Catching up on reading The Friendly Atheist

Catching up on reading The Friendly Atheist March 31, 2021

• “This ‘Very Catchy Song’ Is Meant to Turn You Into a Creationist,” Hemant Mehta writes. The song — produced by Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis — is, alas, not in fact very catchy.

I do want to commend Ham for including an “artist in residence” at Answers in Genesis. Just because AiG doesn’t seem to have a good artist in residence doesn’t change the fact that taking this intentional step to include the arts isn’t usually a Good Thing.

It’s noteworthy that the artists in residence at AiG are called “Steve Hess and Southern Salvation.” That nicely captures the way that Ham’s brand of young-earth creationism derives from “Southern Salvation” — an otherworldly soteriology and otherworldly faith specifically designed and adapted to defend antebellum white southern Christianity. Ham’s “literal six-day creationism” cannot be developed based on a “literal reading” of Genesis, but only through the form of illiterate “literalism” that arose in order to make slaveholder Christianity something other than a howling oxymoron.

• On a related note, here’s another piece about “Southern Salvation” from our friends at Friendly Atheist. It seems the school board in Duval County, Florida, has finally realized they need to change the name of Robert E. Lee High School, prompting lots of anger from white Christian residents whose faith apparently hinges upon the defense of kidnapping, theft, rape, torture, armed sedition, and the failed invasion of Pennsylvania.

That includes this guy:

Somebody get this pink-faced man a red-letter edition of the Bible. Then maybe he’d notice this bit from Luke 4:

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus’ proclamation of — and identification with — Jubilee explicitly mentions “release to the captives” and “to let the oppressed go free.” But that doesn’t have anything to do with slavery as far as the concordance-ism of white evangelical slaveholder hermeneutics goes because it doesn’t “literally” include the word slavery.

• OK, one more item via Hemant & Co. This is about apparent mass-murderer and devout Southern Baptist conservative Aaron Long: “The Spa Shooting Suspect Was a Born Again Baptist Who Was ‘Big into Religion.'” There’s been quite a bit of good discussion of the way white evangelical purity culture haunted this young man, but this post also quotes from Long’s baptism testimony, which was posted on his church’s website before it was removed after his massacre. It seems Long was baptized twice at the same church:

A 2018 video on the Crabapple Facebook page features Long discussing his Christian journey toward baptism.

“As many of you may remember, when I was 8 years old I thought I was becoming a Christian, and got baptized during that time. And I remember a lot of the reason for that is a lot of my friends in my Sunday school class were doing that,” Long says in the clip.

“And after that time, there wasn’t any fruit from the root that is our salvation.”

He goes on to say that when he was in seventh grade he attended a youth group and a speaker was discussing the biblical story of the prodigal son.

“The son goes off and squanders all that he has and lives completely for himself and then, when he finds he’s wanting to eat pig food, he realized there’s something wrong and he goes back to his father and his father runs back to him and embraces him. And by the grace of God I was able to draw the connection there and realize this is a story between what happened with me and God. I ran away living completely for myself, and he still wants me, and so that’s when I was saved.”

There’s something deeply unhealthy in the kind of faith and discipleship that imagines wanton apostasy is possible for a child between third and seventh grades. Such warped religion warps its followers, not always in such an extreme way, but it still bears culpability here. If you drum it into the heads of children that they are irredeemably depraved, some of them will come to believe you.

• What the heck, let’s just make this a Catching Up On Reading The Friendly Atheist post, so here’s an update on a bonkers story from last fall: “Priest and Dominatrices Charged with Vandalism After Having Threesome in Church.”

The details of this story, as reported by Sara Pagones for The Times-Picayune, are startling:

Travis John Clark, 37, who was pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church … could not be reached for comment and has not spoken publicly about the alleged tryst, which, according to the court documents obtained by The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate, involved the two women in corsets and high heels performing sex acts on a half-naked Clark as they recorded it with a phone and tripod-mounted camera.

Police confiscated plastic sex toys, stage lights and two recording devices from within the church as evidence and booked all three with obscenity.

Even for New Orleans, this sounds like a pretty memorable Tuesday night, but it’s only a legal matter because of where this apparently consensual activity took place: in the church sanctuary, on the altar. That’s indefensible for anyone, but especially for a priest.

But Hemant raises an important point, despite the deliberate sacrilege, this was still “one of the least scandalous sex crimes to occur in the Catholic Church.” That point is underscored in Pagones matter-of-fact news reporting:

The charges filed against Clark came on the same day that Montgomery’s office charged Pat Wattigny, former pastor of a Slidell church, with molestation of a juvenile.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans said it is seeking to remove both Clark and Wattigny from the priesthood and said, “Our prayers remain with all those who were hurt by the actions of these two men, and in a particular way, we offer our prayers for healing of survivors of abuse.”

Fr. Clark’s actions were hurtful due to the way he violated the trust of his parishioners, but I wish the Archdiocese had been even clearer that Fr. Wattigny’s actions were an even graver violation of that trust, a more serious betrayal, a greater blasphemy and a far worse sacrilege. I worry that they did not communicate that as clearly as they should because they do not understand that as clearly as they should.

• And finally, here’s Republican state Rep. Jerry Sexton — sponsor of a law that would establish the (Protestant) Bible as “the official state book” of Tennessee — arguing against the separation of church and state.

I looked it up and, yep, “Sexton is a member of Noeton Missionary Baptist Church in Bean Station, Tennessee where he formerly served as a pastor for twenty-five years.” So apparently that church is also where Sexton’s children were baptized as infants.

That’s a sick burn, in Baptist circles, but Sexton wouldn’t understand why.

If you hear someone condemning the separation of church and state in 21st-century America, that person will probably turn out to be a Baptist. If you hear someone dismissing the 14th or 15th Amendment, that person will almost certainly turn out to be a Republican. And none of these “Baptists” or “Republicans” understand the irony of any of that.

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