasantry, there are seldom any chimneys, and the smoke can only escape through an aperture in the roof, or by the door, the apartment is full of dense smoke whenever a fire is kindled in it. And in those nights and days, when the smokiness of the hovels in which we daily rested during a winter's journey in Persia, Armenia, and Turkey, seemed to make the cold and weariness of actual travel a relief, we had ample occasion to observe the peculiar blackness of such skin vessels, arising from the manner in which substances offering a surface of this sort, receive the full influence of the smoke, and detain the minute particles of soot which rest upon them. When such vessels do not contain liquids, and are not quite filled by the solids which they hold, they contract a shrunk and shrivelled appearance, to which the Psalmist may also possibly allude as well as to the blackness. But we presume that the leading idea refers to the latter circumstance, as in the East blackness has an opposite signification to the felicitous meaning of whiteness. David had doubtless seen bottles of this description hanging up in his tent when a wanderer; and though he might have had but few in his palace, yet in the cottages of his own poor people he had, no doubt, witnessed them. Hence he says of himself, 'I am become,' by trouble and affliction, by trial and persecution, 'like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes.'"
--"Delivered on Sabbath Morning, March 23, 1856, by the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark."

Erm, someone once remarked on these here internets that the modern evangelical movement has long since abandoned the teachings of Jesus in the new testament for the angry god of the old. Sounded about right to me.

Can you say October semi-surprise? I knew you could:

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks, and other alleged terrorists linked to major attacks against the U.S. are expected to face hearings at the Guantanamo prison camp within three months, a military official said Wednesday.
...
If Mohammed appears, it would mark the first time he has been seen since he was captured more than three years ago in Pakistan.
...
Waddingham told reporters visiting Guantanamo that preparations were being made for the Combatant Status Review Tribunals for Mohammed and the other 13 detainees. They would be open to the press, he said.

it's not just that this isn't Christianity; this is the antithesis of what Christianity is supposed to be all about

Exactly, 100% spot on correct, hilzoy. In my opinion, there's scant little justification for the actions of men (other than specific actions in the Old Testament) in the Bible, only instruction. And the Bible does not instruct us to torture.

Although the Old Testament does seem to advocate or condone slavery, men are admonished to treat their own property with dignity of a sort. Even though beating can be justified, damaging your property is a punishable offense. There are a couple of passages that seem to speak to this sort of mercy even toward "property":

Exodus 21:26 "If a man hits a manservant or maidservant in the eye and destroys it, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the eye. 27 And if he knocks out the tooth of a manservant or maidservant, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the tooth.

Exodus 23:9 "Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.

And, even more appropriately:

Exodus 23:2 "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, 3 and do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit.

That is all. Again, I cringe to see such justifications. War is the business of man, not of God. Torture is the business of neither.

No, "Ugh", you are completely wrong. The God of the self-righteous and unjust is *not* the God of the Hebrew Bible. Hilzoy's quotes from Psalms, Proverbs, Lamentations, and Isaiah are from the "Old Testament", after all. The New Testament has no monopoly on either justice or mercy.

I should qualify the above by saying that I am definitely NOT a Biblical scholar by any remote stretch. Still, I've read over a fair piece of it, and I think hilzoy has it right.

No, "Ugh", you are completely wrong.

Probably true.

"Erm, someone once remarked on these here internets that the modern evangelical movement has long since abandoned the teachings of Jesus in the new testament for the angry god of the old. Sounded about right to me."

This may, perhaps, not be reflective of much knowledge of Torah study.

And I'm sure you didn't mean to sound as if you were saying that Jews worshiped a stupid and mean god, and that Judaism was a stupid and mean religion, as well.

Though it did kinda come out something along those lines.

God is Power.

Today's American Christian is beyond good and evil.

"Today's American Christian is beyond good and evil."

Really, you're not covering enough territory; you should just put all Americans and everyone with any religious belief beyond the pale.

Remember, the larger the generalization, the bigger and more accurate it must be. And the deeper the thought and the thinker.

And I'm sure you didn't mean to sound as if you were saying that Jews worshiped a stupid and mean god, and that Judaism was a stupid and mean religion, as well.

Though it did kinda come out something along those lines.

To you, maybe. To me, Ugh's comment seemed perfectly in line with the way that religion is often discussed online and not offensive in the slightest. Cf. the old thread on rasfw about the Ace double WAR GOD OF ISRAEL/THE THING WITH THREE SOULS.

Gary:

I don't see how "angry" = "stupid and mean". Lots of angry liberals these days.

Ugh:

It's not just the modern evangelical movement. If my (Google-assisted) memory of high school US history is correct, the first Great Awakening was kicked off by Jonathan Edward's Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, one of the most famous fire-and-brimstone sermons of all time.

There's nothing more evangelical than torture:

Abu Ghraib: Hell House of the Religious Right

Well, I've chimed in on this before, but not in a while, so here it is again:

I don't care whether you're on the left or right, it just doesn't make sense to try to take Jesus' words and apply them to political policies. Jesus was speaking to directly to *individuals*, to how each of us should act in our own lives, not to how a state should be run. Government policies involve coercion and protection of third parties, and it's difficult if not impossible to answer the question of "How Would Jesus Vote?". He told us to feed the poor, not to use the coercive power of the state to force everyone in our community to contribute to feeding the poor. He told us to turn the other cheek for ourselves, but not to stand idly by while someone else was getting beaten. He had (as far as I remember) nothing to say about lesser-of-two-evils sorts of choices.

These people who purport to be "Christians" have perverted the message of Christ and might as well be burning the Bible for as much as they're obeying it's commands. They should know well enough to be ashamed of themselves, but the man who claims to have God on his side is the most likely to be wrong about his rightness.

My favorite verse in this context addresses those who think that the need to protect ourselves trumps moral considerations:

What does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and lose his soul?

Christianity, notoriously or otherwise, counts the sufferings of the present world as very little against the glories of the next. It's not an easy position to take, and I typically fail to do so myself; but there's no question where the priorities lie.

KenB, of course, hits upon Machiavelli's question: is government conceivably consistent with Christian values?

Nope, said Machiavelli, and without adopting the otherworldly p.o.v. that I mentioned above, it's difficult to disagree.

One suspects that the early Christians who tried to opt out of the State altogether had the right idea.

All bloody principles and practices, we, as to our own particulars, do utterly deny, with all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world. From "A Declaration to Charles II," 1660.

Sorry, that quote unadorned made no particular sense: I am pre-coffee. DaveC recently said I was a consistent pacifist, and at the time (and since) I've thought ruefully that while it's easy enough to express consistently pacifist principles on line, the people I admire have been those who, faced with the real risk of imprisonment, harm, or even death - not merely for themselves, but for people they would have wanted to protect - have chosen to stick to their principles rather than to their guns. I feel more sympathy for Lynndie England than I do for someone who, at a safe distance, decides it would be acceptable to have other people ordered to commit acts of torture on prisoners.

I just really think this is one of those dark days in American history. When I'm talking to my friends about the House voting on a bill to endorse secret torture camps, I have this moment where I can't believe it's real. I just can't believe it's happening in this country. What is more I'm in disbelief that it is happening out in the open like this.

Sidenote: does anyone think a good chunk of Republicans would have supported Clinton if he wanted to push on us secret torture camps? What would Rush have said if Hillary wanted secret torture camps? Would we have had an impeachment?

Ara:

Sidenote: does anyone think a good chunk of Republicans would have supported Clinton if he wanted to push on us secret torture camps? What would Rush have said if Hillary wanted secret torture camps? Would we have had an impeachment?

Unfortunately, I think a good chunk of Republicans would have supported secret torture camps even under Clinton as long as the inmates didn't seem like Americans. But that wouldn't translate into support for Clinton; no matter how extreme the administration's interrogation program, Congressional Republicans would have attacked it for not going far enough.

NSA domestic wiretapping, on the other hand...that sounds like an infringement on the rights of actual Americans. Rush would have been all over that one.

Well, at least they are consistent. I'm not sure if that should cheer me up or depress me further.

And I'm sure you didn't mean to sound as if you were saying that Jews worshiped a stupid and mean god, and that Judaism was a stupid and mean religion, as well.

No, just that the modern evangelical movement, at least in their political manifestation, is more into vengeance and punishment than love and forgiveness. And that the statement Hilzoy quotes is a perfect example.

As for Old Testament v. New, it seems to me that if we were rating which version of god was angrier we'd have to go with old, not that the God of the old testament was primarily or even significantly that way. But I will readily admit that I have very very very little basis for saying that. Hopefully my wife doesn't find out one of my blog comments was interpreted to mean that I thought she and her family worshipped a mean and stupid god.

Well, certainly there's a lot more Deity-approved killing, as well as direct action against, for example, firstborn children, children who taunt prophets, and sinners in general. So I think saying the Old Testament is MORE of an angry-God volume is a great deal more accurate than saying it's all about the angry and vengeful God.

If you ever read the Bible from Genesis to Malachi, there is a substantial difference between the God portrayed in the early scrolls and the God portrayed in the later scrolls. Certainly I've always found it both amusing and worrying that so many evangelical Christians claim that two of the purity laws in Leviticus are so absolutely central to Christianity that they override everything Jesus said about charity and love: while the same Christians have no problem eating a McDonalds cheeseburger.

Or shrimp on the barbie. On this, at least, we agree.

while the same Christians have no problem eating a McDonalds cheeseburger

Yeah, but is it really meat? I've always had my doubts.

And of course there's the Sodom and Gomorrah that is the pulled pork sandwich. I expect most of the southern US to be covered in burning sulfur any second now.

The meat part is meat, LJ.

Jesus was speaking to directly to *individuals*, to how each of us should act in our own lives, not to how a state should be run. Government policies involve coercion and protection of third parties, and it's difficult if not impossible to answer the question of "How Would Jesus Vote?". He told us to feed the poor, not to use the coercive power of the state to force everyone in our community to contribute to feeding the poor. He told us to turn the other cheek for ourselves, but not to stand idly by while someone else was getting beaten.

Satan offered Jesus political power in the temptations at the beginning of his ministry and Jesus turned him down. He also had a habit of running off whenever the crowd wanted to make him a literal king.

Well, certainly there's a lot more Deity-approved killing, as well as direct action against, for example, firstborn children, children who taunt prophets, and sinners in general.

That's what I was thinking of when I made my first comment above.

Rape and other forms of torture

I've been making a lot of pragmatic arguments against torture. Some commenters on this thread pointed out how disturbing this project seems.

Ultimately, I think that empirical evidence advances every discussion, and that, in principle all moral positions should be up for debate.

However, I can definitely where Trystero and the other commenters are coming from.

It's sort of like writing rape-prevention posts about how you shouldn't rape people, because it's not going to be as much fun as you think, and you might drive your victim into the arms of radical feminists, etc. It seems either obscene or otiose to explain to would-be rapists why rape is a poor means to their ends.

There something morally distasteful about being patient or reasonable with rapists. Same with torturers. I suppose that if I thought I could convince people not to rape with good arguments, I would try. Maybe the mistake is assuming that torturers are motivated by rationality any more than rapists.

From:
Majikthise

Maybe the mistake is assuming that torturers are motivated by rationality any more than rapists.

zing.

"Evangelical" used to be a word that applied to social (and thus, politically) active Christians. So, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Reformed Baptists, Southern Baptist, Methodists, etc., could come together politically. Abolitionists, prohibitionists New Dealers came together under the “evangelical” label.

Technically, Protestants are implicitly “evangelical”.

During the 90s, however Fundamentalists (of all Protestant stripes) found that they got better traction with the word “evangelical” (and Judeo-Christian, by the way) rather than “fundamentalist” so they co-opted the word for themselves. This way it softens their PR problem and it co-opted many mainline and moderate Protestants.

I just heard an NPR report where a preacher referred to himself as an “evangelical” Episcopalian. It separated himself from the Episcopalians who were “defending the Gay”. I assure you, he was being more fundamentalist and not evangelical.

I don't care whether you're on the left or right, it just doesn't make sense to try to take Jesus' words and apply them to political policies...

He told us to feed the poor, not to use the coercive power of the state to force everyone in our community to contribute to feeding the poor. He told us to turn the other cheek for ourselves, but not to stand idly by while someone else was getting beaten.

I have to chime in here -- as someone who's active in Christian political circles, this concept is one of the ugliest and most hypocritical I encounter.

When it's time to advocate prayer in schools, political power is an integral part of Christianity! When it comes time to ban abortion, well... how could we not? But helping the poor? Nope, can't do that. Stopping people from being tortured? Have to break a few eggs, you know how it goes. Jesus wouldn't have gotten involved in that, no!

"We shouldn't use the coercive power of the state to force other people to help the poor." What about forcing them to support wars? If you want to dive into Christian anarchism, and suggest that the existence of the state is the problem, you'll at least find a fascinating consistency. The claims of most American Christians boil down to a simple "Jesus would've voted Republican, and I'll cherry-pick verses from Judges and John to make myself feel better about it."

Most scholars believe that the 'turning the other cheek' verse you referenced isn't even about submission or the lack thereof. Rather, the gesture made a left-handed slap (a grave insult that implied subservience) impossible and forced whoever was doin' the slappin' to confront you as an equal.

Christ's ministry was a slap in the face to the Zealots who dreamed of fighting Rome and reclaiming an independent Jewish nation. It was also a slap in the fact to those who'd 'bought in' to the prevailing political system to preserve their religious power.

Today, we are fortunate to live in a system where we ARE the government, something that none of the figures in the Old or New Testament dealt with. (Mind you, the closest they got to self-government turned into voluntary communism, but that's another matter...) With that in mind, the political IS personal, and vice-versa. If I, as a voter, authorize the government to do something that I believe is wrong, I have done it as surely as if I had told my office intern to do it in my name. To pretend otherwise is a crass, and often deliberate distortion of Christ's teachings.

I think that it is important to note that there are Christians who try to make their beliefs foundations for political actions. The recent attempt in Alabama, led by Susan Pace Hamill, to revise the tax structure stands out in my mind as one example. Unfortunately, other groups claiming the mantle of Christianity opposed the measure and, even though it was supported by Gov Riley, it was defeated rather handily. Check out here, here and links to two of her papers are here.

Some choice rhetoric from the Alabama libertarian party's site is here.

When it's time to advocate prayer in schools, political power is an integral part of Christianity! When it comes time to ban abortion, well... how could we not? But helping the poor? Nope, can't do that.

Jeff, not sure if you're talking to me directly, but I led off my comment with "I don't care whether you're on the left or right". I may be mistaken, but I don't think I'm being a hypocrite.

Today, we are fortunate to live in a system where we ARE the government, something that none of the figures in the Old or New Testament dealt with.

Re the New Testament, this was exactly my point -- it's up to us to determine the appropriate role for our faith in our political actions. The scriptures will provide only indirect guidance at best.

Re the Old Testament, well, I seem to recall a few books having to do with kings of Israel. But of course those cases dealt with a nation and a religion that were coterminous, so still not much direct application to us today.

If I, as a voter, authorize the government to do something that I believe is wrong, I have done it as surely as if I had told my office intern to do it in my name.

This is way too sweeping. Part of living in a pluralistic society is accepting that other people may have different ideas about right and wrong. We all make judgments about what we're willing to try to force on others and what we're willing to leave up to individual consciences.

kenB,

"But of course those cases dealt with a nation and a religion that were coterminous, so still not much direct application to us today."

Why? Especially with many fundamentalist Christians loudly proclaiming that this country is a Christian nation and seeking to remove any separation between church and state? I think the examples from the biblical Kingdom of Israel of persecution of religious dissenters (most notably Jezebel) are very much relevant to such a discussion.

KenB, I can't say what your views on these matters are specifically, so I can only comment on the rank hypocrisy I see in friends and acquaintences when they make similar statements. I don't want to accuse you of something I have no information about. :)

Re the New Testament, this was exactly my point -- it's up to us to determine the appropriate role for our faith in our political actions. The scriptures will provide only indirect guidance at best.

Sure. It *is* up to us. And it's perfectly within my rights as both a Christian and an American to say that any Christian who claims that torture is acceptable is both a hypocrite and dangerous. I have acquaintances who vigorously advocate torturing terrorists to death, and say that Christian principles don't apply to war and international politics because 'you've gotta do what you've gotta do.' Those same people scream bloody murder when a creche is taken out of city hall a thousand miles from where they live. Those same people mutter gravely that Abortion will tear our nation apart the way slavery did. Anyone who feels Christians must shrug and accept any war because that's just the way statecraft goes, but should contemplate actual civil war over abortion, is a dangerous hypocrite. Period.

This is way too sweeping. Part of living in a pluralistic society is accepting that other people may have different ideas about right and wrong. We all make judgments about what we're willing to try to force on others and what we're willing to leave up to individual consciences.

The lines where people decide that coercing others becomes acceptable tells us more about them than it does about Scripture.

And frankly, what it has to say about American Fundamentalism/Evangelicalism isn't very flattering. It's a cultural movement whose leaderrs have sold authentic principles of Christianity for a place at the table of power politics.

I'm sorry if I come across as a bit strident, or accusatory. It's a topic near and dear to my heart, and living within the American "community of faith" can lead to some blood-boiling frustration at times.

Well, I agree with you about the tendency for selective enforcement of biblical laws on the part of Christian fundamentalists (you may want to be careful about lumping Evangelicals in with them, though).

But as a devil's-advocate defense, regarding the 'you've gotta do what you've gotta do' mentality, it goes back to the "lesser of two evils" question -- if you think (however mistakenly) that torturing terrorists will reduce the incidence of terrorism, then I don't think it's necessarily *anti-Christian* to say that avoiding the horrible deaths of many justifies the even more horrible treatment of a few. To be clear, I think it's wrong on many other levels, but I don't think there's a line of scripture that speaks to a situation like this.

It would help if many liberals/secularists took the time out to understand the intricacies of Christianity (especially Protestantism) within the American context. Just as in the Middle East there are segments among the Sunnis and Shias that influence their society, so to in American society.

Yes, we are primarily a secular society and the American forefathers were very suspicious of organized religion, however Protestantism still influences U.S. culture like no other faith. The average Protestant knows very little of Church history. (Like chanting “this was always a Christian!” if this was the case, it would have had “Christ” instead of “God” in the Declaration of Independence and many early Protestants realized this. As a matter of fact for decades even up to the Civil War the DofI was viewed as a secular anti-Christian document because it made no mention of Christ and the Triune God…anyways) There were very serious reasons culturally and politically for so many different denominations and varying theologies.

At worse if you were cynical, knowing the intricacies of the Protestant faith, at least, would help develop divide and conquer strategies. AT BEST, have a better understanding of American culture.

"Unfortunately, I think a good chunk of Republicans would have supported secret torture camps even under Clinton as long as the inmates didn't seem like Americans. But that wouldn't translate into support for Clinton; no matter how extreme the administration's interrogation program, Congressional Republicans would have attacked it for not going far enough."

I know that I often seem to be "on the other-handing" Democrats a lot. It is absolutely true that Congressional Republicans and Bush's administration are the ones engaging in and authorizing torture. But have to agree with the subtext of this quote--that the Democrats (and rare Republicans) who have wanted to make this an issue have been unable to do so because a very large (quite possibly well over 50%) portion of Americans aren't that philosophically concerned with torture (of terrorists). I suspect of course that the "of terrorists" is good point of weakness in the administration's policies.

if this was the case, it would have had “Christ” instead of “God” in the Declaration of Independence

Eh? I guess this is my daily WTF.

It's not as if Protestants represent the notion that Christ supercedes, replaces or otherwise invalidates the use of "God".

Ugh: "No, just that the modern evangelical movement, at least in their political manifestation, is more into vengeance and punishment than love and forgiveness."

Yes, I thought that's what you meant.

"Hopefully my wife doesn't find out one of my blog comments was interpreted to mean that I thought she and her family worshipped a mean and stupid god."

No, I didn't think you meant that, which is why I said that I didn't think you meant that.

I was just pointing out that it was poor phrasing.

(And while I'm the furthest thing from someone knowledgeable about the Torah and Talmud, I do have friends, and former sweeties, who are, so I do have some clues as to how things get easily misinterpreted and misunderstood without educated interpretation.)

Well, I agree with you about the tendency for selective enforcement of biblical laws on the part of Christian fundamentalists (you may want to be careful about lumping Evangelicals in with them, though).
Indeed. American Evanglicals, however, have never been shy about their political leanings. Franceis Schaeffer's advice notwithstanding, 'Conservative == Christian' was and still is an acceptable equation in many Evangelical minds.
To be clear, I think it's wrong on many other levels, but I don't think there's a line of scripture that speaks to a situation like this.

There is not, in fact, a line of scripture that says torture is wrong. Neither is there a line of scripture that says rape is wrong (as long as it's not your sister -- then it's just 'shameful'). Neither is there a line of scripture that says abortion is wrong; in fact, it is God-ordained in cases of adultery. Heck, even things Scripture clearly, explicitly states are wrong, Jesus later said were no longer relevant.

If you think (however mistakenly) that torturing terrorists will reduce the incidence of terrorism, then I don't think it's necessarily *anti-Christian* to say that avoiding the horrible deaths of many justifies the even more horrible treatment of a few.

Perhaps we should crucify terrorists? It worked well for the Romans.

I guess this is my daily WTF.

Not to be confused with the real thing, mind you.

General comment, not directed at anyone in particular: it's a mistake to lump "Protestants" in with the 700 Club/Pat Robertson/Jimmy Swaggart set. Even if you want very very badly to be able to do so.

I mean British and Irish government creeds read more like Christian influenced texts. The Queen is the defender of The Faith for goodness’ sakes and the Roman Catholic Bishops have some heavy weight influences in those contexts!!!

Yet….

KenB, let me clarify what I'm trying to say, lest my hot-headed reply confuse the issue.

I have yet to encounter any Christian who found torture acceptable, who was not also perfectly willing to extract tenuously prooftexted reasoning when labelling other actions -- premarital sex, welfare, etc -- evil. This spells hypocrisy. The correlation, frankly, is too strong for me to ignore.

No, I didn't think you meant that, which is why I said that I didn't think you meant that.

I was just pointing out that it was poor phrasing.

I understood that Gary, sorry, I don't know why I threw in that last sentence (I'd plead pre-coffee but that wasn't true).

General comment, not directed at anyone in particular: it's a mistake to lump "Protestants" in with the 700 Club/Pat Robertson/Jimmy Swaggart set. Even if you want very very badly to be able to do so.
True, that, Slarti. Protestantism is a complicated beast, if only because it lacks the kind of clearly defined easy-to-point-at hierarchy of authority that Catholicism offers. Over at Slacktivist's site, there was an excellent essay on the way that (at least in the US), it seems to boil down to 'whoever sells the most books and has the most visibility has the most authority.'

it seems to boil down to 'whoever sells the most books and has the most visibility has the most authority.'

Posted by: Jeff Eaton | September 21, 2006 at 12:05 PM

LOL

Sad but true.

And then it gets more complicated when ethnic (Black and Latino) identity gets infused into the Protestant mix.

if only because it lacks the kind of clearly defined easy-to-point-at hierarchy of authority that Catholicism offers

And that's a good thing, I submit. Because there are fundamental disagreements between Protestant sects, and unified leadership would have to either resolve those disagreements (which would result in the abandonment of a whole slew of different and frequently contradictory convictions) or, possibly worse, ignore them.

Meanwhile, we can always point to stupid things said and done by the likes of thus-and-such, and criticize. Assigning identical views to Protestants in general, though, is folly. But sure, you could luck out and be right once in a while.

There is not, in fact, a line of scripture that says torture is wrong.

didn't Christ say something Golden Rule-ish, at one point ?

And that's a good thing, I submit. Because there are fundamental disagreements between Protestant sects, and unified leadership would have to either resolve those disagreements (which would result in the abandonment of a whole slew of different and frequently contradictory convictions) or, possibly worse, ignore them.
Oh, I agree. I just think that it's also fair to discuss the 'de-facto authority structures' of North American Evangelicalism and Fundamentalim even if no official ecclesiastical hierarchy is in place there.

Slarti,

Yes, I admit, I am a very sloppy writer (and thinker) but I have a vague familiarity on the subject. I’m trying to put together what I have learned from an Assemblies of God private school education (early grammar school) Charismatic Pentecostal membership (childhood), Orthodox Presbyterian membership and classes, Charismatic Episcopalian classes, a Roman Catholic University (Loyola-Marymount) education and currently developing studies on Afro/Latino Protestants and identity at USC. (I’m assisting in studies and applying for graduate school next year). I’m not trying to wave the size of my…guns…but just to give me context.

And if I remember correctly, “GOD” was viewed ambiguously, since most of the founding fathers were deists and Universalists as well as Protestants. Conservatives (fundamentalist doesn’t enter the Protestant discourse until the 1920s) Believers, at the time, thought God should be seen clearly as Christ, as to not leave any ambiguity. Many abolitionists thought that the secularism of the Constitution led to the practice of slavery thus the conventions prior to the Civil War to attempt to make the Constitution more explicitly Christian.


I just think that it's also fair to discuss the 'de-facto authority structures' of North American Evangelicalism and Fundamentalim even if no official ecclesiastical hierarchy is in place there.

Ummm...well, my point is there are no 'de facto authority structures' that bridge sects, unless one looks at sects that have some sort of formal association or intent to merge (as in the ELCA merger or ELCA/Espiscopalian communion). Wisconsin Synod has no common structure of authority with the Southern Baptist Convention or any of the huge teleevangelism outfits.

Believers, at the time, thought God should be seen clearly as Christ, as to not leave any ambiguity.

Again, EH? You're definitely going to have to show me. Not saying you're wrong, just that I've never come across this notion before.

Many abolitionists thought that the secularism of the Constitution led to the practice of slavery thus the conventions prior to the Civil War to attempt to make the Constitution more explicitly Christian.

I have no idea what point you're making, here, that's relevant.

Jeff--Most scholars believe that the 'turning the other cheek' verse you referenced isn't even about submission or the lack thereof. Rather, the gesture made a left-handed slap (a grave insult that implied subservience) impossible and forced whoever was doin' the slappin' to confront you as an equal.

I think you are overstating the case here when you say that "most scholars believe...." Some scholars believe this, sure, but I think most would say it's a stretch because it goes against the context of the passage:

You have heard that it was said, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (NIV Matthew 5:38-42)

I don't know howWalter Wink thinks he can argue that this is not about submission. The anaphora makes the connections clear. Turning the other cheek is analogous to giving your cloak along with your tunic or walking a second mile when a first is demanded.

One could, perhaps, argue that this aggressive compliance transforms the power dynamic by putting the victim in the position of controlling the next step, thus underlining the injustice of the first, but Wink's interpretation doesn't show this sensitivity to the context in which the statement occurs. His stance is interesting, and what he says about it being not simple acquiescence holds, but I think he presses it too far. The example of the "backhanded strike" requires too much be brought to the text in order for it to work.

OT: but WTH... A New Pope

That was pretty funny, cleek.

Again, EH? You're definitely going to have to show me. Not saying you're wrong, just that I've never come across this notion before.

Posted by: Slartibartfast | September 21, 2006 at 12:34 PM

Fair enough.

I wish JSTOR was readily available for everyone.

I'll do some homework.

The example of the "backhanded strike" requires too much be brought to the text in order for it to work.

Like, perhaps, the context in which it was written?

Look too at the example of giving one's cloak to someone who'd sued for your tunic. Suing someone for 'the clothes off their back' was prohibited by Jewish Law, but many danced around technicalities to avoid religious shame. IE, 'I'll take his tunic, but not his cloak.' Giving the cloak in addition to the tunic made that pretense harder to maintain.

Similarly, the advice to go two miles when someone forced you to go one can't be viewed as general advice about afternoon walks. It related to Roman Soldiers' legal ability to force others to carry their gear for up to a mile. A soldier who forced someone to go farther could be punished.

Given the political and social context Jesus taught in -- there were strong movements pressing for violent rebellion, as well as assimilationists who were willing to accept Roman rule to preserve the status quo -- I hardly think that it's difficult to see things as I described. There are other schools of thought, obviously, but it's not as if Wink is the only one who holds this view.

The idea that Christ was advising his followers submit to evil -- rather than criticizing the idea that violence is the best solution to violence -- is far harder to justify.

SomeOtherDude- I wish JSTOR was readily available for everyone.

Can you print as a pdf and cache it somewhere? JSTOR usually allows that.

Okay. I need to stop now. Seriously.

Jeff- I agreed on the principle here. I just think that Wink's justification with that example in order to push it towards "forcing to engage as equals" is an overread. There is an assertiveness to the acquiescence in the passage (I did write that), but the passage does not support his further push towards forced equality, merely towards a position of strength-in-weakness and punctuating the injustice.

I just think that Wink's justification with that example in order to push it towards "forcing to engage as equals" is an overread. There is an assertiveness to the acquiescence in the passage (I did write that), but the passage does not support his further push towards forced equality, merely towards a position of strength-in-weakness and punctuating the injustice.
In that sense, yes, I'd agree -- the 'forced equality' is just one particular interpretation of the teaching. In particular, it's a reading that I find interesting but far from ironclad.

What fascinates me is the underlying principle: that meeting injustice or evil with violence and vengence is not acceptable. While there may be a case made for defense in cases of mortal danger, Christians who believe Scripture is a legitimate guide face the burden of explaining why those cases are acceptable.

Ironically, the principles that seem to be advocated here -- agressive generosity, I'll call it -- seem to align rather well with the kinds of interrogation techniques that experienced military officers say do work. Christians who advocate torture may comfort themselves with ticking-timebomb scenerios, but I would suggest that underneath it all, any are motivated by vengence.

And that's precisely, IMO, what the verses above were getting at.

But, no, seriously, I REALLY have to stop posting in this thread. I'll just keep ranting and rambling all over the place...

If you type in "a covenant with death and an agreement with hell" into Google, all kinds of interesting stuff will pop up.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

From">http://www.amprpress.com/civil_war.htm">From the Conservative Presbyterian:

While the South fought for the Constitution the North scrapped a Constitution that the Abolitionists openly denounced as a covenant with death and an agreement with hell. The Confederate States of America adopted the Constitution of 1789 with a few alterations to elucidate and strengthen the intent of the original framers.

From the Libertarian site The Future of Freedom Foundation:

This resolution, passed by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, was written by the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. The compact to which it referred was the Constitution of the United States, which was called an agreement with hell because — in its original form — it sanctioned slavery.

">http://www.masshist.org/objects/2005july.cfm"> From the Massachusetts Historical Society :


Broadside advertising a Fourth of July rally sponsored by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1854. Noted abolitionists including William Lloyd Garrison, Sojourner Truth, and Henry David Thoreau addressed the crowd. In a dramatic climax, Garrison burned copies of the Fugitive Slave Law and the United States Constitution.

I'll have some peer reviewed stuff for you much later, since the PDF's from JSTOR are much harder to copy and paste.

SomeOtherDude- I wish JSTOR was readily available for everyone.

Can you print as a pdf and cache it somewhere? JSTOR usually allows that.

Posted by: nous | September 21, 2006 at 01:04 PM

ProjectMUSE allows for that, but not JSTOR.

Geez, just read some of Eaton's stufff, but I have to go to the GYM.

Some interesting thoughts.

Shit, but I have to go.

During the 90s, however Fundamentalists (of all Protestant stripes) found that they got better traction with the word “evangelical” (and Judeo-Christian, by the way) rather than “fundamentalist” so they co-opted the word for themselves. This way it softens their PR problem and it co-opted many mainline and moderate Protestants.

It may be true that the descriptor went mainstream in the 1990s, but those words were around in that context, and with that valence, as early as the 1920s and (I think) goes back to the late 19th century. See, e.g., Dwight Moody et al.

If you delete the references to the church and the reverend in Hilzoy's beginning quote, it reads just like an RNC press release.

What was it about the IRS investigating churches that advocate politics?

1) This can be a real contentious subject and every commenter here is to be commneded on the civil and adult tone of the conversation.

2) OT vs. NT God. One of the first heresies, Marcion's, was that the gods of the OT and the NT were not the same. The angry god in the OT comes across a lot like a jealous lover, really - how much of the prophets boils down to "You cheating bitch!"? - and Jesus protrays himself as the Bridegroom. So there really is a close connection. Jesus gets pretty angry too, on occasion, for a range of reasons. The real divide is different; it has to do with the emphasis on ethical behavior in the OT ("works") in contrast to the relationship with Jesus emphasized in the NT.

Historically both the Latin and Greek sides of the Church downplayed the OT for a number of reasons. One was that the OT is overtly Middle Eastern, and there was a certain eeeeew factor with that among the gentile members. Remember that for a long time people regarded Christianity as some exotic new-age cult - not very respectable, not very masculine - in a word, barbarous. Another was more substantial - the Church just didn't see much of value in the OT. Jesus as mythic - not a teacher, not a practitioner of a tradtion, not a descendant of this or that ancient king - was what was of value.

So when the Protestants were trying to set up some source of authority separate from the Church hierarchy, they latched onto the Bible, and that meant the whole Bible. And the OT is very gripping and dramatic. People really identified with ancient Israel and all those prophets and patriarchs and tribes. This has had all kinds of cultural ramifications, especially in America.

Re TVC statement:

“the enemy is faceless and deliberately attacks the innocent”

Wow! Hell of a word choice, “faceless” (i.e. inhuman). Scary, and the requisite psychological precondition for torturing and killing.

"We must redefine how our lawful society treats those who have nothing but contempt for the law and rely on terrorizing the innocent to accomplish their objectives. The lines must be redrawn and then we must pursue these criminals as quickly and as aggressively as the law permits.”

Who has contempt for the law? What’s that issue of projection we’re hearing so much about lately?

Christians, what ever happened to, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.” (John 18:36)?


I just got back from touring Raymondville, TX and its new detention center for Other Than Mexican illegals. Out front of the local Methodist church on one of those moveable type signs used to announce weekly sermon topics and church service times was the following sentence: “Don’t cry for those who won’t cry for you.” Desperate times and desperate sentiments.


Re the quote above from Majikthise: Indeed. Rationality or following the teachings of Christ is entirely irrelevant to folks like those of the TVC. The issue is fear, loss of community, social upheaval, and declining material conditions. There is a reason why religious fundamentalism and poverty so often appear together, and why it intensifies when the social order is upset.

And since several of us are in a Bible quotin’ mood, I’ll ante up. From my favorite book, Ecclesiastes – seriously, did someone include this book as a joke? – comes this mantra (repeated three times in the first 8 chapters): “Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry.”

Just wanted to say that this is a really good post.

Slarti, you were right to call me out, I was doing some sloppy thinking and I fucked up.

After waving my …”gun”…around like a blowhard I ended up shooting blanks.

I thought I would find something in the writings of the New Light Calvinists. They are always dependable for “the-Constitution-is/was-a-deal-with-the-Devil” talk. However, most of their resentment is directed at the institution of slavery, and not on the “God-talk”, in the agreements at the Conventions.

I have found some notes on the book The Godless Constitution. One of the issues that book explores is the Founding Fathers use of the word “God”. If they were attempting to give a nod to Christianity they could have used the word unambiguously. In Europe, governments used the word “Christian” explicitly. (As well as the State governments in the newly formed United States), however the Founding Fathers seem to be giving a nod to the God of Kant and not the God of Calvin or Aquinas.

Slarti, you were right to call me out, I was doing some sloppy thinking and I fncked up.

SOD, I wasn't calling you out so much as trying to make sense of what you were saying. As I see it, a great deal of your comments here don't make a great deal of sense without some supporting observations/data/explanation, all of which you tend to leave out. Which is one of my failings, as well.

Anyway, you should look at my responses to your post less like challenges than as an interest in finding out what it is you're trying to say, because what you're trying to say rarely communicates itself.

because what you're trying to say rarely communicates itself.


If you have the time, I would appreciate it if you could point out posts that were confusing.

If you have the time, I would appreciate it if you could point out posts that were confusing.

Pretty much all of your one-liners. You may think you're making some zesty commentary on some issue or other, and you might even be right, but for the most part I have no idea what you could possibly mean. And since a great deal of the time you're busily engaging in some broad smear or other, I'm not all that interested in finding out. I can get much more readily understandable broad smears by taking a walk over to Atrios. Or I could simply wait for any of the wide variety of other folks here to say something both cutting and comprehensible.

Not that broad smears aren't warranted sometimes, but they simply don't, for me, add anything to a conversation already chock-full of them.

I do recognize that this is just about exactly the sort of conversation other posters have with me regarding clarity, etc, and therefore don't hold high hopes that anything will change as a result of this exchange. But you did ask, and I've been dying to share.

And you shouldn't take any of this as denigrating you or your opinions; I have in the past absolutely loathed you, but at present I'm more indifferent, with the odd feeling that I'd care more one way or the other if I only understood, and hoping that expressing that feeling isn't a waste of time.

And, finally, I realize that me coaching anyone else in the matter of clarity is high comedy, and welcome all expressions of mirth at this, my latest folly.

"And, finally, I realize that me coaching anyone else in the matter of clarity is high comedy, and welcome all expressions of mirth at this, my latest folly."

Well, at least you have the ability to 1. acknowledge your own flaws, and 2. see the humor in your own flaws. There's lots of people (here and elsewhere) who that cannot be said about.

I OBJECT TO THAT...um, thanks.

What Dantheman said.

I just wish I had some flaws, so that I could show that I had an awareness and sense of humor about them.

And here it was, I thought it was 'see the flaws in your own humor'...

lj,

"I thought it was 'see the flaws in your own humor'..."

That's my flaw -- I cannot see the flaws in my own humor, so I tend to make truly horrible jokes. Or is it your flaw, that people keep humoring me on my jokes?

This discussion may be getting too "meta", but as Will Rogers would say, I never meta-discussion I didn't like.

I just wish I had a sense of humor about everybody else's flaws.

(My flaws? Some things are beyond a joke.)

Something about a flaw in the ointment goes here.

There was an old woman who swallowed a flaw.
I am in awe, she swallowed a flaw.
Perhaps she'll craugh.

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