24
Aug
09

Force of Arms, Force of Words

So, if you’re not one of those people who check the “Recent Comments” menu in the sidebar around here, you will have missed a recent and ongoing conversation between me and a poster named Wes regarding an old post from February. You can find the post and comments by clicking here. It’s a fairly modest-sized post and the comments haven’t gotten too extensive, so please read it all first before we continue here.

Wes brings up some valid points, and I will copy and paste certain of our comments from that other thread here, though not all of them.

Now, my basic point in the February 3rd post was that we must strive for peace, but that sometimes, violence will be necessary. I brought up a passage from Paul about living in peace as much as we are able, and Wes countered, logically enough, with Matthew 5:38-40…

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

Fair enough. I responded, in part:

…there is a lot to be said for taking shit from someone and not retaliating. But this is a very individual statement by Jesus…What I think it that Jesus wants us to refrain from revenge most especially, and to refrain from responding to violence with violence.

Wes said a lot of things in response, and good ones, but I don’t want to paste the entire response here. But one thing he did was take exception with my “individual statement” comment since Jesus was speaking to a large group, and I clarified, in part:

My purpose for saying “very individual statement” is that it applies to the individual more than anything else. That is, I should be able to take routine abuses in life and not retaliate against them. But if someone lays hands on a member of my family, for example, I will defend them. Without hesitation and, I believe, with God’s support. Also, if someone comes up to me intending to physically harm me or kill me, I will defend myself. Jesus’ words are not meant to convey the idea that I should just take a beating and throw away my life because some crazed or violent human has come upon me.

Wes’ response, in part:

Everything you just said in your last reply was your own opinion, right? … i am extremely open, in fact i really desire, the truth from God, so if you have scripture that backs what you are saying, id love to know it, so i can change my own behaviors/attitudes and align them with the purposes of God as revealed thru his word.

OK, that is the critical stuff, I think. So, on I go…

Yes, much of this is my opinion. That is, my interpretation. And we should all know, as children of God, that the Bible requires intrepretation. Individually, collectively, through prayer, etc. The Bible is not a direct how-to guide. It doesn’t handle every situation and doesn’t anticipate every societal or technological change.

If we don’t apply logic and interpretation at times, we can easily turn the gospel into something oppressive at times. After all, couldn’t one take Paul’s comments about obedience of slaves and Jesus’ comment about turning the other cheek and argue that Blacks in the United States during slavery should have quietly endured their abuse and never tried to escape? Couldn’t we argue that people who helped slaves escape violated not only the gospel’s message but also the commandment against stealing (the slaves were, after all, property).

But that would ignore the fact that the “slaves” Paul referred to were more like indentured servants, and that some of those he referred to may not have been indentured at all technically, but low-level servants who owned nothing and had no place to live aside from their master’s property. Or the fact that he also meant “workers” (employees in our modern lingo). It would also ignore the fact that slavery in Jewish history and in Greek and Roman history was something that was often time-limited or that one could earn their way out of.

It would also ignore the fact that slavery as it was inflicted against Africans and American-born slaves Blacks in the United States was unjust on all levels imaginable. They were treated as chattel, and not humans.

But still, you could take Bible passages and argue that it should have been allowed to continue until the people perpetuating it came to their senses (which, given the fact that Jim Crow didn’t end all that long ago and still nominally exists in some parts of the United States means it might still be going on if people had sat by passively).

Yes, one can say that Jesus simply told us to suffer whatever comes our way and never lift a finger against it. But didn’t he also talk about his followers being able to pick up poisonous serpents and eat any harmful thing and not become sick or die? Taken to its finishing point, isn’t that the source of the madness among some that causes them to handle live rattlesnakes in church and sometimes die, or to deny medical care to their child because prayer should be enough?

Logic must come into play. Wes argues that God uses soldiers and law enforcement officers to just ends, suggesting that if they use violence, it’s more likely to be OK than if I do. Well, that may often be the case, though often such people are used by men for selfish institutional or personal ends. My point, though, is that a law enforcement officer isn’t always available.

Do we seriously think that if I see a man trying to knife a child on the street, that I am supposed to stand there and let it happen? Do we think that Jesus, who said it was better that a millstone be tied around a person’s neck and he be cast into the sea than to lead a child to sin is someone who really wants that? No, he would expect that I save that child. (And note, Jesus suggests that we honor children and don’t harm them, yet the Bible supports corporal punishment…which is right? Both, of course. One must balance one against the other with love and logic and prayer..again, logical interpretation must be in play).

What the Bible spends most of its time exhorting us against is violence against the innocent, against vengeance, against needless fights and arguments, against taking violent action as a convenient answer.

Let me put forth a few scenarios:

SCENE 1: Strange man comes up to the door of my house, and I answer it, and he says, “I’m taking all your stuff.”

What I will do is slam the door in that man’s face, not say, “Come on in and take it.” If he tries to block the door, I will push him out. If he forces his way in, I will assume that he means me harm and I will defend myself. Will I try to kill him or maim him? I hope not. Am I, as Wes suggests, putting my belonging ahead of God’s will? No. This is  man who may very well mean me harm. Someone who may return to do this again if I simply say, “OK, take all that I have.” Because you know, part of it is that what is in my home isn’t just mine. It is my family’s. They are things that I need for my family to be clothed, sheltered and fed. I’m not going to hand those things over just because some random guy bullies me. That’s taking the words of Jesus too literally and not the spirit of them. If the government seizes my stuff, I don’t have much to say about it, aside from legal redress later if possible. If a neighbor takes my lawn mower because I never gave back his power tools, I should just shut up and/or negotiate a peaceful exchange of property later. This is logic. Letting random psycho take my stuff is not an option.

SCENE 2: Man is preparing to rape my wife or daughter.

Please, Wes, don’t tell me you believe I should calmly call the police and then passively let it happens, or slink out of the house to wait for the cops. It might be wise to call the cops first. I certainly should refrain from killing the perpetrator. But I will pull him off my loved on and I will subdue him. Or die trying.

SCENE 3: Man demands I give him my coat or my car, or he will hurt or kill me.

OK, in all honesty, I should probably give it to him, and probably will. This is in stark contrast to someone who comes to my home and can come back if he finds me to be easy pickings. The coat or car are singular belongings. They are mere items, and killing the man or fighting him serves no purpose. However, let’s take a little twist. If said man is wearing a nice warm coat and accosts me in the middle of a snowstorm, and says, “Give me your coat and be on your way,” I am not going to allow him to expose me to harsh elements and possible death just because he’s a psycho jackass. I will keep my coat unless he forces it away from me. If he’s a homeless guy wearing rags saying, “I need that coat more than you do in this cold” I trust God and give it to him, even if he’s threatening, because he is in need. And desperate. A long cry from someone trying to do me harm for their own pleasure.

SCENE 4: Someone picks a fight with me in a public place.

I’ll try to avoid the fight. If the fight starts, I will attempt to end it as quickly as possible, with as little harm to the perpetrator as possible. That’s why I learned some basic self-defense and still remember how to do a sleeper hold. But I will not say, “Hit me.” Tell me, what godly purpose do I serve in that example? If I shout, “My Lord, forgive him what he is about to do,” and just stand there, I am stupid. Someone comes up and slaps me across the face and calls me a punk, no I shouldn’t get into a brawl with him. But that’s a blow that comes from nowhere, that I am not expecting, and I should be willing to take it and step away if possible. But not take a beating that could end my life or put me in the hospital. Jesus did not say, “Let yourself be crippled, or killed.” He said “turn the other cheek.” If Jesus wants me to be willing to die at the hands of any random homicidal bully, he would have said, “Resist no man with violence, even if it be unto your own death.” Jesus spoke in parables and examples. To think he wants us to lay down and bleed or die for every cruel person who might chance upon us is ridiculous.

Now, all that said, let me get to Wes’ other point, about my profane speech. Notice that for one thing, I don’t use those words very often anymore around here. And to be honest, I never just let loose an unending string of invective. I still use them, but I am more judicious in how I do so. I use them typically for specific reasons. Exhortations against speaking profane or obscene things doesn’t mean I can never use a cuss word. I have at times called people obscene things, and that is wrong. I have used such words in conjunction with God’s name, and that is wrong. But if I say, “That’s a motherfucking stupid thing to do,” I am making a point. An emphatic point.

Jesus talked about certain people’s mouths being like open sepulchres. If you don’t think that was some pretty provocative wording, every bit as bad as calling them “shit-talkers,” you need to think again. Words have power. Power can be misused and it can be effectively used. I have done both things with cussing.

As to Wes’ concerns that it may be a stumbling block to some people, so be it. Many of Paul’s writings were a stumbling block to folks two millennia ago, and they remain so for people today. Doesn’t make them wrong. I have addressed my swearing around here before, and have mention of it in the “about me” stuff for this blog. If the occasional f-bomb around here or scatalogical reference is going to blow someone’s mind, they can go somewhere else. (No, Wes, I’m not telling you to go away; what I mean is that people don’t have to stay if I make them uncomfortable, nor would I want them to put themselves through that).

One of the reasons “Shit” is right in the header title of my blog is so that people will know right away what they might be getting into. And the fact is that, by and large, I make more than 90% of my points without having to swear.

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62 Responses to “Force of Arms, Force of Words”


  1. August 25, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Deacon

    Seems to me if you followed the example of “your lord Jesus”, you wouldnt retaliate. Afterall, even as the group of them were getting the shit kicked out of them all Jesus did was let them nail him to a cross. So much for him defending the ones he supposedly loved. And to this day it still continues, go figure. If you truly believed what you say you wouldnt be too concerned about your “christian” brothers or sisters. Afterall arent they going somewhere better? Me thinks you are still “of this world”. 😉

  2. 2 Deacon Blue
    August 25, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    I’m sorry. I missed the part in the gospel where Jesus’ apostles were getting the shit kicked out them while he watched…or at any other time during that whole episode. Care to enlighten me with passages that I missed, or are you just pulling that out of thin air?

    And, as for this quote:

    If you truly believed what you say you wouldnt be too concerned about your “christian” brothers or sisters. After all arent they going somewhere better? Me thinks you are still “of this world”

    By that logic, I should never seek medical care, never care for sicked loved ones, and should seek to kill all babies in the womb to hasten everyone’s journey to Heaven.

    As I mentioned in this post already, I don’t subscribe to following scripture to illogical ends by pushing it past its intention.

  3. August 25, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    By that logic, I should never seek medical care, never care for sicked loved ones, and should seek to kill all babies in the womb to hasten everyone’s journey to Heaven.(Deacon)

    Now now, lets not go jumping the gun. The reference is in regards to defending yourself with violence. I said nothing about taking care of the sick and downtrodden. As far as scriptural reference, I cant think of any one specifically, but we do know that they crucified followers of Jesus during and after his life. And technically if he is G-d, he aint doing shit about it now, nor did he then. I would imagine if you truly used logic you wouldnt be a practicing christian.
    But do enlighten us on what the “intention” was.;)

  4. 4 Deacon Blue
    August 25, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Tit for Tat, I’m going to stop things right here. If you want to question whether I’m capable of using logic and common sense and embracing science and spirituality at the same time…after this much time at my blog…than we have nothing to talk about.

    You’re not going to taunt me off of my spiritual path by suggesting that an intelligent and logical person must eschew spiritual things.

  5. August 25, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Oh and by the way, you did avoid answering the fact that Jesus didnt do anything physical to protect anyone. He turned the other cheek while they nailed him and the others up.

  6. 7 Deacon Blue
    August 26, 2009 at 5:17 am

    Jesus did in fact protect his apostles during his ministry. Or at least managed to avoid putting them in harm’s way. That they suffered persecution after his death (and resurrection) is hardly a slap on Jesus, or God for that matter.

    For one thing, Jesus told them they would face persecution.

    Secondly, they chose to spread the gospel after Jesus’ ascension, knowing the risks to themselves.

    Thirdly, neither God nor Jesus promised us a rose garden here on Earth just for being believers. You seem to think that the only good God would be a God who would solve all of our problems for us. Do you want a world in which people have free will, or do you want a puppetmaster? I know it’s a moot question, since you don’t believe in God, but I think if you really dug deep, the idea of someone up top micromanaging your every move wouldn’t sit well with you. I suspect you like being a fully actualized human and not a mere chess piece.

    As for criticizing Jesus for turning the other cheek as he was crucified, he knew he was here on Earth to ultimately be a sacrifice. Letting himself by nailed up was unpleasant, but it was part of his mission.

  7. August 26, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Ok Deacon

    Im going to try to infuse some of your logic here. You are a parent, and as a loving parent you would not sit by idly and allow your children to be harmed physically by a bully or homicidal maniac. You would defend them because of your love for them. Now, as you believe, Jesus was a parent to mankind. He was also a 100% human and as such he loves us all. The thing is, in his time he did sit back and not physically defend his children as they were being tortured and killed. He allowed our “freewill” and then watched as his children were maimed and killed(which technically he still does). Now seeing as he was 100% human and you are 100% human, why is it that you would defend your children physically and he would not? Could it be because he thought maybe they would be going to a “better” place or was he just a sick puppy?? Follow the logic here. As a human being isnt it logical for a parent to step in and defend their loved ones if they are being hurt or killed, or is it more logical for a parent to step back and do nothing? Human logic doesnt allow for both to be right. And as you imply, you are a logical person.

  8. 9 Deacon Blue
    August 26, 2009 at 10:38 am

    God and Jesus are dealing with a much bigger picture, so everything is writ more large. With Earth and this life being only a starting point to something much greater (and longer) afterward, you also have to realize that from that perspective, even the worst suffering here on Earth is relatively minor…no matter how awful it seems to us.

    So, as a parent, I sometimes allow my children to come to “harm” and I sometimes hurt them (their feelings, if not their bodies). I do this with no pleasure, but with a knowledge that sometimes it is necessary for growth and evolution, sometimes it is necessary to learn consequences, and sometimes it is my responsibility.

    Yes, Jesus was a man in a human body, but he still had a divine-level perspective to go with that. Sympathy for us doesn’t necessary mean he will simply make the world a perfect place. And would we want perfection if it took away our choices and our will?

    I don’t even think that in the next life we lose our free will. It seems likely we will have greater power and greater responsibility, and therefore even then, we may not be totally free from some kind of strife, internal or otherwise, or some kind of pressures.

    With free will comes choices, and with choices comes pain. Sometimes, we make those choices and sometimes we are the victim of other people’s choices…but to remove the ability for those choices to occur and for consequences to sometimes ensue would be like a parent sheltering a child from the realities of the world and leaving that child unable to function when he or she leaves the home.

  9. August 26, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Deac

    You missed the EASIEST example homie. But that’s why I got your back.

    Don’t remember the exact scripture, but it’s easy enough to find, but Jesus was approached by a mob after he cast demons from a boy into a herd of swine, if I’m not mistaken. The mob sought to kill him. Jesus did not passively submit, he instead used what Tit for Tat would call “God magic” and walked through the midst of them unharmed.

    How about when Jesus gave his second great Commission to his disciples? In the first commission, he told them to go out without swords, food or extra clothes and depend on others. In the second commission he told them to take swords and everything else they need because they would have to depend on themselves for protection. Clearly, Jesus wasn’t just telling them to bend over and take it when they were accosted.

    How about when Paul was set to by flogged and killed by the Romans? Instead of calmly taking the beating, he invoked his right as a Roman citizen to a fair and just trial. He could have meekly submitted, but instead he fought back.

    Let’s not even discuss the behavior of people in the Old Testament, cats like David, Joshua and Samson.

    I think Deac has a good point here, he just needed some scripture to buttress it. Well I provided the scripture, y’all can look up the actual chapters and verses on your own.

  10. August 26, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Tit for Tat

    When Jesus was crucified, he told God that he had kept all of his disciples safe throughout his ministry except for Judas the betrayer.

    You are arguing that the suffering the disciples suffered after Jesus’ death, the same suffering he TOLD them would occur, is proof that he didn’t love them?

    That’s like Deac telling his daughter that it’s going to hurt if she gets her ears pierced, and then asking her is she’s sure she wants them pierced. Little lady says, “Yes, Daddy” and goes to the mall. She gets her ears pierced and it hurts.

    Is it Deac’s fault he didn’t prevent his child from suffering pain? He gave her a choice, she chose the ears.

    Jesus gave his followers a choice. Follow him and suffer for it in some cases, or stick with what the Jews were doing and be safe. He promised them a reward in heaven for their trouble here on Earth and he promised them a berth in hell if they rejected him. All of those grown men made their own choices on what they wanted to do. So you’re arguing that because God was honest with them, and they did in fact suffer, God is a bad man? That’s ridiculous logic.

    You are effectively saying that because God is all powerful he should protect all of his believers from harm. But, you have also argued that that God shouldn’t get involved in punishing his believers either. So, you’re telling God that the only way he can be God is if he gives you what you want, and never gives you what you deserve. Ever.

    That’s a massive con right there.

  11. 12 Deacon Blue
    August 26, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Thanks for the backup, Big Man. Been a busy week with Son of Blue getting set to leave for school (which he did today), and we’ve been packing the last of his summer into the past several days. Between that and work, I’m tired and my brain is shot.

  12. August 27, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Thanks for the feedback boys, but let me address the issue here. What we are talking about is the example set by Jesus when it comes to meeting violence with violence. Big Man may have scripture that agrees with using violence and I can come up with scripture that denounces it. But lets just use Jesus’s actions as the example for you “Christians”. And it is in his actions that the example is loud and clear. He did nothing! He turned the other cheek so to speak. He did not physically defend any of the other people being crucified, nor did he defend himself from being crucified. I am not suggesting that Jesus usurp our supposed “freewill”, I am just looking at his actions as a Human Being. And those actions again are loud and clear. He did not use Violence to defend or aid anyone. He allowed the people he loved to be hurt or maimed or killed. This is beyond dispute. Now if you guys want to defend your family with violence when necessary, I am in total agreement, but just dont try to tell me that was the example that Jesus wanted when his actions spoke otherwise.

    Interestingly enough, even Ghandhi seems to have gotten the message of Jesus better than most Christians. My wife had a great point. “What defines a Christian”? That would be following Jesus. This is above and beyond everything else. Good point, dont ya think!

  13. 14 Deacon Blue
    August 27, 2009 at 10:26 am

    And your point is well-taken, Tit for Tat.

    But Jesus DID protect those around him when he was alive, and he had the benefit of powers (and even just sheer influence by his will and personality) that most of us don’t have.

    And, in following the example of another person, particularly a very special person (and I don’t just mean someone divine), many of us will fall short, either because we lack the will or lack the ability. Striving to be as much like someone as possible does not mean that I will reach the same level.

    Also, neither God nor Jesus ever set things up whereby they would lift every threat and obstacle out of our ways. So the idea that because they do “nothing” (at least not direct and dramatic) doesn’t mean that we should stand idle. We are the ones living here and it is out messes and our loved ones and our consciences that are supposed to be properly cleaned up, protected and exercised, respectively.

    Jesus did not advocate VIOLENCE, but neither did he reject that there were times when using FORCE is necessary. There is often a difference between the two.

  14. August 27, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Tit for Tat

    You are completely ignoring the fact that Jesus drove money changers from the Temple with a whip. You are ignoring his rhetoric towards the Pharisees and Sadduccees, which was often times aggressive in nature.

    Which followers did Jesus allow to be killed? Name one he allowed to be injured, or maimed while he was on Earth. You won’t be able to, because THEY DON’T EXIST!

    Get your Bible out. The persecution of disciples happened after Jesus was dead. As I noted before, Jesus, before his ascension, told God that he had kept all the disciples God had entrusted to him safe except for one who left of his own free will. That’s scripture.

    You’re arguing that by allowing himself to be crucified, Jesus was giving us an example of how we should handle danger. You are ignoring the example I gave where Jesus did not submit to violence, but instead avoided it. You are ignoring the temple example where Jesus used violence to right a wrong.

    More importantly, you are ignoring the fact that Jesus allowed himself to be crucified for a larger purpose, not just because people wanted to kill him. He died in the manner he did to fulfill prophecy and provided salvation for the world, to reduce to “he just gave in” is simple-minded and a gross mischaracterization of scripture.

    This is a habit of yours. How can you attempt to debate or lecture on what God wants Christians to do when you haven’t even bothered to study the Bible in depth. You accuse Christians of arrogance, but to me, your behavior displays far more arrogance.

  15. 16 Deacon Blue
    August 27, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    By the way, where are you, Wes? LOL…I started all this only because of our discussion, and now you’re nowhere to be found… 😉

  16. August 27, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Good point on the money changers Big man. Jesus did use some “violence” when he got angry. Kind of makes you wonder what he did as a 100% teenager when checking out the hotties down at the market. Oops I digress. So back to logic. You believe Jesus is God and God is the father of all mankind. So that would make ALL people Gods children. So technically when he was being crucified along with his “children”, he did nothing. Im not talking about the apostles, Im talking his “other” children. You are acquainted with the others, eh Big man. 😉

    So back to the original idea of logic and being a parent. As a parent Deacon would protect his children if violence was put upon them. He would do this because he loves them. So if God loves us then he would do the same, wouldnt he? And if he did not, could it be that maybe his more “important” things didnt have him viewing this life as quite as “important” as the next. That just seems logical from that stand point. But from my logical standpoint I would do what Deacon would do and I would logically think a parent that doesnt as either neglectful or nuts.

    Now as far as me being arrogant, well that is your right, seeing as you have “freewill”. But at least let me change my name. I think maybe Big Tit or Big Tat might work better. 🙂

    Oh and as far as scripture and me reading it, heres one of my favourites from the Big Man(the other one).

    John 12:32 (English Standard Version)

    And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL people to myself.”

  17. 18 Deacon Blue
    August 27, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Tit for Tat,

    Again, on your point regarding parental love and protection, I must restate that it’s a matter of perspective. WE think our suffering here is extreme, and by human measure, it often is, but by God’s long-term measures, it’s nothing. I both punish and protect my child, but the punishments are sometimes seen by my little girl as horrible (even when they are quite mild) and the hurts she endures, sometimes because I let her hurt herself, can make her scream with anguish, even when they are minor hurts.

    Any time you take the parent-child metaphor, and I use it often myself, one must always remember the the child’s point of view is skewed by a lack of maturity and knowledge relative to the parent.

    By the way, I also find it interesting that you LIKE the example of the moneylenders being whipped, whereas Wes, in the earlier comment thread that spawned this, DIDN’T like it because he felt I might be trying to equate my base and improper (in his mind) uses of force to Jesus’ very righteous one in defense of God’s house.

    Also, I deleted your previous comment, since it seemed to be the same as the other once, except that it was missing that Bible passage you intended to put in there.

  18. August 27, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Tit for Tat

    Once again, you have used a surface understanding to try to make a point about the Bible.

    According to SCRIPTURE, God created the world with no suffering or death. Man introduced these things with his disobedience. That’s if we’re going by scripture. So God didn’t condemn his children to a terrible fate, our common ancestor made a choice, and all of us have suffered from it

    Thing is, God could have left us all out to dry, but instead he said “I’m going to come down in human form, show y’all how to live, then die just so y’all can have access to eternal life.”

    God views all of mankind as his children, the same way we view all human beings as our “brothers and sisters.”

    There is a difference between being a child and being and heir. If you choose to disregard who your parents are and refuse to obey them, can you really lay claim to their protection and the rewards they may dole out? Of course not. That’s illogical.

    You are basically saying that God should protect all humans from harm because he created mankind.

    Why? If my child refuses to listen to me and continues to travel down the wrong path, is it the role of a good parent to constantly protect their child and prevent them from suffering the consequences of their actions? Of course not.

    Real parents mete out discipline because it teaches children how to live. Real parents allow their children to suffer consequences because it teaches responsibility. You don’t want God to treat humans like he’s their parent. You want a God who resembles the fun-loving genie from a Disney movie. If he’s real, he should just hand out goodies, sing some funny songs and get out of the way.

    Finally, the issue of arrogance and my name. I call myself Big Man because I’m a heavyset cat. As such, I have been called some variation of Big Man, Big Boy, Fatty, or whatever since I was probably 5 years old. I despise the moniker, but I picked it because it’s a familiar one.

    The connotations of superiority you saw in the name were from your own psyche, not mine.

  19. August 27, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Big Man

    You win. Youre too logical for me. Some day you will have to show me why your method of understanding Biblical principals is right. And lets say, a Universalists is not. You put a lot of time into seeing discrimination from a racial standpoint that you miss the fact that you do the same thing from a religious standpoint. Too Funny.

  20. August 27, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Deacon

    But do you let other people punish your children? You wouldnt let other people hurt your children would you? Follow your logic, if its not ok for you to let that happen then why is it ok that God does that?

    Wow. Too fucked for my brain. See ya.

  21. 22 Deacon Blue
    August 28, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Depends, Tit for Tat. There was a time not long ago in our history where everyone in the neighborhood whom you considered to be a decent parent had the right to discipline your child. There are many folks who will still send their children into situations where they know they may have to get into a fight or “toughen up” and they don’t do so out of cruelty, but out of a belief (or knowledge) that important things will be learned and that it will help the child in the long run.

    But as I’ve often said, the parent-child analogy is only ONE analogy, and it doesn’t encompass the whole of the relationship between humans and the divine. There are also elements of lordship over us, elements of a teacher of us (or master to our apprenticeships), elements of employer to employee. This is not a simple relationship, and attempts to present it as too simple to non-believers is a bad idea.

    As is the idea of non-believers simplistically saying that belief in the divine is a simple and silly delusion.

    If it was simple and silly, I would divest myself of such beliefs now, because doing so would make life much easier. Better, no. But easier, oh yes…

  22. August 28, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Tit for Tat

    Sigh…How do I discriminate religiously?

    Because I think Christianity is right? That’s ludicrous.

    Everybody thinks what they believe is right. EVERYBODY. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t believe it.

    I have not forced you to convert. I have not prevented from getting a job because you have not converted. I have not denied you health care, arrested you, sentenced you to death, or refused to give you a home loan.

    That’s discrimination. It’s not discrmination for me to tell you I disagree with your view of the Bible and I have my own view point. That’s my human right. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, it’s when people use those opinions to suddenly start treating other folks differently that problems occur.

    My method of understanding Bible principles is right because it’s my opinion. So it’s right for me. You’re arguing that it’s not okay for me to have my own opinion on scripture, but it’s ok for Universalists to have their opinion on scripture.

    So you’re telling me I don’t have the same rights as Universalists because you disagree with me. That sounds a lot like discrimination from where I sit. I have never tried to force you to think the way I do on religion, race or anything else. I have simply laid out my opinions and then defended them using logic.

    Your real beef is that you disagree with me. You think my belief structure is stupid and you believe it’s your human right to feel that way. You figure that if you use enough sarcasm and twist enough scripture, you’ll expose me as another misguided believer.

    The problem is, that’s not working. I’m winning. And you’re pouting.

  23. August 28, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Big Man

    Ok Heaven is like a country club. Your belief means that some people dont get in to Heaven unless they fit certain criteria. People who belong to some country clubs would not let black people in because they didnt fit the criteria. What is the difference when both are based on certain beliefs? They both end up being exclusionary for certain individuals. My belief system doesnt contain that element. And by the way, pouting isnt a good description. Im actually laughing at my tendency to take this stuff on. Im the stupid one. 😉

  24. August 28, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Tit for Tat

    Your vague description of a country club fits the description of most groups in the world.

    If you want to belong to an organization or group, don’t you have to subscribe to that group’s beliefs, or else pretend to?

    I can’t be a Muslim unless I believe in the Koran. Can’t be a Jew if I reject the Torah.

    Can’t be a Canadian if I refuse to take the citizenship test and swear an oath of fealty.

    Is that discrimination, I think not. Canada says “Here are the things you have to do to be a citizen of our country. If you don’t do them, you can’t be a citizen.”

    It’s not saying “If you were born black you can’t be a Canadian citizen.” Or “If you’re a woman you can’t be a full citizen of Canada.”

    There is a huge difference. You have a choice whether or not you choose to accept Jesus and get into heaven. It’s a quite simple. If you choose not to do those things, why would you be allowed into heaven.

    If I choose not to take the Canadian citizenship test, why should I automatically get to become a citizen? That makes no sense. I made a choice, I should live with my choice.

    Here’s the funny thing, my believe that only Christians go to heaven has absolutely NO BEARING on your life. NONE. The only way we’re going to find out if I’m right is when we die. Before that, it doesn’t matter who I think gets into heaven. More importantly, I have NO POWER to keep anybody out of heaven.

    Once again, you’re saying that it’s ok for you to believe what you want to believe, but it’s not okay for me. Why? Because you disagree with me. You refuse to admit this, but that’s what’s happening. My beliefs have no bearing on your life, at all, yet you continue to equate them with discriminatory practices that adversely affected the lives of black people. That’s ridiculous.

  25. 26 Deacon Blue
    August 28, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    I think part of the problem, Big Man…and really, it’s only part of the problem in understanding between religious folks and atheist/agnostics…is that they feel offended at the idea that they wouldn’t be allowed and also believe that we take some satisfaction in that. I think in many cases, they think that you or I are actually judging them as unworthy people and that we are glad they aren’t getting in.

    Now, as you already know, I have some fairly liberal theories on how and when one can accept Jesus, that many fundamentalist folks would mark as near heresy…so I’m actually not all that sure they they won’t get in somehow…just not sure of the mechanism for doing that.

    But even so, with my belief that you can still accept Jesus at some point after death and receive salvation, I am seen by many as judgmental and mean-hearted.

    The idea that they are being judged by any set of rules that aren’t solely human and arrived at by consensus pisses many such people off greatly.

    It doesn’t matter how many friends I have that are gay, pagan, Jewish, Muslim, atheist or otherwise…the fact that I believe in Heaven and God and Jesus and the idea that there are rules and requirements (as do you), rankles many folks.

    No, it’s not discrimination at all…but all the same, it seems to be the easiest term to leap to to try to make us feel bad about our beliefs.

  26. August 28, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Deac

    The idea that an atheist, who doesn’t believe in Heaven, would get upset because a Christian, who does believe in heaven, thinks said atheist isn’t invited is stupid.

    It’s just stupid.

    YOU DON’T EVEN THINK HEAVEN IS REAL. WHY ARE YOU ANGRY?

    Moreover, even if you think heaven is real but don’t subscribe to the Christian doctrine of who gets in and who doesn’t, WHY DO YOU CARE WHAT I THINK?

    Sorry for the caps Deac, but this whole issue pisses me off.

    Either you’re getting offended by my belief that you won’t be allowed to enter some place that you don’t even believe exists. Or, you’re offended that I believe you want be allowed to enter a place you are quite certain you will be allowed to enter.

    These people know that I have no say-so over who gets into heaven, right? They realize that according to my beliefs, it’s not a consensus thing, right?

    So excuse me if I don’t get the outrage, or the hurt feelings. If my actions have absolutely no impact on your life, WHY DO YOU CARE WHAT I DO OR BELIEVE?

  27. August 28, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Deac

    Your last sentence is the most important one.

    People are upset because we disagree with them. Period.

    That’s what it boils down to. And unfortunately, folks don’t want to admit this is what it’s about.

    It’s not about actions, because I haven’t taken any. So, it’s just that my beliefs do not conform to what they think are acceptable.

    They are the freaking thought police.

    See, I call out racists all the time. I disagree with them. But, you don’t see me telling they can’t think whatever they want to think. In fact, I’ve written posts where I say racist beliefs are fine as long as your actions don’t impact me negatively.

    It’s different with these folks. Just like many crazed Christians, they aren’t happy believing what they believe. They want to force everybody to think like them. That’s a problem whether you believe in God or you don’t.

  28. August 28, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Interesting points guys. I will get back to you to show you WHY your beliefs directly affect me and the rest of the world. Remember you dont live in a vacuum. Your beliefs have cause and effect.

  29. 30 Deacon Blue
    August 28, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    LOL, Big Man…you’re preaching to the choir. But my previous comment is a small revelation I came to as to why many people insist on getting mad. No, it makes no sense. But they assume our beliefs mean something insidious is in our hearts. It’s a terrible assumption, akin to assuming that an atheist automatically lacks morals, but people feel justified in the insanity all the same.

    Tit for Tat…I look forward to seeing how you are going to show that my beliefs impact your life. Because yours don’t adversely impact mine, nor do Christians who disagree with me, nor do Muslims, etc. etc. Everyone has beliefs, and most of them are in conflict with a good share of everyone around that person.

  30. 31 Wes
    August 29, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Heya dudes!

    sorry for my absence. i have been craaazzyyyy busy starting my second year @ college and working with the new students coming in.

    and i must say: oh wow. it seems this post has gotten people itchin’. im totally game to jump in (iron vs iron, baby), but ill be extremely busy for the next 24-ish hours, so ill try and you guys up on sunday.

    p.s. from what i did read quickly: lets watch out for pride, guys. im hit all the time, in the sinful desire of my own heart, with the feelin’ that im better than others. i think pride is coming thru several times in this discussion. lets not “debate” for the glory of ourselves and who is right, but for the glory of God’s name, which can be revealed thru our discussion. for what are our differences compared to what we have in common, which is Christ? absolutely nothing, brothers!

    be back in a bit

  31. August 29, 2009 at 6:33 am

    When talking about our beliefs its important to distinguish the extent of what our beliefs mean. In others words if I believe gravity doesnt exist and I allow that to be taught in schools then obviously that may have some direct affect on other people. You guys claim to be “Christians”. Now seeing as you or any other Christian have no method to prove why your brand is the correct one, I have to assume all Christians are the same. This may not be fair but unless I get to know everyone of you personally it is the only way to logically understand your belief systems. What is the common denominator of a Christian? I would imagine following Christ would be the main one. The other one is the belief in a Heaven and who gets to go. Now this is where your “beliefs” impact everyone in the world. For the second coming of Christ to occur certain things are necessary. One of those is for Israel to be an intact nation conforming Geographically to its original state. This is important because most of the middle east problems arise from Israel and the west bank and gaza strip. For your prophecy to come true it is impossible to share those lands with the palestinians. So this is where Christians come into play. They directly support Israel for this to happen “BECAUSE OF THEIR BELIEFS” This ensures that there will be violence in those areas which in turn spill out into the surrounding countries and abroad. Now you guys may say to me that you are not “Those” kind of Christians, but how is a person to know this if there is not a common method for all to understand what a christian is? The list is endless in how Your belief systems affect the communities in which you exist. Education, abortion, gay rights…………and so on, and so on. Again you may not be these types of Christians but your “Beliefs” tacitly support the ones that are. This is why it can be frustrating for many people who dont hold to these kinds of belief.

    Tit for Tat…I look forward to seeing how you are going to show that my beliefs impact your life. Because yours don’t adversely impact mine, nor do Christians who disagree with me, nor do Muslims, etc. etc. Everyone has beliefs, and most of them are in conflict with a good share of everyone around that person.(Deacon)

    Have you forgotten 911?? Those people flew those planes “BECAUSE” of their beliefs. And remember this, Islam also doesnt have a consistent method to show which way is the right way to believe. Its a slippery slope and you may not see this but youre standing on the edge and pulling other people to it.

  32. 33 Deacon Blue
    August 29, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Wow, Tit for Tat…I skimmed quickly, and both the early part and the last part floored me, so I need to step back before I say something in anger. Because…

    Assuming all Christians are “alike” is so ignorant. Are all Democrats alike? All Republicans? All Muslims? All Blacks? All hippies? All anyone? How ignorant…

    And 9/11 terrorists? That’s who you’re going to compare us to and suggest we’re standing on the edge of a slope that will pull others to destruction? That insults me that you think I’m capable of…or willing to…pull anyone anywhere, much less to destructive actions. It was their beliefs that caused the events of 9/11. It was the fact that they took extreme actions. Those actions may have been fueled in part by their beliefs but it was their emotional state and their willingness to be led by someone else and their disregard for other people that made those actions possible.

    Beliefs are beliefs. Whether we act on them appropriately or not is a matter of conscience and reponsbility. NOT beliefs. Stop attacking our beliefs when we have shown time and again (speaking of Big Man and myself) that we don’t impose ourselves on others or take outrageous actions. Our actions speak loud enough to show that both Big Man and myself respect both the opinions of others and their ability to make their OWN choices.

    That’s all I have to say, though, until I calm down and go back to read your whole post more thoroughly.

  33. August 29, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    That insults me that you think I’m capable of…or willing to…pull anyone anywhere, much less to destructive actions.(Deacon)

    Im surprised you miss the fact that the “Christian belief system” does exactly this. If it didnt then Non believers wouldnt be going to hell, now would they. Oops thats right, your brand of Christianity may not support that idea, my bad. Show me a method that can help me distinguish between the nasty bad Christians and the nice ones like you and Big Man. Afterall you all are saying you are “followers of Christ”

  34. 35 Deacon Blue
    August 29, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Tit for Tat,

    I know what you’re trying to do…You’re trying to say, “See? You’re mad because I believe you’re bad…but I’m mad because you believe I’m bad and going to hell.”

    You just don’t get it.

    You are assigning value judgements about me and my behavior and this supposed effect I have on people based on my Christianity. I don’t do that to atheists or any other non-believer. I respect them and know that they have variations and that many of them are good people.

    In fact, I have said repeatedly on this blog that there are many non-Christians, atheists and others who are going to Heaven who don’t know it. People who don’t know what Christianity is even about who will go to Heaven. Accepting Christ isn’t about a religion. Many “followers” of Christ are going to Hell…and Jesus himself said that. “Some will say Lord, Lord, look what we did in your name and I will say I never knew you.” JESUS said that. Christians who will go to Hell and non-Christians who will go to Heaven because what is in their hearts is CHRIST-LOVING AND CHRIST-LIKE.

    This isn’t MY brand of Christianity. This is the gospel. That some (perhaps many, maybe even most) Christians have it twisted up doesn’t change the fact that the gospel message is good and its message is sound, whether you believe in God or not. Christ’s teachings are sound, whether you believe in God or not.

    You keep saying my beliefs hurt others.

    My beliefs don’t send anyone to Hell. People send themselves to Hell and God allows them to send themselves there. That’s right. People and God. It’s between the individual and God. I have nothing to do with it, my beliefs have nothing to do with that.

    Just like holding Republican political beliefs doesn’t cause immoral wars to be waged, just because a Republican administration intigated such a war.

    Every belief can be twisted. Every action has a consequence. But it’s not the belief system that hurts anyone. People hurt each other and they hurt themselves.

    Big Man’s said it clearly. I’ve said it clearly.

    We are accountable for our actions. Beliefs don’t cause them and beliefs don’t do anything to affect the world. It’s what people choose to do with those beliefs.

    Do you think being an atheist makes someone MORE moral? Is that what this is about? If everyone were atheist or everyone just said, “We can’t know, so let’s not TRY to know.”…and that if everyone did that, the world would be a beautiful place?

    Are you so simple as to believe that religion is the problem and that Christianity is one of the biggest troublemakers?

    Becasue if that’s what you believe, your naivete is amazing.

    I don’t claim that Christianity solves all the problems of the world. But don’t make out like it is one of the most evil things in it. Or evil at all.

    I think, Tit for Tat, that you’ve officially gone to the point where it’s clear you don’t care to listen and don’t have room for any middle ground. You’ve declared my entire belief system to be something rotten, and let almost every other belief system, all of which have been abused and misused, off the hook.

    You are the judgemental one. Not me. Not in this case at least.

    And I am done. Carry on without me, folks, if you want to address Tit for Tat. You’ve shown your ass officially, I think, man. I used to think you just disagreed with me. Now I’m pretty sure what you really feel is that there’s something deeply wrong with me that you have to fix. I ain’t trying to fix you by changing your beliefs. All I ever tried to do with you is explain why I believe what I do and why I have good reason to believe it.

    That’s not good enough? So be it. I’m done spinning my wheels with you on this discussion…I’m not sure I’ll be bothering with you on any others, but we’ll see.

  35. August 29, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Too emotional Deacon

    Im Judging you for sure. Thats my right. But Im not judging you for your niceties. Im judging you for your belief. And the cornerstone of your belief has an element of prophecy which when taken to the extreme fucks up the whole world. Now the problem is your belief cant be believed unless you go by the prophecy to. SO which is it? Is prophecy correct and if so then how does that belief system affect the world? Follow the logic through. Stop believing just because you are accepting of other faiths means your belief doesnt have a negative affect on the world. You can bow out if you want but thats your emotional brain talking not your logical one.

  36. August 29, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Oh and by the way. My disdain for all dogma and doctrine is equal. As soon as someone claims absolute then I have a hard time taking them seriously. The one thing about atheism though is there absolute just has them dying, not torturing some for eternity.

  37. 38 Deacon Blue
    August 29, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Really? ALL doctrine? So, any school of philosophy, morality, jurisprudence, government and economics?

    This is why we cannot talk anymore about this. You either reject everything but anarchy, or you’re being intellectually dishonest and singling out religion based on standards you won’t hold anything else to.

    The fact that you qualify it with “absolute” matters not a whit. All people who believe in any systems think theirs is the best. Moreover, the only “absolute” about Christianity is that there is a higher power and that Jesus is the son of that higher power. All else is open to interpretation.

  38. August 29, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    The only absolute I will claim is that at this present time I cant prove with evidence a specific creator. I can believe there is one, but that is far as my “absolute” can go. My issue is with religions that claim they “know” but have no actual verifiable evidence. You can tell me that this is your belief, just stay away from thinking you know its right. Youre guessing and hoping its right. Gravity we can prove, Jesus is another story. Now I wish you would be more intellectually honest and admit that your faith system can and does have negative affects on people of the world. I have no problem admitting their are loving “christians” or “muslims” but I can see how their belief systems also espouse much hate and division. Why cant you see that, and see that maybe youre “absolute” has a bearing on that.

  39. 40 Deacon Blue
    August 29, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    I never said that my belief system couldn’t be misused. But you keep stressing that it’s bad by its very existence and can lead to nothing but harm in the end, despite the fact that spiritual systems have also done much good. You keep talking about the logical endpoints and extreme interpretations and prophetic aspects, but this doesn’t make Christianity inherently BAD, nor any other religion, really.

    Capitalism, at its core, says profit-making is the best thing and that the markets can be trusted to bear out properly. Yet pure capitalism is tremendously damaging, which is why it needs to be tempered with things like certain systems and functions being “socialized.”

    Democracy, as practiced in (for example) the United States has many wonderful aspects, but also many horrible ones, and it has been misused to abuse citizens and to impose our will on other nations.

    Do you get my drift? You can blame Christianity for its potential to cause harm, but ANY system of dogma and doctrine, religious or non-religious, can be misused.

    You keep claiming that I can’t see or am not willing to see the harm that can be done. Yet I have frequently admitted that it can do harm. I’m pretty sure I’ve acknowledged that to you in the past on more than one occasion. But that harm is done precisely because people veer from the intent of the gospel and Jesus’ teachings (and those of the apostles) and because people use the Bible to justify horrible things by misinterpreting or narrowly interpeting or by picking and choosing the passages.

    The Bible is a doorway to understanding God and our place in the world and in His creation. It is not a guidebook to cover every action in life with a “do this now and this other thing when this other thing happens.” It’s not always a clear insert tab A into slot B.

    I also never claimed to personally know all that is right. But if I say that I “know” there is a creator and His son is Jesus, it is my right to believe that, just as it is someone’s right to believe anything else. But I don’t even say that I know, do I? I say that I have “faith.” Faith isn’t about the physical world and it isn’t about the scientific method. I also know that I could be wrong. But my heart, mind and, yes, soul, tell me that my faith is well placed, and I have personal experiences in life that support the value and truth of that faith.

    Absolutism is not just about religion, and why can’t you see that? People with all sorts of beliefs get all absolutist on other people’s asses inappropriately. The problem isn’t that religions say there is a true path…the problem is that people browbeat each other, misuse people, manipulate people, etc.

    But an absolutist capitalist does the very same thing. Even with the ability to “prove” that capitalism is the better way (and there is ample research to make that argument, whether it’s true or not)…and even with the knowledge that capitalism certainly exists, that doesn’t change the fact that it can be (and very often is) used in damaging and horrifying ways.

    Why do you single out religion for this sin and let everyone else off?

    Secular wrongs are no more palatable than religious wrongs. I don’t know why I’m bothering to continue this, because I’m reasonably sure at this point you will twist or distort my words again by claiming that I don’t see the problems or that I think I know everything, when in fact I’ve told you, multiple times now, that I know there are pitfalls and I don’t think I know everything.

    I’ve never used this blog as a bully pulpit. Never. But increasingly, I’m starting to feel that you’re using this comment section as your own personal bully pulpit, and if that continues, I WILL stop talking. Because you don’t seem to be listening.

  40. 41 Inda Pink
    August 29, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    There are a few other absolutes in Christianity Deke besides just God and Jesus. Virgin birth, ressurection, eternal existence either in Hell or Heaven, etc. Donchta think?

    Not that I’m exactly backing Tit For Tat here because I’d’ve already stopped talking to him before now.

    Just sayin’…

  41. 42 Deacon Blue
    August 29, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    I’d argue otherwise on the absolutes thing, Miz Pink.

    Without God AND Jesus, there is no basis for Christianity. So both must exist, and if Jesus isn’t the son of God, it all fall apart.

    But everything else can be interpreted.

    There are Christians who argue against a literal virgin birth, and they have their points. There are those that argue that Jesus didn’t truly rise from “death” because he is literally God Himself and cannot die. As for the eternity of Heaven and Hell, the Bible says that Heaven and Earth will both pass away, suggesting that there is still evolution and change in eternity. And as for Hell, one can argue that there is no eternal damnation but an eventual “erasure” of those who don’t end up in Heaven.

    Lots of other things can be interpreted and are thus not absolutes. For example Jesus’ exorcisms. Did he cast out demons or simply heal mental illnesses? And the 10 commandments themseles, depsite being written in pretty literal, ironclad language, clearly cannot be applied in a blanket fashion. For example, if someone is suffering at the end of life and you give them their wish to have their life ended, have you violated “thou shalt not kill”? Or if you kill as part of your resonsibilities to obeying your government as a soldier, have you broken that commandment?

    Aside from God and Jesus, I don’t see anything off-hand in the Bible that is “absolute” in the sense that it cannot be interpreted slightly different by different people.

  42. August 30, 2009 at 6:54 am

    Without God AND Jesus, there is no basis for Christianity. So both must exist, and if Jesus isn’t the son of God, it all fall apart.

    But everything else can be interpreted.(Deacon)

    Believe this or not, but I actually like you. In fact by most of your writings I would say you seem like a pretty good guy. If I didnt I wouldnt even be talking to you. The point Im trying to make(again) is who gets to decide the interpretations. Unfortunately there is no “Method” to Christianity which makes it difficult if not impossible to know which christian is good or which one is bad unless we get to know them. And that ends up no different than if they are atheist, muslim, hindu……….. The problem is still that its based on emotion and personal experience and nothing tangible and verifiable for everyone else. This is true of all faiths that claim that they know. Atheism(which Im not), doesnt have this problem. They just state the fact that there is no proof and until you give them something tangible and verifiable then they will leave it at “there is no god”.
    Also, the backdrop of most faiths is one of division and this is where the problem lies. If a belief system has in it that some get in and some that dont, it is easy for it to be used for “evil” and “bad” in this world(are only known one). Go to the middle east(lets say Saudi Arabia) and call yourself a Christian and see what happens. The same is true for many Muslims in a predominantly Christian country. Because there is no method to prove your faith and because the backdrop of the faiths are absolute, they end up being divisive. Centuries of warfare related to religious title have ensured this.

    You dont need to reply to this post. If you dont get what Im saying now, you never will.

  43. 45 Deacon Blue
    August 30, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    And wouldn’t it be convenient to just toss out every system of thought just because difficulties ensue around it. Nothing about Christianity is divisive in and of itself. The same can be said of many other spiritual and religious doctrines. Even with evangelism as a component, Christianity is about love and respect and doing the right thing. You keep saying that the absolutism is the core of the problem and I keep saying the people who misuse the doctrine are the root of the problem. Most Christians don’t do anythning divisive in daily life that’s even noticeable, or existent at all, even if they are die-hard fundies. It is the people who are out there trying to make changes to society as a whole using religion, or the extreme fanatics, who cause the problems. There’s a saying about “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” The notion that we should abandon religion until we can prove God exists is completely unfair to people who seek spiritual enlightenment and spiritual growth. Just because you don’t believe in it, or can’t believe in it without proof, doesn’t make it fair for you to call upon me to give up my quest for the spiritual. Unless you want to stomp all over my right to make my own decisions and my right to hold my own opinions. Pressuring me or anyone else to give up their religion is oppression. Just as surely as any other kind.

    You ask, “who decides the interpretations?” Who cares? Who interprets philosophy. Well, let’s see, philosophers, scholars, die-hard followers of a philosophical school of thought, casual followers, vaguely interested folks, and opponents of that philosophy. Who interprets literature? Authors, scholars, readers and students? Who interprets political doctrine? Academics, social policy folks, politicians, voters.

    Who has the right to interpret bibilical doctrine? Everyone. Pastors, preachers, theologians, other scholars, individual believers, non-believers. For the most part, unless you’re bat-shit crazy and on an agenda, most people will basically agree that the Bible’s message is basically about love and doing good. Kind of hard to read into the gospels a whole lot of hate, though I know people try.

    Being Christian is about a relationship between the individual and God. It was never meant to be something that an institution dictated. It was never supposed to be some rulebook that you follow exactly or get kicked out.

    I mean, what makes a Democrat or Republican? They all individually within each party (as with any political party, in the U.S. or elsewhere) decide what makes them a member of that party. And unless they break ranks rather dramatically (the political equivelent of heresy) they will not be kicked out. Because everyone has to make their own peace with their doctrine.

    No one in Christiantiy gets to define what makes a Christian. And that is the way it should be, and that is the way it is anywhere else in any other group in life. The Bible tells us to study to show ourselves approved. We are to read scripture and pray and seek out God. What happens in the end is between God and the individual. Not between the person and a church.

    And once again, I am sick of people talking about all the evil done in the name of religion. Because most of it was done in the name of power, politics or profit-making, with people using religion as an excuse. Most of the evil done in the world today has nothing to do with religion. Some of it, sure. But most of it, be it wars or persecutions, is not in line with religious texts.

    Plenty of politicians will jump on an ideological bandwagon or hop on top of an issue to advances themselves, and people expect that. You get some numbnut with an agenda who uses religion to prop it up, and it’s religion’s fault.

    If religion is divisive, it’s because not enough people in those religions are practicing their faith the way they are told, in their scriptures, to practice it. They follow like sheep after some charismatic idiot, just like gullible voters who see some shiny new politician who promises them everything. It doesn’t help when agnostic or atheists paint believers as stupid and paint their faith as inherently divisive.

    The reason people can’t get along and practice their faiths is because not enough people want to put in the trouble or effort to GET ALONG. It is a basic human failing.

    People have shed blood over philosophical differences too. Are you going to call for us to yank Socrates, Plato, Nietzsche and others out of the school texts?

    The Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s was propped up on pseudo-science and a philosophical school of thought that “Aryans” were superior. Didn’t need religion to orchestrate the massacre of millions of Jews, now did we?

    STOP blaming religion. And stop making the “absolutism” your criteria for what’s wrong with it.

    As Big Man has already noted, anyone who hold a belief system dearly, religious or otherwise, tends to be “absolute” in their belief that no other system is better.

    I’m as tired of religion being blamed for the ills of the world as I am for teachers and student being blamed for crumbling school systems, environmentalists being blamed for holding back corporate progress, employees being blamed for not being dedicated enough when they are worked to death, smokers being singled out as the pariahs of society, and a whole host of others.

    I am not so damned unique in my interpretation of Christianity. That is shown by the people who comment here and represent not just non-believers but a wide swath of Christians.

    We are not monolithic, and we shouldn’t be. And your notion that we should pick someone to set down the proper interpretations so that you can more easily identify a “real” Christian is basically to suggest that we all lockstep to a rigid set of rules.

    Look, when it comes to laws, how does it work? Legislators write them, but no law can cover all the based or all the contingencies. None. Not one. So, who interprets the law? Lawyers, judges, scholars, sometimes legislators who go back to tweak things. And who else?

    Oh, yeah, the citizens.

    Yes, every citizen interprets the law. Assault is illegal, but sometimes we might have to make a call when someone needs a beat-down. Traffic laws might be ignored when it’s ridiculous, unsafe or impratical (at 4 a.m. on a wide, empty street, do I really need to heed that “No right turn on red” sign? If eveyone around me is driving 25 miles over the speed limit, is it wise for me to go exactly the speed limit and cause and accident?).

    Religion is no different. As individuals we MUST make individual judgements and interpretations. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous. And to suggest it makes us dishonest in our faith or puts into question whether we really believe our religious texts is inane.

    I understand what you are trying to say. But can you understand how repugnant it is to me to hear people call for the dismantling of religious belief as some sort of “quick fix” to solve problems? Taking away or ridiculing something that forms a core part of me is unfair and oppressive. Yet that is what many people call for. “If you’re smart, lay down the Bibles and Korans and eveything else! Only idiots believe that!”

    That’s not friendly behavior. And that’s why I sometimes get emotional about it. It’s not that I don’t understand your points, Tit for Tat. But you are oversimplying some things and you are being selective in singling out religion when you can apply the very same arguments to so many other things in life.

    Some of which you probably hold dear.

  44. 46 Napolean
    August 31, 2009 at 12:57 am

    “Atheism(which Im not), doesnt have this problem.” T4T

    You freely admit that you’re not an atheist. Would you be willing to tell us about your God?

  45. August 31, 2009 at 5:46 am

    Napoleon

    I believe that there is a creative starting point. I have no clue what it is, nor at this level of our development do I think it is humanly possible to know. One day maybe we will discover what it is. Until that time I enjoy the mystery that it is. Oh and by the way, I dont believe in a heaven or hell. Other than the ones we create on earth thinking we “know” what the creator is. 😉

  46. 48 Deacon Blue
    August 31, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Ah, Tit for Tat, please don’t tell me you think that the only heavens and hells we create are due to religion. Most people’s “hells on Earth” have little to do with religion and much more to do with failed dreams, unfair expectations, abuses by family and loved ones, etc. etc. etc.

    I am far from fully mature in my faith walk, but I hit my biggest developmental step when I stopped thinking of Heaven, Hell and reward/punishment, and started seeing God as someone I needed to understand better, become more in line with emotionally and spiritually, as begin to connect to.

    This is what I keep trying to talk about that too few believers and non-believers truly understand, I think: Religion/spirituality isn’t about pleasing some god to avoid punishment. It’s about finding out what we are, how we are connected to the divine, and building a foundation for our eternal lives beyond this Earth.

  47. August 31, 2009 at 10:26 am

    It’s about finding out what we are, how we are connected to the divine, and building a foundation for our eternal lives beyond this Earth(Deacon)

    And this is the point Im trying to make. Its when people(maybe not you), think its only about the “eternal” life, rather than doing it here and now. This is the crux of Christianity. The idea that there is something wrong and it needed to be fixed. The problem is, there is no factual basis for that story. That is just a “belief”(faith) thingie. Even your big guy knew this.

    Luke 17:21 (English Standard Version)

    nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

    Right here, right now baby. The rest is just about who’s in and who’s not, and that is plenty of reason for people to fight. But dont worry, Christianity has lots of bedfellows i.e. Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and so on……………….

  48. 50 Deacon Blue
    August 31, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I do think about eternity, because I believe in eternal life…and so it behooves me to explore it and prepare for it.

    But no, I don’t spend all my time, or even really a signficant chunk of it on eternity. Eternity will come soon enough.

    My interest is in part to be prepared for that moment, but also to know God and God’s will for me in THIS time and place. THIS world.

    That is where my faith is very clearly NOT about wild wishes and Pollyanna-ish shit. It is about being the best person I can be. Sure, you can argue that it’s possible to be moral, strong, etc. without religion to back it up…and that’s true…but since finding God and Jesus fully through my faith walk (which really didn’t start until my late 20s), I have been stronger as a person, and better as a person. And that’s because of the strength I draw from God and because of letting myself be guided by the Spirit.

    You can poo-poo that all you want if you wish, and call it some subconscious delusion, but I maintain that it comes from God, and whether or not you or anyone else accepts that matter not.

    There are many intangibles in life…many feelings and emotions and sensations that we give weight of importance, gravity, meaning, etc. that someone else can just come by and say, “It’s hust hormones and neurochemicals.” I choose to give my faith at least as much importance and value…because it has proven itself to me…as I do to love, mercy, commitment, etc. in human relationships.

  49. August 31, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Thanks Deacon

    Your last post said it perfectly. I couldnt have written that better myself. This pretty much sums that up.

    Hebrews 11

    By Faith

    Now faith is being SURE of what we HOPE for and CERTAIN of what we DO NOT see.

    And this is what drives Atheists nuts. But hey, it works for you. 😉
    The problem arises when others use this “Logic” to support their ideas of faith. Bang bang.

  50. August 31, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Tit for Tat

    The idea that actions on Earth dicate the second coming of Christ is wrong.

    No man knows the hour or the day.

    All the crazy people trying to “hasten” Christ’s return are just that, crazy.

    You also assume that the only way to “get to heaven” is through the Second Coming.

    Scripture says “to be absent of life is to be present with Christ.”

    As soon as we all die, our spirts go where they are going. The whole Second Coming issue is not necessary for folks to go to heaven. I’m not sure where you got that concept, but once again, those are two basic concepts that you have twisted and used to complain about Christianity.

  51. August 31, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Big Man

    Here we go again, You telling me how I twist the scripture that you supposedly “know” which way to read. I keep forgetting, youre the Christian who gets it. Everyone else doesnt. Face it, you have no method for your faith to be read “correctly”. In laymans terms that means youre full of shit. 😉

  52. August 31, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Tit for Tat

    Actually, the info I just provided you is standard in Sunday Schools and Bible Classes across the nation. All you would have to do is look up standard Biblical Commentary to get the exact same information. Or, do an internet search on the scripture in question with the word commentary. Try it.

    Sadly, you have decided that my having a different opinion from you on scriptures I’ve actually bothered to read is me deciding that my way is the right way. I won’t rehash my earlier point on “the right way” but I will say that I understand quite well that much of the Bible is up for debate. The things you raised aren’t.

    The Bible is clear on what happens when you die. The Bible is clear that the Second Coming is not needed for Christians to enter heaven. In fact, you are confusing the raising of the bodies of dead Christians with what actually happens when you die. If you read Thessalonians, you will find that Paul dedicated quite a bit of time talking about death and resurrection because these were some of the central issues in the early church. Paul vehemently chastised those Christians who assumed that they had inside info on what was going to bring Jesus back. It seems that this has been a problem since the church was begun.

    So, when I say you’re twisting scripture it’s not because I’m quibbling with you over some minor fact you got wrong. Rather, it’s because the opinions you are spouting are based on a faulty understaning of central Biblical points which have been debated and discussed by scriptural experts. It’s not just the random opinion of Big Man.

  53. August 31, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Tit for Tat

    Did you really write that because I have no method for my “faith” to be read correctly I must be full of excrement?

    Strange.

    What exactly would be a correct method to read faith? How would you determine my faith’s veracity?

    Moreover, name for me a complicated world theory on which everyone agrees?

    Global Warming? Evolution? The Big Bang Theory?

    I cannot think of any single theory where everyone agrees on all of the details or points of that theory.

    In layman’s terms, Christianity is a theory. As such, it requires a leap of faith. It cannot be definitively proven, thus the need for faith. It shares that characteristic with many of the things you assume are fact.

    You just haven’t thought about it.

  54. August 31, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    By your standard, believing in Leprechauns is a theory. Oh where, oh where would you suggest we draw the line?

  55. August 31, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Deac

    You did a great job of explaining your faith walk, but I wouldn’t worry go back and forth about it too much more.

    Vain babblings and whatnot as Wes pointed out.

  56. August 31, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Tit for Tat

    How do you define a theory?

  57. August 31, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena: Einstein’s theory of relativity.

    guess or conjecture.

    You win. You have a theory. 🙂

    Thanks for the discourse gents.

  58. 60 Deacon Blue
    August 31, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    Amazing how far this comment section got from the original blog post beginning around comment #32, but that’s not a bad thing, really. Lively discussion is always nice to see.

    Well, folks, I’m not calling an end to discussions here, but barring anything major happening, like really fresh and new comments related to the original topic from Wes or someone else not in the current debate, I think I, personally, will be pretty quiet on this particular post from here on out.

    🙂

  59. 61 Wes
    September 1, 2009 at 9:42 am

    deac!

    im sorry i wasnt able to get in on this. w/ classes starting up and and such, ive been pretty busy. i really enjoyed our other conversation, and tho sometimes we disagree, its pretty much on things fairly trivial to the faith. so ill check out some of your other posts from time to time and try and hop on some discussions.

    p.s. im amazed by the direction (or lack thereof) that was going on in this discussion with TforT. nuts, bro.

    ttyl, man.

  60. 62 Deacon Blue
    September 1, 2009 at 10:31 am

    No worries, Wes. My philosophy about blogs, no matter how interesting, is that life comes before any of them (even my own), whether it’s secular or spiritual life matters.

    See you around, and look forward to any comments you might have now or in the future, on this or any other blog thread.

    Ciao for now…


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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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