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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth


 
 

For many years I have been ambivalent about Saturday Night Live. The show has always been slanted against conservative-evangelical types like me, but usually with plenty of funny and mostly harmless material thrown into the mix. One recent politically geared sketch was so completely over-the-top, however, that after 40 years of sporadic SNL viewing I've finally sworn off it for good. The (overly) offensive bit was "God Is a Boob Man," a spoof of the movie God's Not Dead 2.
 
In it a Christian woman named Beth, played by Vanessa Bayer, is working at a bakery when she is asked to make a wedding cake for a gay couple – an obvious reference to the discrimination case in Colorado a couple of years ago in which a Christian bakery owner was (successfully) sued for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding. Conflicted, Beth starts to make the cake, but then breaks down and refuses because of her Christian beliefs. This leads to what are supposed to be side-splitting situations, like when she walks into an attorney's office and announces, "I want to deny basic goods and services to gay people."
 
Hilarious, but now who exactly is supposed to have the persecution complex here? If a Christian has personal religious convictions that make her reluctant to indirectly support gay marriage, it does not follow that she harbors a desire to deny certain people "basic goods and services" (from one of countless gay-friendly bakeries, for example).
 
The profoundly ironic message this all sends? Christians are paranoid (not to mention grossly hypocritical), because the prejudices and stereotypes they complain about – in universities, public school systems, the courts, and of course, the arts and media – are not real, or at least are terribly exaggerated. How does SNL demonstrate that Christians are not treated unfairly? By singling out Christians for contemptuous ridicule. 
 
This situation is not simply ironic. It's potentially dangerous. By making Christians the one identity group that society is not only allowed but encouraged to openly disparage (but only because they're spoiled and paranoid, mind you), SNL joins a host of other very powerful and influential voices reinforcing the message that antichristian prejudice is perfectly rational and acceptable. I think this is dangerous because historically this sort of thing is often how real, rights-infringing, violent persecution begins. And that means in turn that Christians are correct in their perceptions, and wise to preemptively defend their rights.
 
We would do well to recall that the high-flying Nazi propaganda machine of the late thirties initially got off the ground with "humor," specifically anti-Semitic political cartoons in the Der Stürmer newspaper beginning in the mid-twenties. Only later did this op-ed brand of disdain devolve into full-blown state-sponsored propaganda, then complete ostracism, then violence and genocide. (The connection was not lost on the Nuremburg tribunal, which executed Julius Streicher, editor of Der Stürmer, for war crimes despite being a noncombatant.) 
 
Many centuries before the rise of the Third Reich, Christian apologists like Justin Martyr stood before Roman emperors and refuted public charges that Christians were immoral, disloyal to the state, and (more irony here) atheists. Justin wasn't simply "testing the limits of free speech" or practicing his rhetorical skills. He was arguing for his life and the lives of his Christian brothers and sisters in the church, as history makes clear. "Some years later," notes the Encyclopedia Britannica, "after debating with the cynic Crescens, Justin was denounced to the Roman prefect as subversive and condemned to death. Authentic records of his martyrdom survive."
 
In many parts of the world Christians are enduring vicious persecution as deadly as anything unleashed by Rome during the first centuries of the church. It would be foolish for us in America to consider ourselves immune to genuine persecution simply because it hasn't happened here yet. The time may come, perhaps sooner than anyone thinks, when Christians will have to make their stand for the truth only under pain of death. A disciple is not above his Master. Jesus said to His disciples simply, "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). In that case we can look to the example of Justin's fearless closing remarks to the Emperor Antoninus Pius in the First Apology:
 
"For as for us, we reckon that no evil can be done us, unless we be convicted as evil-doers or be proved to be wicked men; and you, you can kill, but not hurt us."


[Edited for clarity 4/29 -- DM] 

 

39 comments:

You are the targets of this kind of scorn because you cry "I'm being persecuted" when you are not allowed to force others to conform to your faith. The effort to show other religious symbols at their respected holidays becomes a "war on Christmas". The request to be treated equally under law becomes a denial of your rights to refuse to serve people you deem unworthy of your business. You hold up individuals who hold illegal prayer rallies while crying outrage that a Muslim might lead a sanctioned public prayer. You fight to have your religious laws equally displayed with federal/state laws.

You are overwhelmingly in the majority, to the point where a politician lies about their religious affiliation because they know only a Christian can be elected in America.

We don't resist your practice of your religion. We resist your insistence that we all practice it.

You're the persecutor, not the persecuted.

Hey Don. You knowh9qto pick the mine fields. It's a tight rope walk between not getting the satire vs. not reacting strongly enough to unfair persecution. I agree with you in principle but when I see Ted Cruz and Trump being liked at liberty U. I think "thinks for making he anti-Christians feel justified.

I see a lot of atheists claiming they are persecuted and Christians are paranoid and one is making them go to church. No one is held back from a job or denied housing because they are atheists. No one is making fun of them on tv.

Anon (is that you Goliath?) Freedom of religion does not allow ,me to declare Trump is not a Christian It also allows me to doubt that he is. It is not a Christian initiative to keep Muslims out. You find me a Christian being a bigot toward other faiths or non believers I'll show you a Christian who doesn't believe in being that way.

Don, good points. Well written.

Anon, you and I see the world very differently if you think that the problem is that we are not able to "force others to conform to [our] faith." In fact, there is almost nothing in what you have written that isn't either inaccurate or wrapped in a very prejudiced viewpoint which colors the understanding of what occurred to the point where it is virtually unrecognizable.

Joe, sorry to disagree with you, but I have no question Cruz is Christian. Trump? I really don't think he is.

I don't mean to judge. Cruz may be a Christian. I think if he is he's a confused one. That's ok I'm confused a lot too.

Anon,

I would like to believe that you are correct to suggest that Christians are just overreacting to various unfavorable social conditions – university environments, court decisions, media depictions and so forth. But speaking only for myself, the particular tone of your reply here, and the sweeping negative stereotypes that appear to fuel it, have done little to allay my concerns.

I do appreciate the feedback, though, so much that I would like to use your remarks as material for a follow-up post in coming days – if that's okay with you. (I'm thinking that since your comments were posted anonymously it won't put you personally on the spot, and I can use them to call further attention to what I still believe are legitimate concerns.) If you're not okay with that, please let me know and I will let it drop in the interest of goodwill.

Thanks.

Joe, I do see your point. There are certainly bits of satire that various Christians in various sectors of the church undoubtedly bring upon themselves. If the shoe fits...

I don't think there's much real persecution going on in America, but the current spiritual atmosphere tells me that could soon very well change. And that's what I'm addressing.

If indeed some people are unjustifiably "paranoid," holding them up for ridicule is clearly not the best way to alleviate their anxieties. Most likely it will only make them more anxious. I can't see what possible rational (let alone "tolerant") purpose it can serve, then, to ridicule them in the first place.

Thanks for the remarks, BK. I agree, the idea that I am simply upset because I can't force others into the Christian fold is a terrible, if fascinating, misreading of the situation.


4/28/2016 06:44:00 AM
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Blogger Don McIntosh said...
Thanks for the remarks, BK. I agree, the idea that I am simply upset because I can't force others into the Christian fold is a terrible, if fascinating, misreading of the situation.


I thinks just atheist propaganda.they can't accept that they are totalitarian

This subject led me to ponder what I would do in the same situation. I would probably go ahead and bake the cake, then tell the men that even though I am not really comfortable with the idea of a gay wedding, I know that God loves them and Jesus died for their sins.

Ever since Constantine, Christians have been calling the shots. These days, others are starting to get a voice, and that's what has Christians worried. So we hear dire warnings about how they might start to treat Christians the same way Christians have treated them in the past.

Discrimination against atheists

Ever since Constantine, Christians have been calling the shots.

that is just sway too simplistic. that's on a par with me saying atheism always leads to the killing fields like with Cambodia.

Skeptical, I absolutely encourage others to have a voice. It's one reason you're always welcome to post here.

What has me concerned is this growing quasi-postmodern tendency to celebrate a socially engineered "diversity" on one hand, and on the other to disparage (or even silence) Christians in particular because they do not seem to share this same contrived view of diversity. As Allan Bloom said many years ago now, "Openness to closedness is what we teach."

IMS, Wikipedia is your best source? I don't know if I would trust that.

Don, when you talk about how you would bake the cake (despite not being comfortable about their relationship), and that Jesus loves them, I wonder if you would get a backlash anyway because some morons may not want to hear the Jesus word said to them. There are a lot of babies today that want to stay in a safe space.

That's an interesting observation, JB. Yes, I think there would be backlash in that scenario as well, but it would have much less legal force (at least at this stage in the relatively brief history of our republic).

I would probably just have to endure some general ad hominem attacks on my character, intelligence, etc. But that just comes with the territory for anyone who publicly identifies with Jesus in a meaningful way. The SNL thing caught my attention because it openly invites a national audience to heap scorn on an identifiable religious group that has played a huge role in the founding, growth and health of the country.

The bottom line is that as Christians our first allegiance is to the kingdom of God and the lordship of Jesus Christ, above political trends and constantly morphing cultural norms. That, I suspect, is what provokes antichristian hostility more than anything else.

As someone who approaches this question from a different perspective, I can tell you that it hasn't always been easy for someone to be irreligious. In the past few years, atheists have gained more of a voice, and I honestly believe that this is what really bothers Christians. They don't want to hear the voice of opposition, and when they do, they see it as bigotry, or incivility, or hostility. Bear in mind that we have been facing all that and more for centuries. What you hear from atheists these days is nothing compared to what we have had to put up with.

Maybe you choose to ignore the historical truth as found in Wikipedia because you just don't want to believe it. Maybe there's more to the story than that. But there's plenty of truth there. Yes, Hitler did persecute atheists, just as he persecuted Jews. Oh, I forgot. No true Christian would treat someone like that.

Now we live together in a nation with increasingly secular laws. Does your religious belief entitle you to disregard those laws? Do you see those laws as persecution because they don't give your religion a privileged status over the rest of us, like they always did in the past? Are you abused and persecuted because the law says you have to treat all customers the same? Do you feel as if you have been subjected to bigotry because people make fun of your beliefs?

When you can't get a job because of your Christian faith, or when you are denied the right to live where you choose, or when you can't go into a store and receive service the same es everyone else - then you will have a taste of bigotry.

It doesn't bother me that atheists have more of a voice. What bothers me is the words they say. I see atheists say a lot of stupid things, like how slavery is permitted in the Bible (which was not the same as the slavery that happened in the South), or how God wants people who work on Sunday to die.

And, when atheists take action, it seems to me that they want to file lawsuits against words people say (like One Nation Under God), or against things like The 10 Commandments hanging in a courthouse. Those things aren't taking away their rights, especially if Atheism isn't a worldview like a lot of you claim.

And, when atheists take action, it seems to me that they want to file lawsuits against words people say (like One Nation Under God), or against things like The 10 Commandments hanging in a courthouse. Those things aren't taking away their rights, especially if Atheism isn't a worldview like a lot of you claim.

I like that. My free exercise of religion is not a restriction on the right of anyone else to be an atheist. And if atheism is really no more of a "belief" than bald is a hair color, atheists have no grounds for repudiating the beliefs (or words or actions) of others.

The lawsuits you mention are about the imposition of religious beliefs on people who choose not to follow your faith. It's not about "repudiating the beliefs of others". It's about being free to live our own lives without you telling us (through the force of government and law) what to believe and how to live. And before you start complaining about anti-discrimination laws, those are designed to put everyone on the same playing field, not to take away your rights. It is not against the law to be a bigot. It is against the law to deny others their equal rights.

The 10 Commandments hanging in a courthouse isn't imposing religious beliefs on anyone, and it isn't forcing you to believe anything.

The ten commandments are a strong message to anyone coming before that judge that he intends to impose his religious view of morality despite any constitutional constraints. What if a judge held some worldview that you strongly disagree with, and chose to prominently display his manifesto in the courtroom? Would that make you feel comfortable going before that judge?

Well, a judge shouldn't horde that over anyone. However, that's not what I am referring to:

Atheist Nutters: Atheists, Where's the Outrage?

This entry is about how a monument (that had the 10 Commandments on it) across the street from the Supreme Court was knocked over. If Atheists did that, how is that right? It isn't hurting them or oppressing them. It is an act of bigotry, just like when the KKK burned down black churches.

Also, there is this:

Atheist Nutters: Another Christian Victim of a Lack of Tolerance

Apparently, this guy made a journal, and just because it had views that the "tolerant" atheists and seculars didn't like, he lost his job.

It appears to me that these people need to grow up.

So now you're changing the topic. You were talking about atheist lawsuits, and now you're talking about what atheists MIGHT do. Judging from the photo, that stone slab was thin enough to fall over on its own. And the fire chief was fired for violating city policy. He distributed hateful religious literature to his subordinates in the workplace. I really don't think these things help you to make your case.

"The ten commandments are a strong message to anyone coming before that judge that he intends to impose his religious view of morality despite any constitutional constraints." You may believe what you say to be true (you can believe that the Earth is flat if you want), but the reality is very few people would believe that the posting of the 10 Commandments -- one of the historically recognized first sets of laws, and a set of laws by which most of Western Civilization has been guided for the last 2000 years -- somehow signals that the judge will "impose his religious views of morality despite any constitutional constraints." That's just poppycock.

IMS, that guy shared what he wrote in his journal with his co-workers. He didn't distribute hateful literature (according to the link provided).

And, I showed you these other examples because frivolous lawsuits aren't the only thing that atheists are (or may be) doing under their misrepresentation of separation between state and church.

The lawsuits you mention are about the imposition of religious beliefs on people who choose not to follow your faith. It's not about "repudiating the beliefs of others". It's about being free to live our own lives without you telling us (through the force of government and law) what to believe and how to live.

Skeptical, a copy of the Ten Commandments posted on a wall really shouldn't have the power to impose religious belief or restrict the freedom of anyone (except perhaps someone extremely insecure about what they actually do believe). It's a silent, symbolic, and quite innocuous nod to our nation's history and heritage.

Now if you want a much better example of seriously telling people what to believe, audit a public university biology course sometime. You'll be amazed at what lengths our institutions of higher learning will go to ensure not just understanding, but firm and unshakable belief. Indeed, you may very well be told straight up any intellectual reservations you may have about the particular version of evolutionary theory being taught at the time is simply evidence of your failure to understand the theory. This is little more than a secular version of Anselm's dictum: "I believe, that I may understand."

Question: How much of the ten commandments is actually codified in US law?

Over our history, most of them. Laws against murder, theft, adultery and bearing false witness are all still binding today. Blue laws were the laws that used to be in existence that required businesses to close on Sundays. Blasphemy laws have existed making it illegal to use the name of the Lord in vain. There have been laws that have enforced the parents' rights to discipline children who were not honoring their parents, and I wouldn't be surprised to find that some states have passed laws that could imprison a child who disrespected his parents (although I don't remember ever having seen any). Why do you ask?

The ten commandments are NOT the basis of our law. First and foremost among them is a blatant violation of the constitution. Aside from that, prohibitions against murder and theft are the only ones that are law, and those things were pretty universally recognized, even in societies that didn't recognize Jewish law.

I don't see how any intelligent person could claim that our law is based on the 10 commandments. Clearly, it isn't. But the judge who displays them is sending a strong message: To hell with the law. I'm imposing my religious views.

im-skeptical, I expect better of you. Your response is either an equivocation or a straw man argument. Explain what you mean by "basis." The rest of your post is bluster based upon this original fallacy.

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me - NOT LAW, unconstitutional
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image - NOT LAW
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain - NOT LAW
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy - NOT LAW
5. Honour thy father and thy mother - NOT LAW
6. Thou shalt not kill - LAW (regardless of 10 commandments)
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery - NOT LAW
8. Thou shalt not steal - LAW (regardless of 10 commandments)
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour - NOT LAW
10. Thou shalt not covet [neighbor's things] - NOT LAW

Our nation is secular. Judges are required to uphold the law in accordance with the constitution. Our laws are not based on the 10 commandments. To display them in the courtroom is to send a strong message that the law and the constitution may not be the most important thing for the judge. I have strong doubts that this judge would be fair to an atheist. His being a Christian is not the problem. He's making a statement.

Don't be so daft man. He's saying Judeo-Christian tradition forms the cultural background of our values.' not hard.

"Judeo-Christian tradition forms the cultural background of our values."

Not my values. There's way too much funky stuff in the bible for me to think that it has moral value. I'll pass on that.

What do you mean by "funky"?

No, Skeptical, our nation is not "secular." The Constitution of our nation strikes a delicate balance between prohibiting the establishment of religion by the state and the free exercise of religion by the people. A nation consists of both the government and the governed.

Even so I don't get what you're trying to say. You've been arguing on one hand that a religious majority has been "calling the shots" since Constantine, over 1600 years (hence the knee-slapping hilarity of Christians complaining of persecution). On the other hand you're assuring us that our laws have remained essentially unaffected by the Ten Commandments, whether posted in various courthouses or not. Why should anyone expect judges in 2016 to suddenly forget everything they learned in law school and practice, and start enforcing the Decalogue instead?

Why should anyone expect judges in 2016 to suddenly forget everything they learned in law school and practice, and start enforcing the Decalogue instead?

Because they're Christians, and they're calling the shots.

Right, but presumably they've been calling the shots for centuries. So again, why would they start collectively abusing their authority now?

Right, but presumably they've been calling the shots for centuries. So again, why would they start collectively abusing their authority now?

I already said they've been calling the shots, and many of them are upset that their grip on power has been declining. So often they feel they need to re-assert themselves.

I know you already said that, but if their shot-calling power has not in fact had any appreciable effect on the legal system (per your own comparison of current law with the Ten Commandments) then the argument that Christians dominate society fizzles.

Are you suggesting that Christian justices in the U.S. have only recently, despite being in power since the founding, put up the Ten Commandments as part of this purported effort to re-assert themselves? If not, perhaps you think the legislative branch has been secular all along, and only the judicial religious? No matter. Each of these scenarios would weaken your case.

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