Monthly Archives: August 2012

Theocracy Is OK If It’s Promoted By Lesbians

I turned on the TV in my hotel the other night and I had the misfortune of getting PBS, and these miserable, evil human beings, the “Nuns on the Bus”, touring the country telling people they will go to hell if they vote Republican.

Oh, excuse me, that “the Ryan budget is inconsistent with Catholic social teaching”. In other words, Republicans are going to hell. If anybody makes any conservative theological statement about public policy, liberals (including these bitches) go nuts, but if liberals want to suck up to death row murderers in the name of Jesus and demand more welfare, that’s great.

I’m sorry, but I grew up around these people- arrogant, self-righteous, downright cruel people who use their religious beliefs, in which they define themselves as good and people who don’t agree with them as evil, to humiliate and degrade others.

Does evil become good and good evil through the word of Jesus? Liberals commonly think so. Here’s an old story of a nun, a comforter and enabler of murderers, condemning the then governor of California as Satanic. But like the woman says- “Where were you when my son was being murdered?” Where, indeed?

People of this type, as with Shon Hopwood, perceive criminals as being victims primarily. Punishment is seen as cruel and lacking compassion. Ultimately this comes from the idea that since Jesus died so that all sins might be forgiven, all sins are forgiven and judgement and punishment are not appropriate to Christians. Crime is a sort of illness, to be compassionately cured. The idea dates back to early Reformer Johannes Agricola, and while rejected by Luther, has been a strong strain of thought among liberal Christians ever since.

The “Nuns on the Bus” would vigorously dispute the theological authority of anybody other than themselves. They are extremely assured of their own, however. Frankly I have little interest in the self-promotion of a few dried-up, worn-out bull dykes. Like the Pharisees, they teach without authority.

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The Wages of Sin is a Book Deal- The Fortunate Life of Shon Hopwood

Shon Hopwood (see the previous post) has had it pretty good, all in all. He came from a nice family. He was a high school basketball star. After his criminal conviction he lucked into the legal business, and is now a famous guy with a full ride to law school (his second college scholarship!) and a bright future ahead as a criminal and prisoners’ rights lawyer.

Shon is now a Christian, and attributes the good things in his life to “grace”, or the unmerited favor of God. But is it maybe a little more prosaic than that?

The first defining fact of Hopwood’s life is that he is a good basketball player. How good I don’t know, good enough to be a high school star in a small Nebraska town. That’s probably not very good in the greater scheme of things, but in the Midwest this is a very big deal, and it made him a popular, respected and well-liked young man, social capital that would serve him well later. His basketball skill also made him popular in prison, which made his life there a lot easier and greased the skids for him.

Hopwood was good enough to get a scholarship to a small college, where he promptly flunked out. He describes himself as “not going to class” and with academic standards for athletes as low as they are, that was probably all he needed to do. This shows lack of ability to discipline himself and plan for the future, and Shon would probably describe this as “sin”. But just as every good thing that happens to you is not grace, every shortcoming you have is not sin. Inability to function at school does not make you a bad person, it makes you a semi-skilled laborer.

Hopwood then joined the Navy and proceeded to drink himself not into merely a stupor, but into the hospital. Shon would probably again describe this as “sin” and that would be more accurate in this case. Along with inability to plan for the future this shows impulsiveness and addictive behavior, which are real bad news. Back home to Nebraska he went, without any education, job skills or the executive function you would expect of a 13-year-old.

Hopwood’s solution to this problem was bank robbery. When we think of a bank robbery, we think of a nervous man slipping a teller a note and walking away with maybe $1,000. Hopwood had watched too many movies, so he did “takeover” robberies where the robbers yell and threaten the employees and customers and clean out all the tills and the safe. In five robberies he got $200,000, a lot of money. Bank robbery is not a long-term career, but Hopwood was not a long-term planner. He was lucky to get away with a lot of money and lucky not to get shot in the process.

The American love of athletes is not Christian, it is an old pagan thing, historically most obvious in Greek culture. The American love of criminals is partly Christian. Hopwood was a nice boy and a star athlete from a nice family, so the idea he could be reformed made him a very sympathetic character to the community he had recently terrorized. He was thus in prison with a great deal of support back home, something few prisoners have. His athletic skills made him popular with other prisoners, something few prisoners have.

That he got involved in writing appeals is not really surprising. It’s something prisoners do, and Hopwood seems like a guy who is always looking for an angle. He had never shown any ability to organize his behavior in any constructive way, but he could see a payoff that was concrete to him. I’m not sure that I buy that he was some sort of legal prodigy. I think he is intelligent, and sociopathic, and thus legal reasoning made sense to him. The American love of the intelligent, manipulative criminal is not Christian, but seems to stem from social chaos- this was first seen post Civil War by ex-Confederate robbers like the James Gang, and became common again in the Depression. His case, or the case he worked on with Seth Waxman, went all the way and now Hopwood is a celebrity and a cause celebre.

Hopwood would describe all this good luck as “grace”, but I would call it “fortune”. I think fortune can be a good or a bad thing; Boethius thought it was always bad, and that it led men astray. I think Hopwood is being led astray. His repentance is shallow and pro forma. He claims not to remember his robberies. This may or may not be true; I think bad people actually have a way of erasing their bad behavior from their memory, because it’s unpleasant and inconvenient and interferes with their self-image. I think they also claim not to remember things, because they don’t want to talk about them. Under pressure, he made a half-hearted effort to contact his victims that amounted to nothing. He sees himself, and others convicted of crimes, primarily as victims. His focus is on the rights of felons and prisoners; his repentance would be a lot more convincing if he was persuading criminals not to stick guns in people’s’ faces, rather than helping them avoid the consequences when they do.

People supporting Hopwood would sternly remind me that I can’t know his true heart and I should not judge him. Maybe not, but I have a passable familiarity with human nature. Like many people who have done bad things, Hopwood seems to regard Christianity as a get-out-of-jail-free card; a way to say, “I used to be like that, but I’m not any more.” Hopwood does not seem to be impulsive and anti-social any more, but he is certainly as solipsistic as the guy who walked into the bank.

It’s a commonplace among evangelical Christians that forgiveness is costly; repentance should be costly as well, or it doesn’t mean anything. Repenting from sin means giving up a strong attachment, something not easily done. Frankly I don’t see Hopwood ever seriously reflecting on the harm he has done to others, because he is in a social system, called “Christianity” but not necessarily Biblically adherent, which makes forgiveness virtually costless. Shon Hopwood has gained the whole legal world, and the whole evangelical/liberal Christian world, but has he lost his soul?

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Is Unconditional Forgiveness the Answer?

Randy Weaver was a big story in the 90’s- he was wanted by the government for selling illegal guns, and was tracked down and subjected to a standoff in which several people were killed, including his unarmed wife by a government sniper. He was defended at trial by superstar criminal defense lawyer Gerry Spence and aquitted. He has since been mostly forgotten.

His daughter Sara Weaver witnessed the shooting of her mother and understandably was traumatized by this. In a 20th anniversary story she tells of forgiving the government sniper who shot her mother. Is unconditional forgiveness- that is, made without any apology or repentance by the wrongdoer- the key to overcoming past hurts? More importantly, is it the right thing to do?

In general, Christians believe that unconditional forgiveness is required for all sins committed against a person. Any ongoing sadness, grief or other psychological pain is thought to come from the failure to forgive. Jesus says any, repeat, any, sin can be forgiven, except the failure to forgive.

The trouble with this is it results in a reductio ad absurdum. The wrongdoer can easily receive forgiveness, simply by confessing and asking for it, and is motivated to do so my feelings of guilt and shame. His sincerity is rarely questioned and he is not required to engage in any kind of penance or provide any compensation. The victim is required to release any demand for justice and not hold the offense against the wrongdoer. The offense can be heinous, and extremely harmful and destructive to the victim, but this does not seem to matter. The wrongdoer can kill the victim, and if the victim does not forgive the offender in the interval between the time the injury was inflicted and their death- as per Maria Goretti– they will go to hell.

(Speaking of which, why is Maria Goretti a saint for doing something she was simply required to do by the plain words of Jesus?)

There is good reason to believe by close reading of the Bible this is not the case, but this is what most Christians believe.

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Crime Pays! Praise Jesus!

Here is a guy with an inspiring story– Shon Hopwood turned a brief career as a bank robber into success as a jailhouse lawyer, praise for his skills from top lawyers and the New York Times, an outpouring of sympathy from his hometown including a pretty girl who married him, and a full scholarship to go to law school from the Gates Foundation.

But the most important aspect of this story is that Shon Hopwood has found Jesus. And if Jesus forgives you for your sins, well, who is anyone else to hold them against you? After having been criticized for not apologizing to his victims, he made some pro forma attempt to contact them. He never mentions what he said or would have said. But who cares? He was a popular local boy, an athlete, and most of the town rallied behind him. Beyond the people in whose faces he stuck guns, the people he persuaded to get involved in crime with him have been terribly harmed, but he expresses no remorse for that at all.

Bad people use Jesus as a get-out-of-jail-free card. The forgiveness unconditionally offered in the Bible erases any kind of responsibility or culpability for how their behavior affects other people. Hopwood seems to feel that he, and the people he was in prison with, have been treated terribly unfairly and suffered unfairly. He is determined to use his legal skills to help other convicts avoid punishment for their crimes. There is a serious lack of reflection on the part of Hopwood and the religious people associated with him. For Hopwood it’s all about himhis life, his mistakes, his suffering, his struggle with God, his salvation through Jesus.

I could take Hopwood’s story a little more seriously if he was working in some humble job suited for a college dropout with a felony record- maybe being a janitor, dishwasher or maybe a cook. But like Chico Escuela and baseball, bank robbery has bin berry, berry good to Shon Hopwood. He has fame, a book, a pretty wife and two kids, and a full scholarship- given it’s from the Gates Foundation it probably covers living expenses as well as educational expenses. All because he robbed five banks and got away with $200,000.

Hopwood is now a well-respected member of his local church.

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My Politics Blog- “Deconstructing Leftism”

I have been writing a politics blog for some time, Deconstructing Leftism. I don’t want to write about the two subjects on the same blog, since most people will be interested in one and not the other. I had thought about not mentioning it here, but in the environment I come from leftist politics and leftist Christianity are inseparable.

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Welcome to “A Cry In The Dark”

Welcome to “A Cry In The Dark”. My intention is to write about my search for the truth about God, good and evil, right and wrong, through Christianity. I hope to start some kind of a dialogue about these things, on a deeper and more serious level than you find most places.

 

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