The Least of These

Christian doctrine actually has a lot to say that is of relevance to the border.

If we are to take seriously the claims that religious teachings and doctrines are of significant to the lives of those who claim adherence to a specific faith group (and I think we should), then it is not unfair to look to those doctrines to see what that religion says about how it expects its adherents to behave. I think that this is no different than assuming that if a person claims to adhere to a specific ideology or philosophy that they ought to be held to the standards they profess to respect.

This observation is not a simplistic hypocrisy trap. Living up to a set of religious or philosophical standards can be challenging, and it is unfair to hold up adherents to a perfection standard. However, it is not unreasonable to point out when major tenets are being ignored.

And, I think one can talk about the philosophical and behavioral implications of religious texts and traditions without getting into questions of divinity or ever the supernatural. All religions assert a moral philosophy of behavior.

Along those lines, the teachings of Christianity, the dominant religious tradition in the US, and far and away the religion of Trump supporters, is crazy clear on how we ought to treat one another and in a way that is extremely relevant to the current humanitarian crisis on the border.

This passage from Matthew 25 keeps rolling round in my head (emphasis mine):

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the [c]holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44 “Then they also will answer [d]Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

But of even more significance is this from Luke 10:

25 And behold, a certain [a]lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?
27 So he answered and said, ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ “
28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Before continuing with the passage from Luke, and the answer to the question “who is my neighbor?” let me reinforce the answer above with the following from Matthew 22:

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

So, here we have the founding figure of Christianity, whose theology asserts he is God, stating that the second most important law, and a constituent element of all the law, is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Now, back to the question of who one’s neighbor is and this selfsame Jesus back from Luke:

30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among [b]thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, [c]when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Compare that to “If Illegal Immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detentions centers, just tell them not to come. All problems solved!” (DJT)

And no conversation of this type can go without noting Luke 6:31

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Oh so golden, that rule.

Taking all of this into account when coupled with the defense of the way we are treating migrants (especially children, surely the very definition of “the least of these”) makes one think of the quote that is attributed to Ghandi about liking Christ, but not being so keen on Christians. (And I am looking straight at you, James Dobson, and you Robert Jeffress, and a host of others).

Please note, I am not saying that all Christians are at fault. But I am saying that I see this president and his policies being supported overwhelmingly by self-identified Evangelical Christians.

It is not unfair to see a significant disjuncture between these rather central teachings of the moral philosophy of Christianity and the behavior of the Trump administration (and, by extension, a lot of its supporters).

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Borders and Immigration, Religion, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. An Interested Party says:

    It was known before Trump came along, but since he has been president, many Evangelicals have shown themselves to be complete hypocrites, from their cynical support of Israel to supporting the mean and nasty policies of this president…these people give Christianity a very bad name…

    ReplyReply
  2. gVOR08 says:

    That’s all New Testament. Aside from shouting “Jayyyysus!” at every opportunity and claiming they’ve accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, Evangelicals don’t seem to take the New Testament very seriously. I don’t recall much in the NT supporting tribalism.

    ReplyReply
  3. Kathy says:

    I’ve read parts of the Old Testament and pretty much nothing of the New(*). From commentary on both, it seems the OT god is your typical capricious bronze-age deity (ask Job), while the NT god is more of an enlightened, benevolent despot type.

    From what I know about the early days of Christianity, the church established the NT god as a standard, but once the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as a state religion, they found the OT deity far more congenial (I often think Rome did not so much Christianize, as Christianity got Romanized).

    And the pattern has held since then. Why is the period of heavy religious influence known as the Dark Ages? How did European peasants and serfs live as compared to nobles and royals? And now what Dr. Taylor has rightfully pointed out.

    But there’s more. As I understand “salvation,” too, it would seem Christians ought to be concerned with helping others avoid an eternity in Hell, not making their lives hell while they reach the real place.

    Now, it’s not as though Christianity is the only religion where the vast portion of its adherents don’t practice what they profess to believe. But given its dominance in the world, through the dominance of Europe, ti is by far the most problematic in this respect.

    Again, consider salvation. Wouldn’t it make the death penalty UN-Christian? You’re ending a persons’s chance at salvation, however heinous their crimes may have been. as for killing others for not converting to Christianity, well, that’s even worse.

    (*) I like telling people the old joke that “I don’t need to read the Bible. I’m already an atheist”

    ReplyReply
  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I’ve had “Matthew 25: 40” up on my truck for a few months (joining Matthew 6: 5-6 which has been there for a while now)

    I’ve recently decided I need to add Proverbs 12:22 (Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight.) to go along with the “Impeach trump” sticker that has been there since about a week after his inauguration.

    And yes, I’m still an atheist.

    ReplyReply
    11
  5. SKI says:

    @Kathy:

    I’ve read parts of the Old Testament and pretty much nothing of the New(*). From commentary on both, it seems the OT god is your typical capricious bronze-age deity (ask Job), while the NT god is more of an enlightened, benevolent despot type.

    With all due respect, this is ignorant, wrong and the basis for lots of antisemitism.

    Vis-à-vis the current discussion, there are 36! different commandments in the Torah regarding treating everyone with dignity and welcoming immigrants and refugees.

    If you don’t have the basic knowledge to understand the context of text, you shouldn’t judge it.

    As an example, here is a thread of threads on the politics that derive from following the God on the Torah and its Commandments: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1060948434302222337.html

    ReplyReply
    2
    3
  6. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy:

    I’ve read parts of the Old Testament and pretty much nothing of the New(*).

    If you want to know more, but don’t want to get too bogged down, I recommend the book God Is Disappointed With You — it’s a short, loving-but-snarky two page chapter for every book of the Bible, hitting all the key points. I was raised without religion, other than a fondness for Jesus Christ Superstar, and this filled in a lot of the background that I had been missing.

    I wish they would do a similar thing with Harry Potter so I could understand Millennials…

    ReplyReply
  7. SKI says:

    @Gustopher: Please don’t do this for Torah and think it will help you understand anything. You won’t/can’t get it that way. We have pages of commentary and discussion and explanation for every sentence. Even the spaces have (multiple) meaning(s).

    Also, please don’t call it the “Old Testament”. For what I hope are obvious reasons, that is fairly pejorative.

    The “short version” of Torah was offered by Hillel:

    One famous account in the Talmud (Shabbat 31a) tells about a gentile who wanted to convert to Judaism. This happened not infrequently, and this individual stated that he would accept Judaism only if a rabbi would teach him the entire Torah while he, the prospective convert, stood on one foot. First he went to Shammai, who, insulted by this ridiculous request, threw him out of the house. The man did not give up and went to Hillel. This gentle sage accepted the challenge, and said:

    “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation of this—go and study it!”

    ReplyReply
  8. Gustopher says:

    @SKI:

    Also, please don’t call it the “Old Testament”. For what I hope are obvious reasons, that is fairly pejorative.

    I’m guessing you don’t call the Quran the “Newer Testament” and the Book Of Mormon the “Newest Testament.”

    “Old Testament” isn’t pejorative, it’s the Christian name, in a society where Christianity is basically the default assumption. Referring to something from a frame of reference isn’t pejorative. If you’re on a train, traveling 30 mph, and someone is walking down the car, it isn’t pejorative to say they are walking at 3 mph.

    If the topic were “Why can’t Trump be a nice Jewish Boy?”, and the frame of reference were Judaism, then referring to the “Old Testament” would would be pejorative.

    ReplyReply
  9. Kathy says:

    @SKI:

    With all due respect, this is ignorant, wrong and the basis for lots of antisemitism.

    The capricious, jealous, cruel god is common in all bronze age mythology. Gods then were partly personifications of natural forces, which were unpredictable, and partly wish-fulfillment actors who’d show favor to pious mortals who obeyed their rules and flattered them with prayers, offerings, and sacrifices.

    Other religions had moral commandments, or guidance, even without a book. Just as a quick example, Zeus is often referred to as Zeus Xenios, in his role as protector of guests. To turn away a stranger seeking hospitality was seen as an affront to the King of the gods himself.

    Now, this carried well into the iron age, and I’d argue to this day. Romans saw defeat as punishment by the gods because they’d turned away from the traditional virtues, thus displeasing the gods. Sound familiar?

    ReplyReply
  10. Jay L Gischer says:

    The words you quote have been my guiding star for the past 50 years. Sometimes it’s been tough, and it was hard to keep to them. But I have no regrets.

    I am mystified how people I know to mostly be very generous and loving people embrace the nastiness of Trump. I think other people have been stoking their resentment. And yeah, you can experience some resentment from following that path.

    ReplyReply
  11. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Kathy: While there’s something in what you say, you miss the point of Job entirely. It is meant as a rebuttal to “bad things happened to you, therefore you are a bad person.” No, says the Book of Job. That’s not how it works.

    ReplyReply
  12. Kathy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Two deities made a wager and one of them won. Some humans were killed, injured and tortured in the process.

    This is little different than Poseidon asking Zeus for revenge on the land of the Phaeacians for lending aid and hospitality to Odysseus.

    How can the protector of guests punish people for being hospitable to a guest? The same way an all-loving god can torture a man to win a bet. Bronze age gods are like that.

    The only difference is the Hebrew god later healed Job and replaced his family and wealth with new ones. But we’re drifting waaaaaaaaaaaaay off-topic here.

    ReplyReply
  13. Lynn says:

    “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”

    If I remember correctly, this article from Christianity Today (which I can no longer access), concludes that the “least of these” actually referred to the disciples. Thus, today’s Christians are off the hook.

    https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/march-web-only/what-you-probably-dont-know-about-least-of-these.html

    ReplyReply
  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lynn: The followers of “Christianity Today” are not followers of Jesus.

    ReplyReply
  15. Slugger says:

    Ashkenazh here; my family has lived in Christendom from the first. With all due respect let me repeat Gandhi, “I like your Jesus; why don’t you Christians follow his teachings?”
    I am grateful to Mr. Trump for unmasking this issue. He did the same for conservative economics, too.

    ReplyReply
  16. DrDaveT says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Christianity Today used to be a fairly liberal publication, at least in Evangelical circles. I haven’t seen a copy in 40 years or so, though, so who knows what it has evolved into.

    ReplyReply
  17. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Kathy:

    You’re absolutely on point. The Romans simply made Jesus the new Apollo, God the Father Zeus, and Mary was a convenient stand in for Athena, Hela, Artemis, and every female Greek deity.

    Pontius Pilate gets the “good sinner” treatment, while the Jews are spat on as blood-traitors who deserved their fate, even though Jesus preached to them, not the Romans.

    I’ve reconciled my atheist tendencies with my Church upbringing by noting that Christianity is much more interesting as a philosophy, rather than a literal religion.

    ReplyReply
  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: Complicating things is that back into the 50s, 60s, and 70s, the National Association of Evangelicals was considered, in Fundamentalist/Separatist circles at least, a “liberal” church group as they accepted Fundamentalism, but not Separatism, whereas for Fundies, the Separatist part was the most important–at least as far as I could tell from the churches my family belonged to in those days. As Mainline Church attendance began to fall in the 80s, Fundamentalists started to recapture the Evangelical imprimateur (partially because Evangelicalism is at least partially a business model and Fundie megachurches were emerging as organizational successes), and the social upheavals of the 60s, 70s, and 80s kept pushing Fundies–and as a consequence Evangelicalism–further to the right.

    It’s been 20 or so years since I subscribed to Christianity Today, but I don’t think I’d have been reading the article Lynn linked to back in those days. Maybe in The Baptist Bulletin, but not in CT.

    ReplyReply
  19. dennis says:

    @SKI:

    SKI, SKI, stop! It’s all b.s. Apart from EVERYTHING else, the fact that Trump is POTUS belies the existence of this “God” everyone talks about. And let’s Let’s not get started on Sandy Hook …

    ReplyReply
  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @DrDaveT: I don’t read any Christian publications, so I’m really fairly ignorant of the various theologies tho I have read a few books on the subject. As an atheist I am able to pick and choose the parts of the Bible I like and ignore the rest. It has enabled me to recognize some of the more blatant displays of hypocrisy that certain Christians proudly display, but leaves me wholly inadequate to argue the intricacies.

    ReplyReply
  21. Lynn says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “The followers of “Christianity Today” are not followers of Jesus”

    That was sorta my point.

    ReplyReply
  22. Lynn says:

    @DrDaveT: ” Christianity Today used to be a fairly liberal publication, at least in Evangelical circles. I haven’t seen a copy in 40 years or so, though, so who knows what it has evolved into.”

    I was surprised by the “least of these” bit. I had always seen the publication as relatively liberal, too.

    ReplyReply
  23. SKI says:

    @Gustopher:

    “Old Testament” isn’t pejorative, it’s the Christian name, in a society where Christianity is basically the default assumption. Referring to something from a frame of reference isn’t pejorative.

    First, as you seem to implicitly acknowledge, yes, it is pejorative from the perspective of someone who is Jewish.

    Second, the assumption that everyone is Christian, especially when you know that not everyone is, is more than a little irritating.

    I was being polite, pointing out something that was offensive to me and asking that it not be repeated. You responded by telling me, in essence, that my perspective didn’t matter and I should just shut up when someone in the majority offends because they shouldn’t be bothered to consider or care about anyone who isn’t the majority. Is that how you really want to treat people?

    ReplyReply
  24. SKI says:

    @Kathy:

    The only difference is the Hebrew god later healed Job and replaced his family and wealth with new ones. But we’re drifting waaaaaaaaaaaaay off-topic here.

    Yeah, you don’t understand The Book of Job. It is not meant as a literal story. “Job is a paradigm (“He never was or existed,” says a talmudic rabbi, “except as an example” [Baba Batra 15a]). and <a href="https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-book-of-job-and-the-paradox-of-suffering/"a warning against theodicy (or it doesn’t – it wouldn’t be a Jewish text without multiple non-superficial reasons and explanations).

    And to answer dennis as well, if you think a people that has faced repeated calamity and disaster for basically forever – an Amalek in every generation – and has an extraordinary reverence and tradition of learning and scholarly work believes that experiencing tragedy is evidence against the existence of G-d, you haven’t given this any actual thought beyond children’s fables.

    We don’t believe in theodicy. We ask about how to deal with <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_Bad_Things_Happen_to_Good_People”>When Bad Things Happen to Good People
    not why they do. We know it is incumbent on each of us to commit to Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) .

    ReplyReply
  25. MarkedMan says:

    @SKI: To be frank, being offended because Christians call it the Old Testament strikes me as simply looking for an excuse to be offended. The term in itself is in no way offensive and if you chose to interpret it as such that’s on you.

    ReplyReply
    3
    1
  26. SKI says:

    @MarkedMan:

    To be frank, being offended because Christians call it the Old Testament strikes me as simply looking for an excuse to be offended. The term in itself is in no way offensive and if you chose to interpret it as such that’s on you.

    To be frank, this comment strikes me as incredibly stupid. Using that term claims that our holy text is old and you have replaced it with something better. How on earth do you not see that that formulation could be offensive?

    Further, the attitudes, as reflected eartlier in this thread, about what emotions and connotations the phrase “Old Testament” means is responsible for countless Jewish death and destruction as it formed a basis for antisemitism.

    See:

    An even deeper problem is the use of the term “Old Testament,” which suggests that the Hebrew Bible is outdated and archaic, like an old shoe or outmoded car that should be discarded.

    This may sound like little more than an issue of semantics, but labels have power and they affect how people perceive things and the extent to which they value them.

    For Jews, what many refer to as the Old Testament is in fact the Only Testament.

    It is the basis of Judaism, the foundational document that defines our faith as well as our relationship with God and our fellow man.

    As former British chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks once pointed out, “One of the most tragic moments in Western civilization came when Christians began distinguishing between what they called ‘the Old Testament God of vengeance’ as opposed to the ‘New Testament God of love.’ This is not a small error. One trembles to think how many Jews lost their lives because of it.”

    Obviously, Christians have the right to believe what they wish about the relevance or applicability of what they refer to as the Old Testament.

    But using that phrase in public discourse, or even in the course of casual conversation, is something that is hurtful to Jews, our beliefs and our tradition.

    There are plenty of other terms, such as Hebrew Bible or Tanach, that can be utilized instead which don’t carry the same derogatory weight, and the use of which could help to improve mutual understanding and respect.

    ReplyReply
  27. A few things:

    1) Yes, I know that many Jews find the term “Old Testament” offensive, and I understand why, although when speaking in the context of the Christian religion, I am not sure, linguistically, the best way to differentiate (as I recall, even “The Torah” does not encompass the texts Christians mean by “Old Testament.”

    But since I think that Jews have such profound disagreements with Christians about a host of things, it always seems to me that a fight over the phrase “Old Testament” is beside the point (although, I suppose, it embodies some of the core differences).

    2) In re: Job–I will note that from a Christian POV, especially an Evangelical/fundamentalist one that claims that the texts of the Bible are all literal and inerrant, it is a pretty horrible tale (IMO).

    I will say this: we are not going to resolve, nor should we engage in, a fight between a Jew, several atheists, and a Christian or two (of perhaps varying levels of adherence).

    I did not raise this issue to start a theological war, nor to just give a reason to point and laugh at Christians for being hypocrites. I am trying to make a plea to the supposed ideals of millions of people, in the hope that at least some of them will take stock of the disjuncture between those ideals and the policies they are supporting.

    ReplyReply
  28. Let me point out one more thing, in the name of western liberal tolerance: the point of the post, and an issue I think we are in agreement concerning, is that the current policies of this administration on the border are morally abhorrent.

    What different faith traditions call certain texts is not the issue nor is the value/lessons of Job nor any of the other theological sidetracks.

    I think we can, hopefully, agree that we all have different personal religious views which we can mutually respect even if we are not going to ultimately agree.

    ReplyReply
  29. MarkedMan says:

    @SKI: I read your reply and stand by my comment. We will just have to disagree on this.

    ReplyReply
  30. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Well said and I’ll refrain from engaging on this point any further

    ReplyReply
  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lynn: Belaboring the obvious is kind of my stock in trade. 😉

    ReplyReply
  32. @OzarkHillbilly:

    As an atheist I am able to pick and choose the parts of the Bible I like and ignore the rest

    100% that describes any Christian I have ever known. 😉

    ReplyReply
  33. Kathy says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    You’re absolutely on point. The Romans simply made Jesus the new Apollo, God the Father Zeus, and Mary was a convenient stand in for Athena, Hela, Artemis, and every female Greek deity.

    Kind of. But Christianity also offered a different form of polytheism, what with having a kind of triple god, their mother, and the saints. That’s one way by which Christianity became more Roman. then it co opted various traditional pagan festivals and rituals, like how the winter solstice and the vernal equinox became Christmas and Easter.

    ReplyReply
  34. Kathy says:

    @SKI:

    Yeah, you don’t understand The Book of Job.

    Given the number of interpretations, many of which exclude many others, I dare say no one does. Unless there’s no deeper meaning, and we just have a snapshot of the kind of poetry popular among the Hebrews in the first millennium BCE.

    ReplyReply
  35. mattbernius says:

    Steven (et al),

    If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend this article published yesterday in the Atlantic, which looks at the links between Trump and white evangelicalism. It nicely ties the themes of this article and your “cruelty is the point” article together.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/07/evangelical-christians-face-deepening-crisis/593353/

    ReplyReply
  36. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy:

    we just have a snapshot of the kind of poetry popular among the Hebrews in the first millennium BCE

    I think we greatly underestimate the difficulty in understanding the folk tales of another culture. Two examples come to mind:

    We have wonderful fairy tales that always have some kind of moral. However, if you read translations of the the original stories these were based on, they were frequently macabre and cruel and horrific and didn’t seem to offer much in the way of wisdom beyond “Don’t wander into the woods” or “Tough beans if your parents are wantonly cruel or actual bloodthirsty murderers.”

    Another example: When I was in Ghana one of the tools I used to lear Twi was a set of small readers the local primary school students used to learn English, so they contained the same stories in both languages, in this case Anansi stories. And they seemed strange and bizarre, although the cruelty and horror were gone, if they had ever been there. I couldn’t imagine what lessons children were supposed to learn from them, except perhaps the value of being clever over the value of being big.

    ReplyReply
  37. Teve says:

    @Kathy: I’ve never heard an explanation of the book of Job where religion comes out looking good.

    ReplyReply
  38. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    However, if you read translations of the the original stories these were based on, they were frequently macabre and cruel and horrific and didn’t seem to offer much in the way of wisdom beyond “Don’t wander into the woods” or “Tough beans if your parents are wantonly cruel or actual bloodthirsty murderers.”

    I listened to a telling of the traditional version of Little Red Riding Hood, of all places in a lecture series on the French Revolution. Pretty much (the following is really gross) the wolf kills grandma and impersonates her when the girl arrives, feeds bits of her flesh to the girl, gives her grandma’s blood to drink, then kills the girl and eats her. And that’s it.

    I thought the wolf represented the clergy, with the slices of flesh and the blood representing the host and communion wine, but I can’t say for sure.

    Fairy tales are rather gruesome overall. I’ve always referred to the tale of Hansel & Gretel as “a sweet, innocent story of child abuse and cannibalism.”

    ReplyReply
  39. Gustopher says:

    @SKI:

    I was being polite, pointing out something that was offensive to me and asking that it not be repeated. You responded by telling me, in essence, that my perspective didn’t matter and I should just shut up when someone in the majority offends because they shouldn’t be bothered to consider or care about anyone who isn’t the majority. Is that how you really want to treat people?

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, and don’t appreciate being dragged into it.

    From the Christian, and most popular perspective, the translated and modified Tanakh is called the “Old Testament” — and it’s not offensive from that perspective, it’s just literally older and supplanted by the new character in the fancy sequel. I’ll go with the name that people know.

    Once you get a substantial chunk of American Christians to rename one of their holy books — enough that whatever name you want for it is actually known in the general population — then I might consider adopting it.

    But, until then, unless I’m explicitly referencing the original text, with all of its Yahwehs, or mentioning it in the Jewish perspective, I’ll go with the name that people understand.

    And when someone corrects me, and says that they’re offended, I think they’re just trying to be offended, and, hey, if being offended makes you happy, go for it, but that’s your choice not mine.

    I also generally refer to people who are opposed to abortion as “pro-life.” It’s what they are known as. It’s not entirely accurate, it has some potentially offensive aspects (everyone else is pro-death), but it’s the common term. If you were to correct me, and say that the right term is “forced-pregnancy” or something, I’d treat you just as dismissively — don’t drag me into your word games.

    If we want to play word games, the Old Testament really isn’t the Tenakh — it’s a new, translated work (or set of works, as there are different translations) based on the Tenakh. If you read a lot of literature in translation, and the different translations, you will see how radically different they are.

    Second, the assumption that everyone is Christian, especially when you know that not everyone is, is more than a little irritating.

    I don’t assume that everyone is Christian. I think most people reading an American political blog are American, and I know that most Americans are raised in a Christian tradition. I suspect many Christians would find having one of their holy books referred to as “the Jewish Bible” mildly offensive, and “Tenakh” meaningless.

    But I think the real question is how far must one bend over backwards to avoid offending every random easily offended group. I’m not going to treat your religion with reverence — nor any other religion — but I’ll treat it with respect.

    To me, that means that when discussing your religion, I’ll try to use your religion’s terms for its holy books and other paraphernalia. But, I wasn’t discussing Judaism.

    Also, I will forever claim that Chanukah is a celebration of amazing fuel efficiency, and that it should be incorporated into secular culture.

    ReplyReply
  40. Gustopher says:

    Onto the original topic of the post… there are really two main Christian traditions in the US, which I summarize as “love thy neighbor” and “you’re doing it wrong”.

    The first group tends to ignore sin, and lead by example. The second group focuses on sin, and wants to punish it in the here and now. Both have support in the Biblical stories of Jesus. He wasn’t so “turn the other cheek” about the money-lenders, and he was really pretty petulant towards Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar.

    I have great, profound respect for the “love thy neighbor” camp. Even when they fail, they generally do good. These are the people who are leaving food and water along the border.

    The other camp, the folks who believe the main message of Jesus was “you’re doing it wrong”, can slip into cruelty. I wish I didn’t understand these people as well as I do.

    Judas seemed to be pretty firmly on the side of “you’re doing it wrong” in the musical, for what that’s worth (the gospel according to Andrew Lloyd Weber).

    Most of the arguments about Christians being hypocritical are just people on the outside completely missing the “you’re doing it wrong” Jesus.

    ReplyReply
  41. DrDaveT says:

    @Gustopher:
    I think you’re missing an important doctrinal point about “you’re doing it wrong” , which is that the gospels and the Pauline letters agree that Jesus gets to tell you that you’re doing it wrong, but you do not get to tell each other that you’re doing it wrong. He’s God; you’re not.

    So yes, it really is hypocritical.

    ReplyReply
  42. Scott F. says:

    @mattbernius:

    Thank you for sharing that article from The Atlantic. This quote about evangelical Trump supporters in particular struck me as most relevant:

    “I honestly couldn’t believe the unwavering support they have. And to a person, it was all about ‘the fight.’ There is a very strong sense (I believe justified, you disagree) that he has been wronged. Wronged by Mueller, wronged by the media, wronged by the anti-Trump forces. A passionate belief that he never gets credit for anything.”

    The beliefs described here are ones that only an evangelical can hold, since the beliefs are a matter of faith and not evidence. Which means no amount of evidence will persuade them of their hypocrisy, since to challenge their faith is to attack them personally.

    That Trump’s support from the white evangelicals can’t be shaken now isn’t all that surprising then. I’m still baffled to how he got their support in the first place. There were a lot of other Republicans running in 2016 willing to “own the libs” and most of them would be destroying their credibility the way Trump has.

    ReplyReply
  43. @mattbernius: Thanks for sharing–definitely worth reading.

    ReplyReply

Speak Your Mind

*