If Only We Were A Christian Nation

Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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54 Responses

  1. Bob says:

    Matthew 21:12

    “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,”Report

  2. greginak says:

    We are a Christian Nation. I see bible references in the stands at every major sporting event and all the athletes thanking God for their touchdowns.

    I’m an atheist but I like the hippie pacifist guy. But it seems there are plenty of people who think he was more about the sword and retribution then anything else.Report

    • Bob in reply to greginak says:

      That “hippie pacifist guy” was a changeable sort,

      Luke 19:27

      “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”Report

      • Katherine in reply to Bob says:

        That’s actually a statement of a character in a parable told by Jesus. Not a direct quote.Report

      • Bob in reply to Bob says:

        Elizabeth, you are correct. But what is the purpose of a parable? I would say they are designed to teach lessons. The Good Samaritan story teaches everyone is your neighbor, or help folks out regardless of their tribe, or something like that. Is there any doubt that Jesus indented that to be his point?

        So what is the point of the parable found in Luke and ends with that grizzly passage? Was Jesus just reciting a good story designed to get his listeners attention? Or was he telling them than anyone found in rebellion against him would suffer death?

        If biblical parables are the stories Jesus related, his words, to teach I can’t say one is valid and another is crap, let’s just pretend that one does not teach, “keep walking” as Peggy Noonan would have it.

        But, sorry Mark, I brought it up in the context of Christ like nation, “Christian Nation.” Man, civil government, is more that able to find reasons to kill and war. We don’t need Christ to give such acts a religious gloss.

        At the risk of more cherry picking I include this http://www.nobeliefs.com/parable.htmReport

    • Mark Thompson in reply to greginak says:

      I couldn’t agree more.Report

  3. Lev says:

    My thoughts exactly. I’m a liberal but I found the unAmerican op-ed appalling. Seriously? This is what we‘re doing now? I have just as dim a view as anyone else of these easily manipulated yahoos yelling at town halls after getting riled up by the same fuckers that lied to them nonstop for decades, but let’s not start the “who’s is bigger?” debate on patriotism, please?

    This being said, I think your pox on both houses construction is wrong. Pelosi and Hoyer aside, I have yet to hear of Democrats committing their apparatus to willfully spreading falsehoods about healthcare or any other topic. I have yet to hear of any sizable portion of Democrats demanding to see, say, Bobby Jindal’s birth certificate. I have yet to hear of any Democrats stampeding Republican town halls. Calling someone names is wrong, but the right is still orders of magnitude less honorable than the left. They’re the ones preventing a conversation from happening. I wish they’d clean up their act, but they simply will not. So I’m going to keep working to beat them until they get the message into their heads.Report

    • Kyle in reply to Lev says:

      *snark on*
      sweet. double down on beating people into getting the message.

      Nothing says learn like failure…except you know education. By why convince people when you can beat them?

      *snark off*

      I feel like it’s a bit unfair to say the republicans are worse…it’s not as though the left hasn’t had a rather long history of disruptive antics (see terrorism, history of), and besides isn’t the minority party supposed to agitate and be rabble rousers? I mean so our town halls look more like the house of commons than the house of representatives, that’s hardly preventing a conversation from happening on the page of the times, at homes, in the office, or – even – on cable news which is just as conducive to conversation prevention as a few agitators.

      I think when you’ve chosen a side, it’s hard to have a good barometer of what’s fair or not. During the campaign liberals complaining about McCain’s distortions were eerily silent about egregiously misleading ads in Spanish against Mac. Even when they were just as misleading, if not more.

      Maybe I’m being uncharitable here but it seems like what you’re saying is I recognize the problem but I’m quitting tomorrow.

      Liberals and conservatives alike talk a big game about being better people, yet you’ll never see a faster race to the bottom than in political characterizations of their opponents.Report

      • Katherine in reply to Kyle says:

        I feel like it’s a bit unfair to say the republicans are worse…it’s not as though the left hasn’t had a rather long history of disruptive antics (see terrorism, history of)

        What are you defining as left? Anarchism, like totalitarianism, can be seen as either left or right. Racist and proto-fascist groups have a long history of terrorism. The United States used right-wing terrorists against Cuba in the 1960s and against Nicaragua in the 1980s.

        But the more relevant point is that Democrats (outside of, perhaps, the short period in 1972 when they nominated McGovern) are not and have never been “the left”. I’m familiar with the left, and they despise Republicans and Democrats about equally.Report

  4. mike farmer says:

    Yes, if it’s wrong for one side to do it, then it’s wrong for the other side to do it — so if it’s going to be done, each side either accepts it and quits whining, or they become principled and change. I wonder which the politicians will do?Report

  5. EngineerScotty says:

    If only the Christians among us (or a significant fraction thereof) would act… like Christians.Report

  6. Kyle says:

    Mark, agreed.

    I think the problem, however, lies less in the lack of support for decent politicians. Honesty and charity towards opponents are ill-rewarded and when we don’t reward those traits, we shouldn’t be surprised at the quality of our politicians, political discourse, and everything else that traces back. Whether that applies to other, apolitical realms is an open question.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to Kyle says:

      I didn’t mean to imply that the problem lies in a lack of decent politicians. Sadly – and this was partly the point of my opposing the investigation of Sarah Palin’s personal life – I think we get the politicians we ask for with this general attitude of an eye for an eye, etc, etc. I dunno, I just too often come across an attitude of “you’re really gonna let him get away with that?” even outside the political realm. I see it enough that I wonder whether culturally we’ve all got our daily workout regimen set to “beer muscles.”Report

      • Kyle in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        Hah, I suppose there are enough problems that lie in the lack of decent politicians but I guess I really meant to say that more broadly I think it’s because there’s a disconnect between what we aspire to value and what we actually value.

        Upon further reflection – and generally being in a less curmudgeonly mood – I wonder if the constancy of this theme is particular to our window of time or if it is an inescapable element of our humanity.Report

  7. Michael Drew says:

    So what is this post really about? More to the point, what is its proximate cause? Is it a coincidence that Mark has made two sidebar comments lately that clearly suggest an equation between the significance or objectionableness of liberal reaction to astroturf/spontaneous protesters’ tactics to the tactics themselves? I have a hard time believing that.

    I actually don’t think Mark believes those things are equivalent. But it is hard not to note that it is the backlash to the tactics (arguably a backlash to a backlash) which has prompted three comments from Mark, while throughout last week, when the extent of the extremism was becoming clear, there was little comment here about them here that I recall. (Perhaps memory doesn’t serve me well, however.)Report

    • Actually, it’s a whole host of things. Yes, the health care debate, but also the Gates debate, various foreign policy issues, and other things having little to do with politics. No one of them is more the proximate cause than anything else. I just don’t like the way in which we tend to use the blameworthiness or perceived blameworthiness of the other side to justify our own blameworthy actions.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        That is a bad thing, it is true. But from a political perspective it is important not to draw equivalences between all blameworthy things, and sometimes the blameworthy things that are done in response to far less provoked (though likely still claimed to be provoked ) blameworthy things really are rendered substantially more understandable, even if not ultimately completely defensible from a Sermon on the Mount perspective. I’m not sure how well the Sermon on the Mount works in politics, unfortunately. Politics is largely quite affirmatively precisely about blame. Blameworthy, impure, unpraiseworthy acts dominate politics — what’s important is to draw a line before those kind of acts turn into evil acts. Before that line in political struggles, however, I think greater room for interaction needs to be allowed — including providing ample space to preserve an accounting of whose blameworthy acts are more blameworthy (for either egregiousness or lack of justification). Labeling all blameworthy acts short of evil as “blameworthy” in an unqualified sense in a falsely equivalent, “pox-on-both-houses” kind of way that says that all acts that fall short of the Sermon on the Mount standard are just simply blameworthy collapses that political space down to nothing.Report

        • The problem is that we are all terribly poor judges of the blameworthiness of our opponents as compared to our own blameworthiness. This creates a downward spiral in our interactions with those who are not on “our” team as we justify our own actions based on the perceived evil/blameworthiness of our opponent’s actions. I’m really pleaing more for better self-criticism and respect for the basic humanity of our adversaries no matter how evil or in bad faith we may perceive their actions. That’s not to say that self-defense is unjustifiable or anything of that nature, just that we should be more aware that what we view as a justifiable response may quite reasonably not be received as such.

          To borrow from something I recently read in a far different context, there is a tendency for people to perceive others’ defensive actions as instead offensive actions rather than to question whether they may have done something in the first place to make the opponent feel threatened (correctly or incorrectly). Meanwhile, our response in believing ourselves to be the victim often leads us to act in ways that the other side perceives as offensive, even though we are really trying to act defensively.

          Like I said, though, I’m not asking that people stop trying to defend themselves when they deem it necessary to do so; just that they try a little harder to recognize that the other bastard might be doing exactly the same thing.

          One of the reasons why I was for a few months in early 2008 quite enthusiastic about Barack Obama was that I thought he understood this. His manner of speaking denoted someone who was interested in trying to understand those who oppose him – even those who opposed him most vociferously. Sadly, that Obama seems to have faded rather rapidly over the last year. I’ve no doubt that this is at least partially a result of the malfeasance and nastiness of his opponents, but that’s besides the point. Indeed, by increasingly refusing to validate even the more reasonable of those criticisms, he (and really the Dem leadership as a whole) seems to be only stoking the fires more, lumping all of his critics into one group and treating them as all equally unreasonable.

          None of this is to justify the way in which his more prominent opponents have treated him, just to show that by playing along, Obama and Co. are contributing to the cycle every bit as much as their opponents.Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            “every bit as much”? I don’t think I can go that far if we are talking about the health care fracas. I do acknowledge that these health care protesters feel threatened — that is as clear as could be. The question is whether that feeling is legitimate.

            Also, you are right that Obama and Co shouldn’t actively lump every critic in with the worst actors. But they don’t have an obligation to altruistically try to separate out their reasonable critics from the ones who discredit the viewpoint when the association is not being made by them. I don’t think they have been unduly making the association — the association results naturally when the extremists go to such lengths for visibility.

            There is also a limit to the extent to which you be magnanimous and acknowledge opponents’ criticism in an essentially zero-sum political battle. They’re attempting to pass legislation, and there is plenty of opposition arrayed against them; they do need to stay on their own side (lest the fall into the liberal stereotype). The charge of insufficient magnanimity in truly high-stakes political struggle such as this falls into the category of praising with faint damns.

            That said, I think Obama’s m.o. continues to be to acknowledge criticisms — but also to firmly rebut them. If there was a time when he merely let them stand, it was long before I started paying really close attention to his language. Is that what he would have to do to reach your standard of magnanimity in political rhetoric — repeat his opponents’ criticisms without rebuttal?Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

              I will say one thing about the health care debate: it’s the first time I remember Obama managing the politics of a situation truly horribly (at least when he knew the mic was on). If your criticism is essentially that Obama is not maneuvering well politically — that a politician who was operating efficiently would somehow be absorbing this backlash and pivoting off of it to the advantage of the initiative (and failing that, to his own) — I couldn’t agree with that more.Report

              • Bob in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Speaking as a man on the far left, I find Obama’s missteps numerous and appalling:

                1. Rejecting or delaying investigation of torture.
                2. Signing statements.
                3. DADT
                4. Going to court to continue the denial of habeas corpus.
                5. Refusing to release torture photographs.
                6. Tim Geithner/Larry Summers
                7. Build-up of forces in Afghanistan.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Bob says:

                You think he’s mishandled the politics of all those as much of the policy? Or do you admit of no such distinction?

                I would say the financial response is the next-worst political misstep he’s made. But it is longer-term, and I’d argue was more boxed-in in terms of policy and political messaging there than on health care. This situation now seems to have been a largely unforced error.Report

              • Bob in reply to Michael Drew says:

                From my preservative his move to the right/center is appalling. I take your point, 2010 and 2012 loom, so Obama must look to his future. His future is not my concern. I want policies enacted that move forward a progressive agenda.

                I know, it’s a stupid position.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Bob says:

                No it’s totally legit. It just depends how you’re looking at the world. Here I am speaking of the political handling of the policies. But that doesn’t mean your view on the policies is immaterial generally speaking. by any means.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

              Also — last thing — how does one discern whatever legitimate fears might be driving the outbursts, when their content is essentially to strangle discourse in its crib? There are any number of things they may be reacting to, but I honestly have no idea which things those happen to be. Also, broadening the focus, what method would a magnanimous leader be called upon to use to determine which are the criticism that have to be addressed and which can be ignored if it is the job of the leader to discriminate from among his critics? There’s no stationary point of reference to peg the debate to in that formulation that I can see.Report

              • One thing that I should make more clear, perhaps – the health care debate probably ranks lower in terms of what I’m talking about than some of the other things – the justifications for torture, while not the proximate cause of this post, are to me the clearest example of what I’m talking about here.

                But as applied to the health care debate, I would like people to put an end to the vitriol. Obviously, the vitriolic excesses of many of the protesters goes without saying, but the vitriol that comes as return fire doesn’t discriminate, and just tends to lump everyone in together, while giving the vitriolic set more cause to be vitriolic. Here I’m referring to things like the use of the “un-American” label, the excessive repetition of the “Astro-turfing” charge (most large-scale protests for many years have had some sort of an organizing group; but those protests will never succeed unless they tap into a real passion), and the “I don’t want the folks who created this mess to do a lot of talking” line.

                These things just exacerbate the problems and really accomplish nothing. I don’t know what to do about the town hall issue, specifically, although I’m not really sure that these kinds of town halls are ever good ideas – they’re just magnets for true believers on both sides; I’m not sure the concept has ever really done anything to either increase support for legislation or spread information about it.

                Still, the amount of anger, however misplaced and ridiculous, that has been shown at these meetings suggests that a lot of people sincerely feel that they’ve been left out of this process. When a large number of people feel that way (and this was equally true in 2003 with the war protests), that’s usually a sign of problems in the political process. That doesn’t mean that your opponents are right, just that there is an alienation there that should just be dismissed as manufactured rage or astro-turfing.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                I think the astroturfing meme has largely played out and was always peripheral to the obvious fact that there were some clearly quite honestly worked up folks — and it was never pushed by the White House that I am aware of. Pelosi was unwise to say the protests are un-American, I will give you that one. “Counterproductive” or “denying the American people a real debate” would have been fairer. Some push back was necessary, however. I’m not familiar with your third example. That sounds like Obama, though. A lot about would depend on who it refers to

                In all you’re saying, Mark, I have to say that you are pretty consistently coming down on the side of the protesters. For them it’s always, well they’re out of hand, BUT…. Whereas for those responding to it there seems to be a very narrow range of acceptable responses that based on your examples of what “accomplishes nothing” I really can’t identify.

                Do you mean to be giving that impression? There really is some outlandish shit going on out there right now. Guns at events, Swastikas (http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2009/08/swastikas.php?ref=fpblg), etc.

                How restrained do you expect people to be? Wishing doesn’t make it go away.Report

              • I don’t think I’m coming down on the side of the protesters at all. If I’m sounding more critical of the liberal response than of the protesters, there’s a couple reasons for it, though:
                1. The ridiculousness of the protesters is to me patent and needs little discussion, although I should note that this post explicitly includes them as an example of the problem I’m discussing.

                2. I’ve mostly been trying to go the “pox on both houses” route, but the criticisms I’ve been getting in response have almost entirely been defenses of the liberal response, which means that my response to those criticisms has tended to focus on the liberal response.

                3. Similar logic to that I’ve applied in placing the burden on the police in the Gates case applies here – although as a moral matter, I think both sides have a duty to “cool it,” as a practical matter, the group in the best position to actually “cool it” is the smaller group with the real power. The anger of the protesters, while over the top, ridiculous, uncivil, etc., etc., is something that couldn’t possibly disappear overnight. Sure, you could hope that Rush and Glenn Beck, Hannity, etc. asked them to cool down, but plenty would refuse to heed that advice and the cycle would continue. On the other hand, those driving the downward spiral in response are largely a relatively small coterie of Dem politicians, and it is well within their power to stop feeding into the cycle.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                1. To me, you are, and by giving reasons why that is you seem to acknowledge it despite claiming otherwise.

                2. The pox on both houses route si objectionable in this instance — that’s largely the point, and why you are getting criticism to that effect. Specifically,

                3.While those in power do have a greater responsibility to cool it, to me it is clear you are playing up the few exceptions to what has been over all an overwhelmingly muted response — meeting the ‘cool it’ injunction you set forth. Also you haven’t to noted any of the examples of Representatives dealing with the angry crowds in an exemplary way, of which there have been at least as many examples of poor responses, or highlighted for the sake of clarity any of the truly remarkable tactics we are seeing. It has taken this much to get you to acknowledge without caveat that they are patently ridiculous, which doesn’t align with the suggestion that you have also made that we shouldn’t completely dismiss their anger. Their anger is both real — making them not completely ridiculous — and their tactics (some of them) completely outside the bounds of appropriate discourse. Both these things should be made clear and focused on in my view — and the few somewhat ill-calibrated responses from initiative supporters not used as a retroactive and distracting justification, which is the effect of the tack you are taking.

                Just because everyone agrees that the tactics are beyond the pale doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make clear you concur. Most of your statements to that effect have been balanced by the caveat that the liberal reactions have been equal problems. I personally think that is patently ridiculous; I’d be interested in the view of others.Report

              • Not at all, though. I’ve made a number of posts and comments unequivocally raising problems with the protesters and the way in which the Right has approached this issue in general. But I don’t see how I have an obligation to do that in every single post about the subject. I think this is doubly true given the hue amount of virtual ink I’ve spilled over the last several months (and years) that has overwhelmingly been critical of the political Right. At this point, I would think I’ve got enough credibility on that for people to recognize that the last thing I am is an apologist for any group of people.

                My whole point, though, is that the ridiculousness of the Right does not justify the Left retaliating with its own ridiculousness. And while you’re no doubt correct that the overwhelming majority of legislators have responded coolly, those who haven’t have been quite prominent. But the same is likely true of a majority of those who are opposed to these proposed reforms. Unfortunately, those who act the most ridiculous on either side are going to garner the most attention and both sides are responding as if the most ridiculous opponents are emblematic of their opposition as a whole.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                We can definitely agree on that last statement. I think the amount of attention given to each in the broader media is surprisingly enough fairly close to appropriate given the relative actions and merits of each side so far. In that sense I see your view as something of an outlier — I don’t see that many strong negative reactions to the supporters’ reactions to the protests. My view is that reaction to the reaction has been primarily characterized by restraint with a few exceptions, while the opponents’ actions have been truly remarkable. In that context, choosing to focus on the shortcomings of both sides strikes me as not entirely honest, and that is what I am reacting to. But it’s largely a matter of perceptions. And your broad point — that one party’s misdeeds don’t justify further misdeeds is certainly unassailable. But that doesn’t render all misdeeds worthy of equal attention or condemnation.

                I hadn’t seen any unequivocal statements you have made about the opponents’ tactics that don’t equate or relate them to ostensibly objectionable reactions by supporters; if I missed them that was my shortcoming.

                As to any reputation you’ve earned, it unfortunately doesn’t precede you in my case. You have, however, earned my respect for your rational, thorough, and fair analysis of almost every issue, which is why I devote such energy to persuading you of my view when we differ on matters short of fundamental philosophy such as this.

                Thanks for your exhaustive engagement as always, Mark. Cheers.Report

            • Well, by “every bit as much” I’m referring to the notion that “it takes two to tango,” if you will.

              Like I said, though, I’m not looking for absolute magnanimity – just enough humility to give your opponents some credit, if not publicly, then at least in your own head, no matter how ridiculous they may be acting. Rather than taking our opponents’ assumptions at face value and then trying to refute those assumptions, we immediately jump to the conclusion that those assumptions are dishonestly held and that the real reason our opponents are doing x is because they have ulterior motive y. We may even find some opponents who openly admit to having ulterior motive y and so we will gladly paint all our opponents of having ulterior motive y. In those circumstances where we think we have refuted their stated assumptions, which our opponents continue making, rather than asking ourselves whether we’ve made a convincing case against those assumptions, we just attribute bad faith and justify our treatment of them as such.

              My big problem here is not specific to Obama, and in fact has nothing to do with any particular political side. As I said, it’s not even meant to be specific to political discourse but rather to a general attitude in which we sink into a sort of moral relativism wherein we justify our own actions based on the prior actions of others. Like I said, we seem to have set our cultural workout regimen to “beer muscles.” We’re hypersensitive to every perceived injustice, real or imagined and have a tendency to overreact to each perceived injustice in a way that leads to overreactions from others who likewise perceive your overreaction as an injustice.

              When we recognize that this creates a downward spiral, we then find a way in which the burden is on the other side to stop the downward spiral (we’re just acting defensively, you see!) rather than taking responsibility for putting an end to the spiral regardless of our own perceived blameworthiness. Putting an end to the spiral does not mean conceding defeat, though; it just means accepting that the other side, or at least elements of the other side, actually believes what it is saying.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                “Rather than taking our opponents’ assumptions at face value and then trying to refute those assumptions, we immediately jump to the conclusion that those assumptions are dishonestly held and that the real reason our opponents are doing x is because they have ulterior motive y.”

                We do? Surely you can provide examples of what you mean, but I have to say that I think Obama himself still does a pretty good job of representing in good faith the worries and objections to what he is proposing. That’s based on the press conference a few weeks ago. I’m going to review the transcript of his remarks today later. (And, yeah, I’m pretty stuck on health care at the moment. I’m not really up to mapping all this onto torture or anything else right now — actually I don’t get the relevance of that example at all. But I think the health care thing is really driving this to be honest.)

                Of course you will always be able to come up with examples of people not doing that well, and to whatever extent those are important people and what they say matters, you have a fair point. Pelosi, for example is not in the habit of representing her opponents’ views in a particularly positive light. I fear I’d have a similar shortcoming if my lifelong opponent was the leadership of the House GOP.Report

              • “Surely you can provide examples of what you mean”

                An easy, side-by-side comparison: the “Defeatocrats” moniker (and the prevalence thereof) used by the Right, and “No Blood for Oil” on the Left, both of which, beyond being facile sloganeering, were based in assumptions about their opponents’ ulterior motives.

                The torture issue relates here because it is inherently based in the assumption that the tortured’s prior alleged acts justify any treatment to get what is wanted out of him.

                Also, I’d say that the Gates issue was as much or more of the proximate cause for this post as health care, as were some personal events.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                Fair enough. I’m definitely quite focused on the health care debate; I’m sorry to hound you about a subtopic to your larger point. Peace.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                I do broadly take your point and agree at least in principle, should say. I think on this health care kerfuffle, your apportionment of blame for these shortcomings has been pretty much 180 degrees off, but that’s a matter of perspective, I guess (which pretty much puts us back at square one).Report

          • greginak in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error

            This is the bedrock for most of viciousness of our political discourseReport

  8. E.D. Kain says:

    It’s funny, if you don’t watch TV you have almost no sense that there are these protesters storming town hall meetings and burning politicians in effigy. I almost don’t even think about it (since I have no TV). Then I go to the gym or a friend’s and watch the news – and suddenly it’s as though the world is on fire. Angry mobs have stormed the ramparts.

    Which is to say that a lot of the problem with our discourse is the fault of television-culture, which is by nature shallow, sound-bitey, and dismissive. There’s only enough time in a 30 second spot to take jabs or pull dirty tricks. There’s only enough time in a ten minute TV segment to scratch the surface, and you may as well scratch someone else’s surface if it all comes down to that.

    Good post, though. Kyle has it right – there is a disconnect between our aspired and are actual values. We are separated by cars and televisions and everything else that has become normal too quickly.

    Now, to address a couple more points – Bob, of course you can cherry-pick verses from any holy scripture to find contradictions. You can paint Jesus with any number of brushes. It’s really not important in the end. In the end it’s how people are changed or how they are empowered to change that matters. All too often religion becomes a bulwark for small minds, but then again, it can be a force of great strength and love. So maybe contradictions are natural.

    Mark – what does it mean to be “not much of a Christian”? I’m curious… 😉

    And this was particularly poignant, I thought:

    “Evil acts are not made less evil by the prior evil of someone else. Perhaps they are made justifiable and understandable, but they are still evil acts. “Report

    • “what does it mean to be “not much of a Christian”?

      I wish I could provide a coherent answer to that, I really do. That I can’t may answer the question in and of itself, though.Report

    • Bob in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      E.D., I’ve been considering your odd criticism, “cherry picking.” I wonder how you define that term?

      Yesterday I responded to a comment from Mike at Big Stick. Basically he said that inner-city residents were willing to cooperate with police when they were investigating major crimes, murder, rape, assault.

      My comment was to the point that here in Kansas City community activist Alvin Brooks often complains about the lack of cooperation between residents of the inner-city and the cops. I even sent a link to a local TV station story where Mr. Brooks encourages folks to start “snitching”

      So, does that exchange qualify as cherry picking. Perhaps I should just assert a position, no backup, no Biblical quotes and thereby avoid your criticism.

      Your argument, cherry picking, was devastating and I will be sure to use it when I have no other argument to offer.Report

      • E.D. Kain in reply to Bob says:

        Here’s the thing, Bob. It’s very easy whenever the subject of Christianity (or Judaism, or Islam, or Insert Religion Here) to pull this or that phrase up to support a point, but it invariably misses the larger point. Thus, when this is done I think of it as “cherry-picking.” Note, I have not countered your quotations with opposing quotations from the Bible. I think it is a useless endeavor.

        Your example re: Kansas City and the police is not the same and strikes me as a valid argument. Citing examples is not the same thing as cherry-picking.Report

    • Bob in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      The quotes I offered qualify as “examples” of the words of Jesus.Report

    • Bob in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      When discussing scripture it seems a given you will quote it.Report

  9. Jaybird says:

    If only there were some centralized Christian authority who could speak inerrantly. If we could follow what he told us what to do, we’d all be okay. Any confusion we may have could be cleared up by him.

    Maybe we should go back to that.Report

  10. EngineerScotty says:

    Why does this discussion remind me of the infamous advice Warren Robinson Austin allegedly gave to Israel and the Arab world?Report

  11. Bob and EngineerScotty:

    In retrospect, I think I chose the title of this post poorly. There was really no need for me to bring Christianity into it at all; obviously, I wanted to link to that part of the Sermon on the Mount, but I wanted to do so because of its poignancy far more than because of its religious nature (since I’m not, as I say, a particularly religious person).

    Which is to say: your points are taken.Report