Concubines and ‘biblical families’: Literalism, inerrancy, slavery and a great deal of money

So the Rev. Billy Ray, a third-tier televangelist, gets caught up in scandal when it’s revealed that the “tithes and offerings” he collected from his viewers went to support a lavish, decadent lifestyle.

The most damning feature of the scandal is Billy Ray’s “sex house” — a separate mansion from the one he shared with Mrs. Billy Ray. The sex house, it turns out, was where three of Billy Ray’s long-term mistresses lived. He provided them all with room and board and a generous “stipend” from his ministry. And he went there, regularly, almost daily, to have sex with one or more of these women.

Just to be clear, the Rev. Billy Ray is fictional — any similarity between him and any actual televangelist is purely coincidental (and, sadly, inevitable). But such a scandal is not difficult to imagine. Nor is it difficult to imagine the universal condemnation that Billy Ray would be subject to due to the audacious sinfulness of his “sex house” arrangement.

But this is a perfectly biblical arrangement. It is, in the pages of scripture, a common and a holy arrangement — one that Billy Ray has in common with some of the most righteous and revered figures of the Bible.

“Concubines.” Look it up. Get out a concordance and do a good old-fashioned evangelical word study.

The Bible is teeming with concubines. The Bible is filled with men who kept them, and whose keeping of them is presented as evidence of their prosperity and of divine blessing and reward for their righteousness.

“Concubine” is an archaic word and it describes an archaic arrangement. The idea seems so alien to our culture, our mores and values, that it’s hard for us now, in the 21st century, to read all those many tales of good men and their blessed concubines and fully absorb what we’re reading in those ancient stories.

A concubine wasn’t quite a wife and she wasn’t quite a slave. Wives and slaves were both considered “property,” and so were concubines, but they were a slightly different kind of “property” than either wives or slaves.

“Mistress,” I suppose, gets close to the idea. Yet we tend to think of mistresses as illicit and hidden and morally suspect, and concubines were none of those things. The arrangement was so unlike anything we’re accustomed to today that it’s hard to know even what sort of verbs to use to describe the arranging of such an arrangement. Did these men “have” concubines, or did they “take” them? Or maybe “take up with” them? The practice was formal, established, legally condoned and religiously sanctioned, but it was so different from anything we can imagine nowadays that we have difficulty discussing it.

And yet this practice, it turns out, is not all that distant from us historically. There do not seem to be any concubines or any system of concubinage in the New Testament, yet centuries later than that, here in America, the system was revived and it thrived for generations, once again enjoying legal and religious sanction just as it did in the time of Abraham and the time of David.

That’s an inconvenient bit of history. Concubinage is one of those things, like animal sacrifice or dietary laws, that modern Christians would prefer to dismiss with an inter-testamental hand-wave, mumbling something about “ceremonial law.” After all, Jesus and Paul and the other apostles never said anything to reaffirm the scriptural practice of keeping concubines. But American Christians did. And they did so as recently as the Buchanan Administration.

It gets worse, because this is not some obscure historical footnote, some mere tangent to American theology or American Christianity. This is the heart of the matter, the core of every ongoing discussion of Christianity here in the U.S. The explicitly biblical defense of concubinage — and of American slavery more generally — shaped the way we American Christians approach the Bible to this very day.

Turn again to Mark Noll’s important The Civil War as a Theological Crisis and you will find the roots of contemporary white evangelical hermeneutics — a prooftexting appeal to the authority of a “literal” reading of an “inerrant” Bible.

The key fact here is not that the approach to the Bible used by the defenders of American slavery was the same as the approach to the Bible used by contemporary white evangelicals. The key fact is that this biblical defense of slavery was the origin of the approach to the Bible used by contemporary white evangelicals.

Noll characterizes this face-value, “literalist” hermeneutic as one influenced by “common-sense” philosophy and by the anti-intellectual, pietistic, and anti-traditionalist strains he describes so well in his other book on The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. And certainly those were all factors in the appeal that this approach to the Bible had for the defenders of slavery.

But they were not the only factors, nor the largest factor. The largest factor, I think, is what historian David Blight describes:

By 1860, there were more millionaires (slaveholders all) living in the lower Mississippi Valley than anywhere else in the United States. In the same year, the nearly 4 million American slaves were worth some $3.5 billion, making them the largest single financial asset in the entire U.S. economy, worth more than all manufacturing and railroads combined.

That’s $3.5 billion out of a total GDP of about $4.3 billion. We’re not just talking about a huge amount of money, but about most of it.

Am I suggesting that the protection and preservation of wealth shaped what was to become the dominant hermeneutic of white evangelicals?

Yes. Yes, I am suggesting exactly that. If it seems crass, simplistic or reductionist to suggest that money could influence the way Christians read the Bible, I would simply point out again that we’re talking about a staggeringly large amount of money.

But anyway, let’s get back to poor Billy Ray. The man is being vigorously condemned for a living arrangement that is identical to the arrangement the Bible offers as evidence that Abraham and David were blessed by God.

Is that fair? Is it fair to call Billy Ray immoral for something the Bible itself never condemns?

Well, our friend Owen Stachan says that would be unfair. Strachan says:

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.

The Bible condones concubinage, so therefore declaring concubinage immoral is an attack on the Bible itself. That’s the logic of Strachan’s argument (although he’s not talking about concubines specifically there, but about genocide, actually).

Yet I’m not sure Strachan would stick to that argument if he were actually confronted with something like the Rev. Billy Ray and his sex-house filled with concubines. My guess is that logical consistency wouldn’t prevent him from joining in the chorus of disapproval over Billy Ray’s extramarital sexcapades. Billy Ray might be able to mount a strong “biblical” defense of his 21st-century concubines by appealing to the same hermeneutic that Strachan claims to uphold, but I don’t think even the most literal-minded inerrantists would be inclined to let him get away with that.

These days, unlike 160 years ago, there’s not a vast amount of money at stake in such a biblical defense of concubinage.

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  • Carstonio

    My first thought was historical and economic rather than theological. What if Congress put slaveowners on trial after the Civil War for crimes against humanity? (Logistically the trials might have focused on the ones who owned the most slaves.) And then broke up the plantations and gave the land outright to the freed slaves, instead of allowing the former owners to set up sharecropping?

  • Eric the Red

    Nothing wrong with a consensual harem. God wired most women to be happier sharing an alpha male than committing to an effete gender apologist.

  • The_L1985

    This woman isn’t wired even remotely that way, thankyouverymuch.  I’ve often joked that the right wing has it almost-right WRT my ideal marriage:  I’d like one man, one woman, and myself, please. :)

  • misanthropy_jones

    people like you are the reason people like me becoome gender apologists.
    and, although nowadays i’m built for comfort more than speed, i am almost certainly not effete (though i will admit to a certain level of decadence…).  nor, i am almost certain, would you fit anyone’s idea of an alpha male.

  • http://twitter.com/SnarkLord Your Future Overlord

    Aww, look at the cute little beta spamming links to his alpha mancrush’s blog. It’s adorable.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I can very easily imagine you being at home in a harem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    There isn’t anything wrong with a consensual harem because  CONSENT. The rest of your post is Evo-psyche nonsensical bibble-babble. (Incidentally, I’m in a polyamorous arrangement with two women, they probably consider me to be pretty alpha when I feel like it, and I’m a pretty damned radical feminist if I dare say so myself. Chew on that for a while.)

  • ohiolibrarian

     Thus speaks a gamma, if not, delta male.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     At least it’s not the OMEGA MALE, whose arrival will DESTROY ALL GENDER FOREVER.

  • Zed

    Actually Eric
    the average woman tends to react to harem suggestions a bit more like  this.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Nothing wrong with a consensual harem. God wired most women to be happier sharing an alpha male than committing to an effete gender apologist.

    You know what?  I am going to go ahead and (in part) agree with you here because there is nothing wrong with a consensual harem.  

    I am quite comfortable living with my girlfriend, her husband, and her other boyfriend, and we are all comfortably united by our shared relationship with one woman.  

  • Jenny Islander

    It’s the “God wired most women to be happier sharing an alpha male” thing that is utter catcrap.  (Bullshit you can use for compost; catcrap is truly useless.)

    First of all, there are no alpha males.  There are people whose desires for power and control are paramount, some of those people happen to be men, and this culture rewards most men who desire power and control with opportunities to have power and control over others both within and outside their own families.

    Second, if most women are happier sharing, why, after almost 100 years of the sexual revolution, are most women not happily shacked up in households with one man, his legal wife, and one or more girlfriends?  This arrangement is a minority taste.  Even in countries that hold up polygyny as the ideal, it’s a minority taste.  If you expect the man to be the moneymaker, he has to be rich, sure, but if it  were the cause of such happiness in so many women, wouldn’t women be working together to ensure that they could share an aggressive, dominant man while bringing in supplementary income?

    Third, IME, most men who say “alpha male” mean “I think that all of the other men are getting lots of sex whenever and however they want it but I’m not and it’s NOT FAIR.  Sex fairy, make the women blow meeee!”  If you think of yourself as an alpha, it’s automatic to think of us as less than you.  This may explain the lack of partners.

  • Jenny Islander

    Not aimed at you, FearlessSon-replied in the wrong place, sorry!

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Not a problem.  

    But in response to a specific part of your comment, the thing about most embittered MRAs is that they are men who have bought fully into the idea of the patriarchy… and yet they get no benefit from it.  The promises that the patriarchy made them have not delivered, and rather than blaming the patriarchy for lying or themselves for believing it, they blame the women instead.  

    What piteous figures they are.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    But in response to a specific part of your comment, the thing about most
    embittered MRAs is that they are men who have bought fully into the
    idea of the patriarchy… and yet they get no benefit from it.  The
    promises that the patriarchy made them have not delivered, and rather
    than blaming the patriarchy for lying or themselves for believing it,
    they blame the women instead. 

     I just reckon they’re men who are deeply insecure about their small penises, and so invent a narrative about how other men are inferior “gamma rabbits” and how all their problems are the fault of uppity women denying their true nature, rather than getting over their tiny little penises and acknowledging that it’s actually the fact that they are big jerks that leads to their continuous failures at life.

  • AnonaMiss

    I don’t even have a penis and I feel uncomfortable with you reducing MRAs’ issues to a penis-related inferiority complex. I know it was intended to be a representation of their irrational train of thought, not of yours, but still. Uncomfortable. /twocents

  • AnonaMiss

    > Slavery
    > Consensual

    ISHYGDDT

  • Hilary

    ISHYGDDT

    And this means . . . ?

  • AnonaMiss

    It’s an imageboard-ism. Not a netlect I would usually use on Slacktivist, but sometimes it’s natural to speak to trolls in their own language.

    The abbreviation literally stands for “I Sure Hope You Guys Don’t Do This”. It has evolved to mean something like “I hope for your own sake that you’re trolling, because if you’re not, you’re a moron.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    Anything you say. *patpat* Run along and play somewhere else, now. The adults are talking.

  • Morilore

    Nothing wrong with a consensual harem. God wired most women to be happier sharing an alpha male than committing to an effete gender apologist.

    oh dear that website

    “alphas” “betas” “dating market value” 

    oh dear

  • The_L1985

     The second sex is described as a business transaction, I tend to lose all respect for the “scholar” that wrote such an article.  There is nothing wrong with prostitution, but most women are not prostitutes.

  • pharoute

    I didn’t click the link, is it Christianmingle?

  • Morilore

    Nah it’s just some blog.

  • Zavire Shiran

    And of course those are the only two options. Either an alpha manly man, or a man who apologizes for their gender (which I have only very rarely seen). Yeah, keep peddling that MRA/PUA crap.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I have in fact seen men apologize for their gender.

    It’s invariably along the lines of “I am so sorry I share a Y chromosome with that sexist piece of shit.”

  • JustoneK

    OHAI!

    Do you like being the alpha male surrounded by your lovely white women?

  • http://twitter.com/RyanWithCupcake Ryan

    You are confusing stocks and flows with your comparison of GDP and the value of slaves. GDP is the value of all final sales and services. It measures the flow of wealth through the economy. Slaves only contribute to GDP when they are sold.

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

    Yeah, our GDP’s something like 10-15% of our wealth. Still, apparently our 2011 GDP was $15.09 trillion, so that makes this the equivalent of $12.28 trillion nowadays.

  • P J Evans

     They were the labor force on those plantations (and also on farms and in people’s houses, thought the numbers were far fewer).

  • http://twitter.com/RyanWithCupcake Ryan

    I should have said that the value of the slaves only enters GDP when they are sold.

  • MaryKaye

    What Ryan said.  It was a staggering amount of value, but it’s not money any more than factories or trains are money.  You need to compare like with like.

    This doesn’t challenge the main point–that slaveholding was big business and very lucrative.

     

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

    Nothing wrong with a consensual harem. God wired most women to be happier sharing an alpha male than committing to an effete gender apologist.

    And right on time, Eric the Red shows up to tell us what an important Alpha Male he is by telling us what a different man had to say on the subject.  I do believe our young Eric gets his pleasure out of being beaten about the head intellectually and fantasizing about measuring up to this Heartiste fellow…

  • Carstonio

    Couldn’t Billy Ray have just claimed that his “sex house” was a ministry for fallen women?

  • Raymond

    And he ministered to each one three times a week.

  • http://twitter.com/Jenk3 Jen K

    See also people who pooh-pooh the idea that that slaveowners would use slaves for sex.  Yes, they did.  And not just to get more slaves to sell.  

  • Makabit

    People claim that slaveowners would not use slaves for sex? On what planet has that ever NOT happened?

  • http://twitter.com/OGrady_Texas Mary O’Grady

     Mary Boykin Chesnut blew that one out of the water in the diary she wrote as an upper-class Confederate woman during the Civil War. To paraphrase, she said all slave-owning Southern ladies could tell exactly who fathered each mixed-race child at their neighbors’ places, but each one thought the white-looking offspring of slaves around her own home had “dropped from the sky.”

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    And there’s nothing acceptable about someone who’d sell their own children into slavery for any reason other than imminent starvation.

  • http://twitter.com/Jenk3 Jen K

    BTW: If you have a New York Times subscription, their online archive goes back to 1851.  You can read about expanding the Fugitive Slave Law,  slaves being “freed” via travel in a free state, on a discussion whether a slave is “a person” under the law.

  • Hth

     And yet on the ground, it seems to me that quite few men, however Alpha they fancy themselves, have very good luck explaining to their girlfriends & wives how very much happier they’d be if they consented to being in a harem.

    Another beautiful theory ruined by ugly facts.

  • AnonaMiss

    Hey, I acknowledge how much happier I’d be if I replaced my monogamous relationship with a harem!

    …a harem of dudes…

  • Hth

    I know that everything about that Owen Stachan quote is reprehensible, but for some reason the thing that just viscerally bugs the crap out of me most every time I read it is “trustable.”  Fking *trustable?*  There’s a word for that in English, you mouthbreather.  The word is trustworthy.

    That shouldn’t make me angrier than, you know, the horrible sentiment behind the quote, but something about it just gets under my skin.

  • Hth

     Okay, hit “post” too quickly.  Disclaimer alert: trustable *is* a word.  I know that.  It’s just such a weird word.  Nobody says that!  It makes him sound like some crazy Stepford alien lecturing us about the Bible from some remote location without having the slightest idea how his words actually sound.

    Oh, look, I figured out why it annoys me.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Your god Fucked me up then. I’m a Bisexual female that tends to prefer having multiple partners, and am definitely the dominant one. 

    …Oh, right. That’s because your god didn’t “wire” me, just like he didn’t “wire” anyone. 

    To echo Ellie: Run along. The adults are talking. And shove your sexism up your ass while you’re running. 

  • The_L1985

    The explicitly biblical defense of concubinage — and of American
    slavery more generally — shaped the way we American Christians approach
    the Bible to this very day.

    But remember, folks, Strachan’s argument is different from all those old slavery-apologetic arguments!  Because reasons.

  • Becca Stareyes

    And, of course, some of us aren’t ‘wired’ for men at all. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Or we like men just fine, we just–*turns on the Jamie O’Neal*
    It’s a mystery
    Like the deep blue sea
    You can take it
    You can leave it
    But I still believe
    So I won’t give up
    And I won’t give in
    I know I’m gonna find him
    I just don’t know when
    A girl trying to find herself the perfect man is
    Like trying to find Atlantis

    And Eric types make the whole venture seem futile, you know? I like men, I really do, but I ever settle down, it’s probably not going to be with a heterocis man. I know there’s good ones, but if I make a point of trying to pair off with someone who’s at least one of queer, female, or possessed of a uterus, then there’s a bunch of shit I won’t be risking putting up with that I will be if I include heterocis men in my dating pool.

    Sorry, all you good heterocis men.

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

    Fred posted a post. Look at Fred’s post. It is good. Let us talk about Fred’s post. PLEASE. I AM BEGGING HERE.

    I find the history of prostitution in its many different forms absolutely fascinating. Often it’s nothing but sexual slavery. But sometimes — more often than many people like to acknowledge — it’s the only form of sexual *liberty* a woman could have. A courtesan could be wealthy in her own right, with a stable of lovers who paid her well to give her orgasms, and over whom she had great social and political influence. She could have the best education, the best food, the best clothes, the best home, the best conversation, the most fascinating social circle, the most influence, and the best sex, of anyone in society.

    I think our society is going to be stuck in a lot of ways until we realize that providing sex can be like providing other services. It’s not selling one’s body; it’s selling one’s talent. And, as with everything sexual, so long as it’s between enthusiastically consenting adults, there’s nothing wrong with it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think our society is going to be stuck in a lot of ways until we realize that providing sex can be like providing other services. It’s not selling one’s body; it’s selling one’s talent. And, as with everything sexual, so l ong as i t’s between enthusiastically consenting adults, there’s nothing wrong with it.

    Which gives me the vision of being a sex worker being as well-paid and well-regarded as being a fast-food worker. I do not like that vision. I understand it’s not where you’re going with this, and it’s better in some ways than the present reality of many sex workers, but.

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

    I was thinking of therapists. You can talk to your friends about your problems, but you pay a therapist to talk about your problems for said therapist’s education and wisdom. That’s providing a service. So do auto mechanics, doctors, lawyers, people who build computers…

  • EllieMurasaki

    Okay, that makes a lot more sense.

  • LMM22

    I was thinking of therapists. You can talk to your friends about your problems, but you pay a therapist to talk about your problems for said therapist’s education and wisdom.

    I think the issue is, unless you start having very weird sets of state-sanctioned rules, prostitution isn’t going to have that kind of status. All the people you’ve listed are experts you hire to address very specific problems — e.g., a lawsuit, personal issues, or a broken car. You pay for quality because a bad mechanic is likely to make your car worse. And you pay for quality because you want someone to fix your problem.

    Prostitution? You may be paying for prostitution to get experience — I guess that’s analogous to hiring an auto mechanic. But you might be paying for it to get off (and by “you” I mean “men,” because services which cater to women are incredibly rare), in which case you aren’t going to care as much about quality as much as quantity.

    And that’s basically analogous to the food industry, not to therapists or lawyers or the like. So you wind up with an industry with a few high-quality professionals, which people go to sometimes to splurge or because they can afford it. You have the idealized locally-owned business. And then you have the fast food joints — chain places which don’t offer quality but are there when you need it.

    … And, honestly, I’m not sure this is talking about Fred’s post either, because a concubine is not a courtesan — and a courtesan is not a career that’s likely to easily fit into modern society either. (Fun fact: The sexual revolution happened with the flappers, not the Boomers. And the instant the sexual revolution started, the number of people visiting prostitutes started to drop — because when it’s possible to have sex with your girlfriend, you stop needing to pay someone else. Basically, if you’re wealthy enough to hire a courtesan, you’re probably wealthy enough to find a trophy wife.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=687121933 Carrie Looney

    “And the instant the sexual revolution started, the number of people visiting prostitutes started to drop — because when it’s possible to have sex with your girlfriend, you stop needing to pay someone else. Basically, if you’re wealthy enough to hire a courtesan, you’re probably wealthy enough to find a trophy wife.”

    Citation needed on the decrease in prostitute use? :p

    What I don’t like about this line of thinking is that it takes romantic relationships down to the level of ‘just for sex.’  Suppose someone wants sex but not a relationship?  Is he/she obliged to go out and get a girlfriend/boyfriend and pretend to that person that they’re interested in a romantic relationship – just to get sex?  I often think that legal prostitution would be a blessing to people looking for bona fide romantic relationships – not that everyone who plays a game would go to prostitutes, but it would take some of that pressure out of the equation.

    This is also why, although there are probably some people who just want to get off and would be happy with ‘fast food’ sex workers, there are likely a fair number who want a higher standard of service.  Eliot Spitzer wasn’t paying minimum wage to the Emperors Club.

    There are many men with trophy wives who also have trophy mistresses and trophy rentboys.   Just because you can ‘afford’ a trophy wife (gah) doesn’t mean you don’t want some NSA sex – and I personally prefer the image of a rich person out and out paying an escort in a negotiated business transaction, rather than all the trophy spouse-ness.

  • LMM22

    Citation needed on the decrease in prostitute use?

    _Intimate Matters, Second Edition_ (D’Emilio and Freedman), pg 257-258. (Sorry. Book’s on the shelf, and I knew I had flagged the page for other reasons.)

    As far as sex goes without relationships, we already have that possibility available — one-night stands happen all the time, and plenty of people have fuckbuddies. This isn’t the 1950s — non-marital sex happens outside of the context of pre-marital relationships all the time. (*)

    What casual sex *doesn’t* guarantee, however, is that you (== male, natch) can hook up with a pretty woman (or man) regardless of your appearance or age. *That’s* the illusion that prostitution provides — that attractive young women will still be attracted to you. I’m not sure that removing that illusion is a bad thing; if there’s anything we need less of, it’s male entitlement.

    And yes, there are some men who would pay for high-class prostitutes. But I have a very hard time believing that they represent the majority of men. For one thing, most men can’t afford to pay for a high-end service — and the majority of those who might pay for a high-end service can’t afford to *continue* to pay for one. Spitzer is not a representative case here. The model here might be taxi drivers as well: Most people will splurge on a limo ride to the prom, but if you’re getting home at night, you’re just going to pay for a cab.

    I think there are legitimate arguments for legalizing prostitution, but claiming that prostitution will be liberating for *women* is not one of them.

    (*) Pre-marital sex happened pretty frequently in the 1950s — like I said, the sexual revolution happened with the flappers — but usually with the assumption that you were going to get married. If there’s any tradition we inherited from the Puritans, it’s the tendency to see youthful experiences as things we don’t discuss with younger generations.

  • The_L1985

     Yes, but that was also at a time when people were willing to spend that much money on a service.  Ever notice how as time goes by, the people with money get both cheaper and nastier toward service personnel?

  • LL

    RE  Fred posted a post. Look at Fred’s post. It is good. Let us talk about Fred’s post. PLEASE. I AM BEGGING HERE.

    Holy shit, yes. Stop feeding the troll. If we ignore it, maybe it’ll go away, or at least find some other site to pollute while masturbating itself with its Cheeto-stained fingers. 

  • Nick Gotts

    You only have the one MRA? Count your blessings. Over at Freethoughtblogs they come not as single spies, but in battalions!

  • MaryKaye

    One could call Billy Ray immoral because he took concubines after entering into a marriage in which there were strong expectations that he would not.  That’s breaking an important promise.  On the other hand, perhaps he and Mrs. Ray settled this between them and it’s not oathbreaking–hard for us outsiders to know.  (My spouse and I agreed that we would not require sexual fidelity, only 100% disclosure.  In 21 years of marriage we have never used that provision, and I don’t think we ever will; but we both felt that, since people do sometimes feel impelled to commit adultery, better to insist on truthfulness.)

    Other than that, I think it’s another confusion between what Americans have traditionally done and what the very different cultures in the Bible did; just like polygamy and animal sacrifice.  (That’s another one where Biblical characters were *commended* for doing what is now condemned.)

    For me the litmus test has always been Abraham and Isaac.  If your next-door neighbor did what Abraham did (namely, get all set up to sacrifice his son because God told him to), would it be good?  If not, was it good when Abraham did it?  If it was good for Abraham and would not be good for your neighbor, then moral laws are not immutable.

    Dan Simmons has a dynamite short story about this:  it’s part of _Hyperion_ but stands on its own, in which form I think it’s called “The Scholar’s Tale.”

  • Mroge

    “For me the litmus test has always been Abraham and Isaac. If your next-door neighbor did what Abraham did (namely, get all set up to sacrifice his son because God told him to), would it be good?”

    Many Christians just see that as a test of Abraham’s faith, so no big deal. God never actually planned to have him commit human sacrifice, which of course would be morally wrong.

    To me the litmus test is not this incident, but rather the human sacrifice of a young virgin girl, daughter of a man named Jephthah. He made a deal with God to sacrifice her in exchange for victory in a battle (Judges 11:29-40). In this story God does not intervene at the last minute. Jephthah is presented as a righteous man doing God’s will. The girl was so inconsequencial that we don’t even know what her name was. Funny that there are no sermons about that (at least none that I know of).

    I pointed out this story once to one of those “inerrant bible” fanatics and his reply was that it would have been wrong to not obey God in that matter. Frankly people like that scare me. That is why I don’t like fundamentalism in any religion, whether it be in Christianity or Islam, or any other.

  • Carstonio

     

    Jephthah is presented as a righteous man doing God’s will. The girl
    was so inconsequential that we don’t even know what her name was.

    Iphigenia?

    Seriously, it’s possible that the Jephthat story and the Agamemnon one are more than just the same archetype – they could have been descendants of the same root story.

  • Mroge

    I don’t know much about Greek mythology but I suppose it is possible.

  • http://wateringgoodseeds.tumblr.com/ Shira Coffee

    I believe that the “original sin” of our American experiment was the assumption that the Elect have a right to seize natural resources, as well as the bodies and labor of those not part of the Elect. Unfortunately, this is an assumption that can be fully justified from Biblical examples, and that without distorting the texts in any material way. (After all, the Bible says quite explicitly that Israel was not only allowed but commanded to seize the land, bodies and labor of the people of Canaan.) As for concubinage, I’m a little surprised none of the believers in Biblical inerrency is arguing for it. Now that you’ve helpfully given them the word and pointed them toward their concordances, perhaps they will mend their ways and Craigslist will have to open a new section for “godly men” seeking concubines!

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    To play advocate for Strachan, once you’ve said one thing that the bible has called good is evil, what differentiates the bible as a guide than the works of Homer, Virgil, Terry Pratchett, and Matt Groening?

    Once you’ve said that the bible is in error on morality here, what is to bind one to the belief that it is correct on the goodness of Jesus, particularly when he calls a Cannanite woman a dog, admonishes people to amputate parts of them that might lead them to sin, or tells people that so much as indulging an angry thought is the moral equivilant to murder?

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    Nothing, but that’s a GOOD thing. Accepting anything unthinkingly and uncritically is a bad idea and tends to lead to bad things happening.

    Particularly when we’re talking about a set of texts that were written about a hundred years after the events it describes, and have been translated multiple times.  Jesus was perfect but since He never wrote anything down, we’re stuck with regular people, with their imperfect memories and other flaws.

  • Green Eggs and Ham

     I see no obligation to think that Jesus made no errors in his ethical reasoning.

    Let’s assume for a minute that the Bible is 100% inerrant.  In fact, we have all of the original manuscripts.

    Several were found in the Vatican Library, many more at St. Catherine’s monastery.

    Furthermore, we have handwriting samples from all of the original authors and every last handwriting expert agrees that the originals are authentic.

    Further furthermore, we have DNA samples from all of those authors and presto, we have their DNA all over the original manuscripts.

    What does this prove?

    Nothing more than that we have the original manuscripts.  Each and everyone of us must still make a decision about the Bible’s truth, meaning and value.

    Inerrancy does not entail truthful or wise.

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

    Let’s assume for a minute that the Bible is 100% inerrant.  In fact, we have all of the original manuscripts.

    Having possession of all the original manuscripts is not the same thing as inerrant.  We have the original manuscript of the US Constitution, but no one is calling that document “inerrant” just because we can go look at the original.

    When Christians claim the Bible is “inerrant” they’re claiming that everything in the Bible was either directly written by god or inspired by god to be written exactly as god intended.  It kind of depends on who you talk to.  Furthermore, the follow-on claim is that everyone who translated the Bible afterwards was also inspired or controlled by god to get it all right.  That kind of depends, though, since some will tell you that the KJV is the last, true Bible.  Others will pick and choose their favorite translation

    So, basically, you’re arguing against something than the Biblical inerrancy folks don’t say or believe.  To them the possession of original manuscripts is irrelevant, aside from making some really silly arguments about how many more copies of the Bible we have from ancient days than, say, The Odyssey or Diodorous Siculus’ history of Alexander the Great.  It’s a rather complicated argument that’s full to the brim of truthiness.

    Biblical inerrancy proponents don’t care about the originals.  They care about how god told all of the writers and translators exactly what to write and how to translate.  It’s not an argument that can be overcome with logic and reasoning, since there is neither logic nor reason in the assertion.

  • EllieMurasaki

    But the manuscripts are all different! Copyist errors! Copyists fixing things! The mere fact of the existence of contradictory translations–
    How can inerrancy be a thing if there’s no originals to know what the original inerrant thing was?

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

     But the manuscripts are all different! Copyist errors! Copyists fixing
    things! The mere fact of the existence of contradictory translations–
    How can inerrancy be a thing if there’s no originals to know what the original inerrant thing was?

    Ah, but there’s the beauty of the inerrancy argument: we know the Bible is true because the Bible says so.  Ergo, the copyist errors don’t matter/aren’t even real errors because god made them that way because god breathed inspiration to the translators and copyists.

    And we know that because the Bible is inerrant.  And we know that the Bible is inerrant because the Bible told us that it’s the inerrant, god-breathed word of god.

    See?  It’s all so simple if you just look at it through eyes that have been properly opened by the Holy Spirit.  Also known as “without actually thinking about it too much.  Or at all.”  Since, y’know, thinking implies human reason, which is inferior to god reason.

    And how do we know human reason is inferior to god reason?  Because the Bible told us so.  And how do we know that the Bible is correct?  Because the Bible is god-breathed and inerrant in all things.

    Should you respond to this with, “Pshaw!  That makes no sense!” that’s just an indication that you haven’t been properly indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  So you’re going to hell, heathen.  It says so in the Bible.  Somewhere.  Probably the Book of Revelation or something.  Or maybe there’s something in Isaiah.

  • EllieMurasaki

    How long does that last once they actually compare two manuscripts that differ only in that a copyist left out a line or a copyist fixed a thing?

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

     How long does that last once they actually compare two manuscripts that
    differ only in that a copyist left out a line or a copyist fixed a
    thing?

    Probably until the cognitive dissonance gives out.  Depends on the person, really, and who that person then asks about it.

    Most of the rank and file will never hear about such things, though.  If they do hear about such things they won’t hear about the nuances of the difference.  It will be more of a, “We have X thousand manuscripts of the Bible going back to the year [whatever], so that means we know that what we have written in the Bible is accurate and exactly the same as the Bible that Jesus read whilst riding a triceratops into Nazareth.”

    What doesn’t come up is that those manuscripts are not all the same.  Some contain differing translations.  Some are mere fragments containing a sentence or a paragraph.  Some are recovered palimpsests from recycled materials were later used to record something else.

    I first heard the “X number of manuscripts” argument in high school.  I accepted it as valid (with some reservations, since the pastor was comparing the veracity of the Bible as we know it to the works of Homer, which were kinda-sorta fiction, but that’s beside the point) because it made sense.  It wasn’t until something on the order of a decade later, by which time I had a degree in history with a minor in religious studies from a secular institution and had stopped buying into most, if not all, of the Evangelical mush that I stopped and said, “Hey, wait a minute.”  This is, admittedly, anecdote, but considering that I’ve run into apologists who seem to think that a manuscript count is a winning argument for Jesus…

    By the by, this is why Evangelicals have it in for Bart Ehrman.  The stuff he doesn’t isn’t really particularly earth-shaking.  It’s not groundbreaking work by any stretch of the imagination, either.  It is, however, accessible and written in language that you don’t have to be a historian or theologian to understand.  He also absolutely understands the central point of the personal testimony to Evangelical culture and uses his own personal testimony to invite his readers to the table.

    Once there he doesn’t tell them that the Bible is wrong.  He doesn’t tell them that they’re idiots for believing in the Bible.  He simply says, “This is how the Bible came to be.”  And that story completely and totally destroys not the Bible, but the narratives of an inerrant Bible taught from the pulpit of so many churches on Sunday.

  • P J Evans

    And also Biblical inerrancy means that you get to disregard any typos in printed copies, because God would never allow typos to happen to the Bible, right? /snark

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     We have the original manuscript of the US Constitution, but no one is
    calling that document “inerrant” just because we can go look at the
    original.

    Some Teapublicans DO claim the Constitution is inerrant.

    They then misinterpret it in ways just as whacky as any Biblical ‘inerrantist’.

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

     Some Teapublicans DO claim the Constitution is inerrant.

    They then misinterpret it in ways just as whacky as any Biblical ‘inerrantist’.

    Well, I was going to make a Scalia joke, but I decided that was a bit of a derail to my main point…

  • Simongren

    “My guess is that logical consistency wouldn’t prevent him from joining
    in the chorus of disapproval over Billy Ray’s extramarital sexcapades.”

    I’m sure he would join in the verbal chorus of disapproval; but one of the problems that shows up is that even though the mouth is disapproving, the brain isn’t.  We’ve all seen/heard the person that is anti-whatever spend an awful lot of time dwelling on the particulars.

    The best example off the top of my head is the police officer/sheriff’s deputy in “To Wong Foo” sitting at the bar deconstructing gay attraction while all around him people are gettin uncomfortable because he’s so into it.

  • MaryKaye

    There is no guarantee, however you arrange your life, that you will do good and avoid evil.  No guarantee by following external authority; no guarantee by following your own conscience; nada.  All you can do is try.

    In adulthood, I think that you are better able to develop the skills to do more good and less evil if you follow your conscience.  You are closer to the feedback loop that way–you choose to do something, you feel the results.  If you put an authority in the loop, they may be insulated from the consequences (think of the people who say “Abortion doctors are murderers” but never go to jail for shooting one) and this is likely over the long haul to lead to worse decisions.

    There’s a place for a certain amount of authority in raising children, as they don’t start out with functional consciences, just as they don’t start out with survival skills.  You stop them from doing evil just like you stop them from drinking paint, so they get a chance to learn better *without* consequences they can’t handle.  But at some point you have to stop parenting a person and let them fend for themselves.

    So if the Bible says to do something and you find yourself thinking “Wow, that’s a hard teaching, it’s inconvenient, it’s not what I want to do….” an adult should notice that those are fairly often rationalizations for avoiding something you fundamentally know you *should* do.  But if it says to do something and you find yourself thinking “Wow, that seems evil, I am morally repulsed by it….” an adult should know that such feelings deserve consideration–they are a warning sign for external evil.

    Authorities try to tell you that the outraged “I don’t want to” and the revolted “that is evil” are equally untrustworthy guides, but I think they are self-servingly wrong in this.  “That is evil” is sometimes incorrect, like all human awarenesses are.  But it’s not the same thought, and not, in my experience, nearly so likely to be wrong.

  • reynard61

    “If you put an authority in the loop, they may be insulated from the consequences (Think of the people who say ‘Abortion doctors are murderers’ but never go to jail for shooting one) (…)”

    The problem is that I can’t because I can’t think of a single instance where someone who shot (or otherwise killed) an abortion doctor walked away scot-free because a jury found them “not guilty”. Can you please cite a case where this actually happened?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    Noll characterizes this face-value, “literalist” hermeneutic as one influenced by “common-sense” philosophy and by the anti-intellectual, pietistic, and anti-traditionalist strains…

    I’ve come to greatly dislike the idea of “common sense,” especially applying it to issues of morality and ethics as this hermeneutic is so obsessed with doing. Mostly because, to borrow a phrase, common sense isn’t.

    Not the blandly cynical “‘common’ sense is actually rare” interpretation of the phrase, but rather that “sense” isn’t common in that it isn’t universally shared. Common in the sense (*ahem*) of a common water source, or a common room – common as a property of a community. I have a wildly different version of Common Sense than the RTCs and other inerrantists, and there are plenty of other people whose Common Sense differs even more from both of our’s, just because their life circumstances are so different.

    It’s a functionally meaningless term, kind of like “human nature.” And I’ve had quite enough of it.

  • Joykins

    Where I think the analogy in the article falls apart is that concubinage is really not a type of secret sex slavery. It more akin to a type of marriage where the principals are not legally able to contract a marriage, is a formal arrangement, and is a publicly known and accepted arrangement.  None of which is, if open and formal and accepted, at all scandalous.  Secret kept women are not this–but  a French king’s maitresse en titre might be.

  • nuance

    The
    literalist hermenutic which you think allowed people to proof text
    slavery and is the origin of the contemporary white evangelical
    hermenutic seems to me to be very closely related to the hermanutic
    that says “because there are concubines, broken families, and
    slaves in the Bible it is therefore not a reliable moral authority
    and the only way to reckon with those parts of the Bible is to get
    out from under it’s authority and stop pretending like the WHOLE
    Bible is innerant and admit that we need to allow our current
    enlightened morality needs to override the obviously wrong parts.”
    You can’t just take everything you perceive as hateful and override
    it because you think God wants us to love any more than you can
    justify hating someone just because you see people hating each other
    in the Bible.

    It’s
    why I couldn’t stand to read your incessant “Chick
    Fil’a Biblical Family of the Day.” Yes, there are
    concubines in the Bible. Yes, there are wildly broken families in
    the Bible. Yes there is slavery in the Bible, but it just seems like
    you believe their presence in the Bible to be “what scripture
    teaches.” The presence of these things in the Bible doesn’t make
    the Bible immoral, brutal, unenlightened, and an errant man made
    book – it makes the Bible a brutally honest and
    realistic about what happens in life. 

    If
    you made me answer these as shortly as I could without doing a lot of
    work I would first remind us that the Bible is also a historical
    document that tells a story made up of many stories (thus, it’s not
    logical to say that because Solomon had concubines we therefore must
    also have concubines). We need to ask “where are we in the story?”
    God told Noah to build an ark – but that means neither that I
    should build an ark nor that I should ignore the story as irrelevant
    or lacking authority over me.

    Then
    I would appeal to Jesus (Matthew 19:7-9 ESV): 

    They
    said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate
    of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of
    your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but
    from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces
    his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits
    adultery.”

    Therefore,
    just because God doesn’t strike a man in the Old Testament dead for
    having concubines or send a prophet to condemn him for it (and
    therefore God maybe didn’t completely condemn concubinage for that
    man at that point in the story?) it more likely means that God is
    being realistic about that man’s heart than it means that God is
    condoning the action.

    Then
    I would point out the the rhetorical function the stories
    of Solomon’s concubines – they lead him towards idolatry, away
    from God, and towards ruin – reading the stories makes a reader ask
    “wouldn’t there be a better way?” “Wouldn’t Solomon had
    been a better King if he was faithful, loving, and respectful to only
    one wife?” That isn’t your 21st Century enlightened brain being
    more moral than the text making you ask that question – that is the
    intended purpose of the text! If we have an understanding of what God
    intended “from the beginning” and where the story is going (the
    NT is clear that leaders of the church are to be a “one woman man”)
    only then can we begin to arrive at “What God teaches us in
    scriptures” and I would argue that all of that is “right.”

    Just
    because the Bible does not condemn concubinage in some historical
    instances that does not mean that God condones it (even in the
    historical instances and definitely not as a rule). You and I
    wouldn’t trust a man who says “In every instance God has always
    overtly condemned concubinage” but why would I trust you when you
    say that “The Bible condones concubinage” ? Isn’t that claim
    clearly also a result of the “contemporary white evangelical”
    hermeneutic that you seem to hate?

  • ohiolibrarian

     Is your screen name meant to be ironic?

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

    2 things:
    1) Please
    watch your formatting, because
    when you write like this, it gets anoying to read.

    2) I think you misunderstood the point of the family-a-day posts. It wasn’t that the bible is bad because David had 700 wives. It was that Chick-Fillet are wrong when they claim that a “biblical” family must be one woman and one man, and all the other crap they claim. It was, quite simply, proving the bible doesn’t say what they say it says, by quoting the bible.

  • Mroge

    I would point out the the rhetorical function the storiesof Solomon’s concubines – they lead him towards idolatry, awayfrom God, and towards ruin – reading the stories makes a reader ask”wouldn’t there be a better way?” “Wouldn’t Solomon hadbeen a better King if he was faithful, loving, and respectful to onlyone wife?” That isn’t your 21st Century enlightened brain beingmore moral than the text making you ask that question – that is theintended purpose of the text”

    Interesting idea, however I wonder if you are reading something into the story that is not there. The Jewish Laws were extremely strict in regards to sexual behavior  In fact they were very strict in all their laws and considered the laws to be straight from God himself. So why could someone be put to death for adultery and yet sexual slavery was considered ok? The answer is simple. Wives and concubines were property. Even the death penalty for adultery reflects that belief. The crime was not about having extramarital sex. The crime was about “stealing” another man’s wife (property). This kind of sexual morality in the Bible is also reflected in their laws about rape. A virgin girl who was raped was forced to marry her rapist, because once she lost her virginity she was worthless The rapist only had to pay a small amount of money to her father. If however, she was married, both the rapist and her were put to death.  As astonishing as it is to our enlightened views, RAPE WAS NOT A CRIME AGAINST THE WOMAN. It was a crime against her “owner”.

    So what is the “intended purpose of the text” of the bible in these cases? I just don’t see any moral lessons just popping out of these pages! Remember the Jews had a theocratic government, which means that all the laws came from God himself in their view. Their leaders were divinely placed and were considered the mouthpiece of God.

    Maybe you could also tell us how the human sacrifice of a young virgin girl (see my post above) holds some sort of “moral lesson” from God when in fact her father who made the sacrifice was rewarded by God.

  • vsm

    The problem with Solomon’s wives wasn’t their amount, but that some of them were foreigners who lured him into worshipping their own gods.

  • The_L1985

     Do you even READ Fred’s posts?

  • Hilary

    Has anybody else read the Benjamen January series, by Barbara Hambly? It takes place in 1830’s New Orleans, and the main character, Benjamin January, is the son of a former placee and the brother of one.  The system of professional mistresses is a large part of these books, January is a classically trained piano player and often plays at the blue ribbon balls were wealthy white men and their sons meet up and dance with their placees, complete with an underground tunnel to the ball across the street where their wives are.  A beautiful, light skinned placee could create a life of relative prosperity for herself and her even lighter skinned children, if she managed her man and her affaires very cunningly and her man wasn’t the insanely jelous type.  They’re great murder mystories, and the cultural depth is wonderful and well researched.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Benjamin_January_Mysteries

    Honestly, I am not surprised at all that the primary motivation for the most literal reading of the bible was billions of dollars. 

  • syfr

    That series is awesome; I highly recommend it.

  • Ken

    I’m glad Fred clarified that Rev. Billy was fictitious, because my immediate reaction to the first paragraph was “Scandal?  That’s like being scandalized that the sun rose this morning.”

  • flat

    You know I just can’t imagine a woman who wants to be a prositute by her own free will.

    I know what can lead somebody to prositution but I think it is impossible for somebody to do it out of her own free will if she had a choice.

    Or maybe I am completely wrong about it what do you people think?

  • Carstonio

    I suspect there’s an inverse correlation between a society’s amount of prostitution and things like gender equality and women’s freedom. My impression is that it’s usually a consequence of the lack of power and opportunities for women. But I’ll defer to anyone who is more knowledgeable about the subject.

  • The_L1985

     I think a lot of the reason prostitution is considered a nasty profession is because of the hang-ups our culture has about sex.  We view sex as dirty, so we view prostitution as dirty.  From this springs the ill-treatment of prostitutes, the idea of prostitution as a last resort for really desperate women, and of course, the legal bans on it in the US and many other countries.  This is also where international sex trafficking tends to come from–because prostitutes are looked down on and treated like garbage, they tend to die young, and you have to get replacements from somewhere, because there will never cease to be a market for sex workers on this earth.

    If sex isn’t viewed as dirty, then neither is sex work.  I personally see nothing wrong with a woman choosing sex work, be it prostitution, working at a strip club, or starring in adult movies.  I personally prefer my own profession, but I don’t see why people make such a big deal out of the whole sex-work field and how “scandalous” it is.

  • Carstonio

    The negative view of sex work may be more than just a cultural hang-up about sex in general. It may be inherent in the longstanding view of women as property, viewing the prostitute as degrading her value as marriage material. I see nothing wrong with sex work as long as it’s fully consensual and not exploitative. In societies where it’s a last resort for desperate women, the problem is not the sex work but the artificially limited options that the women face.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No shit, flat. ‘Prostitute’ has negative connotations, among them being ‘forced into this by circumstance’, see Fantine in Les Miserables and, to a lesser extent, anyone who’s stripping to pay for college because it’s the only job they can get that pays well enough to pay for college. ‘Sex work’, if and when we ever get to the point where it’s a legal and accepted service industry, won’t have those connotations, or at least not a lot of them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=687121933 Carrie Looney

    “I know what can lead somebody to prositution but I think it is impossible for somebody to do it out of her own free will if she had a choice.”

    Erm… there are plenty of women and men who choose sex work, enjoy it, and get satisfaction out of it. 
    I’m not saying it’s anywhere close to the majorty, and it’s for goddam sure that a lot of women are forced into it and have a terrible, abusive time of it – mostly because it _is_ illegal and condemned in our society.  But there do definitely exist people who enjoy providing sexual services and have managed a framework for it that works for them.

    As has been mentioned in this thread, it’s not ‘selling your body’ any more than me working as a scientist is ‘selling my brain.’  It’s providing a service, and being paid for it.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I know what can lead somebody to prositution but I think it is
    impossible for somebody to do it out of her own free will if she had a
    choice.

    Or maybe I am completely wrong about it what do you people think?

    This woman, for one,  would seem to disagree. 

  • AnonaMiss

    You know I just can’t imagine a woman who wants to be a prositute by her own free will.

    I know this has already been jumped on to death, but it reminds me of a quote I particularly liked.

    A quick google of this is turning up less than savory results, so if anyone remembers the source of the quote I’m paraphrasing please speak up. The paraphrase: “The difference between a wife and a prostitute is that the prostitute can renegotiate her fee.”  Considering the history of marital rape laws, I don’t think I need to argue that this historically, this has been more accurate than not.

    Today, marriage is a choice which women (in the nicer parts of the world) can freely make; because we have alternate opportunities to support ourselves, and because even within the marital contract, we enjoy legal protections which our foremothers lacked.

    I see no reason why, given equivalent legal protections in that profession, women should not freely choose to become prostitutes.

  • Turcano

    That’s $3.5 billion out of a total GDP of about $4.3 billion. We’re not just talking about a huge amount of money, but about most of it.

     This reminds me of an article by Brad Hicks illustrating the fact that economies based on slavery all have little to no lasting substance to them.

  • J_Enigma23

    I keep reading his name as “Owen Strychnine.” I know that’s not close to how it’s pronounced, but damn if that’s not close to his character.

    But on concubines – surprisingly enough, right-wingers get *angry* when you bring this point up to the, that their idea of a “Biblical marriage” of “one man and one woman” isn’t all that Biblical after all. Fancy that! The Religious Right is just as impervious to facts and reality as MRAs and PUAs, as Erik the Republican demonstrates.

  • MaryKaye

    MaryKaye wrote:  “If
    you put an authority in the loop, they may be insulated from the
    consequences (Think of the people who say ‘Abortion doctors are
    murderers’ but never go to jail for shooting one) (…)”

    Reynard61 wrote:  The problem is that I can’t because I can’t think of a single
    instance where someone who shot (or otherwise killed) an abortion doctor
    walked away scot-free because a jury found them “not guilty”. Can you
    please cite a case where this actually happened?

    I am sorry, I wasn’t clear.  The person who fires the gun goes to jail.   The people who advocate firing the gun–who put up web sites explaining who you should kill and where to find them–don’t go to jail. 

    If you let someone else make your moral decisions, which is what authoritarianism is all about, there’s a disconnect between the one making the decision and the one taking the consequences, and that’s bad.  And I think we see this every time a doctor is shot–people whose actions were directed at making it happen get to walk away claiming their hands are clean.

     

  • Ursula L

    Courtesy of Bujold’s Vorkisigan series, there is the concept of “LPSTs” “Licensed Practical Sexuality Therapists.”  Requires at least an associates degree in psychotherapy, and the Orb, their highest-status place of employment, requires clients to undergo a psychological screening as part of their services (to help determine what a client will enjoy, and to ensure that clients who might have problems, such as psychological triggers, get appropriate supervision and support.)  

    One character describes the LPSTs as having about the same social standing as hairdressers – providing a personal service with attention and skill.  

    Which is probably how I imagine prostitution would end up in a best-case scenario – a setting safe for both worker and client, some training/certification required for workers, respectable working-class status, but ordinary and matter-of-fact, rather that exotic or mysterious.

  • Jenny Islander

    I was just coming over here to mention this!  

    Somewhere floating around the Intertubes I ran across an article that purported to show that most American johns want to feel dirty and bad and hateful when having sex with low-priced prostitutes and this is the root of much of the violence prostitutes suffer on the job.  If prostitution were as well regulated as licensed practical sexuality therapy, prostitutes wouldn’t even have to deal with those people–the initial interview would have screened them out.

  • Ursula L

    In “Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance” it is mentioned that the screening doesn’t mean that the clients are turned away if there is a problem, but rather that there is extra supervision, and the services they are offered are shaped to their psychological needs.

    Perhaps using an explicitly luxurious/high-class setting to counteract feelings that the interaction is dirty and bad?  I’m not sure.  

    But the setting is far enough in the future, and the establishment of LPSTs is old enough, that I suspect the feelings that prostitution is bad or dirty is mostly gone from that society.  At least one character (Kareen Koudelka) has an LPST recommended by her boyfriend’s psychiatrist, with her boyfriend’s knowledge and support, for her first sexual experience. A place where that can happen is one where the cultural context of sex work is very far removed from what it is here. 

  • Jenny Islander

    True.  We are talking about a culture founded by scientists, who apparently decided to short-circuit the potentially explosive situations that can arise in a community that nobody can leave (non-Vorreaders: it’s a sealed hab on a hostile planet a long way from anywhere else) by having all adults wear earrings that clearly state their sexual orientation and relationship status.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    Republicans love to talk about “small business owners,” but speaking for the people I’ve known, all of the people who started their own business started it in the sex work field. One started as a switch, and later quit and started freelancing on her own in addition to opening a porn site; the other started a different porn site. Generally speaking, porn is awful, and you can carve a surprisingly successful niche if you want to make non-terrible porn. And similar to what Jenny Islander mentioned with prostitution, non-terrible porn tends to attract the kind of person who would like to get their porn without all of the trappings that characterize stereotypical porn (bad music, ugly guys, fake boobs, no plots, etc) who tends to be a classier sort.

    Not to say that there aren’t people who go into sex work for the wrong reasons, but there are a lot of others who go into it for reasons all their own. And especially with porn, a big motivating factor is that the kind of porn they want to see just isn’t going to get made unless they go out and make it.

  • christopher_y

    I’d think the Greek analogy to Jephtha would be Idomeneus. Whether the two stories come from the same original, I wouldn’t speculate. The children concerned are different sexes, but that isn’t necessarily definitive. Idomeneus was king of Crete, and Crete (Caphtor in the Bible) had a very old civilisation which was in  contact with the near east, so it’s possible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Pre-marital sex happened pretty frequently in the 1950s — like I said, the sexual revolution happened with the flappers — but usually with the assumption that you were going to get married. If there’s any tradition we inherited from the Puritans, it’s the tendency to see youthful experiences as things we don’t discuss with younger generations.

    Has anyone made a study of how often middle-class families covered up teen pregnancies by sending the young woman “away” for a while, and when she returns she has a new baby sibling?

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

    It’s not, in principle, so different from poor white people voting for Republicans. They vote for a comforting narrative that rationalizes why their economic situation is the way it is, but which also helps them blame someone who can’t really defend themselves.

    MRAs buying into patriarchal ideas allow them to do something similar and blame women for their problems.

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

    I just reckon they’re men who are deeply insecure about their small penises,

    Can you not fucking do that?

    It’s like people who reductionistically say MRAs are all fat neckbeards and that’s why they don’t get laid.

    It misapplies a physical characteristic as a reflection of a mental state.

    Addendum: Also, using a person’s weight to condemn them is extremely inappropriate. A person I respect a lot for their intelligence and amazing grasp of how to communicate material is also very overweight, but that doesn’t stop this person from knowing more than I’ll ever know in a lifetime.


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