Cruciform dildo-swords decorate church lawn in Tennessee

Those are not crosses on the lawn of Grace Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The man in this photo, Mack Richards, explained that to reporter Scott Broden of The Tennessean.

Richards, photographed here by the newspaper’s John A. Gillis, explained that these giant cruciform objects on his church’s lawn are actually anti-crosses.

“It was more or less to make a statement to the Muslims about how we felt about our religion, our Christianity,” said Mack Richards, a Middle Tennessee Baptist Church member who built the crosses at the request of Grace Baptist member and friend Bobby Francis. “We wanted them to see the crosses and know how we felt about things.”

Richards’ erections there on the lawn are thus symbols of hostility — assertions of power over and power against the neighbors of the church.

That’s the opposite of a cross, just as surely as power is always the opposite of love. A vampire could stroll the lawn at Grace Baptist and hug each of Richards’ cross-shaped creations without fear.

Those are not crosses. Those are swords.

Or phalluses. Or gun barrels, or missiles, or Roman spears, or whatever objects of that sort you prefer as symbolic assertions of aggressive, hostile, brute power. The horns of the beast from John’s Apocalypse, perhaps, if you want an apt biblical description.

I just think of them as giant dildo-swords, since they were placed there both as threatening weapons and as naked symbols of the alleged potency of the Baptists of Bradyville Pike.

Contemplating the sight of these 13 giant anti-crosses on the lawn of an allegedly Christian church one has to ask: Doesn’t anyone in Murfreesboro understand the meaning of the cross?

Well, Broden was able to find one citizen there who did.

If you’re ever stuck in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and you want to understand what Jesus was all about, look for the church with the 13 giant cruciform dildo-swords on its lawn. But don’t go there, obviously.

Go next door, to the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, and talk to Saleh Sbenaty:

“We love our neighbors, all of them, including the church next door,” said Sbenaty. “As Muslims, we believe in Jesus, as well. Jesus said love thy neighbors. They are our neighbors, and we must love them.”

 

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  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    “It was more or less to make a statement to the Muslims about how we
    felt about our religion, our Christianity,” said Mack Richards, a Middle
    Tennessee Baptist Church member who built the crosses at the request of
    Grace Baptist member and friend Bobby Francis. “We wanted them to see
    the crosses and know how we felt about things.”

    Because, y’know, no one would have known how they felt about things by, say, reading the words Grace Baptist Church on the sign.

    How’s that old song go?  “And they shall know we are Christians by our naked, pointless, over the top aggression directed at our neighbors?”  I don’t know why it’s so popular.  That’s a pretty lousy meter right there.

  • aunursa

    Those are not crosses. Those are swords.

    During the Crusades mobs burst into Jewish homes and demanded “Kiss the Cross” or “Kiss the sword.”

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Have you read Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews – A History by James Carroll? It’s a very good exploration of the Church’s role in anti-semitism over the last few millenia.

  • Tonio

    Excellent point. I admit to being confused as to why Jewish humor doesn’t have the undercurrent of righteous rage that one finds in the work of, say, Richard Pryor. Given how the Jews have suffered at the hands of Christians, I wonder if they are tempted to not only tear down Richard’s crosses but also beat him senseless with the pieces. I wouldn’t approve of such an action but I could understand the feelings.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Given how the Jews have suffered at the hands of Christians, I wonder if
    they are tempted to not only tear down Richard’s crosses but also beat
    him senseless with the pieces.

     I can’t speak for Judaism as a culture, of course, but frankly, it’s not like a lawn full of crosses is all that unusual; it’s just somewhat extreme. American Jews are surrounded every day by the symbols of Christian cultural hegemony, we’ve grown up with it, we’re swimming in it. To the extent that we identify as Jews, we are Other.

    Expressions of anti-Judaism as blatant as Richards’ anti-Islam expression is pretty rare in this decade, granted, but were fairly common in living memory, and the Jewish culture I was raised in conveyed clearly the message that we could return to that at any moment.

    Someone who buys into that cultural message will be unsurprised by the kind of xenophobia Richards demonstrates being channeled through the privileged forms of Christianity, and will also take it for granted that if we were to tear down his crosses, or beat him, or really take any steps at all to challenge his power, the “Christian nation” we live within would promptly close ranks to defend him and punish us for our presumption.

  • Tonio

    I meant that Richard’s words would provoke the rage, not the crosses themselves.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     (nods) Fair enough, but I think my reply is much the same either way. Xenophobia from soi-disant Christians is even less uncommon than a lawn full of crosses, after all.

    I should also clarify, perhaps, that I don’t mean to single out Christians here. This is just what happens when a religion becomes differentially affiliated with temporal power: those who want temporal power adopt the superficial forms of that religion, and alter the way that religion is seen by others. In the U.S., it happened to Christianity, and it got visibly ugly when that hegemony was challenged. In other countries it happened to other religions.

  • http://twitter.com/shay_guy Shay Guy

    I always thought the mention in my Cliffs Notes of A Tale of Two Cities of someone wearing a mini-guillotine around their neck and how that meant the Revolution was replacing love with hate or somesuch was amusing, because the crucifix and Madame Guillotine, at their root? Both execution devices.

  • PJ Evans

     I understand the crusaders killed a lot of Christians, too, because they looked like everyone else in the area and they weren’t Roman Catholics.

  • Holden Pattern

    It’s true isn’t it, that “Fuck all those guys.  I mean, just fuck ’em, I hate them.” is among the red-letter teachings of Jesus in the Gospels?

  • JustoneK

    This is one of those post titles that will make everyone doubletake when I link them.

  • LouisDoench

     My mind immediately went to the Hyperion Cantos!

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    All Paladins should wield mighty dildo-swords. 

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    This is the best post title in the history of post titles.  At least it is to me at this particular moment – I may just hurt myself laughing.

    —-

    That said, despite the hilarious title, it’s yet another excellent example of how the modern church is so bass-akwards as to stand diametrically opposed to what it ought to stand for.  I’d love to say I’m surprised, disgusted, even just mildly irritated – but at this point?  This is the default.

    As sad – terribly horribly sad as it is – when I think “Christian” – this is the kind of thing that leaps to mind.  That’s… just well, sad.

  • Mau de Katt

     “Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
    with the cross of Jesus going on before.”

  • Jim Roberts

    What we (meaning, the church) seem to have forgotten is that in that song, it’s Satan who is the enemy. Y’know, evil. Corruption. Sin. Not people. Never people.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     What we (meaning, the church) seem to have forgotten is that in that
    song, it’s Satan who is the enemy. Y’know, evil. Corruption. Sin. Not
    people. Never people.

    I believe church folk have gotten Jesus and Paul talking about the powers and principalities of evil confused with Morpheus talking about how anyone and everyone in the Matrix can be the enemy.  I’d have more sympathy if Morpheus were played by Samuel L Jackson instead of Lawrence Fishburne, since, y’know, Samuel L Jackson.

  • Jim Roberts

    And in this case, Morpheus is played by Pat Robertson, which is more layers away from reality than you find in the most delicate inception.

  • http://twitter.com/jclor jclor

    confused with Morpheus talking about how anyone and everyone in the Matrix can be the enemy.

    That’s the moment The Matrix lost me: all those people out there are humans, but any one of them could turn into an Agent, so … mass murder?  No problem.  So Neo and Trinity go kill 34 security guards in cold blood and everything’s kosher because, they might have turned evil, right?

    Too close to reality for my tastes, I guess.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    At last!  Someone else who has the same distaste for the same reasons that I do!

  • ReverendRef

      “Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
    with the cross of Jesus going on before.”

    As a kid, I LOVED that song.  It’s got an upbeat tempo, metered easily and is in a range that most people can sing.

    As a priest, I will NEVER use that hymn as part of our worship.  While the lyrics are theologically sound (the whole hymn is about spiritual warfare and defeating Satan — “Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise . . .”), the only thing people actually remember is that refrain. 

    And that’s not something I want pulled out of context.

  • Tonio

    I question the concept of spiritual warfare. It’s too easily misread by some believers and some outsiders as warring against people of other religions. And the world is not about pure good versus pure evil, and personifying the latter in the form of a being (Satan) is simply denial of the fact that humans have impulses toward both good and evil – one can easily blame the being for any wrong one has done instead of taking responsibility for it.

  • ReverendRef

     I don’t necessarily question the concept of spiritual warfare; there’s enough writings in a variety of places on the topic.  But I totally agree with your second sentence, that it’s too easily misread as warring against people of other religions.

    The problem, I think, is that people forget that spiritual warfare is fought in the spiritual realm, not in the physical realm.  Paul talks about this in Ephesians 6:10-18.  He specifically says, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 

    We participate in spiritual warfare through our prayer, not through actually taking up physical arms and slaughtering those with whom we disagree in the name of the Lord.  And the point of participating in that spiritual war, according to Paul in Ephesians, is to be able to withstand the evil one.

    So people misread that passage, look for evil intent where there is none, or ascribe evil intent to things they don’t understand (evolution, Islam, Harry Potter, Happy Holidays) and decide they need to start a “spiritual war” to take down all those evil heathens and heretics; all the while forgetting that Paul specifically said that the struggle isn’t against the enemies of blood and flesh.

    And because this is all too easily misread as warring against people of other religions (or no religion), I will not allow “Onward Christian soldiers” to be sung in my parish.

  • Fusina

     I always figured that the spiritual warfare that was most important to me was the endless fight to not give in to my sociopathic inclinations. Oh, and complete despair. Losing that one currently.

  • ReverendRef

    I always figured that the spiritual warfare that was most important to
    me was the endless fight to not give in to my sociopathic inclinations.

    That’s also a good understanding.  How we fight attacks to our spirit is certainly part of that. 

    Reading your posts, all I can really say is, “Damn, that all sucks.”  But in keeping with the whole spiritual warfare theme, I will offer to add my prayers so that you know you aren’t alone in your struggle.

  • Fusina

     Thanks, I would like that. Planning to add sisinlaw to the prayer list at church, won’t hurt, could help.

    And I read this blog so I know I am not alone. Growing up in a conservative family, I often felt very alone. Nice to know there are a whole lot of loony liberals out there.

  • renniejoy

     Hugs if you want them. :)

  • Fusina

     Yes. Yes I do.

  • Tonio

    Thanks for the explanation. The real problem, I suspect, is that the metaphors of soldiers and warfare are grossly inappropriate for the subject. Again, “spiritual forces of evil” misrepresents the nature of both good and evil, so as to foster the pretense that evil is outside of one’s self. The concept of enemy doesn’t even belong in this context. 

  • Shane

     Traditional conceptions of evil within Christian theology view evil as privation; evil is the twisting or lack of good, not a separate ontological essence apart from the it.  Evil is parasitical to good.  Viewing evil as reduciable to the self cannot give an account of its origins, nor can it really give an account of what good is, or what formed what we call the “self” in a spiritual sense.

  • AnonymousSam

    If evil is ‘merely’ the lack of good, where does good come from and why do some people lack it?

  • Shane

     Well, the short and easy answer would be God.  No one lacks good, not completely.  They may have a malformed view and actions towards it, but I do believe we are fundamentally orientated towards good.

  • AnonymousSam

    Out of curiosity, where does that leave the devil in your understanding of this?

    Also, what of people like myself (who have APD), who can be argued to have no good at all?

  • Shane

     The devil, like all angels, was made fundamentally good.  He* is certainly lacking in good, he certainly does evil things, but that doesn’t make put him on a different scale, so to speak, of sin and evil.  He’s just the lowest on the totem poll, not on a different standard.

    I’m going by context here, but I am assuming you are talking about Antisocial personality disorder?  If so, while it may remove the normal human reactions to wrongdoing (guilt, remorse, desire to do better), it doesn’t do away with the concept of doing good.  It certainly does make it harder.

    *Note: I use gendered language here simply as a generalization; as far as I know, the devil does not have any set gender, certainly not in human terms anyway.

  • AnonymousSam

    Interesting… thank you for sharing this with me. I’m always interested to hear each version of the devil’s nature, origins, etc. It surprised me at first when I discovered that the archetypal story of the devil as an angel who betrayed God and is now the root of all evil is less common among actual religions (as opposed to fiction and Hollywood) than one would think.

    Yes, antisocial personality disorder. In my case, I would probably be classified now as a nomadic antisocial variant nowadays (after much personal growth — I was pretty bad as a child). I tend to think of myself as one who does good, but does not consist of goodness. I suppose, though, by my own definition, God (or rather, my awareness of what I anachronistically term “God”) is responsible for that.

    Hm… this is food for thought. As a sort of pantheist, I perceive divinity in the form of physical law, animation, creation, energy and empathy, basically the forces which drive the world, especially in ways which reflect the connections between all things. I see cause and effect on levels most people with APD tend not to, which is perhaps the only reason why I can function in society. Seeing people, understanding my connection to them, even without understanding their emotions and my own being significantly underdeveloped, requires that I do good. By improving the world around myself, I make conditions easier and more enjoyable to live in.

    So… in a way, you can, in fact, say that God is the only reason I am a good person. It just oversimplifies the equation, but doesn’t invalidate it.

  • Shane

    I’ve conversed with several people who have APD; one thing I have always wanted to ask, but never got around to:  is there anything, goal, ideal, or what, that you would be willing to die for? 

    There’s nothing lurking behind this, just a curiosity to understand more fully.

  • AnonymousSam

    There are circumstances in which I would be willing to die, but I’m not sure if you’re referring to dying to further a higher cause or because the circumstances made it necessary. I suppose the answer is probably “yes” either way, if I felt that my death would achieve a useful purpose, even if it meant simply trading one life for another. It’s not that I think I have less value than another person (I’m a writer and I dearly want to see my writing published someday), but sometimes death is a catalyst to necessary and momentous things. I’m sure you understand.

  • arcseconds

     What does ‘consist of goodness’ mean?

  • AnonymousSam

    Relating to a person’s inner motivations for doing good deeds.  For some people, it comes naturally and seemingly with its own set of rewards (make someone smile, feel good for the rest of the day). I honestly don’t really understand how that even works, but then again, I don’t really ever “feel good.” If I’m not discontent, I just feel there, really, and the only emotional term I can apply to that is “mellow.”

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    This question is probably intrusive, so please feel free to tell me I’m an ass for asking, but do you feel good if your body feels good? Stuff like endorphins after exercising.

  • AnonymousSam

    I don’t embarrass very easily and I am largely anonymous*, so don’t worry about it. I’m not sure I understand the question though.

    Are you referring to an emotional connection to the state of one’s body? Whether or not my body feels good is kind of a thing in and of itself, as far as I’m aware. I’m a pretty sensual person (by every definition, innocent and not) and do get a certain measure of pleasure out of things like warm sunlight, pretty flowers, well-made or performed art, etc… but I’m not sure if it goes past that.

    *For a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that I work for a company which monitors my online behavior under any alias they deem to be associated with the company, meaning that if I’m recognizable, I directly represent the company and will be held liable for anything said which can even potentially be taken poorly by others. They’ve had… incidents with employees on Facebook and Twitter being traced back to said company.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Are you referring to an emotional connection to the state of one’s body?

    I’m not sure I understand this question :). If my body feels good, I feel good. If my body feels bad, I feel bad. If I’m ill or something, I can make myself feel better by finding things that are entertaining, but I can’t really feel “good” when I’m ill except by making my body feel better. If my body is feeling actively good in the moment, I cannot possibly feel anything but good in that moment. If my body is in a state of neutrality, then how I feel can go in any direction, depending on internal and external circumstances.

    I guess I was trying to understand if it’s possible not to have that kind of mind-body connection. Maybe mine is particularly strong, I dunno.

  • AnonymousSam

    Well, I might not be a good example to ask since my body’s in pretty bad condition, but I certainly appreciate the days when it’s not giving me grief. For what it’s worth, I’m generally content in my “mellow” phase, if only because that’s what feels most natural. I’m just not sure if “everything’s fine” and “I’m having a good day” are the same thing.

  • arcseconds

    You know, Kant would say almost exactly the opposite.

    You’re the one that’s all good, because you help others because you realise that’s the right thing to do,  and for no other reason.

    Someone who feels good about helping others may be helping others in order to feel good.   If that’s the case, in a sense they’re no better motivated than someone who eats chocolate to feel good.

    (While in general it’s not really possible to tell what’s motivating a nice person to act nicely, sometimes I think we do encounter people where it’s highly plausible that they are only acting good to feel good, and this is where they don’t consistently act good, but rather it’s very mood dependent.  They can act in a very generous and helpful fashion when they’re in a good mood, but when they’re crabby or have a movie they’d rather watch they behave quite selfishly and unfairly. This is to be contrasted with people who, no matter what state they are in, inhale deeply and continue to act well.)

    There’s a common misinterpretation of Kant to the effect that he maintains you are only acting morally if you don’t feel good about it — ‘misanthropic angels’ is a poetic term I’ve heard to describe this.  And also that helping people to feel good is of no worth whatsoever.  This misunderstanding arises because he sounds a bit like that when he first introduces the concept, but he does this for explanatory purposes — a first approximation, ignoring air resistance and turbulence.

    What he actually says is that doing good to feel good is great, even ‘praiseworthy’, but doesn’t engender ‘respect’, by which he means something a lot stronger than what we generally mean by ‘respect’.   Not “I think there’s a lot to be said about the way you act”, but “wow… I really have to take my hat off to you.  You’re a far better person than I” kind of thing.

    He also thinks we ought to try to inculcate feeling good when acting good in ourselves, in so far as it’s possible, because it makes us more reliable moral actors, and of course it just makes doing good more pleasant for us.   

    Also, he does continue to maintain a degree of suspicion about motivation, even to the extent of wondering at one point if anyone has ever acted morally, ever (at other points he says people act morally all the time – gloomy Kant and happy Kant).

    So you’re off the hook with regard to the former point, Sam, and you’re proof against the later suspicion!

  • AnonymousSam

    That’s… hmm. You may have backed some of my definitions into a corner. I never thought of it like that. I may have to think about this further.

    I still don’t like Kant though. I don’t believe in moral absolutes or ethics without compromise. The entire concept of a categorical imperative strikes me as oversimplified morality, like the ethics of a child in concrete operational stage development. “You never do THIS because doing THIS is ALWAYS WRONG NO MATTER WHAT.” And Kant smells funny.

  • arcseconds

    Well, that he smells funny and has conclusions that you don’t like in other places doesn’t mean you can’t help yourself to the reasoning that does strike you as worthwhile.

    However, the absolutism is, I think, a bit of a misunderstanding too.  He’s often presented as an absolutist because it’s easy to understand, it’s a handy foil to utilitarianism, and possibly because Kant isn’t necessarily well understood even by many ethicists (I’ve even seen an ethics teacher give the ‘handy foil’ argument when pressed by a Kantian as to why keep teaching Kant badly, to which the Kantian replied ‘well, then attribute it to Schmant, not Kant!).

    Of course, it depends on what you mean by ‘absolutism’.   People often seem to think of Kant operating the categorical imperative in order to stamp out an endless series of ‘Thou Shalt Nots’ which then you are then obliged to obey without question. 

    That picture is wrong.  “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is not something that Kantians need to follow rigidly, although of course they’d generally be against killing just the same as anyone else who’s even vaguely moral.

    The way Kant actually invokes the categorical imperative is to select what maxims are appropriate to be adopted as principles of action, and the maxims that he gives always involve a goal.  So to a Kantian agent “is it OK to kill?” isn’t enough to go on, they would respond with “well, what are you trying to accomplish?”

    “In order to save my friend’s life, I will kill the murderer that’s assaulting them (if necessary)” – OK, could that be a general rule for everyone?  I reckon it could be.  So, killing in self defense or defense of others is OK.

    “In order to secure a promotion at work, I will kill my rival” – could that be a general rule for everyone?  Well, a world like that would be horrible.  What the person considering killing a rival really wants is a world where they can get away with it, but are never confronted with that possibility themselves (and everything else that goes along with it, like widespread paranoia, loved ones getting killed, etc. )

    So, I suppose ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill to Obtain a Promotion” is an absolute Kantian rule.  Is that a problem?   To me it seems quite a good result…

    (I’ll note in passing that it’s easy to get the impression that the categorical imperative is a decision procedure that has to be employed every time you act.  Kant does treat it a bit like that for expository purposes, but the general picture later is not like that at all.  I’ve already said a bit about this in an earlier comment on another thread.)

    You do complain about the categorical imperative directly as though that’s the absolute rule you don’t like.   Well, sure, that’s Kant’s ultimate moral principle, and isn’t negotiable within Kant’s theory.  But I don’t think Kant is any worse than consequentialism on this score: “do whatever achieves the greatest amount of good” is just as absolute as anything in Kant.   Maybe you don’t like consequentialism either, but if so you’re complaint is looking more like a beef with contemporary philosophical ethics rather than with Kant in particular.

  • AnonymousSam

    Possibly. It’s looking like my Bioethics instructor oversimplified for the sake of brevity (we had a LOT of material to cover and didn’t come close to getting all of it). I’m less interested in ethics and philosophy as how others have tried to convey them and more in using the concepts as a toolkit to better learn how to approach the questions they try to answer, so I admit, I didn’t rush home after class to do extra reading. We pretty much covered the basics of Kantian ethics, utilitarian ethics and one other that escapes me now and then spent much of the rest of the semester in a series of class discussions based on material we were reading and covering (mostly case studies).

  • friendly reader

    So… in a way, you can, in fact, say that God is the only reason I am a
    good person. It just oversimplifies the equation, but doesn’t
    invalidate it.

    We were briefly talking about Neo-Platonism on another thread and how it impacted Christian thinking. One of the ideas in N-P is that existence is a good in and of itself; it is better to exist than to not exist.* You’re a real person, still around, still existing; that means there’s good in you.

    There’s a lot of debate over whether that really works as an idea, but it might be some help to you if you’re wondering whether you can count as good. No Christianity required either. N-P ideas have been used by pagans, Jews, and Muslims.

    *This is why Anselm rhapsodized that “God is the best thing that can be imagined” (paraphrased) meant God had to exist, because it would be better for God to exist than to not exist. Even if you buy that argument, what counts as “best” or “greatest” is still up in the air, and it certainly doesn’t require everything else in Christianity that makes it unique, like the incarnation. It was also was never meant to be a proof; Anselm was just throwing philosophy into his meditations.

  • Shane

     Anselm’s arguments got a lot resistance even in his own day, because they relied upon an early univocity (one substance; the good of God is the same thing as the good we speak about in normal conversation, just quantitatively higher) of being rather than the analogy of being (The good of God is different from the good of human beings; language is used as analogy to give an imperfect capture of that) used in that day; it wasn’t until Scotus came along that the concept of univocity really developed, which a lot of modern day theologians and philosophers of religion view as deadly to many conceptions of God.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    You can tell you’ve read too many political/legal (and, apparently, not enough theology) blog posts lately when .  . . .

    instead of seeing “Scotus” you see “SCOTUS.”

  • AnonymousSam

    I could debate that. Is there good in the existence of an evil person? That would presume that some purpose is fulfilled by evil people, which starts to eek into the predestination and grand plan concepts in theology. My beliefs do allow for one to be more religiously oriented than others though, it’s just that I weigh one’s spirituality by how deeply aware they are connected to the universe and everything within it. Or to quote John Donne,

    No man is an island,
    Entire of itself.
    Each is a piece of the continent,
    A part of the main.
    If a clod be washed away by the sea,
    Europe is the less.
    As well as if a promontory were.
    As well as if a manor of thine own
    Or of thine friend’s were.
    Each man’s death diminishes me,
    For I am involved in mankind.
    Therefore, send not to know
    For whom the bell tolls,
    It tolls for thee.

    I could make this poem a sort of koan — if you can understand it, you’re on the right path. If you’ve internalized it, you can never go wrong.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The devil, like all angels, was made fundamentally good.  He* is certainly lacking in good, he certainly does evil things, but that doesn’t make put him on a different scale, so to speak, of sin and evil.  He’s just the lowest on the totem poll, not on a different standard.
     
    I always liked the idea that Satan is the Loyal Opposition, myself. It certainly makes sense of the Book of Job. Does rather throw a spanner into Revelation, but then the idea comes from the Jews, who consider Job part of Scripture but don’t so consider Revelation.

  • arcseconds

     There’s a tradition in Sufi mysticism that Iblis is indeed loyal, that with their great gifts they foresaw the need for an angel to rebel, and that they decided that it would be better for them to feign their own rebellion rather than allow one of their brethren to become the first rebel for real.  

    It is said that in the centre of Hell there is a mosque where the devil goes to pray.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oooooooh. I wonder can I steal that for the story I’m plotting?

  • arcseconds

    I found you this:

    http://journeytothesea.com/disobedience-iblis-sufism/

    But I understand that this is a mystery, in the ‘mystery religion’ sense of mystery.  I actually felt reluctant to speak of it openly.  So, assuming you care about such things, you may want to check up on the cultural appropriateness of using it as a story.

    I don’t know how widespread these stories are even within Sufiism, and I understand that the official, external position even for them is that Iblis is evil.

    You may also be interested to know that there’s another tradition that Iblis was Allah’s lover.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Thank you, and understood.

  • Shane

     Someone likes Milton ;)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Never read him, actually. I keep meaning to but there’s always something else higher on the priority list.

  • friendly reader

     Also, not all Christians believe in the idea of fallen angels and a literal devil. A lot of us view Satan as a metaphor for the persistence of evil. Obviously Christians have taken a more literal look on the existence of a fallen angel throughout history, though it’s notable that a lot of the Devil mythos comes from outside the Bible. It’s Word of Dante.

    And while Christianity has a lot of dualistic tendencies, mythologically the devil is technically not the opposite of God, but the opposite of Micheal, the chief angel. Not absolute good versus evil, but “turning towards God” and “turning away.”

    I tend to see the devil – however you interpret the idea – as principally opposed to humanity, depicted as either our arch-critic (Job) or as a representative of madness (the Gospels), sin (much of the NT), or the forces of Empire and oppression (Daniel and Revelation).

  • Shane

     Notions of the devil as a fallen angel predate the formation of Christianity itself.  I’m inclined to take the devil as a real person due the affirmation of that throughout the vast majority of Christian tradition.  One strand of thought looks at the devil as rebelling out of jealously of humanity.  I really don’t have an opinion on most of this, but it is interesting to think about.

  • Kirala

    Also, what of people like myself (who have APD), who can be argued to have no good at all?

    Not speaking to the rest of the conversation, but I see APD as at worst a lack of conscience, not of goodness – and I suspect that enlightened self-interest, if nothing else, keeps APD people contributing good to the balance. I don’t think that lacking a visceral empathy necessarily keeps one from adding good to the world any more than lacking pain sensitivity necessarily keeps one from taking care of one’s body.

    Which is not to say that there aren’t monsters out there. But here I follow George MacDonald – what’s important is less where one is on the monstrosity scale and more where one is headed. I suspect that’s why we’re told not to judge. Not because actions cannot be judged as good or evil, but because the entirety of a person’s soul is unknown and thus the entirety of the person cannot be judged as good or evil. Contrary to all evidence, goodness may exist in every living soul.

  • Tonio

    While I didn’t understand all of that, I’m not sure why good or evil would need origins in the first place. 

  • Lori

     

    The problem, I think, is that people forget that spiritual warfare is fought in the spiritual realm, not in the physical realm.    

    This is the thing that drives me right up the wall about the way some people discuss the issue of jihad in Islam and conclude that the one and only meaning of jihad is terrorism and therefore Islam is by definition evil. Yes, some Muslims believe that it means literal warfare against apostates and unbelievers. Far more Muslims think it’s about spiritual struggle.  Muslims are like Christians that way. The fact that some Christians treat spiritual warfare as if it should be fought in the physical realm does not make that the meaning of spiritual warfare and Osama bin Laden was not the last word on jihad.

  • Tonio

    That irritates me as well because it’s obviously driven by xenophobia and ethnocentrism. I maintain that warfare as a metaphor doesn’t belong in any religious context regardless of how it’s used. Warfare means clashing armies and us versus them. Struggle is a far better term.

  • jasonhammer

    It seems they are saying, “The Romans were right about the meaning of the cross and early Christians were wrong.”

  • Worthless Beast

    Hmm.  Looks like a cemetary on that lawn.  

    Also, evenly spaced like that, they look like vineyard struts or something on that order. String some wire between them and plant some grapevines. The neighbors don’t drink, but everyone likes to snack on grapes, don’t they?

  • JustoneK

    And wouldn’t grapes be a better symbol for Christ anyway?  And practical!

    Christian imagery is always better when it’s practical.

  • Jessica_R

    God, building Penis Crosses isn’t standing up to (imaginary) persecution. *This* is standing up to (all too real) persecution, 
    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/08/gay-and-proud-in-uganda.html#slide_ss_0=1

  • Magic_Cracker

    “It was more or less to make a statement to the Muslims about how we felt about our religion, our Christianity,” said Mack Richards, a Middle Tennessee Baptist Church member who built the crosses at the request of Grace Baptist member and friend Bobby Francis. “We wanted them to see the crosses and know how we felt about things.”

    Uhm, what? I kind of assume that people get something out of generally like their own religion, whatever it may be, and in any case, erecting those crosses doesn’t so much make “a statement to the Muslims about how we felt about our religion, our Christianity” as it makes a statement about how they feel about Muslims — not to mention that simply erecting crosses doesn’t say jack-shit about anything unless you say what those crosses mean. The only reason I knew the crosses in front of Little Flower Elementary School symbolized abortions  is because they had a sign saying so. If all they had were crosses and no sign, it would just be a mess of crosses in front of a Catholic school. Similarly, if a bunch of white crosses in front of a Baptist church is just a bunch of cross in front of a Baptist church, and the fact that a reporter had to ask them what they meant shows that the church failed to get its message across. My suggestion is that Middle Tennessee Baptist Church cut to the chase and set those crosses on fire — then there’ll be no mistaking what they’re all about.

  • Christine Watson

     They’re being used the same way heads on spikes arranged around a castle were — as a warning.

  • TheDarkArtist

    The amount of self-pitying indignation from Christians on my Facebook was astonishing when I posted this. “Oh, so now the CROSS is somehow hateful? Liberals just want to ban Christians from showing their faith ANYWHERE, that’s why this country is turning into the Soviet Union! Blah blah blah blah bloop.”

    It’s really scary and unreasonable how quickly Christians on the internet begin to believe that they’re being persecuted. I had to explain to one guy who was saying something along the lines of “a Christian can’t say anything about their faith online without being insulted and told to shut up,” that yes, the internet is the one place that atheists aren’t afraid of telling you to shove it up your ass when you say stupid things. 

    Keep in mind, the conversation was sparked by someone saying “it was just their time, and if they don’t believe in God that’s not His fault” to a video of the Boxing Day tsunami. He didn’t seem to understand that it’s generally impossible for an atheist, in real life, to tell someone to fuck off when they say something like that, or try to convert us, because of social conventions or, frankly fear of some kind of perhaps violent reprisal.

    It’s honestly amazing to me, as part of a religious minority in this country, that more people haven’t retaliated against these right-wing churches tit-for-tat. I’m not saying they should, because more destruction/violence/hate is the last thing we need. I’m just surprised that the lunacy hasn’t pushed one of the looser cannons over the edge.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    These crosses are nothing more than an attempt to mark territory.  The message they’re sending to the mosque next door is:  “This is our territory, not yours!”  That church’s congregation might as well go out there and piss on the lawn like a bunch of dogs or cats.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    I’m stilling wrapping my mind around the idea that these are symbols which are cross-SHAPED, but are not CROSSes. Especially when they look exactly the same as a basic Christian Cross. Unless you’re going put up a sign explaining things, how are most of us passing yahoos going to tell the difference? Putting them up next to a Christian Church, home of the original meaning of the cross’s symbolism, doesn’t help the point either.
    Someone said that, a cross upside-down looks like a pogo-stick. Maybe that would have been the better way to put them?
    I like the vineyard idea, grapevines would definitely help.

  • VMink

    Now all he has to do is douse those crosses in kerosene and light them on fire.  That’ll get his message across really well, I think.

    /beingtotallyserioushere

  • Lori

    On if he moves them to the lawn nex door. Which I suspect he would dearly love to do.

  • Vermic

    I hope this post gets a “tribalism” tag, because it’s as literal an example of the phenomenon as you can have without facepaint and pig heads on sticks.

  • http://rightcrafttool.blogspot.com/ Sign Ahead

    Well, it does have plenty of sticks.

  • AnonymousSam

    In the year 1284, Pope Innocent III predicted that the world would end 666 years after the rise of Islam.  728 years later, we’re still seeing indignant hatred at sharing a huge chunk of overlapping material in their faiths, but the world’s still here.

    At least for now.

  • Lunch Meat

    Plaintiffs unsuccessfully argued in court that Islam is not a religion…

    …!

    I quit the human race.

    He said he sees the crosses as being part of the “Great Commission,” a
    Christian reference on what Jesus called his followers to do in
    spreading the news about him to the world.

    “Go into all the world and make disciples from all nations, teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded you. Especially the command about attacking, persecuting, and running out of town everyone who is different. Oh, and the one about rubbing it in people’s faces when you’re stronger. That’s a good one.”

  • AnonymousSam

    To be fair? There are portions of the Bible dedicated to how you’re supposed to slaughter anyone who doesn’t worship the same god as you, and Jesus did uphold the laws of the Old Testament, which include “murder anyone who suggests not worshiping Zeus Yahweh.” Deuteronomy 13 is the big one.

  • Lunch Meat

    I don’t know if I would say he “upholds” the laws, although I guess that’s arguable. Certainly many of his other teachings made it clear that the law was not the final answer.

    But I do think that Mr. Francis’ justifying this by way of the Great Commission shows an appalling lack of respect for the man whose teachings he’s trying to spread. When I think of Jesus’ most prominent commands, I think of “love one another” and “turn the other cheek” and the way his very life refuted that kind of power and dominance.

  • AnonymousSam

    Matthew 5:17-19 and Luke 16:17 both uphold the law very specifically.

    Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass the law until all is accomplished.

    It is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for the smallest part of the letter of the law to become invalid.

    Those are… very strongly affirmative of the existing law lasting forever and ever, and so we should continue not trimming our beards, eating shellfish or failing to destroy our enemies. :p

  • Fusina

     I think the question I would have asked himself is, “Could you explain what law you are talking about here?” on account of he also said, IIRC, that “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. On these hang all the law and the prophets”. I’d give the reference, but I’m too lazy right now to go find it. Besides, that gives someone else something to do.

  • AnonymousSam

    That’d be Matthew 22:34-40.

    Hmm. Matthew 15:1-21 suggests that the old laws are dispensible, but it can be interpreted a few different ways (in contradiction to what he himself said in 2 Peter 1:20).

  • Mark Z.

    Except that Jesus had lots of enemies, and he didn’t kill them.

  • AnonymousSam

    Jesus also preached that we are to love one-another, which is even further at odds with the xenophobic attitudes of the Old Testament. My point wasn’t what Jesus really said, but that the xenophobia and religious aggression are part and parcel of the language and content of the Bible, and some people are going to act on that. For them, tribalism isn’t just relevant, it’s still the only reasonable way of life, as we can see from the article in the original post…

  • Mark Z.

    Really? There’s tribalism in the Bible? I am shocked.

    I’m not sure why you’re quoting Jesus to substantiate that. I guess it’s some kind of parody of tone-deaf literalism? “Jesus said that he was upholding the Mosaic law*, so you Christians are all obligated to go kill your infidel neighbors!” This Internet Atheist game of “Do what I tell you your religion requires, or else renounce your religion” is tiresome. Cut it out.

    Bigoted jerks like Mack Richards pose a real threat, because this is a democratic society and they and their followers wield considerable political power. But mindlessly literal interpretation of the Bible won’t give you an accurate view of how they operate. As we’ve often discussed here, their practical theology is not based on a literal reading of the Bible. They call it “literal” but it’s actually highly selective and idiosyncratic.** What are their big political/doctrinal shibboleths? Creationism, homosexuality, and abortion. That’s one chapter in Genesis, a few sentences in Leviticus and Romans, and absolutely nothing. (Oh, and American exceptionalism, which is obviously nowhere in the Bible unless you’re a Mormon.) They didn’t learn this stuff by being excessively devoted to the exact words of the Bible. You’re shining your flashlight in the wrong place.

    * while deliberately subverting its ideas of purity and piety

    ** Any attempt by a modern community to put the Bible to practical use is invariably selective and idiosyncratic, because the Bible is not written for practical use, especially by modern communities.

  • AnonymousSam

    I was saying that? Apparently I misinterpreted my own point and was actually intentionally being an asshole Internet Atheist. I thought I was making a tongue-in-cheek remark of nothing more substance than highlighting the tendency of bigoted assholes to gravitate toward the Bible’s very real darker side while ignoring the inconveniently peaceful and loving parts, but I guess I was out to convert Christians into other Internet Atheists like myself, never mind that I don’t consider myself an atheist. Apparently I have an unconscious agenda.

    I also say an awful lot more than my posts actually contain! That’s somewhat impressive. If I can convert that kind of tool into a physical storage medium, I should start leasing out storage space in text files.

  • Mark Z.

    Then I misread you as well. I tend to see hostility and sarcasm when they’re not there. I apologize. That was ungenerous of me.

  • AnonymousSam

    I can’t blame you when the blog does occasionally attract atheists out to disenfranchise the entire faith. If it says anything, though, when I first found Patheos, I visited Slacktivist first, then FriendlyAtheist… and I came back to Slacktivist to stay. I feel closer to the people here than almost anywhere else.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Except that Jesus had lots of enemies, and he didn’t kill them.</i.

    Not yet.

  • Christine Watson

     Peter had a vision about a sheet with some animals in it that kind of throws your theory out the window.

  • Christine Watson

     Also, the rest of the New Testament.

  • Wingedwyrm

    I don’t think anybody’s saying that the Bible is uniformly Tribalistic and pro-death-to-nonbelievers.  But, you can’t say that the Bible or God as depicted in the bible is uniformly anti-tribalistic either.

    If a person wants to practice kindness upon one’s neighbors and upon those who seem strange, alien, or other, the Bible will back him up with quotes and arguments to use among those who give the Bible credit as a viable source of morality.

    If a person wants to practice cruelty and make threats upon the strange, the alien, or the other, the Bible will back him up with quotes and arguments to use among those who give the Bible credit as a viable source of morality.

  • AnonymousSam

    I’ll quibble with the last here: I was quoting from the New Testament, from Jesus specifically. Again, I’m not asserting that this is the correct interpretation. It’s there, so some people go for it, which is sad, but not really surprising when it’s part of the book. Actually, I’d go so far as to say that I don’t really believe any of these people ever sat and rationalized it out like that, but I’ll bet their favorite parts of the Bible invoke feelings of righteousness and condemnation of others, and they probably read the Old Testament in much the same way, viewing the other tribes as uncivilized heathens.*

    If you read the article, what makes it even worse is the Muslim quoting Jesus (in the context of his own faith’s acknowledgement of Jesus) in saying that we should love our neighbors, and here’s his neighbor (who’s supposed to be Christian and therefore following Jesus) barking like a chihuahua with Little Dog Syndrome. There’s a sad irony in that.

    * Which always made me wonder why Aaron’s breastplate had stones to
    symbolize the twelve tribes, when earlier in Exodus, the tribes are to be
    driven out of the lands and/or destroyed… the book switched sources
    at about that point (from Jahwist to Priestly), so maybe that was
    inserted later when the tribes were coexisting? There are theories that the reason for the repetition of stories and variations of character names throughout the Bible is because they result from merging the oral histories of two or more tribes together, so perhaps parts of Exodus in particular got mashed together and  suffered for it.

  • Hawker40

    @AnonymousSam “To be fair? There are portions of the Bible dedicated to how you’re supposed to slaughter anyone who doesn’t worship the same god as you, and Jesus did uphold the laws of the Old Testament, which include “murder anyone who suggests not worshiping Zeus Yahweh.” Deuteronomy 13 is the big one.”

    Well, to be really fair, Muslims do worship Yahweh… and have thier own commandment about murdering people who don’t.

  • AnonymousSam

    Aye, but too many people are inclined to point at those and say “Well, they’re just doing what their evil little religion says to!” while ignoring the same in their own religion. It’s a curious double-standard.

  • Christine Watson

     Yeah, ‘Love Your Neighbor as Yourself’ and ‘Love God’ are totally teachings that uphold murdering people outside your tribe.

  • Lunch Meat

    AnonymousSam didn’t say there is nothing in the Bible that teaches love, just that there are lots of stories and laws that teach tribalism and persecution of other religions. In fact, zie said, like, 15 posts ago that “Jesus preached we are to love one another.” So, let’s not pretend people are saying things they didn’t say.

  • Shane

    “We love our neighbors, all of them, including the church next door,”
    said Sbenaty. “As Muslims, we believe in Jesus, as well. Jesus said love
    thy neighbors. They are our neighbors, and we must love them.”

    This kinda proves what St. Clare allegedly said to St. Francis upon St.  Francis’s return from an unsuccessful mission to convert the Sultan:  “What are you upset about?  The Muslims are better Christians than our Christians.  Europe needs you more.”

  • Magic_Cracker

    Say, has anyone claimed “Cruciform Dildo Swords” as their band’s name yet? No? DIBS!

  • ReverendRef

     Seems to me that “Cruciform Dildo Swords” would be a better album name.  But feel free to use it for your band.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Would that be some kind of prog-rock concept album — 13 tracks, each one representing a different cruciform dildo-sword — with vaguely Randian lyrics and 64-track layered guitar solos representing man’s triumph over unreason?

  • ReverendRef

     That’s more along the lines of what I was thinking.  Of course there would have to be a cover of Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom.”

    And now we should probably stop before the two of us totally derail the thread.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     Self titled album? >.>

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    “Cruciform Dildo Swords”

    … dot tumblr dot com.

  • Twig

    ““It was more or less to make a statement to the Muslims about how we felt about our religion, our Christianity,”

    To be fair, “we have no idea what we’re talking about” is a statement.

  • Fusina

    Well, not lazy. Tired and stressed out. I’ve had a crappy year–one cousin who killed herself, four friends dead at far too early an age from various diseases, another cousin who died from an illness he had all his life, my favorite cat died of end stage renal failure, and now my sis-in-law has been diagnosed with a second go round of breast cancer.

  • veejayem

    It sounds as if you’re “running on empty”, and no wonder. Try and take care of yourself Fusina.

  • THE Deranged Magpie aka Fusina

     Yeah. I think my stress meter broke under the strain.

  • AnonymousSam

    Quite understandable, and my condolences.

    Poor kitty! Deja vu, I was just reading a friend’s blog notice that her cat had died the same way, and after a successful miniature fundraiser to help cover kitty’s medical costs, too…

  • Fusina

     Well, we could have done the medical intervention, but the only cure for it is organ transplant which I don’t think they do for animals, so we would have kept her alive only to lose her anyway. Seemed both a waste of money, and a lot of additional pain on her part. So we had her put to sleep–the vet let us hold her when she went which was a bit of a comfort. She was my Little Fluff–if I took a nap she would wander in and mew to get me to hold the covers up so she could nap with me. If I sat down, she would crawl into my lap and snooze. We still have three cats (all orphans of one kind or another) and not a single lap cat among them.

  • AnonymousSam

    The one we have is like that — he’ll let you pet him (in fact, he’ll start yowling in the hallway if no one gives you attention, and sometimes even if they do), but he doesn’t dispense affection beyond rubbing his head on your hand or shins. I’ve missed having a lap cat, but I don’t think we could get away with getting another cat when the landlord grumbles enough at the one we have.

    Lap cats are like tails — if everyone had one, we’d have less war.

  • Kiba

    I have two cats at the moment and both of them like laps. One, he’s just over a year old, also likes to drape himself across my shoulders. He’s also a purring machine and purrs at the drop of a hat. He also does the yelling for attention but his meow is rather pathetic. He sounds like he has a case of laryngitis or something. 

  • Lori

     

    Lap cats are like tails — if everyone had one, we’d have less war.  

    Sadly, no. Being unable to breath well, plus having a constantly running nose and itchy skin makes me very, very cranky. If everyone had a cat I’d be pissed all the time and bad things would no doubt flow from there.

  • AnonymousSam

    Erase and correct! If everyone had the ideal lap cat, we’d have less war. Yours can be specifically modified to give off no dander without being a weird wrinkly sphinx cat. It’ll shed lemon scent instead and its excretions will resemble the finest leaves of mint.

    Not sure where that came from, but I want one now.

  • Lori

    A hypoallergenic, lemony, minty cat would be fine.

  • Kiba
  • PJ Evans

     I figure in the next world we get our cats back. (I’m expecting to be greeted with loud cries and stories about how mistreated and abused mine has been – with a heavenly being running after her yelling ‘I wasn’t done petting you!’)

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

     That is a horrible year. 

    I’m so sorry for your losses.  My heart goes out to you.

  • veejayem

    I would very much like a vampire to wander out of the mythos and onto that lawn and embrace one of those public insults masquerading as symbols of faith ~ but only if he or she is a Stokeresque vampire, not a sparkly one. Because then I would like the vampire to enter that so-called church, which I am sure it could do very easily, and have some new friends for dinner.

  • JonathanPelikan

    Most of the SMeyerpyres would go in and do some murdering, too; and they’d even be completely convinced that it was the right thing to do and all those people deserved it for being people and stuff. Plus it would be really hard to stop them since they’re imba and have pretty much zero weaknesses at all.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    An old-school WoD Tzimice would probably do all that, then fleshcraft the folks inside into one final cross, just for the lulz. 

  • Mark Z.

    If I ever play Exalted again, I am totally making a deathknight named Cruciform Dildo Sword.

  • Wingedwyrm

    I’ve said this before and will likely say this again.  But, Christianity doesn’t have any set of rules or advice for people in power.  The story of Jesus in the bible, and his disciples, is the story of a group very much not in political power.  They’re depicted as holy rabble-rousers, people on the outside of power, looking in, and, as such, tempted to think that hatred and violence would be the way to change things.  So, Jesus is depicted giving advice on how to face oppression in the morally perfect way.

    Now, in defense of that temptation, once Christianity became the official religion of Rome, violence was an effective way of spreading the faith.  And that brings us to the point where Europe was for a good millenia or so.  Christianity was the faith of the powerful and it just didn’t have any official advice on how to weild that power or, as I as an atheist or anybody as member of another faith or a different sect of Christianity would have had it, advice to not weild that power.

    He said to render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s, but not what to do when you are Ceasar.  Christendom may not be as powerful as it was during the midle ages in Europe, but in America it is still Ceasar and still acts absent advice.

  • Holden Pattern

    “I’ve said this before and will likely say this again.  But, Christianity doesn’t have any set of rules or advice for people in power.  The story of Jesus in the bible, and his disciples, is the story of a group very much not in political power.  They’re depicted as holy rabble-rousers, people on the outside of power, looking in, and, as such, tempted to think that hatred and violence would be the way to change things.  So, Jesus is depicted giving advice on how to face oppression in the morally perfect way.”
    This also explains a lot about why so many Christians, who are culturally and politically dominant in the United States, so quickly revert to “Help, help, I’m being oppressed” in response to criticism or curtailment of their privilege and set up endless political psychodramas in which they are the victims.  Their religion offers them that narrative, and even when it’s patently false it’s a lazy and appealing story to tell about oneself. 

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Hey now that isn’t fair, that is EXACTLY what the cross is about.  A weapon of torture popular with the Romans used to cow conquered people.  A tool of murder, used– through betrayal & humans at their worst– to deliver excruciating (literally) agony until death.  They’ve totally got the right of it.

    These guys are on the side of the Romans, right?  Just checking.  Because if they were rooting for the guy ON the cross, then I’m pretty sure they got the wrong message.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christiandpiatt Christian Piatt

    And folks wonder why we critique our own faith from the inside.

  • Julian Elson

    Perhaps ideally, the phallus or dildo would also symbolize love (and pleasure), not violent domination.

    Swords, spears, and guns are seemingly intrinsically weaponized, without the potential of the phallus to (hopefully) lose its weapon status. Knives have a non-violent role in the kitchen or dinner table that swords can perform in a pinch. Spears and guns, I can’t think of a non-violent role except practicing for violence non-violently (even with no intention of performing the “real” version of the practiced event; e.g., skeet shooting).

  • AnonymousSam

    George Carlin had a bit on how weapons (bullets and bombs) nowadays all resemble phalluses because war is an exercise in proving the superiority of one’s member…

    Spears can be used for roasting food on a spit, depending on the material in the shaft. As for guns, it would depend on whether one counts the violence in hunting in the same capacity…

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Swords, spears, and guns are seemingly intrinsically weaponized, without the potential of the phallus to (hopefully) lose its weapon status. Knives have a non-violent role in the kitchen or dinner table that swords can perform in a pinch, although that’s not the intended use of a true sword. Spears and guns, I can’t think of a non-violent role except practicing for violence non-violently (even with no intention of performing the “real” version of the practiced event; e.g., skeet shooting).

    I have always seen baring one’s genitals to the world as advertising a weakness.  The genitals on a human are a vulnerable spot, and the body reacts with excessive pain when harm comes to it compared to other places on the body.  

    In other words, when somebody is holding up their genitals to the world (or some appropriately symbolic substitute such as a gun or other socially recognized symbol of compensatory virility) they are saying “Right here, this is where you can hurt me most.”  Threatening that symbol will provide considerable leverage over them should the need to do so arise.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     Maybe that’s part of it. It’s like when the villain explains his own weakness or the critical flaw in his plan to the hero, because he’s so confident that the hero is completely overpowered and can’t possibly take advantage of the knowledge. If you have someone completely broken or helpless, you (well, maybe not you but the nutty supervillain version of you) might feel comfortable exposing yourself to them because supervillain-you knows that if they dare attack you can crush them into the dirt.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Except this isn’t entirely an arbitrary symbolic mapping, subject to being interpreted and reinterpreted; there’s some hardwiring involved as well. And if it turns out that humans are a primate species in which genital display is not a dominance gesture, I’ll be very surprised.

  • ohiolibrarian

    13 crosses? I thought that 13 was traditionally bad luck because … Judas.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    Whenever I see the term “spiritual warfare,” I think of either Professor X squaring off against Amahl Farouk/Shadow King on the Astral Plane, or this old Spectre story in which the Spectre is engaging in a battle with one of his greatest enemies on the Astral Plane.

    The latter one is much more entertaining in an over-the-top visual fashion, as the Astral Plane they’re fighting on is basically a mental/spiritual projection of the physical universe, and the Spectre and – I want to say it was Kulak that he was fighting – his adversary had grown to enormous sizes and were whacking each other with comets and smashing each other over the head with entire planets…

    Then I think about what people are actually talking about and it’s a letdown.  Because seriously, your version of spiritual warfare is so boring by comparison.

    (It’s kind of like when, in reference to Project Management, I see the term “Force Field Analysis,” and I think, “Cool!”  Then I’m reminded of how it’s just a cool name for a really mundane and boring activity.)

  • friendly rader

     Ah, but we do have Christians who are involved in that kind of warfare! Have you ever heard of Frank E Peretti’s books, like This Present Darkness? I read that one in high school and thought that it was so neat that someone had created a crazy fantasy universe based loosely on Christian mythology. Demons lurk around drug dens and covertly try to control the government, angels have swords and use prayers of humans as backup support, exorcism is actually real rather than a total joke.

    It was only later that I found out this is how he actually believes the world works. Oh my sheltered Lutheran upbringing…

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Then I think about what people are actually talking about and it’s a letdown.  Because seriously, your version of spiritual warfare is so boring by comparison.

    Try reading Fundamentalist literature of the Jack Chick variety.  They treat Spiritual Warfare like their lives are a 24/7 Mage LARP.  I find their stuff to be hilarious until I get the sudden sickening realization that they REALLY BELIEVE this stuff, and that Satan and his zoo of demons are MORE REAL to them than, say, that guy on the streetcorner holding a ‘will work for food’ sign.

  • Fusina

    First, thanks for all the concern and good thoughts. Got a good nights sleep last night and am feeling a lot better.

    Second, thanks for all the interesting comments. I love the blog, but love the comments just as much. I learn so much about how other people think, and it is fascinating–in a good way. Because it forces me to look at my thoughts and sometimes to turn them upside down to see what is lurking underneath them. This is a good thing, albeit scary. And I am beginning to suspect that an awful lot of evangelicals may be terrified of examining their beliefs, on the off chance that they are wrong and will have to change. Change is scary in and of itself, and when you toss religion into the mix…well.

  • ReverendRef

     And I am beginning to suspect that an awful lot of evangelicals may be
    terrified of examining their beliefs, on the off chance that they are
    wrong and will have to change.

    I think you’re right on here.  On the surface it seems like they are strong in their faith — prayer warriors, standing up to persecution, etc etc — but when you really look at it, they seem to have a tenuous hold on their faith.  You don’t dare question the “fact” of a six-day creation; you don’t dare examine Scripture that contradicts a church “doctrine;” you don’t dare challenge what any leader says; and you certainly don’t ever read and think on Scripture such as Matthew 25 (the separation of sheep and goats) or John 10:11-16(ish) where Jesus says, “I have other sheep you don’t know about.”

    It takes a lot of faith to be able to honestly examine your belief structure.

  • Fusina

     It takes a lot of faith to be able to honestly examine your belief structure.

    Mmm, I would not be one to say that I have a lot of faith. Hope, on the other hand… I have one parent who is very evangelical, one who has difficulty with that sort of certainty, and two sibs who follow in the evangelical parent’s footsteps. So I get to see a lot of the hanging on for dear life. My beliefs about God and who and what he is have evolved over my lifetime, based on experiences, and on occasion dreams. And I don’t know how honest I am either. I can be just as petty as the next person when one of my fondly held beliefs is challenged.

    Therapy has helped a lot–in a way, it can be like an exorcism, without the incense and crosses, if you see what I mean. Dealing with the crud in ones past can be as freeing as being delivered from devils–and maybe that is what happens, on one level.

    I am just intensely curious, and sometimes I look at bits of the bible in ways not usual. One of my signposts, as it were, was the bit about how God’s ways are not our ways etc… So if there is something that seems right to me as a human, I have started to examine it. Sometimes I conclude that the rightness is there, sometimes I change. For instance, I was brought up to believe that homosexuality was a sin. Only then I met and made friends with people who are. And they were absolutely normal people. So I started to question that belief, and consequently my beliefs on that subject have changed. 

  • AnonymousSam

     For what it’s worth, you already strike me as the kind of person who can fulfill the blog’s motto: Test everything; hold fast to what is good.

  • Fusina

     For what it’s worth, you already strike me as the kind of person who can fulfill the blog’s motto: Test everything; hold fast to what is good.
     I try. It is an ongoing thing. Um.

  • AnonymousSam

    Well yes, of course. You’re still alive. ~_^

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Dildos are things that give sexual pleasure, and most often give sexual pleasure to women. They aren’t in any way “dildos”, and the people who placed them on that lawn probably overlap quite a lot with the people who want dildos to be outlawed.

    They are definitely crosses — but Roman crosses, not Christian ones. 

  • Lori

    To follow up on my earlier comment about the fact that not all Muslims agree on the meaning of jihad—Pew has released a broad look at what Muslims say they believe. It turns out that, like Christians, they share a few core, definitional beliefs but aside from that they have a wide range of opinions. Who woulda thunk it?

    The
    world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are united in their belief in God and the Prophet
    Muhammad and are bound together by such religious practices as fasting during
    the holy month of Ramadan and almsgiving to assist people in need. But they have
    widely differing views about many other aspects of their faith, including how
    important religion is to their lives, who counts as a Muslim and what practices
    are acceptable in Islam, according to a worldwide survey by the Pew Research
    Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. 

    http://www.pewforum.org/Muslim/the-worlds-muslims-unity-and-diversity-executive-summary.aspx

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    By the way, dildo lawn decorations makes me think of this:
    Welcome to the Penis Farm
    (Image from the DVD-based game “Tender Loving Care”, which I spoke briefly about here. The image is from a Thematic Aperception Test that’s part  of the game’s interactive element)

  • lovecomesfromlife

    This is exactly what I had in mind when I wrote this: http://beholdconfusion.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/tough-love/
    About how I love the church but it keeps disappointing me.


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