Monthly Archives: November 2012

Another home run at “A Cry For Justice”. Manipulative, sociopathic people are very good at manipulating naive people and typically eat church people alive.

A Cry For Justice

We talk a lot on this blog about the many strengths of victims of abuse, and how victims creatively resist abuse. One of the ways we can increase our strengths and be even better at resisting abuse is to be aware of our vulnerabilities. As we work to overcome our vulnerabilities, we make it more difficult for abusers to exploit us.  George Simon Jr. in his book In Sheep’s Clothing *affiliate link (pages 140-41)  lists the vulnerabilities that abusers commonly exploit in their victims: naivete, over-conscientiousness, low self-confidence, over-intellectualization and emotional dependency.  

It strikes me that these are the very vulnerabilities that conservative Christianity can inadvertently (?) impart to many of its followers and perhaps most particularly to females.

Naivete. Cotton-wooled in conservative church-going culture, many Christians are naive. They aren’t street wise, they’re unable to recognize and deal with evil people because they’ve been taught to think the best…

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Bible Interpretation and Instruction From the Verse

R.C. Sproul, in a piece published at The Resurgence talks about the importance of carefully interpreting verses pulled from the Bible and used as instruction or wisdom, and the hazard involved in doing this.

In my view it is a serious mistake to pull verses from the Bible, or even short passages and try to use them. Selective quoting is something most Christians seem to do, and a cause of all kinds of mistakes and problems. To me it seems the Bible has to be read and understood holistically- verses and passages don’t stand alone, books barely stand alone, the Testaments don’t even stand alone, everything has to be understood as part of the whole.

Christians, particularly liberal Christians, tend to dismiss the law, but the New Testament makes no sense without the law. If the whole New Testament can’t be understood without the Old Testament, a verse or passage is much more dangerous out of context.

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Jesus Is Coming

http://www.esvbible.org/search/Revelation%2B22/

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Total Depravity- the Gateway to Universalism?

A fundamental doctrine of Christianity is original sin, that all people have the inborn nature to commit sin, will commit sin and must get forgiveness from God for sins committed. No one can claim to have committed no sins.

Catholics and Jews believe in atoning for sins, that is doing something to correct the wrong done. They also both believe that atonement for sins will occur after death. Jews believe those who are not completely righteous but not seriously evil will spend some time in hell, while Catholics believe this will occur in a place separate from hell, called purgatory.

The demand or request for money from believers by the Catholic Church created a great deal of resentment, which in part led to the Reformation. Luther said salvation came only by faith, not by any action of the believer. Calvin went farther, to say that all humans were totally depraved, that is to say that no action or even faith made it possible for a person to be saved, but only by the election of God does salvation occur. One who believes in Jesus is saved, and one who does not is not, regardless of anything else or any other action or behavior.

With this view of original sin, each person has simply through their sin nature a debt to God that cannot be settled by any charity or piety. It is simply forgiven by God. The grimness of Calvinism comes from the total helplessness of the individual before God and his complete dependence on God’s mercy.

We think of Calvinism as being a conservative type of belief, insisting on a high standard of behavior, not as useful for achieving salvation but out of gratitude towards God and as a matter of honor and respect. On the other hand, a lot of theological liberals are Calvinist. Where does the contradiction come in?

The thing about total depravity- the idea that all human beings are deeply sinful, which is shared by most Christians even if they are not Calvinists- is that it makes all human beings equally evil. The parable of the unforgiving servant is the usual example. A servant owes a king a huge debt which he cannot hope to pay, although he insists he will. The king just forgives the debt. The servant then leaves and runs across a man who owes him a much smaller debt, and demands payment. The king hears of this and reinstates the debt.

The unforgiving servant is said to represent any person who will not forgive any other person anything. Each person via original sin has a huge and undischargeable debt to God. Since this is forgiven, he must then forgive all debts or offenses by others against him, or he will not be forgiven.

This is all wonderful parlor talk but it produces practical problems. Think of the best person you know, and think of Green River killer Gary Ridgway. By this doctrine, they are basically the same. Killing 50 people is bad but compared to original sin it’s nothing. Can Gary Ridgway be judged? No, not by human beings who are no better than him. Must he be forgiven? Yes, because each and every one of us is just as evil as he is. Can Gary Ridgway be saved? By accepting Jesus Christ as his savior, yes, and he need do nothing else. Can any of the 50 or so women he murdered (he sort of lost count) be saved? No, because it is safe to say that if you are working as a street prostitute you aren’t saved, and once they expired with Ridgway’s hands around their throats their judgment was final.

You may accuse me of reductio ad absurdum, but this is what most Christians believe. If this is true, then God is crazy and evil. God is not crazy and evil.

The trouble with Protestant Christians is that they feel the need to completely dispense with the idea that people are judged by their actions, or that obedience to the law is of any value. There is essentially no provision in the New Testament for justice. But the New Testament is meaningless without the Old Testament, which it is meant to fulfill. Most of the law in Numbers and Deuteronomy is eminently practical and necessary. The idea it can be chucked and replaced with good intentions is directly against what Jesus said.

A more holistic view is that yes, all people sin but some sins are more serious than others. Repentance is required for all sins, but repentance is harder the worse the sin. I don’t think Gary Ridgway is sorry he strangled 50 or so hookers, even if he was sad in court. I think he’s sorry he got caught, which is totally different. He could repent murder, but I think he fell in love with this sin pretty quickly and didn’t want to give it up. In Revelations it says murderers and the sexually immoral will be outside the city walls.

The moral nihilism represented by liberal interpretations is not biblical, not scriptural, and not holy.

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If God Is the Truth, How Can the Truth Be Bad?

On a website called the Resurgence, where topics of interest to Christians are discussed, comes a post stating that science is in no way opposed to religion. Science is the pursuit of the truth, God is truth, so in the end there can be no conflict between these two.

I have recently been excoriated by a man widely recognized as a good Christian as both stupid and a racist for what I have written. To admit to being a “racist” is an extraordinarily dangerous thing so I don’t think I will go there. I am definitely not stupid though. I have been taught that there are no differences between the races, or if they are they are all traceable to white evil; which is to say that whites are different from other races in being uniquely evil, which is to say there are differences between the races, which is self-contradictory. OK, so there are no differences between the races except that white people are uniquely bad. Whatever.

But my personal experience and the empirical evidence have shown me something different- that there are real differences between the races, some trivial, some not so trivial, and some of great import, such as intelligence and inclination to violence. If I have to make a choice between believing the truth and believing in God- something I was told at an early age, and believed for many years- I’ll take the truth. But God is truth, so there is no contradiction and no need to choose.

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Horror, Life and Death

PJ Media blogger Spengler recently posted a piece on horror and its role in war and politics. The Nazis, he relates, tried to horrify us but did not succeed. We were defeated by the Communists in part by the horror we caused. The Moslems have horrified us, and thus seriously weakened us. He recounts how horror as a cultural theme has been revived over the years.

My take on this is that while the Germans and Japanese used horror as a weapon against us, we used horror against them right back, paying them back several times over. The American people and their leaders regarded the Nazis and Imperial Japanese as horrifying and thus deserving of being horrified. The leaders of America and many of the American people did not regard communism as horrifying, something obviously not true but that seriously constricted the fight against it.

Horror is indeed disabling. We see pain, death, the destruction of the body by violence and the process of decay- all things depicted in horror movies or Halloween art to induce horror- and we realize they will inevitably happen to us. In horror movies, the monster is defeated, if only temporarily. Halloween is just a few days out of the year, quickly forgotten for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Islamic terrorism aside, horror is a basic and inescapable fact of life, although we avoid thinking about it as much as possible. Modern society keeps death, illness, violence and old age mostly out of sight. I once was required to deal with a dead body, in the process of moving it from a Central American country to the US. I was pretty freaked out by the whole thing, as were the other Americans involved, but the locals were pretty much like, “Yeah, a dead guy.” In poor countries people see others killed more often, and old people age and die at home, so death is more a normal aspect of life. I think this hardens people; they are less vulnerable to horror, but less empathetic for it.

But I’m trying to understand this from a religious stand point, not a political, cultural, or social one. The destruction of life- pain, injury, illness, social rejection and isolation, the loss of the functions of the body and the pleasure they provide, in the end the loss of consciousness itself- is inevitable. There are degrees of this, but even the richest, most powerful, most famous and acclaimed must experience it.

A doctor, Sherwin Nuland, wrote a book called “How We Die”. The upshot is dying peacefully in your sleep is pretty much a myth. You die, fundamentally, because you can’t breathe any more, and people struggle to breathe as long as they can. The exception to this would be instantaneous and unanticipated death by a massive heart attack or stroke or accident or homicide.

So the best way to live and die would be to be rich and beautiful, not get too old and die instantly and without foreknowledge of the event. Assuming, of course, there is no punishment in an afterlife. In any case though death and the loss of everything is unavoidable, and the human mind has difficulty with that.

If you are an atheist, you might think that ideas of heaven and hell originated because people thought death as like sleep. When you are asleep you aren’t completely unaware, but can either have a happy and pleasant awareness, if you have good dreams, or a frightening awareness, if you have bad dreams. People might then perceive of an afterlife which might be happy and peaceful or might be tormented.

Epicurus said we should not fear death because rather than having any kind of consciousness, we would simply not exist any more. “While we exist, death is not. While death exists, we are not.” But even the possibility of nullity is fearful to most.

Life comes, but then comes death. Death apparently is the victor. How do we defeat death? People try in different ways. Mostly by pleasure, many by their accomplishments, some by their good works, many by having children who will live after them. None of these things are a guarantee. They may last a while, some time after your death, but probably not for long.

For the Hebrews, maintenance of the community and having children was the most important part of maintaining some kind of immortality. To be ejected from the camp or the city, to be childless, to die a condemned criminal were the worst possible fates.

Destruction and regeneration are recurring themes in the Old Testament, although since my knowledge of it is pretty limited I can’t give a complete account. But God repeatedly promises that the people will be renewed after some loss. The most graphic example I know of is the field of dry bones in Ezekiel. Dry bones are the most advanced stage of death and decomposition; God’s willingness to resurrect even these show his power, love, and committment.

Jesus suffered all three of these worst fates- to be rejected by his people, to die childless, and to be executed as a criminal. Yet he accepted this fate, and this death, and for this God resurrected him from death, gave him a new body, eternal life, and the highest glory.

Horror is an inevitable part of life and existence. It isn’t something we experience transitorily, but a basic existential fact. Only Jesus and the resurrection and eternal life promised by him offer any hope of overcoming it.

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What Is The Burden?

A pastor and author named Justin Holcomb posts this article about reaching prostitutes with the message of Jesus. As he relates, he has been involved in this for a long time. The girl in the story has suffered ongoing and uncountable episodes of victimization- rape, assault, and psychological coercion and manipulation.

The trouble with this is that for almost all conventional Christians, the primary duty that Kim, the girl has is to forgive each and every one of the men who abused her. The more harsh ones will say she needs to do this now. The more easygoing ones will say, not right now, you can take some time off to heal and get your life together, but you’ll need to get to it in a few years, not only is it an obligation imposed by Jesus it is also part of the healing process.

The primary beneficiaries then of this sort of Christianity are evildoers- they get forgiven of their sins, without even saying they are sorry, making any amends or doing any real repentance. The person who is imposed with the heaviest burden is the victim. To expect, to demand that Kim release all anger, and any demand for justice against these people is to impose an impossible demand.

In Holcomb’s book, he admits to the difficulty of this but still says it is both necessary and desirable. He denies demanding unbibilical forgiveness but then reasserts what I, from my reading of the Bible, is in fact not biblical but more based on New Age and Eastern ideas.

In his book, “Rid of My Disgrace”, Holcomb tells six stories of abuse survivors. In two of these stories, explicit forgiveness of the perpetrator is mentioned; in the other four it is not. I tried to contact Holcomb for an explanation of this; if forgiveness is so vital, how could it be left out in all these cases? But he didn’t answer me.

There is some debate among Christians whether forgiveness is conditional- based on the sincere repentance of the evildoer- or unconditional, given no matter what. The second view is by far the more popular, but I don’t believe it stands up to scrutiny.

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