CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

I enjoy reading bumper stickers. Some seem to manage to capture a real truth in a very few words. Others, however, substitute a pithy saying for real thought or analysis. One of the latter is the bumper sticker that is rather prevalent in my area of the country that reads: "God bless the whole word, no exceptions."

Obviously, this is a response to the bumper stickers that say, "God bless America." The person with the "God bless the whole world" bumper sticker apparently thinks that the person with the "God bless America" sticker is being too provincial and wants to be more inclusive. But is there really anything wrong with saying "God bless America"?

Certainly, when a person says "God bless America" they are not saying "God bless America and no other country." When the people at an American baseball game stand in the seventh inning and sing the song by that title, they are not trying to gain God's exclusive favor for the United States. Rather, those call for God's blessing on America are doing simply that: they are asking God to grant his blessing upon this particular country.

Christians who pray do this kind of thing all the time. They often pray, for example, for God's blessing on their family. Does that mean that they don't want other families to be blessed? Does that mean that they don't want their friends' families to be blessed? Of course not. It is simply the case that they are praying at that moment for God's blessing on something that is near and dear to them, personally. The same holds true when American Christians pray for America. It does not mean that they want God's blessing only on America, but rather that they are praying at that moment for God's blessing on the country that is near and dear to them.

So, to the extent that the bumper sticker suggests that the person saying "God bless America" is asking for that blessing in exclusion to other countries receiving God's blessing, the bumper sticker is wrong.

But the better question is to ask whether the person who puts this bumper sticker on their car really supports its many meanings. To the extent a person may put it on the car to show their support for the idea that they want all of the world to be blessed by God with peace, freedom and prosperity, I can largely support such a wish. But the problem is that the bumper sticker is responsive to the "God bless America" bumper sticker and specifically says "no exceptions." Keep in mind that the person asking for God's blessing on America is asking for a blessing of the government as well. In other words, it is necessarily a call for God's blessing on every single country in the world and the government of these countries -- not the people in these countries generally.

Does the person putting on this bumper sticker really want God's blessing on the government in Iran -- a country which is known to sponsor worldwide terrorism and in which occurs large-scale arrests, incommunicado detention and torture? Does that include a call for God's blessing on the government of the country of Ethiopia which is responsible for the people of Somalia being "killed, raped, tortured; looting is widespread and entire neighbourhoods [] being destroyed"? If they are praying simultaneously for a turnaround of and repentence by those governments then the "no exceptions" bumper sticker has a viewpoint I can support. But I doubt that the person with the "no exceptions" bumper sticker has thought it this far through.

The point of this blog is not to condemn the person with the "no exceptions" bumper sticker. They are largely being reactionary to the "God bless America" stickers and trying to show their inclusiveness. But sometimes it is the case that reducing a complex issue to a bumper sticker can lead to meanings that the person never intended.

31 comments:

BK, you make a very fair point that people with "God bless America" bumper stickers are not implying that God should not bless other countries. And you're definitely right that people pray for specific things and groups of people every day without meaning to exclude everyone else with such prayers.

At the same time, I do see why people use "God bless the whole world" bumper stickers. I think it's a reaction against the sort of American nationalism that more or less sees America as the "favored people of God."

As you showed in your post, praying for a particular group of people is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but it can be if the person saying such prayers thinks God has established His Kingdom on earth, and it's called America. This does injury to the faith, because God's Kingdom here on earth is called the Church.

If I may draw a parallel here, some American Christians might be making the same kind of mistake as the Judaizers of the early Church, preaching a nationalistic sort of Gospel. Not all people with God bless America bumper stickers are necessarily guilty of this, but certainly some are. And probably people who are guilty of this mistake are more likely to use such patriotic/religious rhetoric.

Do you think what I'm saying is fair? Thanks for listening and for the post.

Chad McIntosh said...

I, too, enjoy bumper stickers a great deal. Lot's of philosophy behind them. Some make me laugh, some make me grieve. The one that says "coexist" with religious symbols to particularly grievous to me. It seems to suggest that the only way for different religions to coexist is to embrace them all, catering to that misguided view of tolerance akin to acceptance.

I want a bumper sticker that says "I Break for Abstract Objects". Ha, because, it's ironic, well, you know...err, maybe not.

What if God's blessing for governments we don't approve of is wisdom to see the error of their ways? Blessing, to me, doesn't always mean material prosperity.

Chad, as BK knows, I like the Coexist bumper sticker, but I don't see it as a merging of all religions, but rather the idea that they can all peacefully share their beliefs with one another. It's interesting to see the reactions to it. Coexistence means just that. If someone made a bumper sticker that said Merge or All Are The Same made out of religious symbols I would agree with you.

Chad McIntosh said...

Mike, you could say the exact same thing about the word tolerance if you understand it correctly. My point is that the word tolerance has taken on an entirely new meaning, where it now is generally understood to mean "assent" or "accept as true or equally valid". It seems to me that the same shallow thinking undergirding that idea is behind the coexist bumper sticker.

If you and I see it differently, why assume what the owner means?

In the real world that's what tolerance means, putting up with something, giving it equal time, particularly if you don't agree with it.

Last time I checked opinions were equally valid. I tolerate your opinion and you tolerate mine. it's only tolerance if you are putting up with something that you do not like.

Mike,

As you know, words have meaning. They mean specific things. The words co-exist means to exist together. However, many people have put a different connotation on the word which is a departure from what you are saying. Co-Exist means (in this new vocabulary) that "all religions are equal and that those who think that they actually have truth should shut up because religion isn't really about anything important, anyway. It certainly has nothing to do with truth." I don't agree with that point of view.

Now, if you are posting it in the sense that we should all just get along, but you are allowing for vigorous debate about what is truth, then I don't have that much of a problem with the sticker -- other than the fact that others understand the bumper sticker a different way and think you are agreeing with their beliefs.

Hi BK,

To me, coexistence has nothing to do with agreeing with anyone's beliefs. I am simply accepting the person and their right to believe what they want.

Let me ask you this: being a Christian, would you say that all other religions are equal to each other, because none of them are the truth that is Christianity?

As a Christian (but not speaking for Christianity), I would say that all other religions are equal to each other in the sense that they none of them hold the truth that Christianity holds. At the same time, I certainly don't think that all other religions are equal because some are much closer to the truth than others. For example, I would contend that those who believe in radical Islam have a lesser religion than other non-Christian religions because they are more violent and destructive.

"God Bless America" is a valid request. "God Bless the Whole World: No Exceptions" isn't a request. It is a command telling God what He has to do.

Mike, you really don't believe that all "opinions are equally valid". Not only is that not a provable statement, it really doesn't make any sense? Would you hold that Nazism is an equally valid opinion?

As far as "tolerance" goes, that is a myth as well. It is a nice word trick, but we don't play those games. Those who push this myth try to redefine tolerance as the idea that all opinions are equally valid, (and if you disagree with that, you are "intolerant".) Thus you are intolerant of absolute truth, and thus no more "tolerant" than the most hardcore, orthodox Christian.

What I mean by opinions being equally valid is that people are entitled to hold them. We tolerate all sorts of opinions we despise. It is the actions taken based on these opinions that we restrict. It is legal for NAMBLA to exist, it is not legal for their members to act on their desires.

"What I mean by opinions being equally valid is that people are entitled to hold them."

What if I disagree with this? Why am I not entitled to hold that opinion?

What if someone hold the opinion that it should be legal for NAMBLA to act on theit desires? What if the courts decide in their favor? Would this be OK?

"What if someone hold the opinion that it should be legal for NAMBLA to act on theit desires? "

I'm pretty sure the members of NAMBLA hold that opinion.

"What if the courts decide in their favor? Would this be OK?"

You've moved from opinion to action. You and I, and most of the population would see this as a bad thing.

I'm not sure what your argument is here. Would you prefer that some opinions not be allowed to be voiced?

I'm simply trying to get you to justify your worldview. The fact that most of us would see the actions of NAMBLA is irrelevant.

Let me ask you. Are the actions of NAMBLA wrong, or is it only your opinion that NAMBLA is wrong? However you decide to answer that question, I would like for you do defend it.

In other words, if you hold that the actions of NAMBLA are wrong, please explain why. And if it is only your opinion that they are wrong, then explain why your opinion should be more valued that those of NAMBLA.

Ok, but you didn't answer my question. Would you prefer that some opinions not be allowed to be voiced?

What is my world view that I should justify? So far I've stated that people should be allowed to have opinions. I've stated that I think coexistence means living together, sharing and discussing ideas.

"Are the actions of NAMBLA wrong, or is it only your opinion that NAMBLA is wrong?""

You are asking me if I believe that morality is universal, if it is a universal truth.

No, I do not. Morality over the ages has changed within each society.

Do I think NAMBLA's ideas are immoral? Yes. Why do I feel they are immoral? Because they want to have sex with children and I believe that is harmful to children. Why do I not want to see harm caused to children? For the same reason, since I was a small child, I do not want to see harm to anyone.

Why should my opinion be more valued than NAMBLA's? It shouldn't. That is not for me to judge. That is for our society to judge. Our society's laws seem to agree with me.

Ok, but you didn't answer my question. Would you prefer that some opinions not be allowed to be voiced?

Voiced? Yes. Tolerated? No.

I think anyone associated with NAMBLA should be jailed, but that is another discussion.

However, based on your answer, you hold that society should be the judge of morality? Which Society? That is a rather vague entity? Nazi Germany was a society. Were they right or wrong? By whose standards?

If what you say is true, then the statement "That society is acting immorally" is an impossibility.

And even if you manage to establish a good starting point here, you need to explain why any person should accept any standards of a society.

Mike,

Wow. See this is the problem with the idea that morality is not absolute: you are actually open to the idea that it may be the case the sex with children is moral simply because morality will depend upon the society. Even though deep down you know that's its wrong, you aren't willing to condemn it because others may think differently.

Me? I will go to my grave saying that NAMBLA is wrong at all times and in every possible situation.

"Voiced? Yes. Tolerated? No."

I'm confused: voicing their opinions is tolerated, but holding these opinions is not?


"However, based on your answer, you hold that society should be the judge of morality? Which Society?"

"Nazi Germany was a society. Were they right or wrong? By whose standards?"

We do this all the time. One society judges another society.


'If what you say is true, then the statement "That society is acting immorally" is an impossibility.'

That is because that statement is incomplete. It should say, "Based on standard X, society is acting immorally." Insert whatever standard you like for X, yes, even God.

"And even if you manage to establish a good starting point here, you need to explain why any person should accept any standards of a society."

Why should any person accept the standards of their society? Instead of answering that I'll ask you to take all your clothes off and go run around down town.

That will answer your question.

BK, I too will go to my grave insisting that NAMBLA is wrong. I go even farther and say that in a society where the death penalty is accepted, it should be applied to those who harm children too, in extreme cases.

In my and your opinion NAMBLA is always wrong. Clearly NAMBLA disagrees, lets hope they don't become the majority.

"That is because that statement is incomplete. It should say, "Based on standard X, society is acting immorally." Insert whatever standard you like for X, yes, even God."

That makes no sense. Which society is morally right? Let's put NAMBLA in for X. Does that work?

"Why should any person accept the standards of their society? Instead of answering that I'll ask you to take all your clothes off and go run around down town."

That will answer your question."


Really? Am I morally wrong to do this, or just a minority opinion? (Obviously you don't go to many European Beaches.

Finally, I don't believe that NAMBLA should be tolerated, either their actions or their opinions.

Keep in mind that today's opinions equal tomorrow's actions.

"That makes no sense. Which society is morally right? Let's put NAMBLA in for X. Does that work?"

Well of course it's your society, the one that gathers Sunday mornings to live out the One True Faith™. Because of God and the Bible you have a monopoly on morality, but not all who claim Christ and accept the Bible agree on what this morality is. You see? Even with what you see as your moral foundation, you still decide what is moral. Your morality is relative too.

"Obviously you don't go to many European Beaches."

Fine, break another rule at a European beach. The point is that society deals with those who break it's rules. That is why someone accepts the standards of their society. If they don't like the standard they can argue to change it.

"Keep in mind that today's opinions equal tomorrow's actions." And if those actions go against the laws of society they will be punished appropriately.

"not all who claim Christ and accept the Bible agree on what this morality is."
That's a problem with the person, not the Bible. Many claim Christ yet do not do His commandments. Such are called liars by God (1 John 3:4).

But God's moral laws are absolute, and those who refuse to submit to them will be judged by them.

Back on topic, I feel the bumper sticker should read, "America praise God!".

Stan,

Very good. :) I think you are right.

Here is what happens when morality becomes a subject of popular vote.

Court gives green light to "boobs on bikes" parade

"But Judge Nicola Mathers said while opponents may find the parade offensive or tasteless, the fact that 80,000 people had gathered for a similar event last year meant a significant number of people did not agree with the critics, New Zealand Press Association said."

"Here is what happens when morality becomes a subject of popular vote."

Boy, Puritan Lad isn't just a screen name is it?

Personally, I have no desire to go to such an event, but I see nothing wrong with it. How is this different than the European beaches you mentioned, or some remote tribe where the women spend their days topless?

Mike,

They aren't any different. All of the examples you mentioned are immoral.

Of course, I have God in for the "X" that you gave me earlier. You have "society" which leaves you with no real moral standard whatsoever.

"Of course, I have God in for the "X" that you gave me earlier. You have "society" which leaves you with no real moral standard whatsoever."

Yep, sure does, if God exists, and he is as you say he is.

You do realize that what Christians consider moral has changed over the last 2000 years right? They interpret the Bible differently. Your moral standard is just as varied as the society based moral standard.

"You do realize that what Christians consider moral has changed over the last 2000 years right? They interpret the Bible differently. Your moral standard is just as varied as the society based moral standard."

Wrong.

First, I'm not at all interested in "Christians consider moral". Just look at how they treat the consumption of alcohol, despite the fact that Scripture clearly permits it.

God's moral laws never change, regardless of how some may interpret them

"God's moral laws never change, regardless of how some may interpret them"

And let me guess, you have it right because you have the Holy Spirit, right?

Actually, I have the Word the the Spirit gave. It alone defines immorality and morality.

"It alone defines immorality and morality."

And is interpreted in many different ways.

My argument is not that the Bible does not give morality, or even that God did not inspire the Bible, my argument is that there is no perfect way to interpret the Bible, thus the major differences over the ages.

Use of Content

The contents of this blog may be reproduced or forwarded via e-mail without change and in its entirety for non-commercial purposes without prior permission from the Christian CADRE provided that the copyright information is included. We would appreciate notification of the use of our content. Please e-mail us at christiancadre@yahoo.com.