A Christian asks; “I’m the bad guy? How did that happen?”

Near the final scene of the 1993 Joel Schumacher film, Falling Down, Robert Duvall has cornered Michael Douglas, who plays a laid-off defense-contracting engineer who has gone on a murderous rampage.  Douglas looks at Duvall and asks incredulously, “I’m the bad guy?  How did that happen?”  And he really doesn’t know.

I’ve been corresponding with a Christian minister who asks a similar question.  He’s genuinely puzzled as to why humanists in general or gays in particular would associate Christianity with bigotry and prejudice.  A few excerpts:

Who should I hate? In the end, it seems that I must either hate them all or none of them. The word of God and the inward testimony of God both tell me that I must hate none of them – even when it is necessary for me to oppose them…

And I think you have correctly perceived that I do not hate you. And, I find that the ability – the necessity – to love my opponents and to wish always for their best good, is tied directly to having placed my ultimate hopes beyond the present reality. If I thought this was all there was or ever would be, I think I would be decidedly more capable of hate. If I thought it was all about evolution – which,it seems to me, hinges on the quest for momentary advantage – I believe I could hate – that being after all, only a chemical phenomenon that is either useful or not at the moment and virtually immune to concepts like virtue or morality…

In the meantime, I hear from folks on your side of some issues that I do hate. I am prolife and therefore, ipsofacto, I hate women. If what they mean is that if I had my complete way, I would restrict certain freedoms even though it places certain barriers and limitations before individuals and classes of people who would like to operate without that restriction, then we don’t have the same definition of hate. I could introduce you to several women who have had abortions, who either previously were or currently are pro-choice, who yet would sign any affidavit you cared to craft swearing that I love them. (Emphasis mine)

And,

Please believe, it is not a matter of hurt feelings. I don’t have any particular desire to be obnoxious to you or your compatriots. I am not afraid of spirited debate. But part of my agenda is both to understand and confront the (to me totally upsidedown seeming) notion that Christianity breeds hate, contempt, and ignorance. If I am not yet skilled enough to communicate across this great divide without fostering the impression of ignorance and hatred despite my own clear conviction that I hate none of you (whether or not I’m ignorant may be more in question), then it is probably best to keep my mouth shut a while longer. (Emphasis mine)

And,

I feel that homosexuality is a moral problem. I do not, for what it’s worth, feel the need to take that issue to law and regulation. I don’t think the moral problem of homosexuality is worse than my own moral problems. I am not – at heart – a legalist. And I’m not trying to start a new issue between us on either abortion or homosexuality. And I know that presenting a similar list of homosexual people who would sign the ‘He does not hate me’ affidavit wouldn’t make any real difference. The assertion seems to be that I hate a class of people regardless of my relationship to any particular individuals.

I suggested throwing his agenda open to the community at SEB for response and he replied:

I don’t mind if you post the paragraph. I would be interested to see what would happen. I don’t really think you misundestood this – only a product of a quick communication – but to clarify, I’m only partly worried about offending anyone. I’m more worried about the cultural divide. I have seen missionaries do harm because they were eager to impart the gospel before they understood the target culture. This is not what you would call a missionary venture, but the same principle applies.

Really, Christians are the bad guys?  How did that happen?  Aren’t Christians, by definition, the good guys? Can anyone explain?

He’s all yours, folks.  He wants to know.  Can you help him understand?

956 comments

  1. Still out of town but still listening. Thanks to Patness, Sandy, and Bachalan for repyling to my queries.

    Terry

  2. ***Dave, by virtue of just being who he is, does more to help the image of Christians as a whole in my mind than any of the so-called Christian Leaders out there.

    Les, you will make me blush.  (Thanks.) 

    I don’t consider myself a Christian spokesman (the whole idea gives me five kinds of hives), but I don’t consider myself a white spokesman, an American spokesman, a Democratic spokesman, or D&D Player spokesman.  But it behooves me (and everyone else who is part of an identifiable group) that we are each of us spokesmen for those groups, that the “cognitive parsimony” that DOF spoke of applies to us, too—and that when we’re a dick (no matter what justification we have for it in our heads), we’re hanging that label on everyone else who we’re grouped with by others (rightly or wrongly).  Conversely, everything we do that is seen as a good thing also redounds to the benefit of our cohorts.

    That actually ties into the topic at hand.  I can recall a number of times in corporate management meetings that it takes seven positive customer experiences to make up for one shitty one.  Applying that here, it arguably takes seven positive presentations of Christianity to make up for one negative one—and given that most of the Christians with radio stations and TV deals and book contracts are the ones conveying negative images to everyone else, it’s appallingly difficult for “good” Christians (i.e., the ones who believe as I do, right?) to make up for that bad “customer service.” 

    And, unfortunately, sitting quietly and going to church and making donations to worthy causes and being just a nice person doesn’t do it, not effectively.  It is, in fact, necessary to speak out when someone in your group is behaving destructively (harming the brand, so to speak).  To not do so may or may not make you complicit in their acts, but it makes you complicit in the image that results from those acts. Which, even if you’re not an active evangelist / proselytizer, must be seen as a bad thing.

  3. Dave, if someone were to tell you he was a white supremacist, would you or would you not (justifiably) assume he’s a bigot? Intolerant? Ignorant?

    So it goes with the label which you pin on your own chest.

    Dave writes: So I guess all I would ask for the same thing that anyone else would: don’t jump to conclusions, and don’t presume that all self-labeled Christians are, in fact, the enemy.

    An icon of popular mythology commonly referred to as Jesus Christ said: He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

    Dave, when you label yourself a christian, you aren’t leaving any room to jump to conclusions. You are, according to the central figure of your chosen religion, the enemy of non-christians. If you don’t want to be labeled a bigot, intolerant, ignorant, or as the enemy, don’t label yourself christian.

  4. Dave, if someone were to tell you he was a white supremacist, would you or would you not (justifiably) assume he’s a bigot? Intolerant? Ignorant?

    So it goes with the label which you pin on your own chest.

    If that’s what you associate with the label “Christian,” then that’s what you associate.  I can certainly understand it (and, depending on your experiences with Christians, may indeed be “justifiable”), even though I don’t think it’s applicable in all cases of “Christian,” and doesn’t reflect what I consider to be core Christian teaching.

    Or, put another way, I don’t know any exceptions to “white supremicist” who are not bigoted and intolerant (and arguably ignorant).  I know exceptions to “Christian” to the stereotype reflected in the Ted Haggards and Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells, etc.

    An icon of popular mythology commonly referred to as Jesus Christ said: He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

    Dave, when you label yourself a christian, you aren’t leaving any room to jump to conclusions. You are, according to the central figure of your chosen religion, the enemy of non-christians. If you don’t want to be labeled a bigot, intolerant, ignorant, or as the enemy, don’t label yourself christian.

    See, I’m one of those “bad” Christians who thinks the Bible wasn’t a transcription from God.  A read of that passage (Luke 11) shows it to be fairly incoherent, which either reflects poorly on Jesus or on whomever was writing down what he said (or transliterating it, or inserting what they thought he said, or what he should have said, etc.).

    Further, in context, I can interpret those words as meaning something very different from “Be a Christian or Go to Hell.”  Though they are certainly used that way, out of context, and as clubs, by various Christians.

    So, to you, “Christian” means “bigot, intolerant, ignorant, or the enemy.”  It doesn’t mean that to me (though there are certainly bigoted, intolerant, ignorant Christians).  I can either drop the label, or demonstrate through my words and actions that the label is a generalization that doesn’t hold true in at least some cases, and so should be treated as a stereotype that should be verified before assumed true.

  5. Dave, if someone were to tell you he was a white supremacist, would you or would you not (justifiably) assume he’s a bigot? Intolerant? Ignorant?

      So it goes with the label which you pin on your own chest.

    If that’s what you associate with the label “Christian,” then that’s what you associate.

    That’s what the bible associates with the label “christian,” Dave. And that’s what you associate yourself with when you label yourself a christian. Blaming others for associating you with christianity is incredibly dishonest.

     

    … what I consider to be core Christian teaching.

    What, exactly, do you consider the ‘core christian teaching(s)?’ If you don’t respond to anything else in this post, please answer this question.

     

    I know exceptions to “Christian” to the stereotype reflected in the Ted Haggards and Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells, etc.

    So do I. The fact remains that just because people can cherry pick and/or hammer and twist and bend the bible into something alien to what it actually says doesn’t make christianity any less bigoted, intolerant, hateful, misogynistic, violent, etc., etc. It just makes cherry pickers and wordsmiths people who apply the wrong label to themselves, at best; worse, liars and hypocrites.

     

    See, I’m one of those “bad” Christians who thinks the Bible wasn’t a transcription from God.

    That doesn’t change what’s in the bible, or the fact that christians are going to be associated with the bible when they call themselves christians. If you don’t mind associating yourself with something as contemptible as christianity, and all that comes with it that association, keep it up! grin

    Further, in context, I can interpret those words as meaning something very different from “Be a Christian or Go to Hell.”

    To what end are you going to “interpret” the passage to mean something it doesn’t say? How many central tenets of your religion are you allowed to hack and slide off the butcher’s block before you can no longer be considered a christian?

  6. That’s what the bible associates with the label “christian,” Dave. And that’s what you associate yourself with when you label yourself a christian. Blaming others for associating you with christianity is incredibly dishonest.

    And as I’ve said, I don’t consider the Bible to be the be-all and end-all of my faith or how I see a Christian as requiring.  To some Christians, that would make me not a Christian, to be sure, but it’s not a monolithic belief system, by any means.

    What, exactly, do you consider the ‘core christian teaching(s)?’ If you don’t respond to anything else in this post, please answer this question.

    Matthew 22:36-40: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Luke 10:25-37: On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

    The fact remains that just because people can cherry pick and/or hammer and twist and bend the bible into something alien to what it actually says doesn’t make christianity any less bigoted, intolerant, hateful, misogynistic, violent, etc., etc. It just makes cherry pickers and wordsmiths people who apply the wrong label to themselves, at best; worse, liars and hypocrites.

    So … being a Christian requires one to be a Biblical literalist and believe in the inerrant of Scripture?  And applying one’s judgment to what one believes, rather than simply accepting authority, makes one a liar and hypocrite?

    That doesn’t change what’s in the bible, or the fact that christians are going to be associated with the bible when they call themselves christians. If you don’t mind associating yourself with something as contemptible as christianity, and all that comes with it that association, keep it up!

    Perhaps I am like Lewis Carroll’s Humpty-Dumpty, in that I choose to interpret the term as I mean it to be, but I don’t accept that Christianity means only intolerant bigotry, any more than being an American means only intolerant bigotry, even though our foundational documents tacitly and explicitly accepted racism and there are innermable intolerant bigots amongst the population of Americans.

    That said, I can understand wariness from folks regarding Christians, akin to how one feels when a salesman shows up at the front door full of bonhomie. I especially understand it from folks who are among groups persecuted, disdained, and condemned by Christians and Christian organizations.  All I am suggesting is that shooting first and assuming answers to questions later isn’t the most productive or positive of acts.

    To what end are you going to “interpret” the passage to mean something it doesn’t say?

    To find congruity with what I believe are those core tenets.

    So, in this case, what does it mean to be “for” Jesus.  Does it mean being a strict believer in the Nicene Creed?  Does it mean being baptized? Does it mean voting Republican?  Does it mean adhering to what Jesus identified as the greatest commandments? 

    If the latter, then what does it mean to love God?  Again, is it doctrinal?  Does it mean believing in the Trinity?  Does it mean to be a theist?  Does it mean to “feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless”? 

    How many central tenets of your religion are you allowed to hack and slide off the butcher’s block before you can no longer be considered a christian?

    A fine question, and one I wonder about sometimes.  As I’ve noted, there are quite a number of self-identifying Christians who would consider me non-Christian.  For that matter, there are quite a number of self-identifying Christians who would consider Episcopalians, let along Catholics, non-Christian.

    Ultimately, I’m not that hung up on the labels.  I consider myself Christian, while acknowledging that there are Christians who believe different things than I do.  I don’t expect them to follow all of my beliefs, nor do I expect myself to follow each and every one of theirs. 

    So what do you consider to be the core tenets of Christianity.  That might tell me whether I am properly a Christian in your eyes; if I’m not, so be it.

  7. ***Dave: I’m impressed with your answers.
    Tyler: You are beginning to sound like the bigot in this exchange.
    For background: I no longer consider myself Christian, though I taught the Babble for twenty years and am a ordained priest. I also served a two-year mission in Brasil. Currently I’m a leader in a group of Buddhists.
    Please read my post here of 4/11/09 to see one of my greatest problems with the Christian faith.

  8. And as I’ve said, I don’t consider the Bible to be the be-all and end-all of my faith or how I see a Christian as requiring.

    If the bible is not the be all end all of your faith, why do you call yourself a christian?

     

    To some Christians…

    What difference does it make if other christians, or atheists, or muslims, or jews, see you as a christian, Dave? Shouldn’t you be concerned about whether or not your god thinks you’ve earned the right to call yourself a christian?

     

    What, exactly, do you consider the ‘core christian teaching(s)?’ If you don’t respond to anything else in this post, please answer this question.

    Matthew 22:36-40: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.

    Can you actually be commanded to love someone, Dave? Do you think someone who demands your love is worthy of your love?

    I for one would be curious to see your definition of love.

     

    And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

    Again with being commanded to love someone. Silly Jesus.

    Confucius also uttered this sentiment, long before Jesus was invented. Was Confucius wrong because he didn’t wrap it up in a bunch of wildly contradictory superstitious gibberish?

    Further, if your neighbor is, say, an unrepentant child molester, can you actually love him as you do yourself? I for one am curious as to how that works.

     

    All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Many of the laws and the prophets directly contradict “these two commandments.”

     

    The fact remains that just because people can cherry pick and/or hammer and twist and bend the bible into something alien to what it actually says doesn’t make christianity any less bigoted, intolerant, hateful, misogynistic, violent, etc., etc. It just makes cherry pickers and wordsmiths people who apply the wrong label to themselves, at best; worse, liars and hypocrites.

    So … being a Christian requires one to be a Biblical literalist and believe in the inerrant of Scripture?

    So, the only thing necessary to be a christian is to call one’s self a christian? Really, I want in on this, Dave. I want to know how I can convince both myself and the salesperson at the Porsche dealership that the handful of pennies I have is actually $100,000 so I can buy that 911 Turbo sitting on the showroom floor.

    If you want to disregard 99% of the bible by any means necessary in order to call yourself a christian, keep it up! That doesn’t make you a christian. It just makes you a cherry picker and/or a wordsmith, at best…

     

    And applying one’s judgment to what one believes rather than simply accepting authority makes one a liar and hypocrite?

    No. Pinning a label on one’s self and cherry picking what comes with that label makes one a liar and a hypocrite. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure most people would prefer folks like yourself be liars and hypocrites rather than acting on all the things the bible commands of believers, but you’re still left with being a liar and a hypocrite. The lesser of two evils, if you will.

     

    Perhaps I am like Lewis Carroll’s Humpty-Dumpty, in that I choose to interpret the term as I mean it to be…

    So, you don’t have a problem with being perceived as someone who aligns himself with a patently bigoted, intolerant, misogynistic, violent, etc. etc. religion.

     

    To what end are you going to “interpret” the passage to mean something it doesn’t say?

    To find congruity with what I believe are those core tenets.

    Do you believe in the whole heaven and hell thing? If so, where do you find congruity in eternal torture and “love your neighbor as yourself”?

    If not, why do you call yourself a christian?

     

    So what do you consider to be the core tenets of Christianity.

    The bible.

     

    That might tell me whether I am properly a Christian in your eyes; if I’m not, so be it.

    It’s not others’ eyes you should be concerned about. Of course, the fact that you are belies the idea that you really believe what you’re trying to sell to everyone else.

  9. leguru wrote:

    Tyler: You are beginning to sound like the bigot in this exchange.

    I am indeed intolerant of superstitious thinking, willful ignorance and hypocrisy. If you’re trying to convince me that that’s a bad thing, you’ll have to do much better than that. wink

  10. @Tyler:  an interesting side-effect of the Fundamentalist movement in the early 20th century is that now even atheists think the only way to be a Christian is to worship the bible and regard it as inerrant in all things.  Which of course, leads to the contradictions you’ve mentioned. 

    But I’ve known many Christians who look at the intolerant, nasty parts of the bible and just say; “Yeah, the bible says lots of stuff.  There’s also lessons to learn from history and community.”  I don’t agree with them on all that goddy stuff – and they know it – but I can agree with them on many issues.  If they’re OK with that, so am I.

  11. Tyler:

    Having values means we willfully ignore certain ideas at certain times because we give precedence to others before them. Without values, we are routinely made hypocritical by conflicts.

    You cannot be intolerant of ignorance and hypocrisy, because you are forced to live with at least one of them. Part of being a morally good person is minimizing both, by placing a high value on truth.

    Ultimately, you object that ***Dave is exercising these capacities and still calling himself a Christian. (Probably infinitely) Many sets of values can be applied to the Bible.

    I consider your arguments straw men, as it’s clear that the scope of Christian values goes beyond literal interpretations of the Bible.

    That is because “Christian” values are generally part of a larger set of human values, and Christians are human beings.

  12. @Tyler:  an interesting side-effect of the Fundamentalist movement in the early 20th century is that now even atheists think the only way to be a Christian is to worship the bible and regard it as inerrant in all things.

    Oh, I dunno. A(n) (in)famous 19th century atheist once remarked, “The very word ‘Christianity’ is a misunderstanding—at bottom there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross.”

    Then there’s the fact that a lot of “christians” also think the only way to be a christian is to worship and regard the bible as inerrant in all things.

    Which of course, leads to the contradictions you’ve mentioned.

    The bible leads to the contradictions. Even “christians” realize that. grin

  13. Tyler, you’re showing your ignorance, and you’re kind of being an asshat.

    Even if he’s cherrypicking, how is that different than any Christian organization out there that you think he should distance himself from?  They all interpret the bible, some better than others, some with better logic than others. (and i’m not saying that much in the bible is logical.)

    Being a white supremest by definition means racist.  Being christian by definition means nothing more than “i believe in christ”.

    If he believes that Jesus was the son of god made man, then he’s a christian, whether he thinks the bible is an accurate account of that or not.  Therefore the bible has nothing to do with being Christian.

    I believe evolution, though many people spout off related but erroneous theories (such as the belief that we’ll evolve into energy beings).  Should i denounce natural selection?

    But this is all off topic.  My next post will not digress.

  14. Tyler, I’m having trouble understanding you.  So Nietzsche predates the emergence of fundamentalism.  They were probably even reacting to him, among others.  Ideas often emerge decades or even centuries before they become popular.  I was addressing the popularity, not the emergence, of the idea and its logical ripples.

    And yes, again thanks to the fundamentalists, many Christians now think bibliotry is the only way to be Christian.  My point was that atheists have picked up on that, turning it back against Christians who think no such thing.

    And again yes, the bible leads to contradictions; it is one flagstone on the path to contradiction.  That is why many Christians have gone modern or post-modern.  I give ‘em credit for applying human values, where credit is due.

  15. Back to the original post.

    Why are christians looked at as the bad guy.

    Let me put it in perspective.

    Muslims and Jews (traditionally) think it’s against god to eat pork.  If we were to outlaw bacon wouldn’t you think we’re going a bit too far?  Afterall, it’s not against your religion.

    How would you feel if a Muslim man, or Hasidic Jew were to berate your wife as she were walking down the street, just because she was wearing flipflops (bareing her ankles) and had her hair in a ponytail (a woman’s hair should be kept covered, except for her husband).  She’s just walking down the street, shopping, and they yell at her that she is “unclean” and a “whore”.  Afterall, god tells them that those are sins.

    I know, i know, you think they’ve got it wrong.  Your bible and your preacher/priest tells you that those things are fine in gods eyes.  On top of that, your mother wore flipflops and she was no whore.  So why should their invalid religion have anything to do with you?

    That’s our take on your religion. 

    I don’t believe in god, you think i’m not going to hell because of this.  You’re not going to be the first person to tell me so.  It’s not going to make a difference. Just like telling you not to eat that x-mas ham is not going to make a difference.

    I’ve got two adorable lesbian friends that are completely in love with each other.  They want to express this love in front of their friends and family.  They want to declare before an audience that their souls are joined.  How does it tarnish your marriage for them to do so? (and don’t tell me you’ve never been intrigued by the thought of a three way, which by definition has a gay/lesbian component).

    It’s all about the golden rule… as ***Dave pointed out.  To paraphrase, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    Too often, the religious don’t follow this rule… even while they spout off about how much they spread the love, they look down upon those who don’t follow their book.  You even did as much in your correspondence that sparked the original post. (something about gays liking you even though you think they’re a moral problem)

  16. z wrote:

    Tyler, you’re showing your ignorance, and you’re kind of being an asshat.

    Very convincing argument. And considering the ignorance and asshattery you’re about to lay on me, quite amusing.

     

    Even if he’s cherrypicking, how is that different than any Christian organization out there that you think he should distance himself from?

    It’s not. What does this have to do with anything I’ve said?

     

    They all interpret the bible, some better than others, some with better logic than others. (and i’m not saying that much in the bible is logical.)

    Then what are you saying? You’ll have to help me out here, as, again, I’m not seeing a connection to anything I’ve said.

     

    Being a white supremest by definition means racist.

    And?

     

    Being christian by definition means nothing more than “i believe in christ”.

    That’s your take. I’m not interested on your take. I’m interested in seeing someone who calls himself a christian justify calling himself a christian, which will ideally demonstrate why christians are often seen as the “bad guys.”

    But let’s say a christian said to me, “Being a christian means nothing more than I believe in christ.” Well, what does “I believe in christ” mean, exactly?

     

    If he believes that Jesus was the son of god made man, then he’s a christian, whether he thinks the bible is an accurate account of that or not.

    By that logic, “If he believes that Hitler was a German dictator, then he’s a Nazi, whether he thinks a history book is an accurate account of Hitler’s life or not.”

     

    Therefore the bible has nothing to do with being Christian.

    Then by what authority or standard does one determine who is and is not a christian?

     

    I believe evolution…

    That’s nice. How is this relevant? If you stop believing in evolution, evolution doesn’t go away, because it exists outside of the heads of those who believe it. If you stop believing in a god, well, I imagine even you can put that one together.

     

    Should i denounce natural selection?

    You’re more than welcome to denounce natural selection, but you’re not immune to the consequences that might come with such a denouncement, and one of those consequences, should you choose to announce your position to others, is being perceived as an ignoramus.

  17. DOF wrote:

    Tyler, I’m having trouble understanding you.  So Nietzsche predates the emergence of fundamentalism.

    Did he? By what standard? Oy, we’re really straying here…

     

    I was addressing the popularity, not the emergence, of the idea and its logical ripples.

    The popularity of what idea, exactly?

     

    And yes, again thanks to the fundamentalists, many Christians now think bibliotry is the only way to be Christian.  My point was that atheists have picked up on that, turning it back against Christians who think no such thing.

    I’m not picking up on such a thing.

     

    And again yes, the bible leads to contradictions; it is one flagstone on the path to contradiction.  That is why many Christians have gone modern or post-modern.  I give ‘em credit for applying human values, where credit is due.

    Hitler was an intelligent, well educated man. He was an accomplished artist. He was a despot who was responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people.

    I also give credit where it’s due. I simply don’t stop when the credit starts smelling like shit. grin

  18. z wrote:

    It’s all about the golden rule… as ***Dave pointed out.  To paraphrase, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    What if others don’t want you to do to them what you want others to do to you?

  19. @Tyler: If the bible is not the be all end all of your faith, why do you call yourself a christian?

    Because I think Christianity is more than the Bible?

    What difference does it make if other christians, or atheists, or muslims, or jews, see you as a christian, Dave? Shouldn’t you be concerned about whether or not your god thinks you’ve earned the right to call yourself a christian?

    I note it mainly to point out that there is not unanimity on what it means to be a Christian, even among people who call themselves Christians.

    And it doesn’t worry me whether God thinks I’ve earned the right to call myself a Christian; I am more concerned as to what God thinks of how I’ve lived my life.

    Can you actually be commanded to love someone, Dave?

    I think you can be commanded to act in a loving fashion.  I also believe that habitual behavior can affect emotions over time.  I also think you can consider (since habitual behavior can simply be rote action) whether your actions are driven by love—affection, empathy, desire for the beloved’s happiness and wellness, desire to please the other—or simply to follow the command.

    The command to “love God” means something a bit different from the one to “love your neighbor,” since a relationship with God is a bit different than one with a person.  But I think some elements are the same.

    Do you think someone who demands your love is worthy of your love?

    If demanding it for their own benefit, or as an exercise of their own power, I would not say so.

    Confucius also uttered this sentiment, long before Jesus was invented. Was Confucius wrong because he didn’t wrap it up in a bunch of wildly contradictory superstitious gibberish?

    No.

    Further, if your neighbor is, say, an unrepentant child molester, can you actually love him as you do yourself? I for one am curious as to how that works.

    If it were easy, everyone could do it. 

    To me, loving my neighbor as myself would mean treating them as I would expect to be treated (the Golden Rule, found elsewhere), to care for one’s neighbor (all one’s neighbors), to be kind and helpful as the Good Samaritan was.  To act out of love, not out of hate (or not at at all out of indifference).

    I’ll also suggest, given the context, that the “command” part can be overstated.  Jesus was (in the tale) being addressed by a scholar, in a culture where religion was a matter of Law and Commandments.  Asked about the “greatest” commandments, he framed his answer as commandments.  He might have called them “moral imperatives” or “what God wants from us” or something different.

    Many of the laws and the prophets directly contradict “these two commandments.”

    Wow.  The Bible is filled with contradictions.  That might be why some folks, in trying to derive a relatively coherent moral code from it, “cherry pick” what makes sense.

    So, the only thing necessary to be a christian is to call one’s self a christian? Really, I want in on this, Dave. I want to know how I can convince both myself and the salesperson at the Porsche dealership that the handful of pennies I have is actually $100,000 so I can buy that 911 Turbo sitting on the showroom floor.

    As much as some contending individuals and organizations might beg to differ, there is no universally accepted arbiter of who is or is not a Christian (no membership cards, sadly enough), or what it means to be a Christian, other than the rather broad eponymic “follower of Christ.”  Some say you have to follow the doctrines in the Nicene Creed; others that you have to be baptized; still others that you need merely confess that Jesus is your personal savior; and others that you have to believe every jot and tittle of the Bible.

    So, yes, anyone can call themselves a Christian.  Whether anyone else will believe them is out of their control. 

    If you want to disregard 99% of the bible by any means necessary in order to call yourself a christian, keep it up! That doesn’t make you a christian. It just makes you a cherry picker and/or a wordsmith, at best…

    So you say.

    Pinning a label on one’s self and cherry picking what comes with that label makes one a liar and a hypocrite. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure most people would prefer folks like yourself be liars and hypocrites rather than acting on all the things the bible commands of believers, but you’re still left with being a liar and a hypocrite. The lesser of two evils, if you will.

    I disagree.  But clearly my definition of what constitutes a “real” Christian differs from yours.

    So, you don’t have a problem with being perceived as someone who aligns himself with a patently bigoted, intolerant, misogynistic, violent, etc. etc. religion.

    Actually, I think I do, which is what sort of started this conversation.

    Do you believe in the whole heaven and hell thing? If so, where do you find congruity in eternal torture and “love your neighbor as yourself”?

    If not, why do you call yourself a christian?

     

    As noted earlier, I’m a Universalist, meaning, in short, I don’t believe in “eternal torture.”  While there are (forgive me if I repeat myself) some Christians who would consider me a heretic, or not a real Christian, for that.  On the other hand, there have been (and are) many Christians who believe the same as I do in this. 

    So what do you consider to be the core tenets of Christianity.

    The bible.

    Well, there are certainly some Christians who would agree with you that.  I don’t see how you can do that without, as you say, cherry-picking on some level, but I wouldn’t ordinarily worry about it unless they decided that their cherry-picking were the only legitimate and correct one.

    That might tell me whether I am properly a Christian in your eyes; if I’m not, so be it.

    It’s not others’ eyes you should be concerned about. Of course, the fact that you are belies the idea that you really believe what you’re trying to sell to everyone else.

    To be honest, I’m afraid it’s more of an academic question, a polite question, and a desire to further the conversation based on understanding where you are coming from.  Whether you consider me a “proper Christian” or not doesn’t really worry me (whichever way you decide); that’s up to you.

  20. @Tyler:  I’m referring to “Fundamentalism” as an early 20th century movement that came out of the late 1800’s Niagra bible conference. I mentioned Nietzsche because you quoted him and because the Niagra conference might have been aware of him. And the success, if you call it that, of Fundamentalism has been that they’ve got nearly everyone including many atheists defining Christianity by a literal interpretation of the bible.  As if there were no other way to define it.

  21. @Tyler: I’m interested in seeing someone who calls himself a christian justify calling himself a christian, which will ideally demonstrate why christians are often seen as the “bad guys.”

    Well, as long as you’re not jumping to any conclusions here …

    I’m not here to justify myself to you.  I have been trying to explain myself, but that’s something very different.

    But let’s say a christian said to me, “Being a christian means nothing more than I believe in christ.” Well, what does “I believe in christ” mean, exactly?

    It can mean any number of things, just like “I believe in America” does.  It could involve belief in Christ as the Son of God. It could mean simply believing Christ was an historical figure.  It could get into theological positions regarding salvation and the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It could mean believing that Christ was a great moral teacher, and that elements of his philosophy can be filtered from the supernatural story built up around him.  It could mean believing in Christ as an exemplar, divine or not.  It could mean beleving in interpretation of Christ—the social activist, the miracle-worker, the teacher of law, the one who brought love, the one who brought division, the one who will judge the living and the dead … I don’t think there’s any single “belief in Christ” that would apply to all Christians, or that is given the same emphasis by all Christians.

    Traditional Christian orthodoxy—call it the baseline interpretation, if you like—is that Jesus was the Son of God, both human and divine, part of the Trinity, born as man 2000-odd years ago, teacher of God’s new covenant with mankind, and, through his crucifixion and resurrection, redeemer or savior of humanity. (Though even on that last, rather fundamental item, you can find a lot of disagreement between Christian sects as to *why* the crucifixion served in that fashion.)

    Even if you hold to that baseline, it doesn’t actually do much to inform you on day-to-day activities (unless you’re being crucified yourself).  So folks try to further use portions of Scripture, interpreted with their own reason and experiences and, over time, various strains of tradition. 

    The result is, ultimately, a pretty sloppy mess.  Which may mean that God doesn’t exist, that some force is working against God’s, that orthodoxy wasn’t God’s actual plan, or perhaps something else altogether.

    Hitler was an intelligent, well educated man. He was an accomplished artist. He was a despot who was responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people.

    Godwin!

    @Z: It’s all about the golden rule… as ***Dave pointed out.  To paraphrase, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    What if others don’t want you to do to them what you want others to do to you?

    Then if you wouldn’t want others to do to you what you don’t want them to do to you, you’d respect their wishes and not do it to them.

  22. Dave, the problem is no one can force anyone else to actually love someone. Acting in a loving fashion is not the same as genuine feeling.

    Not to mention, how often do fundies say, “I don’t hate gay people. I love them!”

    With love like that, who needs to be hated?

  23. Then if you wouldn’t want others to do to you what you don’t want them to do to you, you’d respect their wishes and not do it to them.

    Like the masochist who pleaded with the sadist, “Hit me, beat me, kick me!” And the sadist replied, “No!”

  24. Not to mention, how often do fundies say, “I don’t hate gay people. I love them!”

    The Mrs. and I saw Milk over the weekend, and there was a news clip of Anita Bryant saying that very thing.  Ugh.

  25. @Bachelon: Dave, the problem is no one can force anyone else to actually love someone. Acting in a loving fashion is not the same as genuine feeling.

    True, on both counts.  My points (not well-explained) are:

    1.  The path toward love starts with kindness, with compassion.  It starts with action, not some abrupt swelling of perfect emotion.  It starts with recognizing that there is and ought to be a connection with others, and acting on same, “as you would have them do unto you.”

    The opposite of love is not hate.  It’s apathy. 

    And by starting down that path, you open yourself up to a deeper emotional connection—if nothing else, by recognizing the other person, the “neighbor,” and seeing that they are a person not all that dissimilar from you.

    2.  Love is a tough word, as it carries so many meanings.  It can mean (in this context, at least) friendship, respect for the inherent rights and autonomy and worth of others, or even just simple awareness and acknowledgment of them.  The more we break out of the focus on just oneself and the emotions and needs that drive us, and first see, then reach out in recognition toward others, the more we show the love that Jesus was going on about.

    Put another way, what did the Samaritan in the parable feel—and, as importantly, what did he do to demonstrate “neighborly love”?

    3. I think we get too hung up on that that word “command,” hence “force.”  I noted part of the reason that it was couched that way historically.  Certainly the parallels to both the legalistic commands of the Church (and the Church-State intertwining), as well as to personal relationships where someone in power issues demands, gives it an uncomfortable feel.

    All the above, of course, is my opinion only.  People have doubtless been burned at the stake for saying less.

    Not to mention, how often do fundies say, “I don’t hate gay people. I love them!”

    Two things here.  No, three:

    1. Actions speak louder than words.  (To get all icky and biblical, the Samaritan *acts* with mercy and kindess, without any sort of self-righteous proclamation of love for the Jew in question.) 

    2. Too often, people who say things like that seem to be forgetting the admonition to love your neighbor “as yourself.”  Saying “I love gay people, but they’re sick, perverted, evil, and disgusting” seems cognitively dissonant to me.

    3. As I said before, it’s possible to love someone and not agree with everything they do.  It’s even possible to love someone and intervene (by words, or even actions) to help them away from what you see as destructive behavior, and do so out of love.  It’s also possible to be a hateful, control-freak asshole who mouths off about love but instead fears anything different and resents not having dominion over everyone’s lives.  See #1.

  26. Thanks again to everyone. Your comments have been more than helpful.

    Let me add first that many of the things you say are quite true and fill me with shame as they should all Christians. We do not live up to the ideals set before us by Christ (unless, like Tyler, you believe Christ also to have been an intolerant, elitist, hatemonger – in which case I guess, by Tyler’s estimation, we have stepped right up to the old plate!).

    Ted Haggard and many other Christians who have had highly visible and signal failures naturally affect the way the world sees us. They should. In the end, these failures mean that we thought more of our own short term desires than of the glory or the will of the One we call Lord. I also am guilty.

    That is where I must begin. It is probably the one item on my list that addresses the greatest number of your specific comments and concerns. I will hit just one such today and try to proceed from there to ‘love’ tomorrow. If you don’t completely lose patience with me by then, I’ll try some more.

    At base, I believe mankind is ‘fallen’. All of us – and I mean ALL of us, are messed up. It’s the meaning of the Biblical word ‘iniquity’ which refers to a ‘bentness’ in our character rather than to specific actions we have taken – ‘transgressions/trespasses’. Please be patient with me, I believe the proper definition of terms is important.

    Some of you have correctly noted that this notion of ‘falleness’ is central to the divide between us. Some have opined that the view of man as ‘fallen’ is one of the most ‘hateful’ components of Christianity. It is certainly a major difference between Christianity (as I perceive it – thanks ***Dave) and humanism.

    Most humanists seem to believe that if we alleviate ignorance, poverty, et al, humankind can and will rise to the heights. My view of mankind as fallen insists that ignorance, poverty, injustice, et al, are part and parcel with humanity. These are not conditions we can rise above. It’s who we are!

    The only solution is the destruction of humanity. This is the justice of God. The grace of God is in the manner of the destruction. The man that I am must die so that the man I should be, who is more like Christ, can be recreated in His place.  Because the roots of my falleness run deep, the death is long, slow, and sometimes, agonizing. But the fire of destruction that accomplishes it is also the refiner’s fire. 

    One of you told me not to bother saying that I don’t sometimes wonder about things like sexual threesomes. Sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t – anymore. Don’t mistake me. I am not making the vain claim that I am above temptation. But I’m above that one. And some others. Nor am I being self righteous. I know who I am and believe me, the reasons for which God found me unacceptable are all perfectly valid! I am profoundly and humbly grateful for the parts of me that have died. They are better buried. And I have reached that point where I can earnestly and sincerely hope that more death and burial comes sooner rather than later.

    I apologize – I know I’m preaching. It’s who I am I guess. And I’ll try to do less of it in this venue. Anyway, tomorrow I’ll try to proceed from this core point to say something of love and hate. If you all will allow, I will also speak of a few communication problems (I think that’s the greater part of what dof wanted me to learn) between us. I promise that part will be less preachy!

    Lastest – Bachalon, I apologize to you personally that followers of Jesus Christ have allowed false and sterotypical statements about you or your community to stand. I don’t know for what it counts, but I’ll take this forum to say to anyone that visits, no Christian should promote or tolerate the idea that Gay people are synonomous with child molesters (as if heterosexuals didn’t have that sin in their own community) or in any other way, a group which, by default is filled with malicious intent, hatred for society or mankind, etc. I hope I have not stated that in an offensive way. If so, perhaps you can teach me a more proper way to say it. If it is helpful to say the same thing in some other venue, here am I.

    Terry

  27. Reading back through the thread, I saw that I missed this post:

    Patness wrote:

    Tyler:

    Having values means we willfully ignore certain ideas at certain times because we give precedence to others before them. Without values, we are routinely made hypocritical by conflicts.

    You cannot be intolerant of ignorance and hypocrisy, because you are forced to live with at least one of them.

    If you’re going to be so presumptuous as to speak for me, I’ll simply thank you for a not so thought provoking conversation.

     

    I consider your arguments straw men, as it’s clear that the scope of Christian values goes beyond literal interpretations of the Bible.

    That is because “Christian” values are generally part of a larger set of human values, and Christians are human beings.

    Here I’ll simply point out that that’s a straw man version of my arguments, and, once again, thank you for a not so thought provoking conversation, and leave it at that for now. grin

  28. @Terry: Most humanists seem to believe that if we alleviate ignorance, poverty, et al, humankind can and will rise to the heights. My view of mankind as fallen insists that ignorance, poverty, injustice, et al, are part and parcel with humanity. These are not conditions we can rise above. It’s who we are!

    The only solution is the destruction of humanity. This is the justice of God. The grace of God is in the manner of the destruction. The man that I am must die so that the man I should be, who is more like Christ, can be recreated in His place.  Because the roots of my falleness run deep, the death is long, slow, and sometimes, agonizing. But the fire of destruction that accomplishes it is also the refiner’s fire.

    For myself, I don’t think that humanity is perfectible, nor do think we’ve been “unperfected” (fallen).  I think it’s clear, and undisputed by anyone, that we are, in fact, imperfect, and that is our nature. 

    I would agree that ignorance, poverty, etc., are part of the human condition and are unlikely to ever be eliminated.  That does not mean a fatalistic response that we should give up on trying to do so, or that any strides we do make in that direction are of no value to humanity (or God).  Jesus (to frame this in a Christian fashion) made it clear service to others (feeding the poor, clothing the naked, etc.) was service to God.

    Similarly, while I don’t think I (or any individual) is perfectible in this lifetime, either by social program or spiritual one, I think it is the striving toward improvement that’s important, not being able to actually arrive at it.  “A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for?” 

    In that way, I guess I am a Christian Humanist, a rather perilous balancing act between the two positions you outline, Terry.  I don’t believe in the destruction/death of individual or corporate humanity is what God has in mind, as I don’t think humanity, as a creation of God, is something God wants to get rid of.  I do believe there is, clearly, room for improvement in how we express our humanity, and our striving toward that is what I think Christ called on us to do.

  29. DOF wrote:

    @Tyler:  I’m referring to “Fundamentalism” as an early 20th century movement that came out of the late 1800’s Niagra bible conference. I mentioned Nietzsche because you quoted him and because the Niagra conference might have been aware of him. And the success, if you call it that, of Fundamentalism has been that they’ve got nearly everyone including many atheists defining Christianity by a literal interpretation of the bible.  As if there were no other way to define it.

    I appreciate your acumen, DOF, but I’m still failing to see how it’s relevant to anything I’ve said, much less the topic of the thread.

    The thread title states: A Christian asks; “I’m the bad guy?  How did that happen?”

    Am I misunderstanding the question? Is the minister asking how/why christians are perceived as the bad guys? If that’s the case, how can one even begin to answer those questions if the term “christian” cannot be defined?

    Perhaps either you or the minister who asked the question can render the question a coherent one by clearly defining the terms set forth in the question; most importantly, what, exactly, constitutes a christian, and by what authority those parameters are constructed. Only then can the question begin to be answered (or at least discussed) meaningfully.

  30. Most humanists seem to believe that if we alleviate ignorance, poverty, et al, humankind can and will rise to the heights. My view of mankind as fallen insists that ignorance, poverty, injustice, et al, are part and parcel with humanity. These are not conditions we can rise above. It’s who we are!

    And I see that sort of attitude as sort of like not wiping your ass because it’s just going to get shit on it later and you’d still not want to eat off of it.

  31. @Tracy: Am I misunderstanding the question? Is the minister asking how/why christians are perceived as the bad guys? If that’s the case, how can one even begin to answer those questions if the term “christian” cannot be defined?

    For purposes of the question, it’s clear that the term “Christian” refers to “people who are considered Christians by folks who think Christians are bad guys”—DOF’s point being that a degree of that consideration comes from the fundamentalist movement making “Christian” synonymous with Biblical literalist / “Bible-thumper.”  Which, I think, is your definition.

    Now, if you are looking for a different definition of Christian in order to determine whether someone is a bad guy because of that definition, I’m confused, because I’ve tried to argue that there are many definitions of “Christian” other than Biblical literalist and you’ve basically said that’s not Christianity but hypocritical cherry-picking.

  32. Dave,

    To this extent I agree with you – I did not mean to imply that the process of ‘conversion’ is completed in the course of our lifetime here. I have no expectation of being perfected this side of the grave. But, in the striving (here may be one point of disagreement between us – not just my external striving but the striving God works within and upon me) we find present good and ultimate hope.

    Terry

  33. @Terry: But, in the striving (here may be one point of disagreement between us – not just my external striving but the striving God works within and upon me) we find present good and ultimate hope.

    I would not discount God’s work on me or anyone else, though I also believe in general (and this one’s non-Biblical) that God helps those who help themselves.

  34. I’m defining “Christian” in the broadest possible sense, as “anyone who claims to be”.  To me this is a defensible definition because to a non-Christian in a pluralistic culture, the internecine arguments don’t mean a hell of a lot.

    And as I mentioned earlier, the Christians with the most media and political savvy have wound up controlling the brand.  As it happens they are also the most ignorant (or most cynical; I don’t know) and least tolerant.  So goes the brand.

    Just like, for most Westerners, Osama Bin Laden wound up controlling the Muslim brand.  In the mind of the Western non-Muslim, there was no diversity; it’s jihadists all the way down.

  35. Dave wrote:

    @Tyler: I’m interested in seeing someone who calls himself a christian justify calling himself a christian, which will ideally demonstrate why christians are often seen as the “bad guys.”

    Well, as long as you’re not jumping to any conclusions here …

    Meaning?

     

    I’m not here to justify myself to you.

    Okay?

     

    I have been trying to explain myself, but that’s something very different.

    And what are you looking to accomplish by explaining yourself?

     

    But let’s say a christian said to me, “Being a christian means nothing more than I believe in christ.” Well, what does “I believe in christ” mean, exactly?

    It can mean any number of things…

    And which one of those “any number of things” is a valid description of what it means to be a christian, and by what standard is it valid? I ask because if “believing in christ” can mean “any number of things,” and “any number of things” can include something like, “I’m a christian because I like chocolate ice cream,” we’re going to have a hard time making sense of the question in the thread title, and one might be inclined to think that you (and Terry) saw an opportunity to stroke your martyr complex by jumping on a soapbox built of ambiguity and crying foul because people are holding you to your own purported standard, as if we’re all supposed to be psychic and know without asking that you’re actually about as christian as an orange is an apple.

    Hitler was an intelligent, well educated man. He was an accomplished artist. He was a despot who was responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people.

    Godwin!

    If you insist on such inanities…

    A popular fictional icon referred to as Jesus Christ preached love, tolerance, charity… He also preached hate, intolerance, and the eternal torture of unimaginable proportions that will befall most of the human beings that have existed, do exist, and will exist.

    Better?

     

      What if others don’t want you to do to them what you want others to do to you?

    Then if you wouldn’t want others to do to you what you don’t want them to do to you, you’d respect their wishes and not do it to them.

    Ergo, your neighbor doesn’t have any say in the matter. It’s all about you, and what you want and don’t want done to you.

    That’s not morality. That’s narcissism.

  36. Tyler

    You are correct in asserting that believing any particular things (even things exalted as divinity) about Jesus fails to really qualify one as ‘christian’. To get a definition allwould agree on is probably setting the bar pretty high. I doubt you could craft such a definition of an ‘atheist’ agreeable to everyone on this thread. But, I guess I would add that being a christian rather than one who believes certain things about Jesus involves the committment to follow Christ.

    Terry

  37. @Tyler: Meaning?

    My first read was that your ideal was demonstrating that Christians were bad guys; on rereading, it seems that your ideal was demonstrating why they are seen as being bad guys.  My error.

    And what are you looking to accomplish by explaining yourself?

    Um, to discuss the question from the OP based on my own Christianity?  To demonstrate that the blanket assertion that Christians are all intolerant bigots, etc., is a stereotype of limited use?

    And which one of those “any number of things” is a valid description of what it means to be a christian, and by what standard is it valid?

    If you’re looking for the Platonic Ideal of “Christian,” I don’t think there is one.  There is no single official licensing board. Christians don’t agree with what it means or includes or excludes. 

    The dictionary says, “a person who believes in Jesus Christ; adherent of Christianity.”  As you noted, that begs the question more than a bit, but after that there’s not much hard and fast.  Wikipedia lists several varieties and flavors that seem to contradict each other (not many of which seem to include Biblical literalism, but, hey, it’s Wikipedia, who can trust it?).

    I ask because if “believing in christ” can mean “any number of things,” and “any number of things” can include something like, “I’m a christian because I like chocolate ice cream,” …

    If someone wants to claim that (and, even better, if can justify how it fits with “believing in Christ”), then I have no problem with that.  I’d be interested in visiting that particular denomination’s services …

    … we’re going to have a hard time making sense of the question in the thread title,

    I think it’s been answered pretty well by DOF, more than once—and by Terry, for that matter.  Christianity has been associated with bad people doing bad things for too long, the “brand” absconded with by the Falwells and Haggards and Robertsons and the like, such that the fundamentalist, legalistic, and literalist doctrines they profess and the actions driven by those doctrines are how a large number of people outside the Christian community (and someone within it) see that as what Christianity (or the Christian mainstream) means.

    … and one might be inclined to think that you (and Terry) saw an opportunity to stroke your martyr complex by jumping on a soapbox built of ambiguity and crying foul because people are holding you to your own purported standard, as if we’re all supposed to be psychic and know without asking that you’re actually about as christian as an orange is an apple.

    That does seem to be how you are inclined to think. 

    So you’ve decided, by your definition of Christianity, that I’m not Christian.  I suppose I should be grateful, since the definition you have of Christians is not very nice.  On the other hand, Peter Akinola would probably assert I’m not a Christian either, for some of the same reasons, and I’m not sure I want to give him the satisfaction.

    I suppose the question is, if I feel that the label “Christian” applies to me and to others that don’t fit your definition, when is it appropriate for us to give up and call ourselves something else?  If yours is a majority opinion, is that sufficient, or is there any use in our trying to suggest that the majority opinion is incorrect?  Or is that just being hypocritical and/or martyr-like?

    If I suggest that people not jump to conclusions (or at least pause a moment before jumping), is that really suggesting that they all need to be psychic?

    Ergo, your neighbor doesn’t have any say in the matter. It’s all about you, and what you want and don’t want done to you.

    That’s not morality. That’s narcissism.

    Wow.  That’s a novel interpretation of the Golden Rule.  My doing what I believe others want is narcissistic because I’m the one who decided that was the right thing to do.

    I think based on that, any action would be narcissistic, because obviously I do the things I choose to do because I prefer doing them (vs. doing something else, which is why I do them), so it’s all about me.

  38. Terry wrote:

    At base, I believe mankind is ‘fallen’. All of us – and I mean ALL of us, are messed up. It’s the meaning of the Biblical word ‘iniquity’ which refers to a ‘bentness’ in our character rather than to specific actions we have taken – ‘transgressions/trespasses’.

    My view of mankind as fallen insists that ignorance, poverty, injustice, et al, are part and parcel with humanity. These are not conditions we can rise above. It’s who we are!

    The only solution is the destruction of humanity. This is the justice of God. The grace of God is in the manner of the destruction. The man that I am must die so that the man I should be, who is more like Christ, can be recreated in His place.  Because the roots of my falleness run deep, the death is long, slow, and sometimes, agonizing. But the fire of destruction that accomplishes it is also the refiner’s fire.

    Hahahahaha…

    You ask why non-christians think you, as a christian, are the bad guy, like they’re somehow seeing you in a worse light than you, as a christian, see the entirety of humanity?

    Pure comedy gold.

    You already know why christians are seen as the bad guys. You merely saw another opportunity to spew your utterly vile, inhuman, canned insanity and you jumped all over it.

    Disgusting.

  39. Another reason (for Christianity’s reputation), touched on by Eunoia and others, is the question of credibility to claims.  If Christianity does not seem credible to the secular person, then its claims are rather on the presumptuous side.

  40. Dave, I didn’t forget about ya buddy. This site acts quirky for me and I lost the longish post I had typed out to your 04/16/2009 at 08:37 PM post somewhere in transit after hitting submit. It should have appeared at the top of this page. I’ll get it typed up again and combine it with a response to your last.

  41. DOF wrote:

    I’m defining “Christian” in the broadest possible sense, as “anyone who claims to be”.  To me this is a defensible definition because to a non-Christian in a pluralistic culture, the internecine arguments don’t mean a hell of a lot.

    Of course internecine arguments mean a hell of a lot. They mean everything in the context of the question asked in the thread title.

    If it weren’t for the christians who are outspoken about their intolerance in regard to such things as gay rights, women’s rights, human rights and human dignity in general (to say nothing of the almost two thousand years worth of perpetual violence and hate and death and misery carried out under direct commands from two billion people’s favorite imaginary friend, the judeo-christian god), we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    “I’m a christian… how did I get to be the bad guy?” would be as emotionally and intellectually dull and uninteresting a question as “I’m a programmer for Microsoft… how did I get to be the bad guy?”

    On second thought, that’s a bad example. Maybe something like “I’m a Virgo…” or “I’m a vegetarian…” grin

  42. DOF wrote:

    Another reason (for Christianity’s reputation), touched on by Eunoia and others, is the question of credibility to claims.  If Christianity does not seem credible to the secular person, then its claims are rather on the presumptuous side.

    To put it as mildly as it can be put, indeed.

  43. If it weren’t for the christians who are outspoken about their intolerance in regard to such things as gay rights, women’s rights, human rights and human dignity in general (to say nothing of the almost two thousand years worth of perpetual violence and hate and death and misery carried out under direct commands from two billion people’s favorite imaginary friend, the judeo-christian god), we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    Sure.  Christianity™ got a reputation for being the bad guy by being the bad guy.  Not all Christians are like that, of course, but they still wear the brand so they get the reputation.  That point’s been made, several different ways.

    For Christianity™ to be thought ignorant and intolerant isn’t “upside-down”, it just shows people are paying attention.  I’m a little puzzled as to why it seems upside-down, though.  Terry, can you elaborate?  In your view, how should people be seeing Christianity, and why is the perception of ignorance and prejudice, wrong?

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