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January 18, 2008

Comments

His initial quote really baffled me. Let me try to explain why. His initial statement was:

What we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards.

which conversationally (but not logically) implies that the Constitution, as presently construed, isn't within God's standards.

Now there are only two ways I can take this. Either the Constitution is mum on the issues of marriage and abortion or it is not, and Huckabee must believe one of these two things. If it is silent on these topics, then surely it isn't inconsistent with the Bible. It's just factually independent from the Bible. After all, if mere silence makes something inconsistent, then the Constitution would be a document of horrible religious bigotry, because it would be inconsistent with every religious document there ever was! If it isn't silent on these topics, then that must mean Huckabee actually believes the Constitutional interpretations of privacy that gay marriage and women's choice advocates have argued for.

So who knew that in this one tortured statement, there was EITHER an admission of support for Griswold v. Connecticut OR nonsense meaningless hooey.

P.S. Hilzoy, I think the world would be a better place if Huckabee had been making a pint rather than a point, but, as things stand, I think there might be a tiny little typo in the post.

Ara: thanks; corrected. And good catch, in your first comment.

The bible can't be amended, but it certainly can be ignored when it says things you don't particularly agree with.

www.godhatesshrimp.com

It is unfortunate for the proponents of literalist readings that people have, effectively, been amending the Bible pretty much since its core texts were produced and then agreed on. Either they did so when an absence of vowels (as is usual when transcribing Semitic languages) produced ambiguities which required clarification, or when a particular verse was unambiguous as to literal meaning, but required interpretation with its context. A good example of the latter is the injunction to "Love thy neighbour as thyself", which can be read as 'Love others as you love yourself" i.e. as much as/in the same way as you love yourself OR, potentially as love thy neighbour-as-thyself - in other words, love the neighbour who is like you. We know from commentaries and recovered texts that the injunction was taken in various senses by different communities. It might also be pointed out that according to some schools of Jewish thought God's activity consists of interpreting the Torah. Equally, when the Bible was translated into various languages (Latin, Greek, English, German etc) there was disagreement about how to define or understand certain terms, if not, in fact, pure error at points. Once again, a form of interpretation.
In general, it is easy, and perhaps salutary to mock Huckabee for his inconsistent and often extremely unpleasant understanding of his "Christian" duty, but on this point critics have been rather too hasty to assume an incoherence in his thought. What he is clearly doing is first to contrast the eternal, immutable divine law, with the temporal, human (and therefore subject to change) law prescribed in the Constitution. Secondly, Volokh's point is not in fact valid from the viewpoint of a Christian theologian who believes that the New Testament (and thus new theological dispensation) brought in by Christ effectively fulfils, and thus also supersedes the old Mosaic dispensation. In other words, even if there were cases of concubinage and multiple wives a la Solomon, this does not mean that the old dispensation carries through into the Christian era, which prescribes one wife. Ara's argument seems to me to conflate several differing points in ways that are not consistent with Huckabee's plain intent, which is to define marriage in one, restrictive way, and to do so explicitly and clearly in Christian terms if the Constitution is silent or ambiguous on this point. Huckabee is not remotely interested in the hypothetical divergence of the Constitution from any other religious imperative - his focus is solely his vision of Christianity. Equally, he would probably regard Constitutional silence as effective agreement with his position, given that the Founders were traditionalists on social issues, and so would be presumed to agree with his traditional Biblically based view of marriage. (This may historically be true, if only because no one was debating gay marriage when the constitution was drawn up). The Constitution hardly becomes a document of religious bigotry, on this take, whether silent or not. Huckabee is not theorizing in such finespun or general terms. His focus is specific to Christianity, clear, and, oddly coherent, even though disagreeable to the non-believer or historically-minded scholar. I don't think it serves much purpose to ingeniously extrapolate something tortured and legalistic from Huckabee's position, which, foolishly literalistic and dogmatic as it may be from one's own viewpoint, is, within his terms of reference, actually quite clear and consistent. You can't refute Huckabee in his own eyes by constructing these arguments, because, for him, they are simply not valid in any real sense. If you want to refute him , you would have to do so Biblically, and that presupposes agreeing to certain basic principles of interpretation. Whether you can then win the debate with him is, I think, open to argument, but it seems unlikely. The irony is that, in practice, many liberals would agree with his claim that the Constitution is human, therefore malleable, as many conservatives would not. The difference comes in what they see as a legitimate source of change for the Constitution - not the Bible, but rather human reason, specifically post-Enlightenment thought. Naturally, this is an irreconciliable disagreement, since the Bible and free thought are frequently not compatible. However, from Huckabee's view the Bible is not only as valid as human reason, it is in fact far superior, since divine law (and love) trump human fumbling. I think that when dealing with Huckabee and his ilk, it really does not help (or impress them) to construct arguments that go far beyond what Huckabee clearly means. It might help if you could show that the Bible has changed with time, as have its interpretations, but then the response is often that now we understand better, since we read our Bibles and discover truth for ourselves in that honest reading, rather than via some priestly interpreter. The modern view thus trumps the old days of "Papist" superstition. Ultimately, it comes down to the source of authority that you prefer - and on that issue logic has never won many converts, because there is no way of showing one source to be superior or more true than another. All you are left with is a set of beliefs or tastes - Mike prefers the Bible, Bob prefers reason. Neither has a clinching approach, because they are arguing in different terms and on different bases. What we should not do is to make Huckabee think in our post-enlightenment terms and then ridicule his arguments. It is unfair, and only aggravates the situation. I don't agree with Huckabee, and I certainly don't endorse his views - but we should be willing to understand them and debate them fairly, if we choose to engage in that debate.

On legal issues, I think you will find that most legal systems that deal with contracts would have trouble regarding a powerdrill and/or a petunia as persons. Similarly for hula hoops and hysterectomy. It is somewhat difficult for non-persons to engage in a personal relationship (such as forming contracts i.e. marriages etc.) In any case, one might counter by asking why you should wish to arrange for the possibility of such marriages.
As for Huckabee and his selective modification of the Constitution, he might well ask why he can't focus on a key area or areas - and in this case, he probably would argue that he is, in that the family is seen as the core of society (a view which, for the secular, has Aristotelian support). Thus, marriage must be defined in such a way as to make it valid within the Divine dispensation laid out in the Bible. Equally, human life is particularly important (many people tend to agree with this premise), and so abortion must be removed from the Constitution, so that life may be preserved. Again, I do not agree with him, but I can see why he would choose these areas first. He might further respond that the point of changing the constitution is to prevent abuses permitted by misguided laws, whereas areas exist (tithes, sunday schools) which should be left to the individual conscience. After all, tithing lacks merit/virtue when it is imposed on one. The point of it is to make a gift because it is the Christian and charitable thing to do, not because Caesar ordains it. I would also say that since the point of Christianity is to enter into a personal relationship with the Creator, it is in fact, quite reasonable to ensure that one's key earthly relationships are not going to impede such communication because of their sinful nature. Improper marriage would certainly be sinful, as would the murder of children. Not my viewpoint - but a perfectly defensible principle for Huckabee to deploy. Also, from Huckabee's viewpoint, it is alarming to contemplate a "perversion" of an essential relationship into something sinful and thus hateful to God. Again, not my view - but it is coherent with his vision of the world. The difference is that what to us is alarming activism, from Huckabee's point of view is alarming neglect.

Figurative bottles of ink spilled to answer logically the incoherent ramblings of a superstitious bigot. Can we ignore anything Huckabee says about policy unless/until he gets the nomination and we have to take him seriously?

Nowhere in the Bible, at least to my recollection, does Christ condemn homosexuality or abortion. He does, however, condemn divorce. Taking Huckabee at his word and noting that he professes to be a Christian, then logically he should propose an amendment to eliminate divorce before moving on to things like prohibiting abortion. If he's willing to go there, then I'm willing to listen - well, actually, I'm willing to watch his campaign implode!

Another prime example of debated meaning is the notorious "Thou should not suffer a witch to live" where the Hebrew word has been interpreted as witch, poisoner, necromancer. I personally consider the last to be correct since the only "witch" actually mentioned in the Bible is the necromancing woman of Endor. Time for the war on astrology? (but in that case all business journals would have to be banned) ;-)
In theory there is nothing the constitution could not be changed to. Btw, what would happen, if congress and states would amend the constitution to remove the amendment clause?

Xeynon, why would you want to ignore someone who represents the opinions of quite a substantial community? If we just ignore Huckabee and those like him, we reinforce the sense they have of liberal arrogance and exclusiveness. Moreover, in ignoring him, you let go unchallenged the arguments and assumptions that he wants to bring into the mainstream, and has begun to do so. Waiting until he gets the nomination will give him time to consolidate his position. The time to debate these ideas is now - and to debate them honestly. Calling him a superstitious bigot is intellectually lazy, and will do nothing but reinforce the stereotype of liberal dogmatism. You can't win someone over by yelling insults at him, and you will only reinforce his followers in their belief that you do not respect them or their choices. That won't achieve much except a shouting match. Nor can you accuse him of being incoherent. He is consistent within his beliefs, even if you differ from them. As for his bigotry, he sees his work as redeeming sinners (including you and me) from a terrible error of separation from God. I personally don't agree with many of the things he says, but I am not going to dismiss his ideas, abuse him, or pretend that he is not perfectly rational within his own understanding. That to me is just creating a mirror-image of the worst excesses of conservatives - and I think that liberals should be able to do better.

on Biblical prohibitions: to be precise, the full quote from Christ on divorce (Luke 16.18, Mark 10.11)is that anyone who divorces his wife TO MARRY ANOTHER commits adultery. Paul justifies divorce in certain cases, although he says (1 Timothy, 5.8) that divorce is not a light thing. The situation is not really that of a total prohibition on divorce, although it is discouraged. Celebrity instant remarriages seem to be definitely out. Huckabee can quite confidently say that he is not Biblically required to remove the possibility of divorce from the Constitution. Whether he would, I am not sure. The condemnation of abortion is not directly supported by any Mosaic prohibition, or specific verse from the Bible. It is sometimes defended with quotes about God recognizing a person in the woman - and thus the fetus is a person. Equally, "Thou shalt not kill" is often invoked as the ground for the right to life. However, there is actually little or no Scriptural warrant for prohibition of abortion per se. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are the basis for prohibition of homosexuality, along with other references to e.g. Sodom and Gomorrah. Paul supposedly condemns homosexuals at 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Romans 1:28, but the terms he uses are not, in fact clear, and may refer to male prostitutes rather than all homosexuals in general. There is much debate about whether the verses in Leviticus are part of an old dispensation, which is replaced by the New Testament and the Christian focus on liberation. I am not taking a position on any of this, just reporting the sources as I understand them.

Sorry, rather than saying "person in the woman" I should have written "in the womb".

i bet the amendment requiring us to keep the Sabbath holy, as well as those forbidding graven images and the use of the lord's name in vain will be pretty popular. nothing says "land of the free and home of the brave" like a prohibition on intemperate language.

Nickzi-

Well, Huckabee will have a hard time dismissing me as a liberal elitist, since I'm not liberal. :) You make some fair points. Let me respond to them one by one.

1.)I don't he IS really bringing arguments and assumptions into the mainstream - or at the very least, the arguments and assumptions he makes are so asinine as to be unworthy of debate - as I think Hilzoy's post demonstrates. Huckabee's opposition to gay marriage strikes me as having a lot more to do with his religious preferences (to which he's entitled) than it does with any justifiable fear that gay marriage is a slippery slope to people marrying their dogs.

2.)His system of thought is NOT internally consistent - as noted by others, he's not proposing killing witches, even that would be the biblical thing to do. Furthermore, one of the types of marriage he cites as "unbiblical" (polygyny) most certainly IS biblical - God even commands people to take multiple wives in the Bible.

3.)I think I'm perfectly justified in calling someone who lumps responsible, moral homosexual adults in with people who exploit children and abuse corpses a bigot.

3.)I'm not an atheist, and I think Christopher Hitchens is a complete churl and find his anti-religious screeds simultaneously shrill and tedious. I do agree with him, however, that if a candidate is going to make his religious beliefs an explicit part of his campaign, they need to be held up to the same scrutiny as any other sort of idea. In Huckabee's case, that means that pointing out that they're logically incoherent and smack of prejudice is perfectly inbounds.

4.)I'm all for trying to persuade people by reasonable argument, but there are certain times when a line in favor of what you believe needs to be drawn and a spade must be called a spade. Gay rights and the importance of secular law are two "non-negotiables" for me - perhaps I shouldn't be so strident, but I find it hard not to be about some issues.

5.)I doubt Huckabee (or anyone who supports him) is reading this blog, so I'm doubly untroubled by the thought of offending him. :) What I meant when I said we shouldn't respond to these opinions until/unless he's nominated isn't that they shouldn't be engaged in the political arena at all - I agree with you that not only should they be, they must be. Rather, it's that I don't think they're worth posting on/discussing, since I'm willing to wager pretty much everyone here finds them absurd on their face. And thank G-d (though not Huckabee's, apparently) I don't think we have much to fear there - I seriously doubt he wins a state outside of the south, particularly once the GOP field is whittled down and non-evangelical Republicans can coalesce around a single candidate.

Xeynon, I think we have quite a bit in common, but I think you should take seriously the division between Old and New Testaments. A modern Christian would generally feel comfortable rejecting most of the 613 prohibitions of the Mosaic Law (no lobster-eating etc) , while regarding the New Testament as the source of moral law for the current age. This means that witch-burning (aka Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live) is not in fact relevant, since this is part of the old dispensation. I am not saying that no-one follows those laws, but it is a rare phenomenon.

legal marriages * * * between my laundry hamper and the set of all cardinal numbers.

Surely you recall that cardinals are supposed to be celebate?

I think you should take seriously the division between Old and New Testaments.

Then so should Huckabee, not only about marriage but everything else. Where's his plank saying we should turn the other cheek next time we're attacked by terrorists? How about a constitutional amendment banning calling people "fool"? Because you know, Jesus himself actually said things in favor of those views, which is pointedly not the case in regards to anything about homosexuality.

Man I hope Huckabee wins the republican nomination, I might even consider voting for him for president, even if it's just to punish the moneyed interests in this country for supporting the current horror show for the past six years.

"Be agape-loving your enemies and be praying for those persecuting you."

i'll eat my hat, and every hat in all of Hattiesburg, when the GOP votes to make that part of the Constitution.

nickzi: "On legal issues, I think you will find that most legal systems that deal with contracts would have trouble regarding a powerdrill and/or a petunia as persons."

Yes, but if Huckabee is right, and changing the concept of marriage could lead just anywhere, I don't see why it could lead not just to changes in what persons could be a party to a marriage (which was why I started with AOL/Time-Warner), but in its requirement that a marriage be between persons. (For that matter, I don't see why, in principle, it couldn't lead to ditching the idea that a marriage is a contract involving the legal union of several beings, but I was having too much fun with the hula hoops to go there.)

Who knows why anyone would want to sanctify the union between a power drill and a petunia? I don't know, but I suspect it's the same imaginary people who would want to provide for the marriage of a woman to her German Shepherd.

I generally agree about engaging the arguments of evangelicals. I didn't do so in this case partly because Huckabee was trying to make a political argument in a political setting, partly because it was pretty hard to discern a serious theological argument in these short remarks, but mostly because, insofar as I could, I found the theology risible, as theology. -- I admire your effort to explain why H. might have focussed on abortion and banning gay marriage, but honestly: the idea that either would have been Christ's main concern strikes me as just bizarre.

(Fwiw, for those who are new here: I spent my 13th-22nd year being pretty seriously Christian, have a lot of respect for Christianity, and can do theological arguments when I feel like it. It is partly the ex-Christian in me that finds all this offensive -- along with the woman, the person with gay and TG friends, the proponent of Constitutionally protected liberties, etc. The ex-Christian in me reacts to this stuff in something like the way in which I might react if someone said some stupid and bigoted thing and wrongly attributed it to an ex-boyfriend for whom I retained a lot of affection.)

omg, are you a golden eagle too, cleek?

The ex-Christian in me reacts to this stuff in something like the way in which I might react if someone said some stupid and bigoted thing and wrongly attributed it to an ex-boyfriend for whom I retained a lot of affection.

I like this. Rather than the church being the bride of Christ, having it aim to be the ex-girlfriend for whom the break-up didn't lead to dishes being thrown and the police coming to to intervene in a domestic dispute seems like a Good Thing. ;^)

omg, are you a golden eagle too, cleek?

heh. nope... just needed a hat-themed city name to complete my joke.

Thank god, I thought the blogosphere had reached maximum expansion and was collapsing in on itself.

Nickzi -

If you want to refute him , you would have to do so Biblically, and that presupposes agreeing to certain basic principles of interpretation. and then The time to debate these ideas is now - and to debate them honestly.

Ok, I'll bite. You say we have to debate H. (1)Biblically and (2)honestly. Do you understand why a fair number of us are having trouble reconciling these two? To debate anyone Biblically gives the Bible an authority and authenticity that most of the world rejects, and that our founding fathers rejected. I have no interest trying to debate Biblical literalists about hardly anything - I've had years of those debates with my brother without effect either way. I just ask they don't use the power of the State to enforce their religion. If they can't manage that, I predict trouble is brewing, just like theocracies have almost always brewed trouble.

"We can't amend The Story of O, or the collected works of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, or Beethoven's Ninth Symphony."

You know, I agree with the rest of the post, but this part seems to contain a very pinched understanding of copyright law (and also ignore's the "director's cut" phenomenon). ;)

Dan: I was going for works whose author/composer/director was dead, though I wasn't entirely sure about Debbie Does Dallas. In that case, I just decided to rely pretty heavily on the we in "we can't." :)

According to Wikipedia, "[Debbie Does Dallas star] Woods' precise date and place of birth, details of her personal life, and even whether she is still alive have been unconfirmed since the mid-1980s".

Weird stuff.

Who knows why anyone would want to sanctify the union between a power drill and a petunia? I don't know, but I suspect it's the same imaginary people who would want to provide for the marriage of a woman to her German Shepherd.

I don't think they're the same people, and the latter group could be less imaginary than you think (though I'm sure they're vanishingly rare). After all, there's no Wikipedia article on tool-plant marriage.

But of course you CAN amend Beethoven's 5th . . . it merely becomes an amended 5th . . . owing (presumably) the vast majority of its notes to Beethoven . . .

If you want to refute him , you would have to do so Biblically, and that presupposes agreeing to certain basic principles of interpretation.

Sorry, but no.

The field of discourse in a campaign for President of the US is not theology. It is public, civic policy, within the structure of government defined by our Constitution.

Huckabee can believe whatever he wants. It's nobody's business to dispute his beliefs. But the theological basis of his beliefs have no weight when the context of the discussion turns from theology to public policy.

If anyone wants to refute him in the context of his campaign for President, they can and should do so without reference to the Bible, and he should be prepared to make his reply without demanding that anyone recognize the Bible as a relevant authority.

Period.

As an aside, I don't see a prescription against polygamy in the new testament, other than for positions of leadership in the church. I'm not interested in debating it (nor am I interested in a polygamous marriage), it's just an observation.

And, the union of power drill and petunia goes down in my book as the ne plus ultra of yin and yang.

Thanks -

IMHO, the debate is not furthered when people on both sides of the debate resort to calling the other side's position ridiculous or even "insane." I don't see a lot of posters here following the principle of "seek understanding and THEN seek to be understood."

nickzi has a good point: a lot of non-Christians don't engage the debate at a level that truly can be called debating (in the positive sense of the word). Trying to tell a devout Christian what the Bible says is not necessarily a good point to start if you have a) not read it yourself; b) aren't going to take the time to listen to alternate interpretations, etc. That doesn't mean you can't debate the Bible without being a Bible scholar. It just means you don't come out and decree "this is what the Bible says!"

A few examples:

Hilzoy, "surely anyone who believes in the Bible has to acknowledge that it attests to the widespread existence of marriage between a man and multiple women."

Many Christians (most?) would point out the difference between the Mosaic law (Old Testament) and Christ's fulfillment of that law and therefore the law of the New Testament. Not a good argument unless you are ready to discuss why the Mosiac law should apply today (same for the shrimp argument).

And taking the slippery slope down to inanimate objects is the sort of thing both sides should avoid. Power tools? And comparing marriage to a corporate merger? This form of argument exemplifies the problem in both sides understanding one another. You're not going to understand a Christian (or any believer for that matter) if you set the rules of debate as only allowing for Aristotelian logic and then ridicule the believer for not having a logical reply. Marriage is sacred in Christianity. You can't engage the debate at the power tool level. (BTW, I'm not saying that Huckabee engaged the debate at the right level).

For example, take the "love thy neighbor as thyself" injunction. Nickzi points out a few differing interpretations. It could be interpreted in a variety of ways literally. But go read the story just after that quote in Luke. It's the parable of the Good Samaritan-Christ's answer to the question of "who is my neighbor?" Even then you might not get the whole gist of the story if you aren't aware of the historical animosity between Jews and Samaritans based largely on religious issues.

I could go on (e.g. the "Jesus never condemned homosexuality" argument, etc) but my main purpose is not so much to debate these points, but to point out that the debate here is superficial. Debate is not truly engaged. It's missing nickzi's point and in the process proving that point.

And, for the record, I'm not an evangelical and I don't support Huckabee. I do find a lot of his rhetoric troubling as a citizen and a Christian. At the same time, responses to Huckabee are often not narrowly tailored and condemn all of Christianity offending those the authors of the responses probably did not intend to offend. :)

Trying to tell a devout Christian what the Bible says is not necessarily a good point to start if you have a) not read it yourself; b) aren't going to take the time to listen to alternate interpretations, etc.

That's great, but I think it misses the point.

There are, no doubt, folks who find Huckabee's personal beliefs somewhere between goofy and deluded, and make fun of and/or discount them because of that. That's not a nice thing to do, but it's also not to the point.

The point is that Huckabee is running for President of the US, not Pastor of the US. The fact that the US Constitution does, or does not, comply with any reading whatsoever of the Bible, the Koran, or the Gitas is *not relevant*. And it should stay not relevant.

If I'm not mistaken, Huckabee is a Baptist. He should look into the history of his own demonination if he wants to know the whys and wherefores of the issue.

Thanks -

Jdog: That's a pretty funny argument about the 5th. I like it. I should use that more often, as in like:

Of course I can amend Newton's law of universal gravitation. Here's the original:

F = G(m1 * m2)/r2

And here's my amendation:

F = G(m1 * r2)/m2

There, see! I amended it! What can't I amend? My powers of amendment are amazing.

I'm going to change the Ten Commandments. Watch! I am replacing every occurrence of the word 'not' with the word 'cheerfully'.

It just means you don't come out and decree "this is what the Bible says!"

But what if you decree "I don't care what the Bible says."? Under the assumption that Huckabee is 100% correct about what the Bible says, what should that matter to a Bhuddist, an atheist, or an animist? I know this is completely aside from Hilzoy's ex-Christian reasons for being offended by Huckabee's rhetoric, but for many people, I think what I'm saying applies. I don't know when each and every potential Mike Huckabee debater signed up to recognize a single word of the Christian Bible. I do understand that there are many people who do believe in one interpretation or another of the Bible, and that Huckabee's arguments based on it will hold weight with at least some of them - well, maybe I just talked myself out of my original argument, since the whole point may be to try to sway those very people. I guess I'll leave out the part about my writing a book of Hairshirthedonist's universal truths and insisting that anyone arguing with me will have to do so based solely on the contents of that book. (Yes, I considered not hitting the post button, but decided someone might find my dunderheaded equivocation entertaining.)

The division between Old and New Testament and the school of thought that teaches (to broadly summarize for brevity) the NT as superseding OT law is completely irrelevant to the arguments about whether or not polygamy is historically accepted. The NT did not rewrite history. It did not make it as if what came before never actually happened. Regardless of whether or not the NT made polygamy not-OK where it was OK before, it doesn't change the fact that it was OK at one time.

But really, referring to polygamy in the Bible is basically a cheap gotcha. That doesn't make it less effective or accurate, but it's lending authority to a text with highly questionable historical consistency, and ignoring far better rebuttals of the profoundly ignorant position that marriage has a historically consistent definition or nature.

This isn't an argument or advocacy for polygamy, polyamory, SSM, or any other variation from contemporary male-female marriage. I'm just pointing out what should be self-evident to anyone with at least a high school education: arguments against SSM on the grounds that marriage has always had a consistent definition of one-man-one-woman have no historical or factual basis whatsoever, and people who advance these arguments should be shunned by thinking people as either dishonest charlatans or ignorant fools.

"And taking the slippery slope down to inanimate objects is the sort of thing both sides should avoid. Power tools? And comparing marriage to a corporate merger? This form of argument exemplifies the problem in both sides understanding one another."

That was sort of my point: Huckabee seems to think that if we change the definition of marriage at all, we're off on a slippery slope. I say: if so, why won't we slide all the way to power tools? But we're not on a slippery slope,and gay marriage wouldn't put us on one, any more than getting rid of the doctrine of coverture -- the view Blackstone was discussing in the passage I quoted, about married women having essentially no separate legal existence in many contexts -- opened the flodgates to bestiality and marrying corpses and so forth.

There's also a much deeper confusion about the nature of language and of human institutions: the idea that if you let a word or an institution change in any way, it might turn into literally anything. A toadstool, maybe, or a bandersnatch. This is, of course, insane. Words change meaning, and outside the fevered imaginations of extreme deconstructionists and extreme literalists, who are one anther's evil twins, they normally do so in pretty comprehensible ways that do not lead to the dissolution of all meaning.

hilzoy, have I ever told you that you rock?

"There's also a much deeper confusion about the nature of language and of human institutions: the idea that if you let a word or an institution change in any way, it might turn into literally anything. A toadstool, maybe, or a bandersnatch. This is, of course, insane. Words change meaning, and outside the fevered imaginations of extreme deconstructionists and extreme literalists, who are one anther's evil twins, they normally do so in pretty comprehensible ways that do not lead to the dissolution of all meaning."

I agree that this is a valid comment. I also support extending marriage to gay people--changing the definition to include gay people. But I nevertheless think it is important to note that it is a *change* in the meaning of the word. I think a lot of the resistance comes with the pretense that it really is just what marriage has always meant (see almost any of the court cases on the issue).

Civil unions for all - gay or straight. Let churches marry people.

It's not as though abortion and gay marriage are central to the message of Christianity, after all.

Possibly a side topic, but I don't recall any discussions about abortion anywhere in the old or new testaments.

I should point out that I did write quite a long post, arguing that the Bible was not to be seen as interpretable in only one way, and that there was a long history of differing interpretations, many of which have now been repressed in the name of a "literal" or at least non-figurative reading of the text. I don't endorse that latter reading, just as I don't endorse Huckabee's positions on most of things that I think I know about him.
I think it is a mistake to create a a caricature vision of Christians as believing in everything in the Bible, or giving equal weight to all parts of it. It really is crucial that we don't confuse the parts of the Bible which still have relevance for most Christians (basically the New Testament with selected bits of the Old such as the Ten Commandments), with the idea that Christians accept all the Bible literally and as a source of how one has to live. One might point out here that parts of the New Testament more or less explicitly negate past traditions (for example, Peter's famous dream in which he discovers that Judaic diet codes no longer apply). I know that Catsy argues that the New Testament does not unmake the fact of polygamy (eg. Solomon and his 600 porcupines, as the old student joke has it). In practice though, no-one is trying to argue that it did. The New Testament is not a historical rewrite, rather it is a moral rewrite that effectively says that even if polygamy happened before, that's not how it should be now - thus a new dispensation. That, to a Christian, is far more important than the historical argument, which is real almost incidental to the main theme, which is humanity's relationship with God, in the context of sin and redemption. If you debate Huckabee on historicist grounds, he'll simply tell you that your argument is beside the point, and will be quite sincere in doing so. My whole point in all of this (and I feel like a very reluctant Martin Luther trying to explain the College of Cardinals to Jan Huss) is that first we must engage with these ideas, because many of them are not, in reality based on scripture at all (as in the divorce and abortion examples), second, that when engaging, we need to take seriously the ideas that lie behind the other side's arguments, otherwise we are not debating tham at all, rather a straw man that we set up, and that finally, in debating a straw man, we shall impress our opponent only as being people who are arguing on irrelevant grounds. IT DOES NOT MATTER TO THEM IF THE MAIN FORM OF DEBATE IS SECULAR RATIONALISM! (Yes, agitated caps, but it really is important that we get the idea that we have to show we can engage on Huckabee's ground, or else we just are babbling at him as far as he is concerned). It is also questionable whether secular rationalism is the dominant paradigm. It may be in the academy, it may be on blogs like this, but the sort of communities that follow Huckabee may well see this as elitist talk that misses the spiritual point. That's not to dismiss them as nuts, fanatics or anthing else, just making the point that you don't get anywhere by forcing them to play by your rules, just as the converse is true for us.
On the slide to power tools, Huckabee will simply reply that marriage is a relationship between persons, and ask you to produce a powertool with a personality/soul (and yes, I am sure this can be a rich source of humour for all concerned). He doesn't think changing marriage produces connubial powertools, nor would he care if it did. What bothers him is human beings in corrupt relationships. Powertools can't have them, because, at the end of the discriminatory day, powertools don't have souls, don't sin, and don't end up in hell. Human beings, for Huckabee, can and do. It should also be said that Mosaic Law does prohibit incest, bestiality, and adultery. The point though is that these are sinful human activities, not activities that matter for non-humans. Likewise, the prohibition on graven images is not in order to stop trees being carved, it is because it pulls people away from a correct relationship with God. Anyway, your humble metaphorical Luther is weary, so perhaps others can take up the equally metaphorical cudgel. In the interests of full disclosure, I grew up in a church family, and virtually all the men on my mother's side of the family are priests of one stripe or another. I prefer philosophy to religion, although I tend to think of them as being both forms of faith. Cordially yours, brothers and sisters in non-faith, Martin Luther.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bibh2.htm

You might find this an interesting place to visit. It has little information on powertools (sorry, hilzoy), but does discuss some important issues and quotes in a user-friendly way.

Russell:

First, the tone of your comments is what I would hold up as an example of good debate (esp. the comment on polygamy and the N.T.) which was the main point of my post.

Second, did I miss the point? I am not saying the debate SHOULD be about what the Bible says. But ironically the debate turns into that by those opposing Huckabee. I was commenting on the tone of that debate, not whether the debate is proper in a political context.

It looks to me like the left goes ballistic if Huckabee even mentions the Bible.


Hilzoy: I say: if so, why won't we slide all the way to power tools?

Because the slope is fairly steep at the top but then quickly tapers off. I see the argument for polygamy and such and do see (as do you) the ridiculousness of the bestiality argument. Point taken and I agree. You lose me on power tools (except perhaps you refer to the fact that a large percentage of American men would have a really hard time choosing between a new DeWalt XRP 24v combo kit and their wife?) :)

But we're not on a slippery slope . . .

Not yet. And your connection between coverture, gay marriage and the slope seems tenuous. How does changing the legal relationship of two spouses vis-a-vis property rights have anything to do with bestiality anyway? Coverture had nothing to do with the nature of the other partner nor the number of other partners. I fail to see any connection or how this advances your argument. Enlighten me!


nickzi,

Can I interest you in some paragraph breaks?

You have interesting things to say, but it's hard on the eyes.

I was waiting for Farber to offer the corrective but he is elsewhere apparently.

If we were to amend Beethoven's 5th it would likely be diminished.

[my jokes often fall flat]

"[my jokes often fall flat]"

That deserves a sharp rap on the knuckles.

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-knerr17jan17,0,1584494.story?coll=la-home-obituaries

For hula hoop lovers, a sad day.

Eric, you know, when I nailed my theses to the church door, nobody asked for paragraph breaks *grin*. Oh, the bygone good old days, when a word-processor was a small,frightened monk with a quill and parchment and a sound work ethic. But, yes, your point is taken. I am a touch weary after a three hour Russian language exam. Forgive me my unfragmented state.

Xeynon, since I snapped at you in another thread, I want to make double-sure to say: you're completely speaking for me, along with others, here. Beautifully done.

Nickzi, I think you're still missing the essential point, which is that Huckabee is running for an office that governs over all Americans, of every Christian creed and every other conviction. He must therefore make a case that works for all of us. If he wishes to deal only with arguments phrased in terms of his creed, he can return to being a pastor.

If you unable to translate your convictions into secular language accessible to everybody, then you are not making a public argument, instead you're stealthily trying to undermine the separation of church and state.

jdog should really check out this poem.

Bruce, with all love and respect, I keep talking about how to debate Huckabee and people like him in terms that they can recognize, strictly in terms of his Christianity. I am not debating the political stuff with him, nor do I claim to do so. I am willing to recognize that he is theologically consistent, although I dislike his positions. I would still argue this position, whether he dropped out of the race tomorrow.
A lot of his arguments are being made in a non-presidential political context, and have been for maybe 30 years. That would be true if Huckabee were only a humble pastor. The point I am making is that to combat them effectively, you have to engage on the terrain where they operate, which is primarily as Christian doctrine being used to dogwhistle believers. That we need to combat them seems beyond dispute to me - and that we must combat them beyond the presidential hoop-la (or hula hoop) is even more important.
Since this can't be done by mass de-Christianization, it seems more realistic to start by getting the Huckabee followers (and maybe more crucially potential followers) to recognize the very problematic nature of his theology as a startingpoint for dealing with him, and those like him, as a political force.
Of course Huckabee is trying to present a general political argument - but much of it is grounded in theology, and much of that theology seems crude or simply misplaced to me. Still, that is where his appeal and authority come from (in addition to undeniable musical gifts and atrocities against squirrels).
And for Eric, a special page-broken edition of our latest Wittenberg encyclical.

It's the personal touch that really wins the battle for my eternal soul...

Given the way this thread is going, my previous dunderheaded equivocation seems to be gaining relevancy.

I dated the set of all cardinal numbers in college. Lousy tipper.

That's not to dismiss them as nuts, fanatics or anthing else, just making the point that you don't get anywhere by forcing them to play by your rules, just as the converse is true for us.

Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion.

There will be no religious test to hold public office.

Etc.

The game being played here is public civic life, in a nation made up of a wide variety of people with a wide variety of beliefs and non-beliefs. The rules by which the game is played are those given in the Constitution, which is rigorously agnostic about religious belief of any and all kinds.

Nobody's making religious people, of any stripe, play by any rules other than those that all of the rest of us are required to play by. If you are motivated by religious belief to jump into the fray of civic life, that's great. Lots of really wonderful things have been accomplished by folks like that. It's up to *you*, though, to make your argument in terms of the common ground that exists between you and everyone else, not the other way around.

In other words, if you want to say that marriage should, *by law*, only be between one man and one woman, you need to explain why in terms of the civic principles that we all share. You might believe, strongly, that it should only be between one man and one woman, and that's fine, but if you want to make it so *by law*, you can't argue for that from the Bible.

Because the Bible is not an authority that we have all agreed to live by.

It looks to me like the left goes ballistic if Huckabee even mentions the Bible

Actually, I don't think that's so. I think Huckabee gets a lot of room to talk about religious issues, far more than most folks.

"The left" goes ballistic when Huckabee talks about making the Constitution conform to God's law, as he sees it in the Bible.

Not the same thing.

Thanks -

Nickzi, in all seriousness, in all the years I've been observing debates among believers (of any creed) and others, I haven't seen that a respectful acceptance of one party's premises actually does lead to more reliable persuasion. What does seem to work is a display of honest commitment on the other party's part, even if it's a different conviction. Rhetorical cheap shots and the like do turn off an audience, but so nearly as I can tell, open and honest scorn when coupled with information and honest tactics doesn't actually work any worse than the alternatives, and sometimes better - the shock of finding that a person worth respecting in other ways genuinely has contempt for part of your outlook can be a salutary cold fish in the face.

No, of course it doesn't work in all cases. But neither does what you're advocating, and your course has the very serious risk of reinforcing people's sense of rightness about precisely the parts of their views that most need changing.

"I was waiting for Farber to offer the corrective but he is elsewhere apparently."

Contrary to popular belief, Farber actually tries to restrain himself to offering suggestions about writing only when it's either crucial or likely to be welcome, or he's being driven insane.

If folks don't care about clarity, or being understood, or making their writing unpainful to read, it's not for me to insist they should, although I'd be delighted to help if they indicate it's welcome.

(But an ellipsis still only has three dots. No more. No less.)

I appreciate the cogent arguments displayed here.

I'll also vote for Nickzi if he/she (I try to stay on topic, or between topics, or between posts, or something) runs for President. ;)

But I will see Bruce Baugh's point about Huckabee running as President of all Americans and lower and or/raise the bar even further and argue that Huckabee's comments on this subject, in the context of a political campaign in 2008, are simple pandering to one segment of the Republican Party.

His backtracking/rewording/explanations after the original statement tell me that he not interested in consistency.

George W. Bush is consistent and steadfast. Consistent, steadfast people usually end up hiding in bunkers as the inconsistent and unsteadfast world closes in.

I'm sure Huckabee's opinions are strongly felt. If he wins the nomination, his statements to economic conservatives to counter many of their charges that he is a "liberal" on fiscal issues and foreign policy will be strongly felt, too.

But they will be counter to much of his strongly-felt statements to date about fiscal issues and foreign policy.

Just so, if Romney, McCain, or Thomson, (throw in Guiliani .... and then throw him out) win the nomination, Huckabee voters will be pandered to with equally bizarre but seemingly strongly felt and sincere opinions regarding the relationship of Biblical inerrancy and the Constitution.

Romney's contortions on the subject will be especially entertaining.

We already know that atheism and agnosticism are out the window with him, but it will get even more interesting than that.

These guys have a coalition to preserve.

They'll say and promise anything. No doubt Huckabee will come around to reducing taxes by some percentage of GDP as well and tell us they will pay for themselves, not to mention the multi-trillion dollar bailout of banks, bond insurers, etc, that is about to crash down upon us.

The Democrats do the same. There is the power-tool/petunia coalition, after all. And I've never seen a bandersnatch I didn't want to tax.

Gary, I happen to appreciate it. It's all love...

By the way, as the Cunning Realist has been harping on lately, the precipice that the bond insurers and credit agencies are looking into (housing, credit card, auto, municipal bonds, you name it, it's now funky paper and no one can tell you where it is) will wipe any talk of Huckabee's views on Biblical inerrancy off the front page.

Except for the loaves and the fishes.

Someone is going to have to pull that trick again.

Just to play Devil's Advocate here: for those asking for a strict separation between church and state in political campaigning, what would you say about, e.g., Martin Luther King's invocation of God as a justification for the civil rights movement?

JT: "Consistent, steadfast people usually end up hiding in bunkers as the inconsistent and unsteadfast world closes in."

Rilkekind's folks don't let him run around outside and play in the street nearly as much as he'd like, so he spends a lot of time standing at the window pointing at hoped-for cats. I keep telling him, "That's the outside world", to which Mrs. R objects as (I think) evidence of a bunker mentality.

I am willing to recognize that he is theologically consistent, although I dislike his positions.

I'd actually dispute that wholeheartedly were I to have the time. He's consistent in his adherence to a particular brand of PMD Baptism, that I suppose I'll grant you, but since that is inherently inconsistent I can't go much further. I agree that political campaigns aren't usually the forum for such debates but if a candidate is going to make his theology the cornerstone -- and I want to be clear about this, not just an inspiration or a guiding light, but the actual core of his political creed -- then IMO it's fair game.

@nickzi: On the slide to power tools, Huckabee will simply reply that marriage is a relationship between persons, and ask you to produce a powertool with a personality/soul

Two things, 1. If that were to be his answer, why would he bring up the man & animal example? 2. If H were to acknowledge that marriage is a relationship between persons, I would wholeheartedly agree...but that is not really where he stops, is it between two persons of _opposite genders_.

is that first we must engage with these ideas, because many of them are not, in reality based on scripture at all

This seems to be difficult when H specifically puts the discussion in the context of aligning the Constitution with scripture.

second, that when engaging, we need to take seriously the ideas that lie behind the other side's arguments, otherwise we are not debating tham at all, rather a straw man that we set up

Agreed, but I think the post does this. The ideas behind the !gay marriage argument being put forth are some variation of a)marriage has always been man+woman, so any change will undermine marriage. b)my religion says only man+woman can marry. Hilzoy argues that the definition of marriage (and other concepts) has changed and yet the institution(s) remains acceptable. This does not seem like a strawman at all to me, rather an attempt to allay the concern (a) noted. As for (b), I do not know how to argue against such a belief other than trying to convince the person and their religion does not in fact say X, a particularly difficult and fruitless path IMHO.

@bc: Because the slope is fairly steep at the top but then quickly tapers off.

Really? Where? I thought the whole point of a slippery slope was that once you start down you aren't able to stop. You say power tools loses you, but I'm not sure I understand why? Where on the animal-power tool continuum becomes too ridiculous? Geese? Mosquitos? Tulips? Hand tools?

And your connection between coverture, gay marriage and the slope seems tenuous. How does changing the legal relationship of two spouses vis-a-vis property rights have anything to do with bestiality anyway?

If H's argument is that changing the definition of marriage to allow gay marriage will lead to further re-definition and the elimination of marriage as a useful institution, then evidence of changing definitions of marriage (from being the legal elimination of a woman to the current legal union of two individuals) not undermining the institution seems useful.

-Ted

"Martin Luther King's invocation of God as a justification for the civil rights movement?"

MLK wasn't running for office, though - and I assume he didn't exclude atheists from his organization, or proclaim faith a necessary foundation for believing in advancing civil rights.

Also, a possible difference is that a president has to address many diverse questions, and justifying one decision on the basis of faith suggests the need to consider other questions on that basis, whereas, well, I didn't need to be concerned with Dr. King's view of the Old Testament's view of abortion, or his reasons for leading his movement.

Civil unions for all - gay or straight. Let churches marry people.

Personally, I wouldn't want to marry a church--you could never get one to do its fair share of the housekeeping . . .

Prohibiting presidential candidates from speaking in religious terms would violate freedom of religion. Talking about God and the bible is not the establishment of religion. Not allowing someone to talk about God or the bible is prohibition of religion. (Perhaps murder should be legalized since "Thou shalt not kill." appears in the bible, seeing as we're going to extremes and all.)

for those asking for a strict separation between church and state in political campaigning, what would you say about, e.g., Martin Luther King's invocation of God as a justification for the civil rights movement?

For one thing, MLK was not running for President.

For another thing, he wasn't recommending that the Constitution be brought into compliance with the Bible.

King argued on moral grounds for the reform of civil rights policy. You bought it or you didn't. Most folks did because he was very persuasive, because he was willing to pay a personal price for his convictions, and because the nation was finally (finally) ready to see the rightness of what he had to say.

If Huckabee, as a minister and a private individual, wants to argue a moral case for one man/one woman marriage, he's certainly free to do so. Folks will buy it or they won't. The burden will be on him to persuade them of the rightness of his position.

That's different from running for President on a platform that includes making the Constitution comply with the Bible.

I really don't have any beef with religious faith, religious people, or with arguing about public issues from a moral point of view. I'd love to see it expand, frankly, to include areas beyond the bedroom.

But there's a difference between persuasion and imposing your point of view.

Thanks -

I know what a snatch is, but whats a bandersnatch?

It's the same thing, just more band than most.

whats a bandersnatch?

Very good question. The closest thing to an answer is
this.

ted: . . .then evidence of changing definitions of marriage (from being the legal elimination of a woman to the current legal union of two individuals) not undermining the institution seems useful.

Thanks, that's what I was missing in my up-till-3 a.m. stupor. I get the point, but I disagree agree that the Blackstone quote is useful. The legal effect of marriage is a different issue than the definition of marriage. Blackstone did not define marriage as a union of one individual. He said a wife is inseparable from her husband legally with a few exceptions. Something like having an undivided interest in the entirety in a joint tenancy just a lot more sexist.

Slope: I think the slope levels off after multiple partners. I don't know how anyone gets to bestiality. I agree that if you get there, you get to DeWalt and the flowers.

Russell: Not the same thing.

If that were the discussion here, I would tend to agree. But the discussion seems to always end up debating Christianity itself rather than the role of religion in political discourse. In other words, Huckabee says something "Biblical" and we're talking about whether there were power tools in the Old Testament rather than whether Huckabee's comments were proper political discourse. In other words, the response is in kind. "Ballistic" was too strong.

... It might be pointed out that in the example of people marrying animals (bandersnatch, chimpanzee, chihuahua etc etc) the primary point of outrage is not the animal for the fundamentalist. (That's the soft liberal province, to whine about animal rape etc, or so the fundamentalist would think). The problem is the perversion/damnation of the human being involved. The reason the fundamentalist invokes people marrying animals, but not powertools marrying gumballs (to offer an example) is that there is a soul involved (human) and that the icky business of consummating the relationship (assumed) tends to be rhetorically effective as a talkingpoint against the ills of a sick world. Also, it is presumed to be the final term in the continuum of human sickness that is specifically forbidden in Mosaic law, second to man marrying man/woman marrying woman. It also happens to be a clear case of the intereaction of living beings, so can be presumed to be a relationship of some sort, and with sexual dimensions. (No, I do not want to contemplate sex with powertools, gumballs, old copies of Time Magazine).
...If you were talking about "marrying" two mice, for example, it seems unlikely to me that the fundamentalist would do more than raise an eyebrow and think you were simply crazy. For him/her, it would be like linking two things without souls. if you want to call that a marriage, then, in his terms, you are a nut, but harmless. (Obviously mouse marriages are not and will not be on the agenda constitutionally).
... I think that the discussion about how to approach fundamentalists seems to not get the crucial point that yelling at them never achieved anything. It may be that courtesy and reason, coupled with facing their arguments squarely will, if not convert the main figures, perhaps cause the less committed/recently enamored to think again. I tend to think half a loaf is better than none here.
...I should say that I had a vehemently Catholic, and very neocon acquaintance, who once seriously defended the burning of witches to me as practicable public policy, so I have done my share of reasoning with the other side of the fence.
.. Bandersnatch - I always assumed was the fruminous bandersnatch in the Jabberwocky poem by Lewis Carroll. But for all I know it may just as easily be a shy tree-dwelling creature domiciled in Vermont, or possibly a late-blooming flower found in the Everglades.

Russell:

"For another thing, he (King) wasn't recommending that the Constitution be brought into compliance with the Bible."

He was recommending that practice in these here United States, including State and local laws, be brought into compliance with the Constitution.

As to the Bible, if the Bible supports "all men are created equal", it's a happy coincidence, except for the "men" part.

I'm going to leaf through Revelations and try to find the phrase "pursuit of happiness".

The Bible is beautiful stuff, but you can throw it up in the air and see how it lands and it will be slightly different each time, like the I Ching.

How do I know? Well, I'm agnostic --- who am I to say? But, an hour or so of flipping through cable channels gives me fairly certain knowledge that even the well-coiffed experts don't agree.

Huckabee is certainly permitted by the Constitution to say whatever he wants about compliance between the two texts. He can even, as President, take the various issues to the Supreme Court and see what they say.

That the vote would be 5-4 one way or the other doesn't do much for certainty, nor for my peace of mind, but let's build that Ark when the water surrounding OCSteve's island off the East Coast has reached snorkel level on Steve, and not before, because would be advanced planning and would be against some text somewhere, but I haven't read it yet.

Huckabee threw the confederate flag/states rights gauntlet down the other day in South Carolina. Whether it's consistent with the Bible or the Constitution or not is beside the point, because both might be coincidentally idiotic on the issue.

I suspect he suspects that but hopes the people he is talking don't suspect it. That why the lot of them are suspect.

I'd like to see him debate Lincoln regarding the matter.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/society/damianlanigan/jan2008/huckabee-gay-marriage.htm

I found this amusing, in a somewhat snarky way.

@bc:The legal effect of marriage is a different issue than the definition of marriage.

That is a somewhat delicate distinction since we are discussing the legal definition of marriage. This topic becomes somewhat more complicated since 'marriage' is only relatively recently a legal issue, and has been a religious concept for far longer. The convolution of a religiously acceptable definition of marriage with a legal definition is something not often dealt with (especially by those making H's argument). Civil unions try to skirt exactly this issue with some level of success.

I understand your point that the Blackstone quote refers to a different legal aspect of marriage, the legal subjugation of the female and not the genital or numerological characteristics of the partner. That being said, I think H's logic could have been applied with the same validity in the late 1700's, ie Marriage has always been about the removal of the the woman's legal identity, and if we change that, then what's next, spousal equality in marriage? The ability of a wife to enter into contracts of her own? (To bring it back to fauna) The ability of a wife to have part or even half ownership of a the family cow? etc etc.

The basic argument of "marriage has always been x, and so we can't change it or marriage is doomed" fails in both cases. Marriage changes in ways both legal and social on a variety of levels (requirements for church approval, spousal autonomy, interracial unions, and in the near future, gender requirements) without the destruction of the institution.

The Democrats do the same. There is the power-tool/petunia coalition, after all. And I've never seen a bandersnatch I didn't want to tax.

Searching my memory, I see it’s been far too long since I offered tribute to teh Thullen. Well done sir.

"But for all I know it may just as easily be a shy tree-dwelling creature domiciled in Vermont, or possibly a late-blooming flower found in the Everglades."

Also.

He was recommending that practice in these here United States, including State and local laws, be brought into compliance with the Constitution.

Yes, that's a better answer, and much more to the point. Thanks!

The Bible is beautiful stuff, but you can throw it up in the air and see how it lands and it will be slightly different each time, like the I Ching.

I've actually read a fair amount of Bible over the years, for one reason or another. I actually think it's pretty consistent about a couple of things.

We didn't make the world, it doesn't belong to us and none of us are necessary to it's continued operation.

We're only here for a little while, we're all just dust, there's nothing any of us have that wasn't a gift to us, so be kind to each other and help each other through it all.

That's what I take away. At least I think it was the Bible, maybe I'm confusing it with Kurt Vonnegut.

I don't in any way offer this in the spirit of arguing with your observations, just sharing my own.

At any rate, I've been breaking one of my cardinal rules for blog participation, which is stay the hell out of any thread with "Bible" in it. It's one of the tar baby topics, like abortion and Hitler. So, I'm going to check out of this one now.

Thanks!

This is extremely well put.
For a much lighter, picking-only-one-battle view:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/society/damianlanigan/jan2008/huckabee-gay-marriage.htm

"The Bible is beautiful stuff...."

Not all of it. Matthew 1, for instance:

1:1 This is the record of the genealogy 1 of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

1:2 Abraham was the father 2 of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 1:3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah (by Tamar), Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, 1:4 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 1:5 Salmon the father of Boaz (by Rahab), Boaz the father of Obed (by Ruth), Obed the father of Jesse, 1:6 and Jesse the father of David the king.

David was the father of Solomon (by the wife of Uriah 3 ), 1:7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, 4 1:8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah, 1:9 Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 1:10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, 5 Amon the father of Josiah, 1:11 and Josiah 6 the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

1:12 After 7 the deportation to Babylon, Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, 8 Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 1:13 Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, 1:14 Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, 1:15 Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, 1:16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, by whom 9 Jesus was born, who is called Christ. 10

1:17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to Christ, 11 fourteen generations.

This is the ancient equivalent of reading the phone book. And there are plenty more begats where that came from, particularly in the first trilogy earlier, funnier, stuff.

"That's what I take away."

I also got "don't piss off God," but I have to say that I really didn't pay as much attention in Hebrew school as I might have.

(And the teachers, largely former East European Holocaust survivors, weren't much for communicating theological reasoning, at least in English.)

But the pool was nice.

"At any rate, I've been breaking one of my cardinal rules for blog participation, which is stay the hell out of any thread with 'Bible' in it."

What annoys me is that so many people won't admit that if Hitler were to give his position on the gun rights of a 5-month-old fetus, he'd use Linux to write his comment, not a Mac or a Wintel machine, and only someone who denies that Al Gore won the 2000 election, but says that Ronald Reagan is responsible for winning the Cold War -- a fact as undeniable as that the WMDS are in Syria -- could possibly not agree that this is true, and anyone who would do that would probably be so clueless as to not understand that Captain Kirk was the best starship captain, and that taxation is theft, which just goes to show that the odd-numbered chapters of the Bible are literally true, while the even-numbered ones are purely allegorical, which God made clear in the Koran, and updated in the Book of Mormon, and every 8th chapter of L. Ron Hubbard's Mission Earth books that was a prime number in the sequence, thus proving evolution.

Tell me I'm wrong.

Oh, I know.

Begetting, even beautiful begetting, can become funny, like Woody Allen repeatedly slipping on that huge banana peel, and then monotonous, though apparently it's up in the air whether or not preventing it by various methods is constitutional or not.

The begetting, not the slipping.

"That being said, I think H's logic could have been applied with the same validity in the late 1700's, ie Marriage has always been about the removal of the the woman's legal identity, and if we change that, then what's next, spousal equality in marriage?"

Yep, that was the point. Q: Start changing marriage; where will it stop? A: It has changed a lot already, and we haven't found ourselves marrying badgers yet.

For what it's worth, I support anyone's right to invoke the Bible in political campaigns. I also claim the right, when they do so, to criticize them, if what they say about the Bible is not just rhetorical or illustrative or something, but: that the Constitution should be brought into line with it.

In general, my view on religion in the public square is: if you are making an argument addressed to your fellow citizens generally, then that argument should not use the claim that a religion that only some of them hold as a premiss. This is both sound argumentative tactics and common courtesy. Arguing that some particular religion should be the basis of our laws or our system of government -- where this means not that some laws should (by a happy coincidence) conform to some religious precept, but that some religion should be used to determine hat should be legal and what should not -- is wrong not on grounds of courtesy or argumentative strategy, but because it is substantively wrong.

Arguing, on areligious grounds, for a conclusion that some religion also accepts (e.g., no murder) is of course fine, as are religious arguments explicitly aimed at one's coreligionists (e.g.: look, Baptists, as a Baptist, I really don't see why we ought to oppose X), the use of claims about one's own religion for illustrative purposes (e.g.: people say Muslims can't believe X, but I'm a Muslim and I do; here's how), etc.

"A: It has changed a lot already, and we haven't found ourselves marrying badgers yet."

Some of us like to keep our private lives private, but speak for yourself, lady.

It may be that courtesy and reason, coupled with facing their arguments squarely will, if not convert the main figures, perhaps cause the less committed/recently enamored to think again.

In my experience, this works with some people, but the truly committed, hardcore fundamentalist can't be persuaded.

Bad italics. No cookie for you.

It looks to me like the left goes ballistic if Huckabee even mentions the Bible.

Replace "Bible" with any other text ("Atlas Shrugged" -- brrrrrr!) and you see the problem. "Ballistic" wouldn't begin to cover the right's reaction if a politician talked about bringing the Constitution in line with the Quran.


nickzi, I think you want: http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-knerr17jan17,0,1584494.story?coll=la-home-obituaries>Richard Knerr obit. A "line-breaking" is very, very Bad. (Use TinyUrl.com if you don't know how to make links.)

How to link. Here's a guide to basic HTML terms.

You can use "find" to go to "link something."

Here's how you link (you can copy this and paste it as necessary, if you can't remember):

Put words as necessary between > <

Put the actual URL to link to where it says "URL."

You're done.

Gary, many moderate people would support your stance on taxation, especially in April, but what is this extremist talk about Captain Kirk?

Are there really no mathematicians reading this blog?

There is no set of all cardinal numbers, for pretty much the same reasons that there is no set of all ordinal numbers.

Dare we non-mathematicians request an English translation of the wikipedia article? *s*

I also got "don't piss off God,"

like Woody Allen repeatedly slipping on that huge banana peel

Think about baseball... slide! slide!

This is the ancient equivalent of reading the phone book.

The book to avoid is the aptly named Numbers.

Replace "Bible" with any other text ("Atlas Shrugged" -- brrrrrr!) and you see the problem.

John Galt delenda est!!

Thanks -

Since we have both gay-marriage and the recognition of a (>24w) feutus as a person we seem to live everybodys nightmare. Society hasn't collapsed yet ;)

Marrying animals may be less far-stretched that you think: in some countries it happends regularly.

Best quote:

"On the advice of an astrologer and others, he decided to marry a bitch to get cured. Then we arranged Selvakumar's marriage with a bitch."

After a quick scan of the thread , I believe that this point has not been raised...

The ignorance of history that Hilzoy cited goes profoundly beyond the mere denial of that polygamy existed. When my Christian denomination (ELCA) requested feedback on its sexuality policy I dove into the readings. Being in an open and affirming congregation I wanted to understand exactly what aspects of "homosexuality" were being condemned.

Scanning Leviticus I was surprised that sex with ones own slaves was allowed. This is implied by an explicit prohibition of sex with someone else's slaves.

The impulse of the Christian right to cling the idea that their (and my) faith is unchanging is indeed historically ignorant. Our ancestors changed a few centuries to reject slavery. This is IMO the most profound change in our morality, sexual and otherwise, since Moses.

Not only do the people who Huckabee is appealing to not deserve to have political standards. There also are clear reasons to question the religious standards they set.

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