‘The Big Four’ — ‘the package deal of Christianity’

Jonathan Dudley in Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics:

I learned a few things growing up as an evangelical Christian: that abortion is murder; homosexuality, sin; evolution, nonsense; and environmentalism, a farce. I learned to accept these ideas — the “big four” — as part of the package deal of Christianity. In some circles, I learned that my eternal salvation hinged on it. Those who denied them were outsiders, liberals, and legitimate targets for evangelism. If they didn’t change their minds after being “witnessed to,” they became legitimate targets for hell.

So let’s check in on each of the big four and the whole package deal.

Nynia Chance:Biblical Abortion: A Christian’s View

The War on Women has been especially effective in getting many to feel as though Christians need to march in lockstep against the idea of allowing abortions of any type to ever be legal, to the point of criminalizing miscarriage, itself. Those who try to conscript religious Christians into this war do so under the argument that the Bible itself demands such a prohibition.

Except that it doesn’t. The Bible never once specifically forbids abortions; it’s actually quite the contrary! Not only were methods of abortion well-known at the time, there’s times when the Bible states God commands that one take place. I’m going to walk through a few examples as illustrations.

Ari Kohen:How Religions Are Updated: Homosexuality and the Torah

The issue is that, even if they accept these things about homosexuality as true, they claim that there just isn’t anything to be done: the Torah says what the Torah says and there’s really no way to disagree with or to update it.

… This is where Conservative Judaism parts company from Orthodoxy, in that it respects tradition but allows for continued argumentation about and interpretaton of the Torah. There is, of course, some unfortunate slippage — not as many Conservative Jews observe the laws of kashrut or refrain from all work on Shabbat — but there’s also greater inclusivity. Because Orthodox Judaism changes so slowly (if at all), it runs the risk of complete ossification, which might not be so bad except that it allows those who adhere to it to avoid the difficult conversations that arise from changing times and changing understanding.

The Torah’s condemnation of homosexuality proceeds from an understanding of human sexuality that no longer holds much water. But the appeal above — the Torah says what the Torah says and there’s really no way to disagree with or to update it — allows Orthodox Jews to sidestep the whole debate about welcoming gays and lesbians, to either cling to a misunderstanding or to simply put the needs of their fellow human beings out of their minds. The most learned rabbis of old found such interesting ways to intepret the teachings of the Torah so that unpleasant edicts might be avoided; there’s very little reason why the most learned Orthodox rabbis of today couldn’t do the same.

Craig S. Keener:Is Young-Earth Creationism Biblical?

The human characters in Genesis 2 are called “Man” (the meaning of adam) and something like, “Life” (Eve). The trees bear not figs or dates, but “life” and “the knowledge of good and evil.” The narrative includes a talking serpent. Unlike the only other account of a talking animal in ancient Israelite literature (Balaam’s donkey), it reports no miracle as facilitating it. Apart from some Israelite parables, nowhere else in the Bible do we read anything like this: a talking serpent convinces Man and Life to pluck a fruit that is Knowledge. Not surprisingly, many biblical scholars, including evangelical biblical scholars, suspect some figurative language here.

National Climatic Data Center:U.S. Experiences Second Warmest May, Hottest Spring on Record

The nationally-averaged spring temperature of 57.1°F was 5.2°F above the long-term average. With the warmest March, third warmest April and second warmest May, Spring 2012 marked the largest temperature departure from average of any season on record for the contiguous United States.

 

  • Eminnith

    “Averaging the global land and ocean as a whole, the combined land and ocean surface temperature during April 2012 was 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average of 13.7°C (56.7°F), marking the fifth warmest April since records began in 1880 and the 326th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average.”

    326th consecutive month. Guh.

  • Nirrti

     I don’t understand why Christians would consider taking care of the environment a bad thing. Isn’t man being in charge of taking care of the world’s land and animals specifically outlined in Genesis?

  • DrocketX

    Genesis 1:26:
    Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

     Its not surprising that a raging liberal would think that ruling over something would in any way involve taking care of it. You probably work to elect politicians who promise to make the country a better place for everyone, instead of their proper role of enriching themselves and their friends on the public dime. Heck, you probably even support OWS and think that CEOs should work to create long-term corporate profitability and stability, as opposed to outsourcing everything to China to create a couple of profitable quarters to justify massive bonuses, then jumping ship with a golden parachute before everything implodes.

    No, every sensible person knows that ruling over something means ruthlessly abusing it for your own personal gain, like a vampire draining a victim, before discarding it and moving on to your next conquest.  Jesus is just WAITING for us to utterly destroy the planet so that he can come back and take us all – well, ok, take SOME of us – to heaven, a pristine land of absolute purity, just FILLED with natural resources waiting to be tapped.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Please–the package deal of right wing conserative Protestantism, mainly in the USA.

    Not that Catholics, non-Americans etc can’t be hung up on any or all of these things–but they’re very far from requirements of membership.

    Outside your unspoken frame of reference:

    Abortion is a bit of a thing in my mainstream Catholic non-USA circle–albeit something it’s rare to get exercised about in political terms, more something a largish fraction would say they have serious concerns with.

    Homosexuality for the mainstream is meh, we shouldn’t be jerks to anyone. A thing for the conservatives.

    Climate change denial is only a thing for very right wing, very conservative Christians (and very right wing, very conservative non-Christians).

    Creationism is something even the large majority of the conservative Christians I know find ridiculous; a strangely American Protestant obsession.

  • Tonio

    “The Torah’s condemnation of homosexuality proceeds from an understanding of human sexuality that no longer holds much water.” – What was that understanding?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I don’t understand why Christians would consider taking care of the environment a bad thing.

    Because there’s a right wing argument against taking care of the environment, around 1980 the right wing in American politics formed an alliance with US Christianity, and one of the least fun cultural exports from America is its modern version of right wing Christianity?

    The retconned version is that environmentalism = paganism (nature worship), or possibly that we needn’t/shouldn’t waste effort caring for the environment when TurboJesus is gonna rapture us all soon (also a weirdly US-concentrated worldview).

  • christopher_young

    The Bible never once specifically forbids abortions; it’s actually quite the contrary!

    It’s in the Didache, though. The Didache (“The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”) apparently narrowly missed the cut for inclusion in the New Testament canon, so clearly the people  who were deciding what went in and what stayed out didn’t think that the prohibition on abortion was important enough to make the difference.

    I really recommend reading the Didache to get a vivid impression of what it meant to be a first century Christian.

  • AndrewSshi

     Wasn’t it Watt who said that there was no need to protect the environment in the long term since Jesus was coming back pretty soon anyway?

    Because there’s a right wing argument against taking care of the
    environment, around 1980 the right wing in American politics formed an
    alliance with US Christianity, and one of the least fun cultural exports
    from America is its modern version of right wing Christianity?

    Via the magic of social networking, I’ve rediscovered a lot of my more hard core evangelical friends from earlier in my life, and the most disturbing thing to note is that at this point, they’re all pretty much hard-right Republicans or libertarians.  To some extent, this seems to be a memetic virus, something that, back when folks were forming these political alliances got bundled in and now is just assumed to be part and parcel of Christianity.  Seriously, someone told me that the Bible prohibits a welfare state because of the prohibition on theft (and this person is actually quite intelligent).

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I really hope you don’t mean James Watt!

  • AndrewSshi

     Yes, I do mean James Watt.  I’m not sure if he actually said it or if it’s just attributed, but it seems like the sort of thing he would have said.

  • CoolHandLNC

    Since I would point it out to deniers picking stats in the other direction, it is *global* warming. Figures for the US or North America alone are not relevant to discussions of global climate change.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Apparently a phrase commonly attributed to James Watt regarding the environment as unimportant due to the End Times cannot be reliably substantiated.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I don’t understand why Christians would consider taking care of the environment a bad thing. Isn’t man being in charge of taking care of the world’s land and animals specifically outlined in Genesis?

    While there are bibilical proof-texty terrible justifications they give, this one is 100% Straight-up “Mainstream evangelical american prostestant christianity is the religious wing of the republican party.” Their corporate overlords are opposed to environmentalism, and therefore so are they.

    (Or rather, environmentalism is associated with those filthy liberal hippie atheistocommunoislamofeministojewliberalgays, and therefore must be hated at all cost)

  • Julian M Elson

    Thinking about the phrasing “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” What does “lie with a male as one lies with a female” mean? Have penile-vaginal sex? I think gays are in the clear there. Have oral or anal sex? Possibly, if one regards oral or anal sex as licit for straights and specifically regards gays’ imitation of the rightfully heterosexual acts of fellatio/anal intercourse as wrong. Gays are, of course, fine for acts which are impossible for lying “as one lies with a female,” like frot and tribadism.

    Of course, one could just interpret it as “gay people suck,” but I’m trying to be blindly literal here.

  • Julian M Elson

    Whoops. Wrong thread. Delete this and the above.

  • Tricksterson

    There are two possible interpretations of that. One is yours, that we were given the world in order to care for, nurture and protect it.  The other was best summed up by Ann Coulter:  “God told us “The world is yours.  Rape it if you want.  It’s yours.”  (Not exact wording but as close as I can remember it.)

     Thank Whoever that woman has never had children.

  • Tricksterson

    :Looked up the exact quote and it’s actually worse than I remember: “God said ‘The Earth is yours.  Take it.  Rape it.  It’s yours.’”.

    Now, you must excuse me.  Having not just read that but a string of other quotes from her on the way to that one I have to go exfoliate auntil my skin bleeds.

  • Tricksterson

    And in Broken Words the author quotes parts of the Talmud where the question of abortion is debated and specific cases where it is permitted are laid down to wit, where the mothers life is endangered, where her health would be permanently impaired, where the child would be deformed and where “shame would be brought to the mother”.  This last I would assume refers to cases of rape and possibly to any case with serious psychological trauma effects.

  • Tricksterson

    I’m old enough to remember that yes, that was an actual quote.

  • The_L1985

     Some people understand “dominion” to mean “mindless tyrannical whims.”

  • The_L1985

    Well, for starters, there wasn’t an idea of “being gay,” or a word for someone who’s only attracted to people of his/her own sex.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    As near as I can tell it’s attibuted to Ann Coulter.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Wait, I see from Invisible Neutrino’s comment that there’s a James Watt who was Secretary of the Interior for two years under Ronald Reagan. I neither know nor care about him.

    I was referring to the far more famous James Watt, Scottish inventor, and coiner of one of my favorite quips.

    Respected Industrial Revolution scientist has moronic views on religion and the environment –> upsetting.

    Politician in the US Republican Party has moronic views on religion and the environment–> dog bites man. Yawn.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Well, excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me for not realizing it.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Huh? No need for sarcasm–you provided the explanation that I needed cos I’d never heard of the other guy. If I wasn’t ignorant of the other guy’s existence I wouldn’t have asked my original question.


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