Constantine is dead

If there were an award for seeking out the bare-minimum lowest common denominator of Christian morality, I would nominate the new ecumenical document, “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct.”

Christian missionaries should renounce all “deception and coercive means” of winning converts, according to an agreement released Tuesday by a broad coalition of evangelicals, the World Council of Churches and the Vatican.

… the document [also] denounces proselytizing with the use of “financial incentives and rewards.”

Well, good. Yay, I guess.

But now I feel like I’ve just congratulated a healthy adult for tying his own shoes. The declaration that, from now on, we’ll try to avoid deception, coercion and bribery shouldn’t be cause for celebration.

Somehow I’m reminded again of this too-often on-point Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon:


* * * * * * * * *

Could a decline of evangelical influence be a good thing for the gospel?” Kyle Roberts asks.

We too often measure the role and influence of the church with the barometers of the modern corporation or political program, barometers that are foreign to Jesus and the gospels. We too often gauge “success” by the extent to which our collective voice reinforces a particular, homogenous vision of life and minimizes our discomfort with difference and otherness.

My late friend and colleague Dwight Ozard used to describe this by saying that the agenda of most evangelicals engaged in politics seemed to be “making the world safe for Mormons.”

At The Wild Hunt, Jason Pitzl-Waters worries about this decline in the hegemony of Christendom — worries because of the backlash expressed as an attempt to enforce “an increasingly tenuous status quo,” an attempt to cling all the harder to some imagined golden age of the past and a “desperate sandbagging against” the loss of privilege and control.

His conclusion is similar to that of Kyle Roberts:

The future isn’t about dominance, but about coexistence. Many faiths and philosophies sitting at the table, instead of one (or two) faith groups telling everyone else what the agenda is.

* * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, Christianity Today highlights a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press that finds the nonreligious exhibiting better morality than the religious — and far, far better morality especially than white evangelical Christians:

Pew asked if “more people of different races marrying each other” was good or bad [for] society. Overall, only 9 percent of Americans said it was bad for society. However, 16 percent of white evangelicals said this, more than twice the opposition found among other Americans (7 percent). The survey found that 27 percent of Americans overall said more interracial marriage was good for society, compared to 17 percent of evangelicals.

… The views of white Christians stand in stark contrast to two other groups: black Protestants and those with no religion. Only 3 percent of either group said interracial marriage was bad for society.

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

CT just posted a graph based on another question from that poll — this one showing white evangelicals lagging far, far behind Hispanic Catholics on both morality and their own family histories.

This is what the politics of resentment looks like. (Just a reminder — resentment of the powerless is not one of the Fruits of the Spirit. Nor is offendedness.)

This chart doesn’t have a category for Native Americans, so everyone who responded to this question is either themselves an immigrant or the child of immigrants. So either the majority of white evangelicals believe that they are personally a “burden” on America, or we’re dealing with the kind of stupidity that can only come through the voluntary blindness of resentment and willful ignorance.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Lochmoeller/100000461280203 Scott Lochmoeller

    “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.”

    Ye-ow Fred! Way to give an old Bible verse new life! Yeah, With the amount of bad fruit I’m seeing, I’m getting concerned for the tree myself.

  • http://twitter.com/infernalserpent Cameron

    I admit, when I saw this post’s title, my first thought was, “Oh, no, they killed off John Constantine?!”

  • James Baker

    “I admit, when I saw this post’s title, my first thought was, “Oh, no, they killed off John Constantine?!” ”

    Not only is he not dead, there’s two of him now.

  • Anonymous

    Mine was “Constantine died about 1600 years ago.  This is news?”

  • Anonymous

    A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

    I, uh, don’t want to detract from the point you’re making, or anything – laughed harder than I have in months when I found an SMBC comic in my evening Slacktivist, by the way – but this is kind of not true. It’s completely possible for good trees to bear bad fruit. Ask farmers. Or biologists. Also, while it’s somewhat unlikely for bad trees to bear good fruit, it’s not exactly impossible. Also “bad trees can’t bear good fruit” sounds uncomfortably like spitting in the face of anyone who survived abusive parents and went on to become good people. I’m completely certain you would never use it like that, but the phrase just puts me on edge for a whole mess of reasons. 

  • We Must Dissent

    It’s not knowable from just what Fred quoted, but that verse is part of a larger paragraph and a longer passage that makes the metaphor clear. It’s not about good and bad as healthy and diseased, but about the impossibility of picking grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles.

    The next paragraph begins:

    Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of
    heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

  • Leo Tokarski

    As much as the context is helpful, I’m mostly replying to this to give a thumbs-up to the Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri reference in your username. (Although I prefer to play as the University myself.)

  • Anonymous

    What’s the chapter and verse, if you happen to have it to hand? I’d like to look it up, before I try and comment further. 

  • Mark Z.

    Matthew, chapter 7.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you!

    Unfortunately, better understanding the context hasn’t made me feel a whole lot better about it. I mean, the reference to thorns and thistles seems, as best I can tell, to reinforce the idea that you can’t get good fruit from a bad tree, rather than being a direct transference of bad tree = thistles, good fruit = figs. More like, you’ve got just as much chance picking figs from a thistle as you do getting good fruit from a bad tree, kind of thing? Which again, kinda factually inaccurate, and it sort of undermines your point a little when your metaphor produces different conclusions than the one you’re actually trying to lead people to… 

    Nitpicking, I know. The point was that false prophets are going to say things that are false and harmful, and you’ve got to watch out for that. Still, I can’t really agree with Jesus on this one – which, given my lack of Christianity, isn’t that much of an issue. Oh well. It’s been an informative day for me, at least. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    but about the impossibility of picking grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles.

    Well, no, you get raspberries and blackberries from thornbushes, and artichokes from thistles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    but about the impossibility of picking grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles.

    Well, no, you get raspberries and blackberries from thornbushes, and artichokes from thistles.

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    You get roses from thornbushes, too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    but about the impossibility of picking grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles.

    Well, no, you get raspberries and blackberries from thornbushes, and artichokes from thistles.

  • k o

    Thanks Bill for pointing out those of us who broke the (often multi-generational abuse) cycle by painfully re-training our behavior, especially on the subconscious level. I did it. I am proud I did. And am doing every day. It damned near killed me a few times, but you know, bloodied but unbowed.

  • Anonymous

    Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” 
    CS Lewis

    So maeby it won’t be so bad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Lochmoeller/100000461280203 Scott Lochmoeller

    While it’s probably not what you or he meant, (I’m not quite as versed on Lewis as I should be,) there’s a certain whiff of the “Health and Wealth” gospel in there, particularly that if you’re faithful enough God couldn’t possible let you get sick or have money trouble. I really hate this idea, because it caused a not-minor kerfluffle between my mom and sister last year. My mom has had crippling rheumatoid arthritis for nearly 20 years. Last year, My sister started making noise that maybe my mom’s faith isn’t everything it should be, considering she hasn’t been healed of the arthritis and all. Both are Christians, and it was horrible to watch: My sister accusing my mom of lack of faith, my mom accusing my sister of lack of decency, (or empathy or humanity: yeah, I sided with mom.) But “Health and Wealth” really gives people the wrong idea.

  • Anonymous

    that sucks I can understand that you are angry, but I did not say anything about health and wealth and neither did Lewis.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Never read any CS Lewis other than the Narnia books as a kid. Reading that bit makes me rather happy with that choice…

    Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house.
    The creep factor starts out at an 8 with this. Imagine the Creator who made you in his image and gifted you with free will coming in to “rebuild you” 

    The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of –
    This feels deeply, deeply horrifying to me, that a Creator might let his creations have self-determination and create and know themselves through effort and toil, only to come in, demolish all that his children created and warp them to his will. And why?

    He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

    If I replaced “God” with “An inhuman, alien being from beyond time & space”, this would be a horror story. And really, God is an inhuman, alien being that exists beyond all detectible time and space, but because “God is Love”, this is somehow less horrific?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    He intends to come and live in it Himself.

    Worst contractor ever.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    You need to enunciate each word as though it was spoken alone.  Like, “Worst.  Contractor.  Ever.” 

  • https://profiles.google.com/ravanan101 Ravanan

    And possibly post a picture of Comic Book Guy to go along with it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    @flat:disqus I reserve the right to decide for myself whether I want to be a cottage or a palace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    @flat:disqus I reserve the right to decide for myself whether I want to be a cottage or a palace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    @flat:disqus I reserve the right to decide for myself whether I want to be a cottage or a palace.

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    I don’t think that’s what CS Lewis was getting at. I think he meant that your mother’s pain is part of some grand remodeling scheme that God has for his greater glory.

  • Em

    Um… where did anybody’s mother come into it?  The Lewis passage is about God’s interaction with one person, not their mother, father, lover, or anyone else.

  • Rikalous

    Um… where did anybody’s mother come into it?  The Lewis passage is
    about God’s interaction with one person, not their mother, father,
    lover, or anyone else.

    I think ze was responding to Scott Lochmoeller’s story about how the health and wealth gospel the Lewis passage seemed to promoting hurt his mother.

  • k o

    Why does God need glory if, by the common understanding God is all seeing, all everything etc. God would not need to be that insecure, ya think? Why does God have to do anything? Why do we have to make up some image (and everyone has their own personal one, even atheists) to fit our limited scope?

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Yeah, I have a problem with the quoted Lewis here. I mean, whoopdee-doo that God intends to come live in it Himself. Up until He came in and started kicking down walls, I was living in it, and I didn’t exactly advertise to sublet the building, did I?

    Back to Fred’s original post:

    But now I feel like I’ve just congratulated a healthy adult for tying his own shoes…

    …who also happens to belong to that community of brave contrarians, The Anti-Kitten-Burning Coalition. Who consider themselves, by virtue of being not as bad as those despicable wastes of oxygen who do burn kittens, positively enlightened.

  • chris the cynic

    Yeah, I have a problem with the quoted Lewis here. I mean, whoopdee-doo that God intends to come live in it Himself. Up until He came in and started kicking down walls, I was living in it, and I didn’t exactly advertise to sublet the building, did I?

    No, you weren’t living in it.  You were it.  You’re not living in a house, you are a living house.  The walls he’s kicking down are parts of you.  The new wing he’s adding is something being added to you.

    It reads like a metaphor for body horror.  I think it’s a good deal more disturbing than you give it credit for.

  • Anonymous

    I foresee a David Cronenberg adaptation of “Mere Christianity.”

  • Anonymous

    Christian missionaries should renounce all “deception and coercive means” of winning converts, according to an agreement released Tuesday by a broad coalition of evangelicals, the World Council of Churches and the Vatican.

    So I can expect the dissolvement of “Jews for Jesus” and “Messianic Jews”?  Good to know.

  • Anonymous

    It’s depressing and interesting to see the sea change religion is going through right now in this country. I think we’re going to end up with the understanding that people who explicity identify as Christian Fundementalists or Evangelicals are in reality worshipping power and authority for it’s own sake. There will still be people who follow the Gospels but they might be called something completely different. And there will still be soup kitchens and something a social safety net, but they’ll be run by athiests and agnostics for social justice. I see non believers stepping in to pick up the slack as church numbers dwindle and and churches that do do outreach put too many qualifiers on it, no aid if you’re gay for example.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Hey Fred, I think that you might appreciate this Penny Arcade t-shirt.  It pretty much sums up Jesus’ teachings.  Actually, one of the things that I find interesting about that comic is that the artist believes in God, but does not seem to actively practice, while the writer is an athiest who thinks that the Bible is a wellspring of inspiration and imagry

  • http://post-modernenlightenment.blogspot.com Enigma32

    “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.”

    But a dangerously stupid and myopically cynical tree will always bear dangerously stupid and myopically cynical fruit.

  • Michael P

    I’m reminded of Chris Rock’s response to men who boast “I take care of my kids”: “You’re supposed to, you low-expectation-having [expletive deleted]!”

  • Will Hennessy

    Not that you need them, but you get so many bonus points for posting something from SMBC… let alone THAT particular one. Bravo. Brav-oh…

  • Tonio

    showing white evangelicals lagging far, far behind Hispanic Catholics on both morality and their own family histories.

    And in my community, the Baptist churches are the ones apparently most active in trying to lure recently arrived Hispanics away from Catholicism. That’s my interpretation of the additional signs they’ve added, the ones reading Iglesia Bautista – Domingo Servicios.

  • Tonio

    showing white evangelicals lagging far, far behind Hispanic Catholics on both morality and their own family histories.

    And in my community, the Baptist churches are the ones apparently most active in trying to lure recently arrived Hispanics away from Catholicism. That’s my interpretation of the additional signs they’ve added, the ones reading Iglesia Bautista – Domingo Servicios.

  • Daughter

    It’s also possible that an Hispanic congregation rents out the church building from them.  That’s fairly common; a church with a building that meets for Sunday AM services will rent their space in the afternoon to a congregation that lacks a building. And because immigrant congregations are often low-income, they’re often in need of buildings to rent.

  • Daughter

    Just to add to my comment, Tonio:  evangelicalism has made big inroads in Latin America in recent decades, so it’s possible that many Latino immigrants are already evangelicals when they arrive.

  • Tonio

    Daughter, thanks for the background. My personal opinion is that evangelical American churches targeting Latin America for conversion sounds ethically questionable. And no offense, Eric, but the Jews for Jesus concept strikes me the same way. In both cases, the targeting involves entire groups on the lower end of a power imbalance, and doing so risks exploiting that imbalance.

    Plus, the dominant religion in Latin America is still far and away Catholicism, so from an outsider’s perspective, why would the evangelical churches spend so much effort to convert groups who are already Christian? I think I know the answer, but I’m interested in the churches’ stated reasoning.

  • Anonymous

    Because they wish for them to turn away from idolatry and innovation upon the Scriptures.

  • Tonio

    “Innovation” upon the Scriptures? I’m tempted to ask but I won’t bother. Although I’m not religious, I find it repulsive when members of a religion act like theological hall monitors, deciding who is true or authentic members of that religion. The state were I live was founded originally as a haven for Catholics, and it shouldn’t have been necessary. I would say the same thing if the English king at the time had been Catholic and that nation was persecuting Protestants – it’s morally wrong to treat some people as less than others because of their religious beliefs.

  • Mark Z.

    Because they wish for them to turn away from idolatry and innovation upon the Scriptures.

    Incidentally, for anyone wondering what I meant last week by this:

    “nondenominational” means “Our doctrine is simply what the Bible says, and our practices are simply what Jesus taught. Everyone else is either doing the same thing under a different name, or they’re heretics.”

    Monoblade here has just produced a very fine example.

  • Tonio

    On another board I was making a point about the First Amendment and invoked the term “nonsectarian.” I was told that the word was often used decades ago as in an anti-Catholic way. Anyone familiar with that usage? I was using the word to mean neutrality among all religious positions, whether these include specific religious sects or individual beliefs.

  • Bificommander

    I’m more reminded an xkcd comic (Trigger warning, child abuse: http://xkcd.com/463/)
    “Strictly speaking, it’s better than the alternative…” “…yet someone is clearly doing their job horribly, horribly wrong.

    Or an economics column a few years back when the author was depressed about the new code of conduct for determining CEO salaries. His analogy was that in public transport you see signs that say you’re not allowed to, say, eat icecream in the vehicle, but no signs you’re not allowed to bring an aligator on board. This is presumably not because they are okay with you bringing an alligator on board, but because it no one tried it and they don’t expect anyone will. That code, like this one, felt like a prohibition sign for something that’s equally clearly wrong, but they were hanging it up anyway, which is saying something on what they know or suspect does happen (the code had things like “Do not excesivly reward managers when buisness is performing poorly” and stuff like that)

  • Anonymous

    Man, now I really want to take an alligator on the BART.

  • Astrostevo

    @Bificommander 20 hours ago : I think your xkcd link there s broken. Atleats itwasn’t working when I clicke dit. :-(

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw
    Um… where did anybody’s mother come into it?  The Lewis passage is about God’s interaction with one person, not their mother, father, lover, or anyone else.

    I think ze was responding to Scott Lochmoeller’s story about how the health and wealth gospel the Lewis passage seemed to promoting hurt his mother.

    Yes, I was responding to Scott Lochmoeller’s post about his mother. I was indicating how I thought Lewis’ words would apply in Scott’s mother’s situation.

  • Anonymous

    Well God is the creator, Jesus is the salvator, and the holy spirit is the one living inside you.

    Here is the biblical description of Almighty house decoration Ltd.

    And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language,

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Why would I want some holy spook living inside me? I don’t see any upside for me here.

  • Bificommander

    By the way, I’m not very familiar with Mormonism, but what exactly does it mean that evangelicals seem to make the world safe for Mormons? It sounds like actually helping a religion you don’t agree with, but the context where Fred notes it makes me believe it’s meant as a quasi-insult. So… what does it mean? Is there a highly isolationist trend in Mormonism?

    Also: In addition to Flame War Thursdays ™, we could instate the C.S Lewis Flame War too. Every time he’s brought up, either by Fred or in the comments, we get arguments. Whenever you quote Lewis, either as a source of inspiration or as something to argue again, expect a third of the board to rush to your aid as another third points out why you’re not understanding the proper context and you should/shouldn’t like him. Not that it means we should stop discussing it, mind you, just saying. (I’m with the other third, since I don’t understand Lewis’s particular beliefs well enough to judge them.)

  • http://maco.myopenid.com/ maco

    Mormons are one of the stricter groups within Christianity in terms of acceptable behaviour. While an Evangelical might smoke or drink a glass of wine, I’m pretty sure those are barred in Mormonism.  Some of them even consider a can of Coke to be out of the question because of caffeine.  Mormons also tend to have a stricter dress code (knees and shoulders covered), while seeing an Evangelical or Catholic wearing a sleeveless dress to prom wouldn’t be that surprising.

  • k o

    Umm, one of the things I don’t see mentioned in this thread is that all religions have schisms in their name brand sect, that there should be more attention paid to cults passing themselves off as religions to gain the tax advantages while they make tons of money off their sheep.

  • Anonymous

     we could instate the C.S Lewis Flame War too. Every time he’s brought up, either by Fred or in the comments, we get arguments. Whenever you quote Lewis, either as a source of inspiration or as something to argue again, expect a third of the board to rush to your aid as another third points out why you’re not understanding the proper context and you should/shouldn’t like him. Not that it means we should stop discussing it, mind you, just saying. (I’m with the other third, since I don’t understand Lewis’s particular beliefs well enough to judge them.)

    Were you on the old board? Because the C.S. Lewis flamewars were LEGENDARY. Hell, even HAPAX and KIT WHITFIELD got into it. In a very polite, gentle, and kind way, of course, but still.  If you don’t know who those two are, just picture MLK and Gandhi getting into a slapfight.  Simultaneously awesome, horrifying and really cool to watch. 

  • Anonymous

    OK, now that we’ve straightened out the missionaries, can we go after the young-earth creationist crowd who make up the most amazing lies for the greater glory of God?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    OK, now that we’ve straightened out the missionaries, can we go after the young-earth creationist crowd who make up the most amazing lies for the greater glory of God?

    Definitely.

    Along with the theocrat-wannabes, who also seem to regard “Thou shalt not bear false witness” as being less a ‘commandment’ and more of an ‘optional guideline’.

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    So what effect will this new document actually have? It doesn’t sound like these churches have bound themselves not to use these practices, only that an advisory group has said that certain practices are a really, really bad idea. 

    And I wonder how strictly the phrase “financial incentives and rewards” will be interpreted. The United Methodist Church’s mission to Cambodia offers an automotive school where students can learn to repair cars and motorcycles and have a way to support themselves and their families. The catch is, the curriculum includes Bible classes. To me, the training in automotive repair is a “financial incentive and reward” for at least listening to the religious spiel, but I suspect that the missionaries don’t see it that way unless they are actually slipping money into the students’ pockets upon their baptism. A similar Methodist Mission is the Dumpsite Mission, which offers schooling and other assistance to children whose parents make their living picking over trash in the city dump. Again, schooling includes religious instruction, so parents who are Buddhist need to expose their children to Christian instruction in order to get them an education. At least the students in the car repair school are adults who can decide for themselves whether it is worth listening to lessons in another religion in order to obtain vocational training, and to accept or reject it based on how convincing it sounds. 

    As you can tell, I have decidedly mixed feelings about supporting these missions. They provide services  to people who truly need them, and the providers believe that the religious instruction they offer is just as much of a service as the other lessons. To me, though, it looks like a blatant offer of financial incentives and rewards to get people to listen to proselytizing they might otherwise have rejected.

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    So what effect will this new document actually have? It doesn’t sound like these churches have bound themselves not to use these practices, only that an advisory group has said that certain practices are a really, really bad idea. 

    And I wonder how strictly the phrase “financial incentives and rewards” will be interpreted. The United Methodist Church’s mission to Cambodia offers an automotive school where students can learn to repair cars and motorcycles and have a way to support themselves and their families. The catch is, the curriculum includes Bible classes. To me, the training in automotive repair is a “financial incentive and reward” for at least listening to the religious spiel, but I suspect that the missionaries don’t see it that way unless they are actually slipping money into the students’ pockets upon their baptism. A similar Methodist Mission is the Dumpsite Mission, which offers schooling and other assistance to children whose parents make their living picking over trash in the city dump. Again, schooling includes religious instruction, so parents who are Buddhist need to expose their children to Christian instruction in order to get them an education. At least the students in the car repair school are adults who can decide for themselves whether it is worth listening to lessons in another religion in order to obtain vocational training, and to accept or reject it based on how convincing it sounds. 

    As you can tell, I have decidedly mixed feelings about supporting these missions. They provide services  to people who truly need them, and the providers believe that the religious instruction they offer is just as much of a service as the other lessons. To me, though, it looks like a blatant offer of financial incentives and rewards to get people to listen to proselytizing they might otherwise have rejected.

  • MaryKaye

    When I was a teenager, Anchorage Baptist Temple would send around a bus on Sundays with candy, trying to lure children away.  (I don’t know if they still do this.  It sounds fraught in today’s climate–they might be sued.)  One day my girlfriend and I asked our parents if we could go–we were conducting a survey of Christian denominations in Anchorage.

    The results certainly convinced me that bribes and coercion as a gateway imply other bad things further in.  Oh my gods, that was a vile experience.  I will never forget the youth leader who told us that a young woman tempted to bestiality had come to him and confessed–he recounted with great relish and enthusiasm how he had screamed shame and abuse at her.  And another youth leader who told us that masturbation was the greatest evil facing young Christians today.  My friend and I were shocked out of our socks.  We came from fairly liberal denominations and had not run into that kind of thing before.

    I understand that it is sometimes defensible to do evil that good may come of it.  (The people who forcibly hospitalized my schizophrenic friend seemed justified in doing so.)  But I have trouble imagining any reasonable belief system in which you should do evil so that *spiritual* good would come of it.  God needs you to bully, browbeat and bribe so that his word will be spread?  Seems like this makes God out to be an employer of bullies, thugs and bribe-offerers.  Yucch.  It’s not like he’s a mortal agent with limited resources.  If someone blasts their way into the radio station with a shotgun in order to broadcast the tsunami warning, I’ll forgive him–that may have been the best choice with limited resources.  But surely God doesn’t need to do stuff like that.

  • Lizzy L

    Speaking as a non-Hispanic Catholic, I’m embarrassed, to think that 50% of my peeps believe that immigrants are a burden on the country. But then I am comforted when I realize that the folks who asked this question never came to my parish: because my parish is 60-70% immigrant! Three years ago we held a Diversity Celebration: we marched around with flags from our countries of origin (or our parents or grandparents’ countries of origin, for some of us), and the retired bishop said Mass outside. We had over 50 flags. The largest group is the Filipinos, but we got folks from lots of places, and we all get along, though I’d be lyin’ if I didn’t admit there are occasional stresses and strains and just plain misunderstandings.

    Our pastor is an immigrant: he’s from India.

  • Daughter

    I’m not sure most African-Ameircans can be classified as immigrants or children of immigrants.  Is it immigration when you’re brought someplace against your will?  (Your point still stands, however: all of us who are not Native American are not the original inhabitants of this land)>

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw
  • DaveL

    I will never forget the youth leader who told us that a young woman tempted to bestiality had come to him and confessed–he recounted with great relish and enthusiasm how he had screamed shame and abuse at her.

    shame and abuse aside, I don’t suppose anybody took him aside and explained that maybe breaking out the animal-sex story wasn’t the best idea for the kiddies’ first day?

  • Mark Z.

    I don’t suppose anybody took him aside and explained that maybe breaking out the animal-sex story wasn’t the best idea for the kiddies’ first day?

    Or took him aside and fired him for breaking confidentiality?

  • Anonymous
    I don’t suppose anybody took him aside and explained that maybe
    breaking out the animal-sex story wasn’t the best idea for the kiddies’
    first day?

    Or took him aside and fired him for breaking confidentiality?

    Priests have a confidentiality ethic.  Many youth ministers and manogawds apparently don’t — it’s great if they can do it, but they won’t let it get in the way of their ministry or their power structure.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    In fairness, there is more to the code of conduct than what Fred describes.  It also speaks of the following:

    1.  The importance of integrity, compassion, and several other virtues.
    2.  The importance of listening to others and engaging in actual dialogue.
    3.  The importance of coming together with other religious groups to promote justice and the common good.
    4.  The importance of addressing poverty and other societal injustices as an integral part of the gospel rather than as merely a way to “get the gospel in the door.”

  • Bificommander

     Ah, indeed, I see the problem. The link was in brackets and when clicking, discuss apparently assumes the bracket is part of the URL. Try it now: http://xkcd.com/463/

  • Eric

    Jews for Jesus and other messianic Jews are not using deceptive or coercive means of relating the Gospel to people.  We’re simply exploring the Jewish context for understanding the Gospel in a way that Jewish people can relate to based on their own experiences of Judaism.  There’s nothing wrong with contextualizing the Gospel, provided that it does not distort or water down the Gospel in any way.

  • Anonymous

    I think aunursa’s problem with Jews for Jesus is the way they distort the Tanakh.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    I’m reminded of Chris Rock’s response to men who boast “I take care of my kids”: “You’re supposed to, you low-expectation-having [expletive deleted]!”

    I love Chris Rock.  His other comment along these lines was “What do want — a cookie?”.

    His solution for gun violence was brilliant, too.  Sell the guns for cheap, but make bullets $1000 each.  You’d think twice before capping someone if it cost a couple thousand dollars to do it!

  • http://oldmoonsisterstars.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

    There is a major problem with the adult who can finally tie his own shoes analogy. That analogy implies actual progress, albeit at a pathetically slow pace. But Christianity has not made even as much improvement as a 30 years old who has just mastered the art of shoe tying.

    Christianity is regressing. Right now. Ground zero for this is the scene of humanity’s most recent large scale “conversion” to Christianity (under the aegis of colonialism and neo-colonialism): Africa. Pentecostalism is growing by leaps and bounds around the world, and Africa is leading the way. The irony is that the current wave of Witch Hunting in Africa (largely directed at children) is sometimes blamed on “indigenous beliefs” when it is actually the direct result of the importation of a form of Christianity that has its origins in the 20th century in Los Angeles California. (Do a google search on “Asuza Street Revival” to learn about the modern, American roots of the world’s fastest growing religious sect.)

  • P J Evans

     Minor correction: ‘Azusa’, not ‘Asuza’.

  • http://oldmoonsisterstars.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

    Thanks! I always mess that up. I edited the original comment and also added a link to wikipedia (that font of all knowledge).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Friedberg/100002386886955 Steven Friedberg

    aunursa — Why should an obvious basic step like not being deceptive be equated with shutting down J4J or Messianic Jews? Having personally worked with Jews For Jesus, I can tell you that they are in no way deceptive. While others may disagree with them about terms, no one is being deceptive. Disagreement is not deception.


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