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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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