Certainly Effervescent

That's what I said!

Posts Tagged ‘christianity

Christopher Hitchens Knows Christianity Better Than Some “Christians”

leave a comment »

Via Rod Dreher, we get this gem of an interview blurb:

The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

The interviewer is Marilyn Sewell, a Unitarian Universalist. The interviewee? Christopher Hitchens, famous polemicist and atheist.

I think there’s a lot of people who, when hearing that I no longer identify as an evangelical Christian, presume I’m either an atheist or have found another religion (Catholicism, Orthodox, Islam, Zoroastrianism, whatever). Hardly.

To be honest, I don’t know what I am. I do know that the tradition I have the most experience with is evangelicalism, and that history will forever color my views. I do know that I’ve found evangelicalism hollow, and, I cannot stress this enough, the disappointment is not for lack of trying. I have bona fides like few people I know. Whether you want Vacation Bible School stories, Christian Rock concert stories, or Veggie Tales stories (to my eternal shame, I still own a Bob The Tomato doll that dances and sings when you squeeze the stem): I got loads of ’em. But I went through all that to end up in my mid-twenties feeling utterly bereft of comfort or love from that life. I still have deep affection for those of my friends and family who are still satisfied by their walks of faith, but I have lost all personal fulfillment from it.

I go to all of those lengths to say: Hitchens is absolutely correct in his comment. While I no longer subscribe to that faith, I can still intellectually recognize that there are rules to Christianity, and that those hyper-liberal types like Unitarians are idiots. Rather than grapple with the messy facts of a religious code and how they meet our real-world experiences, Unitarians want to have a nice, neat, conflict-free bundle that they can buy to rid themselves of cognitive garble.

I’m no longer an evangelical, but that does not mean I’m no longer searching. It does not mean that I’m no longer wrestling with what I feel is truth. Liberal (and I mean that in a theological sense) Christians, rather than admitting what I just wrote, instead choose to spout irrational twaddle and crow that they’ve solved the puzzle.


Written by C.S. Stieber

January 27, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Ugandan Pastor Preaching Lies, American Church: Where Are You?

leave a comment »

So, Rick Warren’s wing-man in Uganda, Martin Ssempa, thinks he’s found photographic evidence that’s the debate winner in the Kill The Gays argument in his country. Small problem, though: he’s found photos of poop fetishism, which for those of you who don’t know, is not the same as homosexuality. Ssempa:

“I want to show you from their website. I’ve taken the time to research what homosexuals do in the privacy of their bedroom. It is inhuman, it is animalistic, and it cannot be right. I want to show you these pictures.

I want to say homosexuals eat each other’s poop. Homosexuals stick their hands into their rectum. Homosexuals stick all sorts of deviant sexual things into their rectum. I want to show you this is from their website. So the first picture that I want to show you, you can see this man has just eaten the other person’s poo poo and is rubbing it on his mouth, and I’m going to ask that we print for each of you a photocopy of this story so you get it fully.

Then, of course, they are grabbing each other’s gentials (sic), that is level number one, touching each other, grabbing each other. Then number three, now they are licking each other’s anus and are licking poop. And they call poo poo, chocolate. You see it is a change of words. I want you to see, Sheikh please forgive me but I want these people to see, they say a picture is worth one thousand words. This is a man eating the other person’s poo poo, can you see that one? Please from BBC, I want you to tell them, we know what they do.”

(H/T: Towleroad)

First of all, rarely have I read comments that so clearly demonstrate a man’s ignorance and the power of myth. That Ssempa is treated with respect, that his opinions are given any creedence, is a testament to the ignorance of many Ugandan people (please note that I’m not blaming them for their ignorance, just stating that they are ignorant of the true nature of homosexuality). He went to “their website”?! Maybe he can tell me their email address so I can know how to get in touch with the gays. And he then sees some evil plot in calling “poo poo” “chocolate”? My head is spinning.

But it is all too true that there are millions of people around the world who believe these kinds of kind of stories. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ssempa actually believed that all gay people like to eat solid waste. And the fact that this preposterous myth is used as motivation for violence and discrimination is deeply, deeply, saddening.

What is inexcusable, however, is when people who know better (coughcough Rick Warren cough) are reluctant to rebuke or correct these myths. It is, in fact, deeply patronizing of Western Christian intellectuals to allow this kind of crap to flourish in 3rd world churches. If an American made these comments, he or she would (rightfully) get the Fred Phelps treatment of Robust Condemnation. But if it happens to be said by A Bedraggled Dark Person Who Lives In A Land Without Clean Water, silence reigns.

For the second time today, and in the interest of me doing my small part to help destroy some myths, allow me to quote a Barna Group study. And, may I be clear: this isn’t just for Ugandan Christians. Americans, you too need to pay attention.

After researching and polling the opinions of both homosexual and heterosexual Christians, The Barna Group found that:

“Out of the 20 faith-oriented attributes examined in the Barna study, there were just a few in which there were no significant differences between the heterosexual and homosexual populations. The areas of similarity included the facts that a small minority of people in both groups believe that Satan is real; equivalent percentages of these groups feel they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others who believe differently; similar numbers of people from each group contend that good people can earn their way into Heaven through their goodness; and rates of participation in house churches is about the same for both groups.

People who portray gay adults as godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers are not working with the facts,” declared the best-selling author of numerous books about faith and culture. “A substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life, consider themselves to be Christian, and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ active in their life today.

“It is interesting to see that most homosexuals, who have some history within the Christian Church, have rejected orthodox biblical teachings and principles – but, in many cases, to nearly the same degree that the heterosexual Christian population has rejected those same teachings and principles. Although there are clearly some substantial differences in the religious beliefs and practices of the straight and gay populations, there may be less of a spiritual gap between straights and gays than many Americans would assume.”

(added emphasis)

I know it’s tempting to continue to choose narrative over facts, and I know it’s difficult to change your worldview when presented with new facts, but when people’s rights and lives are on the line, I hope you have the courage to do what’s right: admit your wrong and start educating the people around you.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 27, 2010 at 12:30 am

Why I Love The Barna Group And Why Young People Hate Evangelicals

leave a comment »

I’ve linked to them once or twice, but allow me to clearly state: I love what The Barna Group does. So much so that I’ve created a permanent link roll, which you can find to the right, of several of their studies. For those too lazy to click through, the Barna Group does exhaustive polling of religion, and more specifically the Christian religion, in modern America.

Part of the reason why I enjoy them is because I’m a statistics nerd. I love raw, real, data. In contrast to the hypothesizing and postulating-from-30,000-feet that most people call “discourse”, a well-gathered statistic is near irrefutable.

So while so much of the evangelical leadership is searching for “relevancy” or some other b.s. church management theory, Barna Group is over in the corner, crunching numbers. And those numbers are terrifying to those who are concerned with the future of the American church. Peruse the polls I’ve linked to. Not one of them is encouraging to the future of a healthy evangelical church in the United States. And what is the reason for this decline? Why are Mosaics (people between the ages of roughly 16 and 29) so negative about evangelicals (only 3% of them have positive views)? Allow me to blurb from one of the Barna Group reports:

The study explored twenty specific images related to Christianity, including ten favorable and ten unfavorable perceptions. Among young non-Christians, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative. Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) – representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians.

Interestingly, the study discovered a new image that has steadily grown in prominence over the last decade. Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual.” Overall, 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a “bigger sin” than anything else. Moreover, they claim that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians.

(all emphasis added is mine)

I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to read this. After a decade of youth pastors with soul patches and tattoos, worship bands with DJs and guitar solos, Christian “alternatives” to pop culture, and every other pathetic attempt to re-decorate a moribund movement, someone finally gets it right: young people don’t like you, Evangelical Church, because you’ve been a whiny, selectively compassionate, un-Christ-like group that has tolerated un-Christ-like jerks in your leadership for far too long.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 26, 2010 at 10:09 pm

The Tea Party Movement And The False Promise of Nostalgia

with one comment

The New Yorker has a good-ish piece delving into the details of the Tea Party movement. I say good-ish because, while fair-handed (read: not hysterical or Frank Rich-y), it’s incomplete. Ben McGrath, the author, does a good job of showing the everyday quality of many Tea Partiers. I’ve told plenty of my liberal friends that they mock the “teabaggers” at their peril. People in “flyover” country might not listen to NPR, might avoid foreign films, and might eat fast food, but they do have the Internet. It’s a wrongheaded movement (more on that in a second), but I can tell you that much of the animating force of the Tea Partiers comes from a strong feeling that they are forced to know every detail of the Coasts’ political positions, all the while being ignored, stereotyped, and belittled. It got mocked by later pundits, but Nixon won the presidency with his “silent majority” campaign. In the interest of clarity, allow me to list a few things about the Tea Party:

  1. It’s not a conspiracy of corporate interests. As much as the Left might carp about FreedomWorks and the Koch Corporation, this has legitimate grassroots momentum, and needs to be addressed as such.
  2. They know what you are saying about them. I see this increasingly from the College Town Left and some MSM commentators, behaving like mothers conversing at the weekly play-together for their toddlers. They talk about the Tea Party movement as if it can’t understand the conversation, that they can discuss the ludicrousness of the protests, the hidden racism, blah blah blah, and the “poor widdle Teabaggers” just keep puttering along in ignorance. Bad move. My grandmother, who is slightly more than email-conversant, knows on a daily basis what Rachel Maddow is saying about my grandmother’s politics, and bears the grudge accordingly.
  3. The hoary “no one believes in us” analogy from underdog sports teams applies here. It would take waaaay too long to inspect why the “us against the world” mentality is so potent, so we’ll take it for granted here. As a relative of several Tea Party types (think “Legalize the Constitution” on a bumper sticker on a truck), I can say authoritatively that many of them cherish the opposition. It’s a kind of “if MSNBC-host-hates-me is wrong, I don’t want to be right” position. So, just as a team that’s favored to win must take the underdog team seriously in preparation, so must the rest of the country should address the Tea Party faction seriously. I shall try a little bit of that here, but saying that
  4. The Tea Party movement has misread America and is so conflicted in goals as to render itself impotent.

For example, while every movement is made up of factions, there is some unifying goal that brings them all into a compromise on issues of disagreement. Think social conservatives, foreign policy hawks uniting under anti-Communism. May I humbly ask: what banner would this motley band march under?

As spring passed into summer, the scores at local Tea Party gatherings turned to hundreds, and then thousands, collecting along the way footloose Ron Paul supporters, goldbugs, evangelicals, Atlas Shruggers, militiamen, strict Constitutionalists, swine-flu skeptics, scattered 9/11 “truthers,” neo-“Birchers,” and, of course, “birthers”—those who remained convinced that the President was a Muslim double agent born in Kenya.

Before someone says “less government”, think of how vague that is. Less how? Less regulation of Wall Street (highly doubt that would have much support anywhere)? How about cutting the size of the U.S. military? I just did a 10 minute perusal of the Tea Party sites and saw writings for the following positions: (1) for the increase of freedom-of-religious expression in public, (2) repeal a significant chunk of environmental regulations, (3) low taxes, (4) making government “listen” to the people, (5) constitutional limits on federal government, (6) government enactment of trade tariffs and subsidies for American workers, (7) governmental protection of heterosexual marriage, (8) strong border control. I know they all say “small government”, but there are so many ways that that mandate can be interpreted.

So, in the face of such uncertain motivation, I’m going to posit that the Tea Party movement is driven by a more nebulous (but ultimately more dangerous) emotion of nostalgia. The aforementioned “silent majority” longs for the days when they felt they had input on everything: whether it be music, movies, politics, or business. It doesn’t really matter that some of the times they have nostalgia for never really existed: it’s the idea that America once used to be a place that was predominantly Judeo-Christian (strong emphasis on the “Christian”), culturally unified, and the Land of Opportunity and Freedom is the important thing. The closing lines of the New Yorker piece involve some Tea Partiers singing:

Take it back,
Take our country back.
Our way of life is now under attack.
Draw a line in the sand, so they all understand
And our values stay intact.
Take it back.

And, if you get a chance to discuss it with a Tea Partier, ask them “where is this “back” you refer to? Do you have an era in mind?” And any era they will probably mention (at least this side of the Civil War) will be different than they remember. 1950’s? Go check the top income tax rates and get back to me. 1980’s? But I thought you worried about deficit spending!

And that leads me to my other critique of the Tea Party movement: they’ve misread the country. Another way to describe the Tea Partiers mantra is to say that they are crying for a return to “First Principles”: ideas espoused in the Federalist Papers and Constitution, Founding Fathers as role models, I mean even the name refers to the Revolutionary War. It’s the same call that I have heard from evangelicals and conservatives since I was young. “If we are to go forward as followers of God,” says the pastor, “we must remember [basic principle x] and start following it anew.” The Republicans can regain power by reclaiming [founding idea y] and acting upon it. They can win by being more conservative, not less!” brays the talk-radio host.

I used to believe this, and more importantly, I can still empathize with the intoxicating effects of believing these things. The Ideal World is so close if these things are true- all it takes is a few steps back to something we used to do, and we’re back on track. But it’s a false promise.

Jonah Goldberg said once that he thought many modern conservatives had underestimated the effect the automobile and highway system had left on the traditional way of life. So much of traditional wisdom, Goldberg said, is predicated on difficulty of travel: when it takes 3 days to go 100 miles, families stay closer together, views remain conveniently local, the newspaper decidedly provincial. Put in the Interstate Highway, and mobility nearly destroys all of that. I find this idea perhaps Goldberg’s strongest point I’ve ever heard him make.

If that was done by the car, what exactly is the Internet doing? Whereas if some teen were to question his sexuality in the 1940s, he or she would be quickly, and often brutally, reminded that that was an unacceptable path. Today, one can go on YouTube and see hundreds of videos of fellow gay and lesbian teens living safe and happy lives, and be encouraged. Satellite television has allowed a greater specialization of taste. You liked polka in the 1960s? Tough luck, kid: Dick Clark ain’t putting no accordion on American Band Stand. You like ska today? There are hundreds of sites available to post comments and fanmail.

The point I’m trying to make is that, in some ways because of technology, the effectiveness of First Principles has been fatally crippled. And, as the Patrol Magazine editors put it:

The fight to define evangelicalism in its latter days also operates on the mistaken premise that an imagined theological purity or conformance to a “lost” orthodoxy, rather than an emphasis on ethics, spiritual discipline and mystery, will revive the power of the Christian church. It is astonishing that so many intelligent Christians seem to believe there is a deficit in emphasis on evangelism and scriptural literalism, and that, if the hatches are just battened down on a more solid “worldview,” evangelicalism can resume explaining the universe to new generations of believers. In this respect, evangelicalism’s true believers resemble the faction of the Republican Party that asserts with a straight face that returning to “core principles,” and not a radical restructuring of priorities, will bring waves of Americans back to the right wing.

Going back to the false promise: it’s so intoxicating because of its simplicity, but being simple doesn’t make it true. The unfortunate reality is that (1) we can’t go back, and (2) no one really knows what to go back to. That’s how potent the World Wide Web has been to changing the world. As someone put it once, the current generation of youth is the first in a long time, possibly ever, to possess technology that quickly exceeds their parents’ morality. Unlike our grandparents burning our parents records, my teenage brother knows his way around every firewall and has a facility with technology that boggles my parents’ brains. A return to “first principles” in this case would not only be bull-headed, it would be pathetically useless.

So the Tea Partiers think that the simple Davey-and-Goliath nostalgia they all feel is worthy of fighting for. Too bad so few other people agree with that. Another side effect of the information superhighway is that we can access the unattractive truths of a time period that destroy the myth-y bubble of nostalgia. There once was a time when parents could tell their kids of The Good Old Days, and the kids, with no other data, would believe them. Today: you show me Leave It To Beaver or Lassie, I show you Selma or Roy Cohn.

The sooner the MSM and Left understand that these are honest-but-misguided emotions on the part of the Tea Party crowd, the sooner they can effectively address the arguments and cause the Tea Partiers to do a little soul-searching, something the modern evangelicals and modern Right seem to have too-little of at the moment.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 25, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Presented Without Comment

leave a comment »

Over at the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Pulpit Blog, Mark Barna interviews Bryce Lee, who teaches a course on the benefits of creationism and how Darwinism is flawed. First question:

BARNA: What is your view of science?

LEE: I hated science in school.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 25, 2010 at 6:46 pm

The First Amendment Has Never Been Outcome-Dependent

leave a comment »

Glenn Greenwald has a really good take on this Citizens United campaign finance decision. The direction of my blogging sticks more to the post-evangelical related stuff, so I’ll just quote him:

More specifically, it’s often the case that banning certain kinds of speech would produce good outcomes, and conversely, allowing certain kinds of speech produces bad outcomes (that’s true for, say, White Supremacist or neo-Nazi speech, or speech advocating violence against civilians).  The First Amendment is not and never has been outcome-dependent; the Government is barred from restricting speech — especially political speech — no matter the good results that would result from the restrictions.  That’s the price we pay for having the liberty of free speech.  And even on a utilitarian level, the long-term dangers of allowing the Government to restrict political speech invariably outweigh whatever benefits accrue from such restrictions.

Absolutely. It’s a discussion that I’ve had with several conservative Christians, ones who support “anti-obscenity” laws, and most seem open to my points. For many of them, the most persuasive example is of Canadian pastor Stephen Boissoin. For those who don’t know, he was prosecuted for “hate speech” for writing an anti-homosexual letter to a newspaper.* He was eventually acquitted, but for many Christians in America the entire story is a cautionary tale. I think more Christians are now willing to tolerate profanity in the public square if it allows them to freely express and promote their faith. Just so.


*I can’t stress enough the importance of this story to many evangelicals. I know of many men and women who, while disapproving of homosexuality, would tolerate its open practice but vote for Prop 8s and other anti-gay marriage bills because they fear their loss of freedom of religious expression. You could get quite a few more votes, gays, if you promise the evangelicals that their right to disapprove of your lifestyle would be untouched. Just sayin’…

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 22, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Why Evangelicals Aren’t Talking About The Three Dead At Gitmo

with 4 comments

Apologies all around for the silence. The past two days have been full of near-manic writing frenzies. My resolution for this year was to write 5 spec scripts for various sitcoms and send them to various agencies, and yesterday was pretty fruitful. Suffice it to say, it’s taken about 5 hours for me to quit thinking like Don Glover’s Troy from Community.

And now I’d like to try and overthink on some more serious stuff as a way to detox the brain.

I read this piece by Dahlia Lithwick about Scott Horton’s report on the possible cover up of murders at Gitmo and it struck a chord in me in relation to the Religious Right and their positions being so dissonant with their stated beliefs.

First, let me state: it’s possible that these deaths at Guantanamo weren’t murder. It’s possible that these men weren’t tortured. Read the pieces and come to your own conclusions. For myself, suffice it to say that the only conspiracies I could actually seeing attempted is the kind where government bureaucrats, whether wearing fatigues or suits, attempt to cover-up past mistakes. Of course, since government is woefully incompetent, they fail at these cover-ups and we learn of the error. I don’t even have to go back 24 hours to find an example: a significant chunk of last night’s Daily Show was about John Edwards confessing that he was the father of Rielle Hunter’s child. So if someone tells me that D.C. has been hustling to hide the death of three men they accidentally tortured to death, I won’t discard it like I will the Birthers or Truthers.

Lithwick, in her must-read piece (along with Horton’s must-read report), wrote:

The fact that three Guantanamo prisoners—none of whom had any links to terrorism and two of whom had already been cleared for release—may have been killed there and the deaths covered up, should be front-page news. That brand-new evidence of this possible atrocity from military guards was given only the most cursory investigation by the Obama administration should warrant some kind of blowback. But changing what we allow ourselves to believe about torture would change the way we have reconciled ourselves to torture. Nobody in this country is prepared to do that. So we have opted to ignore it. [emphasis added]

This is unnecessarily broad, but if we can hone the focus, I think this critique is devastating. The fact is that there are plenty of Americans who are aware that we tortured people at Guantanamo. Go to Berkeley, Ann Arbor, Madison, or Boulder and you’ll find plenty of people protesting what President Bush did in the name of The War on Terror. We also know, however, that this group is significantly out-numbered in this country. The people who Lithwick is referring to is not “we” as in all Americans, although it is noble of her to try to not castigate a specific group. I have no such qualms: the people who choose to ignore the reality of our GWoT behavior are the very people who support it- conservatives, and, as is the wont for this blog to point out- evangelicals.

I mean, let’s call things what they are. The Pew Forum did the groundwork, and here’s their findings on the relationship between evangelicalism and support for torture:

So 79% of white evangelicals support torture in some circumstance. I recently wrote that I’m amazed by the evangelical tendency to tolerate behavior that, if it took place in a Third World nation, would be a cause célèbre, but this is utterly astounding, even for me.

In any case, Lithwick’s pointed critique lands home, but let’s be clear where it should land: in the heart of a city like Colorado Springs, my hometown. And I can tell you how this piece will be treated in that town: either (1) they’ll castigate the messenger (“It’s in Harper’s magazine. Harper’s. They’re just a bunch of liberals trying to blame America first.”), (2) They’ll toss in the “ticking bomb” scenario, or, most likely (3) refuse to read the piece for the reason Lithwick states: to reconcile a religious position based on mercy and forgiveness with the hideous deaths of innocent men is an ugly, and, in my opinion, impossible task. Much better to deny that such a task exists, right?

It’s a remarkable situation, but when one realizes that, for most American evangelicals, their faith is as much an act of nostalgia and cultural identity as a salvific act, the dissonance becomes more understandable. While the reality is that the Bible says little in the way of specific policies and socio-economic positions, many American evangelicals have chosen to create their own hybrid of Cross-and-Flag religion, one where America’s Divine Exceptionalism (At Least When GOP Policies Are In Place) is axiomatic. So to them, threats to the US’s safety are not just threats to their political self, but even to their theological self. Now I will be the first to admit that many believers don’t consciously think about it this way, but I would argue that that’s more damning: if you have a religion that is practically a sociological class identifier rather than a path to salvation from eternal damnation, what good’s that “faith”?

Over the past century, the term “existential threat” has gone in-and-out of vogue with the American Right. At various times Hitler, the Soviet Union, illegal drugs, pornography, homosexuality, and Islamic terrorists have all represented deep-seated dangers to the very soul of the nation. Existential threats are powerful motivators: when faced with the choice of existence or non-existence, it often feels that few courses of actions are “too extreme”. So if someone thinks that al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are forces that threaten everything about his or her life, the idea of torture becomes more palatable. The Diminishing Effect Of Impending Doom is why we can watch Jack Bauer do unthinkable things: if a nuke is going to destroy Los Angeles, cutting off someone’s hand with an axe is pretty kosher.

But here’s the rub: Christians shouldn’t have existential threats. As a Christian, your identity is only in Christ. Read the book of Acts, read Paul’s writing about secular leaders. Do you see any legislative activity? Any think tanks? Any policy prescriptions? I didn’t think so. Christians are to be concerned with eternity, and according to their theology, if someone entrusts his salvation to the sacrifice of Christ the earthly body is only a temporary concern. If one is in Christ, there is no earthly threat great enough to destroy you. At least, that’s how the Scriptures, traditions, and worship music have posited it for thousands of years. James Dobson & Co. would beg to differ.

Earlier today, Joe Carter of First Things responded to some of the concern expressed by Andrew Sullivan, among others. To Sullivan’s comment that Carter, as a prominent Christian seems curiously unwilling to contemplate the possibility of the US government torturing a man unto death, Carter responds:

Sullivan also claims to be a Christian. It seems to me that a Christian would want to avoid slandering the good names of many men and women by accusing them of the cover-up of a three murders.

Allow me to list a few of the problems I have with Carter’s post that I am going to set aside at the moment: a presumption of governmental competency that belies his conservative credentials, a reliance on labeling the article as akin to a “conspiracy theory” to provide the majority of his rhetorical push, and a backhanded cheap shot, àpropos of nothing, at the soldier who is the primary source for Horton’s article.

I’ll stick to the fact that we have a vocal member of the evangelical community saying that Christians should be concerned with slander when considering criticizing their government. Newsflash: if someone is making a good-faith comment about a possible wrongdoing by a governmental actor, there ain’t a court in the land that would convict him of slander. Furthermore, what loyalty or debt is owed by a Christian to the United States government? As an American, a man should be thankful and loyal to the state. But Christians? Anything? Any Bible reference used so suggest that Christian men and women need to be sure they do not speak calumny of their government will have to be twisted, mangled, and, well, tortured to prove the speaker’s point.

Carter’s also saying, apparently: “no, the 3 innocent men at Guantanamo weren’t murdered, they committed suicide” and has done little to show that he’s concerned by this. I would love for him to disprove me on this: Carter would be quite effective if he came out and said “even if these men weren’t murdered, it is disturbing to this Christian that my government runs prisons that house men, who, while found guilty of no crimes and after months of hunger strikes, find death as the only escape from their confines.” I’m loathe to present current events in black-white terms since it’s rarely so clear, but I think I’m right here:

Christians need to publicly and privately denounce torture in all its forms. Any other position is one based in something other than the saving nature of Christ’s action on the cross.

The fact that I had to write that, the sheer absurdity of it, is part of the reason why I no longer consider myself conservative or evangelical.

Written by C.S. Stieber

January 22, 2010 at 8:43 pm