Friday, June 09, 2006

 

Anti-Christian hate does exist

The right likes to complain that there is anti-Christian hatred in this country. And it's true. I ran across this example of it today: Make no mistake, it was Christians that killed "witches" in Salem, it was Christians that walked around in white robes and hoods while they lynched black men and burned down their homes, it is Christians that are willing to kill abortion doctors in an effort to get the rest of us under their God's thumb and it is Christians that are continuing every day to promote homophobia that contributes to the violence toward, and discrimination of, gay people. Perhaps religious tolerance has outlived its usefulness in this country.... Why am I supposed to have tolerance for them when they have none for the rest of us? Whenever the word "they" refers to millions of people, a mental red flag should go up. Political hate relies on abstraction, on an undefined and amorphous "other" who is responsible in some sketchily-defined manner for monstrous crimes. Consider the strange mental landscape required to blame today's Christians for burning witches, an event that occurred hundreds of years ago. What's notable is that one could substitute a few words in this excerpt and have a screed from one of those sites that brays about how we are in a clash of civilizations with Islamofascists. Or a site that goes on about Zionist control of the world's banks. Take the identifying labels away, and all hate looks remarkably similar. But you know, seeing anti-Christian hate directed at me and my homies doesn't bother me any more than seeing it directed against any other group. In China or Sudan or other countries, Christians have indeed been persecuted. It takes some severe lack of irony to hoist the bloody shirt over a kid claiming to be "persecuted" because other kids tease him about reading the Bible. A majority of Americans identify as Christians, so we're not likely to become a persecuted minority. Of course, if we actually followed the teachings of Jesus, that could change. Would Jesus recognize more than a small fraction of American Christians as His followers, given that so many support war, capital punishment, and other things in diametric opposition to Jesus's teachings? In this most Christian country, there are more poor and more in prison than in any other industrialized nation. People who actually practice what Jesus preached are considered cranks. They might actually be a persecuted minority. To be fair to the author of the screed excerpted above, somewhere well below the fold, she does have a small glimpse of insight, saying Now certainly, not all Christians are bad, evil, bigoted people, it would be ridiculous for me to paint them all with the same brush... And some of my best friends are Republicans (*). One can tell that this is more of a dance step than any genuine discomfort with what she's said by what follows: but Christians that continue to take a passive approach to dealing with their most vocal advocates are contributing to the problem, and by their silence are giving their consent. Like I knew where Eric Rudolph was hiding? There are certainly people calling themselves Christians who are collaborators with evil. For example, Eric Rudolph had a substantial support network. They are complicit in his crimes. Those who use Jesus's name to do evil have no defense. But those who do evil are not first and foremost Christians, any more than Al Qaida members are first and foremost Muslim or the Stern Gang and their modern-day adherents are first and foremost Jews. They are all human beings first. That makes them, uncomfortably enough, our brothers and sisters. Whatever we hate in them exists in us too. And so, I urge the author to look at, for example, the National Council of Churches, PCUSA, the Episcopalians, and many, many other Christian organizations. They have denounced people who use the name of Jesus to do wrong, and have done so consistently. At the church level, pastors who have called out the right have been savaged by right-wing operatives posing as congregants. If she hasn't heard of this effort to keep Jesus in the church, she's almost as poorly informed as Jerry Falwell.
Comments:
(*) Some claim that Republicanism is genetic, others that it is caused by inappropriate hormonal conditioning in the womb. But these theories, not substantiated by scientific evidence, would condemn Republicans to perdition without any chance of salvation.

I choose to believe that Republicanism is a perversity of spirit, a sin if you will, that can be cured by generous doses of the truth.

As we are so often told, "Hate the sin, love the sinner."
 
Bravo, Charles. And thank you.
 
Substitute "Islamic" for "Christian", and the writer might be able to see the absurdity of condemning all Christians everywhere for the sins committed by self-identified "Christians" like Pat Robertson and Ann Coulter.
 
Well, I presumed a bit and invited her to debate the issue on MercRising, MEC. It's hard for me to keep from laughing when I read an essay like this. Given that a large majority of Americans describe themselves as Christians, it's sort of like the cartoon where Henery Hawk gets tough with Foghorn Leghorn.

Are ya gonna come quiet or am I gonna have ta muss ya up?

Unfortunately, a lot of American Christians don't share my perspective and do feel threatened by intemperate comments about "taking the gloves off"
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
Charles-—I did not intend for anything that I wrote to be buried “below the fold,” as with everything I write, it is intended to be a complete thought, all of it together making the point I intend to make. I understand that blogging is often about picking small pieces apart, I just wanted to make it clear that it was intended as a whole.

I am aware of many efforts within the Christian community to denounce those who do wrong in the name of Jesus, but as you conceded, they get beat down and drowned out. I have written about Evangelicals that have organized in support of protecting the environment and I have great respect for those who, because of their religious faith, are driven to do good works. My problem is with the disproportionate amount of influence that Christians like Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and Pat Robertson have on this administration and on how political debates are framed today. And how do they gain this power? By having so many followers that they can “activate” in support of any given candidate. That is a very specific “they” that have very specific power and yes, they are in the millions.

Like it or not, millions of Christians are elevating the voices of Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and organized groups of Christians are framing the debates of the day, equal rights for gay and lesbians, how our children should be educated, whether women have sovereignty over their own bodies and even on the validity of scientific study and they are using their religious faith as a basis for their position. How is their religion irrelevant to their influence? And how is it irrelevant to the debate?

This country would be much better off if Christians that disagree with their most vocal advocates would cut them off at the knees, but they don’t, and the deafening silence, at the very least, indicates tacit approval. Maybe not for the methods, but for the message, which makes the methods that much harder to denounce, especially when they have been so hugely successful.

My problem is not with Christianity, it is with the way that Christianity is being used as a blunt instrument to beat the rest of us with. Believe what you want until your faith has repercussions for me, then we have a problem. And I’m not going to refrain from speaking out simply because those framing the debate are of the Christian faith and will label me anti-Christian for speaking my mind. I am all for religious tolerance (in private life not in public policy), but that cuts both ways. There is much more open hostility toward atheists in this country, believe me, I’m a godless heathen, I know.
 
Make no mistake, it was Christians that killed "witches" in Salem, it was Christians that walked around in white robes and hoods while they lynched black men and burned down their homes,

And in both cases, the persons victimized were also Christians.

And it was in the Christian community that the opposition to slavery, and the rise of civil rights, was the strongest. Last time I checked, Dr. Martin Luther King lived and died a Christian.

it is Christians that are willing to kill abortion doctors in an effort to get the rest of us under their God's thumb and it is Christians that are continuing every day to promote homophobia that contributes to the violence toward, and discrimination of, gay people.

The people you speak of are people who forty years ago were for the most part not particularly powerful outside of the South. It was only when the Republicans decided to join hands with these people -- as part of their infamous "Southern Strategy" -- that they started to gain national power.

Even with all that, it's hard for them to maintain power once they get it; Jerry Falwell's own movement has been on life support for decades, surviving only through the largesse of Sun Myung Moon. And Pat Robertson, after realizing a few years ago that his once-feared Christian Coalition was due to crash and burn financially, bailed out with a sizable golden parachute for himself, leaving his staffers the impossible task of staying afloat.

As for your complaint about the alleged silence of the mainstream churches: They've been speaking up against what I call "the religio-racist right", all right. But our media -- which is itself in bed with the unholy alliance of the GOP and the religio-racists -- goes out of its way to ignore what the mainstream churches have to say, if it doesn't fit their agenda. (For instance, did you know that the late Pope John Paul II and the current Pope Benedict have spoken out at length against both the invasion and occupation of Iraq? That's not something our GOP/Media Complex will give 24/7 coverage. Yet the GOP/Media Complex will go out of their way to mention anything that they can use to buttress the GOP party line, such as the disapproval expressed by both men of homosexuality.)
 
Oh, and by the way:

Thanks for accepting Charles' invitation. We promise to keep it civil.
 
Phoenix Woman—I certainly don’t disagree with you about the media, it is in their interest to support the GOP and give airtime to Christo-fascists rather than Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Joseph Lowery and the many other high profile Christians that follow their faith toward positive (and liberal) ends (not to mention the non-religious folks that never get a chance to speak to the issues).

But just so I know what we’re debating here, are you suggesting that there are not millions of Christians in this country that support this President and his immoral war contrary to the teaching of Christianity? Nor millions of Christians that are in favor of taking women’s reproductive rights away, denying equal rights to gays and lesbians, teaching creationism in school and denying science, all based on their religious faith? Are you telling me that these issues are not being put front and center to the detriment of the country? I blame the politicians for highlighting these issues that are only meant to divide us, but if there wasn’t an audience for these issues, they wouldn’t keep bringing them up. Who should I hold accountable for that?

Polls suggest that Bush’s base (Christians and the top rung of the economic ladder) are the last 30% still supporting him. How are the Christian “values voters” not part of the problem?

Why did the Senate debate a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage? To pander to Christians!

You talk of Christians being the remedy to the “religio-racist right” and I couldn’t agree with you more. The history you cite is exactly why I am begging you good Christians to take care of your own! Only you have the “moral authority” to speak to the “values voters” in a way that they will understand and respond to. Regardless of what you thought my intentions were with my post, the last paragraph is really the point (it usually is). Nobody likes to be told they’re not doing enough (I usually get into trouble when I challenge people (myself included) to do more), but perhaps there are Christians that aren’t doing all they can to counter this particular brand of Christianity that is being rammed down our throat. If you are fighting that good fight, I thank you and wish you well, you certainly have a long way to go.

I get the sense that if I had left out that one paragraph, we wouldn’t be having a debate at all. I almost did, but I think it’s important to face our history and learn from it. I do it as an American and Christians need to own their history too, good and bad. I’m just lucky I have to deal with only the one.
 
Mollie, I quoted 88 consecutive words of a piece that ran somewhat over 800. Any editor will tell you that that is pressing the outer limits of the definition of Fair Use. In other words, your complaint that I am "picking small pieces apart" is completely meritless.

You say that you are "aware of many efforts within the Christian community to denounce those who do wrong in the name of Jesus." But where is this sentiment expressed in the piece? At best you allow that "not all Christians are bad, evil, bigoted people..." But elsewhere, you fire verbal shotgun blasts like, "Christians are destroying the fabric of our society." "Christianity promotes a narrow worldview ..." "Christians are the most dangerous special interest group..."

I especially liked "Christians already believe fantastic things that defy logic, [so] how can we be assured that these Christian youth will be able to make the distinction between the fantasy game on their X-box and the world outside their window?" Heck, physicists believe fantastic things that seemingly defy logic too, so maybe we should put them in preventive detention.

So, your thought that if you "had left out that one paragraph, we wouldn’t be having a debate at all" is simply wrong. You claim that your "problem is not with Christianity, it is with the way that Christianity is being used as a blunt instrument to beat the rest of us with," but your piece doesn't say that. It says that Christians are a threat. It says it again and again, in different ways. Perhaps you are a terrible writer. I think it's more likely you're hiding from yourself a sentiment you would find unacceptable to feel.

Your point that millions of Christians are misbehaving is meaningless. This is a big country, with hundreds of millions of Christians. There are millions of Hindus propagating intolerance and hatred, simply because they are human beings and there are hundreds of millions of them. But if there were hundreds of millions of Zoroastrians or Morse Code Telegraphers or Country Line Dancers or Lobstermen, millions of them would be doing something intolerable too. Human beings are human beings.

There is a political machine, well described by Robert Parry of Consortium News, that works to divide Americans from one another. It uses extremism in all forms: white supremacism, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-communism, anti-union sentiment, class envy, and of course religious differences. Turn off the mind and turn on the adrenal glands. The so-called "Christian" right is a tool of that machine.

By trying to turn secular Americans against religious Americans, you also become that machine's tool.

I would not at all be surprised if your largest readership turns out to be the right-wing bloggers, with comments like, "See? They want to beat up on us. Why should we hold back on them? So, please don't worry about me doing my part to rein in religious extremism. You, please, do your part not to fan the flames of intolerance on your side of the world.
 
Charles—So much for keeping it civil. You can label me anti-Christian and believe that my intent is to stir up hatred (call me the Ann Coulter of the left) or that I’m simply too ignorant to know the truth, that’s fine. I’m walking away from this “debate” with the impression that you are more interested in defending your religion than in challenging the extremists that share it, and that is a debate I am not interested in having. Your faith is your own, no need to defend it to me.

As for me hiding a sentiment from myself that I might find unacceptable to feel, I assure you that is not the case, this is well explored territory for me and I keep no secrets about it, not even from myself. The suggestion might indicate projection on your part though, just a thought.

I have written many things, I am sorry that this is the only impression of me that you have, but that’s the way it goes in this Internet world. It is intimate for the people that read what you write regularly and it’s a burned in the brain first impression for those who only encounter you once. This happenstance meeting wasn’t good for either of us and the sad part is, we likely won’t get past it. I accept my part in that. I put out a provocative piece and I accept the criticism that follows such a move. Timidity is not my nature and while I, more often than not, do try to build bridges rather than burn them, sometimes a verbal bomb is needed. It may have been self-indulgent on my part, but speaking my truth, however ugly some may find it, has served me well so far. I’m not going to stop now.

Take care and thanks for the “dialogue”.
 
Let's make it clear, Mollie:

1. You've been invited to discuss your column, and you are the one walking away from the discussion (despite the fact that it has been, as promised, very civil).

2. On your site, I made it clear that I wasn't calling you a bad person, just deeply misguided about what is acceptable discourse. I have labeled very specific assertions of yours as hate, based on generally-accepted criteria: "speech intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence or prejudicial action against someone" based on something other than their personal behavior. Unfortunately, these sentiments are not rare, and they make the effort to detoxify the national discourse harder.

3. You haven't been call the Ann Coulter of anything. If you are implying this, it's pure invention on your part. If you want to be the Ann Coulter of anything, well... ewww.

4. You haven't been called ignorant, unless a conditional ("if X then Y") can be called ad hominem.

5. Lots of people, especially hypocrites like Jerry Falwell, quite improbably think they have clothed themselves in the truth and would be embarrassed to discover just how sheer their covering is.

6. Using bombs to build bridges is not a practice recommended by most architectural or engineering societies. In fact, speaking of magical thinking, this would seem to be a very good example.
 
Your point that millions of Christians are misbehaving is meaningless. This is a big country, with hundreds of millions of Christians....But if there were hundreds of millions of Zoroastrians or Morse Code Telegraphers or Country Line Dancers or Lobstermen, millions of them would be doing something intolerable too. Human beings are human beings.

That argument would make sense if prevailing Christian dogma didn't support the repression of women, gays, unbelievers, etc. But of course, it does.

You choose to interpret scriptures in a more tolerant and inclusive way -- good for you! But if you're suggesting that misbehaving Christians are motivated to misbehave simply because they're human and that the retrograde ideology they spout is independent of their religion, I think you're dead wrong.

RE: LGND's original post, I don't think the ratio of quoted words to total words relieves you of the charge of taking her words out of context. Allow me to demonstrate using an excerpt from the sentence in quotes at the end of your first comment: "Hate...the sinner." Gee, I quoted 50% of the sentence, so how can you accuse me of being unfair if I call you a hate-monger on that basis?

If you want to ransack the internets in search of anti-Christian hate, surely you can find better examples of it. Maybe LGND's point could have been more clearly stated up front, but it seems to me she made her point sufficiently clear in the latter part of the post and certainly in the ensuing debate. If you want to continue to take offense, perhaps that says more about you than about her.
 
Polls suggest that Bush’s base (Christians and the top rung of the economic ladder) are the last 30% still supporting him. How are the Christian “values voters” not part of the problem?

But Christians in general make up a lot more than 30% of the population. (The figure is anywhere from 75% to 83%, depending on which polls you trust.) You speak as if all Christians backed Bush, when they manifestly do not.

And I say this as someone who's not even a Christian.
 
Asking why Christians don't speak out against the people who attack our democracy in the name of Christianity is exactly like asking why Democrats don't speak out against Bush and the Republicans. It's the wrong question. The right question is "Why don't we hear about the real Christians who have been speaking out against the false Christians?" For example, Bill Moyers is a Baptist minister. His television show got the merest fraction of the coverage from other news media that Ann Coulter gets. On September 11, 2005, the "Bring Them Home" tour made a stop in my town -- at the Episcopal church. It didn't even get local news coverage. When George W. Bush claims he does what he does because of his "Christian" beliefs, it makes headlines and is taken at face value; when Al Gore, John Kerry, Howard Dean, et al. say their political positions are informed by their Christian faith, it's (a) ignored, (b) described as cynical pandering to "faith-based" voters, or (c) attacked as a lie.

Again, the problem is not that real Christians aren't speaking out. It's that when they speak out, we're prevented from hearing them.
 
Betty Cracker: That argument (that there are millions of misbehaving Christians but hundreds of millions of Christians who are not misbehaving) would make sense if prevailing Christian dogma didn't support the repression of women, gays, unbelievers, etc. But of course, it does.

Actually, the argument stands on its own, since if most Christians do not misbehave, one is left with the problem of explaining how this repressive dogma is actually ascendant. If you want to argue that most Christians engage in repression, then that's your right but, unless you want to engage in creative definitions of repression, the statistics don't support you.

Betty Cracker: if you're suggesting that misbehaving Christians are motivated to misbehave simply because they're human and that the retrograde ideology they spout is independent of their religion, I think you're dead wrong.

Religion reflects society more than the reverse, and as The Bell Curve proves, retrograde ideology doesn't need religion to thrive. Religion does often function as a conservative force, since it attempts to apply the lessons of the past to guide the future, but as has been pointed out, Christianity has also been the energy behind movements such as Abolition.

Betty Cracker: I don't think the ratio of quoted words to total words relieves you of the charge of taking her words out of context.

I doubt I could have taken any 88 consecutive words without including at least one statement that fits the definition of hate speech. The three examples I posted just above were actually much worse than the one quoted in the post header (blaming modern Christians for witch burning). I chose the quote in the header because the parallels between that and the hate directed at Muslims by the right were so apparent.

Betty Cracker: If you want to continue to take offense, perhaps that says more about you than about her.

I'm not offended. I am duly impressed by how obtuse certain people can be in failing to understand that the major defining characteristics of hate speech are (a) overly broad labeling tending to dehumanize, and (b) intimations of violence, as might be suggested by boxing metaphors.

These are not my arbitrary criteria. Mollie's essay does fit them.
 
Charles: Actually, the argument stands on its own, since if most Christians do not misbehave, one is left with the problem of explaining how this repressive dogma is actually ascendant.

I define opposing gay rights, attempting to inject religion into government, opposing the teaching of evolution in school, etc., as misbehavior. I'm not at all sure "most Christians" don't misbehave in those terms.

But my point is that "Christian" isn't some neutral category like "lobsterman" and "country line dancer" as you seemed to suggest. Although the beliefs and views held by individual Christians vary widely, to be a "Christian" is nonetheless to be associated with a set of beliefs and a world view that have repercussions for others not in the group.

It's similar to the obligations I incur by being an American. I didn't vote for GWB but I feel obligated, as an American, to speak up against and try to prevent injustices committed in my name.

Charles: Religion reflects society more than the reverse, and as The Bell Curve proves, retrograde ideology doesn't need religion to thrive. Religion does often function as a conservative force, since it attempts to apply the lessons of the past to guide the future, but as has been pointed out, Christianity has also been the energy behind movements such as Abolition.

I agree that retrograde ideologies don't require religion to thrive. However, religion can certainly be a useful tool in promoting them, especially when the scriptural foundation appears to support the retrograde view.

The question is, are non-retrograde adherents obligated to attempt to reign in their co-religionists when they use religion as a tool of oppression? I think they are.

Charles: I am duly impressed by how obtuse certain people can be in failing to understand that the major defining characteristics of hate speech are (a) overly broad labeling tending to dehumanize, and (b) intimations of violence, as might be suggested by boxing metaphors.

I would argue in turn that a certain level of obtuseness is required to keep insisting that you're the object of hate speech even after the speaker has clarified her intent repeatedly. And "intimations of violence suggested by boxing metaphors"? That's just plain silly.
 
I would argue in turn that a certain level of obtuseness is required to keep insisting that you're the object of hate speech even after the speaker has clarified her intent repeatedly.

If by "clarified her intent" you mean "saying things in the comments section at MR that are 180 degrees around from her original post", then I think we're using different definitions of the word "clarified", BC.

And speaking as someone who knows lots of black Christians and gay Christians, I think they'd be pretty offended at Mollie's post, too, were I to show it to them.
 
PW: If by "clarified her intent" you mean "saying things in the comments section at MR that are 180 degrees around from her original post", then I think we're using different definitions of the word "clarified", BC.

She didn't clarify it just in comments here -- she clarified it in the original post, as excerpted by Charles above:

LGND: Now certainly, not all Christians are bad, evil, bigoted people, it would be ridiculous for me to paint them all with the same brush...but Christians that continue to take a passive approach to dealing with their most vocal advocates are contributing to the problem, and by their silence are giving their consent.

Charles chooses to imply she's insincere ("some of my best friends are Republicans"}, but it's not true that the original post was all broad brush.

As I said in an earlier comment, LGND could have made it clearer up front that she wasn't referring to every single Christian. But a fair reading of the entire original post -- not to mention her subsequent comments there and here -- should have sufficiently cleared up her intent.

It seems that at this point, Charles isn't interested in understanding what LGND meant or addressing any point she made. He seems more interested in insisting that she holds a view she has expressly disavowed. Strange.
 
BC says:

She didn't clarify it just in comments here -- she clarified it in the original post, as excerpted by Charles above:

LGND: Now certainly, not all Christians are bad, evil, bigoted people, it would be ridiculous for me to paint them all with the same brush...but Christians that continue to take a passive approach to dealing with their most vocal advocates are contributing to the problem, and by their silence are giving their consent.

Charles chooses to imply she's insincere ("some of my best friends are Republicans"}, but it's not true that the original post was all broad brush.


Oh, really?

At the risk of violating fair-use, here's another representative portion of Mollie's piece -- and note that the portion that I've bolded is about as broad-brush as one can get:

We have a very vocal minority in this country that is hell bent on creating a society that is divided, angry and hostile toward progress. Christians are the most dangerous special interest group that is currently lobbying our elected leaders and they have degraded our public discourse and torn apart the complicated yet beautiful patchwork of diverse interests and needs that has served us well. They are contributing to the dumbing down of our society by promoting creationism in our schools, ridiculing science and by forcing their black and white views on a world of grays.

Note that the first sentence:

We have a very vocal minority in this country that is hell bent on creating a society that is divided, angry and hostile toward progress.

Is immediately followed by this sentence:

Christians are the most dangerous special interest group that is currently lobbying our elected leaders and they have degraded our public discourse and torn apart the complicated yet beautiful patchwork of diverse interests and needs that has served us well.

Not "conservative Christians". Not "right-wing Fundamentalists" or "conservative Baptists".

Just "Christians". Period.

Her (deliberate?) conflation of all Christians with the right-winged ones shows by her falsely identifying all American Christians as "a very vocal minority" when in fact Christians make up, as I have stated earlier, between 75% and 83% of all Americans. Last time I looked, even 75% of something was a majority, not "a very vocal minority".
 
Betty Cracker: I define opposing gay rights, attempting to inject religion into government, opposing the teaching of evolution in school, etc., as misbehavior.

I don't think most Christians are really in favor of these things. Polls vary depending on how questions are asked-- I suspect you'd be very surprised-- and if you're interested, we can get into the details of which side of each issue most Christians are on. But if that's your idea of "repression," you might want to read some Solzhenitsyn. What you're describing is politics. Ugly, yes, but surely not more reprehensible than, say, congressmen cutting off the funding for wounded vets, or the Denver police keeping files on peace activists, or any of many wrongful things that human beings do to one another.

Although the beliefs and views held by individual Christians vary widely, to be a "Christian" is nonetheless to be associated with a set of beliefs and a world view that have repercussions for others not in the group.

You've conceded the argument by admitting that the beliefs and views of individual Christians vary widely. The only beliefs and views that all Christians share are (1) a belief in eternal principles like truth and justice, and (2) that love, as the force that holds the world together against destruction, is to be revered.

Who would have imagined a few years ago that one of the hottest topics in churches would be whether Jesus married and had a child? Well, any Christian could have imagined it, because we are such a very diverse body that all sorts of topics come under discussion. Only people who are remote from the church can imagine that there's any sort of uniformity of political will.

The question is, are non-retrograde adherents obligated to attempt to reign in their co-religionists when they use religion as a tool of oppression?

Christians are not obligated more or less than any other member of society to act. As a practical matter, they may have skills, social networks, and other resources that are helpful, but they have no special obligation.

There's a concept in international law, called "collective punishment," which is analogous to what you're trying to argue. In collective punishment, the occupying power holds every member of the occupied responsible for the actions of every other member. If a Palestinian kills an Israeli, Israel regards itself as justified in killing innocent Palestinians in the process of avenging the murder. International law regards "collective punishment" as a crime of war. And, as we see in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, it doesn't work.

...the speaker has clarified her intent repeatedly.

I have explained to Mollie why her explanations of what she intended to say are not plausible. As PW noted, Mollie's explanations are inconsistent with what she wrote in her article. In particular, I showed how three statements in her piece fit the definitions of hate speech (I see that PW has reminded you of this).

I could only find one phrase in the entire piece that even made a gesture at acknowledging that there were exceptions to her generalizations. By word count, which is the only objective way I know how to measure a writer's intentions, her article was 95% generalizations amounting to hate speech and 5% shuffle and jive.

Mollie's response was not to point out to me the instances in the article which might signal she she wasn't painting with a brush way too broad. Her response was not to demonstrate how the examples that I demonstrated fit the definition of hate speech somehow didn't fit it.

Her response was to leave.

That action spoke louder than words are able.
 
PW, I guess we must be making the mistake of reading what Mollie wrote, instead of what she intended to write.

Your point that she conflates the vocal minority of right-wing Christians with the 75-83% of self-identified Christians is very acute. I had missed that. Perhaps my eyes rolled into the back of my head when I saw the phrase "Christians are the most dangerous special interest group that is currently lobbying our elected leaders...."

The most dangerous as opposed to, say... the petroleum industry? Defense contractors? The nuclear energy lobby? The Minutemen? Ranch Rescue? The NRA? Telecomm companies?

This at a time when Christians of all political persuasions are coming together to fight global warming, environmental despoilation, and the abandonment of the poor, among many other battles of urgent national importance.
 
Charles: I don't think most Christians are really in favor of these things...But if that's your idea of "repression," you might want to read some Solzhenitsyn. What you're describing is politics. Ugly, yes, but surely not more reprehensible than, say, congressmen cutting off the funding for wounded vets, or the Denver police keeping files on peace activists, or any of many wrongful things that human beings do to one another.

Your mileage may vary, but if I were prevented from visiting my dying spouse or retaining custody of my children because fundamentalist assholes successfully promoted discriminatory laws, yeah, I would consider that a tad repressive.

I also consider attempts to deface the US Constitution with anti-gay graffiti and other faith-based initiatives even more reprehensible than cutting off funding for wounded vets (which also sucks, of course). Why? Because it fundamentally alters the structure of our government; it screws up the secular nature that has served us pretty darn well for the last couple of centuries. I'm not sure that genie can be crammed back into the bottle.

Charles: You've conceded the argument by admitting that the beliefs and views of individual Christians vary widely...[blah blah blah]...collective punishment...[yada yada yada].

Nope, I made the argument that membership in a group confers an obligation to help police the group. To return to my earlier analogy, as an American, I feel an obligation to denounce what I think is wrong with US policies and to try to right injustices that come to my attention when I have the power to do so. I think I have somewhat more responsibility to do that than, say, a random Swede since US policies are carried out in my name and I am in a better position to affect the direction of US policies than most Swedes.

Now, you can certainly choose to remain silent when some of your co-religionists go on a bigoted, anti-intellectual rampage. But if you do, I think you're part of the problem when you are in a position to be part of the solution.

Charles: PW, I guess we must be making the mistake of reading what Mollie wrote, instead of what she intended to write.

No, you make the mistake of continuing to impute hateful intent to someone who has repeatedly provided clarification. Maybe you just enjoy beating dead horses. I don't know.

Charles: Her response was to leave. That action spoke louder than words are able.

Actually, she wrote a couple of fairly lengthy posts right here in your comments section attempting to set the record straight before she left. Perhaps she felt her words were falling on deaf ears, and if so, I can certainly sympathize. I feel a bit like we're talking past each other too, and it's starting to feel kind of pointless. So I'm outta here too, and please feel free to interpret that in any manner you choose.
 
Betty Cracker, your insertion of "[blah blah blah]" and "[yada yada yada]." for what I actually said could be taken as sign of contempt and indifference to my opinion. Therefore when you later complain that perhaps Mollie "felt her words were falling on deaf ears," is it possible that the deafness is not on my side?

To turn to the issues, I certainly don't approve of the state interfering in people's families. But repression as generally understood involves the use of clubs and rifles, tear gas and jails.

Again, I am not applying an arbitrary definition here. The United Nations notes that political repression equates to blocking avenues of peaceful change.

Or, to take another example, you might have heard of Stonewall. Amnesty International did a study of repression against gays and lesbians in the United States. The forms of repression that they describe include things like torture and arbitrary arrest.

Neither Amnesty nor the UN include unkindness as a form of repression, since peaceful avenues for change remain. And just as I regard as silly Christians calling their kid being teased for reading the Bible "persecution," I also regard it as silly to use the word "repression" for what is unkindness or simple emotional cruelty.

Betty Cracker: I made the argument that membership in a group confers an obligation to help police the group.To return to my earlier analogy, as an American, I feel an obligation to denounce what I think is wrong with US policies and to try to right injustices that come to my attention when I have the power to do so.

The only group any Christian belongs to is his or her church.

You and I have a vote in what the United States does, and so we have perhaps one one hundred millionth of the responsibility for what our government does.

By contrast, I have no vote whatsoever in any right wing church. I have no special means of influencing their actions. And so I have no responsibility whatsoever for what they do, no more than one country line dancer has responsibility if another country line dancer commits some misdeed. None. Zero.

I'm outta here too, and please feel free to interpret that in any manner you choose.

I interpret it as your inability to find anything in the essay that might mitigate the repeated examples of hate speech I pointed out.

Being somewhat more committed to the truth than that, I actually went back and found one more phrase that might signal to a reader that this wasn't a condemnation of all Christians. Mollie said: For all of the damage that these loudmouthed hate mongers are doing to this country, they certainly aren't doing real Christians any favors either.

Though it's not clear that this refers to any living person, it might signal the reader that she should have qualified every reference to "Christians" to read "fake Christians." Would that make it 93% hate speech and 7% shuffle and jive?

Whatever: when your opponent in a debate can help you make your case better than you can on your own, the case is probably not a very good one.
 
From the cited article:

"Christianity promotes a narrow worldview that cannot be squared with the complicated prospect of dealing effectively with globalization, geo-political conflicts and an increasingly diverse population."

This could be accurate, but if Christianity is working towards dominance it really doesn't matter, tolerance or not, as that worldview will be the dominant worldview. Aren't we now in the middle of a war about Christianity as much as freedom or democracy or oil or doing it better than dad?

However, the challenge is less Christianity as a supernatural belief (or any other supernatural belief) but rather religion (any religion) that is a club that some individuals are part of and others aren't. For the controllers it's fine, for the controlled it's not.

To argue about Christianity doing good or evil isn't helpful as it can be used to support both arguments. Many individual supernatural beliefs can be used to support good and evil behaviors of adherents--but organizing those supernatural beliefs into religions (again, any religion) that are then used to restrict rights, control individuals, define acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, structure political policy, etc. is segregationist and discriminatory for those who aren't part of whatever group is wielding power (based on supernatural belief).

Ethical behavior, just action, law, etc. do not need religion (or individual supernatural belief) to exist--they would probably be better off without them. Are we as a human society ready to move past our supernatural beliefs?

What about anti-Christian speech? Well, there's plenty of hate speech to go around for all religions (and unreligious folks alike). Until the world society evolves beyond the sport of competitive religion we'll continue to experience it.
 
Nate: Atheist governments can and do commit horrific crimes. Or have you never heard of Stalin or Mao? (To be fair, Marx himself would have been horrified to have seen his system imposed a) by force, and b) on nations with no tradition of representative government of any sort. He firmly held that a nation had to have a few centuries of capitalism and democracy under its belt before it could be ready for the sort of worker's paradise you envision.)

Betty: Mollie did a couple of lengthy posts which not only didn't clarify what she said, but actually contradicted it in spots. When the contradictions were pointed out to her, her response was to leave. You've already posted twice as many posts as she has. (By the way: If you think that I always agree with everything Charles has to say, check out the discussion that's currently going on in this thread.)

Another thing: Mollie repeatedly lumps Ann Coulter in with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as "Christian" commentators. I have no idea what Coulter's religious beliefs are, but I somehow doubt that Robertson or Falwell would consider her a "Christian" commentator. (She certainly isn't a pastor, are are Falwell and Robertson. Nor has she appeared on CBN or Focus on the Family.)

This is yet another example of Mollie's broad-brush laziness, as not only would Coulter not count as a specificially Christian commentator of any sort, but Mollie's other two examples, Robertson and Falwell, haven't wielded any sort of national power for over a decade; Falwell wouldn't have a church if it wasn't for Sun Myung Moon propping him up, and Robertson trashed his church's finances and bailed before he could be fingered for it. James Dobson, Paul Cameron and Chuck Colson would have been much more au courant bogeymen for Mollie to use.
 
PW, you may have seen the recent article in which a reporter inquired at the church in Manhattan of which Ann Coulter claims to be a congregant.

They have never heard of her.

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

Nate, PW did an excellent job of pointing out the total irrelevance of defining religion as a factor in human violence. But there's a point I want to add.

You say, "Ethical behavior, just action, law, etc. do not need religion (or individual supernatural belief) to exist--they would probably be better off without them."

But is this really true?

Those who become wealthy and powerful are usually completely, even sociopathically, ethics-free. One might be able to argue that law is a pragmatic Pareto-optimized contract, in which individuals agree to forego certain behavior on the promise that others will do likewise.

But ethics and just action?

These rely on the belief that certain intangible matters, like justice and truth and compassion, are innately desirable. This belief is both necessary and sufficient for philosphical systems of ethics and just action.

But Justice is what Christians call Yahweh, Truth is what they call Ruach (Spirit), and Compassion is what they call Jesus.

There are many people who call themselves atheists who I would call Christians, just as there are many Christians I would say behave like atheists.

And so we come back to Mollie's article. It is almost beyond parody that she wrote an article saying that "Christians are destroying the fabric of our society." when people like Falwell are saying exactly the same thing, but using the word "liberal."
 
Mec, I believe that was the question. Muslims have been criticised for not speaking out against the fanatics, and as I read the author wanted to know why Christians don't do likewise. On Christmas morning I received one of those fwd/fwd/fwd emails. It was very against all of Christ's teachings. Yet all those people that passed it on were church going Christians. Jesus said the two greatest commandments were about love; love God & love thy neighbor. Love is described as "it does not rejoice in evil", the opposite of love is hate, so hating what is evil is a Christian attitude. The majority of Christians I know personally are seriously falling short of anything remotely like what the Bible tells them they should be doing. Most just parrot whatever their leader tells them and that is dangerous indeed.
 
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