Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things March 15, 2013

Henri Nouwen on hospitality, in Reaching Out

Hospitality means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. …

Just as we cannot force a plant to grow but can take away the weeds and stones which prevent its development; so we cannot force anyone to such a personal and intimate change of heart, but we can offer the space where such a change can take place.

Defeating the Dragons: “Taking things literally and why that’s a bad idea”

“You!” He yelled, striding boldly to the back of the tent. “Yes, YOU!” He pointed. Suddenly, I realized that he was gesturing at the black family. “You don’t belong here. Here,” and he flayed his arms wildly over the throng gathered under the tent folds, “is the bounds of OUR habitation. These are OUR borders. You just get — get back to where you belong, boy. You’re not welcome here.”

“Amens!” and “Preach it, brother!” started echoing from all over the tent.

Greg Boyd: “Getting Honest About the Dark Side of the Bible”

The dilemma we’re facing isn’t first and foremost about the clash between horrific portraits of God in Scripture and our moral intuitions. It’s rather about the clash between these portraits and God’s own self-revelation in the crucified Christ. On the cross he reveals his eternal nature to be self-sacrificial, enemy-loving, non-violent love. God is love (1 Jn.4:8), and this love is defined by the cross (1 Jn. 3:16). This love doesn’t seem compatible with God committing himself to mercilessly smashing families together, and that is the core problem. In fact, not only would we expect all material in Scripture to be consistent with what we learn about God in Christ, but on Jesus’ own authority as well as the uniform witness of Church history, all material in Scripture bears witness to Christ (Jn 5:39-45; Lk 24:25-278, 32, 44). It’s not self-evident how a portrait of God committing himself to mercilessly smash families together and causing parents to eat their children bears witness to Christ.

Amanda Marcotte: “Gun Industry Profits Will Not Stop Rape”

We need to end the obsession with controlling female sexuality. One of the reasons that rapists rape with impunity is that they can be assured that if their victims speak out, the victims will face a lot more shaming than the rapists will. Victims will be treated like terrible people if they go to parties and drink, if they have had consensual sex in the past, and especially if they were inclined to have consensual sex with the rapist before he decided to violently assault her. If we, as a culture, accepted that it’s perfectly okay for women to, as we accept of men, have their fun and party and have sex if they want to, rape victims wouldn’t get the third degree. Focus would then shift to the only choice that matters — the choice of whether or not to rape — and rapists would be held accountable. Conservatives, needless to say, do not want to give up policing female sexuality, and will resist this at all costs.

John Holbo: “Weird Arguments About Love and Marriage”

The moral of the story is this: there is some confusion about what ‘respect’ for religious liberty properly entails. Legally and morally, people are inclined to treat religious convictions as more than mere “private preference.” (If this weren’t the case, there wouldn’t be so many efforts to accommodate religious belief.) But obviously there is something problematic about obligatory ‘respect’ that treats everyone as having a duty to, sort of, half believe everything that anyone wholly believes, on religious grounds. (The Flying Spaghetti Monster is designed to embarrass this way of thinking, and rightly so.) Wilson (and Leithart, too, I think) seem to feel that failure to extend them this quite significant epistemic privilege amounts to exiling religion from the public sphere, from civic discourse. It feels disrespectful to religion to sleight religious conviction by brushing it off as “mere private preference.” But the alternative is forcing people to semi-share all serious religious beliefs. That’s not quite like having an established religion, more like semi-establishing all religions. Which some people may think sounds pretty good, actually. But it shouldn’t.

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  • arcseconds

    I’m quite alarmed by the concept that the problem with the ‘horrific material’ in the bible is not ‘first and foremost about the clash between the horrific picture of God in Scripture and our moral intuitions’.

    It almost sounds like, from what Boyd actually says here, that if you just read the Old Testament, that’s fine, it’s merely morally horrific, but at least God is being portrayed consistently. There’s no problem with that per se, it’s just that we know God is different from what’s established in the sequel.

    So, a horrifically cruel God might be acceptable, but an inconsistent one…

    I don’t think think that’s really what Boyd believes, but he’s sure got a disturbing way of expressing himself.

  • It’s hard to speak defensively about a horrific God and not come across as disturbing. I suspect there are very good reasons for that. ~_^

  • Edo

    I don’t think that’s what he’s saying: this is Greg Boyd riffing on one of his pet themes, “the demonic image of God” (our sense of God as malevolent, merciless, and generally a Gnostic Demiurge.) The money quote isn’t what Fred posted, it’s further down: “So long as we tidy up… what we honestly know in our hearts is macabre and revolting, the best case scenario is that we will succeed at finding a slightly less revolting deity…”

    I think what he’s getting at is that a lot of Christians see God in the OT through demon-colored lenses, and that avoiding or candy-coating the OT is basically conceding (contra the Gospels) that God is demonic rather than Love. Remember when Fred was writing about evangelical gatekeepers hating on the Anabaptist class on OT violence? This article is a Boyd-style take on that class.

  • Lori


  • Marco Rubio today–

    “I support a legal definition of traditional marriage, but I’m not a bigot.”

    “I oppose abortion under any circumstances, but I’m not closed-minded.”

    “There is no tax hike in the world that can pay for our government, but we don’t need new ideas because the way we’ve always done things works just fine.”

    This man is a presidential candidate for 2016? Please.

  • misanthropy_jones

    “They reduce the beauty of the Bible down to a bunch of commandments and lists.”

    precisely. and, to me, this is exactly what is wrong with so much of “christianity”, they no longer see the beauty of creation or grace.

    they are more to be pitied than censured…

  • Only if Rick Santorum doesn’t run.

    Since Nixon, with one exception, every Republican presidential nominee has been the runner-up of the previous competitive primary. The exception was Bush in 2000, when Buchanan (the runner-up in ’96) had quit the GOP and was running for the Reform ticket.

    Santorum was the runner-up in last year’s primary.

    The Democratic Party, on the other hand, doesn’t follow this pattern – many of our nominees have not previously run for president.

  • Interesting pattern. I never noticed it before. I could see Santorum not running this year, though, after his dismal results (20.43% approval compared to Romney’s 50.13% approval). Then again, the landsliding could be from people seeing the voting trend and throwing their hats in with the obvious winner. With how much tribalism controls the party, it’s hard to tell.

  • I’ve been resisting the urge to rant about Luke 10:25-37. It seems like they really skip over the best parts of the Bible, or else they have to interject qualifiers in the text.

    It says “love God” and “love your neighbor.” It very clearly specifies who is the neighbor. It very clearly sends a message about trying to one-up grace by disenfranchising your fellow men in order to not have to care about them.

    Why, then, do they think that they can disenfranchise love by turning it into a condition one only achieves by adhering to certain rules?

    Antichrists. The inverse of Christianity is not Nicolae Carpathia, it’s this behavior: “Well, you’re not really my neighbor or loving God. You’re just too different from me.”

  • Worthless Beast

    Does the Boyd page have a lot of weird ads or viruses? My laptop will not let me access it..
    That said, I didn’t click on the Holbo link, just to be on the safe side. (My computer is old and often stupid). However, I actually see a problem in the posted text already, and it’s this: What if you are inclined to “half-believe” everyone (if for just a split moment) by mental default, not through social expectation? Personally, I don’t have the “self-confidence” or whatever it is that leads people to “mercilessly make fun of all people who believe in Flying Spagetti Monsters.” When I encounter someone whose beliefs are different than mine, I tend to listen and sometimes even wonder “What if they’re right?”
    I tend to go through life in a state of wonderment – and that’s not social pressure, that’s just the way my mind works. (Perhaps it is why my mind doesn’t deserve to exist… I wonder about that, too, but obviously haven’t made that happen yet). While most people are “grounded in reality” I pretty much “think in science fiction” all the time. What if, what if, what if… (which can get dark when I wonder for a moment if the guy who thinks I’m going to Hell is right, but that tends to last only a moment, after which I go back to other things, such as wondering if science will achive “resurrections” thoug cyrogenics or if paralell universes actually exist).
    I do draw the line at hurting people, though. While I don’t think it’s right for people to bully someone just “because they believe in the FSM” I also don’t think “the FSM demands it” is an approprite excuse for human sacrifice and creating laws that force the unwilling to be sacrifices.

  • Carstonio

    Holbo is right that arguments like Wilson’s imply that “everyone as having a duty to, sort of, half believe everything that anyone wholly believes, on religious grounds.” But he’s overanalyzing what amounts to an Intent Is Fucking Magic argument. The implication is merely the outcome of Wilson and his colleagues attempting to convince opponents they’re not acting out of hate. Holbo comes close to acknowledging that – he points out that both Wilson and the old mild-mannered civil rights opponents appear to argue that the “the fact of such sentiments is sufficient to prove that the subject
    is one on which there is reasonable moral disagreement.” But I had hoped that he would tell Wilson that no one else cares what his intentions are. To deny civil rights to blacks and LGBT folks is to treat them hatefully no matter what the reason.

  • I read Wilson’s argument somewhat differently than Holbo, and thus would have responded differently. Rather than being about the behavior of those demanding civil rights in general, I took it to be a bit more of a specific meta-argument referring to the behavior of civil rights advocates in response to the arguments of the anti-marriage folks.

    Wilson: “[T]he overall effect of this book is to make the reader think that the leaders of the opposition to same-sex marriage are morally serious people, whether mistaken or not. They are not driven by irrational hatreds, or characterized by blind phobias.”

    Essentially, “You managed to respond to my slippery-slope & moral hazard & sectarian theological arguments without calling me a deranged violent homophobe, therefore it’s a good-faith disagreement that we have, therefore this can’t possibly be a civil rights issue.”

    Wilson again: “Andrew is willing to treat his opponents as morally serious people (…) If it is a civil rights issue, how could morally serious people be opposed to it?”

    Holbo is right that if this were a good argument, it would prove that the Civil Rights movement wasn’t about civil rights either, but even more fundamentally Wilson’s belief—that “moral seriousness” precludes bigotry—is completely unfounded. No one who reads John Calhoun would conclude that he was not morally serious.

  • Carstonio

    OT: My state is about to repeal the death penalty…,0,3282568.story

    Disturbing that one delegate defended the penalty by saying it’s not a deterrent, it’s justice. No, there’s nothing just about depriving another family of a loved one.

  • LMM22

    Are we back to threaded comments, or is Disqus just bugging me?

    Also, I hope to God the revival meeting #2 describes isn’t real.

  • LoneWolf343

    Or Santorum really bugged that many people. After all, he did say that wanting everyone to attend college was snobbish. That would be a bit much even for Republicans, at least the most of those I know.

  • *Nods and shrugs* Could be anything. The man was a wellspring of terrible ideas. I’d almost be happier with him running just because I don’t think there are that many people who’d back him. Almost.

    What I’d actually prefer is a sane Republican, but wish in one hand…

  • … In other news, contrary to their assurances that they’re not doing this anymore, Chik-fil-A nearly doubled the amount of money they gave to anti-QUILTBAG groups.

  • Did Dan Cathy ever learn that people who welsh on deals are scumbags? He all but shook hands on the claim that he would not keep funding these groups!

  • Sgaile-beairt

    the trick to getting people to stop justifying Gods ways to man, is to read them back with YHWH replaced by, ‘ZEus”….if its not okay if Zues does it, then its not okay for jehovah to do it either11

  • EllieMurasaki

    Zeus is (1) not real and (2) not omnipotent and omnibenevolent. So the comparison is invalid.


  • banancat

    I’m not surprised at all. They paid lip service to not being asses until all the fauxgressives jumped at the chance to “forgive” them and go back to eating there, and then as soon as everyone forgot and they were no longer back in the spotlight, CFA went back to their old ways. We need to remember this event the next time some bigot makes a public apology and other progressives insist that we must assume sincere motive and forgive them and give them as many chances as they want.

  • If you read a lot of Cthulhu Mythos fiction, it starts to sound somewhat familiar…

  • I found myself reading through all the entries of the “Defeating the Dragons” blog. To call it compelling doesn’t even begin to describe it. I knew that “churches” like the IFB existed, but to read about them from the viewpoint of a woman who actually grew up within one, experiencing and internalizing more psychological abuse than seems possible for a sane person, was incredibly disturbing, and yet I couldn’t stop reading.

    Good for the author, who finally freed herself from that hell.

  • Funnily enough, I actually consider (2) a fairly valid argument in many cases. But still, if you’re doing something that even Zeus or Odin would balk at, you’re not omnibenevolent.

  • Sgaile-beairt

    so a total euthyphro failure then….does god want X bc X is good or does god wanting X, make X good, is outside fundie comprehension??

  • EllieMurasaki

    That’s basically my take, yes. They can’t conceive of a difference between ‘God’ and ‘good’, which means if God wants horrors, the horrors must be good.

  • If guns are supposed to be a defense against rape, women (presumably all women) would be condemned to spend the rest of their lives training the 8-10 hours a week needed to have some competency in using them. This ignores the problem of surprise trumping skill.

  • Samantha

    It was, and it happened about 10 years ago- I’m the author.