Tag Archives: christianity

You’re doing journalism wrong

Pastor Jerry Allen Jackson claims that God used him “as an illustration” to deliver a message during his sermon last Sunday. Now Pastor Jerry has successfully manipulated his local media into a conduit for proselytizing to his community. Here are excerpts from Tara Edwards’ piece (emphasis mine):

[Time] was the focus of his sermon Sunday at Abundant Life Ministries in Ypslanti. We’re told at some point Pastor Jerry suddenly slumped.

Five registered nurses inside the church went to work on the pastor who they say had no pulse or heartbeat.

The whole congregation began praying for him while CPR was performed. The news was sent out to other churches and they began praying.

“Then i [sic] sat up and then I asked for the mic. ‘Amen, and I told them ‘praise God… I told you God will give you more time,” said Pastor Jerry.

Paramedics took him to the hospital  — at first it was believed he had a heart attack.

But now, Pastor Jerry says they don’t know what caused his heart to stop for minutes. He says he doesn’t need a reason, he says he knows why it did.

“I know because the message was God will give you more time. So he just used me as an illustration as I will give you more time.”

The pastor plans to take a break next Sunday and return the following Sunday better than ever.

To recap: a pastor preaching about God giving us more time conveniently experiences a “miracle” demonstrating his exact point, to the amazement of his faithful followers – including the media.

An incident so fishy should draw some skepticism from journalists, but Tara Edwards and the rest of WXYZ Detroit lapped it up.

A simple Google search for “fake healing” shows how frequently faith leaders use deception to sell their messages (and how easy it is to debunk these frauds). WXYZ’s report doesn’t look into this possibility a bit. Nor does it bother to include interviews with any witnesses besides the pastor and his wife. Pastor Jerry offered to spoon feed WXYZ a story, and they swallowed it unquestioningly.

Is it possible that Pastor Jerry really did succumb to some unexplained heart condition in his church last Sunday? Of course, but it does not mean that God was sending him a message. Is it also possible that Pastor Jerry was lying to make a point? We’ve got a motive…

Journalists have a special duty to look at stories objectively in order to find the truth. It appears that WXYZ failed completely in this instance.

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Je-h-to-the-izzo-v-to-the-izzay-h’s Witnesses

One of the best things about living in a big city is the sheer diversity of its inhabitants. In the two weeks since I moved to Washington, D.C., I’ve seen every type of person from every walk of life. Of course, that means I also have the pleasure of running into the religious crackpots pushing their propaganda on every corner.

JWbible

I love free books!

Being a person who has intentionally subjected himself to numerous church services as an atheist, I’m really quite likely to oblige when one of these fanatics offers me a pamphlet on my way to the metro. And that is how I came to possess a publication from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania – the publishing and distributing organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The book I received is called, “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” – and while Jehovah’s Witnesses presumably successfully hand these books out to tens of people every year, I might be the only one to read the entire 223-page document from cover to cover. Because I love you all so much, I decided I’d write a post highlighting the best parts of the book so that you don’t have to read it yourself. Join me below for a good laugh, and maybe you’ll even learn a bit about what Jehovah’s Witnesses actually believe.

The book starts in a manner almost encouraging to a secularist. In its opening discussion about asking questions regarding gods and the supernatural, it says:

It is good to ask such questions,  and it is important that you do not give up until you find satisfying, reliable answers.

I like that – we should endorse inquiry and scrutiny of answers. So far, so good. And then:

Despite what other people may have told you, there are answers, and you can find them – in the Bible.

And it’s pretty much all downhill from there.

So God is never the source of the wickedness you see in the world around you…Granted, he does allow bad things to happen. But there is a big difference between allowing something to happen and causing it.

You’re right. But if you see somebody attempting murder, and you do nothing to stop it, you’re not exactly an upstanding citizen. That’s one reason I don’t revere the Biblical character of God: when he’s not causing misery, he’s standing by and watching it happen.

Would love move you to end the suffering and the injustice you see in the world? If you had the power to do that, would you do it? Of course you would! You can be just as sure that God will end suffering and injustice.

If I could, I’d end suffering and injustice immediately – and in fact I and many other people are working to expedite the end of unhappiness. The Christian’s loving god is twiddling his thumbs.

Imagine-you can become a friend of the Creator of the universe!

“Imagine” is precisely the correct wording.

The Bible is scientifically accurate. It even contains information that was far ahead of its time. For example, the book of Leviticus contained laws for ancient Israel on quarantine and hygiene when surrounding nations knew nothing about such matters…Of course, the Bible is not a science textbook. But when it touches on scientific matters, it is accurate.

First of all, shouldn’t a book inspired by the all-knowing creator of the universe be better than just ahead of its time? Shouldn’t it be really freaking accurate – and not just in vague terms such as the shape of the earth?

Moreover, have you read some of the shit in Leviticus? Leviticus 24:16 calls for the stoning of blasphemers. Leviticus 20:9 requires death for children who curse their parents. Leviticus 27:3-7 values women (in monetary terms) at 50-60 percent the value of a man.

Yeah…this is information “far ahead of its time.”

The Bible’s principles apply to all people, and its counsel is always beneficial.

Try telling that to people who have endured slavery because their oppressors knew the Bible justifies it.

[God] decided that time was needed to answer Satan’s challenge in a satisfying way and to prove that the Devil is a liar. So God determined that he would permit humans to rule themselves for some time under Satan’s influence.

What’s a few anguishing deaths to prove a point?

At one time, some of Jesus’ own relatives did not put faith in him, even saying that he was “out of his mind.”

These are the people who deserve to be remembered 2000 years later.

As you grow in knowledge of Jehovah, your love for him will deepen. In turn, that love will make you want to please him.

Emphasis mine – but the gay sexual imagery in this book is pretty heavy for a group so opposed to homosexuality.

What makes Jesus an outstanding King? For one thing, he will never die.

We actually put limits on terms leaders can serve for good reason. I’d hate to have a leader serve indefinitely. This is a terrible quality.

…we see that there will be war between God’s Kingdom and the kingdoms of this world. God’s Kingdom will be victorious…Then humans will enjoy the best rulership they have ever known.

It’s not much of a war if God has already predetermined the winner, is it?

Also, was Christopher Hitchens ever more right than when he said that wanting this inescapable rulership is the “wish to be a slave“?

If you obey Jehovah, you too can become his friend!

JesusBaptism

Jesus and John sure were white for a couple of folks living in the desert of the Middle East.

A friend who requires obedience as a prerequisite for camaraderie is no friend at all.

But God is the one who says how he should be worshiped, and the Bible teaches that he does not want us to use images.

Similarly, God dictates that if we want to masturbate, we are only to use pornographic literature – never videos.

When you first learned what the Bible really teaches, did you find that your heart began to burn with joy, zeal, and love for God?

Well, I definitely had heart burn.

I did learn some about Jehovah’s Witnesses after reading this book. For instance, I knew that they refuse to celebrate holidays or birthdays, but I didn’t know that they are also encouraged to refuse gifts from friendly givers around these times. Of course, they offer a very satisfactory consolation to the poor children of these parents:

One of the best gifts you can give your children is your time and loving attention.

I was also surprised when I learned that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in a soul or spirit that exists outside of the body. They don’t believe that when we die our spirits travel to another realm.

The life we enjoy is like the flame of a candle. When the flame is put out, it does not go anywhere. It is simply gone.

Of course, they do believe that God will resurrect all the dead bodies worthy of eternal life and destroy the ones who aren’t. So there’s that.

Additionally, I learned that Jehovah’s Witnesses abstain from taking sides in politics. Though they are staunchly opposed to abortion, they choose to maintain political neutrality in worldly governmental procedures.

I used to think of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a weird sect of Christianity. It turns out that they believe most of the same things that other branches of Christianity believe, just without any of the feel-good doctrines that make a religion mildly tolerable. No meeting your relatives in the afterlife; no celebrations of birthdays or holidays – who wants to believe in nonsense completely barren of any redeeming qualities?

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The Rock and the Dead Fish

Image credit: Mr. T in DC on Flickr

If it wasn’t obvious previously, it’s clear as day now – anti-gay Christians are facing serious oppression in the United States.

At least, that’s what Kelly Boggs of the Baptist Press seems to think. In an article published on BRnow.org, Boggs tries really hard to argue that times are tough for homophobic Christians in America:

A  moment of truth is rapidly approaching for those who believe homosexuality is an immoral, aberrant behavior. The choice will be whether to capitulate to a culture that asserts, without evidence, homosexuality is natural, normal and healthy, or to insist it is sinful and suffer consequences.

First of all – a Christian complaining about making assertions without evidence? That’s rich.

And what are these dire consequences Christians will be facing? According to Boggs’ article, Christians might have to obey the law:

In 2006, Vanessa Willock, one half of a lesbian couple, contacted Elaine Huguenin about photographing a commitment ceremony to be held in Taos, N.M. Huguenin co-owns Elane Photography, located in Albuquerque, N.M., with her husband.

Willock communicated that the ceremony was designed to celebrate her homosexual relationship. Huguenin declined the business because she and her husband are Christians and hold the conviction that homosexuality is a sin. They wanted no part of celebrating that which they believe is wrong.

Though Willock found another photographer, she filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. The commission ruled that Elane Photography had engaged in sexual orientation discrimination, which is prohibited by state law. The photography company was ordered to pay $6,637.94 in attorney’s fees to the lesbian couple.

The problem with claims from the Christian right that they are being persecuted is that what they call “oppression” is simply not receiving special privileges. The article makes the case against itself without realizing it: sexual orientation discrimination is illegal in New Mexico. Don’t break the law and you don’t have to worry about consequences. What Boggs and Huguenin want is for law to be based on religious values, which isn’t fair and simply doesn’t work.

But Boggs is sure that people such as Huguenin are martyrs for the Christian cause:

The push to have homosexuality accepted as natural, normal and healthy in the United States knows no compromise. The movement to have homosexuality celebrated in America will not stop, nor will it be satisfied, until all voices that would even whisper it is sinful are squelched.

Homosexual activists have long used their free speech right to publically advocate for their aberrant lifestyle. Many of these same activists now use almost any means possible to restrict the freedom of speech of those who believe their lifestyle is wrong. Can you say ironic?

Wrong again, Boggs. Bigoted Christians still have the same rights to free speech as everyone else. Have you noticed how the Westboro Baptist Church is allowed to spew its revulsion? What you’re not allowed to do is discriminate based on a person’s orientation.

It is becoming harder to maintain anti-gay sentiments in America, but that’s because the weaknesses in the arguments against equality are being exposed every day.

Boggs concludes with an appeal to other Christians to stand strong in their convictions:

When the moment of truth arrives, the choice will be whether to stand firm against the current of popular culture or float along downstream like a dead fish.

He just doesn’t realize that the dead fish in this situation is the person who unthinkingly follows the tradition of bigotry and hate in Christianity.

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Why the arguments for gay marriage ARE persuasive

The words upon which we place emphasis are important, aren’t they? An article by the same title appeared in the Gospel Coalition blogs today, and it was anything but supportive of marriage equality. Pastor Kevin DeYoung attempted to break down the arguments for gay marriage in his post; here I will return the favor.

With two landmark gay marriage cases before the Supreme Court we are already seeing a flurry of articles, posts, tweets, and status updates about the triumph it will be when America finally embraces equality for all and allows homosexuals to love each other.

First of all, homosexuals already love each other. No laws will change that. Gay people are already dating, having sex, celebrating Valentine’s Day, supporting each other, and more. Don’t presume that anything can affect their ability to love.

These tweets and posts and articles perfectly capture the reason why the arguments for gay marriage have become so persuasive so fast. Given the assumptions and patterns of thinking our culture has embraced in the last fifty years, the case for gay marriage is relatively easy to make and the case against it makes increasingly little sense.

Well, you’re off to an OK start. Your position makes zero sense, but let’s not quarrel over these details.

I don’t think the arguments or gay marriage are biblically faithfully, logically persuasive, or good for human flourishing in the long run, but they are almost impossible to overcome with most Americans, especially in younger generations.

Whether or not gay marriage adheres to biblical principals is inconsequential in a legal debate in the United States. If there are logical or humanitarian argument against gay marriage, let’s hear it (but I’m not going to hold my breath). That last sentence just makes me proud of my generation.

By and large, people don’t support gay marriage because they’ve done a lot of reading and soul searching, just like people didn’t oppose it on high flying intellectual grounds either. For a long time, homosexuality seemed weird or gross.

…and most people arguing against it still find it that way.

Now it seems normal. More than that, it fits in perfectly with the dominant themes and narratives shared in our culture. Gay marriage is the logical conclusion to a long argument, which means convincing people it’s a bad idea requires overturning some of our most cherished values and most powerful ideologies.

Stop! Quit while you’re ahead! If DeYoung ended it right here, his article would kind of make sense.

Think of all the ways gay marriage fits in with our cultural mood and assumptions.

Here we go…

1. It’s about progress. Linking the pro-gay agenda with civil rights and women’s rights was very intentional, and it was a masterstroke. To be against gay marriage, therefore, is to be against enlightenment and progress. It puts you on the “wrong side of history.” Of course, most people forget that lots of discarded ideas were once hailed as the inevitable march of progress. Just look at Communism or eugenics or phrenology or the Volt. But people aren’t interested in the complexities of history. We only know we don’t want to be like the nincompoops who thought the sun revolved around the earth and that slavery was okay.

You hear that gays? This isn’t about equal rights – like it was with civil rights and women’s rights – this is just another bad idea like Communism and eugenics! This is about where DeYoung becomes a senseless blowhard. DeYoung is the one not paying attention to the complexities of history – he’s equating gay marriage to these things without evaluating the arguments for any of them. Civil rights and Communism were both considered instruments of progress and change – take the time to explore why one was accepted and the other rejected.

2. It’s about love. When gay marriage is presented as nothing but the open embrace of human love, it’s hard to mount a defense. Who could possibly be against love? But hidden in this simple reasoning is the cultural assumption that sexual intercourse is necessarily the highest, and perhaps the only truly fulfilling, expression of love.

Again, DeYoung makes the baffling assumption that gay people aren’t already engaged in loving each other and having sex. It’s as though he believes that by banning gay marriage we can somehow deter gay people from having sex.

It’s assumed that love is always self-affirming and never self-denying. It’s assumed that our loves never require redirection. Most damagingly, our culture (largely because of heterosexual sins) has come to understand marriage as nothing but the state sanctioning of romantic love. The propagation and rearing of children do not come into play. The role in incentivizing socially beneficial behavior is not in the public eye. People think of marriage as nothing more than the commitment (of whatever duration) which romantic couples make to each other.

Not to mention the legal benefits of being married. Not to mention the symbolism of making that commitment to another person. Not to mention the pursuit of happiness to which all Americans are supposedly entitled. Furthermore, the rearing of children does come into play, and making the argument that having gay parents harms a child is a very difficult position indeed. When it comes to “incentivizing socially beneficial behavior,” we’re going to need more information. On the surface this little phrase sounds nice; but if it means “promoting strictly Christian ideals,” I won’t concede them to be socially beneficial.

3. It’s about rights. It’s not by accident the movement is called the gay rights movement. And I don’t deny that many gays and lesbians feel their fundamental human rights are at stake in the controversy over marriage. But the lofty talk of rights blurs an important distinction. Do consenting adults have the right to enter a contract of their choosing? It depends. Businesses don’t have a right to contract for collusion. Adults don’t have a right to enter into a contract that harms the public good. And even if you think these examples are beside the point, the fact remains that no law prohibits homosexuals (or any two adults) from making promises to each other, from holding a ceremony, from entering into a covenant with each other. The question is whether the government should bestow upon that contract the name of marriage with all the rights and privileges thereto.

Let me summarize DeYoung’s argument in a clearer, more concise manner: “Proponents of marriage have framed their argument as one about rights. Here are some false comparisons to throw you off the scent. Even though those equivalencies don’t make any sense, we still have to question whether gay people should have rights. So, I guess it is about rights.” People are actually buying this crap?

4. It’s about equality. Recently, I saw a prominent Christian blogger tweet that she was for gay marriage because part of loving our neighbor is desiring they get equal justice under the law. Few words in the American lexicon elicit such broad support as “equality.” No one wants to be for unequal treatment under the law. But the issue before the Supreme Court is not equality, but whether two laws–one voted in by the people of California and the other approved by our democratically elected officials–should be struck down.

Here’s the thing: It is about equality. You see, Prop 8 and DOMA unfairly target one group of people, in much the same way laws once discriminated against black people. The law was voted into existence and approved by democratically elected officials, and the point of the Supreme Court is to determine whether or not it is constitutional. They do that all the time – in fact, that’s their job.

Equal treatment under the law means the law is applied the same to everyone. Gay marriage proponents desire to change the law so that marriage becomes something entirely different.

If I’m not mistaken, this is the Michele Bachmann argument for gay marriage bans: gay people can get married as long as it’s to a person of the opposite sex, so it’s a fair law. If the law were reversed, and heterosexual and homosexual people were both banned from marrying people of the opposite sex, would it make sense?

Surveys often pose the question “Should it be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to marry?” That makes it sound like we are criminalizing people for commitments they make. The real issue, however, is whether the state has a vested interest in sanctioning, promoting, and privileging certain relational arrangements. Is it unjust for the state not to recognize as marriage your group of four friends, close cousins, or an office suite just because they want their commitments to be called marriage?

On a long enough time scale, all arguments against gay marriage revert to incest, polygamy or bestiality (or in the weird case of DeYoung, office suites). He really likes this tactic of making comparisons to things that share no real commonalities to marriage equality and then acting like his point is obvious. When considering such things as gay marriage, incest, polygamy, bestiality, marrying office suites (seriously, WTF?), we need to consider the intricacies and details of each. It is irresponsible to simply group them all together.

5. It’s about tolerance. Increasingly, those who oppose gay marriage are not just considered wrong or mistaken or even benighted. They are anti-gay haters. As one minister put it, gay marriage will eventually triumph because love is stronger than hate. Another headline rang out that “discrimination is on trial” as the Supreme Court hears arguments on Proposition 8 and DOMA. The stark contrast is clear: either you support gay marriage or you are a bigot and a hater. It’s not wonder young people are tacking hard to left on this issue. They don’t want to be insensitive, close-minded, or intolerant. The notion that thoughtful, sincere, well-meaning, compassionate people might oppose gay marriage is a fleeting thought.

I’m sure that there are plenty of thoughtful, sincere, well-meaning, compassionate people who oppose gay marriage. But opposing gay marriage is not thoughtful, well-meaning, or compassionate. (I don’t doubt that it’s sincere.) Nothing about denying people equal rights screams compassion. Relying on an antiquated book is not thoughtful. It is because your arguments lack these necessary qualities that you are losing support; not because you lack them.

So what can be done? The momentum, the media, the slogans, the meta-stories all seem to be on the other side. Now what?

For starters, churches and pastors and Christian parents can prepare their families both intellectually and psychologically for the opposition that is sure to come. Conservative Christians have more kids; make sure they know what the Bible says and know how to think.

That last line should make you cringe. Make sure kids “know how to think”? How about empowering kids to think for themselves?

We should also remember that the church’s mission in life is not to defeat gay marriage. While too many Christians have already retreated, there may be others who reckon that everything hangs in the balance on this one issue. Let’s keep preaching, persevering, pursuing joy, and praying for conversions. Christians should care about the issue, and then carry on.

It is curious how they fixate though, is it not?

And if we are interested in being persuasive outside of our own churches, we’ll have to do several things better.

1) We need to go back several steps in each argument. We’ll never get a hearing on this issue, or a dozen others issues, unless we trace out the assumptions behind the assumptions behind the arguments behind the conclusions.

2) We need more courage. The days of social acceptability for evangelicals, let alone privilege, are fading fast in many parts of the country. If we aren’t prepared to be counter-cultural we aren’t ready to be Christians. And we need courage not to just say what the Bible says, but to dare say what almost no one will say–that gay sex is unnatural and harmful to the body, that abandoning gender distinctions will be catastrophic for our society and for children, and that monogamy and exclusivity is often understood differently in the gay community.

If DeYoung’s argument hasn’t made your skin crawl yet, this ought to do it. Be counter-cultural, spew the vitriol of the Bible, by all means preach your nastiness from a mountain top – but don’t expect it to appeal to an increasingly enlightened culture.

3) We need more creativity. Statements and petitions and manifestos have their place, but what we really need is more than words and documents. We need artists and journalists and movie makers and story tellers and spoken word artists and comedians and actors and rappers and musicians who are galvanized by the truth to sing and speak and share in such a way that makes sin look strange and righteousness look normal.

Nothing cooler than homophobic Christian rock.

4) We need a both-and approach. In the months ahead I imagine we’ll see Christians wrestle with whether the best way forward is to form new arguments that appeal to people where they’re at, or whether we simply need to keep preaching the truth and trust God to give some people the ears to hear. I’m convinced we need to do both. Let’s keep preaching, teaching, and laboring for faithful churches. Let’s be fruitful and multiply. Let’s train our kids in the way they should go. Let’s keep sharing the good news and praying for revival. And let’s also find ways to make the truth plausible in a lost world. Not only the truth about marriage, but the truth about life and sex and creation and beauty and family and freedom and a hundred other things humans tend to forget on this side of Adam. The cultural assumptions in our day are not on our side, but if the last 50 years has shown us anything, it’s that those assumptions can change more quickly than we think.

I agree: keep up the circle-jerk and innovate new ways to lose relevancy among those to whom you wish to appeal. I look forward to watching your voice become quieter and quieter by your own devices.

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I’d never seen one in real life

Before Sunday, I had only heard of sermons explicitly preaching strict rules regarding sexuality and marriage. I had seen YouTube videos, and I had heard stories of people affected by these sermons; but I had never actually witnessed one myself.

That all changed on Sunday. I was invited to attend a church service in town by a reader of this blog. I originally had planned to attend three weeks ago, but an emergency made that visit impossible, and last Sunday was my next available date. Funnily, the person who invited me thought I might just be pulling her leg all along.

Nonetheless, I showed up at the evangelical church at 11 a.m. on Sunday, found my host, and sat in the pews. After the obligatory worship music (how I loathe worship music), the sermon began.

The lesson of the day was the second installment of a two-part series on marriage, and it focused primarily on Hebrews 13:4, which reads:

4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

Pastor Jason McConahy also invoked 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which reads:

9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

As you can imagine, the service was really about guilt. How the topic of sex is muddled by guilt. How we all feel guilty about our past sexual sin. McConahy adamantly reminded us that sex was to be regarded as positive and beautiful, but the real message was clear: if you stray outside of the Bible’s restrictive views on sexual morality, you should feel guilty.

After the service, my host asked me what I thought. I tried to explain that I base my morality not on the words of an antiquated book but on shared values, considerations of harmed, and learned norms; and that therefore I strongly disagreed with the message preached. We discussed these ideas and more – why believing in the Big Bang Theory is not equivalent to believing in God; how I distinguish between atheism and agnosticism; the absurdity of the cosmological argument; even a debate in which I participated last year (apparently a debater on my side committed an “argument fallacy” when he equated belief in gods to belief in magic). I wasn’t surprised by her questions, and I don’t believe that she was really very interested in my answers.

What I did notice was a strong disconnect when it came to the burden of proof. I let her lead the conversation where she wanted it to go, making sure to challenge her point-by-point, but my host constantly demanded that I provide evidence for my lack of belief. No matter how many times I highlighted holes in her belief system, it was obvious that she wanted me to prove to her that her god didn’t exist – an obviously impossible task.

I used to attend church services weekly as a non-believer. The reason why I stopped was pure boredom above everything else. Most church services are remarkably similar to each other – rarely does a pastor introduce anything new. Repetitive close-mindedness is burdensome, and this service was a harsh reminder of just that.

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A very confused argument against homosexuality

On my last post, in which I chastised Rob Schwarzwalder for his dimwitted argument against homosexuals in the Boy Scouts, I received a comment that contained only a link. I clicked the link, and I was taken to a very short blog post. The person who posted the comment left no context to indicate the meaning of the link, so I will have to assume that it was meant as a rebuttal to my argument. I would like to take this opportunity, then, to break down the argument I found in this little blog post, here on my own blog.

It starts:

To the advocates of homosexual marriage: what is the purpose of sex? “The expression of love between two people in a committed relationship.” Wonderful.

Whoa there. You don’t get to answer the question that you posed to someone of an opposing viewpoint. If you’d like to debate, you have to address the points they make; not the points you imagine they would make given your question. That’s called attacking a straw man, and it doesn’t bode well for you.

As for your assumption, I take issue with all three points. First, sex does not have to be an expression of love. In many cases it is simply an expression of attraction. In others it is an expression of love. And in the case of rape, it is an expression of power. Second, sex is not limited to people in committed relationships. One night stands are just as legitimate a form of sex as is marital sex. And finally, sex is not confined to only two people – to which the adventurous among us can attest.

It sounds to me as though you have simply defined where you find meaning in sex. It’s a perfectly acceptable stance for you to take, but do not assume that your definition is representative of the entire human population.

This means you find prostitution immoral. It contravenes the purpose of sex.

Do I? Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. You don’t know, because you’re making up an argument that is totally unsubstantiated by the words of your opponent. In my case, I do find prostitution immoral in most situations, but not because it violates your narrow definition of sex. When I philosophize to determine whether or not I find something to be immoral, I take into consideration a number of factors – foremost whether the act causes any type of harm to a person or a group of people. In the case of prostitution, many woman and men are harmed because of the act. In some cases, they are forced into it. In others, they are abused by their pimps. One could also consider the implications prostitution has on women as a group – does it lend to the continuing objectification of women? Does it create a system in which some women feel the only way to provide for themselves is by selling their bodies? These are the questions I ask, rather than does it contradict my view for how sex should take place.

Now, do I find prostitution immoral in all cases? I doubt it. If a consenting adult pays another consenting adult money to teach the first adult something about sex, is it prostitution? In countries such as the Netherlands, where prostitution is a unionized profession, do the women choose the job voluntarily? These are complex questions to which your binary test cannot be applied. It is foolhardy for you to think such dilemmas are so simple.

Does this, therefore, make you unscientific, hate-filled and whorophobic? You’d likely reply, “No.”

What we have here is a false comparison. Opposing homosexuality because of religious reasons is by definition unscientific. My approach to the question of prostitution must be carried out scientifically, and I am not relying on my subjective morals to come to a conclusion. Furthermore, though I’m opposed to men (by and large) taking advantage of prostitutes, I’m not attacking the rights of the prostitutes in order to solve the problem. See the difference?

You would contest such a description because you understand the following: (1) moral judgment requires man be free, no matter what the Calvinists and philosophers say; (2) any behavior could be said to be partially induced by genetics, especially having a mistress; and (3) the moral vision that supplied you with the purpose of sex is not a matter or product of scientific inquiry.

Such convoluted reasoning (again coming from the viewpoint of your absurd strawman) is difficult to follow, but I’ll give it my best shot. (1) If I understand correctly, you’re proposing that in order to determine something to be moral or immoral, humans must have the ability to make decisions, which can then be judged to be good or bad. I would probably agree, but free will is a tricky subject that you have again condensed far too much. (2) If you’re going to propose that behavior could be the result, even if partially, of genetics, why emphasize having a mistress? That seems an odd non sequitur. (3) No, the moral vision that you supplied for the purpose of sex is not the product of scientific inquiry. I think that determining the purpose of sex is definitely a matter of scientific inquiry. And, as I have mentioned, I think that determining whether or not something is moral must be done scientifically as well.

If the Fool were to say that the purpose of sex was fun and babies, you might grow worried over where such a philosophy would lead.

Are you referring to yourself in the third person as “the Fool”? Anyway, if you were to say that the purpose of sex was fun and babies, I’d say you likely would have a healthier understanding of sex than you do currently, but that’s really a subjective personal issue. I would have no quarrel with that definition of the purpose of sex (such a silly concept in the first place).

You might not be mollified by my assurances that the moral envelope would not be pushed further. You might claim that my formulation of sex’s purpose was self-serving. And the Fool might reply: that’s what a whorophobe would say.

You’re lucky I took a look at the tags you added to this post; otherwise I might not have noticed that you were trying to make an argument for the slippery slope of accepting homosexuality. Either way, the point you are so poorly trying to make has already been shredded. What, in your mind, is the envelope that might be pushed should advocates of gay marriage have their way? And would you please address the implied negativity of sex being self-serving? A freshman course in logic would serve you well in this arena.

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Lent and the Unthinking Child

Today I would like to talk more narratively and less analytically. I’d like to share a piece of my story and demonstrate how it shaped who I am today. As the observance of Lent begins tomorrow, Feb. 13, I would like to go back to a time when I was earnestly seeking a religion to adopt – a time when external pressures, rather than internal navigation, shaped my beliefs.

For most of my younger years, religion provided a sense of community and belonging rather than any sort of spiritual fulfillment. My parents raised me in the Church of Christ Science (a nomenclature possessive of such hilarity that it is only exceeded by its treachery), where I soon discovered that I resided in the boondocks of mainstream Christianity. Indeed, my school-yard friends were occasionally fond of teasing me for not being a “real Christian.”

I maintained the faith barely into my double-digit years, when I finally succumbed to the prospect of joining the ranks of my normal Christian friends: those who didn’t say things like, “There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter.” When they encountered illness and injury, they didn’t attempt to “know the truth”; they went to the doctor immediately. (I was fortunate to have moderate Christian Science parents and received necessary medical attention. I am grateful that they have since completely shucked the absurdity of the Christian Science doctrine.) Ironically, I was seeking a group of people who I considered “more faithful” – I too began viewing Christian Science as a phony faith.

Willing to let me explore outside of the religion, my parents allowed and even facilitated for me to attend different services. I sampled Catholic, non-demoninational, Baptist, Mormon, and Lutheran services (marvel at the diversity!), and found a home with the Lutherans. The primary reason for my choice? The music, of course. Weary with the monotonous hymnals of Christian Science, I devoured the contemporary music of the Lutheran church. The drums, the bass, the guitar! That stuffy old organ finally gave way to something that resembled the music to which I listened on my own time.

Of course, I figured my parents would deem such reasoning illegitimate, so I created additional justifications. I connected with the message of the sermon. The creed of the church aligned with my beliefs. Hell, this church was God’s choice for me!

I did genuinely enjoy the youth atmosphere in the church. My introduction to the church came by way of a friend who already attended, and with him I enrolled in the church’s confirmation program. I immediately attached myself to the vibrant pastor (a man whom I still respect), and was eager to ingrain myself in the faith – to finally become a real Christian! I participated in all the extracurricular activities and for awhile truly enjoyed becoming a stronger Lutheran.

When the season of Lent arrived, I assumed that Lutherans sacrificed something as did the Catholics. After all, they were all part of the “in” faiths, those that I deemed normal. Surely their practices were pretty similar as well. So, when pizza was the meal for a youth night, I was nothing but proud to announce to the youth pastor that I had given up pizza for lent.

How quickly my “beliefs” changed when I discovered that Lent did not involve such sacrifice in the Lutheran religion. If Lutherans did not demand that I forfeit an earthly pleasure for the season, then of course God didn’t make any such demands either. I grabbed a slice of pizza.

Richard Dawkins describes one of the objectives of his book The God Delusion near the beginning: he hopes that we stop describing children as having faith but rather being the offspring of faithful parents. His point is pertinent: many children, dare I say most, who subscribe to a religion do so only because they have been indoctrinated into said faith. Even the young, curious religious explorer like me isn’t capable of evaluating such choices. That is not to say that all young believers are insincere – simply that understanding the implications and foundations of faith requires critical thinking beyond the capacity of nearly all children.

The act of engaging in Lent is likely the least of the worries we should have for the children indoctrinated into the Christian faith. The unthinking child is to be protected, nurtured and taught to think critically – it is simply too often that religious leaders instead elect to exploit the fresh minds of their youngest followers.

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