Weak

If you've ever spent any time as part of a religious community or congregation, then you can appreciate the wisdom of Paul's advice in Romans 14.

All of us have issues, hang-ups, hobby horses and bug bears, and for some people these can be particularly intense. Growing up among the fundies, I learned that there were many things our family enjoyed that some of our friends at church or Christian school regarded as sinful. Rock music, movies, gin rummy (even Uno and Old Maid were considered sinful by some of these folks). My parents considered my RPG hobby an imaginative form of play that kept us out of trouble, but to many of the people at our church, such games weren't merely sinful, they were demonic. One friend was allowed to play with us, but only if we used the Middle Earth (MERP) system — Tolkien, as a buddy of C.S. Lewis, was granted a special dispensation.

My parents were aware that many of our fellow believers viewed these non-sins as sinful, so our family took a pragmatic approach. We just didn't talk to those people about music or movies or games of which they didn't approve.

That was in line with the practical pastoral advice Paul gives in Romans 14.

The first-century Roman church had a different set of hang-ups than the 20th-century American one, obviously. Their dispute didn't have to do with dancing, cards, movies or rock & roll. It had to do with dietary codes and, in particular, with the eating of meat from Roman markets, which may have been ceremonially offered or dedicated to the Roman gods before it was sold.

"Heavens to Betsy!" cried the ancient Roman ancestors of my Uno-shunning fellow evangelicals. "If you eat that meat you're participating in idolatry!"

This was a silly and unnecessary rule and not really the sort of thing the church was supposed to be about, so most of the Roman Christians kept their eye on the ball and just ignored the conniptions of their more fastidious brethren. That, of course, only made those folks even more upset and offended, and it grew into enough of a big deal among the Roman Christians that Paul had to address it in his letter.

Look, he told them, you know this is stupid and I know this is stupid. It doesn't matter what you eat. But some of the folks with you there are, frankly, weak — that's Paul's word, "weak" — and even though this shouldn't be a big deal for them, it is. So be nice and don't rub their noses in it. I don't care what you eat and neither does God, but we both care how you're all getting along — that matters. So for the sake of getting along, accommodate the weaker ones and don't eat that stuff.

The implicit hope and expectation there, of course, is that these "weak" Christians will gradually grow stronger and the community would eventually be able to get beyond stupid and meaningless disputes about stupid and meaningless rules.

But what if these weaker brethren don't ever get any stronger? Paul doesn't address that question in his letter. He doesn't get into the second-generation problem of what happens when those weak, more fastidious Christians begin to treat the deference they are being shown as a source of power, and then begin to prefer that manipulative power to developing actual strength.

Does Paul's specific advice here really mean that we ought to accept the permanent, dynastic rule of the least mature among us? Or are there limits to this accommodation?

What I'm getting at, in other words, is the dilemma that occurs when we give someone the benefit of the doubt and they abuse the favor, turning that benefit into a weapon against us.

The Internet Monk addressed this question a few years back in a post titled "The Tyranny of the Offended." The issue addressed in that post was the monk's tolerance for what one of his critics described as "profanity and obscenity" and his corruption of youth.

Specifically, the critic was upset by the use of the term "ass-kickery."

My response to that sort of thing is usually to recite scripture: "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the cedar of Lebanon that is stuck up thine own ass?"

But the monk is a better Christian than that, so he patiently and carefully works through his obligation to this particular belligerent weaker brethren, considering both Romans 14 and a parallel passage in 1 Corinthians. It isn't easy to maintain such patience when confronted with a member of the Cult of the Offended, and the strain shows in a few lovely zingers throughout. It's four years old, but read the whole thing anyway. Here are some excerpts:

I believe the overly scrupulous have distorted the Christian life and misrepresented the Bible. In fact, I believe a kind of “prissiness” and prudishness seriously misrepresent the Gospel.

I do not believe human offendedness accurately represents the Biblical view of sin, nor a safe path to sanctification and holiness. …

Is Paul recommending that the Christian community become a nanny state run by those who are empowered by real and perceived wrongs? Will the most offended become the most influential? …

The Corinthian Church, that received chapter 8 of that first epistle, was a hive of whining, division, complaining and immature insistence on their own way. Paul did not apply the force of the principle at hand to empowering the least mature elements of the church. He risked offending them all for the sake of the Gospel, and even threatened to come to them with a stick, if necessary.

… my own experience with Jesus in the Gospels leaves me with the assurance that my savior is not a divine nanny, and the path to holiness is to read all of the Bible through Christ and to live out the Bible in Christ. While I appreciate the sincerity of my critic, we will differ on this matter.

Here's where I differ with the Monk, because I do not appreciate the sincerity of his critic. I do not believe his critic is sincere.

I believe, rather, that he is among those who have chosen to be perpetually offended because such a pose can be exploited as a kind of power. I believe that he is among those who have identified exactly the dynamic the Monk describes, in which "the most offended become the most influential." And I believe he is among those who have chosen to to pursue exactly that source and form of influence.

I believe, further, that such people have come to wield so much influence in my evangelical community that they are now its dominant voice. And outside of the church, I believe the same dynamic is at work in American politics — partly, but not exclusively, due to the influence of evangelicals as a core constituency in our political system.

I'm not asking you to share or accept all of those beliefs here. Don't let's get bogged down in the particulars of any given instance or example. All I ask of you here is to accept that such a thing is conceivable, that it is possible.

A vast number of my fellow evangelicals and my fellow Americans have come to define themselves primarily by what they are against, by that which offends them. I'm sure that many of them are, indeed, sincerely offended and sincerely opposed to the many things at which they take offense. But I am equally certain that many are less sincere and that some are wholly insincere, and I fear that the least sincere among them have taken charge.

I don't ask you to share that certainty, but only to concede that such a thing is possible — that it is within the rea
lm of possibility that some people might be insincere, mig
ht lie, might hide behind a pose of offendedness, exploiting our reluctance to level such accusations and abusing our admirable inclination to accommodate those most easily offended.

Over time, of course, I will try to convince you that such a thing is not merely possible, but actual. I will try to make the case that the Monk's nightmare scenario of "a nanny state run by those empowered by perceived wrongs" is not merely a hypothetical concern, but the agenda actively pursued by people for whom "The Tyranny of the Offended" is not a nightmare, but a game plan.

  • lonespark

    Where’s hapax’s LJ? Or is it f-locked?

  • The Patrician

    @Angelia Sparrow: My father is a Lutheran Pastor and he likes/does pretty much everything on your demonic possession list. :O (Except wearing unicorn jewellery. I don’t think Jesus cares about that, but the fashion police sure would.)
    Reading this thread is always like looking at a completely different culture and a completely different religion to the one I was raised in. Are American Evangelicals even sure they’re still Chalcedon compliant these days?

  • emjaybee

    This line of “poor oppressed me” is working on liberals (I include myself) because we’ve been taught to be careful about oppression; and that’s a good thing, but we’re (or rather, those who take these claims seriously) are being manipulated. Much like a good-hearted person in a relationship can do the right thing by being compassionate and end up being exploited by the other person if they are unscrupulous and dishonest.
    The answer is not “throw out compassion” but to enforce boundaries. To give the crazies on the right power (or let them keep it) is a far greater evil than any potential hurt feelings or oppression they may feel. We can acknowledge that a crazy old man might actually fear a euthanasia edict, even feel compassion for him, without letting him sway the discourse.
    Honestly, though, sometimes it feels like the Democrats have battered-wife syndrome; they’ve been underdogs so long, and so used to swallowing lies about themselves and their beliefs that they don’t defend themselves even when they can. I think a little more vigourous boundary enforcing is not only needed, but a moral imperative.

  • Technomad

    The thing about Prohibition was that, all too often, it wasn’t about helping problem drinkers. I’ve read tons of their propaganda, for some articles I wrote Back In The Day. By the turn of the twentieth century, it was, all too often, a weapon being used by women (who were presumed not to drink, but only to be victims of Evol Males who did) and country folk (who were Virtuous) against evil, city-dwelling people who didn’t do as the Prohibitionists wanted them to.
    They also had tons of empirical evidence that it Did Not Work. They had tried all sorts of local and state-level prohibition laws, and again and again, all it had led to was hole-and-corner drinking, the local criminal element cashing in on this bonanza, and the discovery that you can’t stop liquor dripping through a dotted line. By 1900, it should have been obvious that going after alcoholism by banning liquor just didn’t work.
    I’m the son of two alcoholics, and I think I know a little about the problem myself, first-hand. I have a theory that the problem can’t be solved because it’s actually several different things that we conflate under the term “alcoholism” because they all involve “excessive” drinking. (Who gets to define “excessive” is another interesting question—should it be someone who thinks two glasses of wine a day is debauchery unequalled since the fall of Rome, or someone who thinks that a day without a quart of Jim Beam is like a day without sunshine?) You have “binge” drinkers who go months without drinking, but don’t stop once they’ve started unless someone forcibly interferes; you have people who’re constantly buzzed but still functional (Dorothy Parker, for one example) you have people who get wildly smashed on one drink, and others who can drink whole taverns-ful of Marines under the table—and do.

  • animus

    I’ve heard of flocked wallpaper, but not flocked LJs. That sounds even worse than unicorn jewellery.

  • Jenny Islander

    The definition of problem drinking isn’t the amount, it’s the consequences. IIRC my Al-Anon stuff, problem drinkers show one or more of the following signs:
    *Experience alcoholic blackouts.
    *Do things when drunk that they would never contemplate doing when sober (get into fights, beer goggle, run at the mouth, hit their kids, drive like morons, spend money they can’t spare).
    *Find themselves letting other people down because they were drinking (too drunk to make the party, too drunk to pick up the relatives at the airport, too drunk to sign the permission slip).
    *Insist that other people drink along with them because sober people are boring/stuck up/straitlaced/insert insult here.
    Problem drinking slips closer to alcoholism, IIRC, when the drinker becomes defensive or secretive about his drinking and of course the number one trouble sign is the inability to quit even when they recognize that their drinking is screwing up their lives.

  • Lori

    I’ve had a few people in my life who went through AA. One of the thing they always talked about was that it’s not necessarily about how much you drink, it’s about how bad you need it.
    For example, my former boss had 2 glasses of wine a night. She was never even close to drunk, but if she had to go an evening without wine it was a major problem. Functional alcoholic.

  • cjmr

    Evenstar is cruising along furniture and pulling everything off the bookshelves. And sticking things in her mouth. All perfectly normal behavior for a 10 month old.

  • jinxtigr

    The idea of being offended by alcohol and wishing to ban it because it’s harmful is fascinating to me, because of my personal history. I’ve been clean and sober for a while now (via spiritual means) and the thing is, the people who are like me and NEED to not drink are not people who’ll be impressed one bit by prissy prohibitionism.
    It’s a bit like, there’s only so far that you can reach out to people- there’s a commonality that comes into play, and beyond that point, it is no longer reaching out to people in a desire to heal, instead it’s whacking at people with a desire to be offended and make them do as you wish. Contempt is a true barrier to sympathy (for that matter, contempt is a great barrier to humility as well).
    It’s also worth remembering that some of the most terrible things we do are done through fear and the desire to resist a feeling of powerlessness- harm bounces around through the world so persistently, and healing is hard to come by, much less forgiveness. You find somebody using offense as a club to build up their own sense of worth, sometimes it’s easy to spot that they’re very wounded themselves- and yet if they continue the behavior, it never becomes good. It’s like trying to bandage someone while they are playing ping-pong. With your head ;)
    I would think that the right balance to strike is a certain amount of humility and empathy, and a certain amount of “now look here- stop hitting me with the ping pong paddle!” :)

  • http://www.shaenon.com Shaenon

    Although Prohibition was a bad idea, there were legitimate reasons people fought for it. A lot of Prohibitionists were women whose husbands drank away the money. In the days when married women had no financial autonomy, alcoholism was a major women’s issue: an alcoholic husband could waste both his and his wife’s money on booze, and there was nothing the wife could do about it.
    A better solution would have been to give married women the right to work well-paying jobs, keep their own income, and operate their own bank accounts, so a woman’s life and the lives of her children wouldn’t depend on her husband’s ability to keep his drinking under control. But women at the time were encouraged to funnel their activist energies into church and charity activities, so instead of fighting for equal rights, they fought for temperance. It was seen as more ladylike, at least until they started busting up saloons with hatchets.
    Later, many of these women did go on to fight for feminist causes, which was how the temperance movement helped launch the suffrage movement.

  • cjmr

    Where’s hapax’s LJ? Or is it f-locked?
    IIRC, she deliberately does not have it linked to Slacktivist. I’m not going to link it without asking her first.

  • jinxtigr

    That is a good point- I tend to see it only in terms of how the alcoholic personally sees it, and a lot of us absolutely would not listen to anyone who didn’t drink/drug like us. It’s a case in which you almost HAVE to curse like a sailor or carry on in order to have any credibility.
    I have discovered funny things about new alkies/addicts, particularly guys- check this out. Particularly in recovering addict circles, we like to hug. Lots of us grew up in very damaged circumstances and didn’t get emotional support so we become families to each other, I daresay much like religious circles.
    Usually guys who walk in the door, perhaps from prison or just despair, are nowhere near able to handle affection, so there are tricks you can use if you’re determined to get through in a way they can understand.
    You can hug a guy, but if it’s sincere the guy might be upset, so you deliver some manly slaps on the back. Therefore, you can hug a guy if you’re HITTING him :)
    There are some who are so walled up that they can’t even handle that- I had one once tell me, ‘a handshake will suffice’. With these- I’m not making this up- you might be able to hug them if you SWEAR at them and hit them :D
    Seriously- a guy was celebrating a month clean or something- went for a handshake, kinda smiling at his uptightness. I gave him a ‘oh COME ON’ look, and said “Fuck you…” *hug* *whackwhack* *release* and it was all cool. I do think that was my higher power giving me the answer to an impossibly tricky situation, and ever since then I’ve been able to tell the story of How To Hug Guy-type Guys ;)
    My point being, there are some people you cannot reach through taking offense at them (and I think suffrage was a much better way to fix ‘husband spends his wife’s money on booze’ because it made it possible to write off the guy who refused to be reached)

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB.

    The Prohibitionists were trying to address alcoholism, which is a serious social problem.
    Well, yeah. Some of them. ANd some of them were That Type of Christian. And some of them had alcoholic husbands. But it’s also important to note that one of the largest drivers of the prohibition movement, and one that led to such widespread support to make it a Constitutional Amendment, was bigotry. Namely, in the late nineteenth century against the Irish, and later against the German, Italian, and Eastern European immigrant waves, all of whom came from cultures where drinking was universal. I don’t particularly want to get bogged down in how much support was based on what…but it was certainly a factor.
    For example, my former boss had 2 glasses of wine a night. She was never even close to drunk, but if she had to go an evening without wine it was a major problem. Functional alcoholic.
    Hoo boy…this is thin ice I’m stepping on here, and I’m really honestly trying to ask a question and not piss anyone off.
    Why would that be considered alcoholism? I mean, you say “Major problem” so I don’t know if you mean “Gets really pissy and argumentative” or “throws a fit and beats their kids.” I understand that dependence focusing around alcoholism is the source of the definition, and without knowing the severity of the problem, I can’t say I’m off base, by why is that called by a term with perjorative overtones? For instance, wikipedia just quickly gave me the definition of alcoholism as “a disease and addiction which results in a persistent use of alcohol despite negative consequences.” Thus to me, many uses of the term “functional alcoholic” seem oxymoronic. If your bosses two glasses of wine a night aren’t causing her negative consequences, then why are they an alcoholic of any sort?

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB.

    You can hug a guy, but if it’s sincere the guy might be upset, so you deliver some manly slaps on the back. Therefore, you can hug a guy if you’re HITTING him
    That’s how manly men types do it all over. Especially if you’re dealing with someone from a culture less freaked by male-male personal contact then some WASP’s are. I have a very good friend from Brazil, for instance, and he hugs all his friends, with the back slaps and the cursing.
    I think the back slaps and the cursing might be to mitigate the perceived “Girlyness” of a hug, but I think it’s more tied to normal male bonding. Guys who never ever hug (very rare in my generation, but I’ve known a few) still punch you on the shoulder and call you a motherfucker. Manly hugs are just standard male bonding pain and insults, added into the hug.
    Also, in cases where the hugging isn’t just due to friendship, but another cause of deep emotion, like a death or a breakup or something, the comforter tends to hug tighter and slap harder. Make of this what you will.

  • Consumer Unit 5012, with certificate and clock

    “I’ve often heard the old (or maybe not that old, I’m not sure; I call all these sorts of sayings “old” just from habit) saying, “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity”.”

    Hanlon’s Razor. The collorary, unfortunately, is that “Any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.”

  • Mark Temporis

    re: The ICE system. Ironically, the advanced version of MERP, Rolemaster, actually has ‘Evil Magician’ as a seperate class, which actually gets spells covering the summoning and control of demons.
    I played quite a successful one for years.

  • Consumer Unit 5012, with certificate and clock

    emjaybee: Honestly, though, sometimes it feels like the Democrats have battered-wife syndrome; they’ve been underdogs so long, and so used to swallowing lies about themselves and their beliefs that they don’t defend themselves even when they can. I think a little more vigourous boundary enforcing is not only needed, but a moral imperative.

    Not just “yes” to this, but HELL YES.
    Passive resistance doesn’t work well against the kind of thugs that become Republican smearmongers–they just take your going limp as a sign to stop kicking and start stomping. (Not to blanket-condemn all Republicans–just the ones who write GOP ads. And have been running this country for the last eight years. And the obstructionists in Congress. And anyone who voted for them. And Palin supporters. And Birthers. And…okay, maybe it IS a blanket condemnation.)
    One of the most heartening signs to me about the Obama campaign last year (aside from a chance at getting a halfway sane president) was their policy of issuing counter-ads to attack ads as quickly as possible. If his success can help other Democrats abandon the “Take it lying down” strategy, so much the better.

  • MadGastronomer

    Why would that be considered alcoholism? I mean, you say “Major problem” so I don’t know if you mean “Gets really pissy and argumentative” or “throws a fit and beats their kids.” I understand that dependence focusing around alcoholism is the source of the definition, and without knowing the severity of the problem, I can’t say I’m off base, by why is that called by a term with perjorative overtones? For instance, wikipedia just quickly gave me the definition of alcoholism as “a disease and addiction which results in a persistent use of alcohol despite negative consequences.” Thus to me, many uses of the term “functional alcoholic” seem oxymoronic. If your bosses two glasses of wine a night aren’t causing her negative consequences, then why are they an alcoholic of any sort?

    Because if you have to have it, and it’s not necessary for life, that’s a dependency, an addiction. And simply getting bitchy if you can’t have it is, in fact, a negative side effect.
    A close member of my family is a functional alcoholic. He must have 2-3 drinks a day, or he doesn’t function well. He’s self-medicating for anxiety disorder and bipolar. He depends on his alcohol, and that makes him an alcoholic. I don’t, personally, put a lot of emotional weight on the term, and I don’t think less of him for it, but it is definitely an addiction, and I feel like it’s important to me to acknowledge that.

  • http://tehipitetom.blogspot.com/ aimai

    These are all great comments, as usual, and I’m excited that I have gotten here around comment numer 68 instead of 450. The thing that I think people are missing is that in the real world there is an eternal push from “offence” to “law” and that is where the problem lies. Fred’s example is a push by the offended, in the evangelical committee, to demand that all members of their own communities follow some set of strict standards because not to do so will harmfully impact the weakest members. No big deal.
    The problem becomes when the category “weakest member” rapidly expands to include children, women, divorced people, people who may want to *move away* from the community norms. And then expands further to police the boundaries of the community–so first its “good christians do X” then its “good christians who care about children and converts” and then “good christians and their neighbors” because neighbors (public schools, police, educators, scientists) are seen as exerting an irressistable tug away from the communinty on those “weaker” members. And the next step after that? Is law.
    What is anti abortion law but an insistence that the culture of one community take the force of law over other people who don’t accept its culture as valid? Drug laws? ditto.
    There’s a strand of “we are all sinners…so don’t tempt us” in a lot of christianist thinking and writing. But there’s even more emphasis in all fundamentalist religions on policing the boundaries between believers and unbelievers, and extending the hegemony of the believers over unbelievers through law.
    aimai

  • The L

    You’re preaching to the choir here, Fred. I grew up going to a private, church-run elementary school. Because there were students of all denominations, and because their parents’ money kept the school afloat, the staff turned catering to the offended into an art form. The Christmas play could not include a simplified square dance during that musical number–we’d offend those who believe all dancing is sinful. We couldn’t watch Aladdin after school, because “it had magic in it.” (Considering this same school often showed Cinderella after school, I found this one extremely hypocritical, and still do.) And the one time my friends and I got out a deck of Hello Kitty cards to play such innocuous childhood games as “War” and “Go Fish,” we were asked to put the cards away because some of the other kids’ parents believed gambling is a sin and that all card games are forms of gambling!
    I thought it was stupid then, and I think it’s stupid now.

  • Jason

    @The L -
    Sometimes for pure entertainment value I type Christian movie review into google. Christian video game review is also similiarly entertaining. You can read reviews of the most innocuous things and they will find something about them that is evil.
    Ghostbusters presents non-biblical ideas about the afterlife and therefore is not good for Christians to watch. Anything, ANYTHING, with a ghost in it gets that, including the video game Luigi’s Mansion.
    http://www.christiananswers.net/spotlight/games/2002/luigismansion.html
    I can’t imagine how bland and uninteresting life must be if your entertainment choices were so limited… and how could you get through high school when something like Wuthering Heights was assigned.

  • http://briervineyard.blogspot.com Kirala

    Jason – on the flip side, I found it hilarious when the local Christian radio station rated Watchmen half a star out of four for family friendliness. I felt that was very generous; I’d’ve given it a zero. Great flick? No question, for me. Something I’d introduce anyone under 18 to? Well, it’d depend on the individual, but I can’t think of anyone offhand, and I know some pretty mature 17-year-olds. Still, one reason I no longer listen to that radio station is its conflating the concepts of “Christian” and “family-friendly”.
    Apropos of absolutely nothing, why does exegesis of Romans 14 interpret “meat” as “meat sacrificed to idols”? Acts 15 and Revelation 2 are pretty clearly against eating meat sacrificed to idols, and Acts 15 is from the very council where Paul stood up to the legalists and told them to back off. So it would seem like it’s not okay elsewhere in the New Testament. But Fred isn’t the first one I’ve seen to read Romans 14 that way. Just curious – it doesn’t affect the intent of the passage in the slightest, to my mind.
    I gotta agree with Jenny and the others upthread – if the Cult of the Offended derive their power solely from everyone else’s accommodation, they have no power at all. I think it’s interesting that my study Bible would not interpret them as weaker brothers at all; the sidebar on that passage says “Elsewhere, Paul speaks to legalists: ‘strong’ Christians who nevertheless insist on many rules and regulations (see Colossians 2:16-23).” From my experience, the Cult of the Offended is often strong both politically and in the Romans 14 sense and needs to pull out of it.

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com MikhailBorg

    When does it go from a headscarf to a chador, and from a chador to a burqa? At what point does the “temptee” have ANY responsibility for resisting THEIR urges?
    This whole idea makes me nuts. Of course, the responsibility is entirely on the “temptee”. If a member of one’s preferred gender chooses to walk around half-dressed or even practically naked, that gives one permission to do nothing other than look on politely and perhaps, if they possess the skills, attempt to strike up friendly conversation.
    This can be a problem at cons: especially (but not limited to) anime cons where there are a lot of skimpy costumes, and a (thankfully shrinking) population of idiots who assume that such outfits are a global invitation. At a long-ago event where my group performed comedy skits, one precious soul had to be physically blocked from making repeated unwanted advances on a pair of our performers. He explained that when he looked at them, he just couldn’t help himself. So, con security helped him right out the front door. (His entry fee was behaving itself, though, and was allowed to remain.)
    Some of us like to show off a little, once in a while. It’s harmless fun, and can bring smiles (and the occasional tingle) to both onlookers and onlookees. I quickly become impatient with the idiots who want to ruin that for everyone.

  • The L

    @Jason: The best one, to me, is still Kjos’s review of Shadowmancer, which is found at http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/05/Shadowmancer.htm
    The book could not be more obviously Christian if it tried. In fact, it is relentlessly Christian at the expense of other religions. (The demon Pyratheon specifically says, “I am the god of every religion that does not involve Him.”) But B.K. still finds lots to be offended about–not surprising, because he also manages to find Narnia offensively “pagan.” In fact, any review of his is an excellent example of the Cult of the Offended.
    @MikhailBorg: Yes, exactly! If you can’t resist temptation, then stop going out in public. It keeps us sane people from having to put up with your burqa-obsessed prudishness.

  • http://briervineyard.blogspot.com Kirala

    Yes, exactly! If you can’t resist temptation, then stop going out in public. It keeps us sane people from having to put up with your burqa-obsessed prudishness.
    Burqa is too far, but I think total nudity would be too far in a different direction – we show respect to sensibilities by wearing a certain amount of clothing in public. And I don’t think anyone would count two yards of dental floss as “clothing”, so clearly there’s a minimum amount we tend to abide by. As much as I hate people trying to set that minimum in stone, I think it’s reasonable to ask for people not wishing to be sex objects to wear as much clothing as non-sex-objects generally wear. That’s going to vary from place to place and culture to culture.
    Gah. It’s hard to express what I’m trying to say, because I hate the legalistic approach and I feel like it is more often the – dare I say it? – offending party, but a certain amount of Pauline accommodation is desirable in any situation.

  • Richard Hershberger

    Internetmonk is susceptible to the same thing, by the way. I got myself thrown off his comments by being insufficiently euphemistic about one of his pet topics. He has a recurring theme that the mainline churches have an opportunity to pick up disaffected Evangelicals, what with the mainline churches having (in some cases, at least) actual liturgy and traditional music and such. The obstacle, he explains, is that the mainlines don’t hate gays enough. (He wouldn’t put it that way, of course.) If only we could work up a bit of the hate, we would attract new members in droves. Or something. I tried several times to explain that we consider love of our fellow man (as it were) a feature, not a bug. Indeed, it is a mandate (as it were). Christ came for all peoples, and all that. I even tried to delicately hint that unChristian homophobes are not really what we are looking for in our membership (though Christians with newly scale-free eyes would be a different matter, of course). It was my use of (going from memory) “faggot-loving” that caused him to clutch his pearls and ban me.
    He is the equivalent of someone who won’t tolerate the use of the “N-word” in his presence, but joins an all-white country club. On the one hand, this kind of guy probably isn’t going to lead a lynch mob, and might even be sincere in his disapproval of lynchings. So on that level you could do worse. But on the other hand, the all-white country clubs were part of the environment that allowed lynchings.
    It is a pity, really. He clearly is an intelligent person and trying to work past the severe educational limitations of his background. But like so many Evangelicals, he thinks that God sent his Son to us to discuss genitalia placement. So long as the stuff that Jesus didn’t actually think to mention trumps that stuff that Jesus droned on and on about, the possibilities are limited.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/roguescholar Jonathan Frater

    One friend was allowed to play with us, but only if we used the Middle Earth (MERP) system — Tolkien, as a buddy of C.S. Lewis, was granted a special dispensation.
    I remember MERP. I even played in a MERP game a few times. Thank you, Fred, for firing a set of neurons that have remained dormant for something like 18 years.

  • The Other Jim

    This line of “poor oppressed me” is working on liberals (I include myself) because we’ve been taught to be careful about oppression; and that’s a good thing, but we’re (or rather, those who take these claims seriously) are being manipulated.
    I’ve often thought the creationists do something similar. We’re supposed to try to understand others’ viewpoints and to empathize. What do you do when the other viewpoint is built on aggressive and calculating dishonesty by the proponents of the viewpoint, if not by their dupes.
    ———————–
    But it’s also important to note that one of the largest drivers of the prohibition movement, and one that led to such widespread support to make it a Constitutional Amendment, was bigotry. Namely, in the late nineteenth century against the Irish, and later against the German, Italian, and Eastern European immigrant waves, all of whom came from cultures where drinking was universal.
    I think the overlap between the Prohibitionists and the Progressives in interesting in this respect. Each group was comprised of Protestants, who were worried/concerned about the waves of Catholic and Jewish immigrants coming into the country. We normally think of the settlement house movement as a positive force, but it also emphasized the moral uplift of the poor Jews and Catholics, with all the accompanying condescension that implies.

  • http://briervineyard.blogspot.com Kirala

    We normally think of the settlement house movement as a positive force, but it also emphasized the moral uplift of the poor Jews and Catholics, with all the accompanying condescension that implies.

    It used to depress me, how much condescension tends to be involved in otherwise-good social movements. Then I realized that if people are going to be incurably self-satisfied, at least they can be exercising noblesse oblige and not one of the uglier forms of privilege. Steps on the moral scale: first, treat people as well as animals. Second, treat people as well as valued animals. Third, treat people as people. Fourth, treat people as equals. Each step needs to progress to the next, but at least it’s better than the last… (And for a bonus prize, do NOTHING out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself.) :)

  • Lori

    Why would that be considered alcoholism? I mean, you say “Major problem” so I don’t know if you mean “Gets really pissy and argumentative” or “throws a fit and beats their kids.” I understand that dependence focusing around alcoholism is the source of the definition, and without knowing the severity of the problem, I can’t say I’m off base, by why is that called by a term with perjorative overtones? For instance, wikipedia just quickly gave me the definition of alcoholism as “a disease and addiction which results in a persistent use of alcohol despite negative consequences.” Thus to me, many uses of the term “functional alcoholic” seem oxymoronic. If your bosses two glasses of wine a night aren’t causing her negative consequences, then why are they an alcoholic of any sort?

    When I said “major problem” I meant that she became pretty much unable to deal. If she didn’t have her wine her entire focus would end up being on not having it and needing to get it. She couldn’t socialize, watch TV, work out or any of the other things that non-alcoholics do in the evening. She needed that wine.
    When she traveled on business she chose her hotels according to which ones had a coffee maker and a fridge in the room. The coffee maker was because she wasn’t a morning person and didn’t like having to deal with other humans in order to get her first cup of caffeine. The fridge was for her wine. If push came to shove the coffeemaker was optional, the fridge was not. She took pains to hide that fact from the AA in charge of booking our business travel.
    Buying the wine was always a critical part of the first evening of a business trip. It was often the first stop between the airport and the hotel. If we didn’t get it then we got it on the way to or from dinner. If a grocery or liqueur store could not be readily located she got very stressed. And she was not fun when she was stressed.
    She tried to act casual about it because on some level she knew the situation was f’ed up. The problem was that being out of her home element, where she had absolutely control of the ability to get alcohol, made her really anxious and the limits of joint business travel on a budget made that difficult to hide.
    When I referred to her as a functional alcoholic I was using the term the way my AA friends use it—to describe a person who is just fine on the surface but has a serious problem underneath. Some people call it hidden rather than functional alcoholism.
    Some alcoholics lose control of their whole life–can’t hold down a job, family and friends leave them, they have trouble keeping a decent place to live. Others beat their spouses and kids or get into bar fights. When many people think about alcoholism they think that sort of thing is what it’s about. This picture can be the root of a lot of denial, both by alcoholics and by their loved ones.
    A functional alcoholic is someone who doesn’t have those kinds of big, obvious problems. S/he is successful at work, has a functioning family, doesn’t get into trouble but they nevertheless have an unhealthy dependence on alcohol.
    I recognized my bosses problem by the 2nd or 3rd time we traveled together, but I’m not the one who called her a functional alcoholic–she is. She ended up in rehab when the problems that were causing her to need that wine so badly finally got overwhelming.

  • Froborr

    And for a bonus prize, do NOTHING out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself.
    I have serious issues with this statement. If it helps you to choose to do the right thing, why not harness your selfish, ambitious, vain, or conceited tendencies as extra motivations? Sure, much of the time those impulses will try to pull you in directions that probably aren’t the right thing to do, but at the same time they are excellent motivators, and if you can channel them properly toward good goals (for example, being vain about how much you give to charity, or having the ambition of being the Volunteer of the Month at the soup kitchen, or selfishly giving a buck to a homeless guy because it makes you feel good) you can accomplish those goals more effectively than if these impulses are pulling the other way.
    As they say, the ends don’t justify the means. Well, the ends don’t taint the means either. If, in your quest to get rich, you end up finding the cure for cancer, the lives you save aren’t somehow less saved just because you did it for the money. If you do evil out of the purest of motivations, it’s still evil. If you do good for selfish reasons, it’s still good.
    You can either use your feelings or be used by them. Sorting them into “good feelings” and “bad feelings”, condemning feelings and fighting against them, just raises the likelihood you’ll be doing the latter.

  • lonespark

    We couldn’t watch Aladdin after school, because “it had magic magical brown people in it.” (Considering this same school often showed Cinderella after school, I found this one extremely hypocritical, and still do.)
    Maybe that’s more like it?

  • Stumbleduck

    I’m offended by MERP!!!
    This one time I had a hobbit with a bola that got attacked by a whole squad of orcs and…
    I second Noah… Soooooooo many charts… It burns us, precious…

  • lonespark

    Definitely agree with that last comment, Froborr. I know as a Heathen I’m not down with Christian ideas about humility, but I didn’t think even Christian doctrine advacated thinking of yourself as worse than others. Is it some kind of exercise to breakdown stupporn prejudices or something?

  • Jessica

    conflating the concepts of “Christian” and “family-friendly”.
    I find it interesting you mention this. One of our local radio stations was running the “family friendly” bullshit when it first started up. Finally, a few years later, it looks like they’ve mostly given up on that line of BS, but still, it ticks me off to no end to see how they try to pass themselves off as “Family Friendly” when surprise surprise, it was really just a Christian radio station. These guys wouldn’t play music by the beatles or anyone else if it wasn’t about Jesus. They had the “Family Friendly Morning Show” and all sorts of BS like that. The thing was, they never used bad words or talked about sex. And that made it “family friendly”, and they had to keep reminding us of this.
    But they never said anything about Jesus during the talking, just played crappy praise music– the same 10 praise choruses by 100 different worship bands, or the same recycled junk played over and over. Srsly, I didn’t even listen to that station and I was bloody sick to death of Amy Grant.
    I used to tell my wife that if I were an atheist and I had children, I would consider songs about Jesus dying for the sins of the world to be pretty “family un-friendly” as I really wouldn’t consider that kind of music appropriate for my kids to listen to.
    Just stoo-pid.

  • Lori

    We couldn’t watch Aladdin after school, because “it had magic magical brown people in it.” (Considering this same school often showed Cinderella after school, I found this one extremely hypocritical, and still do.)
    Maybe that’s more like it?

    For the people I’ve known who held this view the issue seems to be that they’re magical people who are the sort of brown that indicates they are of a non-Christian religion. It’s like a double whammy—magic heathens. That was true long before 9/11 ramped up the “Muslims are scary and will kill us in our beds” meme.

  • Jason

    That was true long before 9/11 ramped up the “Muslims are scary and will kill us in our beds” meme.
    What I learned from 9/11 was “Religious extremists are scary and may possibly kill us in our beds.” The thing is if you are an extremist in a different religion, I guess you don’t recognize the messed up thought patterns as being the problem so much as it is that those people are in the “wrong religion.”

  • Izzy

    Kirala: Yes and no. I mean, common sense dictates that if you dress far outside the prevailing norms of your surroundings, people are going to look at you, and the type of outside-the-norm clothing you wear will influence that. If you don’t want to get stared at, adhere to the general dress code; if you don’t want to attract some sexual gazes (though everyone is still obliged to keep their mouths shut and their hands to themselves, at least outside of clubs that specifically state otherwise) don’t dress revealingly, sure.
    But…okay, I have no problem with being a sex object. I dress modestly enough at work, because it’s *work* and sex isn’t supposed to come into play there, and I can adjust to situations as appropriate. But on weekends, I do the miniskirt-and-low-cut-top thing most of the time…and if someone freaked out at me because he didn’t like thinking of women sexually and couldn’t deal and blah blah blah, I’d tell him to grow a thicker skin or look away.
    Realizing how what you wear will influence people’s opinion of you: good. Pauline accomodation: still, fuck that noise.

  • lonespark

    Well, I already knew extremists would kill us in our daycare centers and some people would try to blame Muslim brown people, so…
    I’m not sure that 9-11 taught me anything. Unless it was about firefighter radio frequencies, or how internet communities pull together.

  • Froborr

    The only thing 9/11 taught me was how deeply inside their cozy shells the majority of Americans were living. I mean, seriously, surprise? Horror, outrage, fear, sadness, anger, I can understand any of those responses. But how could anybody be surprised by it? How many terrorist attacks did the US have in the years leading up to it? The Unabomber, Oklahoma City, the prior attack on the WTC…
    Oh, and I guess it also taught me how terrible most people are at evaluating risk. You are not any more likely to be killed by a terrorist today than you were on 9/10, and back then we got on just fine without bullshit like the Patriot Act and secret prisons and torture. You’re still more likely — by far — to be killed by a mugger, a car accident, or living downstream from a hog farm than a terrorist. Hell, you’re more likely to be killed by your own spouse than a terrorist. It’s seriously not that big a deal.

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com MikhailBorg

    Kirala, I’m certainly not suggesting that we all spend the whole day in the briefest of swimsuits. I’m saying only that if someone dresses for effect in a situation where it is legal to do so (in other words, where the social compact has agreed it’s okay), then people who can’t control their ‘urges’ will just have to run home and take a shower or something.
    show respect to sensibilities by wearing a certain amount of clothing [...] I think it’s reasonable to ask for people not wishing to be sex objects to wear as much clothing as non-sex-objects generally wear.
    Aren’t those pretty big cans of worms to open? I mean, “sensibilities” are entirely individual and situational, after all. It may be hard to get a consensus. And, I’m not too clear about the definition of “as much clothing as non-sex-objects generally wear”. Especially since it’s certainly possible to be clothed neck to ankles and still be dressed extremely provocatively. I doubt I need to describe examples. :)

  • lonespark

    I doubt I need to describe examples. :)
    No, but you could always link them…

  • Idivinev

    You can either use your feelings or be used by them. Sorting them into “good feelings” and “bad feelings”, condemning feelings and fighting against them, just raises the likelihood you’ll be doing the latter.
    Plus, how are you supposed to live up to something like that anyway? What, you shouldn’t donate to charity just because you get a tax deduction? You shouldn’t go to college because you might get a good job with your degree? You shouldn’t volunteer just because you might feel good about yourself? It reminds me of that old joke about Puritans being terrified that somewhere, someone is having fun. Statements like ” (And for a bonus prize, do NOTHING out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself” sound profound and do have a grain of truth, but if you analyze them too closely it’s easy to come to the conclusion that striving towards them would make the world a much darker and uglier place.
    We normally think of the settlement house movement as a positive force, but it also emphasized the moral uplift of the poor Jews and Catholics, with all the accompanying condescension that implies.
    Progressivism was pretty racist. Jews and Catholics and other immigrants were often considered to be the source of political corruption. Progressives accused political machine bosses of giving jobs and patronage to poor immigrants in exchange for votes. And to a certain extent it was true; back then, there really weren’t any safety nets that were as effective as political bosses. And immigrants worked cheaper than the “native” Americans (even then, in the halcyon days of the 19th and 20th century!), undermining that hard-won gains of the labor unions.
    The mistake that many people make is assuming that historical liberals, Progressives, conservatives, Republicans, Democrats have too much in common with their modern definitions. They don’t.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Maybe the right thing to do would be to ask people who do wish to be sex objects to wear something unambiguously identifying (for example, nothing at all), so that we may reasonably assume that everyone else does not. The courts could, at least, tell the smug fratboy, “Was she wearing a “Yes I am Asking For It” badge? No? Then, no, you fucking rapist, she was not asking for it.”

  • lonespark

    Maybe the right thing to do would be to ask people who do wish to be sex objects to wear something unambiguously identifying (for example, nothing at all), so that we may reasonably assume that everyone else does not. The courts could, at least, tell the smug fratboy, “Was she wearing a “Yes I am Asking For It” badge? No? Then, no, you fucking rapist, she was not asking for it.”
    I amused by the idea in the abstract, but of course we can already reasonably assume nobody wants to be treated as nothing but a sex object, because they are…what do you call it…human beings. Plus if they did want to be treated like that, they could post a personals ad in certain places and that would be that.

  • Izzy

    Plus, you know, “willingness to be a sex object” does not translate to “willingness to have sex with random people whenever”.
    I’m fine with guys staring if I dress for it, because I don’t have to interact with them. I’m *not* fine with physical or verbal harrassment: I don’t care if I’m walking down the street naked, catcalling’s going to get you a glare and my middle finger and touching me is going to get you a broken wrist, at best.
    Someone else’s appearance never gives you the right to ignore basic manners, let alone morality and criminal law.

  • http://faithmanages.blogspot.com/ tls

    I’ve had a few people in my life who went through AA. One of the thing they always talked about was that it’s not necessarily about how much you drink, it’s about how bad you need it.

    Thus to me, many uses of the term “functional alcoholic” seem oxymoronic. If your bosses two glasses of wine a night aren’t causing her negative consequences, then why are they an alcoholic of any sort?
    Because alcoholism is a slow disease.
    You don’t wake up one day and start drinking enough to lead to rage-filled attacks on people or making mistakes at work (or skipping work to drink) or whatever other excess people tend to think of when they hear the word “alcoholic”. For most people, it’s far slower. You have a drink a day to relax. And then you need a drink a day to relax. And then it’s two drinks. And then it’s two drinks after work but also one during lunch so you can deal with the stress of your job. And after months or even years of this maybe you start sliding into the bottom of the barrel. But up to that point, you can live an apparently perfectly functional and responsible life.
    My father is an alcoholic and a former drug abuser. He held down a job, paid the bills, and was responsible about his child support. When I lived with my mother as a child, I saw him 1-2 times a month, and he was generally not noticeably drunk and he wasn’t abusive… then. Later on things changed. He got angry when he drank. He drank more. He did more drugs and those made him act angrily, too. But he was still going to work and doing his job to everyone’s satisfaction. Still contributing to the bills. Doing a regular social thing (he bowled on a team in a league). To an outside observer, his life would not have looked like it was slowly unravelling.
    And it didn’t fully unravel until long, long after I was an adult and on my own, even though I knew by then he was decidedly an addict, because I lived with him and saw the worst of it (and bore the brunt of it a few times). He cut back on drugs, stopped doing the worst ones, he even cut back for a whle on the actual drinking. But he never stopped.
    And then one day a few years ago he drank too much and got in a car… and caused an accident. Everything fell apart then. He lost his license. He lost his job. He very nearly lost his wife (and actually last time I spoke to either of them, that was still up in the air). He ended up going to AA, but last time I spoke to him he was drinking again, because AA could help him with drinking, but not the rest of it. He kept some control over it at first, but… it didn’t last.
    That’s alcoholism. Not a quick decline into the murky depths, but a slow, slow swim around the top of a pool you never leave. You sink without even noticing it until suddenly you’re drowning. And when someone hauls you up and delivers a few good smacks to you and you vow to never let it happen again, never to even get in the pool again, you still live near it, and sometimes you’re tempted to take a dip along with the people who seem to be able to get out of the pool anytime they want. The problem is, you like the water too much, and don’t know when it’s time to leave.
    Which… is a little more than I meant to type when I started, but maybe it’ll help someone understand who doesn’t. It’s why I myself usually only dangle my ankles into the pool. Not because I don’t know when to leave, but because I’m afraid someday I’ll forget how.

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB.

    Sorting them into “good feelings” and “bad feelings”, condemning feelings and fighting against them, just raises the likelihood you’ll be doing the latter.
    See one of the things I like about no longer being religous is that I don’t have to do that. I CAN be proud. I don’t have to show humility. Fuck humility. You know what? I’m pretty fucking awesome. I don’t feel “everything in moderation” or really, any other things that, good and bad, were Enshrined with a heavy dose of christian overtones. Instead, I’ve chosen that some of these things are good, like not being excessively proud, are good, but independent of any religious baggage.
    This has taken me a very long time to learn, and it’s still a fresh surprise evertime I realize it. But it is very nice to no longer feel beholden to a sort of psuedomorality.

  • lonespark

    See one of the things I like about no longer being religous is that I don’t have to do that. I CAN be proud.
    My religion is all about healthy pride. We have rituals that include boasting. It is liberating, but I am as yet not very good at it. I don’t blame Christianity for my poor self confidence and crushing guilt, but it sure never helped those things. And my church wasn’t big into sin. So yeah, I get the fresh surprise. And you are pretty frakking awesome. And so am I.

  • Izzy

    Lonespark: See, that sounds cool. I’d say “me too”, but I don’t do a whole lot of rituals at the moment: still, as far as my religious or moral beliefs go, no emotion expressed reasonably is a bad thing. (“Everything in moderation” seems like a good idea from a certain perspective: “I’m pretty fucking awesome” on Monday should not get in the way, on Tuesday, of realizing that I could stand to improve my writing style, work out a little more, and not leave my key at the office again DAMMIT.)


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