Smart people saying smart things

Neil Williams: “Does Christianity promote tribalism?”

What I am concerned about is something different — an exclusive mentality that leads to indignation, shunning, meanness, oppression, violence, and even murder.

Again, Christianity’s record is sullied. Common examples include the Crusades, Inquisition, and witch-hunts. But there are many others. For example, Philip Jenkins in “Jesus Wars” mentions an even greater bloodshed that occurred between Christians in the 5th and 6th centuries as they fought over doctrinal differences. Even today, many of us know pastors and professors who were fired because they came to accept modern science, or happened to disagree with some archaic point of doctrine formulated 400 years ago, or decided that women could become pastors.

… The great irony, however, of exclusive clubs is that they are based on pretense. The only way people can do this is through pretense — a form of self-deception. Pretend that men are superior to women, Serbs to Croats, Whites to Blacks, rich to poor, CEOs to workers, Americans to Iranians, Calvinists to … everyone else.

There is probably some spiritual law that the more exclusive the group, the more pretense is needed to establish and maintain the group, and thus the more self-righteous and immoral it becomes.

Fang-yi: “Father, behold me”

When you stand with other Christians, Father, and with them use the timeworn quiltwork of reasons to oppose gay people, please look at me. Look into your daughter’s eyes, and accuse me of being a pervert.

Accuse me of incest, polygamy, pedophilia.

Accuse me of bestiality.

When you stand with those churches that preach loving the sinner but hating the sin and accuse gay people of sinfulness, please look at me.

… When you stand with those who call themselves the “Holy Church” denying acceptance of those “unholy homosexuals,” please look at me. Look into your daughter’s eyes, and tell me that I am not holy. Tell me that the Holy Spirit is not present within the group worships that I lead. Tell me that my ministry reveals to you no sign of  the Holy Spirit’s work. Tell me, Father, that in my life does not appear heavenly blessings. Tell me that I do not know know God at all.

Michael Kimpan: “Me Neither: Jesus Draws His Line in the Sand”

The Law permitted a stoning. It even demanded it.

And just as their married friend had used her body for his pleasure, they would use her very life to trap this liberal Galilean and turn the crowd against his teachings of grace.

They threw her down into the dirt directly in front of Jesus, interrupting his sermon.

All eyes were on the Great Teacher.

She was crying and whimpering, each breath shorter than the last. The men were smirking.

This time they’d trapped Jesus within the boundaries of the law. The lines of this box were clear. The woman didn’t matter. She was a whore. She deserved death.

“The scripture clearly states that she should die, Jesus. What do you say?”

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  • D9000

    John 7:53-8:11 is an interpolation by Godless liberals!!! /Andy Schlafly

  • walden

    It’s interesting.  This part of the gospel of John is widely regarded as an interpolation and is not in the oldest of the versions to have come down to us.  So in all the scholarly editions, it’s in fine print or is footnoted.

    But it seems to me to be way more authentic and in keeping with the gospel than most of the rest of John — which is filled with a lot of neo-platonism and philosophical claptrap.  Which seems more like Jesus of the synoptics — the woman taken in adultery? or the long self-referential preaching prayer that takes up pretty much of three chapters of the last supper sequence? 

    I think that John mostly doesn’t belong in the N.T., but that this story (based probably on an older oral tradition) does belong.

  • GeniusLemur

    imho, Christianity doesn’t promote tribalism. Selfish, arrogant people promote tribalism. It doesn’t matter if it’s Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or Strawberry Shortcake fandom. That’s how they can preach Christianity, democracy, etc while spitting on the fundamental principles of their doctrines.

  • Carstonio

    Maybe I’m not reading Fred’s posts closely enough, but I’ve never gotten a sense of whether he believes that homosexuality is objectively immoral. In posts like this one, he makes the common humanity of gays and straights a clear and obvious matter. But sometimes he sounds as if he sees homosexuality as a matter between the individual person and the Christian god and for no one else. I see sexual orientation as a private matter precisely because there’s nothing objectively immoral about it, assuming we’re talking about consenting adults, and my standard for judging something to be immoral is whether it harms others. I can’t imagine Fred saying that something that harms others is none of his business, so I wonder what moral standard he would be using to judge homosexuality.

  • Jay

     Yes, tribalism is promoted by selfish, arrogant people.  We should gang up on them and take their stuff.

  • Worthless Beast

    Heh, fandom.

    I was talking to folks on a shoutbox last night about the hobby of fan fiction writing and how I still opt to use the democratic system/site of The Fanfiction Network to post my junk even though it’s notoriously stuffed to the gills with crap over there.  I tried LiveJournal/journal-based fanfiction writing club fandom for a time some years ago and the sheer drama and politics of those places send me right back to the manure-pile that is the “free to anyone” site to sift for the few gems I find there.

  • Really? Fred makes it totally clear that he doesn’t care what sexuality someone is, and he’s done it over and over and over again. 

  • Carstonio

    Very true. But he hasn’t stated unequivocally that there’s nothing objectively immoral about homosexuality. Otherwise, his indifference could be interpreted as similar to my own stance on adultery. I condemn that in principle but withhold judgment on specific instances of it, because that would intrude on the privacy of the people involved.

  • Actually, people promote tribalism.

    Sometimes tribalism is a good thing. A tribe can be a solace, a place to recharge, a place where you’re always welcome, a place where you can use your natural language rather than having to translate all the time. Human beings gravitate toward tribalism, and it’s not because human beings are naturally evil. There are some major benefits to being part of a tribe.

    Big problems come when one tribe tries to take over all other tribes, and when a tribe starts being dogmatic about who does and does not belong. Someone who hates Strawberry Shortcake likely doesn’t belong in Strawberry Shortcake fandom. But someone who likes Strawberry Shortcake, but prefers Orange Blossom, probably does. Telling the former they aren’t welcome in the tribe is fine — telling the latter that they aren’t, is a problem.

    Another problem is when a tribe forces things on their children. If a parent decorates their kid’s room in an all-Strawberry Shortcake theme without caring what the kid has to say, doesn’t allow them any toys but Strawberry Shortcake, keeps them away from anything that is not Strawberry Shortcake-related, encourages or forces them to marry another Strawberry Shortcake afficionado, etc., that’s an instance of how tribalism has gone very wrong.

  • Neither has he stated unequivovally that there’s nothing objectively immoral about heterosexuality, as far as I can recall. Or about pizza.

    For my own part, if someone is willing to treat me with love, respect, and dignity without reference to my sex life, that’s OK with me. That goes for people who consider adultery immoral, as well.

    That said, this business about privacy intrigues me.

    I mean, I freely admit that I have had an extended romantic and sexual relationship with a married man who was not my husband, which I suppose qualifies as adultery. I don’t even regret it.

    So, now that I’ve told you that, presumably you can condemn me, if you choose to, without any further intrusion on my privacy. Right?

    So: do you?

    I mean, it’s OK with me if you do; your condemnation doesn’t do me any particular harm in and of itself. I’m just curious.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If the married man’s spouse, and your husband if you had one at the time, approved of the relationship, ‘adultery’ is not the word I’d use and no condemnation is necessary; in fact a lack of condemnation is pretty much required. If such person(s) did not approve or were never consulted, then, yes, adultery, kill it with fire. I do not know which it is unless you tell me, and since you haven’t told me I’m assuming it’s none of my business. Hard to condemn you for something I don’t know whether you actually deserve condemnation on. (Or, well, actually quite easy, but I’m not supposed to do it and I am not doing it now.)

    The problem’s not sex with someone to whom you’re not married, nor sex with someone who’s married to someone else. The problem’s someone who’s sworn sexual fidelity not being sexually faithful.

  • Carstonio

     Ellie’s answer is more or less my own. The issue is the betrayal and the deception if there wasn’t mutual consent between the spouses. Outsiders to the relationship don’t really know if there was such consent or not. This would hold true for couples who aren’t married as well.

  • The_L1985

     …You have just inadvertently reminded me of how, when I was a little girl, my mother insisted on buying me floral comforters that I didn’t like.  I remember begging repeatedly for anything else:  dinosaurs, Barbie, Disney characters, even just colored stripes, but no.  Puke-yellow with flowers, or occasionally powder-pink with flowers.

    I honestly hope that she had a legitimate financial reason for picking those hideous things, because I can’t think of any other good reason to do so.

  • AnonymousSam

    “Christianity” doesn’t promote tribalism, provided it’s the Christianity Fred adheres to. The Christianity which defines some as saved and others as unsaved, some as God’s children and others as Satan’s playthings, does very much. The Old Testament is thick with it (Exodus is horrible, absolutely horrible), the New Testament somewhat less so, but what really matters is people’s interpretation of what’s important within Christianity. For those who think it’s all about spreading a message to save people and how sin is a precipice leading straight to Hell, borders and boundaries are everywhere.

  •  Fair enough. By your definition of “adultery” and EllieMurasaki’s, I have not in fact committed adultery; the spouse in question knew and consented. 

    So now that you know that, you are able to not-condemn me with no further intrusion on my privacy… and, had I instead told you I had committed adultery, you could instead condemn me with an equal lack of intrusion.

    And if I’m understanding you correctly, you have no problem with passing such moral judgments on me now that you know the facts of the case; the only thing precluding such judgments was my freedom to keep those facts unknown.


  • I think that John mostly doesn’t belong in the N.T., but that this story
    (based probably on an older oral tradition) does belong.

    Serious question here, walden: If we’re setting the Synoptics as the litmus test of Jesus’s biography, the Pericope’s doubly problematic. It not only “isn’t” in John (until it was), but it isn’t in ANY Synoptic Gospel, and while there were several versions of the Jesus-forgives-a-sinning-woman story circulating that’s no guarantee of accuracy.

    So on what grounds could we now declare that the Pericope should be in the NT canon and John SHOULDN’T be? Because I don’t see any good-faith way to argue that position without making glaringly bad assumptions, the first and worst being “There’s nothing wrong with editing NT canon to make it sound more like what we think it should.”

    (I’d also argue that the Johannine tradition’s theology is a really important feature and not a bug, but that’s for later.)

  • Given:
    a) what Fred has said so far
    b) that so far what he’s said about his theological beliefs has only differed from mine once ever
    …I would frankly be amazed if his beliefs on homosexuality were much different from mine.

    Mine are:
    – homosexuality is fine!
    – sex should be confined to marriage (or marriage-like) relationships.

    Fred… would probably dispute that second bit, given that that, so far, has been our single point of known theological disagreement that I mentioned earlier. But the first bit? I’d be super confident that he’d think homosexuality was totally okay.

  • As a fellow slogger through the manure heap of in search of the numerous gems buried therein, I would like introduce you, just in case you haven’t encountered it yet, to the Hope Diamond, the Mountain of Light, the Arkenstone of Thrain among those gems: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.  (Link is to the mirror site for the story, whose formatting I like better than’s, and contains other goodies like fan art and author’s notes.)  The Harry Potter story as reimagined by a writer far more intelligent than J. K. Rowling, and working from a scientific rather than a literary mindset.  A small sample:

    Something, somewhere, somewhen, must have happened differently…

    PETUNIA EVANS married Michael Verres, a Professor of Biochemistry at Oxford.

    HARRY JAMES POTTER-EVANS-VERRES grew up in a house filled to the brim with books. He once bit a math teacher who didn’t know what a logarithm was. He’s read Godel, Escher, Bach and Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases and volume one of The Feynman Lectures on Physics. And despite what everyone who’s met him seems to fear, he doesn’t want to become the next Dark Lord. He was raised better than that. He wants to discover the laws of magic and become a god.

    HERMIONE GRANGER is doing better than him in every class except broomstick riding.

    DRACO MALFOY is exactly what you would expect an eleven-year-old boy to be like if Darth Vader were his doting father.

    PROFESSOR QUIRRELL is living his lifelong dream of teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, or as he prefers to call his class, Battle Magic. His students are all wondering what’s going to go wrong with the Defense Professor this time.

    DUMBLEDORE is either insane, or playing some vastly deeper game which involved setting fire to a chicken.

    DEPUTY HEADMISTRESS MINERVA MCGONAGALL needs to go off somewhere private and scream for a while.

  • Carstonio

    Without the first belief, the second belief could be misinterpreted as anti-gay because some Christians do explicitly claim that it rules out homosexuality.

  • *nods*

    One reason why I’m fairly cautious about how I say it. I actually got into a rather lengthy debate with someone here a while ago – because I seemed to be coming across as saying that gay people in non-marriage-equality parts of the world shouldn’t have sex until marriage equality was legalised. Which is totally not what I meant.

  •  Eh. I always thought HPatMOR was a cool story about characters that happened to have the same name as Rowling’s, with occasional diatribes that bordered on the line of too preachy for me (ngl, I never finished it).

  • Worthless Beast

    I’m not sure we share tastes….

    I tend not to be into very long fanfics – my fiancee’ writes long stuff and even his stuff I don’t seem to read all the way through unless I follow it closely chapter-by-chapter as it comes out (I tend to save my long reading for… books). I also have heard of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality on TV Tropes (seems popular there) and looking it up again…  I’m not much into Harry Potter and if I was, I’m not sure I’d like it.  I like reading fantasy (fanfic included) to *escape* reality and tend not to like “mundaning” magical worlds.

    (Did come close in one of my own videogame fics in which my co-writer and I turned the game universe’s ur-goddesses into Sufficiently Advanced Alien-types, but even then, there was a magical force and spiritual things going on). 
    In other words, I don’t care if it makes me stupid, in fiction-land, at least, even if I poke at it with my own works a bit, I enjoy magic.

  • EllieMurasaki

    And if I’m understanding you correctly, you have no problem with passing such moral judgments on me now that you know the facts of the case; the only thing precluding such judgments was my freedom to keep those facts unknown.
    Yes, that’s what ‘innocent till proven guilty’ means.

  • Oh, god. Not that fucking author tract again.

  • Amaryllis

     I haven’t read it.

    But, on the whole, if I’m going to read fiction (which I usually am), I prefer it to be written by “someone of a literary mindset.”

  • I would mention that the author mentioned above’s being far more intelligent than Rowling is no slam on Rowling. I used to follow Eliezer Yudkowsky’s blog on AI and singularity issues and the guy’s either a total mad genius or secretly some kind of AI himself. 

  • Amaryllis

    He may be brilliant, for all I know. It’s just that “not literary” isn’t much of a recommendation for literature.

  •  No, that really isn’t what “innocent until proven guilty” means.

    The presumption of innocence isn’t predicated on respect for my privacy, doesn’t presume I have some freedom to keep the facts of the case unknown, and doesn’t prevent the prosecution, or law enforcement, from investigating and publicizing facts that I would rather not be known.

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