Obama’s Faith

Hemant Mehta asked in a recent video whether president Obama is an atheist.

YouTube Preview Image

TL; DR “No”

I appreciate Mehta’s treatment of this topic, on the whole. My biggest disagreement is with his statement that president Obama supports marriage equality in spite of his faith and not because of it. I see no reason to accept that claim. Progressive Christians have a long history of standing for inclusiveness. That story starts from Jesus trangressing boundaries and hanging out with “sinners,” continues to Paul arguing for the inclusion of Gentiles as equals in the people of God, and continues all the way down to the present day.

Just because many conservative Christians claim to be the only true spokespeople for the Christian faith doesn’t mean that they are.

  • John David Walters

    Transgressing boundaries to mingle with and rescue sinners is very different from affirming their practices as good and beautiful. Jesus said he hung around sinners in order to cure them, not because he thought they weren’t sick after all.

    And Paul arguing for the inclusion of Gentiles is a very poor analogy to affirming homosexual marriage, that proposal also being rather ironic given his scathing descriptions of their depravity and lawlessness. Again, that he was arguing for the inclusion of the Gentiles did not mean he thought they were pure and good after all. That Gentiles are included is testimony to the radical, unmerited grace of God, not the Gentiles’ moral rectitude.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      You sound like someone who has been thrown off by the chapter divisions in Romans. The individual whose anti-Gentile rant Paul parrots in ch.1 he then turns around and condemns. And if you think that Paul didn’t think there were moral Gentiles, then you must have missed a significant part of ch.2 as well.

      • John David Walters

        He turns around and condemns the individual for doing the very same things he accuses the Gentiles of doing, in other words for hypocrisy, not because this individual described the Gentiles a certain way when they actually weren’t that bad. And Gentiles are pronounced moral when they (perhaps unwittingly) do what is required by the Law, which would certainly not include the practices in Romans 1:25-31.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Perhaps. But it is interesting that Paul never uses any of the existing terms that would denote same-sex relations clearly, except perhaps here where he is mimicking the sort of anti-Gentile polemic found in the Wisdom of Solomon so that he can condemn it.

          But be that as it may, Paul didn’t follow through his principles that would lead naturally to the abolition of slavery either. That Paul didn’t fully apply his principles in his context does not mean that we should not do so in ours.

          • John David Walters

            In my first comment I wasn’t focusing so much on whether Romans 1 explicitly condemns same-sex relationships, but on whether Paul’s argument for the inclusion of Gentiles provides a good analogy for affirming those relationships from a Christian standpoint (or better, whether the principles on which he based that argument imply acceptance of same-sex relationships). And the problem is that Paul does not argue for the inclusion of Gentiles on the grounds that their behavior wasn’t really as bad as Jews thought it was, but on the grounds that EVERYONE, both Jew and Gentile, stood condemned before God for their sin, but precisely for that reason His mercy could extend to all. An analogous argument applied to homosexuality would not insist that homosexuality isn’t that bad after all, but that, regardless of how heinous the sin, God’s mercy can still cover it, which doesn’t exactly result in a ringing endorsement of same-sex relationships.

            Paul clearly saw freedom as the natural condition of human beings. Although he advises slaves who convert to stay in their position, he also urges them to gain their freedom if they can (1 Cor. 7:21), and all but commands Philemon to receive Onesimus back, not as a slave but as a brother (Phile. 1:16). Given that slavery was taken for granted as a legitimate institution, and how much economic value masters derived from their slaves, to ask someone to give up a slave, and not just give him up but embrace him as a brother, was a potentially incendiary request. And we also have to remember that Paul was first and foremost an apostle, a missionary spreading the Word, and not a social reformer.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              The distinction between missionary and social reformer falls afoul of the description of Christians in Acts as “turning the world upside down.” Paul certainly didn’t concern himself with certain possible outworkings of his principles, because he thought there was little time left to human history. But be that as it may, Paul’s contemporaries thought that women were inherently inferior to men, and his argument that there is no difference, and his acceptance of women as leaders, shows that he was open to elevating the marginalized and treating those who were thought to be inherently lesser as worthy of equal respect. If you do not find principles in that which are applicable to gays and lesbians, then you must live in a very isolated bubble, unaware of how they are treated by many of today’s self-righteous Christians who seem to stop reading Romans at the end of chapter 1, so that they never grasp either his principles or his point.

              • John David Walters

                And whose description was that? Not that of the Christians themselves. The point is how Paul conceived of his role, in order to explain which issues he felt were most pressing for him to address. That he did not launch a Wilberforce-esque campaign to end slavery does not imply that he accepted it as the norm. On the contrary, the evidence clearly suggests that he didn’t. But he felt called primarily to serve as apostle to the Gentiles and to establish the fledgling Christian communities in the faith.

                But back to the main issue at hand. There is simply no valid extrapolation from Paul’s acceptance of and respect for women and the marginalized to a contemporary Christian endorsement of homosexuality. The Christian problem with same-sex relationships is not due to the conviction that homosexuals are intrinsically less valuable than heterosexuals, but that homosexual practice is disordered and sinful. Were Paul alive today he no doubt would castigate Christians who shun and mistreat homosexuals, but he would have just as fervently insisted that homosexuals renounce their slavery to the flesh and live lives of holiness, in obedience to God, just as he castigated those who shunned the Gentiles but also insisted that the latter give up idol worship, engaging temple prostitutes, incest and other abominations.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  How is your stance in this different in any fundamental way from that of those who objected to Paul’s “extrapolation” that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised in order to be part of Abraham’s family, in direct contradiction of Genesis?

                  • John David Walters

                    It is different because the dispute between Paul and the Judaizers was not over whether the Gentiles needed to repent of their sins and be made right with God, but about how that was to be accomplished. The Judaizers insisted that it was the death of Jesus plus circumcision, while Paul insisted that it was the death of Jesus, full stop. They both would have agreed, however, that being made right with God involved renouncing immorality.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      To Judaize was to adopt Jewish customs. Are you assuming that Paul accepted a particular sort of distinction between the moral and ritual laws?

                    • John David Walters

                      That’s pretty obvious, given that he did not require Gentiles to be circumcised, but he did require them to give up meat offered to idols, temple prostitution, incest, etc.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      What about the Sabbath, which had a moral and a ritual component? And what makes the things that you listed “moral” as opposed to “ritual” or perhaps both at the same time?

                    • John David Walters

                      The distinction that makes the most sense to me is between those commandments and practices that reflect God’s broader design for human beings and those that reflect the Jews’ unique place in God’s redemptive plan. And among the latter are many archetypes that pointed the way towards the ultimate reality to be found in Jesus. The Sabbath was an archetype of Jesus, who is our rest in God, so those who approached God through him did not need to observe Sabbath as a special ritual holiday. But idol worship always did and always will be a revolt against the truth about God and human beings, so that stands as a universally binding commandment. Similarly, temple prostitution and incest make a mockery of God’s design for sexuality and marriage so its prohibition is universally binding.

            • beau_quilter

              This conversation between James and John David just makes me think that Hemant Mehta has it right in the first place. When it comes to marriage equality, why should it matter what some middle eastern Jewish Roman theologian did or did not say 2000 years ago. What should matter is the way we should treat people living among us now, at this moment in time.

              It brings to mind the most touching moment in Twain’s novel Huck Finn, when Huck decides not to turn his friend, the runaway slave, in to the authorities. He doesn’t change his mind because he believes it is the Christian thing to do; he changes his mind because his heart tells him it is the right thing to do. And he dares the fires of hell to do it:

              “All right, then, I’ll go to hell”- and tore it up.

              It was awful thoughts, and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming.

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                I think there is a place for trying to utilize a source that another regards as a particular authority to challenge their stance that one finds morally problematic. I think that Paul provides a good example. By the time he writes his letters, he has come to view Gentiles as not inferior to Jews. He puts a lot of effort into making a case for this being in accordanc with Scripture so as to persuade others to adopt the same view.

                • beau_quilter

                  Perhaps. But I have dear friends (some with children and long-term loving partners) who are suffering the heartbreak of being denied formal marriage, with all the social/legal inequalities that result. I think this is a far greater motivation for us to enact marriage equality than the bible. My guess is that our nation is changing because more of us have meaningful personal connections to the LGBT members of our society. Not because we are reading our bibles more closely.

                • John David Walters

                  That ‘another’ regards as a particular authority? Are you saying that you don’t think Jesus and Paul have any particular moral authority for Christians?

                  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                    I think that their approach to past authorities makes clear that we should not be trying to rigidly follow past authorities.

                    • John David Walters

                      Their approach to past authorities? As in, “Until heaven and earth pass away not one jot or one title will pass from the law, until all is fulfilled?” And, “the Scripture cannot be broken”? As in, Jesus’ response to just about every challenge was “Have you not read?” And Paul being so careful to distinguish between the Lord’s commands and his own advice?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Paul set aside a clear teaching of Genesis about the need for anyone included in Abraham’s household to be circumcised. Jesus used a principle in Scripture to undermine the Torah’s permission of divorce.

                    • John David Walters

                      Paul did not set it aside, he revealed its true meaning, that it was always an outward manifestation of the inner commitment to keep God’s commandments. Similarly, Jesus did not undermine the Torah’s permission of divorce but instead put it in its original context.

                      There is no credible way to argue that Jesus and Paul played fast and loose with past authorities. All their teachings reflect a firm commitment to them and their divine origin.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      How is “revealed its true meaning” different from “thoroughly subverted its meaning” other than that the former indicates your approval of what was done? If you took your overall approach back in time to the time of Paul, you would surely be adamantly against his allowing Gentiles into the people of God without circumcision.

                      That you see “no credible way” to understand these figures in this way simply suggests that you have not looked at the matter in much depth, or are unwilling to see the matter in a way other than your own preferred one.

                    • John David Walters

                      The two are entirely independent considerations. I could approve of a radical innovation, or disapprove of an interpretation in strict continuity with tradition. My conviction that Jesus and Paul were not playing fast and loose with tradition but rather bringing out its true meaning is based on exegetical considerations. Paul’s distinction between outward and inward circumcision has ample precedents in the Hebrew Bible, for example: Leviticus 24:6 (‘uncircumcised hearts’, cf. Deuteronomy 10:16) Jeremiah 4:4 (‘Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts…’), Jeremiah 9:25 (The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh…). And the subordination of the Sabbath to moral and and humanistic concerns goes all the way back to the Torah, e.g. Exodus 23:12.

                      I have in fact studied this matter in quite a bit of depth, and there just isn’t a credible case that Jesus and Paul were radical innovators. But I understand how attractive it is to progressive Christians to read them that way, because it gives license for them to similarly play fast and loose with the whole Bible.

                    • Andrew Dowling

                      “Radical innovators” isn’t the right term but they certainly went against established cultural and theological norms/status quo If that wasn’t the case, they wouldn’t have been . you know . . .PUT TO DEATH.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Genesis 17 seems perfectly clear that it is referring to literal circumcision. And those who used it as a symbol in ancient Israel didn’t understand that to imply the rejection of the literal ritual.

                      I understand why you would want to insist that there isn’t a credible case, as it allows you to dismiss liberal Christianity with a simple wave of the hand. But that is no substitute for actually discussing and doing justice to what the text says. Do you really want to claim that Genesis 17 is talking about spiritual circumcision, and most readers of Genesis before Paul had misunderstood it?

                    • John David Walters

                      Of course Genesis 17 is talking about a literal circumcision. But it is already referred to as a sign of the covenant, not the covenant itself, and there is a clear trajectory through the Bible towards uncovering its true meaning, as evidenced by the Torah and prophetic passages I cited. By the time Paul has to reflect on the matter, that meaning becomes fully apparent. It does not involve setting aside or rejecting the literal commandment, a suggestion which Paul would have thought blasphemous. It involves setting it in context of the purposes of God at different stages in redemptive history.

                      That is not to say that everyone in Paul’s time understood his proposals in that way. Obviously they didn’t. But your original claim was that Jesus and Paul took a casual attitude towards past biblical authorities, when nothing could be further from the truth.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      No, I was saying that they were ready to set aside specific and clear commandments in seeking to apply most fully what they concluded were more fundamental and overarching principles expressed within those authorities.

                      And my question to you was why you oppose Christians following their example in our time.

                    • John David Walters

                      Your original claim was that we should follow Jesus and Paul’s example in not rigidly following past authorities. But what you’re describing is actually the only way of doing just that, making sure you have the full context and understand the true purpose of every commandment and precept in Scripture (although I still think it’s inaccurate to use the word ‘set aside’, as if those commandments were no longer relevant or considered to be of divine origin).

                      But I will make my original point again in response: Paul spiritualizing the meaning of circumcision does not provide a good analogy for what progressive Christians would like to affirm of homosexuality. That hermeneutical move was consistently applied only to those aspects of the Law which pertained to how God could dwell among the Israelites in spite of their sinfulness, and which prefigured the ministry of Christ. For example, all sacrificial rituals were archetypes of the one perfect sacrifice offered up by Jesus, so any commandments pertaining to those rituals, while still genuine divine commandments, no longer have to be put into action. But no commandment pertaining to the kind of behavior appropriate for human beings made in the image of God has or ever will be abrogated. For example, there could never be a faithful interpretation under which idol worship could ever be sanctioned, because it is completely contrary to God’s character that he could ever tolerate worship being given to another. There could never be a faithful interpretation under which murder could be sanctioned, because that is a violent affront to the image of God in human beings. And there could never be a faithful interpretation under which homosexuality (and other deviations from the heterosexual norm) could be sanctioned, because they go against God’s original design for human beings.

                      In other words, there were some commandments in the Bible which reflected a particular stage in redemption history which were eventually fulfilled and superseded, and there are some commandments which reflected God’s enduring will for humanity, and those will never be superseded.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      So you don’t accept that early Christians worshiped Jesus as the “image of the invisible God”? I had no idea that your revisionist approach to the Bible was quite so radical!

                      I’d personally say that the Bible’s teaching on idolatry needs to be taken even further, as Paul Tillich and many others have argued, and applied not only to things made of wood and stone but images made from words and concepts.

                      But back to the main point. From the Old Testament to the new, marriage goes from being a patriarchal cultural institution that is simply taken for granted from that time, with one man able to marry as many wives and take as many concubines as he can afford, even acquiring them in war after killing a woman’s previous husband; it is for the aim of producing offspring, since there is no expectation of an afterlife and so progeny are central; and in the NT the shift is to marriage being something optional and not always ideal, a potential distraction from service in preparation for the imminent dawning of the kingdom of God, one that finds its most mystical counterpart as a symbol of the union of a man believed to embody the presence of a gender-transcending God, and a church consisting of men and women. How exactly did you get that the core principle in all that is heterosexuality, as opposed to say companionship and self-sacrificial love?

                    • Andrew Dowling

                      Oh man if this idea could just be encrypted into some people’s heads, Christianity would be much healthier

              • John David Walters

                “When it comes to marriage equality, why should it matter what some middle eastern Jewish Roman theologian did or did not say 2000 years ago.”

                What snobbery on your part. Why are you automatically inferring that people who lived a long time ago had inferior moral perceptions? And just imagine if someone argued that it doesn’t matter how slaves were treated 400 years ago, what matters is how we should treat people now.

                “He doesn’t change his mind because he believes it is the Christian thing to do; he changes his mind because his heart tells him it is the right thing to do.”

                To paraphrase a Psalm, what is the human heart, that we should automatically defer to its judgments? Unfaithful husbands trample on their marriage vows and leave devastated spouses and children in their wake because their heart told them it was the right thing to do to have an affair. A serial killer feels in his heart that it is the right thing to do to relieve his victims of the terrible burden of existence. A president’s heart tells him that the right thing to do is to invade a Middle Eastern country and refashion its politics.

                Sorry, a proper foundation for ethics has to be built on something much purer and stronger than the human heart.

                • beau_quilter

                  What a strange definition you have for snobbery. I’m a snob for believing that the well-being of the man next to me is more important than the theology of an ancient man I’ve never met?

                  As for missing the context of the discussion, it is you who have missed the context of the original post, in which James is addressing Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist.

                  I find it rather difficult to believe that I can find a proper foundation for ethics from an ancient who believed that women should keep silence in the church, or that women will be saved through child-bearing. Of course, one could argue kinder interpretations of such texts appealing to context or text origin. But it’s much simpler to appeal to the golden rule that is a universal of many ancient religions and philosophies, as well as intelligent ethicists today.

                  • John David Walters

                    “I’m a snob for believing that the well-being of the man next to me is more important than the theology of an ancient man I’ve never met?”

                    No, you’re a snob for assuming that an ancient man you’ve never met has nothing important to say about human nature and moral duty, just because he lived long ago and you never met him. Would you say that what Frederick Douglass had to say about slavery is irrelevant, because he lived long ago and you never met him?

                    “I find it rather difficult to believe that I can find a proper foundation for ethics from an ancient who believed that women should keep silence in the church, or that women will be saved through child-bearing.”

                    In my comment I was only critiquing the idea that the human heart could serve as a proper foundation of ethics. In light of how people ‘follow their hearts’ in the ways I listed above, do you think it can?

                    “But it’s much simpler to appeal to the golden rule that is a universal of many ancient religions and philosophies, as well as intelligent ethicists today.”

                    There may be principles formally similar to the golden rule in many cultures, but they each have very different presuppositions and implications depending on that culture’s metaphysical framework. The Christian reason for adhering to the golden rule, and what exactly it entails, will be very different from the Buddhist reason. It’s not a shortcut to religion-free, ‘neutral’ morality.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Well, you’ve called me a snob again. Clearly, you have no qualms about hurling meaningless insults. The words of Paul and Frederick Douglas are a part of the historical record. They will always have their say. I merely believe that arguments over their original intentions are far less important than our current assessment of how we are treating our fellow humans.

                      I know I used the phrase first, but do you really think arguing over the metaphoric use of “the human heart” is particularly useful, given how many different poetic meanings can be found for that phrase? All I intended by it’s use was the love and care we extend to our fellow humanity.

                      As for the golden rule, it so far predates Christianity (in both it’s positive and negative forms) that I can’t see any exclusivity or higher significance in Christianity’s particular use of it.

                    • John David Walters

                      What do you mean by ‘meaningless insults’? I clearly explained why I called you a snob.

                      “I merely believe that arguments over their original intentions are far less important than our current assessment of how we are treating our fellow humans.”

                      What’s so great about us? I think Paul and Douglass were far greater minds than me or you or most people alive today, and had much more penetrating insight into the human condition. That’s why they are read and studied in school, instead of my latest blog posts. Maybe, just maybe, they can help us make a better assessment of how to treat fellow humans than we can, because they were not immersed in the biases, blind spots and groupthink we are subject to.

                      “I know I used the phrase first, but do you really think arguing over the metaphoric use of “the human heart” is particularly useful, given how many different poetic meanings can be found for that phrase? All I intended by it’s use was the love and care we extend to our fellow humanity.”

                      Even though it’s a metaphorical expression, I think it’s pretty clear what you meant by it: the spontaneous moral judgments we form on the basis of feelings and intuitions that we seem to feel deep inside us. I pointed out that that is not a solid foundation for moral decision-making. I’m not haggling over its poetic meanings.

                      And the love and care we extend to humanity must also have a more solid grounding than those feelings and intuitions. We may feel strong pulls of sympathy and compassion for our fellow humans, but without a metaphysical context those feelings have no more validity than my preference for action movies over romantic comedies. To have moral weight, empathy and compassion must somehow correspond to the way things are, they must be appropriate and rational reactions to the plight of our fellow humans.

                      “As for the golden rule, it so far predates Christianity (in both it’s positive and negative forms) that I can’t see any exclusivity or higher significance in Christianity’s particular use of it.”

                      What does its predating Christianity have to do with my point? The Golden Rule means something very different when practiced by members of different religions and cultures, and has a different basis.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Yes, I read your excuse for calling me a “snob”. I’ll continue to refrain from negatively labelling you.

                      No, I didn’t mean by “heart” that we form spontaneous moral judgements from our feelings. I meant by heart (in reference to Huck Finn’s concern for the slave Jim), our tendency to seek the well-being of others, a fairly common poetic meaning for heart (and the origin of the term “heartless”). I’m not sure why you continue to insist that I meant to divorce this tendency from rational consideration. Though, in my chosen context of Huck Finn, Mark Twain certainly meant to divorce this tendency from religious indoctrination – not the same thing as rational consideration by a long shot.

                      “To have moral weight, empathy and compassion must somehow correspond to the way things are, they must be appropriate and rational reactions to the plight of our fellow humans.”

                      I completely agree!

                      I would add that, to have moral weight, the writings of Paul (or any philosopher or theologian, past and present) must be appropriate and rational reactions to the plight of our fellow humans.

                      The golden rule is now an inseparable part of ethical writings past and present, sometimes married to, sometimes divorced from, religious contexts. I understand that you believe the Christian practice of the golden rule is different from the practice of the golden rule in other contexts. You haven’t explained what this difference is, or whether the difference points to any superiority in Christian practice.

                      What’s so great about us? I don’t think our “greatness” is at issue. Are we in a better position to serve the well-being of our fellow humans than the apostle Paul? Of course we are! Not because we are greater, but because we are here! Just as I am in a better position to serve the needs of my children than a stranger. Doesn’t mean I am a better man than the stranger.

                      Do we discount Paul? Well, that depends on what he says. We will assess the wisdom and folly in his writings just as we would any other thinker before and since. And scholars will continue to parse out his exact intentions (with many scholarly differences of opinion). In the meantime, we will be making choices that effect the well-being of those who stand beside us now.

                      I will continue to promote marriage equality for the gay couples that I know, raising children in loving, nurturing homes. Not because it feels good. Because I see before me the clear evidence of the well-being these families espouse and deserve.

                    • Kubricks_Rube

                      I think Paul and Douglass were far greater minds than me or you or most people alive today

                      We’re standing on the shoulders of giants, certainly, and that’s why we can see farther than even they did. In Paul’s case, I think the best way to honor his moral vision is not to focus on the conclusions he drew about the world when he applied his moral vision to it but to focus instead on our own application of that moral vision to our own world and all we’ve learned about it over the centuries. Paul did not have the same knowledge or understanding of biology, psychology, sociology, human sexuality, etc that we do today. It diminishes the giants of the past to suggest they would remain dogmatic in their every original conclusion if somehow presented with history’s accumulated knowledge.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Well said!

                    • John David Walters

                      How would you describe Paul’s moral vision, and how would you separate it from the particular conclusions he drew?

                      And there are moral principles which have, and should, remain enshrined regardless of the accumulation of empirical knowledge. Suppose the phrenologists were right that there was a clear biologically grounded difference in intelligence between blacks and whites. Would that undermine the principle of equal dignity and inalienable rights?

                    • beau_quilter

                      What does intelligence have to do with equal dignity and inalienable rights?

                      For that matter what does Paul of Tarsus have to do with equal dignity and inalienable rights?

                    • Kubricks_Rube

                      Would that undermine the principle of equal dignity and inalienable rights?

                      You’re asking me? I’m not the one attaching a moral component or legal restrictions to biological differences. Put another way, I find it confusing that you imply that if phrenology were somehow proved correct this should not undermine the principle of human dignity and inalienable rights (a proposition I agree with), yet you want to apply the equivalent of phrenology to sexuality in order to undermine the equal dignity and inalienable rights of LGBT people.

                      there are moral principles which have, and should, remain enshrined regardless of the accumulation of empirical knowledge.

                      We’re in total agreement here. The moral principles haven’t changed. Finding that phrenology is accurate (putting aside the historical paradoxes implied in such a far-fetched hypothetical) doesn’t turn exploitation into compassion.

                      But with homosexuality, what changed- not hypothetically but in actuality- is what we know about human sexuality and what we’ve learned from actual LGBT people. To ignore the changes in our understanding of homosexuality and the vastly different circumstances under which homosexual relationships exist today (meaningful consent was functionally impossible in Paul’s time) is an abdication and transgression- not an expression- of moral principles like fairness, compassion, love and inclusivity.

                    • John David Walters

                      “I find it confusing that you imply that if phrenology were somehow proved correct this should not undermine the principle of human dignity and inalienable rights (a proposition I agree with), yet you want to apply the equivalent of phrenology to sexuality in order to undermine the equal dignity and inalienable rights of LGBT people.”

                      My point was that increased empirical knowledge would not necessarily result in the overturning of previously accepted moral principles. That is not to say that biology is completely irrelevant. For example, I will never be in a position to demand paid maternity leave. How discriminating! How dare they deny me access to such a basic human right solely based on the fact that I am biologically incapable of getting pregnant!

                      And I am passionately in favor of upholding the equal dignity and inalienable rights of LGBT people. I firmly believe that such people are made in the image of God, of immeasurable dignity and worth and deserving of every basic civil right, despite the fact that certain of their desires are disordered (and really, whose aren’t?). And I am all in favor of changing laws and tax policies so that LGBT can visit loved ones in the hospital, etc. But what I cannot accept is that homosexual practice is in accordance with God’s design for human sexuality or that it deserves the legal benefits of marriage, which are designed to increase the likelihood that children are raised and nurtured in the ideal context, by their biological father and mother. (see e.g. http://www.marriageresourcesforclergy.com/site/Articles/articles025.htm)

                      “But with homosexuality, what changed- not hypothetically but in actuality- is what we know about human sexuality and what we’ve learned from actual LGBT people.”

                      And what is that, exactly? What do we know now that St. Paul would not have known? That same-sex attraction is biologically grounded? That’s a bad argument for endorsing homosexual practice because there are plenty of biologically grounded urges we all agree should be suppressed. That homosexuality is also found in the animal kingdom? But Christian opposition to homosexual practice is not based on it being ‘unnatural’ in the sense of not being found anywhere else in the animal kingdom. That homosexuals are capable of forming long-term, exclusive romantic commitments? But that was never the foundation of marriage in the first place.

                    • boomSLANG

                      “Well, you’ve called me a snob again. Clearly, you have no qualms about hurling meaningless insults.”

                      But you forget that anything goes if you say (or do) something offensive towards someone’s religion, in this case, Christianity. Idk….perhaps feel blessed that the loving Christian only called you “a snob” and even gave you his reason(excuse) for doing so? In another culture you could be beheaded and not even given a reason! Yikes!

                    • beau_quilter

                      In the first place, how, exactly, did I offend religion?

                      In the second place, even if I did, what exactly does that mean? There are a thousand ways to “say (or do) something offensive towards someone’s religion”. There are religions in this world that you have already offended simply by not joining them (and this includes sects of both Islam and Christianity).

                      Do you not realize that women can “offend” religion simply by opening their mouths and speaking within their religious sect?

                      “In another culture you could be beheaded and not even given a reason!”

                      Exactly! If religion has an important ideology, it will stand for itself. Defending religion against “offensiveness” only leads to theocratic tyranny.

                    • boomSLANG

                      “In the first place, how, exactly, did I offend religion?

                      By saying whatever it is you said to the above “Christian” that earned you the insult “snob”. Note, I’m on your side, here.

                      “In the second place, even if I did, what exactly does that mean?”

                      It means what you say next……

                      “say (or do) something offensive towards someone’s religion”.

                      And yes, I agree that there are a thousand ways to do it.

                      “There are religions in this world that you have already offended simply by not joining them (and this includes sects of both Islam and Christianity)”

                      Again, we’re on the same side. You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know.

                      “Do you not realize that women can ‘offend’ religion simply by opening their mouths and speaking within their religious sect?”

                      Yes, I realize it, which is why it amazes me how any woman can be proud to carry the bible or Qu’ran under their arm.

                    • beau_quilter

                      My apologies boomSLANG!

                      I should learn to better recognize satire when I see it!

                    • boomSLANG

                      No prob’.

                    • http://www.chemtrailareforchildren.gov/ daddybigcat

                      hey I would have replied to your silly comment on the ex Christian but I’ve been censored by your comrades- looks like you cry babies have got yourselves a closed site over there to mindlessly agree with one another’s silly opinions. any how that site is nothing but a sham- what a joke

  • Norm Englund

    “When he does amazing things like saying ‘I support gay marriage,’ he does that in spite of his faith. And he’ll argue that it’s because of his faith but, no, his faith is an obstacle…”

    Why doesn’t Mehta just say, “My name is Hemant Mehta and I know nothing about the United Church of Christ.”

    • beau_quilter

      Because the context of his video is Obama’s infusion of generic “faith” references throughout his campaigns, and his expansion of “faith-based initiatives” that provide political privilege for Christian churches of all stripes, not just those in the United Church of Christ.

      • Norm Englund

        The context of the video is the question “Is Obama an atheist?” and his answer “No. Obama is a Christian.” In supporting that conclusion, Mehta explores Obama’s Christianity. Conservative Christians reject him. He makes faith references. He expanded faith-based initiatives. He doesn’t go to church every Sunday. He separated himself from Jeremiah Wright’s controversial statements. He’s smart enough to be an atheist.

        Referring to Obama in this quote, Mehta does not say “generic faith”, “Christian faith”, or even “faith”. Mehta says “his faith” three times, again showing that he’s looking at Obama’s Christianity, not the context you propose. He specifically says that Barack Obama (a member of the UCC for 20 years, the first mainline Christian church to ordain an openly gay man, first to ordain an open lesbian, first to call for marriage equality) supports gay marriage in spite of his faith.
        Mehta’s statement is made solely on his prejudices about a mythical uniform Christianity that does not include the UCC.

        • beau_quilter

          I watched the video again. You are right. Point taken.

          Let me rephrase my comment:

          I am less concerned with Obama’s specific UCC beliefs and more concerned with Obama’s infusion of generic “faith” references throughout his campaigns, and his expansion of “faith-based initiatives” that provide political privilege for Christian churches of all stripes, not just those in the United Church of Christ.

          • Norm Englund

            “I am… more concerned with Obama’s infusion of generic “faith” references throughout his campaigns, and his expansion of “faith-based initiatives” that provide political privilege for Christian churches of all stripes…”

            I agree that that is a big concern. Separation of church and state is one of the best things that has happened in the US. (By the way, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a UCC minister.)

            In the post just before this one, James wrote, “There are a great many atheists and fundamentalists who are the mirror image of one another. They accept or reject Christianity understood as the same superficial set of implausible claims.” Since I see Christianity as potentially a force for great good, I am quite concerned when the good it does is casually and incorrectly dismissed.

            • beau_quilter

              It seems to me that Christianity-as-a-force-for-good has more to fear from the behavior of other Christians than it does from the minority opinion of nontheists. We aren’t the ones earning Christianity a bad name.

              • Norm Englund

                Again, I agree with you in general. Many Christians give Christianity a bad name by both their actions and words. Not just by their hypocritical, selfish inactivity, but also by their purposeful misinterpreting and misapplying of Jesus’ example. Certain anti-theists are only to happy to latch onto the latter problem and claim that all Christians are that way. These claims are harmful and, as you point out, rather unnecessary when there are so many legitimate examples of Christians giving Christianity a bad name.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X