Come down off the cross, Her.meneutics, we could use the wood

Come down off the cross, Her.meneutics, we could use the wood January 7, 2013

At Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog, Karen Swallow Prior isn’t going to let facts, reason, fairness, accuracy or biology interfere with her deep desire to indulge in the luxuriant pleasures of imagined martyrdom.

Martyr is her word, invoked in her over-the-top first paragraph, which sets the tone for the wild excesses of self-pleasuring that follow:

December 26 was a fitting day for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to refuse judicial relief to the Hobby Lobby craft store chain, whose Christian owners object to certain requirements of the Affordable Care Act. On the calendar of Western Christianity, December 26 is St. Stephen’s Day, the day that honors Christendom’s first martyr.

Yes, you see, a giant retail chain being legally required to provide health insurance even for lady parts is exactly like the death-by-stoning of St. Stephen.

And Karen Swallow Prior is, therefore, herself just as saintly as St. Stephen. He was persecuted because of his faith. She has faith, so therefore she must be suffering persecution. Or maybe the idea is that she’s suffering persecution, and therefore she must have faith.

It’s a bit hard to follow, really.

It’s almost as hard to follow as what Prior offers instead of an argument or what she offers instead of facts. Her entire post, like Hobby Lobby’s claim of persecution, is based on non-facts — attributing Satanic baby-killing properties to contraceptives that do not and cannot function as “abortifacients.” (Contraception does not work the way they imagine in part because conception does not work the way they imagine — as simultaneous with the instant of male orgasm.)

But facts and arguments aren’t the reason for posts like hers declaring Hobby Lobby a Christian martyr. That’s not the point. The point is just to feel that … oooooh, yeah … that sweet, sweet … ohhh, yes! … pleasure of imagining oneself to be such a martyr.

We’ll get back to Prior’s twisted argument, her at-best ignorant deployment of non-facts, and her reflexive siding with bosses against workers in a later post. Here let’s just focus on her shamelessly shameful invocation of St. Stephen.

Because Stephen? Really, folks? That takes a staggering level of chutzpah.

We first meet Stephen in Acts 6, when he is among those commissioned by the early proto-church to correct an injustice within the community:

Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.

And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait at tables.Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.”

What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

That is who St. Stephen was. He wasn’t just the “first Christian martyr,” he was also the first Christian hired to carry out an affirmative mandate for the care of women who had previously been denied a fair share and a fair shake.

To invoke Stephen in the defense of some alleged Christian “right” to deny workers the health care they have earned is inexcusable. To presume you’re the heirs of Stephen because you’re fiercely defending the “religious liberty” to neglect the neglected isn’t just immoral, it’s biblically illiterate. It demonstrates a perversely stubborn refusal to understand the story of Stephen that parallels an equally perverse and stubborn refusal to understand how contraception, employee benefits and health insurance work.

This is not what Christianity is supposed to be. Christians are not supposed to take the side of wage-deniers against wage-earners. Christians are not supposed to take the side of slut-shamers against women. Christians are not supposed to take the side of ignorance against truth. Christians are not supposed to take the side of indulgent pride against love.



Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Tricksterson

    I love this man and if I was of the gay persuasion would ask for his hand in marriage.

  • Tricksterson

    The original I file under the So Bad It Was Good category.  To bad it never had a sequel.

  •  That scene is weirder when you finally find out that he’s not shagging an imaginary cylon; he’s actually literally shagging a literal [rot13]natry bs gur Ybeq[/rot13]. Canonically.

  • I think I’ll say that they did a luddite ending about as well as anyone has ever done a luddite ending.  I just happened to rewatch the finale sunday night (I wanted to re-watch the Watchtower bits). It’s a very well-done luddite ending, enough that you can almost forget just how morally reprehensible luddite endings are, if you try really hard. (Seriously, did it occur to NO ONE that they’d given Nicky a chronic medical condition that required lifelong treatment like THREE EPISODES ago?)

  • What? You mean like an adult with an opposing point of view? I fail to see where Fred has been anything but respectful of your positions. If you find anything he said particularly insulting you should probably just never speak to anyone who doesn’t agree with you. Seriously, if THAT offended you, Mr. Rogers could probably hurt your feelings. 

    BTW,he doesn’t read the comments.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No, he reads them. We know this because every so often he responds with a new post. He doesn’t participate in the comments, but he does read them.

  • That bit with Cassiopea confused the HECK out of me as a little kid, because not only did they dance around what she really did, then make her a nurse, but they kept the subplot about her neighbors as such hating her and never explained why! 

  • The bit with Adama and Roslin made the ending for me. I can forgive everything else for that bit. 

    Frankly, I don’t know many shows that ever DID have a satisfying ending: LEVERAGE just did it — but Rogers intentionally wrote EVERY season ender as a potential series ending. BABYLON 5 had two – ironically I liked the Season 4 ‘series finale’ better than the canonical one. ST:TNG had something something OMG SUPER ENTERPRISE FTW!!!! something something. 

  • It was a bit of a weird ending, but I agree with the folks who pointed out that nsgre fhpprffvir jnirf bs pngnfgebcurf, naq lrnef bs yvivat ba fuvcf sbe juvpu gurer jnf ab ybat-grez cyna gb xrrc znvagnvarq, crbcyr jrer ernql gb whfg tvir hc ba gur jubyr “grpu guvat”.

    I also have to give props to a series that can actually make me kind of feel okay about Gaius Baltar in the end.

    As opposed to being a huge raging egomaniac for 95% of the series :P

  • Lliira

    Were you simply asking Fred, or also asking commenters? Well, for me, I say:




    Would you speak to me in person the way you did in that article? Cuz, ya know, you claimed that you were standing up for some kind of righteous cause by trying to deny me control of my own body, and attempting to deny me the medical care my body needs. I don’t take that well. Not only would I therefore speak my mind without mincing words, and would probably be far less understanding on the subject than on the internet, where I have the time and distance to pity you; you would not enjoy the way I would look at you, either.

  • We Must Dissent

     That makes me so glad I stopped watching that show partway through.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Projection, much? 

    And, really. If the way he phrased that is “too far” to you, I’d like to know what rock you live under and how you survive contact with the outside world. I can go down the nearest freeway and see billboards that are more blatantly dirty than that…You know, ACTUALLY dirty. 

  • Baby_Raptor

    I would. In fact, I’d relish the opportunity. 

    Fred tends to be way too polite, and gives the benefit of the doubt way too often…Won’t get that from most people. You’d be lucky to hear it from him instead of one of the myriad of other people your martyr-fetish is hurting. 

  • I don’t know if you realize this, but you should: Hobby Lobby happily provided the very coverage that they’re now being “martyred” for right up until it was mandated. I know this, because I worked there (I previously listed the dates as 2000-2005, this was mistaken, it was 2002-2007). I could tell you dozens of stories first hand about talking with people in the break room who’s children desperately needed to go to the doctor, but they simply couldn’t afford it, because Hobby Lobby consistently fought to deny actually disbursing the coverage that employees had paid for. This happened to full-timers in my store something like 3 or 4 times per year. And never mind those of us who would work 40 hours a week for 3 weeks, then be bumped down to *just below* the 32 hour mark on the fourth week, simply so that the store wouldn’t have to classify us as full-time and actually pay us benefits. I spent two full years in that limbo. 

    The Greens are awful, despicable people who hide behind the smoke screen of their “Christian” faith. They’re not martyrs, they’re hypocrites, liars and thieves. I know this, because I saw it first hand, and I will tell every person who will listen as long as they’re in business.

  • Carstonio

    It helped that my parents had a copy of People magazine with short interviews with the cast, and Laurette Spang explained the changes in the character.

  • I posted your response on my blog, Rebecca. Very succinct and perfect.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Preach, brother!

  • I haven’t watched Galactica 1978, but the test of how bad Galactica 1980 apparently got was that Richard Hatch refused to work in it, and he’s been a huge BSG fan since he started acting in the original.

  • Well, they did say “early treatment would prevent this”, and I’m guessing sufficient time between that and the finale allowed for that treatment to take place.

  •  Cool! Thanks. :)

  • EdinburghEye

     Well, Karen, since you’re here, can you tell us if you go around telling all the women you know who use the Pill that they’re guilty of infanticide? Or is this something you only dare say on the Internet?

  • Mary

    The reason why people object to your line of “reasoning” is because you and a subset of Christians want to frame every disagreement as an attempt to destroy your religion. In other words, you don’t play fair.

    Elevating a legal disagreement to the level of martyrdom is patently ridiculous. I don’t see the government feeding Christians to the lions! Christians in this country have unprecedented freedoms compared to most other countries.

    The problem is not that we don’t have religious freedom. We have plenty of that.  The problem is that people like you want to DENY others religious freedoms by ramming your ideology down other people’s throats.

    Of course you feel justifed because you are SO CERTAIN that you are right about everything.

    If you want to make a point you can do it without the melodramatics.  You can respect other points of view.

    Basically people like you really don’t believe in religious freedom at all. You believe in the freedom of everyone to believe what you do. If people don’t agree with you then that automatically means that they are evil and out to destroy Christianity.

    You can have a Christian country or a free country, but you can’t have both.