The Bible, Steve Chalke, Wilberforce and ‘The Civil War as a Theological Crisis’

“How has the whole Church found itself believing something about slavery which is so at odds with the Bible?” prominent British evangelical Steve Chalke asks.

Chalke asked that in his essay, “A Matter of Integrity: The Church, sexuality, inclusion and an open conversation.” That’s the essay in which Chalke argues for his fellow Christians to begin recognizing, and celebrating, same-sex marriages. It’s the essay, in other words, that resulted in “prominent British evangelical Steve Chalke” being reclassified by many of his fellow Christians as “controversial post-evangelical Steve Chalke.”

But let’s get back to his question, because it’s an interesting and important one. The whole Christian church has, indeed, come to believe “something about slavery” that is “at odds with the Bible.”

Or, rather, that is “at odds with the Bible” as it is read and cited by most evangelical Christians. Chalke’s whole point in asking this question, and the whole point of his essay, is that this approach to the scripture — treating it as an almanac of clobber texts — inevitably produces a Bible that is at odds with the Bible.

The question of slavery is the key example of this partly because it presents such a stark contrast between what the whole church now believes and teaches — unanimously and unambiguously — and what the text of the Bible manifestly and undeniably says. The question of slavery is also the key example because it was this exact question that created and shaped the approach to reading and interpreting the Bible that evangelical Christians today take for granted.

For a vivid and entertaining consideration of Chalke’s question, see also this fun video from NonStampCollector:

YouTube Preview Image

(There’s a transcript at this link for those who cannot watch video.)

The God-as-Karl Pilkington business goes on just a bit too long there (much like the Karl Pilkington-as-Karl Pilkington business tends to go on just a bit too long), but the video hits on the main salient points raised by Chalke’s question:

1. Slavery is morally abhorrent.

2. Slavery is permitted, condoned and/or commanded by multiple passages of the Bible.

3. Yet slavery is also condemned by the Bible’s repeated condemnations of injustice and oppression.

4. The same Bible that says “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner” also permits the lifelong enslavement of foreigners.

5. The laws of Moses prohibited Israelites from enslaving one another in the way that they were permitted to enslave foreigners and outsiders.

That last point is central to Steve Chalke’s argument, what he refers to as “the nature of inclusion,” a point we’ll return to in a later discussion. Here we’ll just note, again, that this message of ever-expanding inclusion is a central theme of the book of Acts and — as I’ve argued repeatedly — the key given to Peter at Pentecost and again in his rooftop vision. From now on, God told Peter, everybody is an insider. “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean,” Peter said. So whatever rules there might have been permitting us to treat profane and unclean people differently no longer matter because that category of people is now an empty set.

The question of slavery is inescapable in Steve Chalke’s argument because none of what he is saying is new. We Christians have been over all of this before, in great detail. Every word of Chalke’s essay echoes an argument from an earlier generation, just as every word from his critics also carries such an echo. This is not new.

Chalke acknowledges the existence of the clobber texts and engages them, resolutely going toe-to-toe in an exegetical debate with any who would say that this handful of biblical passages prohibits his conclusion for inclusion. But the real force of Chalke’s argument is not from such narrow exegesis involving such a narrow set of passages. He’s making a bigger, broader argument — that the overwhelming trajectory of scripture demands a hermeneutic of love and inclusion, and that no single verse or collection of single verses can properly be understood as contradicting or constraining  that larger context.

Again, this is not a new argument. Every step of Chalke’s essay, every idea he promotes, is explicitly parallel to similar arguments from the earlier debate over slavery, in which many white evangelicals argued for precisely the approach to the Bible that Chalke advocates.

And they were right. Everyone says so today — the “whole church” is agreed on this point. There may still be some who privately disagree, but the anti-slavery side of the argument prevailed and the question is now regarded as so firmly settled that today few would dare to suggest otherwise in public.

Go back 150 years, though, and it was a different story. In their day, the white evangelicals who argued that the clobber verses could only be properly understood through the lens of a hermeneutic of love were denounced as enemies of the Bible and deniers of the clear authority of scripture. “Inerrancy” hadn’t been invented yet, but the ancestors of the inerrantists of today decried the faithlessness of anyone who suggested that a face-value reading of the clobber texts did not authoritatively settle the matter in defense of slavery.

The arguments of that side — the losing side, the side that everyone today agrees was deeply, repugnantly wrong — can be heard today in the condemnation directed at Steve Chalke and anyone who dares agree with him.

Hearing those echoes sent me to my bookshelf for Mark Noll’s terrific 2006 history, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. (I wrote about that book last fall in a post called “The clobber verses of slavery & the slavery of clobber verses.” An article by Noll based on his chapter on white evangelicals’ biblical arguments can be found here: “The Battle for the Bible.”)

It’s impossible to read that book without an eerie sense of how familiar all the arguments and debates are to the debates that continue even today among white evangelicals. Take for example this statement by a white Baptist from Kentucky:

All that God teaches us in Scripture is right. Christ and his apostles do not indicate at any point that the Old Testament is immoral, and in fact say the opposite. To say otherwise is to indicate that God is not absolutely right, and his word is not trustable.

Is that from 2013 or from 1863? It could easily be from either. White Christians in the American South have been saying this same thing for centuries. That statement — exactly that statement — was how white Christians in the American South turned their defense of slavery into, as Noll writes, “a defense of Scripture itself.”

Here’s more from Noll about the way the defense of slavery became a defense of the Bible in the American South:

The procedure, which by 1860 had been repeated countless times, was uncomplicated. First, open the Scriptures and read, at say Leviticus 25:45, or, even better, at 1 Corinthians 7:20-21. Second, decide for yourself what these passages mean. Don’t wait for a bishop or a king or a president or a meddling Yankee to tell you what the passage means, but decide for yourself. Third, if anyone tries to convince you that you are not interpreting such passages in the natural, commonsensical, ordinary meaning of the words, look hard at what such a one believes with respect to other biblical doctrines. If you find in what he or she says about such doctrines the least hint of unorthodoxy, as inevitably you will, then you may rest assured that you are being asked to give up not only the plain meaning of Scripture, but also the entire trust in the Bible that made the country into such a great Christian civilization.

And here is Steve Chalke covering the exact same ground in his British context:

William Wilberforce and friends were condemned by huge swathes of the Church as they fought for abolition. They were dismissed as liberal and unbiblical for their ‘deliberate abandonment of the authority of Scripture’. But, on the basis of a straightforward biblical exegesis of the Bible’s text, their critics were right.

… How then did Wilberforce and friends reach their conclusions? It was their view of the proper interpretation of Scripture. They saw that the biblical writers did not take blind dictation from God, instead, their personalities, cultural and social understandings all played a part in the formation of their writing. So, rather than basing their approach on isolated proof texts, the abolitionists built their stance around the deeper resonance of the trajectory of Scripture. Their compass for this re-calibration was Jesus who, through his inclusion of both women and various groups of socially unacceptable groups of his day, challenged social norms and perceived orthodoxy.

The Bible does not always speak with one voice. It is a very diverse collection of books, written in many different times and cultures, containing an array of perspectives, not a few tensions, and even some apparent contradictions. Instead of pretending that this diversity does not exist, our task is to do justice to all these components as well as holding them together with a coherent theological approach.

… Through my hermeneutical lens, the Bible is the account of the ancient conversation initiated, inspired and guided by God with and among humanity. It is a conversation where various, sometimes harmonious and sometimes discordant, human voices contribute to the gradually growing picture of the character of Yahweh; fully revealed only in Jesus. But it is also a conversation that, rather than ending with the finalization of the canon, continues beyond it involving all of those who give themselves to Christ’s on-going redemptive movement.

And the response to Chalke, today, is exactly the same as the response Noll described to antislavery Christians in the 1860s.

 

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  • fraser

    There’s also Noll’s observation that a number of abolitionists pointed out slavery “sanctioned” in the Bible is not at all race-based, so presumably American slavery could yoke white people too. To which the response was “But black people are inferior and therefore I’m only doing what the Bible tells me, nah-nah-nah, can’t hear you!” Again, familiar.

  • Lunch Meat

    I love it when people’s response to this argument is that slavery in the Bible is totally-not-at-all the same thing as slavery in the US was. Okay, so how do you know that same-sex relationships are exactly the same as they were back then?

  • Carstonio

    Do you think the defensiveness of the argument mostly about the Bible, or about Southern history as well? It has a No True Scotsman vibe.

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

    Christians today unanimously condemn slavery as a grave moral evil.

    Not when a girl or woman is enslaved to her father or husband. Or to the sperm of any man, if it happens to join with one of her eggs. Or to her own body generally; besides wanting to force women to risk pregnancy, being anti-contraception means being pro-periods from hell. 

    Further, there are still Christians who like to pretend that antebellum U.S. slavery was about happy darkies singing in the fields, and do so loudly. They aren’t really that uncommon. 

    I don’t think Christians today unanimously anything. There are even Christians who don’t believe in Jesus’ divinity, they just like his moral teachings. And then, of course, there are Christians who do believe in Jesus’ divinity, but despise his moral teachings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

    The question of slavery is the key example of this partly because it
    presents such a stark contrast between what the whole church now
    believes and teaches — unanimously and unambiguously — and what the text
    of the Bible manifestly and undeniably says.

    I question this assumption. I submit that there is a sizeable percentage if not an outright majority of the American church that has no problem whatsoever with forced labor for prisoners; that has no real objection to illegal immigrants picking their vegetables for subsistence wages; that is considers sweat shop labor in Third World nations to be, on the whole, a moral good; and that believes wholeheartedly that minimum wage laws and, indeed, all worker protection laws are socialist and therefore per se ungodly. Quite honestly, if the social mechanisms that prevent widespread slavery disappeared tomorrow in some sort of LaHaye inspired cataclysm, Christians in the Bible Belt states reinstitute the “peculiar practice” by the end of the month.

  • MaryKaye

    As a non-Christian maybe it’s not my place to intervene in differences within Christianity, but it does seem like “Bible only” branches of Christianity founder on this kind of thing.  Our sense of ourselves is that we have actually improved our morality in the last couple of thousand years; we have a better idea of right and wrong than we did.  If Christianity can’t learn and grow along with human culture, it’s going to end up being an evil influence overall rather than a good one; a shackling to bad aspects of our past.

    Catholicism at least allows the tradition of the Church, which potentially can grow and develop, a footing alongside that of Scripture.  Not that this prevents them from being evilly reactionary in practice, but at least growth is *possible*.

    Why would God stop talking?  Why is this text the last word?  So much energy expended on trying to grow a big healthy plant in a pot that cramps it.  (Not Christianity per se; Biblicism.)

    (Hm.  I may be making an even better case for LDS or Ba’hai than for Catholicism.  Ba’hai in particular rejects the “revelation to end all revelations” model.)

  • AnonymousSam

    I was going to say, what about Mormonism? Isn’t the Book of Mormon an indication that God hasn’t stopped talking? What about Islam? It’s not that God stopped talking, the problem is that various churches decided that any future words were to be regarded as heresy, even blasphemy.

  • Tricksterson

    Unless of course the Mormon is running against a secret Muslimatheist.

  • J_

    Shorter Fred: It takes Christians herculean intellectual contortion–plus, y’know, the bloodiest land conflict in North American history–to successfully conclude what non-believers know between sips of coffee.

    Fucking bravo, liberal Christians. What a fucking *accomplishment* for you.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

     Atheism predates abolition, you (probably don’t) know.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Yes, J, if it weren’t for Christianity, if everyone were purely rational, surely they would have looked at the vast profits to be had from slavery and said “Well, making money hand over fist just doesn’t make good sense.”

  • Jurgan

    Shorter J_: I’m smarter than all you Christians because I don’t believe in a Spaghetti Monster.

  • SisterCoyote

    …the bloodiest land conflict in North American history…

    American history. We have no idea what conflicts happened prior to the European settlements that began the USA, but I’d give even odds modern America didn’t invent war on the North American continent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ericrboersma Eric Boersma

    “I’d give even odds modern America didn’t invent war on the North American continent.”

    Certainly not, but I think calling the civil war the bloodiest war in North American history is probably pretty accurate. It killed some 640,000 people, a number that would be nearly impossible to kill in a single conflict prior to slavery, simply because the infrastructure didn’t exist prior to the arrival of American slave masters. I think the standard estimate of Native Americans in North American prior to the arrival of Columbus was something like 20 million, spread from Maine to the Yucatan. There just isn’t a high enough concentration of people to have killed more than the Civil War.

  • SisterCoyote

     Fair enough. It was a stupid argument to make, but I figured everyone else already pointed out the rest of his fallacies, so I might as well point out the one he maybe didn’t see coming. Probably. Ish.

  • P J Evans

     On the other hand, I doubt that the pre-invasion inhabitants had wars that covered a large part of the continent and involved a large percentage of the inhabitants of that same area.

  • Tricksterson

    No but given the size and weapons tech differnces between First Nations and 19th century American nation-states I would say that he’s correct on that part if no other.

  • The_L1985

    Yep, because non-Christian peoples all over the world, throughout human history didn’t own slaves!  Nope, that was just the Christians in America!

    J_, your ignorance of history is showing.

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

    There’s nothing about atheism that rules out white supremacy or slave owning. Radical Objectivists, for example, will sometimes come up with the concept of limited-term enslavement contracts, for instance.

  • J-

    I will do whatever I fucking please. I have noticed near universal agreement that whatever atheists do or say is done wrongly. So I have stopped even bothering to listen. So fuck you RIGHT in the eye, with a stick. Your surrenderist Christian-lover failuredom is done and done.

  • The_L1985

    You’re not even trying to listen, are you?

    You are acting like a jerk.  Please stop being a jerk.

    I say this as someone who has been just as badly hurt by Christianity as you have.  You can stand up against abuses of religion without being an asshole.

    You came to a progressive Christian blog for no other reason than to bash Christianity.  You’re not listening to any opinions other than your own, and you’re insisting that you are better than everybody else here by virtue of hating everything that isn’t atheism.  That makes you an asshole.  Please stop being an asshole.

    I really don’t think that “stop being an asshole on somebody else’s blog” is too much to ask of anyone. You can be an asshole on your own blog, if you want to, but other people still have the right to complain about it. Being an asshole on somebody else’s blog just makes other people that much more likely to complain, and I’m honestly surprised you haven’t been flagged yet.

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

    the bloodiest land conflict in North American history

    The bloodiest land conflict for white people.

    Try not to pat yourself on the back too hard there, I think you might strain something. And we wouldn’t want that. You might have to take some time off from running around on the internet wanking all over other people’s blogs about how awesome you are compared to them. You perfect being you.

    As one atheist to another: fuck off. The fact that you happen to not believe in the supernatural (or is it just Christianity) does not make you a better person than anyone else, any more than people who do believe in the supernatural are better than those who don’t. You are what you do. Stop doing the equivalent of coming into someone else’s house, pooping on their rug, and pretending you’re better than them for it.

  • Foelhe

    I think there were some black people in there too, what with the Emancipation Proclamation and all. I know that’s not what you meant, but, well.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    You know, the thing I’ve always loved about J_ is how open he is to other people’s perspectives…

  • Damanoid

    I wish I could wholeheartedly believe that this line of argument would provoke more white Christians to reconsider their stance on same-sex marriage, rather than slavery.

  • SisterCoyote

    Oh hey, That Letter Guy is back.

    I continue to be mystified as to how The Gatekeepers can be making the same arguments that every desperate force for inequality and oppression made before them, knowing how every one of those generation-long debates ended, ultimately… and somehow, somehow, not even notice.

    More succinctly, as Jon Stewart put it:

    “From the losing side of history, I’m Pat Robertson.” (At least I think it was Pat Robertson. They all start to run together for me, after a while, which is probably a bad thing.)

  • stardreamer42

    Those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it. And nobody over there is interested in studying anything except the Bible. Preferably the KJV.

  • smrnda

    As others have already pointed out, there are plenty of Christians today who would defend slavery (Doug Wilson comes to mind) and I tend to find that in any issue involving justice for workers, I hear more Christian voices demanding that workers submit than anything else. I mean, when you wrote about the ‘company town’ a while back and how today we *know* it is wrong, but I could find plenty of Christian writers, preachers and pundits who would probably argue that the company town was good and just, and that it was immoral for the government to interfere with that particular business model. In fact, I think the contraceptive debate seems to have triggered a new outpouring among Christians in support of the company town model.

    I can’t figure out what % of Christians believe or promote which view of things, but as an outsider to the faith, it’s seems like promoting slavery as Biblical isn’t even something that relegates a person to fringe status.

  • http://hannadevries.wordpress.com/ Hanna

     I don’t know about the US, but at least here in Europe mainline churches and other Christian organisations seem to be at the forefront of the trade justice movement. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t lost faith in my fellow Christians completely.

  • http://twitter.com/sparticus Mark Walley

    Observation; In this argument you’ve put forward here and Steve Chalke has put forward there you don’t allow any room for the view that someone might sit down with the bible and take it seriously and try and work out what it’s saying for what it’s saying and come to the conclusion that the overall argument is that slavery is wrong but yet homosexual practice is still sinful. You seem to think that if you accept that bible can be tolerant and accepting of slavery initially only to in the course of time and revelation show it’s evil, you must also accept that the bible is intolerant and un-accepting of homosexual practice initially only to in the course of time and revelation show it’s perfectly okay. I’m not sure one follows the other. In fact, I think, from trying to understand what scripture is saying, that God does seem to hate slavery even if he let’s pass it initially, and yet he decree that any sexual relationship outside of a heterosexual monogamous marriage is sin, even if he let’s pass other relationships initially.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    and yet he decree that any sexual relationship outside of a heterosexual monogamous marriage is sin

    Uh… where?

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

    Mark: when you sit down with the text and conclude from it that God decrees that any sexual relationship outside of a heterosexual monogamous marriage is sin, how much “room” do you think you allow for the view that God does not in fact decree that?

    If someone else sits down with the same text and concludes from it that God takes the same joy in two people having sex in the context of a relationship defined by mutual love and mutual support regardless of their gender and regardless of who else they might be in such a relationship with, do they allow more “room” than that for your view, or less?

  • Mark

    I’m not quite sure if this is answering your question, but sure, I could be wrong. I’ve given it thought but not as much as it deserves. Sorry, I’m not sure what exactly you’re asking?

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

     I’m asking whether, in your view, the other thinkers on the subject who you feel “don’t allow any room for” your view are giving less room to your view than you give to theirs.

  • http://twitter.com/sparticus Mark Walley

    Oh right, sorry. I’m not saying it as in they’re telling me to shut up, just Fred seems to posing that there are two (grossly simplified) options; 1) read bible thoughtfully and accept slavery sin and homosexuality good and 2) read bible unthoughtfully and accept slavery’s fine and homosexuality’s sin. Option 3) Read bible thoughtfully and accept slavery sin and homosexuality sin, doesn’t seem to exist in Fred’s argument. As someone who adopts this position, I was observing this, and saying that I didn’t feel there was room in Fred’s argument for my position. So is he saying “you can’t thoughtfully read the bible and accept homosexuality is sinful”?

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

    Let’s start with a simpler example.

    You’ve asserted that the Bible supports a view that sexual relations outside of monogamous marriage is sinful.

    That is, just to pick one example, you assert that Jacob the Patriarch, the father of the children of Israel, was sinning when he married Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin… that at least two of the Twelve Tribes were conceived in sin, according to the Bible.

    And you assert that you came to this conclusion through a thoughtful reading of the Bible rather than by imposing the cultural norms you were raised in onto the Bible.

    Yeah, I suppose I would say that you can’t thoughtfully read the Bible and come to that conclusion. But, hey, it’s possible that I’m wrong, and I’m willing to be educated. Can you clarify how you arrived at that conclusion?

  • Robyrt

    It’s important to be specific about what you mean by “The Bible supports”. The New Testament revises and reverses a lot of the commands, both implicit and explicit, found in the Old. Jacob is never censured for polygamy, because when he did it, it wasn’t sinful. It’s the same principle as slavery, divorce, etc.

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

    Sure, I endorse making specific claims.

    But I can’t be more specific than the source I’m quoting without just making stuff up, and Mark didn’t clarify what he meant by reading the Bible thoughtfully.

    Maybe he meant what you mean here (which, if I understand it correctly, is that Jesus’ arrival made the sorts of marriages the Patriarchs had sinful, though it hadn’t been sinful before that… yes?).
    Maybe he means something else.
    Maybe he hadn’t thought it through carefully enough to have meant anything in particular.

    I didn’t know, so I asked.

  • The_L1985

    Well, yes.  But there is no biblical injunction, in either Testament, saying “polygamy isn’t allowed anymore.”  There is no censure in any part of the Bible of Jacob’s bigamous marriage to both Leah and Rachael.

    The real reasons for polygamy’s ban in the US are based in Western societal concepts.
    1) Western culture has an idea of romantic love being jealous love–that you cannot have those feelings for more than one person at a time, and that it is justified to not want anybody to do so.
    2) Because of the sexist dynamic of marriages in most pre-modern cultures, polygamy as practiced in cultures where daughters are “given away” to husbands is almost exclusively polygynous*, never polyandrous** or any other combination of genders.
    3) Because of 1) and 2), polygamous marriages in Western culture have tended to be oppressive and abusive to the women involved.

    In many sub-Saharan African societies, before Europeans started colonizing Africa and completely wrecking the cultures there, a man’s wives tended to get along with each other well, cooperatively caring for their children and essentially functioning as a mini-village.  You didn’t automatically have the competition between wives that we see in the Jacob/Leah/Rachael story.

    Considering that the argument was that the Bible only allows for sex within the context of a monogamous marriage, I’d say Dave’s counter-argument stands.

    ——————————————————————-

    * One man with several wives
    ** One woman with several husbands

  • Robyrt

     The Christian objection to polygamy is not explicit, you’re right – it’s in much the same position as slavery, being inferred from other bits like the requirement of church officials to be “the husband of one wife.” Jacob is rather the exception; as far as I remember, most of the polygynous marriages in the Bible go off without a hitch. I agree that there’s a big component of Western cultural tradition there, too.

  • P J Evans

     Reading about Emma Hale Smith, she wasn’t crazy about polygamy, even though it was her husband’s idea. (The people you run across when doing genealogy…)

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

    I’d think that it was her husband’s idea would make her even less crazy about it. And it was not polygamy; it was polygyny. Men got to have every woman they wanted all to themselves, but a bunch of women had to share one man, without even being allowed boyfriends. (They could probably have had sex with each other if they wanted, but for straight women, that is absolutely meaningless.) It is misogynistic, treats women as property, and is no way to run a society if you want to treat women as anything but property. Joseph Smith obviously didn’t — he just wanted to screw lots of women and claim it was godly, without allowing any of the women he was screwing to screw any other man. 

    This is how polygamy (really polygyny) plays out throughout history. It was not only like that in the society of the Bible. Chinese history is filled with women married to the same man fighting each other for power. Because there is never enough to go around for women when they’re stuck married to one man, but aren’t allowed to marry multiple men themselves. Not to mention the lack of man to go around; and sex toys, while fun, are not a substitute for human beings.

    In our society, we’re at the very beginnings of accepting that men *and women* can have sexual relationships with multiple people at the same time and that can be okay. The only reason we’ve come here is that we outlawed polygamy as it was commonly practiced in both East and West. In another hundred years, maybe it will be legal again because maybe the idea of a man owning any woman, let alone many, will be so alien to us. And people who are naturally polyamorous will be accepted as much as people who are naturally monogamous, and we’ll have killed the bullshit from people with zero knowledge of history and basic human behavior about how men are “naturally” polyamorous but women are “naturally” monogamous. (You can say I’m a dreamer :-P.) For now, though, I think we need to stick with polygamy being illegal, while accepting polyamory so long as it’s not abusive — just like any other relationship.

  • P J Evans

     I figured, given his age, he was having a mid-life crisis and wanted a younger wife, but had no grounds whatsoever for divorce.

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

    Didn’t she leave Smith and start one of the first schismatic Mormon sects?
    Reformed LDS, if I remember correctly. 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    The real reasons for polygamy’s ban in the US are based in Western societal concepts.

    There is also a practical consideration. When you’ve got massive disparities of wealth (as you did in… pretty much every human society that took to settling down) and no more men than women (as you did in… pretty much every human society that took to settling down), and the treatment of women as an advanced form of chattel (you get the point) polygamy tends toward societies where only the wealthiest men have serious prospects of starting a family, and that requires certain mitigations (like having everyone believe that the guy with all the wives is a god) to maintain a stable society.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Jacob the Patriarch, the father of the children of Israel, was sinning when he married Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin… that at least two of the Twelve Tribes were conceived in sin, according to the Bible.
    Whole bunch of the Twelve Tribes. The other ten sons of Jacob weren’t all Leah’s children; some were Bilhah’s and some Zilpah’s, and Jacob wasn’t even married to them. And ‘Joseph’ isn’t a Tribe, he’s the ancestor of two Tribes, beginning with his sons.

  • The_L1985

    Well, sort of.  Technically, in that society, having sex with your wife’s slaves was considered to essentially be the same thing as having sex with your wife herself.  So Bilhah’s children were considered Leah’s, Zilpah’s children were considered Rachael’s, and Jacob wasn’t guilty of adultery by the standards of the time.

    Abraham’s begetting of Ishmael on Hagar was condemned, not because he’d had sex with someone other than his wife, but because he hadn’t had faith that God would indeed cause Sarah to give birth to a son.  Hagar, as Sarah’s slave, was treated as more or less a non-entity (notice that Genesis doesn’t tell us what happened to her after she was sent away!), and so Abraham wasn’t considered to have committed adultery.

    Different culture, different rules.  Sexist, demeaning rules, but still, different rules.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I thought the point of this discussion was whatsisface trying to prove that the Bible indicates that sex with anyone but one’s only lawfully wedded spouse is forbidden. Which makes Bilhah and Zilpah’s being people Jacob sexed while neither of them was his lawfully wedded spouse, let alone his only such, a problem for whatsisface.

    That is, I agree with your post, I’m just not sure how it advances the discussion any.

  • Foelhe

    I don’t think that’s the point Fred’s trying to make.

    When people were trying to abolish slavery, a lot of Christians stood up and said, “No! The bible supports slavery, and you can’t go against that!”

    Nowadays we’ve got people trying to support same-sex relationships, and a lot of Christians are standing up and saying, “No! The bible condemns same-sex relationships, and you can’t go against that!”

    The problem isn’t that these ideas are tied together, it’s that they both go against the core of Christianity. The bible argues that you need to love your neighbor and that means treating them with respect. When other people are trying to win respect they deserve, and your reaction as a Christian is to yank out a couple clobber-verses, tie ’em together and start waving them in protest, you’re doing a poor job of your religion.

    But there have been Christians doing this every time society has advanced for at least a few hundred years. Slavery’s an example, I’m pretty sure women’s sufferage was as well, not to mention several of the scientific advancements we’ve managed. If you’re scraping together a handful of verses across the bible to argue with progress… well, you’re in not-so-good company, historically. That’s the point Fred’s making.

    Coming back to my old argument, I don’t think you can thoughtfully argue that slavery and same-sex relationships are both sinful, based solely on the bible. There are a handful of clobber verses about same-sex relationships, and there are a handful of clobber verses about slavery. You’d have to read those in different contexts to give them unequal weight, and I suspect that context comes more from you than from the verses themselves. Not what I’d call a thoughtful read.

    But, however you feel about that, “Love your neighbor as yourself” should trump quite a bit in Christian theology. It is one of the key components to the religion, and that’s not from obscure text in Leviticus or writings of mere mortals who built the church, that’s from Christ himself.

  • Foelhe

    I think, from trying to understand what scripture is saying, that God does seem to hate slavery even if he let’s pass it initially

    Let’s take this out of the realm of theory, shall we? I’ve been discussing this very issue with a few people in another thread, and I’ve yet to be convinced that the bible says much against slavery at all. Do you have any actual verses you’d like to share with the class, or is this all gut instinct?

    and yet he decree that any sexual relationship outside of a heterosexual monogamous marriage is sin

    Again, verses? Any proof to back this up?

  • Mark

    I could come back with a list of verses at this point, but isn’t the Fred’s argument that throwing out individual verses without working out the whole context and argument of the bible is a bad idea and a poor way of reading scripture? I don’t stand where I do on these issues without reason I think I’ve got from scripture. I could write down a few short essays on why I think the bible says this, working through the scope of scripture, but is that really going to be beneficial to you? My observation was that Fred (and others) weren’t leaving room for the idea that someone could conclude that biblically God calls slavery a sin as well and he also calls homosexual practice a sin.

  • Foelhe

    I could come back with a list of verses at this point, but isn’t the Fred’s argument that throwing out individual verses without working out the whole context and argument of the bible is a bad idea and a poor way of reading scripture?

    … Dude. What? There’s a lot of ground between “throw one verse out, ignore context” and “summarize entire bible vaguely, imply it agrees with you”. You should quote the parts that you think agree with you, then we’ll look at the context and figure out precisely what they said.

    I could write down a few short essays on why I think the bible says this, working through the scope of scripture, but is that really going to be beneficial to you?

    Of course it’s going to be beneficial. We’re arguing what the bible says, we disagree, so we look at the evidence. This is the backbone of every logical argument throughout the history of time.

  • Gotchaye

     Speaking only for myself, I think it’s obvious that lots of people do sit down and try to take the Bible seriously and conclude that God’s against slavery and homosexuality both.  That’s not really the point.  The point is that these people ought to find this disturbingly convenient.  The fact that arguments against rights for gay people look an awful lot like arguments against rights for black people should give people who accept those arguments pause.  If the method you’re using went horribly, horribly wrong when applied by lots of people in all but ~50 of the last 2000 years, and yet it wasn’t at all obvious to those people that the method had gone wrong, you have to doubt the method.  It’s clearly a serious possibility that you’re likewise getting things badly wrong.  With that kind of track record, I think it’s clear that the best thing to do is just to throw out the method altogether.

    The scientific approach here is to look back and note that nobody would ever really have gone very wrong emphasizing the inclusive bits of the Bible.  That should be kept in mind when, going forward, we encounter apparent tensions between the inclusive and exclusive bits of the Bible.  In light of history, you’ve got to have just an ironclad case to justify exclusion.

  • Lunch Meat

    My observation was that Fred (and others) weren’t leaving room for the idea that someone could conclude that biblically God calls slavery a sin as well and he also calls homosexual practice a sin.

    While I think it’s possible that someone might do that, that is not a literal interpretation. If one is going to argue that the Bible is easy to interpret and one should take all of it at face value, and anyone who disagrees is either deceived by Satan or doing it on purpose because they love sin, then one should be consistent in one’s interpretation and always take the face value.

  • The_L1985

    “and yet he decree that any sexual relationship outside of a heterosexual monogamous marriage is sin,”

    Er, no.  No he doesn’t.

    1. Quite a lot of polygamy happens in the Old Testament, yet polygamy as such is never once condemned in the Bible.  David’s sin wasn’t having another wife–it was killing Uriah so that Bathsheba would be available.

    2. There were no single women, as we understand the concept, in the Levitical society.  Girls were betrothed at an early age, often pre-puberty.  Thus, raping an unmarried woman was essentially breaking her vow to marry another man as a virgin.  Consensual sex by two parties who are neither married nor engaged is never once explicitly condemned in the entire Bible, save for prohibitions on prostitution.

    3. The passages which are supposed to condemn homosexual relationships were written in a time when the sort of same-sex romances we have today didn’t exist.  Homosexuality in the ancient Near East was between an adult man and a young male of lower rank (usually only a boy at the time).  The concept of two men or women loving one another as equal partners in a romantic context would have been completely foreign to Paul.

  • Patrick

    “The passages which are supposed to condemn homosexual relationships were
    written in a time when the sort of same-sex romances we have today didn’t exist.   Homosexuality in the ancient Near East was between an adult man and a
    young male of lower rank (usually only a boy at the time).  The concept of two men or women loving one another as equal partners in a
    romantic context would have been completely foreign to Paul.”

    When the Bible instructs its followers to engage in campaigns of genocide through murder and rape, it claims that the cultures to be obliterated are populated entirely by wholly evil people who completely deserve to be butchered- from the adult men down to the infants.  This doesn’t mean those societies were ACTUALLY this way.  Its just hate speech.

    So while it may be true that the Bible doesn’t even have a concept of a loving same-sex relationship, and while it may be true that it was written by people who denied the concept of a loving same-sex relationship, that’s not because there aren’t weren’t any people who would like to have engaged in loving same-sex relationships.  It may have been true that same-sex romantic relationships didn’t exist, but this was probably because of the presence of packs of moral panicky murderers waving scripture in the air.

    Its not like gay people have undergone some kind of moral evolution that made them previously unfit, but presently fit for polite company.  The Bible’s prohibitions against same-sex intercourse aren’t saying something specific to the social context of their time- its reflecting the world seen through the lens of its authors, who were morally wrong on this subject.

    Its like saying that the Bible passages endorsing patriarchal rules for marriage are inapplicable to the modern debate over gender politics, because sensible women capable of holding up half of an egalitarian marriage didn’t exist in ancient times.  That may accurately reflect the views of the authors of those passages, but it certainly wasn’t true!  And to the limited extent that it WAS true, ie, to the extent that women weren’t educated, those passages probably bear some of the blame.  The Bible isn’t irrelevant to this issue because it was addressing a different culture, its just wrong, and it reflects the world view of people who were wrong.

    Here’s Chris Rock explaining the issue.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMNl-UvRIQM

  • The_L1985

     “It may have been true that same-sex romantic relationships didn’t
    exist, but this was probably because of the presence of packs of moral
    panicky murderers waving scripture in the air.”

    Really?  This is why pagan people in ancient Greece and Rome didn’t have egalitarian same-sex romantic relationships?  Because Hebrew Scripture said not to?  Wow, how did I ever miss that one when it is just sooo obvious?

    I’m not saying that there weren’t more egalitarian same-sex relationships elsewhere in the world at that time.  I’m saying that, in the ancient Mediterranean world, where the Bible was written, that just wasn’t how it went down in that cultural context.  A man was considered more virile in ancient Greece if he had a young boy as a lover.  This had nothing to do with Jewish or Christian morality one way or the other–it’s just the way Greek society viewed sexuality.  Morally abhorrent to modern people?  Yes, of course!  But that doesn’t change the fact that within that cultural context, “a man having consensual sex with a man in the context of a romantic relationship” was less likely to occur than “a man having probably-not-consensual sex with a young boy.”

    There wasn’t even a word for homosexuality yet–the phenomenon of a person being solely attracted to members of the same sex was not named as a specific state of being until the 19th century.  Before that, gay men were generally lumped into the general category of “men who don’t have sex with women,” which also included eunuchs and celibate men.

    Please, PLEASE do your research.  I’m no more Christian than you are, but your argument just doesn’t stand up because it is not borne up by the facts.

  • Patrick

     “But that doesn’t change the fact that within that cultural context, “a
    man having consensual sex with a man in the context of a romantic
    relationship” was less likely to occur than “a man having
    probably-not-consensual sex with a young boy.””

    I’m well aware that coercive adult-teen same-sex intercourse was normalized within the surrounding cultures.

    Look.  I agree with your claim that the authors of this passage probably saw all same-sex intercourse as part of a cultural context of pedophilic rape.

    But that’s not a defense; its an indictment.

    I also acknowledge that culture at large didn’t even have words for the idea of a man interested in loving sexual relationships with other men until recently.

    That’s still not a defense.  Its still an indictment.

    For your argument to work, you’d have to claim that homosexuals interested in loving relationships didn’t exist before, I dunno, 1990 or something.  But the facts you actually have indicate that dominant, hetero-normative culture didn’t ACKNOWLEDGE the existence of homosexuals interested in loving relationships.  That’s not the same thing!

    So its not a defense.  Its still just an indictment.

    I get that it is, from a sort of historicist perspective, somewhat forgivable.  Particularly from a secular standpoint, there’s no particular reason to demand that the authors of the Bible exhibit better morality than everyone else around them.  And if everyone else around them held bigoted views about homosexuality, well, its understandable that they did as well.

    But that doesn’t get you to where you want to go.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     I think that you’re dramatically underestimating the role that out culture plays in shaping our worldview.

    Personally, I’d be interested to see what things that us bleeding-heart liberals don’t even think about now we’ll be condemned as bigots for not being vehemently against 2000 years from now.

  • Gotchaye

    I’ll put $5 (plus interest) on liberal responses to “What’s next?  Men marrying toasters?” getting dredged up when robosexuality becomes a thing.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I’ll put $5 (plus interest) on liberal responses to “What’s next?  Men marrying toasters?” getting dredged up when robosexuality becomes a thing.

    I imagine the campaign against it would look something like this.

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

    To anyone who watches BSG, “men marrying toasters” has a bit of an unintentional double meaning to it.

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

    Why is it always men? Why don’t women get to marry toasters? Women have a much broader range of equipment that gives them pleasure that they could marry, too.

    (It’s because these people think of men as doing the marrying and women being the passive ones the marriage is being done to.)

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

    I was echoing the phrasing used ironically by Gotchaye originally.

    That said, your point is well-taken.

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

    I wasn’t being critical of you, just realized I’d never ever seen people talk about women marrying weird stuff in this context. Just men. And I think it’s telling that that’s where their minds immediately go. 

  • Lunch Meat

    I wasn’t being critical of you, just realized I’d never ever seen people
    talk about women marrying weird stuff in this context. Just men. And I
    think it’s telling that that’s where their minds immediately go.

    I had a thought a while back that might explain part of this. These people don’t actually think that women can consent to marriage. It’s the man and the woman’s father who do the consenting. So if a father can consent on behalf of “his” daughter, why couldn’t a man consent on behalf of his dog or his toaster?

  • Baby_Raptor

    I would totally marry the toaster from Old World Blues in Fallout: New Vegas. He’s homicidal and adorable. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Why is it always men? Why don’t women get to marry toasters? Women have a much broader range of equipment that gives them pleasure that they could marry, too.

    Well, I have heard women sometimes make references to having boyfriends who run on batteries, so… 

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

    Well, I have heard women sometimes make references to having boyfriends who run on batteries, so…

    I know. And whenever anyone does that, I get urge to kill… rising…

    Good sex toys are awesome, but they are *things*, not *people*. I have seen enough people who really and truly believe a thing could substitute for a person sexually that I just can’t handle it any more, even though most people who say it are just making a (stupid) joke.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    As someone who used to sell sex toys:  Thank you.  It’s idiotic how many men (and the occasional woman, I’ve heard) feel threatened by a female partner’s toys.  Jokes about “battery-operated boyfriends” don’t help.

  • AnonymousSam

    *Raises hand* I’ve definitely seen my share of women who seem to think that a sex toy automatically equates to becoming obsolete, or worse, who are incapable of understanding that a man can have an interest in phallic toys without being a closet homosexual who doesn’t actually like her. Sexual intimidation is a thing. Sadly.

    Also, thank you for having been in that industry! (I just wanted to say that. It seems like a thankless job. Or at least genuine thanks and not silly blushy “LOL OMG I JUST TALKED TO SOMEONE LIKE THAT” thanks.)

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Thanks!  I tried to post a couple of links to my “porn clerk story” LJ entries, but I think Disqus ate my comment.

  • Hexep

    If it’s never been done before, here is your opportunity to be on the ground floor and pioneer the genre of woman-marrying-machine stories.

    When I was in primary school, I vividly remember one of my classmates saying that she wanted to be the third female president. Not the first, not the second, but the third – because she figured being the first female president would be more difficult and she didn’t want to deal with that. She just wanted to do presidential stuff without necessarily being a hero for it.

    Well, you don’t get that luxury! Destiny bares its neck before you; dare you strike?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    Why is it always men? Why don’t women get to marry toasters? Women have a
    much broader range of equipment that gives them pleasure that they
    could marry, too.

    Obviously, it’s because a toaster has a slot that you put toast into. A woman marrying a toaster would be gay.

  • The_L1985

    I’m not really sure where you think I “want to go,” here.  All I’m saying is that there is no unambiguous condemnation of either premarital or same-sex intercourse.  That’s literally all I was trying to say in that first comment.

    I’m not really sure what you’re trying to do here.

  • vsm

    Actually, there are some references to ancient same-sex relationships that were consensual and were for life. To steal an example from Wikipedia, Aristotle talked about Philolaus and Dioclese, two guys who lived together and were eventually buried next to each other.

  • David Newgreen

     Ancient Greece and Rome didn’t have egilitarian opposite-sex romances either, as a rule. Given the legal and cultural frameworks of the ancient Mediterranean, talking about an equal relationship between a man and a woman is ludicrous – in most societies, women had so little freedom you may as well be talking about an equal relationship between a master and his slave.

    Yet the Abrihamic religions only come down on same-sex relationships. To try and justify that based on the nature of such relationships in surounding cultures, and ignore the fact that those same issues exisisted just as strongly if not more so in hetrosexual relationships of the time is to whitewash what was and is unjustified bigotry. Biblical sexual morality has nothing to do with issues of consent, it had to do with maintaining patriarchal structures.

  • The_L1985

     And once again, the reason for the entire sub-thread here was to point out that the Bible does not unambiguously condemn ALL premarital or same-sex intercourse.  I am aware of the gender imbalances in a lot of ancient relationships.

    I am also aware that in the first century, relationships were a fair bit more egalitarian than they were in the centuries before and after.  However, that is not the point I was trying to make, and I’m not sure how it got brought up in the first place.

  • Tricksterson

    For that matter a man and a woman loving each other as equal partners in a romantic context would have been foreign to Paul and to most people of the time.  Marriage was a property transaction and there was no doubt as to whom was the property.

  • Baby_Raptor

    He doesn’t allow any room for that because anyone coming to that conclusion is reading the bible to hear what they want to hear, not what the bible says. 

    Peter said “God had shown me that I should call NO MAN unclean.” He didn’t say “God has shown me that I should call no man unclean except for those filthy homosexuals.” There were no qualifiers. So what the particular “sin” a person commits is does not matter. Peter still says “Don’t call them unclean.” 

  • Tricksterson

    Maybe you should take a look at Fred’s Biblical Families series and then get back to us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bobby.herrington.1 Boze Herrington

    The final quote from Chalke is beautiful, and summarizes the debate over scriptural interpretation as well as anything else I’ve seen. This whole post echoes an ongoing argument I’m having with a friend – a retired pastor and leader of one of my Bible studies – who thinks that imagination, art, creativity, are depraved and worthless in the sight of God. Yesterday he pulled out the argument that Lamech, the grandson of Cain, was the father of all who play musical instruments. He can easily frame the Scriptures to fit his interpretation, but I’m having a much harder time supporting my own. (Being a writer and artist, I find these statements very hurtful, as I imagine the rest of his family must, since they are all musicians).

    Sometimes it seems like the people who think humans are bad have a monopoly on interpretation. I see two choices: either I can find verses from the Bible that counter his verses, or I can try to reframe the debate by appealing to the spirit of the text. But it’s hard to get someone to listen when they think what they believe has the authority of Scripture.

  • Lunch Meat

    creativity [is] depraved and worthless in the sight of God.

    What? I just–what? How can you call God a creator and say that people made in God’s image aren’t supposed to be creating?

  • vsm

    But… the Bible itself contains plenty of poetry. David being a musician didn’t seem to bother God, since he made him a king. On the contrary, his lyrical and musical talents are kind of a big thing.

    That’s a damn absurd position.

  • phranckeaufile

    I’d be inclined to ask him how musicians exist at all, since the descendants of Cain all died in the flood. Noah was a descendant of Seth.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    To say otherwise is to indicate that God is not absolutely right, and his word is not trustable.

    Yeah, I could never trust someone who isn’t infallible.    (e_e)

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    There may still be some who privately disagree, but the anti-slavery side of the argument prevailed and the question is now regarded as so firmly settled that today few would dare to suggest otherwise in public.

    Wanna bet?  You don’t have to scratch very far below the surface at all to find people who condone, and sometimes even celebrate slavery, be it “Biblical” slavery and/or American slavery.  Hell, I once had someone argue at me that the only thing wrong with American slavery was that it was so mean, and that slavery in Ye Ancient Times wasn’t so bad at all, seeing as how sometimes people could eventually buy their own freedom.  It was more like indentured servitude, really, and what could possibly be wrong with that system?

    For a number of different takes on more “modern” slavery, I recommend Confederates in the Attic

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    I was just reading about this recently.  It sounds like in the Greek and Roman culture at the time, the distinction that was made wasn’t heterosexual/homosexual, it was penetrator/penetrated.  The only acceptable role for a red-blooded Roman man was to be the penetrator, as being penetrated was considered to be the act of an inferior.  You know, like women.  Or like  slaves.  Or like what were viewed as insufficiently manly men.

    So it was considered perfectly appropriate for a Greek or Roman man to have sex with all the boys or male slaves he wanted, as long as he was pitching.

    But it sounds like in general, especially in Roman society, sexual relationships between a man and a boy or between two men was usually exploitative, involving an imbalance of power between the two parties.  (In Greek society I’m not sure it’s quite as clear — there could be a sort of mentor/mentee relationship between a man and a boy, but I gather it’s also not totally clear how often these relationships involved sex and especially anal sex.)

    So I suspect many people today would also condemn the sort of homosexual relationship Paul had in mind when he wrote those verses.  What Paul would have thought of modern loving gay relationships, who knows?  They would be against Jewish law, but so were other things that Paul said were acceptable for Christians.  However, that just wasn’t a concept that existed in his culture.
     

  • Fusina

    I’ve been thinking about slavery lately. Seems to me that there are some people who would like to see the feudal system of serfs and landed gentry back. (From what I have read regarding the system, it was sort of like slavery, with worse wages and no benefits.) It seems these people want to intrude on the lives of all who they see as beneath them, while continuing to be above the laws that are loaded on everyone else.

    I’m tired. I’m frustrated. This is such an awesome world, and it seems too many “leaders” don’t see the wonders all around. We could have enough for everyone to eat, wear, housing, but too many people are hoarding so much that they have enough and to spare many times over. It’s depressing. Does anyone have any good news?  I could use some.

     

  • Hexep

    The whole of the material universe is simply a twinkling dream in the eye of Brahma, the Creator, who sadly is not very smart but is essentially good-hearted. His creation will last for at least one trillion years, and as soon as one of our lives extinguishes for whatever reason, we flitter off to another place in it, and then another place after. And once we finish our appointed roles in this iteration of existence, and once our whole material cosmos is finished, he will scatter the board and try for better luck next time, and then again, and then onward for uncountable times more, and as he has done for uncountable times past, for the entire birth and life and death of the universe is but one day to him.

    Then, after perhaps one trillion creations, each of which lasts for a trillion of our years, he will die, but someone else will become the new Brahma, and the late Brahma will take his place in the mad mosaic of material life.

    By personal reckoning, it may take you uncountable years and aeons and lifetimes to ‘get it right,’ for whatever value you think that is (a value that is sure to change over the ages), but you have infinite chances to get it right. This, too, as with all things, shall pass.

    Feeling better?

  • Fusina

     I gotta do this again???

    Yeah, actually. That does help. Thanks.

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

     Just one thing:

    It always gets better.  It’s a slow process, but it does – if you look at the whole of human history, there’s been a steady, constant, everpresent drive toward a better more thoughtful and inclusive world.

    Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot of hurt out there – a lot of people suffering unnecessarily – but look back a thousand years and it’s uglier.  A lot uglier.

    I’m not saying “Today is fine, everything is great.” – far from it;  but as MLK Jr ably put it “The arc of a moral universe bends toward justice.”  It’s a big arc, and our lifespans too short to see justice waiting for us at the end – but that’s where we’re headed just the same – one slow plodding step at a time.

    It’s not easy to see sometimes how much better the world is than what it could be,  what it has in fact already been.  I know that, believe me.  It’s easy to bring up a laundry list of atrocities that have been committed just in the last handful of years, let alone the past century.

    But that’s why we have to keep fighting, even in our very small ways.  Why we have to keep being inclusive people, why we have to keep pushing for justice and fairness wherever we can.  We do it so someday no queer child will grow up thinking “What is wrong with me!?”  We do it so someday no woman will be considered less-than because of her gender.  We do it so someday no one will be without food, shelter, medical care and the other basic necessities of life.

    Every small step we take helps bring that world about.  Every time we are ourselves inclusive when we could have been otherwise, every time we remember that everyone has value, every time we push back against greed and evil just by being unwilling to stoop to those things.

    The good news then is very simple:  In the end, we win.  It’s not a matter of if, but when.

    That always helps me anyway – every time I get dispirited with the world I remember whence we came and how lucky I am to live now, rather than then.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    That….that is beautiful.

  • Fusina

     Thank you for those awesome words. I have been dealing with a lot of extraneous depression (more grief from losing a lot of friends and pets over the last year) and seeing the same battles we fought when I was a teenager being pulled back out–I’ve been a fan of the ERA and women’s rights since I was eighteen, and I now have an eighteen year old daughter and it seems we are fighting the same damn battles.

    I am a christian, but have found that I apparently behave toward the world more like an atheist–eg, I am not in favor of waiting until heaven to equalize things. To see other christians behaving badly hurts.

  • The_L1985

    Actually, the serfs generally had enough to live on unless there was a famine, and they always got Sundays and holidays off.  The damn-near-slavery aspects of the system were of course pretty nasty, and the knights generally considered peasant women to be, er, “common property,” but that goes along with the whole “sort of like slavery” thing.

    But the “worse wages” aspect isn’t quite true.  So really, those people want a system that’s even worse than feudal serfdom.

  • Fusina

     Feudal serfs actually, that is correct. Although from what I have learned regarding coal mining towns in US, that was the case–and based on some miners being required to attend political shindigs (last year, Romney appearance) seems a bit icky too.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    5. The laws of Moses prohibited Israelites from enslaving one another in the way that they were permitted to enslave foreigners and outsiders.

    I suspect that the big take-away from elements like this, and the primary method of resolving “Biblical dissonance,” is with the understanding “Rules for me and different rules for thee.”  

    We see that quite a lot in dominism in particular, something like “All religions are equal under the law but Christianity is more equal than others.”  I can kind of understand when a group says “Our rules are not your rules” as a means of self-imposing restrictions, but so much of the time that seems to have been turned around to imposing restrictions on others instead.  

  • http://aftertheecstasythelaundry.wordpress.com/ Cynthia Schrage

    Let’s see, I read this article just a few hours ago, and the comments have just gone WILD! I posted it to Facebook as an example of an interesting, forward-thinking idea, and Whooooeee, did I get reamed out! Yes, I should’ve known better, but you know, hope springin’ eternal and all that…

    I definitely got some flack from people who said that the Bible didn’t condone slavery. Hello?!

    I don’t want to even get started on the whole slippery slope argument. As if I’d suggested “cats and dogs, living together” or something. Sigh…

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    I suggest sarcasm:  “Yes, because dogs have legal agency and can sign contracts.”  That kind of thing.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Why don’t women get to marry toasters? 

    Especially when they look like Callum Keith Rennie…

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

    Oh nononononono. Leoben Conoy and “marrying” = erm how about NO.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    I did say “look like”. For a while my attitude was “this makes no sense but Callum is pretty”, but eventually even that wasn’t enough to keep me around :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Don-Gisselbeck/520678931 Don Gisselbeck

    It’s worth pointing out that John Newton took several decades to go from thinking the slave trade was “honorable” to writing this: http://thriceholy.net/Texts/African.html.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    I think the statement about slavery being condemned by everybody both is and is not true.  Similarly to the way many men will admit to having committed rape if they don’t use the word “rape” to describe it, many people would be in favour of slavery if it weren’t called slavery.

  • smrnda

     I’m aware that slaves were often referred to as ‘servants’ in the American South, so they were well aware that simply calling it something else made it easier to do.

  • Carstonio

    These people don’t actually think that women can consent to marriage.

    Most of our wedding traditions appear be rooted in the old definition of marriage as a property exchange between father and groom. In my experience, the dog and toaster argument is used by far more people than just the Quiverfull types, and while they might not explicitly believe in that marriage definition, on some level they probably do view women as objects or property. There seems to be a widespread assumption that male sexual desire is amorphous, with all men equally capable of being turned on by other men or by animals.

  • Carstonio

    Why would one want homosexuality to be sinful? The secular reasons for condemning slavery as immoral are obvious. There are no such reasons for homosexuality. All the claims of its immorality come down to either scripture, or to pseudo-religious notions about “nature.”

    No one asserts that homosexuality is inherently right and that heterosexuality is inherent wrong. The argument against homosexuality being wrong is really for the principle that one’s sexual orientation isn’t the concern of others or of society. Both homosexuality and heterosexuality are morally neutral in the sense that there’s no moral imperative to be one or the other.

  • Matthias

    I wouldn’t say that there are no secular reasons for viewing homosexuality as evil. Ayn Rand, an outspoken atheist also condemend homosexuality as evil. So believing in some kind of God is clearly not required

  • Carstonio

    Looking at the reasons quoted for Rand in the third paragraph, her argument was naturalistic and thus pseudo-religious. She was obviously a gender essentialist.

  • Foelhe

    There’s also appeals to tradition, which does the same thing for Those Who Came Before. Pretty much every argument against homosexuality comes down to someone finding a higher authority and saying we have to trust that more than we trust our own reason.

    That’s not necessarily anti-secular, since you don’t need an authority to be a god before you trust it completely, but religious folks do come with an authority conveniently built in.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Pretty much every argument against homosexuality comes down to someone finding a higher authority and saying we have to trust that more than we trust our own reason.

    Love this line.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Looking at the reasons quoted for Rand in the third paragraph,
    her argument was pseudo-religious. She was obviously a gender
    essentialist. Notions about a natural order or “the way things are
    supposed to be” elevate nature to more or less the status of a deity.
    Often the elevating is of procreation.

     That sounds a lot like Bill Maher’s “Stalinism and Maoism were really ‘secular religions’, not atheist ideologies, because atheism can never lead to ideologies that kill lots of people”

  • Carstonio

    Another reason Maher gets on my nerves. Those ideologies are atheist only in the technical sense, and the same is true of fundamentalism for theism. Both types of ideologies are authoritarian first and foremost, and neither proves anything about either atheism or theism. “Pseudo-religious” may not be the right label for Rand’s notions of nature – perhaps “pseudo-theist” instead?

  • smrnda

    Why not just call them ‘secular ideologies’ or cults of personality? ‘Secular religion’ just seems like a silly term. Of course, the level to which cults of personality can go they can turn into worship of (supposed) demi-gods quite quickly. I mean, think of all that’s been said of Kim Il-Sung or his descendants in North Korea.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Why not just call them ‘secular ideologies’ or cults of personality?
    Because that would imply atheists can do bad things, in a way that using the term ‘secular religion’ does not.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I think because he wanted the point to be “Everything bad is due to religion, and nothing bad ever comes from atheists”

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

    It has been argued that Communism took on quasireligious aspects to itself, especially during the Stalin and Mao eras when the two men were almost deified beyond belief.

  • arcseconds

     

     That sounds a lot like Bill Maher’s “Stalinism and Maoism were really
    ‘secular religions’, not atheist ideologies, because atheism can never
    lead to ideologies that kill lots of people”

    Well, technically he’s right.   “There is no God” doesn’t in itself lead to “Thou shalt kill lots of people”.   You kind of need a lot of other premises to get there.

    Same is true of “There is a God”, though.

    The problem is, that people get fixated on the metaphysical proposition, as though that’s where the entire ideology and behaviour flows from. 

  • smrnda

     There’s a difference between ‘no secular reason’ and ‘no *good* secular reason.’ Given Rand’s propensity to basically ‘win’ arguments by controlling the definitions of terms used (if you have to agree to her definitions, you’re stuck with her conclusions) I can’t think of her as someone who could possibly produce a credible argument for or against anything.

    As someone below me said, Rand basically believed in some kind of telos (the same thing used in Natural Law theology) and used that to get her conclusions.

  • Carstonio

    The idea that designs and purposes exist in nature is what I mean by elevating nature to deity, because the idea collapses without the assumption of an intelligence or being to create those designs and purposes. The philosophical version of intelligent design. Ironic that Rand professed atheism but used theistic assumptions for those conclusions.

  • Foelhe

    I disagree. You can accept something as authoritative without assuming it’s intelligent. It’s a pretty stupid thing to do, but authoritarian policies tend to be not the most well thought-out.

  • Carstonio

    While I agree with you about authoritarianism, I’m not sure how that conflicts with the point I was making. Were you disagreeing with my suggestion that teleology is the philosophical version of intelligent design, or the irony of an atheist like Rand arguing from theistic assumptions?

  • Foelhe

    Arguing from theistic assumptions. Though admittedly that’s a little, ah, spurious? I think you can treat nature as inherently good, and therefore authoritative, without assuming there’s an intelligence behind it. Although that’s idiotic, and I’m splitting hairs anyway, and I should probably lighten up a bit.

  • Carstonio

     

    I think you can treat nature as inherently good, and therefore
    authoritative, without assuming there’s an intelligence behind it.

    True. But that assumption is required to treat nature as having designs and purposes.

  • Foelhe

    True. I’ll concede the point. Rand doesn’t exactly need my defense anyway.

  • vsm

    I’m not entirely comfortable calling teleology the philosophical version of intelligent design. The former was developed by some of the finest minds in the history of Western thought, while the latter is a cynical attempt to smuggle creationism into schools.

  • Carstonio

    Yes, the comparison is unfair to those philosophers. While they were much smarter than me in many ways, the assumption they appeared to make is still fair game for questioning. I would take the motives behind intelligent design off the table, and say that the assumption being pushed strongly resembles the one involved in teleology. Perhaps Behe and his colleagues were familiar enough with teleological philosophy to steal parts for their creationist Trojan horse.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Rand becomes much easier to understand when you accept that she was a narcissist, and that her narcissism informed everything she said and wrote.

  • smrnda

     It’s also why her writing is so bad. Only a narcissist could write such shoddy fiction and then demand that it be considered a work of genius, and could be totally indifferent to pretty much every writer of consequence dismissing the book as crap.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Yep.  Even Rayford Steele doesn’t spend THREE HOURS talking about how awesome Jesus is.

    btw, One of Our Own reviewed the Atlas Shrugged movie…

    http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/a-disquisition-on-selfishness/

  • arcseconds

    I had a friend who maintained “her politics are awful, but she writes so well!”

    de gustibus non disputandum est, I suppose you might say, but (a)obviously she’s no fan of Rand’s ‘so-called philosophy of Objectivism’ (as the Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy so charmingly puts it) and in fact is pretty damn left, (b) she has a post-graduate degree in English Literature and, perhaps more importantly, (c) on other matters I’d say she has very good taste.

    I’ve never known what to make of that.

    Me, I’ve tried reading Atlas Shrugged three times now and I can’t do it — the prose is too turgid and awful. And, y’know, I’ve been known to read German philosophy for fun and profit, so it’s not like I can’t cope with things that are dense and difficult.

    (I did read Anthem, which has the merit of being short.  )

    EDIT: oh, yeah! I also watched Fountainhead, the movie, which is hilarious!

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

    That Ayn Rand condemned homosexuality as evil does not mean there are any actual, legitimate secular reasons for condemning homosexuality as evil. Because there are none. Ayn Rand was a horrible person with an utterly stupid worldview; the only thing she was right about that I know of was that she was pro-choice. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, but she was wrong about homosexuality (and everything else). It was related to her gender essentialism, part of which was saying no woman would want to be president because no woman would want power over men. While she herself headed a cult mostly populated by men. 

    Ayn Rand is, however, a good example of the fact that atheists can be power-hungry assholes without rationality or empathy as easily as religious people can. Whether people swear to God or the Invisible Pink Unicorn, it doesn’t really matter. People are really good at interpreting stuff through different lenses. And so we get Fred Clark and Fred Phelps, both saying they’re following the same playbook. Atheists are no different — we’re just not part of the power structure in the U.S. the way Christianity is. But the Christianity that’s part of the power structure is not Fred Clark’s.

  • AnonymousSam

    I theory I read at one time suggested that the church’s stance against polygamy grew out of the laws of inheritance, which stated that if a man had no legal sons to inherit his wealth, it defaulted to the hands of the church. By eliminating polygamy, the author argued, the church made it more likely to receive inheritance by decreasing the likelihood that the man would successfully produce an heir.

  • MaryKaye

    Polygynous marriage coupled with subordination of wife to husband leads to an exceptionally raw deal for women.  In a monogamous subordinate marriage, at least the wife is her husband’s source of heirs and thus has some value to him.  (As long as she *does* produce heirs; many cultures allow divorce/abandonment if the woman appears infertile.)  In a polygamous subordinate marriage there’s less to protect an individual woman as she could be supplanted in her role as heir-producer by one of the others.  As many of Fred’s Bible stories show, this pits wives and half-brothers against each other, and who can blame them?  So it’s unsafe for the woman and detrimental to peace in the house.  I think this is why Mohammad, while not forbidding polygamy, did not encourage it.

    Short form:  polygamy amplifies the dangers of subordinate marriage to the woman (and her children) and it’s reasonable to dislike it on that basis.

    I personally am of the opinion that egalitarian polygamy is a whole different kettle of fish.  It’s probably harder to make work than egalitarian monogamy, but I don’t see anything morally wrong with it.  I would not be surprised or upset to see this as being an upcoming civil rights issue on the same lines as marriage equality:  there are already a decent number of people in egalitarian polygamous (unrecognized) marriages in the US, and the protections of legal marriage would be valuable to them just as they are to gay couples.  If it came to a vote today, while I would wince at the possibility of aiding subordinate polygamous marriages, I would grit my teeth and vote for it anyway.  (But I’d be surprised to see this in less than 20 years.  Pleased, but surprised.)

  • AnonymousSam

    I’ll buy more into Natural Law when the advocates of it are willing to stop making money, writing books, being famous and the other thousands of things they do which are not considered necessary by nature.

    We do plenty of things outside of nature’s strict “eat, sleep, procreative sex, repeat” cycles, purely because doing so pleases us. Why should homosexuality be any different?

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

    The “natural law” argument has no basis in any kind of fact anyway. It is based on willful ignorance of all of the following things: biology (especially evolution), history, psychology, sociology, statistics, human sexuality, anthropology, animal sexuality (a small percentage of the population of many species forms lifelong monogamous homosexual relationships), and what the neighbors are getting up to. Probably a whole lot more. 

    A lot of straight people don’t have the desire to procreate anyway. Actually, most people have the desire to avoid procreating most of the time, even if they want to do so at some point. From what I’ve seen, the desire to procreate at all is entirely unlinked to sexuality. 

  • AnonymousSam

    *Nods* I think it shares a lot with evolutionary psychology, and we’ve seen how that gets twisted to justify some terrible behavior. In fact, I could see the two of them being two sides of the same coin. Evolutionary psychology is used to justify prescriptive behavior, while natural law is used to justify proscriptive behavior.

  • Nathaniel

     Its worse than you think. Just like Ayn Rand’s excuse for a philosophy, their entire intellectual structure relies on question begging word definitions. So “natural” in their case means what’s good for you, and what’s good for is is good as defined by Catholic doctrine.

  • MaryKaye

    Lliira writes: 

    For now, though, I think we need to stick with polygamy being illegal,
    while accepting polyamory so long as it’s not abusive — just like any
    other relationship.

    I’m having trouble unpacking this argument.  Here’s my best guess:

    Historical models of polygyny are highly harmful.
    Therefore, polygamous relationships should not have the protection of the law.
    None the less, we should be “accepting” of non-abusive polygamous relationships.

    I think that that argument is going to look about as good, down the road, as current arguments about why same-sex relationships are denied the protections of law.  What is the need to create a class of “accepted but not legally recognized” marriages?  How is it helpful?  How do you avoid its use as a tool of abuse by the State to harass marriages that someone doesn’t approve of?  Why should some marriages be less than others?

    I’d also say that historical models of monogamous marriage are highly harmful; yet we are improving matters without having to outlaw monogamous marriage.  I think we could improve polygamy without outlawing it, and in fact once we outlaw it we lose valuable tools to improve it (as the FLDS seem to  demonstrate).

    Also, if you instead meant to forbid polygyny and allow other forms of polygamy, in a modern egalitarian context that seems to me to be sex discrimination pure and simple:  A, B and C can marry unless exactly one of them is male.


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