‘Then you have not understood them’

“If it seems to you that you have understood the divine scriptures, or any part of them, in such a way that by this understanding you do not build up this twin love of God and neighbor, then you have not understood them.”

“A number of people produce at will such musical sounds from their behind (without any stink) that they seem to be singing from the region.”

“Paul says that the meal the Corinthians were eating was not the Lord’s Supper because they were, in the way they practiced the meal, humiliating, despising, and shaming the poorer members of the church.”

“I am not a Christian, but if I was, I suspect the following verses from the Acts of the Apostles would have an impact on my life.”

“Every time God forgives us, God is saying that God’s own rules do not matter as much as the relationships that God wants to create with us.” (via AZspot)

“You needed to hold my hand cause you were scared. I needed to hold your hand cause I’m a selfish assuming sinner.”

“This kind of quiet heroism, I felt, allowed for more dramatic forms of heroism when circumstances called for it.”

“As the old coach began to climb the hill, Mr. Lincoln jumped out, ran back, and lifted the little pigs out of the mud and water and placed them on the bank.”

“When we carve words into granite on the National Mall, we make excellent choices.”

“It is desired and expected by this court that you should carry neighborly and peaceably without just offense, to Jos. Garlick and his wife, and that they should do the like to you.”

“We’re trying to get people to see that states don’t fall into the ocean because they allow equality.”

“I can’t help thinking that this has more to do with the continued forced control of women’s bodies than with any moral viewpoint or freedom of religion.”

“He’s screaming at people. I had a feeling something like this would happen.”

“Bishop Al is telling his troops, Don’t read Rachel’s book, for it makes a mockery of scripture. And he’s warning evangelical publishers to stop publishing books like Rachel’s. But guess what, this will backfire too.”

“The mere mention of or giving thanks to God is not an expression of piety, if the result is that you depict God as a monster.”

“Through Hurricane Sandy, God is alerting mankind that ‘there is an eternity of suffering ahead’ for those who do not repent and is therefore really ‘a matter of grace.’

You can’t be a Christian if you don’t own a gun.”

“For years our elite media has promoted bigots and misogynists as our moral betters and ethical standard bearers.”

  • The Guest That Posts

    It’s ironic how fundamentalists are so keen on claiming disasters for their own cause, given that hurricanes and earthquakes never discriminate  between believers and unbelievers.

    Heck, you’d think that if they read the Bible, they’d come across verses like “God lets the sun shine upon the righteous and unrighteous” (and presumably, lets hurricanes blow on them too). But no…

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Or:

    but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:

    And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

  • Carstonio

    Quick challenge – what’s the moral distinction between asserting that humans caused hurricanes like Sandy through climate change, and asserting that Sandy was a punishment from a displeased deity? My first-draft answer is that the former is about wanting to save millions of lives and the other is about “Ha ha, told ya!”

  • Mary Kaye

    Those who consider Sandy the result of climate change do not claim that (a) modifying human behavior would stop all hurricanes, or (b) people who were hurt or killed by Sandy had more to do with climate change than anyone else.

    Also, you could in principle falsify the statement that Sandy was related to climate change–if nothing else, by somehow reversing climate change and noting that monster hurricanes did not decrease.  It’s an experiment that would take hundreds of years but it’s not impossible.  What could possibly falsify the idea that Sandy was a punishment for sin?

    And finally, a god who kills people on both sides of an argument, indiscriminately, in order to send a message that one side is right and the other is wrong?  Not a god I would consider worshipping.

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

    My answer is that in and of itself, that doesn’t constitute a moral distinction. One can believe in deities morally, and one can believe in climate change immorally. The moral distinction is in how I use the belief.

    If I say that humans are causing stronger hurricanes through our improper behavior, and now we’re paying the price for that, but we may still change our ways and be saved from the coming environmental apocalypse, we just have to keep studying the world and approaching what we learn honestly and taking whatever steps seem most likely to improve conditions, I don’t see a moral problem with that. And that’s true whether my theories about mechanism involve climatology or theology (I expect the former to be more effective, but if it turns out I’m wrong I’m willing to go with whatever works).

    If I say instead that what we have to do is stop studying the world, or discard things we’ve already learned, or take steps that we expect to worsen conditions, I have a moral problem with that. If I cheer on the coming environmental apocalypse or declare that those who die in it deserve to die, but the rest of us will be saved and deserve to be saved, I have a moral problem with that. And again, that’s true whether I’m positing a climatological or theological mechanism.

  • Fusina

    The rain it raineth all around
    It raineth on the Just
    And on the Unjust fellow
    But mostly on the Just because
    The Unjust stole the Just’s Umbrella.

    Err, a poem my Dad taught me when I was but a child.

    He also fed me a steady stream of Ogden Nash*, Spike Jones and Allan Sherman stuff. This may explain a few things.

    *the funny poems, not the racist ones.

  • Carstonio

    Your point about deservedness is almost exactly the one I was trying to make. Some notions about divine punishment don’t make distinctions between saved and unsaved, but instead insist that the entire human race deserves that suffering. That’s just as morally repugnant as saying that some deserve to live and some don’t. I haven’t heard anyone cheering the coming environmental apocalypse from a wholly non-theological standpoint, but there may be a few people like that out there.

  • http://twitter.com/MAGuyton Morgan Guyton

    Thanks for sharing the Augustine piece. I just wrote another one that you would probably enjoy, trashing the way that Kathy Keller trashed Rachel Held Evans. Here’s a nugget: “What’s utterly comical is the way that what so many Christians today call ‘conservative Biblical values’ are really a market-driven reinvention of the Bible in the image of contemporary suburban sensibilities.”

    http://morganguyton.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/biblicalwomanhood-what-kathy-keller-missed/

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

     (nods)

    I normally operate on the “we each of us deserve paradise, we none of us deserve the least crust of bread” principle… which in practice means that when I find myself talking confidently and unambiguously about what people deserve, I really ought to back up and try to figure out  what I’m actually trying to say, because I’ve probably gone off the rails somewhere.

    That said, I’m not sure it’s wrong to say that we collectively deserve the consequences of the choices we collectively make. But it’s not helpful, either.

    I know a few people (not personally) who cheer the environmental apocalypse from at least a mostly non-theological standpoint (although it’s admittedly sometimes difficult to know when we are and aren’t talking theology with certain branches of radical environmentalist thought).

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

     Quick challenge – what’s the moral distinction between asserting that
    humans caused hurricanes like Sandy through climate change, and
    asserting that Sandy was a punishment from a displeased deity?

    The former isn’t a moral stance?

    Take a different approach:  someone gets in a car accident.  Afterwards they claim that they tried to stop but the brakes didn’t work.  Someone can pull the car apart and look at the brake components and test them.  Now imagine someone saying that they got in the car accident because god wanted to teach them a lesson about, say, the importance of not stealing office supplies from the filing cabinet up on the fourteenth floor.

    It might turn out that the brakes were perfectly fine and the person got it the accident because they were texting while driving.  But the busted brakes are at least a testable hypothesis based on human failure/failure of a human-built component.  As such, the assertion of busted breaks and the test for busted brakes is morally neutral.  The reasoning behind the assertion might not be morally neutral (i.e. if the person making the assertion is doing it to cover up distracted driving), but it, in and of itself, isn’t a moral position.  “God did this as a punishment for your office-supply-stealing ways,” however, is a moral position.

    Meanwhile, consider the direction.  Scientists consider super storms a result of climate change.  If there’s a moral imperative in that conclusion it’s to change future behavior for the better.  Pat Robertson considers hurricanes a result of human sin.  There’s not much that we can really do about that, other than to listen to what Pat Robertson says our response needs to be in re: not sinning anymore.  Scientist’s assertions can be tested.  Pat Robertson’s, not so much.

  • AnonymousSam

    There’s actually a part where someone points to an earthquake which kills several people and says words to the effect of “They must have been terrible sinners to deserve God’s wrath like that,” and the reply is “Think you that they sinned more grievously than yourself?”

  • Carstonio

     You’re talking about consequences of actions and changing actions with the goal of avoiding negative consequences, and you’re right that what Robertson and his peers claim cannot be tested.

    ‘m talking about assertions that people deserve those consequences, which is really the point of Robertson’s claims. The only reason he blames hurricanes on sin is because he believes that certain people deserve to suffer. He doesn’t really want to convince people not to sin, he just wants to feel superior when they get what he sees as their just desserts.

    Imagine if someone claimed that anyone who texts while driving deserves to be in an accident. Such a claim would be morally questionable at best, partly because the accident would very likely cause suffering to others – the texter’s loved ones and any innocent drivers or pedestrians affected.

  • Tricksterson

    And from certain variety of Christians the answer would either be “Yes, because I’m alive and they aren’t” or “But I’ve given myself to Christ and so am protected.”

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

     I’m talking about assertions that people deserve those
    consequences, which is really the point of Robertson’s claims. The only
    reason he blames hurricanes on sin is because he believes that certain
    people deserve to suffer. He doesn’t really want to convince people not
    to sin, he just wants to feel superior when they get what he sees as
    their just desserts.

    But, see, that’s the thing.  I’ve never once seen someone claim that super storms are a deserved result of climate change.[1]  It’s often spoken of as an inevitable result and a terrible result and something that really could have been avoided, but I have yet to see anyone say that New York got smited because people in Chicago were buying too many SUVs.  Pat Robertson, though, always talks about what people get and deserve because they’re all sinner-y.

    And that’s why I’m saying that the climate change argument as a cause is morally neutral.  It’s a cause and effect thing.

    -

    [1]Which isn’t to say that no one has ever made that assertion, but it’s certainly not as visible a component as the preacher saying we deserve to be destroyed because we’re the new Sodom or whatever.

  • Worthless Beast

    I clicked by here from my blog-watch because I wanted to read the Lincoln savinng pigs story…heehee.  I clicked on the gun one, too, though… my thoughts:

    To the gun-bunny:  What about people like me?  I am bipolar.  I’m okay most days because I take my medication and try to keep it together, finding joy in the little things, but there are times when I feel suicidal (and occasionally even borderline homicidal when something trips my anger-trigger). As a favorite anime/manga puts it, a gun is “death at your fingertips” (it’s a title about tough gunslingers, by the way), and that’s how I feel about guns.  Those who are responsible with them / who hunt can have them, but they aren’t for me. A gun in the same house as me would just be too dangerous to *my* life if nothing else. 

    As for the Lincoln thing, it’s not only cute, it matches up with my ideas on altruism very well! I saw a recent episode of the Science Channel series, “Dark Matters” that profiled a mathematician who came up with an algorhythm for altruism that prooved “evolutionary selfishness,” then he spent the rest of his life (right up until his suicide) trying to disprove it because the idea of there “being nothing pure in the world” broke his brain. The show spoke of his Christian conversion experience and how he tried to live like Jesus to disprove his proof, but never found anything that cast enough doubt upon the proof for him.  I thought  “If the guy read the Bible like I do and saw life as I do, he would have saved himself the soul-crush.”   I don’t seem to recall Jesus ever calling us and our actions pure, he just seemed to be trying to get us to extend the good we do. As far as I’m concerned, if your altruisum is a bit selfish at root, being aware of it shouldn’t stop you – if things get done, things get done. Motivation by guilt for a couple of piglets? Why not?

  • Carstonio

     Yes, and that was one reason I posed the original question. I can easily imagine the Robertson crowd trumpeting “climate change = super storms” as proof of their divine punishment claim, or at least as support for it. I think it’s important to clarify the distinction between the cause-and-effect principle with climate change. What Robertson is doing is not morally neutral, because it causes emotional pain to people who lose loved ones and homes int he storms, and because he’s exploiting the misery of others for his own gain.

  • LL

    Aw, that plane story was kinda sweet. 

    RE the continuing ugliness of various Christian “leaders”:  if I was dumb and I thought these people actually knew what the hell they’re talking about, and that they actually represented God or Jesus, I’d think God and/or Jesus were colossal assholes, as were all their followers, and I’d want nothing to do with them. I am indeed an atheist, but I no longer (thanks to Fred and others here) think that these horrible people lead or represent anybody but their own callous, cynical, political interests. I’m not so charitable as to think that their followers have been brainwashed or hoodwinked, most of them are adults, they are obligated to take the responsibility for their own decisions that they’re always nagging the rest of us about. But I do know that not every Christian is like that. Whether the decent Christians outnumber the awful ones, I’m not sure. 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    he spent the rest of his life (right up until his suicide) trying to
    disprove it because the idea of there “being nothing pure in the world”
    broke his brain. The show spoke of his Christian conversion experience
    and how he tried to live like Jesus to disprove his proof, but never
    found anything that cast enough doubt upon the proof for him.  I
    thought  “If the guy read the Bible like I do and saw life as I do, he
    would have saved himself the soul-crush.” 

    Or if he read Billy Idol the way I do.

    (Y’know, because there is nothing pure in this world, and there is nothing sure in this world, and if there’s something left in this world, start again. It’s a nice day for it.)

  • reynard61

    “You can’t be a Christian if you don’t own a gun.”

    So…um…Who Would Jesus Shoot?

  • CoolHandLNC

    Just watched that Cass “You can’t be a Christian if you Don’t own a gun” thing.

    Oh.   My.   God.

  • Tricksterson

    On most days nobody.  If he was in a “scourge the merchants from the temple” mood, quite possibly a lot of the people who claim to speak in his name including the man who made that statement.


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