Bringing it all home…

In a comment on Lord Chimmy’s post about Ann Coulter’s new book, we are directed to this article.

Now that its original meaning has been hopelessly distorted by hatred and bad vibes, the term “Christian” really should be banished to the hall of linguistic abominations where it belongs.

Say “Christian” in mixed company and the image of a bejeweled evangelist hawking a right-wing social agenda will come immediately to mind.

Very few think of Christians as the same folks who embraced lepers and other social outcasts even before faith-based tax credits kicked in to provide “incentives” for doing the Lord’s work.

Tony Norman really hits the nail on it’s head. He does an excellent job of summing up what I have been trying to say:

Christianity, as it is practiced today, is not a positive influence on the world. I really feel that today’s version of Christianity is not all in sync with what Jesus taught. We will really never know, as we do not have any good accounts of his life, other then the massively edited and contradictory Bible.

Some who call themselves Christians are very good and helping people, however, more are self absorbed and only really in it for the afterlife insurance policy that it gives. I was actually told “Well, since you do not believe in an afterlife, what’s to stop you from being a Christian just in case they are right?” Am I missing something? Does God really want followers who follow for the sake of following?

I propose the following: Re-write the Bible. Get rid of as many of the problems as you can. Extract the essence of Christianity, and repackage it for a new century. Don’t say ‘if it’s not broke don’t fix it’ because it is broken. Look at the perception that is out there. “Say “Christian” in mixed company and the image of a bejeweled evangelist hawking a right-wing social agenda will come immediately to mind.” pretty much sums it up.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am certainly not espousing moving the ‘Christian Agenda’ away from the Right. I simply want folks to understand what Christian means. And it’s not forcing your version of family values down my throat through laws aimed at removing my choice. You could make a law that stated “everyone in this great nation was mandated to attend Church and profess the Christian Faith”. Would that make us all Christian? I don’t think so.

That would simply take the rest of the meaning out of the word. We think it’s barbaric when a person is executed in a Muslim country for infractions such as dressing wrong, but in attempting to make every action that does not agree with Christian morality illegal, we are fast slipping down the slope towards just such a barbaric legal system.

I heard an Evangelical talking on some talk show. They said that they would use every means at their disposal to enforce their views – because if you disagreed with them, it was analogues to drinking drano, and of course we would try and stop someone from drinking drano. Yes, if I were to see some one drinking drano, I would attempt to stop them. I would do this because I have empirical evidence that drinking drano can kill or seriously harm you. No one has evidence that if you are not Christian, you are in physical or spiritual danger. We have beliefs about it, but beliefs do not proof make.

I guess that I can sum it up as: Be damn sure before you force another person to act or not act in a certain way. There is nothing black and white in faith based religions. Faith, by definition, is not provable. When it comes to effecting others, make sure that you are on the side that is provably good.”an it harm none, do as thou wilt

10 thoughts on “Bringing it all home…”

  1. So basically what you are saying, is that if a moral code isn't popular it must be wrong and needs to be changed, while at the same time asserting that that same moral code is so popular that we are fast slipping down the slope to a thoecracy.

    No… what I am saying that that the way Christianity is practiced today by a large majority of those who proclaim them selves as Christian does not have a positive influence on the world at large. I do not speak to popularity at all.

    What I take issue with, as always, is some people's view that it is OK to use their moral compass to make choices for others, when those choices do not harm anyone. Take for example, Gay Rights. It does not harm me if two people want to get married. It does not harm me if two Christians want to get married. Why does it harm me if two Gays want to get married?

    I totally agree that there has to be some moral underpinning to the law – and I believe that should be "if you do not harm anyone, do what you want", not "This musty old book says so, so I'm gonna make you do it!".

    I think it absolutely improper for someone who is not part of a belief system to dictate to those who are how they need to reform their system. Telling Christians to rewrite their Bible is hubristic in the extreme. Further, telling them to rewrite their Bible because what they are doing doesn't match what Christ taught (apparently something you have divined from the Bible) is nonsensical.

    I never told anyone to do anything. I proposed what I saw as a solution to a problem that I perceive. I do not expect anyone to take action on it. I'm sorry, but I were to see some one drinking drano… Get the idea? It's perfectly acceptable for a Christian to dictate how a some one else lives and what they believe, but, hoo boy. Just try and even question the smallest part of Christianity.

    Socialists want to redistribute wealth based upon their value systems. Feminists want to redefine male/female power roles and alter the structure of our language based upon their value systems. Libertarianish Buhdists want to make sure Government stays out of what they regard as their personal business based upon their value systems.

    None of those value systems is 'provable.' The Wiccan Rede you cite can't be 'proven' any more than any other.

    I simply want to free people to make up their own minds. If they want to use english in a way that fits with their values system, they have every right. If they want to give their money to socialist programs, again, they have every right. Where I draw the line is when they try and give my money to socialist programs, or force me to speak english in a way that I do not agree to. For example, why should my money (taxes) be used to fund an art project in New Jersey? If I want to fund that project, I should be given the choice to fund it myself.

    What if, in addition to filing a tax return every year, we had the chance to decide where our tax dollars would be used? Programs and government departments that no one likes would simply go away.
    Bart Jarman
    Starbucks customer from Gilbert, Arizona

    I would take that one step further. What if we did not even have to pay taxes? What if we simply supported the programs that we used and that we liked directly, through user fees and direct contributions? It's all about freeing us from the oppression of the majority and of the minority. What makes you happy and comfortable does not necessarily work for every other American out there.

  2. All of you make some good points, or at the very least you certainly have a passion for argument.

    Who needs a rewrite of the Bible when you can just pick a flavor of Christianity (i.e., Eastern Christianity, Catholicism, or Protestantism) that suits your belief system? With so many denominations there’s something for everybody…

    Anyway, I don’t have a problem with anyone’s religion, but I do get a little tired with the religious politicking. Ann Coulter is a poor example of a Christian if you ask me (as am I). She uses her vitriolic words simply to rile up liberals which leads to increased book sales among conservatives. She’s a sideshow, and she’s playing a tune that she knows will make her money. She’s clever like a fox…and a real dislikable bitch (IMO).

    Politics and religion are like acid and water…when you mix them things are going to heat up. I think that especially after the 2004 election there is an even bigger rift [than normal] between Christians and "the rest of us." No one likes to have a finger waved in their face, and that’s what I’ve always hated about religion: The smugness. The unwillingness to see those who are not like you as good. The attitude that the rest of us are heathens.

    It is a dirty business, and I normally avoid it…until I am called out personally. Everyone is a little bit right and a lot wrong if you ask me. Insisting that your belief system is the only way to go is never going to go over well with the unconverted.

    Sorry to ramble…I usually do this on my own blog :)

  3. <blockquote>I really do not dislike anyone. There are some who\’s actions I disapprove of, but I do not dislike them because of those actions.</blockquote>Let me rephrase, you dislike people getting into your business. For some reason, you have apparently decided that this is part and parcel of Christianity. That is not my experience with Christians. I find myself more effected by busy bodies from other realms (the draconian anti-smoking laws here for instance.) Leaving that asside, I think my point was fairly clear. <blockquote>And, they that is attempted (convincing them on the issues), the person attempting it is often castigated as a heretic, or simply dismissed as a loony. I might be a wee bit strange, but I don\’t think that I am quite at the loony stage yet :) .</blockquote>Leaving asside the question of your sanity, that certainly seems a twoway street. You have often dismissed faith as being foolish, perhaps borderline insane. Some Christians always behave the way you describe, but it is my guess that they way you choose to present your ideas makes many people intractable who could be reasonable.

    I am not sure which passage of the Bible you are refering to. To the best of my knowledge abortion is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, although there are passages that lead one to believe that a fetus is a person and therefore abortion is murder. Others who are not Christian, or not Religious at all share that belief. One would expect (and hope for in fact) rather strong denounciations of murder in our society. Certainly though I don’t know of any mainstream group, even the more virulent ones on TV that espouse violence against women seeking an abortion.

  4. "Christianity, as it is practiced today, is not a positive influence on the world." Point: this statement is an overgeneralization and is offensive to those of us who feel that Christianity can be a very positive influence on the world. How some people individualy practice it can be reprehensible, and therefore wrong in-and-of itself.

    "We will really never know, as we do not have any good accounts of his life, other then (sic) the massively edited and contradictory Bible." point: Contradictory is debatable. Again, I recommend "Evidence That Demands a Verdict" by Josh McDowell.

    "Some who call themselves Christians are very good and helping people, however, more are self absorbed and only really in it for the afterlife insurance policy that it gives. I was actually told ‘Well, since you do not believe in an afterlife, what’s to stop you from being a Christian just in case they are right?” Am I missing something? Does God really want followers who follow for the sake of following?" Point: I agree with your notion that faith and religion practiced out of fear and ignorance is worthless. I believe God does not want followers of this nature. Robotic religion is no substitute for genuine faith…Jesus called-out the Pharisees for such things!

    "I propose the following: Re-write the Bible." Point: Wow. Um, bad idea. There are so many translations out there these days I think it would be hard not to find one that suits your tastes. The greatest problem with re-writing Scripture is that in the year 2006 we are so far removed from the original witnesses/writers that your problems of "getting it right" are enormous. It would be like trying to re-write a newspaper article from the NY Times from the 1800’s. A re-write isn’t any kind of fix, and, in fact, would just further serve to muddy the waters.

    "Get rid of as many of the problems as you can. Extract the essence of Christianity, and repackage it for a new century." Point: The essence of the message has never changed, just some of the personal presentation. And who is to say what the "problems" are? There will never be consensus, but that doesn’t mean we throw out the baby with the bath water.

    I agree with much of the rest of what you said. Forced belief is no belief at all and drives us towards a Nazi Germany approach to goverment (this, of course, is BAD). My gut reaction to your post was simply that so many people judge Jesus by his followers, and this has NEVER been a good thing to do. People are people, and mistakes are made. It is up to each of us to judge the book by its cover. Broad, sweeping statements of "Christians are this-and-such" and "The Bible is this-and-such" are just as unfair and improper as "Buddhists are this-and-such" and "Muslims are this-and-such."

    Your perception is your reality, but it doesn’t mean it is how things really are. I agree: TV does a good job of embarrassing me sometimes about my faith because I know that many people judge it (and me) based on charlatans in leisure suits and gold rings. It turns my stomach.

    All that being said, I know I cannot change the world, I can only change myself. I can work towards a better tomorrow for me and my kids (hence, my career) but I understand that I am just a tiny little cog in the giant system and to get stressed out about the tings I cannot change…that way lies madness.

  5. <blockquote>Some people are busy bodies. Christians are not (and almost all do not claim to be) perfect. Not all busybodies are Christians though and not all Christians are busy bodies. It seems to me that you dislike busy bodies, but choose to attack Christians. That is a misplaced target.</blockquote>
    I really do not dislike anyone. There are some who\’s actions I disapprove of, but I do not dislike them because of those actions. Luckily, I live in a democratic society where I can voice that disapproval (as well as vote), and try and explain what I believe to be a better way. I will (and have) voiced disapproval with many actions by many people over a variety of subjects. To claim that I \'<em>attack Christians</em>\’ but \'<em>dislike busy bodies</em>\’ is not understanding what I am saying, or only reading about half of the things that I talk about here.
    <blockquote>What I see, is Christians feeling that our society is destroying itself. They want to prevent that from happening. They may be wrong about that, but if so it seems best to convince them on the issues, rather than assume that their motive is simply to have power. A few might fall into that category, but not the majority</blockquote>
    And, they that is attempted (convincing them on the issues), the person attempting it is often castigated as a heretic, or simply dismissed as a loony. I might be a wee bit strange, but I don\’t think that I am quite at the loony stage yet :).

    From my perspective, Christianity (<em>as it is practiced today by a portion of Christians</em>) <strong>is</strong> wrong on several accounts. I have never met anyone who could sufficiently rationalize some of the more inhumane directives in the Bible. About the closest that anyone has come is the theory that Christ was not just a spiritualist, but also a revolutionary, concerned with the mistreatment of the Jews by the Romans at the time. The theory goes on to state that the revolutionary parts of Christ\’s message were included by the authors of the Bible.

    Thus the few vitriolic passages that some folks are confused by, and that enable the borderline cases to justify their acts of violence (be it physical, mental or verbal). One of my favorite scenes on the news to illustrate this was when a sign toting Christian anti-abortion activist kicked a young mother in the stomach as she was entering a Planned Parenthood clinic, causing a miscarriage. It\’s actions like this, coupled with the whole \’warfare\’ and \’us vs them\’ and \’if you are not on our side, you are the enemy\’ themes in the Bible that I have an issue with. That theme is divisive. It\’s true that the Bible also says to love your enemies, but which theme are we going to follow today? The Bible\’s message is at best scattered, and at worst down right confusing.

  6. <blockquote>If Christianity has such a grasp on truth and righteousness, why do some Christians seem to need laws to back them up?</blockquote>Some people are busy bodies. Christians are not (and almost all do not claim to be) perfect. Not all busybodies are Christians though and not all Christians are busy bodies. It seems to me that you dislike busy bodies, but choose to attack Christians. That is a misplaced target.
    <blockquote>If these truths are universal, why are they not self-evident?</blockquote>Why would a universal truth necessarily be self-evident?
    <blockquote>If God exists, why would not civilization simply want to be ‘god-fearing’?</blockquote>Perhaps God allows people to choose good or evil, and some choose evil.<blockquote>What I see, as an outside observer, is some Christians feeling like they are loosing their grip on the hearts and minds of this country.</blockquote>What I see, is Christians feeling that our society is destroying itself. They want to prevent that from happening. They may be wrong about that, but if so it seems best to convince them on the issues, rather than assume that their motive is simply to have power. A few might fall into that category, but not the majority.<blockquote>Who said that the ‘heathens’ needed saving anyways?</blockquote>Christ and his apostles.<blockquote>Christianity’s history is full of examples of grievous abuses of power and disregard for human life.</blockquote>Humanities history is full of examples of this. Christianity is no worse than others and better than some. <blockquote>Am I wrong for trying to point these out?</blockquote>That isn’t what you have done. You haven’t said X part of Christianity is wrong what you have said is that Christianity is wrong.

    From your previous comment: <blockquote>What if we did not even have to pay taxes? What if we simply supported the programs that we used and that we liked directly, through user fees and direct contributions? It’s all about freeing us from the oppression of the majority and of the minority. What makes you happy and comfortable does not necessarily work for every other American out there.</blockquote>Ever heard of the tragedy of the commons and the free-rider program. That is why this is not just a bad idea, but a very bad idea. This is the extreme edge of libertarianism that tends to be as fanatical as anything in Christendom. I find it at least as disturbing.

  7. Can we try and get past the drive by commenting, Obi? Do you have a point to make other then I am wrong?

    <blockquote><b>Some do try to force their views down other’s throats</b>, but some do still embrace the lepers. Let’s remember the latter when we talk about ‘The Lord’s Work.”</blockquote>

    And, <i>let’s do something about the former</i>.

    That’s all that I have been saying.

    There are a lot of Christians, some good and some bad, but the public and vocal majority seem to be of the bad kind.

    Just to set the record straight, I did not profess any faith at Saint John’s. Would it make you happier if I had? What would it prove or disprove if I had?

    I did my time in Church. I saw all of the plastic people who showed up, professed their faith, and then sped home, angry with the other drivers because they were keeping them from watching their football game. I would say that no more then 10% of the Christians that I have ever met were ‘real’ Christians. And that is my problem in a nutshell. People leveraging religion for personal and group gain. People who think that it’s more important to force their views on everyone else around then allowing others to make up their own minds. People <b>at Saint Johns</b> who would rather verbally attack their priest then consider small changes to their liturgy.

    If Christianity has such a grasp on truth and righteousness, why do some Christians seem to need laws to back them up? If these truths are universal, why are they not self-evident? If God exists, why would not civilization simply want to be ‘god-fearing’?

    What I see, as an outside observer, is some Christians feeling like they are loosing their grip on the hearts and minds of this country. They seem to feel that we are not a Christian country anymore. We are a cosmopolitan society now – a society of immigrants. If you get down to it, the Christians moved over here, and made war on the folks who lived here first, because they were not Christian. Who said that the ‘heathens’ needed saving anyways?

    Christianity’s history is full of examples of grievous abuses of power and disregard for human life. I am sure that the gentle reader can name just about as many atrocities committed in the name of God and Christ as I can.

    I ask why?

    People are imperfect. This is true. However, some of the teachings that are passed down in the Bible can be used to rationalize some pretty bizarre and inhuman behavior. Putting those kind of ‘truths’ into imperfect people’s hands is a recipe for disaster. Am I wrong for trying to point these out?

  8. I just get tired of Tsyko’s broad brush generalizations of, "Christianity, as it is practiced today, is not a positive influence on the world." By golly, there are a lot of them thar’ Christians, and a lot of them thar’ religious differences and personal differences as well.

    Is this the same Tsykoduk who (a few years ago) ostensibly professed an Episcopalian faith and got married at St. John’s Cathedral??

    I, too, get upset at cable TV’s version of Christianity, but I try to remember that religion/faith is practiced by people who happen to be human, and therefore fallible. Some do try to force their views down other’s throats, but some do still embrace the lepers. Let’s remember the latter when we talk about "The Lord’s Work."

  9. <blockquote>So basically what you are saying, is that if a moral code isn’t popular it must be wrong and needs to be changed, while at the same time asserting that that same moral code is so popular that we are fast slipping down the slope to a thoecracy.</blockquote>

    No… what I am saying that that the way Christianity is practiced <b>today</b> by a large majority of those who proclaim them selves as Christian does not have a positive influence on the world at large. I do not speak to popularity at all.

    What I take issue with, as always, is some people’s view that it is OK to use their moral compass to make choices for others, when those choices do not harm anyone. Take for example, Gay Rights. It does not harm me if two people want to get married. It does not harm me if two Christians want to get married. Why does it harm me if two Gays want to get married?

    I totally agree that there has to be some moral underpinning to the law – and I believe that should be "if you do not harm anyone, do what you want", not "This musty old book says so, so I’m gonna make you do it!".

    <blockquote>I think it absolutely improper for someone who is not part of a belief system to dictate to those who are how they need to reform their system. Telling Christians to rewrite their Bible is hubristic in the extreme. Further, telling them to rewrite their Bible because what they are doing doesn’t match what Christ taught (apparently something you have divined from the Bible) is nonsensical.</blockquote>

    I never told anyone <b>to</b> do anything. I proposed what I saw as a solution to a problem that I perceive. I do not expect anyone to take action on it. I’m sorry, but I were to see some one drinking drano… Get the idea? It’s perfectly acceptable for a Christian to dictate how a some one else lives and what they believe, but, hoo boy. Just try and even question the smallest part of Christianity.

    <blockquote>Socialists want to redistribute wealth based upon their value systems. Feminists want to redefine male/female power roles and alter the structure of our language based upon their value systems. Libertarianish Buhdists want to make sure Government stays out of what they regard as their personal business based upon their value systems.

    None of those value systems is ‘provable.’ The Wiccan Rede you cite can’t be ‘proven’ any more than any other.</blockquote>

    I simply want to free people to make up their own minds. If they want to use english in a way that fits with their values system, they have every right. If they want to give their money to socialist programs, again, they have every right. Where I draw the line is when they try and give my money to socialist programs, or force me to speak english in a way that I do not agree to. For example, why should my money (taxes) be used to fund an art project in New Jersey? If I want to fund that project, I should be given the choice to fund it myself.

    <blockquote>What if, in addition to filing a tax return every year, we had the chance to decide where our tax dollars would be used? Programs and government departments that no one likes would simply go away.
    — <a href="http://www.starbucks.com/retail/thewayiseeit_default.asp?act=0&first=19&quot; rel="nofollow">Bart Jarman
    Starbucks customer from Gilbert, Arizona</a></blockquote>

    I would take that one step further. What if we did not even have to pay taxes? What if we simply supported the programs that we used and that we liked directly, through user fees and direct contributions? It’s all about freeing us from the oppression of the majority and of the minority. What makes you happy and comfortable does not necessarily work for every other American out there.

  10. So basically what you are saying, is that if a moral code isn’t popular it must be wrong and needs to be changed, while at the same time asserting that that same moral code is so popular that we are fast slipping down the slope to a thoecracy. Obviously something is wrong with that premise.

    I think it absolutely improper for someone who is not part of a belief system to dictate to those who are how they need to reform their system. Telling Christians to rewrite their Bible is hubristic in the extreme. Further, telling them to rewrite their Bible because what they are doing doesn’t match what Christ taught (apparently something you have divined from the Bible) is nonsensical.

    It is certainly appropriate to debate where, when and how moral values that people hold should be leashed to the power of government. The idea that value systems should be imposed on others is the fault here, and it is certainly not confined to the Christian Right.

    Socialists want to redistribute wealth based upon their value systems. Feminists want to redefine male/female power roles and alter the structure of our language based upon their value systems. Libertarianish Buhdists want to make sure Government stays out of what they regard as their personal business based upon their value systems.

    None of those value systems is ‘provable.’ The Wiccan Rede you cite can’t be ‘proven’ any more than any other.

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