In it, you can read an interesting (although biased) analysis:
“Toxic Masculinity Is at the Heart of This Darkness”.
Why did Alek Minassian allegedly climb into a van on Monday and kill ten people in Toronto? It goes without saying that each and every crime like this is determined by a number of factors. The one silver lining in all of this is that since the alleged killer was arrested, we may have the opportunity to understand what led to Monday’s horrific events.
In the interim, all we have so far is reports that it appears Minassian is a high-functioning autistic man who made a Facebook post in the minutes before the killing invoking misogynist murderer Elliot Rodger and announcing the inauguration of the “incel rebellion.”
For those uninitiated into the heart of darkness called Extremely Online, incels or “involuntary celibates” are a group of sad men so upset at their lack of sexual activity that they fantasize about raping, murdering, and otherwise brutalizing all women as a kind of guerrilla anti-feminist warfare. They first came to media prominence in 2014 after Rodger killed six people in California in 2014 and issued a 100+ page “manifesto” where he crudely turned his personal history of social and sexual frustration into a political crusade against all sex-havers.
“Western hedonism is at the heart of this darkness”
This prompted me to post what follows:
Yes, the deed was driven by a hate of women but we need to dig deeper than that. What are the causes of the extreme misogyny of “involuntary celibates” (an awful phrase I just discovered by the way)? It is certainly complex but I think that one major factor might be VIRGIN-SHAMING and the capitalistic sex-industry that glorifies the idea that the value of a man is determined by the number of women he manages to seduce. And that, in turn, drives many mentally unstable or otherwise handicapped men to despair and gravely compounds their mental health condition. So NEO-LIBERAL sex-positive feminists should recognise they are part of the problem and not part of the solution.
My own title? “Western hedonism is at the heart of this darkness”
The post-factualism of triggered progressives
This has led to a flurry of reactions that were neither particularly constructive nor rational.
First of all, J. F. shot from the hip: “Women being part of the problem that these idiots think sex is owed to them. Wow. Get the fuck out!”
I was puzzled by that. Where on earth did I say that women are part of the problem?
I said that neo-liberal sex-positive feminists (i.e. adherents of that ideology who can be both male and female) contribute to this problem by fostering a climate where the worth of a man is defined by how often he can “get laid” and where unsuccessful males are regularly mocked and ridiculed by their peers. I might be wrong aboutthat but my position is clearly entirely different from the ignoble thing I’m accused of saying.
Another (somewhat more polite) commentator wrote this:
“Hugh Hefner is not the reason these men have a problem. For Fuck’s Sake! Nor is any woman who chooses to make money from sex, or her body.”
As a mantra, that sounds great. But progressives are supposed to look beyond that and to carefully consider the available evidence before making such statements.
So, is it really true that the pornofication of our society doesn’t contribute by any means to the objectification of women?
I think there is one hell of a difference between growing up in the belief that romantic love should be pursued and growing up in the belief that having hedonistic pleasure trough sex is all that matters in life.
I would like to see empirical studies showing this has no influence on the way young men see members of the opposite gender.
On another level, I find it disheartening to see self-proclaimed progressives passionately and uncritically defend a man such as Hefner while ignoring his dark sides.
Finally, I’d like to go into the comment of D. J., as it is so typical of the way outraged progressives stifle any reasonable conversation:
“It’s quite apparent you’re speaking from your own experience, having the privilege of being a white assumed (cis) male. In a progressive space trying to mansplain what is a feminist to justify toxic masculinity.”
So this man knows very little about me but he believes that my skin colour and gender are sufficient to attribute complex psychological motives to me (and to accuse me of justifying the mass slaughtering of innocent women!). That, folks, is the very essence of racism.
But more fundamentally, this totally misses the point. I can be a terribly flawed human being but that does not in any way, shape or form invalidate my ideas which stand on their own merit. While reacting to opinions they dislike, progressives constantly commit the genetic fallacy and the ad-hominem fallacy instead of challenging them with reasonable arguments.
I did not primarily write this blog post to argue for the truth of my position regarding the link between such hardcore misogyny and neo-liberal hedonism. I might be wrong about that and I wholly recognise it.
I rather want to illustrate how it is not possible to have a reasonable and mutually respectful conversation with “progressives” on a controversial topic based on facts and a careful reasoning.
Apparently, just holding such an unorthodox position automatically makes you a despicable bigot.
I think it is truly a pity. To people thinking outside the box, progressivism can be as harmful and unwelcoming as conservatism.
This, in turn, contributes to the polarisation of society and the culture war where people talk (or rather shout) past to each other instead of seeking a common ground and having a rational debate where the opponent’s views are fairly represented.
I am all too aware that both liberals and conservatives are unlikely to like this post as it was written by someone who sorts of stands in the middle and doesn’t adhere to the dogmas of either side.
Are liberal Christians all the same?
Are conservative Christians all the same?
No, and I sing the praises of some. A short list, admittedly. And I intensely dislike some ‘conservative’ Christians.
However, if I described the key aspects of liberal Christians that I firmly regard as being essentially anti-Christian, I suspect you’ll find quite the overlap of the Venn diagrams.
By the way, Marc. I recall years ago over at your blog was some snarky little German atheist who used to talk about how the irreligious Germans didn’t really have much of a ‘racism’ problem (compared to the more religious US). I warned at the time that there was quite a lot of people ready and willing to immigrate to Europe, given half a chance, and that the perceived lack of problems wasn’t going to last forever. I recall being laughed at and being told how the only problems were the Turks, and that’s under control.
If ever the opportunity arises, let ’em know that I am laughing my ass off whenever I think of that conversation now.
I recognise at your tone you feel extremely frustrated and angry.
I don’t think this is doing you any good and I honestly don’t believe that this state of mind honours Christ.
I know only few things about your background, life experiences and what you went through.
But I think you’d be better off praying to God that He shows you if certain things you consider to be right might be wrong.
And I shall certainly do the same.
I haven’t got any news from Andy for a long time.
I do believe that we, as Christians, have a duty to welcome and shelter anyone whose live is really threatened.
But Angela’s Merkel decision to accept more than two MILLIONS of migrants was crazy. Many of them are pseudo-refugees. Many of then have no willingness to integrate themselves into the German society.
I am critical of “Black Lives matter” and I just published this blog post.
My opposition to this movement has caused many progressives to call me a “racist” and “white supremacist”.
I am now convinced that liberal cultural warriors aren’t any better than conservative culture warriors.
But I always try to be gracious and respectful towards respectful opponents.
Best wishes and blessings.
Credit where it’s due, Marc. You’re unusual.
That said, I really do what I think is right. Do keep this in mind: you’re coming around to show some sympathy with a point of view that I’ve long occupied. I used to be more moderate. I tried to have a ‘At least we’re all Christian’ attitude with leftist Christians.
Then I started to notice that the leftists didn’t care about God at all. The resurrection? A side-belief at best. No, what was really of interest was motivating the Church to subscribe to whatever the important secular social issues of the day were, with a bit of God-language thrown on them.
I notice, from afar, that the principal opponents to Merkel’s insanity tend to be people holding crosses and having a far more traditional view of Church and State. It’s the liberal Christians and (especially) atheists urging her on.
Besides, the appalling rise of Donald Trump makes it abundantly clear that there are still many Americans of Europeans descent who hate, resent or disdain Afro-Americans.
Why do I even bother?
And just like that, I’m reminded yet again of why I disown the Christian Left. Enjoy your Muslims, Marc. May the liberal parts of Europe give way to sultans, and may the rest be blessed by God.
If black people don’t want me resenting them, they should probably stop all of that rioting and extreme violence.
It would also help me resent them less if there were less black gang-bangers and if they actually made some sort of attempt to form families instead of breeding like rodents.
But what do I know. I’m just a racist.
“If black people don’t want me resenting them, they should probably stop all of that rioting and extreme violence.”
What disturbs me about that sentence is that it involves one hell of an over-generalisation.
“Black” people aren’t a monolithic group. There are as many differences between blacks as there are between “whites”.
Many blacks are appalled by the violence of “Black Lives Matters” and do not feel they represent them.
I agree with you that such acts are indefensible and also completely counter-productive.
But I think you should have written:
“If proponents of Black Live Matters don’t want me resenting them, they should probably stop supporting all that rioting and extreme violence.”
If an Afro-American wrote:
“If white people don’t want me resenting them, they should probably stop discriminating and hating us.”
I would disagree with him for the same reason.
Crude: I don’t expect you to become a liberal Christian.
I don’t expect you to start believing that gay marriage is a good thing.
I don’t expect you to support abortion, all the more so since I believe it should be avoided if the health of the woman isn’t threatened.
But I think that if you call yourself a Christian (and are aware of the Sermon on the Mount), you ought to make a conscious effort to respectfully treat respectful opponents regardless of their ideas.
I’ve always tried to be kind towards you, even when you wrote things I totally disagree with and even when you were insulting towards other commentators on my blog.
“Enjoy your Muslims, Marc. May the liberal parts of Europe give way to sultans, and may the rest be blessed by God.”
You are being quite nasty here. Apart from lumping together all Muslims as raping terrorists, you are assuming that I am happy about the current situation, even though I told you that a (small) part of the migrants are violent pseudo-refugees (who are a threat to Westerners, liberal Muslims, homosexuals, and Arab Christians alike).
By the way, Germany and France didn’t invade Iraq. Without American imperialism, there wouldn’t have been such atrocious destructions in Syria and in the Middle East.
So, I do believe that it is the US who should have welcomed the large majority of them.
Let us not forget that most of them aren’t criminals but people who have lost everything because of us Westerners.
What disturbs me about that sentence is that it involves one hell of an over-generalisation.
What disturbs me about that is that you don’t realize that I’m generalizing.
I’m tired of people pretending they don’t understand that that’s what I’m doing. They do. So I’m not going to apologize for it.
I agree with Malcolm. The need to constantly self-police and forever parse one’s words to exactitude is nonsensical. Especially when Marc himself will talk about how Trump’s rise obviously shows how wickedly horrible and racist towards black the country is.
That said, the black culture is – for a number of reasons – rife with single moms, who are increasingly copping an attitude of ‘I didn’t do nothing wrong!’ and ‘Oh my God for some reason my kids turned out rotten, it’s not my fault’. White culture has its own mass of problems, but I believe in addressing them, and being clear about their racial realities.
As for Marc, well, that warrants a post of its own.
Yeah. When you realize that the one group you actually made an effort to play nice with is ALSO not, and never going to be, willing to give you a fair hearing, you stop caring about what they think of you at all.
Crude, I want to be clear about one thing.
I wouldn’t have commented on your blog if you were just a nasty conservative to me. I think you have been being consumed by anger and hatred for too long. And I really believe this is doing you no good at all.
Malcolm, while some folks might understand it this way, many others will feel insulted.
Whenever liberal culture warriors write: “White men cannot bear the idea of a female leading the mightiest country in the world” I feel really offended and angry.
This is why I think *all* such over-generalisations should be avoided.
This is a straightforward application of the Golden Rule you probably know.
Best wishes, Marc.
“I think you have been being consumed by anger and hatred for too long. And I really believe this is doing you no good at all.”
‘Consumed by anger and hatred’ cashing out to… what? Snarky comments? Openly saying I have no patience for a segment of Christianity which was marking me and people like me as a monstrous hateful person even when I was noticeably more delicate and forever trying to be appeasingly careful with my words?
I express contempt for people who despise me or collude with those who do, and I am ‘consumed by anger and hatred’. You buddy up with people who think the failure to service a same-sex wedding is a criminal act, worthy of firing, fining and jailing, but what, you’re better because in direct conversation you’re civil? No, that’s not even in the realm of sensible.
As for ‘many others will feel insulted’ – they’ve turned feelings of insult into a policing weapon. And when we feel insulted or angry, we’re told – and have been told – to shut up and deal with it, because freedom. We offend, innocently or not, and the rules change; our offense is ‘hate’, which freedom is incompatible with.
You should understand why so many people have decided that the politeness game is no longer one they wish to play.
“Malcolm, while some folks might understand it this way, many others will feel insulted.”
You used an example of people of other races making similar generalizations about whites, and you’re quite correct: When that becomes taboo to say, I’ll stop generalizing about blacks.
I decided not to further engage them as the confrontation was starting to wear me down.
It goes without saying I completely reject their assertion that it is permissible to be nasty towards a respectful opponent because other people holding similar ideas have bullied you.
Nor do I believe that liberals making racist over-generalisations against whites can justify you making racist over-generalisations against blacks. For this is a form of collective punishment.
As a side note, if anyone is interested in learning the reasons why I don’t think that Black Lives Matter is the right way to tackle the undeniable reality of anti-black racism in America, I am certainly willing to talk about that.
But if you believe there cannot possibly be any such reasons, I am probably not worth your while.
(I argued elsewhere that this principle stands at the very centre of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth).
This naturally entails trying to put yourself in the shoes of a person experiencing injustices and act as you would like one acts towards you if you were in his or her situation.
Pseudo-progressives, on the other hand, believe that moral progress is all about acting in accordance with politically correct dogmas nobody ought to question.
Currently, these alleged “sacred truths” can be summed up in the following way
“Oppression almost always stems from heterosexual white males who attack the right of women, homosexuals and non-whites.”
(Of course, “whites” and “non-whites” are artificial (and incoherent) constructions they more or less unconsciously uphold. This shall be the topic of another post).
Now, I certainly wouldn’t deny that misogyny, homophobia and systematic racism are still huge problems (especially in religious conservative or fundamentalist circles, at least as far as the first two ones are concerned).
But I think it is nonsensical and extremely offensive to pretend that poverty and unjust economical structures aren’t in and of themselves a significant cause of oppression.
I also believe it is wrong for these people to pretend to follow the teachings of Martin Luther King while ignoring an essential part of it.
Martin Luther King on poverty
While describing the way in which annoying aspects of the message of prophets are rewritten by the mighty of a society, liberal Christian scholar Thom Stark considered the case of Martin Luther King in modern America.
And we do this today. Martin Luther King Jr. was a notorious gadfly. He is remembered today solely for his role in the civil rights movement, but, especially in his later years, King was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War, and spoke out often and dynamically against free-market capitalism. He said that the U.S. needs to honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society.
“There are forty million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question,
‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalist economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, “Who owns the oil?” You begin to ask the question, “Who owns the iron ore?” You begin to ask the question, “Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water?” These are questions that must be asked.” King went on to call for a synthesis of capitalism and communism that involved nothing less than a total overhaul of the U.S. economic system. This is the King we don’t remember on Martin Luther King Day every year. And that is the purpose of Martin Luther King Day. King, whatever else he was, was an enemy to the power structures in the United States. The genius of declaring a national holiday in King’s honor is that the elites get to claim King as one of their own; they get to control, to a large degree, how we remember him. He was a dissenter from the establishment orthodoxy, but the establishment could hardly shut him out of the collective memory, and far less could they vilify him. So what they did was to call him “son” and thereby acquire the means to control howthe public remembers him.
In an article entitled “King’s final message: Poverty is a civil rights battle”, Stephanie Sieck further drives the point home.
King’s final message: Poverty is a civil rights battle
On Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, some will volunteer, some will attend celebrations of his life and legacy, some will do nothing at all. “I have a dream,” the title of King’s best known speech, will be repeated countless times, along with well-known stories about his commitment to nonviolence, his letters from a Birmingham jail, his marches against segregation and the bullet that ended his life on April 4, 1968.
But few will remember how King lived his last birthday, as he turned 39 on January 15, 1968.
According to accounts of the day retold by Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III, King spent the day working on a campaign that he hoped would force Washington and the American public to acknowledge and resolve the problem of poverty for people of all races, religions and backgrounds in the United States. The Poor People’s Campaign was the agenda for the day, with a short break for birthday cake.
While King’s dream, the march on Washington and fight against segregation are well-known to children and adults now, fewer are aware that King spent the last months of his life fighting poverty.
When he died in Memphis, he was there to support fair wages and union representation for Memphis sanitation workers.
Rebecca Burns, who wrote about King’s last days, death, and burial in “Burial for a King,” said King’s antiwar and anti-poverty legacy are overshadowed in part because their solutions are more elusive.
“It’s a much more complex issue – it’s not, pardon my choice of words, as black and white as voting rights or where you sit on a bus,” Burns said. “It’s harder to talk about that in sound bites.”
Clayborne Carson, director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, said that King’s dreams of economic justice remain unrealized, but not because they are impossible to achieve.
“It is easier to celebrate King as a civil rights leader, because that was the easier part of his vision to realize,” Carson said. “The southern Jim Crow system was a regional anachronism rather than a national problem – the gulf between rich and poor – that we still prefer to ignore.”
The Poor People’s Campaign reached out to poor whites, many of whom felt most threatened by the civil rights movement’s successes in black equality, as well as impoverished migrant farm workers who harvested the nation’s food and Native Americans who languished on reservations. Injustice anywhere, King said, was a threat to justice everywhere.
Race-based and gender-based affirmative action
This leads me to the topic of affirmative action and its usefulness in addressing injustices.
In another post, I argued that affirmative action should first and foremost be based on the wealth and well-being of individuals.
Pseudo-progressive passionately disagree and believe it should always only be based on gender and race even if this leads one to privilege a wealthy woman over a poor man in quite a few cases.
Richard D. Kahlenberg is an American scholar having spent considerable time analysing affirmative action in higher education.
On the whole, university leaders much prefer the prevailing system of racial preference in admission, which ignores issues of economic inequality and instead focuses, as Walter Benn Michaels acidly observes, on “what color skin the rich kids have.” (One study found that almost nine in ten African Americans at selective colleges are middle or upper class— though the whites were even wealthier.)
Recruiting fairly privileged students of color is far less expensive than including low-income and working-class kidsof all races. While higher education’s vigorous defense of affirmative action on one level represents a sincere desire for greater racial equality, it has another less virtuous side to it, as racial preferences avoid the hard work of addressing deeply rooted inequalities and instead provide what Stephen Carter has called “racial justice on the cheap.”
Most notably, in the late 1960s, before his death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrestled with the issue of how best to remedy our nation’s history of discrimination. On the one hand, he argued in his 1964 book Why We Can’t Wait that compensation is due to black Americans. “It is impossible to create a formula for the future which does not take into account that our society has been doing something special against the Negro for hundreds of years,” he wrote.
In the book, and in subsequent testimony before the Kerner Commission in 1967, King called for “compensatory consideration,” noting, “if a man is entered at the starting line in a race three hundred years after another man, the first would have to perform some impossible feat in order to catch up with his fellow runner.” But instead of urging adoption of a special program for blacks, as some civil rights leaders had done, King called for a color-blind Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged:
“While Negroes form the vast majority of America’s disadvantaged, there are millions of white poor who would also benefit from such a bill.”
“It is a simple matter of justice that America, in dealing creatively with the task of raising the Negro from backwardness, should also be rescuing a large stratum of the forgotten white poor.”
King knew that class-based approaches would disproportionately benefit victims of historic discrimination without violating the color-blind ideal he had famously articulated in the 1963 March on Washington.
Given these political realities, it is perhaps not surprising that the father of racial preferences was not Lyndon Johnson or Martin Luther King and instead was Richard Nixon. In 1969, Nixon proposed the Philadelphia Plan that imposed racial hiring quotas on the city’s construction industry. Bayard Rustin, the great civil rights leader and friend of labor who planned the 1963 March on Washington, was suspicious: why would Nixon, who was no great supporter of civil rights, support a policy of racial preferences? Rustin charged that Nixon was using the Philadelphia Plan to “deliberately throw black and white workers at each other’s throats.”
I think this should give a pause to all of us truly interested in genuine social justice .
In 2015, the real victims of slavery and segregation are mainly those blacks living under the threshold of poverty.
Race-based positive discrimination overwhelmingly favours economically privileged blacks and latinos at their expense and that of poor whites.
Whites of lower classes, in turn, are all too easily lured into far-right movements such as the Tea-Party or the personality cult of xenophobic billionaire Donald Trump.
It seems clear to me that privileging wealth-based or class-based affirmative action over race-based affirmative action (without necessarily always giving up on the latter) would lead to a far more just and stable society, as Martin Luther King would have desired.
In 2016, in a Western secular context, it doesn’t demand any moral courage to stand for the rights of Afro-Americans unjustly killed, homosexuals being bullied or women victim of sexism.
For there is a large consensus that those things are egregiously wrong and shouldn’t be tolerated.
You probably don’t need to be a Christian in order to recognise the wisdom in the following words of Jesus of Nazareth:
46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
There is no great moral merit in defending values the large majority of your peers agree with.
It does require, however, a tremendous courage to criticise politically correct dogmas.
For many pseudo-progressives react like outraged religious fundamentalists and do not hesitate to resort to emotional bullying and unfair characterisations of the arguments of their opponents.
I know that it is very unlikely I could ever change their minds and I don’t even want to try it.
For all other readers, I think it might be worth considering what follows.
In 2016, the mighty of this world (i.e. the billionaires and millionaires governing Western oligarchies) can, by and large, cope with a black leader (such as Barack Obama) or a female leader (such as Angela Merkel and probably Hilary Clinton) who uphold neo-liberalism, Western imperialism and do not call into question their scandalous economic privileges.
“It’s not a radical concept that maybe the United States government should represent working families rather than a handful of billionaires.”
No, it isn’t a radical concept at all, indeed.
But it is a lot harder than posting pictures in favour of gay marriage or abortion on your facebook account, getting a lot of “likes” and thinking in turn you are a noble hero contributing to saving our world.
I guess that if I wrote such a long post, it is only because I am an evil heterosexual white man who takes pleasure in oppressing women, ethnic minorities and homosexuals (and devouring small children alive).
Therefore, you don’t have to bother about refuting my arguments, let alone trying to fairly understand and describe my actual positions.
“Here’s a fact, and I am sure the other people here will be mortified that I dare to talk about it. There are 7,000 diagnoses in this country every year for people who are HIV positive. It’s not a good place for any of them to be, I know.
“Sixty per cent of them are not British nationals. They can come into Britain from anywhere in the world and get diagnosed with HIV and get the retro-viral drugs that cost up to £25,000 per year per patient.
“I know there are some horrible things happening in many parts of the world, but what we need to do is put the NHS there for British people and families, who in many cases have paid into the system for decades.”
While he skilfully shaped his utterances to make them sound more respectable, I think that the content remains absolutely shameful.
Think about it for a while. Banksters plunge countless lives into an unspeakable misery through their reckless actions and they don’t have to give anything away from their wealth.
There’s little doubt that some of the foreigners taking advantage of HIV-treatments are abusing the system.
But the harm they (indirectly) inflict to British households is negligible in comparison to that stemming from immoral millionaires and billionaires.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said his criticism of ‘HIV tourists’ is not at odds with a Christian attitude and that Christians should put their countrymen before immigrants …. Nigel Farage has said his comments about ‘HIV tourists’ are perfectly compatible with a religious outlook, claiming that it is “a sensible Christian thing to look after your family and your own community first”. …. But asked on Saturday whether his views were compatible with a Christian outlook, Mr Farage said: “What good Christian would say to an 85-year-old woman ‘you can’t have breast cancer treatment because we can’t afford it’, whilst at the same time shovelling a billion pounds on foreign aid, allowing people from all over the world to fly into Britain as health tourists get an HIV test and drugs over £20,000 a year?” ….
Speaking to Sky News he added: “It is a sensible Christian thing to look after your family and your own community first.” …. Mr Farage said that he regarded himself as a Christian, despite attending church only a “few times a year”, and insisted Britain should maintain its cultural position as a “Judeo-Christian” country.
Here’s my response to his rhetorical question I emphasised.
What good Christian would prevent the weakest members of his society from taking advantage of a decent healthcare just for allowing a bunch of greedy people to get even richer?
I don’t know Nigel Farage deeply enough for judging him as a moral person.
But I strongly doubt he’s a real committed follower of Jesus of Nazareth who kept preaching against failing to feed and help the poor.
The return of Robin Hood
Nigel Farage is an impostor. He steals the money of the poor to give it to the rich.
What modern Britain really needs is the Robin Hood of the legend.
The website that originally “broke” this story is Campus Reform. This morning, poking about the Campus Reform website, I found this on their Mission page:
As a watchdog to the nation’s higher education system, Campus Reform exposes bias and abuse on the nation’s college campuses.
Our team of professional journalists works alongside student activists and student journalists to report on the conduct and misconduct of university administrators, faculty, and students.
Campus Reform holds itself to rigorous journalism standards and strives to present each story with accuracy, objectivity, and public accountability.
A few clicks later I learned that Campus Reform is owned and operated by the hyper-conservative The Leadership Institute. Here’s a bit about them:
The Leadership Institute identifies, organizes, and trains conservative college students to promote and defend their values on campus.
Institute programs prepare thousands of conservatives each year. Conservatives learn how to:
· Form independent conservative student groups · Manage grassroots-oriented campaigns · Publish independent conservative school newspapers · Communicate a conservative message using the media
Gee, I wonder why the complaining OSU “anonymous student” knew nothing about the Psych 1100 class that had so offended him or her (see below)—and why exactly they were quoted as having said:
I understand that colleges have a liberal spin on things so it didn’t surprise me to see the question … . Colleges will tolerate pretty much any religion other than Christianity.
I smell a rat. A lowdown, lying, cheating, right-wing Christian rat trying to drum up a little cheese for itself.
It pains me to have at all contributed, however cursorily, to the lie that there was any credibility whatsoever to the original story. Me, helping to further the agenda of hardcore right-wing Christians!
So sad. So wrong. So … what can totally happen when you’re trying to keep two blogs going and write a (major) first novel.
After reading my post yesterday my good friend Dan Wilkinson got interested in what the story behind that story might be. Dan getting interested in something is like a coke-detecting police dog getting interested in a suitcase. It’s kinda scary. But awesome to watch.
Courtesy of Dan “Sniffy” Wilkinson, here is what’s really going on with OSU’s Psychology 1100 classs:
First we have the class syllabus. As you’ll see, it’s a totally normal, duly formidable college class.
One of the tools used in the class are the online LearningCurve quizzes. As you may recall, the particular Learning Curve question that has caused such a stir is this one:
Here are a few other LearningCurve quiz questions (which taken altogether comprise only 10% of the grade for the class):
Notably, all of the quiz question are pulled directly from Psychology, the textbook used in the class (which Dan managed to get hold of, and which is on Amazon here—for only $159.48!). Each includes exactly where in the book information informing that question can be found. So literally none of the quiz questions should be a surprise to any student in the class.
While the above questions might at face value seem inflammatorily ill-informed, within the context of the class they make perfect sense. And those are only four of the (it looks like) hundreds of questions derived from the chapter of the textbook dealing with what intelligence is and isn’t, the history of testing intelligence, the uses, abuses and shortcomings of such tests, and the complexity of entire issue.
The authors of Psychology thoroughly explore the findings that certain groups consistently test higher or lower on intelligence tests, carefully considering the factors that contribute to that result:
Although the average difference between groups is considerably less than the average difference within groups, Terman was right when he suggested that some groups perform better than others on intelligence tests.
But do group differences in intelligence test scores reflect group differences in actual intelligence? …
Some groups outscore others on intelligence tests because (a) testing situations impair the performance of some groups more than others and (b) some groups live in less healthful and stimulating environments. There is no compelling evidence to suggest that between-group differences in intelligence are due to genetic differences.
But in spite of everything, I view them as human beings created in God’s image and NOT as right-wing rats . As a German liberal theologian rightly pointed out: “Fundamentalisten sind auch Menschen” = “Fundamentalists are human too”.
Even if it might be a daily struggle, should it not be our duty to love our fundamentalist foes as ourselves? I’m not pretending to be a better person than you because I fall short in countless other respects.
But I think it’s really a pity if your laudable and praiseworthy defense of Gay people degenerates into self-righteous hatred.
So I really hope you’ll back away from your rhetoric and adopt a more constructive tone because you’re unlikely to change the hearts of fundies while using such words.
Otherwise, I also feel pretty irritated by the psychological Quiz. It is extraordinarily reductionist in that it defines “Christians”, “Atheists” and “Liberals” as homogeneous groups. This is very far from being the case, there are numerous conflicting groups, ideologies and movements within Christianity and atheism and merging them together has a very poor scientific value.
I’d be interested if such IQ comparisons were carried out between VERY specific groups (such as “Secular Conservatives” against “Evolutionary theists”) to see what come out of it.
What is more, it is far from being certain that there is such a thing as intelligence which can be fully grasped by a unique measure such as IQ. Its assessment also depends a lot on psychological factors such as motivation, impulsiveness and anxiety.
Anyway I wish you all the best and hope you’ll begin to see Conservatives as fellow humans.
As a philosopher of religion, the way I approach this topic is in terms of a philosophical question: What theory of revelation fits best with the Christian view of God? Put another way, if there is a God that fits the broadly Christian description, how would we expect such a God to reveal the divine nature and will to the world?
Many conservative Christians take it for granted that God has revealed the divine nature and will in and through a specific book. More precisely (although they aren’t usually this precise), they believe that God inspired certain human authors at various times in history to write texts that inerrantly express divine truths–and then inspired other human beings to correctly recognize these texts and include all and only them in the comprehensive collection of Scriptures we call the Bible.
Let’s call this the theory of biblical inerrancy.
Does this theory fit well with broader Christian beliefs? Is this a good Christian theory about divine revelation, culminating in a good Christian theory about what the Bible is and what sort of authority we should attach to it? I think there are a number of reasons to be skeptical.
Put more narrowly, I think there are a number of reasons why Christians should be skeptical, given their Christian starting points. Let’s consider at least some of these reasons.
1. Christianity holds that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God
Traditional Christian teaching holds that Jesus is the Word made Flesh, the incarnation of God in history. And this means that for Christians, the primary and monumental revelation of God is in the person of Jesus, not in any book (however inspired). It is this fact which motivated George MacDonald to say of the Bible,
It nowhere lays claim to be regarded as the Word, the Way, the Truth. The Bible leads us to Jesus, the inexhaustible, the ever unfolding Revelation of God. It is Christ “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” not the Bible, save as leading to him.
Biblical inerrantists might argue that nothing precludes God from both revealing the divine nature primarily in Jesus and authoring an inerrant book as a secondary revelation. This is true as far as it goes. But there are reasons for concern.
First, there’s a difference between the kind of revelation that Jesus represents, and the kind that a book represents. A person and a book are different things, and we learn from them in different ways. Consider the difference between having a mentor in the project of becoming a better person, and reading self-help books.
Doesn’t Christianity teach that God’s preferred way of disclosing the divine nature and will is through personal, living relationship rather than fixed words? The problem with throwing in an inerrant book as a “supplemental” revelation is that it can lead to Bible-worship. Given human psychology, there is something alluring about having a book with all the answers. But if God primarily wants us to find the answers through personal engagement with the living God, as discovered in Jesus, isn’t there a real danger that fixation on the Bible will distract the faithful from God’s primary mode of self-disclosure?
None of this is to say that human stories–witness accounts of divine revelation in history–aren’t important. They can motivate a desire to seek out the one whom the stories are about, and they can offer tools for discerning whether you’ve found the one you seek or an imposter. But once they are seen as secondary, as valuable as a means to an end, the need for inerrancy dissipates. If what really matters is my friendship with Joe, and if I sought out and formed a friendship with him because lots of people told me stories about him that revealed him as an awesome guy I wanted to meet, do I really need to insist that those storytellers were inerrant? Why?
2. The Jesus of Scripture was not an inerrantist
In John 8:1-11, we have the story of the teachers of the law coming to Jesus with an adulteress, and asking Him whether they ought to stone her to death as the Scriptures prescribe. The passage itself declares that this was a trap: If Jesus came out and directly told them not to stone her, He would be defying a direct scriptural injunction.
He avoided the trap: He didn’t directly telling them to act contrary to Scripture. Instead, He told them that the one without sin should cast the first stone.
It is a stunning and powerful story (no wonder someone decided to write it into the Gospel of John, even though it didn’t appear in the earliest versions). But notice that Jesus didn’t tell them to do what Scripture prescribed. Instead, He found a powerful way to drive home exactly what was wrong with following that scriptural injunction–in a way that avoided their trap.
In short, Jesus disagreed with some of the teachings in the Scriptures of His day. In the Sermon on the Mount, he offered gentle correctives to earlier teachings–teachings which started in a direction but didn’t go far enough. The lex talionis command to punish evildoers eye for eye and tooth for tooth may, at the time, have served as a restraint on retributive impulses: don’t punish beyond the severity of the crime. But for Jesus, that level of restrain was insufficient. It was a start on a path, perhaps, but only that. Jesus followed the trajectory of that path to its conclusion, and enjoined His listeners to turn the other cheek.
In short, it’s clear Jesus didn’t have the inerrantist view towards the Scriptures of His day that conservative Christians have towards the Christian Scriptures of today. Conservatives might argue that Jesus would view the modern Bible–or maybe just the New Testament?–in the way they favor, even if the approach to Scripture that He actually modeled is at odds with their approach.
Allow me to treat such a speculative claim with suspicion. If Jesus is the primary revelation of God in history, then it strikes me as appropriate to follow His model for approaching Scripture, and respectfully look beyond the letters on the page to the deeper intentions that finite human authors might have missed, noticing trajectories and exploring where they might lead.
3. In the New Testament, Paul distinguished between his views and the Lord’s
In 1 Corinthians 7:10-12, Paul says the following:
To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her…
I’ve talked about this passage before, so I won’t go into details. What interests me is the distinction Paul makes between his own views and those of the Lord. In this passage, it’s clear that Paul did not see Himself as taking dictation from God. He made a clear distinction between his own opinions and those of the Lord, and by making the distinction explicit was signaling to his readers that they should treat the injunctions differently–as if he didn’t want to claim for himself the kind of authority that he took to accompany Jesus’ explicit teachings.
But if inerrantism is true, then Paul’s teachings are the inerrant word of God, and so have the same kind of authority as Jesus’ words. In other words, if inerrantism is true, then Paul was wrong to make the distinction he made. But that distinction is made by Paul in a letter that’s in the Bible. And if inerrantism is true, a distinction made in a letter that’s in the Bible has to be accurate. But if it’s accurate, inerrantism isn’t true. Zounds!
An exercise in creative interpretation might offer the inerrantist the wiggle room to escape this logical trap, but inerrantists are routinely skeptical of such creative interpretation of Scripture. At best, then, this amounts to a difficulty for inerrantism, the sort of difficulty one often sees when trying to force a theory onto subject matter that doesn’t quite suit it. Theories can perhaps weather some such difficulties, but if they become too common it is hard to reasonably persist in endorsing the theory.
4. Efforts to overcome apparent contradictions in Scripture lead to a false view of Scripture
Speaking of difficulties of this sort, the Bible isn’t a neat, orderly, systematically consistent treatise. The Gospel narratives, for example, aren’t identical. They tell the stories of Jesus’ life in different ways. Details differ–for example, in accounts of the resurrection. Bart Ehrman does a fine job of cataloguing many of these in Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible.
Mostly, these tensions aren’t explicit contradictions but rather what might be called apparent ones: they don’t seem as if they can go together, because you’d need to tell a rather convoluted story to make them fit.
Inerrantists have not been remiss in offering such convoluted stories. But if you need to tell enough of them in order to make your theory map onto what it’s supposed to explain, the theory becomes increasingly implausible.
And there’s another problem, one that should be of concern to Christians who care about the Bible. The convoluted tales that you have to tell in order to make disparate biblical narratives fit together end up leading you away from an honest appreciation of the message of the biblical authors. As Ehrman puts it, “To approach the stories in this way is to rob each author of his own integrity as an author and to deprive him of the meaning that he conveys in his story.”
When you do this, you care more about preserving your theory about the Bible than you do about understanding and taking in its message. For me, this is one of the greatest tragedies of an inerrantist approach to Scripture: It makes it difficult for readers to engage with the Bible on its own terms. It’s like someone who is so devoted to a false image of their spouse that they can’t see their spouse for the person they really are. Likewise, the steps that need to be taken in order to preserve the doctrine of inerrancy in the face of the Bible’s actual content means that it becomes impossible to have an intimate relationship with the Bible as it really is. This is not taking the Bible seriously. It is taking the doctrine of inerrancy seriously at the expense of the Bible.
5. God is love Christianity teaches that God is love. In fact, it is the closest thing Christians have to a scriptural definition of God: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8).
If God is love, then we experience God when we love. If God is love, then the primary way we can encounter God is through loving and being loved–that is, through cultivating loving relationships with persons. This may help to explain the Christian view that a person–Jesus–served in history as God’s fundamental revelation, rather than a book. Books can’t love you. And you can’t love a book in the sense of “love” that Christians (and the author of 1 John) have in mind when we say God is love.
When we feel the profound presence of the divine showering love upon us–or when we feel the joy of being loved by others–we are encountering the divine nature as something coming to us from the outside. But when we love our neighbors as ourselves, we are channeling divine love, and experiencing it “from within” (so to speak). The divine nature is moving within us, more intimately connected to us than any mere object of experience. I think this is what the author of 1 John means when he says that whoever does not love does not know God. To love others is to be filled with the spirit of God. It is to let God in.
If any of that is true, then it is by encouraging us to love one another that God makes possible the most profound revelation of the divine nature and will. And while the Bible does encourage us to love one another, the theory about the Bible which takes it to be the inerrant revelation of God may actually be an impediment to love.
We end up focusing more attention on the Bible than on our neighbors. We are more committed to “doing what the Bible says” than we are to loving those around us. Out of a desire to be connected with God, we insist that homosexuality is always and everywhere sinful–and when the gay and lesbian neighbors we are supposed to love cry out in despair, their lives crushed by these teachings, we stifle our compassion, shutting out love in fear that loving them as ourselves might lead us to question the inerrancy of the Bible.
If God is love, then any theory of revelation that tells us to find God by burying our noses in a book is a problematic theory. If God is love, we must look for God in the love we see in the world. The Bible, understood as a flawed and finite human testament to the God of love working in history, can be a deeply meaningful partner in our quest to encounter God and live in the light of divine goodness. But as soon as it is treated as inerrant, it is in danger of becoming a bludgeon used to silence those neighbors who want to share experiences that don’t quite fit with this or that verse.
The Bible points away from itself. Respect for it demands that we look up from the page and engage with our neighbors and the creation. God is alive in the world. The Bible tells us that God is alive in the world. In so doing, the book is telling us that if we want to find God, we need to look into our neighbor’s face with love, and at the natural world and all its creatures with love.
Because God is there. God is there, revealing Himself in the vibrancy of life and the child’s laugh and the mother’s tender kiss. God is there, in the gay man who sits by his longtime partner’s hospital bedside, gently stroking his brow. God is there, in the joyous wedding vows of the lesbian couple that can finally get a legal marriage after years together.
And any time a too-literal allegiance to the letter of the biblical text causes someone not to see the face of God in that tenderness and joy, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy has blocked divine revelation, impeding God’s effort to self-disclose to the world.
Here follows my own response.
it would be a terrible understatement to say that this post of yours was extraordinarily amazing 🙂
Here is a major problem for the Conservative Protestant position: it cannot merely be that their Bible is inerrant, but also that people who first recognized it that way were as well. If they weren’t, what give us the guarantee that their decision was correct?
The real danger here is that according to the doctrine of inerrancy, if you find some Biblical verses describing God as commanding moral atrocities, you HAVE to conclude that the God experienced by ALL other Biblical writers endorsed them as well.
Tragically, nasty fundamentalists considerably water down Christ’s call to love our enemies to make it match the theology of the imprecatory psalms.
As you expressed it so well, the priority of Conservative Evangelicals is NOT to become more loving persons and turn the world into a better place BUT to combat heresies and frenetically defend particular verses having been empirically refuted.
I think you’re an incredibly bright person and defender of our faith, and I wish much more people would read your writings instead of those of William Lane Craig.
His evil view of God is one of the main reasons why Conservative Evangelicalism is increasingly collapsing.