How to pervert the legitimate fight against homophobia

My regular readers know that I speak out for the right of Gay people to marry their loved ones. I do think that a lifelong committed relationship between two persons of the same sex does NOT stand in conflict with Christ’s central teaching.

Gay couple

That said, I accept the fact that many Conservatives sincerely disagree even if I think they’re misguided.

Consequently, I cannot go along with the aggressive propaganda of liberal activists who all too often present ALL Conservatives rejecting Gay marriage as heartless bigots supporting the discriminations and even capital punishment of homosexuals.

A recent post of progressive Christian John Shore nicely illustrates this worrisome state of affairs.

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Challenging the evil empire of anti-gay Christians, and the resurfacing of old fundie fears

dearjohn [This is the latest in a series in which each Wednesday I answer a question or two asked to me by members of Serendipitydodah for Moms, a private Facebook group for Christian mothers of LGBT kids. (The first such post was Combatting the Downward Pull of Christian Negativity; the second Pastor tells mom her lesbian teen can’t be a Christian.) If you are interested in joining Serendipitydodah for Moms, email lizdyer55@gmail.com. If you’d like me to answer any questions/concerns you might have, email me at john@johnshore.com]

Dear John,

How do you think affirming Christians should deal with Christians who still think same-sex relationships are sinful? Should we treat their belief with tolerance and respect or respectfully confront them? I’m specifically thinking about those who feel compelled to speak out, promote, teach and proclaim that all same-sex relationships are sinful and that the only marriage blessed by God is between a man and a woman. Signed, Stay silent or speak up?

It’s been my experience that Christians who feel, as you well put it, “compelled to speak out, promote, teach and proclaim that all same-sex relationships are sinful” come in two varieties: Crazy, and Gets Paid to Promulgate Anti-Gay Christianity. It’s also been my experience that reasoning with either is a waste of time. As a rule the lay Christian who is “compelled to speak out” against homosexuality is too angry (and, frankly, too fearful of the power of his or her own sexuality) to listen to reason; the pastor, radio host, “ministry” leader or author whose bank account is tied to his perpetuation of the toxic nonsense that being gay is a sin–the professional gay-basher, in other words–has already sold his conscience for cash—and in the bargain of course also traded away his moral compass.

Treat a person from either group with tolerance and respect; vigorously refute them; insist you’ll sleep on their front lawn until they change their minds …  in the end, I have found, nothing will have changed beyond that you will have lost time that you could have spent doing something a lot more productive (such as … well, writing public letters like this to people like me, joining your local PFLAG chapter, organizing a markedly Christian presence at pro-LGBT events, helping your church to become LGBT-affirming, making sure your local schools are implementing and executing anti-bullying programs, voting for pro-LGBT initiatives, being active online—buy, frankly, my book UNFAIR and give it to anyone on the fence—etc., etc.).  But you see what I mean: you don’t take down an evil empire by arguing with one of its foot soldiers.

Dear John,

Coming from a conservative Christian background can be very difficult when you find out one or more of your kids is LGBT! As a mom who completely accepts and affirms my gay son I still have times when I worry that I might be wrong—that somehow my love for my son has misled me. What advise do you have for a parent like me? Signed, Dealing with doubts

The next time you find yourself doubting the truth that God finds homosexuality no more inherently sinful than heterosexuality, stop to examine what’s happening in your life at that moment. I guarantee you that something in the outside world will have triggered that doubt in you. When threatened we all tend to revert. Stress, tension, being worried, being fearful, being challenged … such feelings often trigger the old toxic tapes to start playing in our heads–the tapes that were recorded for us, not by us. The tapes that tell us to be afraid, that the worst is true, that God is judging us, that absolute damnation is one errant step away . . . that being gay really is a sin. The next time you find yourself reverting to the fears and paradigms instilled in you as a child, trust that’s simply an instinctive reaction to something real in your life that is genuinely concerning you.

Finding whatever it is that has triggered in you the playing of your old toxic tapes won’t be particularly difficult; once you understand that those old thoughts really are a stress response to something real and present happening in your life, you’ll pretty quickly be able to identify what that something is. And once you’ve identified what caused you to doubt the veracity of what you know to be true, those doubts will vanish, because you’ll see that in and of themselves they were not real, but only a secondary reaction to something that is real. Then you can address that real thing that’s really happening, instead of having to swat away the old demons that came flying back at you from a time when you were taught terrible things about God and Christianity that simply aren’t true.

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My response and interaction with other bloggers follow.

My comments are black whereas those of other persons are colored.

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Dear John,

first of all, let me say I really liked what you wrote about self-doubt’s dependency on one’s emotional state. We should only change our mind when new evidence comes in and not just because of one’s feelings.

As far as the alleged sinfulness of homosexuality is concerned, I’m entirely on your side . I’m also disgusted by the fact that so many Conservative Evangelicals focus so much on this issue while neglecting problems of social justice .

Gay partnerships are loving, faithful and committed, but can it lead to marriage?

Still, I find you wrote some pretty worrisome and almost outrageous sentences.

First of all, it isn’t true that Christians considering homosexuality as morally wrong are “anti-gay”. If someone views taking drug as a sin, it just doesn’t follow that he is “anti-junkies”. As I was an atheist in my teenage years, I viewed homosexuality as a deviant behavior out of ignorance but I was not anti-homosexual.

Likewise, it’s just false to state that Christians speaking out against homosexuality are EITHER “Crazy” OR “Gets Paid to Promulgate Anti-Gay Christianity”. Plenty might be sincerely convinced it is wrong even if they love homosexuals as people. Indeed, I know quite a few such Christians in Continental Europe.

So I think that the use of such an aggressive rhetoric is putting off many of your Conservative readers you could have touched through a more loving and moderate tone.

And I know Conservatives who have become homophobic due to people disapproving of homosexuality getting fired.

So I think that your strategy is really counter-productive and should be modified.

Progressively and fraternally yours.

Is it? Or is the topics John covers finally giving people a chance to think about this, to discuss what is happening and to shed light at how bad homophobia actually is? Trust me, its worse than many realize. In the US, there are several states, including the one I live in, where it is quite legal to deny housing or employment to people, just because of sexual orientation. There are hundreds of churches in my county. Two are LGBT affirming. Many counties have none. We had our state legislature remove funding from two state colleges because of a couple of gay friendly books.

Yet my adopted home town hosts an annual Pride rally. The state capital also has one. Its getting better here, but in a place where bi-racial couples are still looked down on, and a black man reaching into his car to get out his registration for a basic traffic stop, gets shot by a white state trooper, we have a long way to go.

it isn’t true that Christians considering homosexuality as morally wrong are “anti-gay”

If someone believes being gay is morally wrong, then it follows that they believe being gay is a choice. Who could be considered morally wrong for being born with green eyes or left-handed? Taking drugs is a choice; being gay is not. Taking drugs is illegal; being gay is not (unless you happen to live in one of the many states where you can be discriminated against for being gay).

Plenty might be sincerely convinced it is wrong even if they love homosexuals as people

Please. Not the old “hate the sin, love the sinner” tune again. That record’s broken.

putting off many of your Conservative readers

I’d have to ask John: how many of your readers are conservative?

I know Conservatives who have become homophobic due to people disapproving of homosexuality getting fired.

Why aren’t they gay-affirming due to gay people being fired for being gay?

your strategy is really counter-productive and should be modified

Oh yes, let’s play nice. Let’s play nice with the people who believe gays should be put to death, who are going to hell, who are child molesters, who are the worst kinds of perverts. Yeah, that’ll work.

Children take part in anti-gay protests in Uganda in 2011

Hello Barbara, thanks for your answer!

Conservative Christians don’t believe that having sexual desires towards persons of the same sex is wrong in and of itself but that it is wicked to act on this desire by e.g. kissing such an individual.
In other words they say: “Yeah he’s attracted towards men as I’m attracted towards females and that’s not wrong. BUT he must never act accordingly.”
Do I believe this principle is sound?
Absolutely not. I think that a life-long marriage is one of the most beautiful things one can experience during this life time.
What’s more I also believe that God does not forbid us things arbitrarily.
Consequently, I wholeheartedly affirm the right of Gay people to marry their loved ones.

YET it is also completely false to say that Conservative Christians (in general) believe that Gays are wicked human beings for being born that way.

What is more, how many percent of Conservative Christians think that homosexuals are child molesters and the worst kinds of perverts who should be put to death?

In French-speaking and German-speaking Europe they represent perhaps 0.001% of all Conservative believers.
How many proportion do they form in America? Sincerely?

There are many Conservative Christians who passionately oppose the discrimination of Gay people. But if they read such kinds of texts they feel they’re being UNFAIRly treated. They inevitably consider all of this as ignoble propaganda.

And this naturally diminishes their willingness to step in when Gay folks are being maltreated.

Friendly greetings.

BarbaraR

If you believe this, you must not read this blog often and see what I see. The vitriolic and hate-filled comments I and the other mods delete completely belie this notion.

There are many Conservative Christians who passionately oppose the discrimination of Gay people.

This poll just came out.

http://www.pewforum.org/2014/0…

From this poll:
White evangelical Protestants express the strongest support for allowing businesses to refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings (71%).

How many proportion do they form in America? Sincerely?

There are to the best of my knowledge no statistics on this. However, they pop up with appalling regularity. Here are a few examples of pastors calling for the death of gay people. As pastors go, so goes the flock.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

http://www.christianpost.com/n…

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/p…

While it would be all sparkly unicorns and fluffy bunnies to think conservative evangelicals oppose discrimination against gays, I am not seeing evidence for it.

Lotharson

Hi! I agree there are horrible fag-bashing bigots in the States:

But everything in America seems to be far more extreme than in Europe.

Still, there are lots of Conservatives disapproving of homosexuality who do oppose the misdeeds you evoked.

You and I probably agree it is wrong to bully Muslims having a peaceful interpretation of Islam due to the existence of many terrorists.

So why should it be any different when Conservative Christians are concerned?

Cheers.

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I think that John Shore has probably good motives. But I fear he might currently be driven by hatred to some extent.

Other progressive Christians share my concern.

Popular blogger Tim Chastain (Jesus Without Baggages) recently told me what follows:

“I think I know what you mean, but I see Jesus’ instruction to love others as a more valid way of relating to the Father and to other people than following religious rules. In my opinion, properly grasping the principle of loving others does NOT lead to self justification of sinful behavior but to humility and true repentance.

The love of self I often speak of is not selfish love but an absence of self-hate that many of us feel when we think the Father is an angry, vindictive God. When we realize how the Father loves us, we are free to love ourselves in a healthy way and are released to love others in the same way.”

My goal is not to bash Shore and to present him as an evil human being. No, I aim at showing that progressive Christians can also fall prey to hate and that “Christianity with humanity” (the name of Shore’s ministry) also involves loving our enemies as ourselves.

Consequently we ought to be fair, just and act lovingly towards Conservative believers opposing Gay marriage, even if it strongly irritates us.

But on the other hand I also expect Conservative Christians to refrain from overgeneralizations concerning “Progressives”.

Could we learn to interact lovingly with those we disagree?

A chaos spawned by America

I think this sums up everything pretty nicely:

Isis

After having read that, is your head spinning?

If not, what would be the best therapy for mine?

I guess it’s a better feeling than giving in to the thought that Islam (with a capital “I”) might not be the explanation for the horrendous tragedies taking place there.

My own point is that terrorism is an extremely complex phenomenon with multiple causes.I’m irritated by people saying it is a logical consequence of Islam even if many Islamic confessions reject it.Denying Western responsibility in what is happening is as irrational as saying that noxious religious ideologies play no role.

The end is at hand: New Testament prophecies and the future of the world

Most Conservative Evangelicals I know are deeply convinced that the prophecies contained within the Book of Revelation relate to future events which have yet to come.

http://rapturewatcher.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/left-behind-people-on-rapture-day.jpg

In what follows, I interviewed Chris Date who is himself a Conservative Evangelical for presenting an alternative view called preterism. I often don’t agree with his theology but find he’s a great and kind man as well as a careful exegete of the Bible.

I previously interviewed him about the topic of hell.
Lothar’s Son: So Chris thank you very much for having accepted this new interview 🙂 Today we’re about to talk about the end time and what the Bible has to say about this.
Chris Date: It’s my pleasure.
Lothar’s Son: So, could you please summarize the current Evangelical views on this important theme?
Chris Date: Most evangelicals in America today are what are called futurists: they believe that the bulk of eschatological events foretold in the Bible are yet to be fulfilled in our future, such as the beast/antichrist, the great tribulation, and the millennium of Revelation. Regarding the millennium, most evangelicals in America today are premillennialists, meaning that they think Jesus will return at the beginning of the millennium at some point in our future, and reign over an earthly kingdom for precisely a thousand years, after which will occur the final judgment, general resurrection, and eternal state.
Chris Date: Dispensationalists furthermore believe in a rapture and tribulation period at the beginning of that millennium, and they comprise a large percentage of those premillennial futurists I just described. I might say a majority of them, but I’m not confident about that.
Lothar’s Son: Okay. And are there futurists who are not premillennialist?
Chris Date: Yes, it’s possible to be an amillennialist or postmillennialist and be a futurist. Amillennialists and postmillennialists believe the thousand years talked about in the book of Revelation refer to the present Church age, and a futurist who falls into this camp would probably say that the vision recorded in Revelation is not linear in terms of time, and so although the beast, for example, features earlier in the vision, nevertheless he will appear in our future toward the end of the millennium. That’s my understanding of amillennial/postmillennial futurism, anyway. I could be wrong, as I’m not one of them 🙂


Lothar’s Son: Ok 🙂 What is your own position?
Chris Date: Well I am an amillennialist, but I’m what’s called a preterist. Whereas futurists believe the bulk of biblical, eschatological prophecy awaits fulfillment in our future, we preterists beleive the bulk of it (not all of it) was fulfilled in our past. This includes the beast, the great tribulation, and more.
Chris Date: What we preterists do believe awaits fulfillment in our future is the return of Christ, the resurrection from the dead, final judgment, consummation of all things, and eternal state.
Lothar’s Son: Could you please describe key proof texts for each side?
Chris Date: Well I can point you to some key texts for preterism. In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus foretells some eschatological events in Matthew 24, ones futurists believe await fulfillment in our future, but then he says inv erse 34 that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” John says in the prologue of Revelation that the things he was shown “must soon take place” (v. 1) and that “the time is near” (v. 3). Daniel is told to seal up the mystery of his vision “until the time of the end” because, apparently, the time of its fulfillment is in the distant future (Dan. 12:4), but John is told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Rev. 22:10). This sampling of what we preterists call the “time texts” demonstrates that much of the things many Christians have been told awaits fulfillment in our future must, in fact, have been fulfilled in our past.
Chris Date: As for futurism, it’s more difficult to offer you key texts because, frankly, I don’t think they have any. I think all futurists can argue is that the texts I just listed cannot mean what they appear to mean because if they did, then we could not read much of the prophecies in Scripture literally. But of course, that’s part of the question being begged. We preterists don’t think the authors of Scripture ever intended for their eschatological, apocalyptic prophecy to be interpreted literally. The genre is one of highly symbolic dreams and visions, and so one shouldn’t be afraid of letting the texts I listed earlier speak for themselves and being forced to interpret prophecies as symbolic; that’s how they’re supposed to be itnerpreted.


Lothar’s Son: Many people Skeptical of Christianity would say that Jesus and the writers of the NT really awaited the end to be at hand but were wrong. They’d say that preterism is an attempt to escape the obvious meaning of these texts. What would be your response to that?
Chris Date: My response would be that in fact what I’ve argued is the obvious meaning of those texts. Take, for example, the beast of Revelation. It’s described as having seven heads and ten horns, but an angel interprets it for John saying that the heads represent hills or mountains on which a city sits. So the text itself tells us that the vision is intended to be interpreted as symbols; we preterists aren’t dodging anything at all. The angel also tells John, incidentally, that the king represented by the fifth head is alive and reigning at the time John was given his vision, some 2,000 years ago. Again, we preterists aren’t dodging the obvious meanings of texts; we’re letting the text speak for itself. I can’t help that when one correctly interprets Scripture, it defeats skepticism 🙂
Lothar’s Son: Okay 🙂 But when Jesus foretold that this generation would not pass without having seen the return of the Son of Man, what did He mean according to preterism? How do futurists interpret this statement?
Chris Date: Before I answer that question, may I ask you where Jesus said they would see “the return of the Son of Man”? I see that nowhere.
Chris Date: I think what you’re referring to is Matt 24:30, but “return” is nowhere in that text.
Lothar’s Son: “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” You’ll see the son of man on a cloud
Chris Date: Right, what Jesus says is that “they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Note no “return”. We preterists recall that in the Old Testament, the Lord, YHVH, comes on clouds in judgment when he destroys cities. The language isn’t intended to be taken literally, as if the God of Israel saddles up a cloud and floats down from the sky on it, throwing handfulls of brimstone upon the cities he’s judging. No, it’s apocalyptic symbolism communicating God’s destructive judgment upon cities. And indeed, what happened within the generation of those to whom Jesus is here speaking? Jerusalem is judged, the temple destroyed.
Lothar’s Son: Thanks for the explanation. When I read things such as “9“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
it’s really hard for me to believe this refers to future events because this clearly happens ALL THE TIME.
How can futurists make sense of this fact? Can they really do that? 🙂
Chris Date: Hmm, well, I suppose they might respond in one or both of two ways:
Chris Date: First, some futurists will acknowledge that some of this passage talks about events that were coming within the generation of those to whom Jesus was speaking, and that they might include the events you just referred to. But, they would say, the more cataclysmic events must be awaiting fulfillment in our future. Second, some futurists might argue that just because things have happened since Jesus delivered this prophecy that bear some resemblance to what he prophecied, it doesn’t mean they fulfilled it. If, for example, I predicted shortly before the year 1,800 that America would go to war, a dozen years later the war of 1,812 might be thought to be the fulfillment of my prediction, but if what I was prohpecying was, in fact, the much bloodier civil war that was coming a half a century later, well then the war of 1,812 would not have fulfilled my prophecy. Make sense? So futurists might argue regarding Matthew 24; many events may have tranpired, and my transpire all the time, which bear some resemblance to what he predicted, but it doesn’t mean they fulfilled it.
Lothar’s Son: Okay. What are to your mind fatal objections to futurism? Is post-millenarism in that respect superior to pre-millenarism?
Chris Date: Well I’m not a postmillennialist; I’m an amillennialist. But both views, recognizing that the thousand years of Revelation symbolizes an indefinitely long period of time that began in our past, are certainly superior to premillennialism. And I’ve already offered what I think are the fatal objections to futurism. It’s simply not possible, in my opinion, to take those texts seriously as a futurist. The answers I’ve seen them give are woefully inadequate. But I will offer one more.
Chris Date: In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says that when the resurrection of believers happens–which premillennialists, amillennialists, and postmillennialists agree happens concurrent with the return of Christ–it will bring the defeat of death (vv. 50-55). But look what he says: he says death is the last enemy to be destroyed (v. 26). If premillennialists are right, then believers are resurrected a thousand years before death and others of God’s enemies (like Satan) are destroyed. In amillennialism and postmillennialism, on the other hand, the resurrection and return of Christ happen after “he has put all enmies under his feet,” and so, indeed, “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” It all fits, but doesn’t in premillennialism.


Lothar’s Son: Ok thanks! Do you think that these views can have huge consequences for the way one’s Christian life is lead? Or for Evangelism?
Chris Date: Huge consequences? I don’t know about that. Perhaps. Postmillennialists seem committed, for example, to improving the world in ways some premillennialists are not, since postmillennialists think the world will be nearly 100% Christianized by the time Christ returns, whereas premillennialists think he could return at any moment. More dangerous, I think, is the unbiblical literalism with which many premillennialists read prophetic texts. Take the mark of the beast, for example; many premillennialists, reading this literally and as awaiting fulfillment in our future, think the day is coming when we’ll be forced to accept a tattoo on our hands, or an electronic implant, and they think that Christians will refuse it. Imagine if such a technology became popular that would allow shoppers to more quickly and easily check out at the grocery store, by just swiping our hand over a scanner. We amillennialists and postmillennialists wouldn’t be afraid to take advantage of such a helpful technology, but a premillennialist very likely might, and may even judge us other Christians for what they think constitutes accepting the mark of the beast.
Chris Date: Perhaps there are other “huge” consequences but none come to my mind at the moment. I’m always leary of suggesting that when Christians disagree on the non-essentials, there are “huge” consequences. Often I don’t think there are.
Lothar’s Son: Okay, I think I mostly agree as far as moderate people in each camp are concerned 🙂 . But can some of these literal interpretations make Christianity look much more foolish that it needs to be? I’m thinking about popular movies or books from premilleniarists I can only view as utterly ridiculous, despite my best attempts to be charitable.
Chris Date: Yes I think there may be some truth to that, but being a Calvinist–the topic of another interview I suppose–I think apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit people are going to easily find excuses to reject the gospel. If presented less laughably than in Left Behind, unbelievers still hostile to God will just find some other reason to reject it.
Lothar’s Son: Okay! While you don’t know how this is going to happen, how do you imagine the return of Christ as a preterist? I’m not asking for a prophecy 🙂 just about some mental pictures you might have.
Chris Date: Well, I do share some things in common with Dispensationalists, particularly with regards to the nation of Israel. Based on my interpretation of the symbolism in Revelation 20 and Romans 9-11, I think that toward the end of this period of time, the Gentile world will become decreasingly Christian and Jews, particularly in Israel, will increasingly and corporately accept her Messiah. I think with the world increasingly hating Israel, it will one day attack her, at which point Christ will return and protect her, and that will usher in the resurrection, final judgment, etc.
Chris Date: But “how” will that happen? I don’t know.
Lothar’s Son: Okay. So are you in that particular respect “partially futurist”? Would that be a correct phrase?
Chris Date: No, it wouldn’t. All orthodox Christians believe some things await fulfillment in our future. What differentiates a futurist from a preterist is what things one thinks awaits fulfillment in one’s future, or has already been fulfilled. The beast; the great tribulation; the mark of the beast; the onset of the millennium; etc.
Lothar’s Son: Is there a connection between belief in preterism and belief in conditional immortality?
Chris Date: It depends on what you mean by that. Are most preterists conditionalists? I don’t think so. I think most preterists are traditionalists, since traditionalism is still, well, traditional 🙂 But I do think they’re being inconsistent, as I explain in this article at Rethinking Hell .
Chris Date: I’ll let your readers check that out.
Lothar’s Son: Thanks! Do you believe that we’ll usher into a brand new universe or realm? Or will simply the universe and earth in which we live be renewed?
Chris Date: I think it will be renewed or restored, not obliterated and replaced.
Lothar’s Son: Thanks for everything! To conclude, could you perhaps give relevant links towards your blog or elsewhere?
Chris Date: Your readers can find my personal blog and podcast at http://www.theopologetics.com. I’ve done a few shows on preterism that they may find interesting. I also blog and podcast at http://www.rethinkinghell.com, if your readers want to learn more about conditionalism. I’m less actively lately at both sites, however, as I’m currently going to school. I can be reached at chris@theopologetics.com or chrisdate@rethinkinghell.com if anyone would like to hear from me.
Lothar’s Son: Okay! What are you up to for the coming months?
Chris Date: Sadly I was laid off last week so #1 will be finding a new job 🙂 But aside from that, I’m also taking a class in Greek, another in Philosophy, and I’m raising 4 kids with my wife. So I’ll be up to a lot for the coming months!
Lothar’s Son: Oh yeah I truly wish you good lucks for finding a new position and all your other endeavors. Thank you very much for the time you granted me!
Chris Date: You’re very welcome. God bless, and take care.

https://i2.wp.com/grapplerschurch.tv/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/ChrisDate.jpg

Is there such a thing as “Biblical” marriage?

Rachel Ford recently published an article on the website of the “Friendly” Atheist arguing that the Bible is a morally consistent evil book presenting marriage coherently as a man possessing several wifes as objects to be used and maltreated.

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Biblical Marriage Isn’t About One Man and One Woman

Don’t fall out of your seat, but in an interview with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson (below) had even more to say about homosexuality, premarital sex, and the Bible.

Most of it is his usual schtick of sex gives you cooties unless you’re married (presumably to a 15- or 16-year old?) and I won’t bore you with the details. What I do want to draw your attention to, however, is the blatantly false assertion he makes about what “God says” about marriage:

God says, ‘One woman, one man,’ and everyone says, ‘Oh, that’s old hat, that’s that old Bible stuff,’” he said.

Robertson was kind enough to erase any doubt as to which “God” he might be referring to: naturally, the God of the Bible. And since that God doesn’t grant interviews, the Bible is our only source for what God (allegedly) said.

The problem is that the Bible never claims that God said marriage is a union between one man and one woman.

Christians often turn to the New Testament to justify that claim. Paul writes about marriage in a seemingly singular (and often decidedly disdainful) fashion, such as in 1 Corinthians 7, and Jesus refers to two people when discussing divorce in Mark 10 and Matthew 19 (which is to be expected, presuming a husband doesn’t divorce more than one wife at a time). Despite that, it’s worth noting that nowhere is a clear proscription against polygamy given — Jesus referred to — but did not “correct” — first covenant law, which clearly allowed polygamy. Corinthians — written in a time when Pagan culture had already introduced the concept of monogamy — might use singular language to describe spouses, but it doesn’t actually define marriage as being between one man and one woman. In fact, nowhere does the Bible declare, on behalf of God or anyone else, does it use that precise definition.

So Robertson gets his Bible wrong when he claims to know what “God says.” Even if he had meant to say “the Bible says” one man and one woman, he would have still been wrong.

But “wrong” is too generous. He, in fact, settles on the opposite of what the Bible tells us about marriage. The Bible is full of specific examples of marriage — some of them allegedly directly sanctioned by God — that contradict the fairytale version of marriage that Christians claim as “Biblical” nowadays.

What follows is a list of types of marriage defined in the Bible, often by God. I have purposely avoided examples or marriage in the Bible that were supposed to have ticked God off, so as not to misrepresent the joy that was true Biblical marriage:

  • Biblical marriage is a man arranging to buy a girl from her father for an agreed upon purchase price (Genesis 29:18)
  • Biblical marriage is a wife “giving” her servant to her husband as a “wife” for sex and procreation, regardless of her maid servant’s wishes (Genesis 16:2-3, Genesis 30:3, Genesis 30:9, etc.)
  • Biblical marriage is a raiding party murdering the fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters of a people but saving the young virgins because they want “wives” (i.e. women to capture and legally rape) (Judges 21:10-14)
  • Biblical marriage is a raiding party lying in wait to capture more women as “wives” (Judges 21:20-24)
  • Biblical marriage is God commanding the massacre of every male and non-virgin, and handing over the virgin women to his followers. Like the 32,000 women counted among the “spoils” in Numbers 31
  • Biblical marriage is a victim being forced to marry her rapist with no hope of divorce (but don’t worry — her father is suitably compensated in cash for the trouble, and this is only valid if the woman is not already another man’s property… so relax! No property rights are violated by this arrangement) (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
  • Biblical marriage is selling your daughter as a slave to be given to her owner or owner’s son for sexual exploitation as a “wife” (though denied even minimal protections) (Exodus 21:7-11)
  • Biblical marriage is one man taking multiple, even hundreds, of wives and concubines (see: David, Solomon, Jacob, Abraham, etc)
  • Biblical marriage is a woman as property whose own happiness is inconsequential, but whose property status is absolute (see: David and Michal)
  • Biblical marriage is for those who “cannot control themselves” and so must opt away from what is “good for them”: unmarried celibacy (1 Corinthians 7:1-9)
  • Biblical marriage is a woman marrying her dead husband’s brother (whether either party wishes it or not) so that she can have a kid in the dead husband’s name (Deuteronomy 25:5). Sometimes, it manifests as a woman seducing her former father-in-law in the guise of a prostitute in order to fulfill her God-ordained obligation (Genesis 38, Judah and Tamar). Sometimes, it manifests as a husband getting struck down by God, for refusing to impregnate his dead brother’s wife (Genesis 38, Onan and Tamar). Even according to the Bible, it doesn’t seem to have been a very happy implementation of the institution
  • Biblical marriage is neither partner being able to refrain from sex without the consent of the other (1 Corinthians 7:4-5)

That’s what the Bible actually says about marriage. In fact, when it comes right down to it, Biblical marriage is almost always two or more men deciding between themselves what woman an individual will take as a wife — be it a father selling his daughter into sexual slavery, a husband-to-be arranging with a father an agreement suitable to both parties (irrespective of the wife-to-be’s wishes) on how to dispose of/acquire the female in question, a party of soldiers or raiders murdering a woman’s entire family in order to claim her (sometimes supposedly at the direct command of God), a rapist grabbing an unattached female and at the same time getting himself a new wife, etc.

Marriage according to the Bible isn’t love and romance and butterflies in the pit of your stomach. It’s very, very far from it. You have to wonder whether Robertson ever reads the book he holds in such high esteem.

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Fundamentalist assumptions

My answer follows.

http://theantitheistdotcom1.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/the_holy_bible1.jpg
How about this: the Bible does NOT speak with one voice but many conflicting ones?
Apparently anti-theists are utterly unable to grasp this basic result of historical critical scholarship as soon as ethical problems are addressed.

Jesus taught us to love our enemies, one of the psalmists taught us we should pray for the violent and atrocious death of their children .
No rational person can agree that both statements are consistent with each other.

The only ones who do this are Christian fundamentalists and English-speaking anti-theists, who interestingly enough most often turn out to be former fundies.

You’re light years away from a scientific study of religionS (which form an extraordinarily DIVERSE phenomenon).

What’s more I also strongly doubt it is meaningful to judge ancient texts according to our modern enlightened standards. After all, the fact that most writings of ancient Greek philosophers are full of scientific mistakes isn’t a reason to mock them, is it? So why should it be any different when morality is concerned?

Fortunately, the responses weren’t aggressive at all.

Someone retorted:

Two things. I think the anti-theists (as you call them) know that the Bible comes from many sources, but they argue as if it is one voice because Christian fundamentalists insist that the Bible is of one voice.
Second, it is Christian fundamentalists that insist that the Bible conveys immutable timeless moral laws. (I presume that some Muslims do the same with the Koran). So to pluck a Biblical moral lesson and to ask if it is still true, is to challenge the idea that the Bible provides these timeless immutable moral lessons.

To which I replied:

Thanks for your thoughtful answer, Rob.

As a progressive Christian, I also use this kind of arguments against fundies or generally Conservative Evangelicals. I certainly don’t believe that everything found in the Bible is “timeless and immutable”, although one can find such truths within its pages (like in other Wisdom Traditions).

But I find that most anti-theists present things as if showing that one book in the Bible contains wicked stuff attributed to God is sufficient for concluding that the entire Bible is hopelessly evil.
Worryingly enough, Nazi historians and scholars during the Third Reich used precisely the same tactic for showing that Judaism is irremediably wicked and egregious. They picked and chose the very worst passages in Jewish writings and interpreted them in the worst possible light.

For Reason’s sake , one has to be very careful. Going about this scientifically requires making a distinction between the incredibly diverse religious sects, movements and ideas out there and steering clear from overgeneralizations, binary thinking and prejudices.

I’d be delighted if anti-theists were to begin to act like that but they’d probably choose a new name pretty soon then 🙂

In hindsight I realize I should have directly emphasized that the authors of the old Testament itself don’t agree with each others about women and love.

I consider it extremely hard (if not impossible) to seriously argue that the author of the erotic and romantic “Song of Songs” just saw women as camels to be exploited.

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; for your love is better than wine.” Song of Songs 1:2

“Take me away with you. Let us hurry. The king has brought me into his chambers. We will be glad and rejoice in you. We will praise your love more than wine! They are right to love you.” Song of Songs 1:4“Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you graze your flock, where you rest them at noon; For why should I be as one who is veiled beside the flocks of your companions?” Song of Songs 1:7“Behold, you are beautiful, my love. Behold, you are beautiful. Your eyes are doves.” Song of Songs 1:15“Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, yes, pleasant; and our couch is verdant. “Song of Songs 1:16

“As a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” Song of Songs 2:2

“He brought me to the banquet hall. His banner over me is love.” Song of Songs 2:4

“Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples; For I am faint with love. “Song of Songs 2:5

“My beloved spoke, and said to me, “Rise up, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. “Song of Songs 2:10

“The fig tree ripens her green figs. The vines are in blossom. They give forth their fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.” Song of Songs 2:13

“Behold, you are beautiful, my love. Behold, you are beautiful. Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Your hair is as a flock of goats, that descend from Mount Gilead. “Song of Songs 4:1

“You are all beautiful, my love. There is no spot in you. “Song of Songs 4:7

“How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine! The fragrance of your perfumes than all manner of spices!” Song of Songs 4:10

“I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride. I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk. Eat, friends! Drink, yes, drink abundantly, beloved.” Song of Songs 5:1

“I was asleep, but my heart was awake. It is the voice of my beloved who knocks: “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled; for my head is filled with dew, and my hair with the dampness of the night.” Song of Songs 5:2

“Let’s go early up to the vineyards. Let’s see whether the vine has budded, its blossom is open, and the pomegranates are in flower. There I will give you my love. “Song of Songs 7:12

“Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm; for love is strong as death. Jealousy is as cruel as Sheol. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a very flame of Yahweh. Many waters can’t quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man would give all the wealth of his house for love, he would be utterly scorned.” Song of Songs 8:6,7

The Song of Songs: A Photographer

On studying Religion without binary thinking and overgeneralization

I was extremely frustrated as I read a report about a so-called scientific study indicating that an entity called “Religion” is allegedly incompatible with Science.

Science and religion just don’t co-exist, according to a recent study by economists at Princeton University.

“Places with higher levels of religiosity have lower rates of scientific and technical innovation, as measured by patents per capita,” said Roland Bénabou, the study’s lead author, told Mother Jones.

The researchers used an economic model to explore the relationship between scientific innovation, religious faith, and government power as they formed different “regimes.”

 

They identified a secular, European-style regime where religion had very little policy influence and science enjoyed great support; a repressive, theocratic regime where the state and religion suppress science; and an American-style regime where religion and science generally thrived.

They study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, found a strong negative relationship when they analyzed data on patents per capita and religiosity, using data from the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Values Survey, showing that more religious countries had fewer patents.

Other factors – such as wealth and education – can influence the number of patents per capita, but the researchers found the same results even after they controlled for a number of variable, such as population, foreign investment, and intellectual property protections.

Japan and China stood out as highly secular, highly innovative countries, while Portugal, Morocco, and Iran were found at the other extreme.

The authors applied a similar analysis to the 50 United States, using data from the US Patent and Trademark Office and religion questions from a 2008 Pew Survey.

Vermont and Oregon were found to be highly innovative and not very religious, while innovation lags in highly religious states such as Arkansas and Mississippi.

The authors said their findings were the same in religious states outside the Bible Belt.

The researchers said the findings were correlational, and their study didn’t allow for definite causal relationships to be drawn.

They said the causation likely went “both ways” – meaning, religion probably snuffs out innovation as science weakens religion.

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Here is my answer.

My problem with this study is that Religion (with a capital R) is an extraordinarily DIVERSE phenomenon so that such general statements about “religious” and “non-religious” lands are of really poor scientific value .

Let us consider the following worldview groups:

1) hardcore materialism
2) non-materialist atheism
3) deism
4) complete agnosticism
5) fundamentalist Christianity
6) Progressive Christianity
7) Salafism
8) liberal Islam

and so on and so forth.

What if we have the following finding: on AVERAGE religious people perform much more poorly that non-religious ones, BUT 6) and 8) perform as well as secular folks.

Now how would it sound to go to a progressive Muslim or Christian and tell him or her:

“Your worldview is an impediment to Progress!”
He answered:
“Wait, we score as well as non-religious people.”
“That does NOT count! You’re Religious and Religious people are a danger for Science!”

would that not be incredibly fallacious?

So I truly think that studies grounded on this ridiculous binary way of thinking should be taken with much more than a grain of salt.

I really call for a serious research endeavor based on a sincere willingness to comprehend our multi-faceted and extremely complex world rather than making political and ideological points.

https://i1.wp.com/therevealer.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/science-vs-religion.jpeg

(And I should add that decoupling cultural, historically contingent and purely religious factors might be much harder than the way it was presented here).

 

 

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On upholding inhumanity and some ethical implications

A friend of mine called my attention to an article which made me shudder.

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David Clapson

‘The coroner said that when David Clapson died he had no food in his stomach.’ Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

The coroner said that when David Clapson died he had no food in his stomach. Clapson’s benefits had been stopped as a result of missing one meeting at the jobcentre. He was diabetic, and without the £71.70 a week from his jobseeker’s allowance he couldn’t afford to eat or put credit on his electricity card to keep the fridge where he kept his insulin working. Three weeks later Clapson died from diabetic ketoacidosis, caused by a severe lack of insulin. A pile of CVs was found next to his body.

I’ll resist calling Clapson’s death a tragedy. Tragedy suggests a one-off incident, a rarity that couldn’t be prevented. What was done to Clapson – and it was done, not something that simply happened – is a particularly horrific example of what has, almost silently, turned into a widespread crisis. More than a million people in this country have had their benefits stopped over the past year. Sanctions against chronically ill and disabled people have risen by 580% in a year. This is a system out of control.

A petition for an inquiry into benefit sanctions, started by Clapson’s sister, Gill Thompson, is now on the verge of its 200,000th signature. This Thursday there will be a day of action against benefit sanctions across the country. If inspiration is required, you need look no further than the latest Department for Work and Pensions pilot scheme launched last week. The unemployed are set to have their benefits stopped if they don’t sign in at a jobcentre in the morning and spend the whole day there, every day. Breach the rules once and you’ll lose four weeks’ worth of benefits; twice and you won’t be able to feed your kids for three months.

Yes, some reasons for sanctions are almost laughable: going to a job interview rather than a meeting at the jobcentre that it clashes with; not completing an assessment because you had a heart attack during it. But let’s not convince ourselves the rest are credible – punishment sensibly bestowed on the scrounging unemployed. A government that deems it a success to stop the money someone needs to eat is a government of the grotesque.

Sanctions are a product of an attitude towards benefit claimants that says they are not people struggling to find work but suspects: lazy, stupid and in need of a DWP-kick to get them out of bed. The lazy are going hungry. Eight in 10 Trussell Trust food banks report that benefit sanctions are causing more people to need emergency food parcels. This, I suppose, is what Conservatives call motivation.

It doesn’t matter that sanctions are disproportionately hitting the most vulnerable. Nor that the DWP’s own commissioned report says that they are being imposed in such a way that vulnerable people often don’t understand what is happening to them, and are left uninformed of the hardship payments to which they are entitled. Six out of 10 employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants who have had their benefits stopped have a mental-health condition or learning difficulty. Are these the chosen victims of austerity now? By definition of being in receipt of ESA, many will struggle to do things such as be punctual for meetings or complete work placements with strangers in environments they don’t know. It is setting people up to fail and then punishing them for it.

Sanctions are not an anomaly. Rather, they are emblematic of the wider Tory record on welfare: one of incompetence and, at best, indifference. The work programme fails to find work for 95% of disabled people, but enforced, unpaid labour or loss of benefits is the DWP’s answer. More than a quarter of a million people are still waiting for PIP, the benefit needed to help cover the extra costs of disability. Seven hundred thousand people have been left waiting for an ESA assessment. Locking people out of their rightful benefits is becoming a theme for this government. The consequences are human; the response from the government is inhumane.

Clapson had only left his last job to care for his elderly mum, and before that had worked for 29 years. On the day he died he had £3.44 to his name and six tea bags, a tin of soup and an out-of-date can of sardines in his kitchen cupboards. Benefit sanctions are aimed at ending the “something for nothing” culture, as the DWP’s press release brags. I vote for ending the demonisation of the unemployed, disabled and poor.

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What happened to him is truly gruesome and absolutely shameful.

This is why I reject free market capitalism for (Christian) socialism.
In the first system, MONEY is the measure of all things which naturally leads to a very small minority of incredibly rich people and an exponentially higher number of poor ones.

In socialism, free competition is encouraged AS LONG AS the welfare of human beings is not threatened, in which case the State intervenes.
Comparisons between the well being of poor people in hyper-capitalistic countries such as the United States and socialistic countries such as Sweden let us recognize a stark contrast which looks all the more tragic when glancing at children.

https://lotharlorraine.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/ceefe-baby-beggar.jpg

I think that the UK is drifting more and more towards wild capitalism and actually it has always hindered us from building up a “social Europe”. So we’d probably be much more successful if they had left us, presumably deprived of Scotland.

But their departure from the EU would likely have dire consequences on many sectors of British economy and employment as Obama himself pointed out.

Some implications for Christians

All Christians agree that a starving child is a horrendous evil. Actually this is agreed upon by the large majority of human beings regardless of their worldview.

So should we not work together towards constructing a society where this kind of evil is MINIMIZED?

While reading these lines, many Conservative Christians would doubtlessly answer me that while we are taught by our Master to care for the poor, the solution doesn’t have to be political.

But many of them couldn’t tell me that with a straight face, that is without either cognitive dissonances or a hypocritical tongue. When abortion and homosexuality are concerned, they certainly believe that a political solution is not only in order but also the most Christian thing anyone could do.

Let us suppose that we know that option A (status quo) will uphold the suffering of poor children whereas option B will considerably reduce it.

What kind of human beings are we if we refuse to engage B out of convenience or love for abstract political ideals?

 

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