How did Jesus come to love guns and hate sex?

jesus-gun

If I were a non-Christian looking from the outside in, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to think that American Christians’ two highest priorities right now are keeping the government from taking away our guns and stopping gay people from getting married. And I don’t think it would be too far-fetched to assume that Jesus sure must love guns and hate sex. But should these really be our priorities as Christians? And if not, how did they rise to the place of prominence they have?

The Arkansas legislature this February passed a law overturning the ban on carrying loaded guns into church. Here’s an excerpt from the text that describes this as an “emergency” measure:

It is found and determined by the General Assembly of the State of Arkansas that personal security is increasingly important; that the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States ensures a person’s right to bear arms; and that this act is immediately necessary because a person should be allowed to carry a firearm in a church that permits the carrying of a firearm for personal security.

Now go ahead and say it: guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Many Christians frame this issue as a debate between the liberals who don’t believe in sin, so they want to regulate everything to death and Christians who understand that gun violence, like all other sin, is an “issue of the heart.” But there’s something else going on here. Let’s say I do go to a “right-to-carry” church. The reason that I’m not going to tense up if Deacon Billy’s pistol falls out of his pocket while he’s passing the offering plate is because good people like Deacon Billy don’t shoot people; bad people do.

If I carry a gun into church, I am embodying a two-fold doctrine of sin: 1) There is no danger that I would be tempted to sin with my gun (like in the heat of an argument over the church budget or a sermon that sounds un-Biblical). 2) There is enough danger from the wickedness “out there” that I should be armed in case the bad people storm our building and start shooting. This two-fold doctrine of sin could be termed the total depravity of everyone else.

While the right-to-carry churches express this doctrine most dramatically, I would say that the total depravity of everyone else is the ideology of suburbia as such. It’s true that the suburbs have changed a lot since white people moved out of the city to get away from the black people. There is a mishmash of reasons why people live there, but the primary appeal of the suburbs remains the same: they’re far away from bad people.

I think the way that Christians give sex priority over every other moral issue is another product of the same suburban ideology. The Bible says what it says, but our ideological needs do influence which teachings get our prioritized focus. Now I do need to say as a former high school teacher that sexual promiscuity is a huge problem. A lot of my former students will earn minimum wage for the rest of their lives because they had kids when they were kids. I cannot express emphatically enough how much I hate the way that capitalism uses sex to sell everything and turns a beautiful sacramental gift of God into a consumer product.

And yet, the attitude within the suburban American church about sex has not been healthy, as attested by the backlash in the female evangelical blogosphere against the idolatry of female virginity and modesty (here, here, here, here, and many more). There is a paranoid hysteria and overemphasis that goes far beyond the legitimate goal of creating a healthy community of worship and hospitality that hasn’t been ravaged by the false intimacies and libidinal typhoons of “hookup culture.”

Searching for a more beautiful Christian vision for human sexuality than the message proclaimed by our miserable market-driven pop culture is a very worthy, commendable cause! Where suburban Christian sexuality goes wrong is when it becomes about protecting our daughters from bad people, which is the message exemplified in events like the suburban churches’ purity balls that fathers attend with their daughters in order to sanctify their virginity pledges.

Here’s why this looks to me like an expression of the total depravity of everyone else. As long as fathers are in charge of their families and their daughters avoid bad people, then we can keep bad seeds out of our households literally. Handguns and purity rings have become the two most important weapons keeping suburban Christians safe from the bad people out there.

These are only two prominent examples of the suburban doctrine of sin. When you believe in the total depravity of everyone else, constantly talking about sin is the litmus test of Christian discipleship and the way that others know you’re “on the right side.” Usually this is not actual confession of your own sin, though confessions of your own sin in a safe, generalized, banter-ish way do help prove that you’re not one of the depraved. More often the suburban discourse of sin involves pontificating about sin as an idea, decrying the wickedness of the world in general, and questioning whether other Christians are really saved based on the frequency with which they talk about sin.

The way that you tell if a church is really “preaching the gospel” or has “Biblical values” is how tough the pastor talks about sin and the wickedness of the world out there. The harsher the sermons are, the safer you feel, because they serve to validate your sense that you live in a world of danger in which handguns and purity rings are hugely important.

I realize this is a caricature, but it’s a caricature with some truth. Certainly, God works to bring deliverance to His people in all kinds of contexts. All of our churches are a mix of spirit and flesh. And yet, I have witnessed so many times the astounding hypocrisy of Christians talking about sin as a means of reassuring themselves that they’re with the “good people” and leveraging themselves against other Christians who focus “too much” on things like hope and love and joy which is dangerously naive at least and possibly indicative that they’re with the bad people.

If there’s one thing we should believe as Christians, it’s that the world is not divided between good and bad people. Whenever Paul hammers us with the wickedness of humanity in Romans, the point is not to validate our judgments about the total depravity of everyone else (which is how many Christians unconsciously appropriate the text). Paul’s purpose is “that every mouth may be silenced” (Romans 3:19) by the realization that “no one will be justified in his own sight” (3:20). Self-justification is the enemy that God is trying to crush. That’s what provokes His wrath, because it makes us far more evil than clumsy rule-breaking.

When everything I do has the purpose of validating my correctness, I become a dangerous, poisonous person capable of ruthless cruelty, even if I master the art of hating other people while technically avoiding every explicit sin that’s listed in the Bible, or being a Pharisee. Pharisees take great pleasure in the practice of subtle contempt, that form of politeness constitutive of the Old South in which every condescending thing you say is wrapped in a saccharin sweetness that cannot be criticized. This form of living is holiness without love. Every Pharisee is a soft-core sociopath, because self-justification destroys our capacity to love others.

James 2:12-13 says, “Speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” That last sentence is the whole gospel summarized in four words. When God’s mercy is able to crush all the sneaky tactics we use to self-justify and make ourselves judges, that’s when we have been saved. People who have been smitten by God’s mercy aren’t oblivious to the reality of sin; they just don’t need to talk about it all the time. They’ve been set free of the need to justify themselves by parading their vigilance against the total depravity of everyone else.

In any case, I don’t care if you’ve got a handgun or a purity ring as long as you understand in your heart that you’re no less a damn sinner than anybody else. You don’t need to go on and on about how worthlessly sinful you (and the rest of humanity) are unless you’re trying to prove something. If you ever tire of the mental exhaustion of maintaining your spiritual gated community that’s safe from all the bad people, I would encourage you to try putting down your gun and purity ring to step outside it just once. Because you just might find Jesus there, eating and drinking with the sinners.

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159 thoughts on “How did Jesus come to love guns and hate sex?

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  6. The Didache condemned abortion. St. Clement of Alexandria did too. St. John Chrysostom called it murder, and so did St. Basil the Great. Christian opposition to abortion is not a phenomenon strictly of the modern world, and the Christian polemics against it do not have their birth in the era of Roe v. Wade or feminism.

    People arguing on the Internet love to talk about logical fallacies, and this should be no exception, since we seem to have the conception and gestation of a pretty good one in these comments. The Southern Baptists have perhaps demonstrated some inconsistency in their publications on abortion. The Roman Catholic church has concerns about liberalism. Some outspoken opponents to abortion are also hyper-patriarchalists. Therefore opposition to abortion is, by and large, hypocritical and has nothing to do with babies or ethics.

    Of course, that this group or that becomes more vocal in a cause, speaks out against it where it had less to say at a prior time, is compelled to examine and articulate its views more closely, due to major changes in society (such as the consequences of Supreme Court precedent on abortion and the changing sexual mores of the culture) that bring the cause to the fore should not be surprising to any reasonable view, nor should it seem hypocritical. And that certain members of a larger group may evince some hypocrisy or other unseemly qualities should not lead anyone to think that the larger group is virtually devoid of genuine principle. As I said in my last comment, I wonder why I even bother in online arguments like this (at least I don’t do it often), except of course that I am pro-life and yet not a misogynist or an uneducated, anti-intellectual, or “power-tripped” man. And my church, the Orthodox Church, which is also opposed to abortion, isn’t misogynistic or hypocritical or anti-intellectual or inconsistent either.

    • With all due respect, Lasseter, you cannot actually oppose women’s access to abortion and not be a ‘misogynist’ (your word, not mine)**. Either you accept that a woman is an independent human being who can make her own moral and medical decisions, or you believe that her choices about her own body must be controlled by secular legislation that, in this case, reflects the doctrines of patriarchal religions. It is perfectly all right for you to have your own opinions about when a foetus ‘becomes human’ and acquires ‘human rights’. That doesn’t make you a ‘misogynist’. However, as soon as you seek to control women’s lives in accordance with your beliefs, which they may not share, you have ceased fully to respect women as autonomous rational humans.

      **I am not really sure how useful it is to throw around terms like ‘misogynist’, since its literal meaning is ‘hatred of women’. I think there are plenty of men who love women dearly and still want to limit and control them, under the pretext that it is for their own, or society’s, good.

      The great tragedy of the “pro-life” movement is the amount of energy that goes into it, rather than into the far more important work of looking after the children who already exist. Imagine the radical changes to the lives of children currently living in poverty globally if they were given the money, time and energy that is put into opposing access to contraception and safe abortions. But coming back to the topic of the original post, collectively obsessing over abortion and those who access it, serves a community-forming purpose, ‘the collective depravity of everyone else’, that actually helping living children and respecting the belief systems of others doesn’t seem to.

  7. Morgan, it wouldn’t let me reply to your comment above: “It is true that teenage pregnancy is higher in the Bible belt than elsewhere. I think there’s a difference between the Catholic view of abortion and the fundamentalist view. The Catholics have always opposed it from the perspective of a consistent ethic of life and protection of the vulnerable that includes fetuses, children, disabled, and old people. Fundamentalists are only pro-life before birth; after babies are born, it’s survival of the fittest.”

    What I meant in my post is that the most vocal opponents of abortion come from groups that even a few decades ago had far less hardline positions. For example, if you look at the Southern Baptism resolutions on abortion (http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/baptist/sbcabres.html), you find that in 1971, they’re willing to accept that it is permissible to terminate a pregnancy under some circumstances. By the 2000s, they’re totally opposed to abortion and what they describe as ‘their former blindness’. They also say that the reason for their shift in biblical interpretation is because of the “sexual revolution”, Wade v Roe, and other moves to empower women (although they don’t put the last part like that). So for these ‘fundamentalists’, the bible changed, sorry, *revealed*, its position in the late 20th century in direct response to the prospect of women being in control of their own bodies.

    Catholics, too, have dramatically shifted their position over the centuries. At some times they have accepted first trimester abortions. The idea that a woman’s life is no more valuable than an unformed foetus is also a modern luxury. In the past, many fewer pregnancies resulted in healthy adults, so it would have been crazy to protect the contents of the womb at the expense of a valuable human such as a woman who could bear children. Catholicism was profoundly influenced by an intense fear of liberalism in the 19th century – hence the sudden decision that popes could be infallible in 1871 – and feminism since the 1960s. Its current hardline position on abortion, where even a foetus acknowledged to be medically unviable matters more than a living woman with other children to care for (high profile recent cases in Ireland and El Salvador), is a specific assault on women’s rights.

    All this makes it pretty clear that the stance of these churches about abortion is not really about either babies or ethics – unless restricting the lives of women and punishing them for sexual activity (whether consensual or not) that results in an unwanted pregnancy is an ‘ethic’. Which I suppose in some warped way it is for the people who think that whichever god they believe in (this view is obviously not restricted to Christianity) meant women to be nothing more than the ‘helpers’ of men. Also, as you say, the child that results from a forced pregnancy is of no interest to these people: it is the simple pleasure of forcing a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term that interests them. This is about power. And so it’s important to question why people choose to believe these things – what power trip it gives the men, who are probably at the bottom of the social/intellectual pile in terms of the rest of society; what strange satisfactions it gives the women who have internalized patriarchal ideas about their own inferiority and can then use them to make themselves feel morally superior to all the sinful over-educated women who want gender equality.

  8. Ben,
    “For example, the government saying that voicing criticism or opposition to one political party or another is illegal would be an example. Maybe that’s a bad example since the Obama administration (and some D senators) did that recently.”

    If you are referring to HR 347, this bill simply prevents protesters from tresspassing on government property. It also secures the safety of our President and other goverment officials. How is that curtailing free speech?

    “Perhaps a better example would be if the government went after religious liberty and said you were not free to worship as you wanted, but forced you to act against your conscience … well … dang… that’s not a good example either cause the Obama administration did that too.”

    He may have gone a little bit far with mandating giving birth control by religious organizions. However he HAS NOT EVER tried to keep people from worshipping as they want. Heck, if Fred Phelps can preach his gospel of hate that is a pretty good example that religious freedom is alive and well in this country. Where do you get your news, from WND? FOX? They are not a reliable source of news. I stopped going to WND when they claimed that some flies that were buzzing around Obama’s face was “proof” that he is the Antichrist! FOX news have strong ties to WND.

    These people want to scare everyone into voting Republican. They will tell lies if they have to. Politics is a dirty business, on both sides. That means for me that I try to look at all sides to see if I can get at the truth, if possible. There is absolutely no evidence that Obama is trying to take away our freedoms. Mistakes have been made in this administration, but mistakes happen in all administrations. That in itself should not be a huge concern to the point of believing that we are on the verge of anarchy.

    • One more thing. Obama IS NOT trying to take our guns away. Having better back-ground checks and eliminating semi-automatics is the same thing as banning them altogether. It seems like you are using the “slippery slope” argument here.

      • He tried to take away AR15 semi-automatic rifles and standard capacity magazines. Some of the proposed legislation even went so far as to remove people’s 2nd amendment rights without due process (saying if you had ever even been checked for mental illness, this was sufficient cause for denying you the right to own a gun). Some of the proposed legislation this year actually did confiscate weapons by making it illegal to transfer certain kinds of weapons to anyone else, and making them property of the government when you die (delayed confiscation, basically). The government’s own report said registration would be useless without confiscation.

        If you look at the UK, Canada, and Australia – all countries where registration was implemented, in every case this was soon followed by using that registration list to confiscate weapons. It isn’t a slippery slope argument when you have evidence that shows that in 100% of the cases where registration has been implemented, it has lead to confiscation.

        http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/05/pro-gun_advocates_angry_over_n.html#incart_m-rpt-1

        The vast majority of weapons sold in the USA are semi-automatic. Banning semi-automatic guns would ban the vast majority of guns in the USA. I hope you realize what semi-automatic means – it means you pull the trigger one time, and one bullet is fired, no matter how long you hold down the trigger. To fire another bullet, you have to release the trigger and let the gun reset. Semi-automatic means one bullet for each time you pull the trigger. Fully automatic – the kind of weapons the military uses (the military doesn’t use semi-automatic rifles) you hold the trigger down and it fires bullets until the magazine is empty. Civilians have not been able to buy fully automatic weapons since the 1930’s. The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle and is not used by any military on earth. An AR-15 can fire up to 90 rounds per minute, whereas a fully automatic Military Assault Rifle like the M4 can fire almost 1000 rounds per minute. The AR in AR-15 does not stand for “assault rifle” but for “Arma-Lite” the company that first designed the style and look of modern rifles.

    • Mary, as to voicing criticism, one only has to look to the IRS going after Tea Party, Jewish, and conservative groups during the last election, or to the story of Tanya Dixon-Neely, a teacher from NC who was suspended for telling a student he would be arrested for insulting Obama.

      As to religious persecution, see: http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=106938

      I am not a republican, Mary. In fact, I don’t see much in the way of differences between Republicans and Democrats. Both have been swallowed up by big government progressivism – which really isn’t moving “forward” at all… it’s moving backward, toward communism and socialism which have failed everywhere it’s ever been tried. There are many big government progressive republicans – John McCain and Lindsey Graham for example.

      We are not on the verge of anarchy (no government control) – quite the opposite – we are on the verge of tyranny (total government control over every aspect of our lives).

      • Thank you for the link. I will check the references later. However a quick read of this shows me that many of the things that Obama has done has to do with separation of church and state issues. Many Christians feel that that is somehow religious persecution. I do not because people are free to have their own private beliefs and to worship the way that they choose. People would get upset if muslim or wiccan sayings were put on military guns, so I do not think that should be an issue at all.

        His being for gay rights is a human rights issue. To not allow openly gay people in the military is wrong, period. This is not religious persecution because no one is forcing anyone to give up their beliefs. Basically if someone thinks that homosexuality is wrong then they can choose not to engage in it. We live in a pluralistic society so we tolerate people we may disaprove of all the time. However if he in fact supports having religious organizations perform gay marriage or hire gays when this is against their beliefs, that would be wrong in my opinion. However I am not certain that this is in fact the case because so many people have been telling outright lies about Obama so I need to do some research on that.

        About the teacher who threatened the student who critisized Obama, the teacher got suspended for that so I cannot see how this would relate to the government suppressing free speech. It just sounds like this teacher was a jerk. Since this kind of thing happens very rarely it cannot be considered as a systematic denial of free speech.

        As far as the IRS controversy, I will have to do more research. This just recently came up in the news and I know Obama has said he will look into it.

        Basically I do not see any evidence that there is any tyranny going on right now unless you include the religious right wanting to control everyone’s private lives.However I think it is premature to give up on our government. It is imperfect and it always will be because it is run by imperfect people and these people are voted in by imperfect voters. ,

      • Morgan, what a horrible and tragic case of parental negligence. They should have taken some of the NRA’s classes on gun safety where they would have learned how to teach their children gun safety, how to secure and store their weapons properly, and how to be responsible.

          • Morgan, it is currently illegal in every state for anyone under 18 to own a gun or to use a firearm outside the direct supervision of an adult. The article mentions that charges were being considered against the parents, and rightfully so. They broke the law in failing to supervise their children with the firearm, and they bear the responsibility for what happened. Since a 5 year old cannot purchase (financially or legally) a firearm, it is the parents that accepted this responsibility when the firearm entered the home.

      • Ben, tyranny comes in different guises. You seem blind to its present surreptitious form: that of an oligarchy, where the wealthy control our government by “buying” legislation that is favorable to their interests. Why not raise an objective voice against that? Or are you ignorant of it? (This operates on both a national and global level, the latter being enhanced by “free trade agreements.”)

  9. There is no doubt that the happiest, safest countries are those where wealth is redistributed through taxes so that the income gap between the most and least privileged is less glaring than in other places and taxes subsidise all the things a society needs: healthcare, maternity leave, childcare, pensions, etc. And where there are no guns!

    Any comment that begins “There is no doubt” and then proceeds to describe something so nebulous as the degree of happiness of a group of millions of human beings under a complex set of competing factors (that, of course, are described in a simplified manner) is a comment that is impossible to take seriously or at face value: what, after all, can one’s valuation be of such things? These people are the happiest and the safest, it is beyond all doubt–just look at how we measured it and determined with no doubt whatsoever that the cause was their country’s tax structure and gun laws!

    The bible is without ambiguity on these questions. You pay your taxes to Caesar; if someone hits you, you turn your cheek so that they can hit the other.

    Or perhaps not so clear. The admonition to turn the other cheek does not mean, “If criminals with guns try to break into your home, do not defend your children, but let violent men do as they will with them.” All that is clear is that the text can be misconstrued in any discussion, as that one and many others often are. I’m reminded of something President Obama said about the tax ramifications of the Lord’s “Unto whomsoever much is given…” Ah, story for another day.

    Catholics have openly subverted the whole thing by valuing church traditions, ….

    *sigh*

    Yes, because (there is no doubt, of course) church traditions should have no value. More important, let’s make sure that we rope the Catholics into this discussion, because the comments have not become broad and diffuse enough yet.

    I need to stop coming back to this comment thread. It has, alas, little left to do with Scripture or with the original commentary on the total depravity of everyone else. Now it’s just vague left versus right political mumbo jumbo from the fringes.

    And a top of the morning to everyone! I hope the week brings productivity and happiness to all.

    • Mine was a comment about relative social happiness, not absolute, drawing on various studies making broad measurements. They tend to agree that places like Norway come out on top, and places like the Congo bottom, which seems pretty unarguable in broad terms. I am not really arguing about left and right wing positions here, but about Christianity and its forms. It interests me that US Christians talk about tax as if it’s a problem, when, as Morgan points out, going along with the imperial authorities in (unimportant, worldly) matters was pretty much what Christ taught his followers to do. I always understood that verse to mean that money couldn’t matter less, and the empire was only of this world whereas Christ was talking about the next world, and the whole business of what Caesar wanted or thought really wasn’t worth fighting about. Quite a good way out of the trick question that had been set up to catch him out. And how do you know that the business about turning the other cheek doesn’t mean you submit to violence even if it’s directed at your family? Christ wasn’t big on family values, and I don’t remember him offering any kind of justification for any kind of violence. This is pretty difficult teaching to follow. It’s one thing to allow oneself to be martyred; unthinkable to let one’s children be hurt. But there it is. And what a society chooses to do (or not to do) with religious texts like bible, qu’ran, etc, is what’s interesting to me.

      • I have heard about some of these studies of happiness in Scandinavian countries where the income gap is a lot smaller and people aren’t offended by the concept of public space and shared resources.

  10. I hesitate to do this, but are you the same Ben Guptill whose current top tweet in his Twitter feed says:

    @megynkelly Why is a sign that says “No coloreds allowed” a violation of rights, but a sign that says “no guns allowed” not? 2A is a right!

    I do not mention this for any reason of pejoration to this discussion, but, between the perspective evinced in that and in these comments, I have to echo some of the sentiment of finding the commentary disturbing and wonder about the usefulness of the discussion. We don’t have militias anything remotely resembling the vision in one of the quotes above, for instance. As it stands right now, if the U.S. Army were (in violation of law, of course) to lay siege to our cities or towns, no collection of individual citizens would have a hope against such a power. The absurdity of it, however, should also be understood in considering one thing that such tyranny would entail: the consent of the soldiers being given the unlawful orders. I’m hard-pressed to imagine our military by and large obeying such commands, but in any case what are the firearms–even the impressive stockpiles–of a collection of households or even a small militia compared to the arms of the U.S. military?

    I’m a conservative (conservative, indeed, in ways that make me feel unwelcome or uneasy in many places where I might like to comment on the Internet: I’m opposed to same-sex marriage, I am pro-life, I despise taxes and the overreach of government and its regulations, I think President Obama is an awful President and I worry in a good many ways for the direction he has taken or would steer our country), and I believe in the right to bear arms, but I do not clutch a firearm in some fear that the thugs of our Federal government are going to march into my church one fine Sunday morning, and my firearm will be the only thing to save us good Christian folk from the tyranny. Oh, the tyranny!

    I’m sorry. I became a bit glib there, but, as I indicated at the start of this comment, I wonder how serious and sane this discussion can be. Again, I am in favor of the Second Amendment. I have clients who own firearms and some who have concealed carry licenses, and I have clients whose arms-bearing has been called into question by law enforcement, and I seek to vindicate their rights and protect them. But, once you start going on about how we need those firearms to protect ourselves from the impending tyranny (or is it the current tyranny?) of our government, I find it a bit odd. Add to this the inability to distinguish between turning someone away at your door for something he has no control over (the color of his skin or his “race”) and turning someone away at your door for carrying a deadly weapon, and … well, there are a good many hours left in the afternoon, and I have work to do. Why, my work entails a nice drive into the country to visit a client of mine who is being held in jail on a weapons charge. At least the Ohio countryside is beautiful, although my client being in jail is no happy matter. Anyway, better for me to make something useful of my day than argue about tyranny here.

    • Lasseter, yes that is me on The Twitter. I loathe twitter but it can be useful. Yes, absolutely I believe that a sign that says “this restaurant bans guns” is just as much discrimination against a constitutionally protected civil right (actually more so) right as would be a sign that says “this restaurant bans coloreds”. The constitution implicitly protects against racial discrimination, but explicitly protects the right to bear arms.

      Richard Henry Lee (who famously called for independence from Britain in June 1776, leading to the declaration of independence) said, “A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves… and include all men capable of bearing arms. . . To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms… The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle.”

      In fact, the recent Heller v District of Columbia supreme court case held that the right to keep and bear arms is upheld even apart from participation in an organized militia.

      When you say “As it stands right now, if the U.S. Army were (in violation of law, of course) to lay siege to our cities or towns, no collection of individual citizens would have a hope against such a power.” I see this as powerful evidence that our right to keep and bear arms has already been infringed on too much! Read the quote by James Madison I posted above… the 2nd amendment was a check and balance against our own government turning tyrannical.

      My brother, who lives in Houston, TX, has 1st hand knowledge of the US Army running combat drills and simulations this year in US cities to prepare for the US government declaring marshall law. Now one should ask themselves why the US military would run such a drill, rather than a national guard unit. The purpose of the national guard (and the 2nd amendment), who is the modern malitia, is to eliminate any necessity of the federal military operating on US soil.

      Did you watch what happened in Boston with the bombers? The police seized an entire neighborhood, and people were not allowed to leave their homes. They went from house to house searching (without a warrant, I might add). All rights were suspended until the threat was eliminated. We are 1 national emergency away from that being the state of our entire country.

      I do agree with you Obama is an awful president (I believe the worst president since Woodrow Wilson). He ran guns into Mexico in Fast and Furious, and then gave Al Queda weapons to overthrow Gadaffi (which they turned on us in Benghazi), and is now giving Al Queda guns in Syria to overthrow Assad. He should be impeached for treason – not to mention the damage he’s doing to our economy during his fundamental transformation of our economic system.

      You gotta question a president who gives our sworn enemies guns, but wants to take them away from the citizens.

      • Ben – I genuinely don’t understand what you mean by ‘Tyranny’, especially with a capital T, as if it is some recognised form of government. But I have to say, your posts about fighting off Tyranny with handguns reminds me of a good spoof of US gun culture that I saw a few weeks back here in the UK, to the effect – ‘Haven’t the Americans heard that their government has got unmanned drones and nuclear weapons?’

        There is no doubt that the happiest, safest countries are those where wealth is redistributed through taxes so that the income gap between the most and least privileged is less glaring than in other places and taxes subsidise all the things a society needs: healthcare, maternity leave, childcare, pensions, etc. And where there are no guns! I would imagine that such societies would be most in conformity with Christian teaching, and I suppose the most baffling thing to me is the way in which fundamentalist forms of Christianity seems to have got mixed up with all the gun-loving stuff in the US. The bible is without ambiguity on these questions. You pay your taxes to Caesar; if someone hits you, you turn your cheek so that they can hit the other. But the US is far from being the only society that needed to make Christianity a religion of violence and hatred in order to use it at all. I don’t think there are any societies that have found the peaceful messages of Christianity useful in the public sphere. Catholics have openly subverted the whole thing by valuing church traditions, but fundamentalists ought, I’d have thought, to be going back to the text the whole time.

      • Helen, how is an average soldier in the military armed? With a drone or nuclear weapon? Nope, with a fully automatic rifle. In a constitutional society, every citizen who is willing and responsible (and not disqualified) should have one too. We can leave the “big stuff” like planes and tanks and drones to the official militias (aka the National Guard).

        We have been “progressing” towards tyranny for the last 100 years, slowly but surely losing our constitutional freedoms and protections. Obama seems to have run out of patience and is running full throttle toward it.

        Tyranny happens when government control becomes so oppressive to the people that they determine action is required. When our freedoms and inalienable rights have been taken away or diminished to the point of complete ineffectiveness.

        Bush and Obama have both done considerable damage to the constitution. Between the two of them, our 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th and 10th amendment rights have been been under tremendous assault. Obama has even openly, and repeatedly stated how ineffective congress was, and that if they didn’t enact his plans he would simply go around them and do it without them. If that isn’t destroying the checks and balances, then I don’t know what is. Before Bush, I thought we were at least 50 years or more from any kind of tyranny. After Bush (with his patriot act, torture, and Gitmo), I thought that was probably more like 25 years. After Obama’s first two years, I thought that was more like a decade.. now, I believe we are 1 national disaster away from some kind of tyranny. This time it won’t take much for them to declare Marshall-law. This administration hasn’t let a national disaster go to waste yet.

        There is no doubt that the happiest, safest countries are those where wealth is redistributed through taxes so that the income gap between the most and least privileged is less glaring than in other places and taxes subsidise all the things a society needs: healthcare, maternity leave, childcare, pensions, etc

        I seriously doubt that ;) Look at Europe where Fabian Socialism has taken root. Look how many Eurozone countries are on the verge of economic collapse. Greece & Spain, are on fire, and the UK is thinking about backing out of the Euro. If one of them falls, they will all fall like dominoes. Violent crime is 6 times higher in Europe than it is here in the USA. Suicide is dramatically higher rate as well.

          • You’re really on the verge of starting an armed insurrection.

            I don’t think so. I would never instigate any conflict, though I would defend myself if anyone ever came to harm me. I pray that never, ever happens.

            The actual definition of tyranny is when there is an absolute ruler and a system that forces its will on others, a system or an agency that has the power to force its will. At this moment, we don’t have tyranny, though we’ve never been so close in our nation’s history, nor have we ever had a president so willing and ready and active in implementing it.

  11. Helen, as a gun owner I see our right to bear arms as the only thing that stands between the people and a tyrannical government. These days, the is no real differences between the Republican and Democratic Parties. If you look at a scale of government with Total Anarchy on one side, and totalitarian government on the other you might make some observations. Before the US constitution, the Articles of confederation were tried. This was about at 15% up the scale from Anarchy to Total government control. This failed because there was not enough government. Then the constitution came along and it was at about 30% up the scale. Today’s Republican Party is at 70% and the Democrats are 80%. You’ll find libertarians between 20 and 40%, Tea Party at 30 to 50%, and occupy Wall Street is at both extremes – 10% & below and 90% & above. OWS is for whatever position lets them evade any and all personal responsibility. Progressives are at 95-100%, so long as the one in control is another progressive. Progressives also seek to absolve themselves of personal responsibility, but more for reasons of collectivist (aka communist) ideology than individual ones. Before GW Bush, I would have said we were 50 years from Tyranny. But after Bush that was more like 25 years. After Obamacare passed I though we were a decade from some kind of tyrannical government. Now, I believe we are 1 strong national disaster from losing all of our constitutional freedoms. The push right now for gun control is really just a mop up as a last step to prepare for tyranny. The founders created the 2nd amendment as a check and balance against tyranny, and it would make for a bloody revolution (the communist way of adopting tyranny) rather than a slow gradual transition to a collectivist government (the progressive way of adopting tyranny) if guns remained in the hands of the people when the tyrannical hammer (and sickle) falls.

    One other comment I had was your point on abortion. You said it was “preventing women from having bodily autonomy.” But to understand the conservative position you have to know that they don’t see it as a “women’s rights” issue. They see a fetus as a person from the moment of conception onward. You wouldn’t, for example, argue that a woman should be allowed to murder her 5 year old if the child’s life became inconvenient for her. No one would see that as a women’s rights issue because no woman has the right to murder another individual. So it’s a disagreement between when a person becomes a person. Conception? Implantation? Birth? 2 years old? (A debate is raging in Australia right now whether it would be ethical to “abort” children up to the age of 2). Within the first 3 days of implantation a fetus must start releasing chemicals to turn off a mother’s own immune system from destroying it because a mothers body sees her baby as a foreign entity. This is the cause of many miscarriages, actually – the baby can’t fight off the mother’s own immune system. My own personal philosophy is that this is when the fetus becomes a person – when it is distinguished as a separate individual with infinite value separate from its mothers infinite value. I’m fine with contraceptives and morning after pills that mimic a woman’s own pregnancy prevention mechanisms.

    • Honestly David I’m a little bit frightened by what you’re saying. It is a good illustration of the total depravity of everyone else. If the reason you own a gun is because of government tyranny, doesn’t that mean that you’re prepared at least provisionally to shoot representatives of the US government if they behave tyrannically in your perspective? If Obamacare is fascism, then are you ready to kill whatever government official has to make contact with you if you decide to refuse to buy health insurance?

      There’s nothing Biblical about this perspective on government. 1 Peter 2 tells its readers to “honor the emperor,” that being Nero who roasted Christians in giant torches to provide lighting for his orgies. If Peter says to honor Nero, then how in the world is being ready for armed insurrection a Christian position to take? Basically you’re taking a radical anarchist perspective even if you don’t label it as such: it’s simply choosing Michael Bakunin instead of Karl Marx by way of Ayn Rand.

      • You have to be careful not to mix America and Christianity. They are two separate kingdoms. The Christian has duel citizenship.

        America was founded on the principle that our freedoms come from something higher than government (nature and nature’s god) and that if the government infringes on those rights it is the duty of the citizens to throw off such government. This duty was the basis of our rebellion against England.

        The declaration of independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. ”

        James Madison – the man who is credited with writing the 2nd amendment – said this in The Federalist Papers No 46:

        “”Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.”

        Thomas Jefferson said, “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” (Thomas Jefferson Papers p. 334, 1950)”

        So yes, it is clear as a civic duty arms are meant to stay the overreaches of government. You call it anarchist, but this is quite far off from anarchy. The Articles of Confederation never worked because they were too close to anarchy. The Constitution was then drafted. George Washington called government a “necessary evil.” The fact remains, tyrannical government has perpetrated more evil on this planet than any other group or entity, and currently murder hudreds of thousands of people per year across this planet. It is a MUCH greater evil and danger than arms in the hands of a free people.

        • Peter wasn’t a two kingdom guy. He was telling people how to live in the Roman Empire. You’re arguing with the Bible, not with me.

      • Morgan, I don’t mean to say Peter was a 2 kingdom guy… I’m trying to say we shouldn’t confuse Biblical theology with American politics. Guns is not a Biblical issue, but a civil one.

        Rome wasn’t self-governed the way the constitution sets up the United States. In our form of government, I am Ceasar, and you are ceasar, and so is everyone else. To render to ceasar in the context of American society means to contribute what the founders envisioned – an active involvement in securing freedom and liberty for all, along with equal justice. The statistics show that the places with more strict gun laws (Chicago, for example) have worse violent crime, and the places where citizens are free to carry guns have much lower violent crime (like here in Minnesota).

        • Maybe the gun laws are a response to the violent crime rather than the cause of it. People who live in the city think of guns in terms of crime; people who live in the country think of guns in terms of defending their property. I didn’t think much about it one way or another until a kid in my former youth group got a gun this past fall and his little brother shot his sister with it and killed her. It’s completely arbitrary to say that anything is a civil issue rather than a Biblical issue. There’s no legitimate basis in scripture for making that call. The Constitution does not have the same standing as scripture.

      • Here is the thing about gun control – everywhere guns are banned, violent crime skyrockets. So what you have to understand is that gun control has never been about reducing violent crime – it’s always just been about control.

        • Do you really believe that? Even if you disagree with the opinions of people who want there to be things like universal background checks for guns, do you really think they’re doing so because they’re fascists who want to take over the world? I generally find it more productive to try and figure out where other people are really coming. In my case, I’ve seen three kids have their lives destroyed because of straw purchasing.

      • I think it’s much simpler than fascism. I think today people are desperate to absolve themselves of personal responsibility… Both spiritually and civilly. Many people are ignorant of guns and gun safety, and therefore fear motivates or informs their opinions. But if you add together all of the gun murders, gun violence, gun suicides, and gun accidents in this country, you still don’t come close to the carnage inflicted each year by tyrants on their own people. Just look at Assad, for example.

        Straw purchasing is illegal. It begs the question – if current laws don’t stop criminals, how will more laws stop them? Laws are only followed by the law abiding, not criminals. For example, look at illegal drugs. Banning guns will only take them out of the hands of the good guys.

        Thomas Jefferon said. “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

        The average response time of police is about 10 minutes. The average time of an assault is about 30 seconds. There is a saying among those who carry – “when seconds are the difference between life and death, the police are just minutes away.”

        If an armed thug were breaking into your house who would you call to protect your family? You would call the police to come protect you. Would you want them to send an unarmed officer? No, you would want someone who could meet the threat with sufficient force. An unarmed officer would just become another helpless victim. Armed citizens are not helpless victims. Did you know that every mass shooting for the last 50 years has occured in a “gun free zone?”

        Let me ask you – wouldnt you be responsible to protect your own family? Aren’t YOU the first responder, and the police are your backup? Did you know that you can’t sue the police when someone breaks into your house or when someone kills a member of your family? The Supreme Court says the police have no obligation to protect you. That’s not their job. Their job is finding the guy who raped and murdered your family after the fact.

        I take the responsibility to serve and protect my family.

        • Okay but this is going far afield from your original statement that you carry a gun to protect yourself from government tyranny which means that you’re basically planning to shoot somebody from the government at some point in time. That’s the statement that really got me concerned.

      • Actually, Morgan, I said the purpose of the second amendment is to act as a check and balance against tyrannical government – essentially reserving the right to shoot at the government should the government become ta yrannical threat to our inalienable rights. In doing so, the 2nd amendment also protects the right to bear arms for personal defense, for hunting, and for sport.

        Now me personally – I carry for self-defense and for the defense of my family. I would never want to shoot at the government for that is a fight I would probably lose – mostly because I’m not allowed to “have the same musket as the soldier” so to speak, and would be outgunned. But the point is that it is a civic duty to resist tyrannical government and if every gun owner in America resisted, it would be an army of 150 million people … Which would be formidable to anyone coming against us. For example, there are more registered hunters each year than the US military has across all branches.

        If we are so complacent that we are unwilling to secure our own freedom, but instead give up our personal responsibility to the government, then why should the government care enough about our freedom to protect it? If you don’t care enough about your freedom to protect it, why should the government?

        • What is being ignored in all this paranoid discussion and obsession with tyrannical government is that we do not live in a monarchy or a plutocracy. We live in a republican democracy. Your weapon against government tyranny is NOT your gun, but your vote. The people screaming loudest about government tyranny are really whining that their “side” lost the last election and they don’t like what their elected representatives are doing. One other thing . . . Helen, you will also find, in all the studies about societal happiness, that the happiest societies are the least religious and most secular. Religiosity does not result in societal happiness.

          • What is being ignored in all this paranoid discussion and obsession with tyrannical government is that we do not live in a monarchy or a plutocracy.

            Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to you the irony of your statement is it is precisely the founder’s “paranoid obsession” with preventing tyranny in creating our constitution and specifically the 2nd amendment which is the reason we do not live in a monarchy or plutocracy.

            In his first address to congress, George Washington said, “Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the people’s liberty teeth keystone… the rifle and the pistol are equally indispensable… more than 99% of them by their silence indicate that they are in safe and sane hands. The very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference. When firearms go, all goes, we need them every hour.”

            Now I do not advocate overthrow of the government or violent revolution. An armed society is a polite society (Noah Webster). I agree with you that the weapons of our democratic-republic are our vote and our voice. But there did come a time when England trampled too far upon those rights and it did become necessary to throw off such government. We are certainly not there yet, but we are accelerating toward that end.

          • What you are ignoring, Ben, is that we live in a very different world than when our nation was founded. At that time, there was not a single democratic state in Europe or North America to my knowledge. Our revolution was not against government. It was against monarchy. If you can’t see the difference, I don’t know what to say. Our founding fathers weren’t paranoid. Ranting about government tyranny when you live in a democracy is.

          • Is it really that different, John?

            Ecc 1:9 That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.

            The nature of people remains the same from Adam until now. You said “our revolution was not against government, it was against monarchy.” I guess I thought a monarchy was a form of government.

            At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation. In the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention, a lady asked Dr. Franklin “Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy.” Franklin replied, “A republic . . . if you can keep it.”

            Don’t you recognize that each and every one of the Bill of Rights limits and constrains the government, not the people? The founders were paranoid against government. They knew the history of the world was for governments to take away the freedom of people. It is the nature of government. Several founders (including George Washington) called government a “necessary evil.” Our founders ranted about government tyranny and put checks and balances in place – for example the 2nd amendment – to prevent tyranny.

            So I become nervous when our current government seeks to eliminate those checks and balances that prevent tyranny. In a commencement speech, Obama said last week, “Still, you’ll hear voices that incessantly warn of government … or that tyranny always lurks just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”

            My response is “… said every tyrant who ever lived!!”

            Look at the recent attempt to ban AR-15 and AK-47 style semi-automatic rifles. They called them “military style assault weapons” yet no military on planet earth uses them. In 2011, the FBI statistics say there were about 11,000 homicides in the USA, 8000 by gun (6000 of those by handgun) and how many of them were by these AR-15 style rifles? Approximately 50. Contrast that with 500 by club, 700 by hands and feet, and 1000 by knife. Here in Minnesota, we currently have a Democratically controlled house, senate, and governor. They tried to introduce an AR-15 ban here this year, despite the fact that we haven’t had any homicides by those weapons in many years (hard to make a case that a ban would “reduce gun violence” when there has been 0 by that type of weapon). The public outcry was so staggering, they had to drop it. It’s clear that this legislation was not intended to reduce violence because there was none of that type of violence here. It was simply meant to control. Obama himself came to our state to stump for this legislation.

            The statistics say that where gun control is the strongest, violent crime is the highest, and where guns are most prevalent, violent crime is the lowest. Did you know that, since the start of the war in Afghanistan, twice as many people have been killed by gun violence in Chicago – where there is the nations strictest gun control (until recently) than allied forces who have been killed in the war. Currently, Illinois is the only state in the union without a concealed carry law (though their supreme court has ruled this ban unconstitutional, and they have until this fall to create one).

            Law Abiding People have guns = safety, security, and freedom. Only government and criminals have guns = violence, death, and tyranny.

          • You’re exemplifying exactly what I wrote about. I haven’t invented a straw man after all! Under your schema which I call the total depravity of everyone else, there is a basic trust in your own infallibility as a law-abiding citizen not to use your gun inappropriately. Criminals are a wholly different species of human and I guess people who work for the government fall into that reprobate category.

            Because of my theology of sin, I don’t trust myself not to use a weapon for evil because total depravity to me is not a theoretical concept for the sake of theological arguments; it’s the reality I have experienced in my thoughts and behavior. I actually believe that I am no less a sinner than the officially recognized “criminals” who through a different set of circumstances acted out on all the impulses I have inside of me and harmed other people.

            If you own a gun to protect yourself from tyranny and you say Obama is a tyrant, does that mean you would shoot him if you had the opportunity? If not, then are you exaggerating when you call Obama a tyrant or are you all talk and no game? When you throw around words like tyranny and have the firepower to act on your beliefs, it’s not something that people around you should take lightly.

          • You’re exemplifying exactly what I wrote about.

            Is it possible that you may be seeing only what you want to see? I don’t trust in my own infallibility. On the contrary, I accept the consequences of my own infallibility. I put my gun in its holster fully prepared for the possibility that it may be my undoing, yet also cognizant that it is far more LIKELY to be used properly, if need be, to protect my family and myself. But knowing it is my own choice to make, and no one can make that choice for me, and no one will take the fall for me or absolve me from the responsibility for making the wrong choice. Therein I am motivated by self-interest not to make the wrong choice.

            Because of my theology of sin, I don’t trust myself not to use a weapon for evil because total depravity to me is not a theoretical concept for the sake of theological arguments

            I doubt that you truly believe this. For if you did, it would be irresponsible of you to coexist with your family, for you may snap and kill them all at any time. Knives are 2000% more likely to be used in a homicide than those big, bad, scary semi-automatic assault weapons Feinstein was trying to ban. Do you have any knives in your home? Do you trust yourself with them? Hands and feet are used 1400% more often than those assault weapons to commit murder – you have hands and feet – don’t you think child services should come rescue your children from that potentially lethal situation? Oh my god — do you have any pressure cookers in your home? Are you a terrorist just beneath the surface? Do you have a penis? Don’t child molesters use that weapon to rape children? Can you trust yourself not to use this weapon against your children? If you really believed you were untrustworthy because of your sin, then wouldn’t the responsible thing to do be to isolate yourself from all contact with other human beings? How can you say you don’t trust yourself with a gun, yet you do trust yourself with all these other weapons? Are you a sinner who can’t be trusted, or are you not? I think you can be trusted. I think a gun in your hands would be no more dangerous than a kitchen knife. I don’t believe you are the kind of person who would commit a crime with a gun.

            Is it possible what you are really saying when you say “I am no less a sinner than the people who acted on their impulses” is actually “I don’t want this responsibility.”

            If you own a gun to protect yourself from tyranny and you say Obama is a tyrant, does that mean you would shoot him if you had the opportunity?

            No I wouldn’t shoot Obama because it is unlikely he would be the one to come knocking down my door in the middle of the night to harm me and my family.

            When you throw around words like tyranny and have the firepower to act on your beliefs, it’s not something that people around you should take lightly.

            When you throw around statements like you can’t trust yourself, then why should anyone else trust you either? The police should come lock you away before you can do any harm to anyone. What you’re really saying is “I can’t be responsible for my own actions” which is far, far more dangerous than saying “I take responsibility for myself and accept the consequences of misbehaving with my gun.”

            We are a nation based on laws, and only those who break those laws are criminals. Criminals are not some wholly different species… they are sinners like us – all have sinned – but unlike us they were not able to maintain enough self-control to keep from acting on their impulses. It isn’t a distinction of “who” someone is, but rather a distinction of “what” someone does. Your method of distinction leads to absolution of responsibility. Making it who someone is says “It’s not my fault, I was born a criminal, I couldn’t help the way I was born” while making a distinction based on behavior says- “I am not a criminal unless I commit a crime” and behavioral distinction puts the responsibility squarely where it should be – on each individual to control themselves or face the individual consequences for their action.

        • If you’re preparing to resist tyranny with your guns and you use the word “tyranny” hyperbolically to describe things like universal healthcare (which of course Obamacare is far from being) or tax rates that are way lower than they have been historically in this country since the Great Depression, then you’re either preparing for Civil War or you’re all talk and no game.

          • I define tyranny as the government taking away the constitutionally guaranteed “inalienable” rights of the people without due process.

            [rhetorical]
            For example, the government saying that voicing criticism or opposition to one political party or another is illegal would be an example. Maybe that’s a bad example since the Obama administration (and some D senators) did that recently.

            Perhaps a better example would be if the government went after religious liberty and said you were not free to worship as you wanted, but forced you to act against your conscience … well … dang… that’s not a good example either cause the Obama administration did that too.

            Ok… how about this… tyranny would be for the government to go after our guns and try to outlaw the owning of guns without repealing the second amendment. Dammit! This is getting hard to find an example the Obama administration hasn’t done….

            Ok here is one – tyranny would be if the government forced people to allow them to seach their property without a warrant. Oh wait, that just happened in Boston.

            Ok how about tyranny would be like the government throwing people in jail or killing American citizens without any due process or a grand jury indictment. Oh wait… what about those drones, the Patriot Act, and Gitmo… hmmm….

            Well maybe I can just say tyranny is when the government overreaches become so egregious that the people won’t stand for it anymore and decide it actually is tyranny.
            [\rhetorical]

        • And you still haven’t answered my question about the Biblical basis for your thinking about guns. You can’t just divide up your life into two compartments and use the Constitution for one and the Bible for the other. Either you’re all in or you’re not. I’m sure you’ve said that many times to people before.

          • I thought I did answer that. My stance on guns is “rendering unto Ceasar that which is Ceasars” and doing my civic duty to uphold the constitution of the United States.

            Biblically, I see that the Israelis frequently went to war and fought – that there is nothing against that in scripture. I see they were involved in politics – Joseph & Daniel are good examples, and Paul appealed to Ceasar and frequently made brilliant legal challenges – even to the Jewish lawyers and scholars.

            Jesus hiimself said, “Mat 10:34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

            In modern vernacular, he would have said “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a gun.”

            However, I am cognizant of the fact that he also told Peter that he who “lives by the sword, dies by the sword.” I accept this responsibility. Our hope and faith needs to be God. I am also cognizant of Romans 12:18 – If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Also, Romans 13:1 – Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.
            Rom 13:7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

            However, in our system, WE are supposedly the governing authority, and should the government become destructive of liberty and freedom we are charged with protecting it. That means voting, that means adding our voice to liberty’s proliferation, and that means taking up arms (I pray that I never have to) to set it right. Our grand experiment in self-governance and personal liberty (which is to say personal responsibility) has lifted more people out of poverty across the planet than any other system in earth’s history.

  12. Came across this blog through a series of links, and found it interesting for lots of reasons. First, you seem to be asking some good questions within a particular cultural context. But it’s also illuminating about just how strange the cultural context of US Christians is. Viewed from outside, the obsession with guns, homosexuality and preventing women from having bodily autonomy seems beyond bizarre and quite unrelated even to biblical priorities, much less anything worth the attention of adults. It also seems gravely threatening to the future of the planet. These obsessions are leading American Christians to support a political party that basically represents big oil and many other corporations that are destroying the natural environment of the whole planet for profit and without any conscience. America has been systematically sabotaging the efforts of other countries to address climate change. Meanwhile, US Christians have got time to campaign about their pet hates and other non-issues, but not to get their politicians to take important matters seriously. I’d like to know what your view is on this. Do you think evangelicals are just being manipulated very successfully from election to election by corporate-backed Republican candidates who know which buttons to push, power-hungry misogynist pastors, and so on? Or is there something deeper in their rejection of science, their insistence on American exceptionalism: the hatred and fear of the rest of the world that you identify in this post? It looks to me as though religious leaders are deliberately creating this climate to keep communities from questioning what they’re taught – scarily extending into an attempt to prevent schools from teaching anything but evangelical/corporate sponsored lies about science, history, sex, and other topics. I’m sorry if this post comes across as anthropological in its questioning, but I would genuinely appreciate hearing your thoughts. Why people think what they do, and who creates the mental worlds within which they think, and why, are some of the most important questions to get to grips with.

    • I don’t think the evangelical cultural ethos is manufactured by people at the top, but it is exploited by them. There is a very lucrative outrage industrial complex which has come into play over the past two decades or so starting with the radio host Rush Limbaugh in the 90’s. But I see this as an expression of what was already in the water. I think that the evangelical cultural ethos is basically an expression of bourgeois neurosis. The Bible is selectively read and applied to serve the needs of this neurosis. The bourgeoisie needs an other to define itself against and be afraid of. Since we don’t really have an upper-class aristocracy in our country to be the enemy of the bourgeoisie, the “big-city” liberal “elitists” take the role of the upper-class foil; their intellectualism serves as the substitute for the inherited wealth that the Victorian era bourgeoisie would have defined themselves against. Then the working class is basically divided between “drug-dealers” and “pregnant teens.” The bourgeoisie have to be able to tell themselves that the poor deserve to be poor because they have premarital sex, which is why chaste sexuality has become the most important moral virtue. The parts of Jesus’ teaching which aren’t conducive to the bourgeois lifestyle (take up your cross and follow me, whoever does not his mother and father cannot be my disciple, love your enemies, etc) are simply discarded. In a lot of ways, the current evangelical culture is an ideological descendent of the segregationist position in the Civil Rights movement. It used to be we need to keep white and black separate, because our white women need to protected from black men who are inherently violent and horny. Now the racial categories have been sublimated into class categories. We need the suburbs because if we live in the city than the “drug-dealers” will impregnate our teenage daughters.

      • Thanks for your reply. That class/race take on the whole issue is a new one to me, and it makes a lot of sense. It’s pretty depressing stuff. Do you think that people who become religious leaders are those who most strongly feel the things you describe? Does this also mean that the rejection of science is a way of attacking the “upper classes”, since obviously a good way to annoy a liberal is to claim you don’t ‘believe’ in science? Where does the anti-abortion stuff fit into the class analysis? It’s pretty recent (since the 1980s, I think), unbiblical, and isn’t backed up by any practical measures to reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancies, which would obviously be the best way to prevent abortion. So it’s not really about the babies – especially since the very women who have gone through with pregnancies when their partner has left, they’re very young, etc, are most despised by the people who wanted them to keep the foetus. It’s obviously a reaction to feminism by inventing yet another way of controlling and devaluing women, along with all the (new) Christian patriarchy stuff. In a nasty sort of way, it’s pure genius, to pit value of unformed foetus against value of adult woman and decide that unformed foetus wins. Has it just been seized upon because it is such an effective and emotive way of stating conservative values? Or does it once again link to the agendas of purity culture? I find it odd that bourgeois evangelical parents would be so opposed to abortion, when their own children are more likely to need it than most. The rate of teenage pregnancies, not surprisingly, is generally highest in places where chastity is preached and sex education is weak.

        • It is true that teenage pregnancy is higher in the Bible belt than elsewhere. I think there’s a difference between the Catholic view of abortion and the fundamentalist view. The Catholics have always opposed it from the perspective of a consistent ethic of life and protection of the vulnerable that includes fetuses, children, disabled, and old people. Fundamentalists are only pro-life before birth; after babies are born, it’s survival of the fittest.

          • Morgan, in response to helen you said “Fundamentalists are only pro-life before birth; after babies are born, its survival of the fittest.”

            You know, I believe that aborted fetuses go to be with the Lord, as do young children who pass away. My Biblical basis is Romans 5:

            Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
            13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

            It seems reasonable to me that until a child is old enough to understand what sin is, their sin wouldn’t be imputed to them.

            Rom 7:9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died;

            Luk 18:16 But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

            Do you think that people still value innocence and justice? Is it just to allow someone to be punished for a crime they committed, and prevent injustice by protecting an innocent person? I am not sure what constitutes a “fundamentalist” but that is the way I would look at your statement.

          • I just think we need to be as concerned about the survival of kids outside of the womb as we are about their survival inside if the kids are really who we’re concerned about. It’s not “materialism” to want every kid in our country to have enough food to eat and warm and safe shelter regardless of how much money their parents have and what they do with it.

  13. Full disclosure: I’m white, I live in a suburb, I have a concealed handgun permit, and I carry in church.

    Perhaps this disqualifies me from having an acceptable opinion here, but if not, please find my thoughts below.

    First, on the comment “If I carry a gun into church, I am embodying a two-fold doctrine of sin: 1) There is no danger that I would be tempted to sin with my gun (like in the heat of an argument over the church budget or a sermon that sounds un-Biblical). 2) There is enough danger from the wickedness “out there” that I should be armed in case the bad people storm our building and start shooting. This two-fold doctrine of sin could be termed the total depravity of everyone else.”

    These two doctrines of sin confuse me. If I were to re-orient these to make sense to me, I would say 1) I take responsibility for myself and accept the consequences of my own actions should I choose to sin with my gun, and 2) I take responsibility for myself and others to protect us from the danger and wickedness “out there.” My two-fold (if I limited it to two) doctrine could be termed “total depravity with individual responsibility”.

    What would you do if someone came into your church and started shooting people? Call the police, I would imagine – a good guy with a gun who could provide adequate force against the depraved killer, and who had authority both to take responsibility to serve & protect others and to take responsibility for the consequences of resisting the bad guy … be it killing or capturing the bad guy or coordinating with the authorities in the aftermath.

    You also said, “I think the way that Christians give sex priority over every other moral issue is another product of the same suburban ideology”. To this I might posit a question – is the “world” any different? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say “I think humans give sex priority over other moral issues.” I think heterosexual couples struggle with sin issues (pre-marital sex or adultry for example) as much as a homosexual might struggle with their sin. Both are encouraged to restrain their sexual behavior to be in line with the Biblical standard, and both fail with equal regularity.

    • Thanks very much for sharing your perspective on this. Honestly I just don’t trust myself enough to have a lethal weapon and use it responsibly or mostly to do everything I need to do to keep out of my kids’ hands.

      I do think that there are cultural undercurrents in the waters of suburbia whose influences we don’t fully recognize. One of the things that legitimized the segregated south was the thought that white women needed to be protected from horny black guys. I really think we carry an inherited trace of that even today, not in the racialized form that it took back then, but in this general sense that we’ve got to keep our women safe from the “bad guys.” Some aspects of our thinking about sexuality are informed by that, when it should be simply a question of worship vs. idolatry. Of course it’s a complicated issue and there are probably lots of ways of narrating it. I really appreciate your humble, thoughtful conversational tone.

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  15. Mary Rogers said, “(t)his kind of behavior is exactly why people are leaving Christianity in droves, because of the insistence that people have to agree with them on every little point.” I’m sure that’s true but I would also beg (with all respect to your right to hold whatever belief you wish) to offer the observation that many many people are leaving all religion behind because, after really examining the evidence, they have concluded there is no substance to any belief in supernatural things.

    • I think you are right that a lot of people are leaving religion for that very reason. However most people believe in God even if they don’t believe in any kind of formal religion. I am part of that camp. What I see is a move towards individual and inclusive spirituality. I am not saying anything against the atheist point of view, though.

  16. You complained tha since I did not provide a link to that story of the gay guy in the hospital, that that somehow invalidates my point …. I fI do provide a link then it is ignored, if I don’t then I am not providing evidence for my viewpoint. I won’t play that game with you.

    Mary, I didn’t actually ask for a link to the story. I actually sympathize with the point you ultimately make about doing “research” in online debates, and by no means do I expect you to provide me with links and citations and case studies and so on. I’ve been down that path, and I agree that it is often futile, and on some level basically inefficient and unfair: you’re engaged in a transient debate in some comment section on a blog, and you go to all the effort to find links and what-have-you, and then the person you’re arguing with misconstrues or dismisses you anyway. I get it. I don’t expect you to bring me independent research.

    My complaint was that the story, as you described it, was too vague for me to evaluate with any particularity, but at the same time I did acknowledge that I know that that kind of story is thrown around a lot in this controversy. My answer was, if there are problems with hospital visitation, and a legal solution is sought, then tailor the legal solution to those problem. Hence my little joke about the man with the broken toe who gets a cast on his entire leg and a referral to a neurosurgeon. Conferring marital status on couples effects a sweeping change to their legal status far beyond hospital visitation.

    As for your link to the Patheos “gay for a day” experiment, I’m sorry if I came across as personally dismissive. I was certainly dismissive of the case you were making, but that doesn’t mean I was dismissive of you personally. In talking about my comment about this experiment where people are supposed to spend a day without saying anything about their loved ones (in order to “get inside” the experience of people who feel reticent or unable to talk about their same-sex partners), you said this about me:

    Not only did he not acknowledge that these are typical experiences, he argued that even if they are true, that it is ultimately irrelevant to the argument. I don’t consider that to be respectful at all.

    Well, I said that I understood that those experiences happen in some places, even though in my own part of the world it is not an issue–what it takes to make something like that “typical” or how one could make that determination, I don’t know. Yes, though, I did say that it was irrelevant: the Patheos experiment is pure sentimentality, and it goes back to this issue of the law being used to change how people feel. If you’re talking about being able to visit someone in the hospital, then you’re talking about something concrete that law can address. If, on the other hand, you’re talking about whether someone’s friends or family approve of homosexuality, you’re talking about people’s hearts, and I reject the notion that the law should try to change people’s hearts (and the notion that people’s legal choices should be driven by pure sentiment), and I don’t think it needs to anyway, since acceptance of homosexuality is growing culturally and without need of laws to try to influence how people feel. I prefer to use laws for concrete issues, not for dealing with how this person or that feels having personal conversation with family around the dinner table or with co-workers in the break room.

    • Thank you for your nice response. You have brought up the issue of trying to change people’s hearts about this issue and I do realize that not everyone is going to agree with homosexuality, however much I think they should. But I don’t necessarily think that you have to accept homosexuality to support gay rights. These are two separate issues that have been lumped together as one. People think that when gays want their relationships to be recognized by law, then that means that they are trying to force others to agree with them. There is some truth to that however, I think that the basis of gay rights is simply the idea that people have the right to make their own choices in how they choose to live their lives. There are people who believe that divorce is a grievous sin, but not very many people would think that it would be a good idea to make that into law. So ultimately I do not think that this issue has so much to do with having everyone believe that homosexuality is acceptable, but rather respecting their right to live in ways that others might disagree with.

      Perhaps I have been a bit pushy with my points about accepting others, but I wanted to make the point that I believe that other people’s experiences do matter when making these kinds of decisions about their rights. That is a separate issue entirely from the idea that you have to approve of what they are doing. Again it is generally recognized that people have the right to have a divorce, regardless of whether someone disagrees with that decision. I don’t believe that allowing is the same as condoning as many people do. They have the right to make their own decisions.

      I realize now that you were objecting to my saying that I think that even those who disagree with homosexualtiy should look at the situation with more compassion than they do. I still believe that, but that does not mean that I expect them to automatically come to the the same conclusion I have. What i am saying is that I feel it is shortsighted to not look at the situation from all sides, including those positions of the people that you disagree with.

      I still hold to the position that discrimination against gays is extremely common. Just because you haven’t personally observed it does not mean that this isn’t true. I actually used to believe that myself at one time. Even if you live in an area where this does not apply, that does not mean that it doesn’t happen in other places. I am not accusing all Christians of being this way, but laws ensuring that openly gay people cannot be fired from jobs because of it are actively opposed in many states. While there may be some validity to those arguments that this might infringe on the rights of church organizations to decide whether to hire someone who is gay based on ideological concerns, I do not think that this would be a big problem because I doubt that many gay people would apply to a church oragnization that believes they are evil in the first place. I think a fair compromise would be to excempt religious organizations from that requirement.

      I hope I have cleared up some of the misunderstandings between us and I thank you for listening.

      Peace,
      Mary ;)

  17. Morgan, when you give me links they do not appear to be showing up to me as they usually would, with a blue color, so I cannot follow them. I am interested in reading more. Also I do not always see a reply button to your comments. I have no idea whether this is a problem with my browser or whether the problem is on your end, but I thought I would let you know.

    I appreciate your openess about having a mental illness. It is a very difficult decision for people to talk about this, because there is so much misunderstanding. There are people in my life who have made my choice to take medication into a moral issue, when it is not. They don’t consider me dangerous, but I suspect it is because they don’t believe I have one in the first place. I get especially galled with the people who claim that mental illness does not exist, and that it is an invention of psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical companies who want to pathologize normal behavior. What planet do they live on?

    There are so many Christains who tell others not to take psych meds because somehow that is an affront to God.so I appreciate your candor about this.

    • The “true church” are those who follow the example of Jesus. Dogma and creeds are irrelevant to that. When people have to nitpick every little point then it is surely evidence that they don’t believe in what Jesus taught, because 90% of his critisicisms were reserved for the religous practices of placing dogma over being kind to your fellow man. I see no evidence that he intended to set up another religion that did the exact same thing that he condemned in the previous one. This kind of behavior is exactly why people are leaving Christianity in droves, because of the insistence that people have to agree with them on every little point. Even if you think that someone is wrong on a particular point, it doesn’t warrant the idea that this matters to God one iota. We are human and our understandings are imperfect (even yours) so it is time that people stop making an issue of them and start actually practicing what Jesus taught, which is summed up in the Golden Rule.

      • One more point. When people make dogma and their interpretation of it a priority, then this is a game of the ego. EGO means “Edging God Out.” If we really want to follow what Jesus taught, then our egos have to be set aside. That is why I say that dogma is ultimately irrelevant to being a good Christian, because being “right” all the time is not what Jesus taught. While I personally think a case can be made for the Trinity (which by the way the good Rev did not say how he felt about that in the first place), did Jesus say that this was the important part of his teaching? Answer: He didn’t. He made it very clear that the most important part was to treat people in a decent manner. Period. That was his main teaching.

        A quote has been attributed to Ghandi, and although there is some dispute as to whether if fact he actually said this, it is still a good saying. “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

      • Mary, take a look at two of my posts: Orthodoxy for the Sake of Orthopraxis and Communion Or Correctness: The Underlying Question. I don’t think that doctrine is entirely irrelevant. The purpose of doctrine is ironically to protect us from monstrosities like the Four Spiritual Laws. The word haeresis in Greek means “faction.” Throughout Christian history, the heretics have been the people who exude your acronym EGO. They usually aren’t the libertines. They’re wanting to make a claim about God that’s nit-pickier than other people’s for the sake of giving themselves an inside edge. Pelagius the guy who invented Pelagianism for example was a hard-core ascetic who wanted to claim that we have to be sinless to enter into God’s presence and Jesus’ cross somehow “helps” us on the journey but there’s no real redemption that results from it. For Pelagius, this wouldn’t have been a problem because he thought he was purified of sin, but for most Christians, it would have created all sorts of neurosis. So I think it was providential that Augustine won the debate with Pelagius, even though Augustine has left us with some foul teachings amidst the gems.

      • Mortan, it would be helpful if you would privide the links, They don’t seem to be coming up. Since I am not completely familiar with church history this would be helpful. You do make a good point. Maybe a better way of putting this is that when people want to argue about the Trinity or whatever,then I feel that they are missing the point of having the Creed in the first place. I also don’t feel that it is necessary to accept everything in a creed to practice what Jesus taught.

        There doesn’t seem to be a reply button on the screen to reply to you previous cooment, so I will reply here. I get your point about being respectful, however I do not believe that Lasseter presented his argument in a respectful way. When I referred him to a link he simply came back and said that he does not believe that this is a typical experience of gay people as being discriminated against. I personally think that is very disrespectful. I do not know if you followed that link yourself, but I think it would be helpful for you to look at it so you can see where I am coming from. Not only did he not acknowledge that these are typical experiences, he argued that even if they are true, that it is ultimately irrelevant to the argument. I don’t consider that to be respectful at all.

        Yes you are right that it is important to carry on a respectful disagreement with others, however I do get annoyed with people who simply dismiss other people’s pain that easily.

      • Oh goodness, I am embarrassed! I didn’t get your name right! As I said I have a chronic fatigue condition that make my abilty to concentrate difficult. Please forgive me!

  18. (In response to Mary Rogers. Apologies to the moderator if this takes the commentary too far and too wordily beyond the original topic. I’m willing to call it quits any time. Very well may just call it quits after this comment, come to think of it.)

    Refusing to recognize people’s inherrant worth and right under the law is a way of “keeping them from being together” by declaring their relationships to be invalid. While you may be right that no one is stopping them from being together, ….

    Oh, so you now you mean “keeping them from being together” figuratively. Very well.

    Your comments in this, like much of the discourse on this subject, flow from this notion that the law should be a means of changing the cultural attitudes towards whomever we’re talking about (I say “whomever,” because this view of law is not just seen in this same-sex marriage matter). The law is now supposed to dictate the contents of people’s hearts. Oh, no, of course, these couples are allowed to be together in reality, but some people don’t like that, and therefore we need radically and sweepingly to alter an entire body of law in order to remedy this and “keep them together” in people’s hearts too.

    After you described an example of a man who was not allowed to visit his partner in the hospital, even though the partner insisted that it be permitted, you said, “Actions like this should not be enshrined by law.” First of all, one really cannot tell from your description what exactly happened, but, on the bare “facts” as you describe them, those kinds of actions are absolutely not enshrined by law. If a hospital behaved improperly, following the wishes of a patient’s brother rather than the patient himself, then the hospital should answer for it.

    Frankly, I find the story somewhat incredible, perhaps on account of its lack of detail, because modern hospitals are painfully aware of legal liabilities when it comes to patient relations, visitation, and so on. It makes me wonder, was the patient comatose at the time that his partner tried to visit him and without written instructions? Did his partner cause a scene? Was it really the hospital or was it some wayward staff member or a couple of staff acting unilaterally? The thing raises questions. In any case, I can’t judge that particular story, but that type of situation (celebrated in this debate as a great reason for same-sex marriage) happens with much less frequency, and any hospital acting contrary to patient visitation wishes like that is opening itself up to trouble under the current legal regimes. If, however, a change in law is needed to deal with situations like that, the change should be tailored to address the particular problem: conferring full marital status on homosexual couples is a sweeping change that hugely transcends hospital visitation. “Well, Jim, I see you’ve broken your toe, so I believe I shall put your entire leg and half of your torso in a cast. Shoot, while we’re at it, I’m going to bind up your other limbs and prescribe a year’s worth of morphine for the pain. Be sure to follow up with a neurosurgeon just to be safe.”

    As for the Patheos “gay for a day” link, that’s, again, all about sentiment, not about legal status or rights. I don’t know any person of whatever sexual proclivities who is ashamed to talk about girlfriend or boyfriend or husband or wife of whatever kind. I know that there are pockets of society where that kind of quiet happens, but that is not a legal issue in any event. That is a cultural issue. And the culture is changing without a reinvention of marriage under the law.

    Point being that you have no right to judge another’s experience without actually being there in their shoes.

    Really, does one have to expend the effort to try to refute this silly idea? For one thing, I’m not judging anyone else’s experience. Nonetheless, I find this axiom untenable, but I’m not going to argue that one.

    Please forgive my spelling errors.

    Don’t sweat it. I hardly even noticed. :)

    • You are free to believe what you want about this, but part of the problem is when the majority wants to dictate the experience of the minority. I have learned to be much more sympathetic towards others because I am part of minority myself. I have a mental illness. Many people claim that the mentally ill are simply whining about not being accepted and that they don’t tolerate other’s opinions well. And yet we have a majority who believe that the mentally are inherently dangerous and they try to “prove” it on the basis of a few rare incidences where many times that have not been reported accurately in the first place. Many people use the term “psycho” without even knowing what the term even means. People have taken this from two different words. “psychotic”, which means being out of touch with reality (hallucinations, paranoia, etc.) and “psychopath”. Psychopaths are people sho have no conscience, but are perfectly sane and do not have a mental illness. Neither of these things automatically lead to violence. The percentage of people who have mental illness who commit violence is very low. I am not saying that proper precautions should not be taken if someone does show a possibility of commiting a violent act, however we have more to fear from perfectly sane criminals such as gangbangers than from the mentally ill. Senseless crimes often are so incomprehensible to us that we often think that that means that they must be mentally ill. Being psychologically twisted does not mean a person has a mental illness, and the majority of people who commit violent acts are perfectly sane.

      People are extremly judgmental of mental illness and in fact polls show that they would not feel comfortable working with a schizophrenic because of the fear of violence. I am not a schizophrenic myslef, but I have worked extensively with people who have this illness and yet I have never been a victim of violence from them. It is a very treatable disease and when properly treated you would never even know that they have an illness to begin with. Most people do not even know what schizophrenia is to begin with, it is not a disorder of multiple personalities, which is a separate disease and very rare. It simply means that a person experiences a loss of touch with reality and it is very treatable with medications.

      You may not have any prejudices against the mentally ill, but i am using this as an example of the majority of people believing that they are not discriminatory against the mentally ill, when in fact they are, but don’t want to admit it. I knew a schizophrenic who was able to work just fine working, but periodically he would have a few “breakthrough” symptoms. He would get fired from jobs and kicked out of his living situations and end up broke and homeless within only a few days because it was assumed that he was a drug absuser. The law forbids this sort of treatment, but it is very difficult to enforce it. The fact is that the stigma of mental illness is greater than the stigma of taking drugs and so he was afraid to tell his employer that he had a disease.

      Another misconception about the mentally ill is that if they doing well then they must not have an illness in the first place. So this same guy was critisized for not having a job when he was well, despite the fact that the system made it virtually impossible to do so.

      My point in all this is that when the majority does not want to look at the experiences of the minority and claims that they are making their problems up, it is often a case of the majority not listeninhg to their stories and being unwilling to have empathy towards them. This baffles me no end, because the basis of spirituality is not judgment, but rather empathy for others.

      You complained tha since I did not provide a link to that story of the gay guy in the hospital, that that somehow invalidates my point. Do your homework. Read the stories gay people and base your judgments on that. I am not required to always back up what I say because the information is readily available. I get tired of this treatment because with people like you it is a no-win situation. I fI do provide a link then it is ignored, if I don’t then I am not providing evidence for my viewpoint. I won’t play that game with you.

      • Hey Mary, I appreciate your zeal and I think you make some great points. Please don’t bust out a “people like you” though. Lasseter has written with a charitable tone to express a disagreement in a way that comes across respectfully to me. I often read things online and get enraged and write a steaming hot rant on somebody else’s blog which makes me look foolish. I think you handled yourself a lot better than I usually do here. By the way, I’m mentally ill and I have a close family member who is schizoaffective. I take Wellbutrin and Adderall every day. It helps but I still have a lot of struggles. I sometimes feel like there are two types of people: those who take pills to make their brain work right and those who don’t. So you’re in a safe space here. Let’s make everyone feel safe.

    • What about the legal protections that marriage allows to couples, same sex or otherwise, who have children, adopted or otherwise? What about the sharing of benefits and other economic resources that are assumed by married couples? Do you really think it is the duty of the state to deny these to same sex couples because you believe them to be sinners? Then why not deny them to all sinners? Why not deny other civil rights to those who sin in other ways? If that were the duty of the state then no one of could be certain of their rights. The debate over same sex marriage is about the civil aspects of marriage. The state has nothing to say about the spiritual aspect. We Don’t deny rights, privileges and duties to others on the basis of their sin or adherence to a particular creed, or religion. The state can only strip a person of their rights if they have a compelling interest to do so. It will be interesting to see how SCOTUS rules on the two cases before concerning gay marriage. IMHO, I Don’t see that the state has a compelling interest here.

  19. Hey!
    First time reading your blog – just popped up on my newsfeed. Love the point behind the ‘total depravity of everyone else’ tag – Christian’s often forget how messed up we actually are. However, where does Salvation fit into the picture? When our lives are changed by Jesus, are we still totally depraved? So while agree that Christians are in no position to be devoid of showing grace to others, I’m intrigued as to whether or not the ‘total depravity of everyone else’ might be somewhat Biblical? The world without Christ is still at enmity against him, isn’t it? Interested to hear your thoughts!!

    • Caleb, thanks for your comment. It got buried so I’m just now getting to it. I prefer to talk about total providence rather than total depravity. Nothing good that we do has its origin in us; it is always God working through us. To be Christian is to be liberated from the need for self-justification by the cross so that giving glory to God is a blessing to us. When you’re not Christian, you need to take credit for your own good deeds and that need to be your own god is what makes you wicked in varying degrees.

  20. Pingback: On Senseless Violence | Author Laura Lee

  21. Well said. One reason so many leave the church is the emphasis you illustrate. It was near the end of the first century when having the faith of Jesus [caring about others – the “Jesus School” of following his actions] was supplanted by “faith” IN Jesus [believe the right things about Jesus – the “Christ Cult”]. He wanted what the earliest followers discovered, that we would have him with us always as we treated others as family – they knew him in the “breaking of the bread”, in the caring fellowship . The Nicaean Creed sealed the loss of a church following Jesus and made a church ABOUT Jesus that believed the “right” statements about him. Too bad. I’d say he’d be spinning in his grave about that, but too many fundamentalists would not get it.

    • Rev. Bill, I can’t go with you there. I think you’re getting too much mileage out of the pistis christou issue. I agree that there are places where we’ve gotten the grammar wrong and it should be “faith of” and I generally agree that reducing faith to propositional content is garbage, but I’m not going to kick Nicaea to the curb.

  22. I am a believer and follower of Jesus and I absolutely loved this post as it speaks so much truth of how I know Jesus through my study of his life and his commands to us his followers. Jesus truly was all about love, mercy and grace. He ate and drank and spent time with sinners. He was all about laying down stones and taking out the plank in our own eye’s instead of focusing on the plank in someone else’s eye. Every single one of us are depraved human beings that are capable of the greatest evil. As Christians or believers we don’t like to think this. We like to think we are above “that” sin over there, so that we can pride ourselves in being so “good”. None of us are good but we are capable of doing good. I happen to believe that homosexuals should be able to marry and welcomed in the “church” and I believe in the right to carry a gun and that marijuana should be legal also. Just as I think we should have the right to purchase and drink raw milk and not have big brother saying I can’t. I am against abortion and see it as murder but I’m not so sure that I have a right to stop someone else from making that choice. All these laws are useless and take rights away from tax paying, law abiding citizens. I don’t fit in either side of the issues and really I don’t care to. I think there are a lot of like this but it’s those that scream the loudest and act the most ridiculous that get noticed and heard. Very often I am embarrassed to call myself a Christian because I know what that means to many people as they quickly assume I am against this or for that when it’s the farthest thing from the truth.

    All of this to say this. I believe as believers our lives should be about feeding the hungry, reaching out and helping the least of these, loving our neighbors as ourselves and be about the work Jesus gave us to do instead of fighting about issues and wasting precious time on things that must make Jesus very sad. I don’t think we were meant to build lavish buildings and call them churches, with lavish insides and spend all our time inside this building, building ourselves up and keeping out the bad. I would think it breaks God’s heart as it does mine to see us wasting so much money and time on such foolish things. And really what good are we doing with all that? Instead we need to be getting ourselves dirty with the what is most important. Loving and standing beside the walking wounded and leaving the convicting of sin to God. Just imagine the peace that could come to our world if each one of us believers did this? Thank you for a great post that has inspired me to go get my hands dirty and get about the business of what He has called me to do.

    • I agree with what you say in general, however there is something that I feel needs to said. I am not trying to nitpick or to tell you that you have to believe as I do. While I believe it is very appropriate to say that other people should look at their own “sins” first and be humble about themselves, I think that the idea that we are inherently depraved is just plain wrong and in fact in many cases is what leads to the fact that we do not want to look at ourselves. Rather we are people who make mistakes and the word “sin” is actually an archery term meaning “missing the mark”. There is nothing wrong with not being able to hit a bulls-eye 100% of the time and this implies that it is a matter of admitting our mistakes and trying harder the next time. I believe that spiritually mae in the image of God, which I think is evidenced by the fact that most of us have a conscience, including people who belong to different faiths. Most people do try to do the right thing most of the time. The only exception is possibly in the case of the mental disorder “sociopathy” but not even all sociopaths commit crimes or are destructive to society or to people in general.

      At the same time I think it is true that we are capable of doing great evil but I don’t think it is because we are actually evil. Usually it stems from misperceptions of the world around us and of other people. This is why we have to be careful to not stigmatize anyone because then all of the sudden we become the ones acting evilly and attack others who have done nothing to us. When people stigmatize gays or people of other faiths they are doing so out of fear and misunderstanding in most cases. Fear and misunderstanding are not evil in themselves, it is only what we do with that that can result in evil actions.

      I actually believe that there is more good in people in general, than bad, and I think that the perception of it being otherwise is what leads to people being judgemental of others and also of being unwilling to look at themselves. Let’s put it this way. if people do believe that everyone is inherently depraved then they must at some level believe that of themselves as well, even if they don’t act like it. They are afraid of looking at themselves precisely because they believe that of themselves. I believe that nothing in the psyche is evil in and of itself. It just needs to be brought to the surface to deal with it and to put it to use in the right way. Darkness only exists in the absence of light. For instance if we condemn anger as an emotion then we are actually more likely to act out angrily because we have denied it its rightful place so we end up acting it out unconsciously and projecting it on others. If we bring it out and restore it to it’s proper function of protecting us in an appropriate way, such as when someone violates our boundaries, then it becomes a positive thing.

      I think the insistence of the Judeo-Christian (and Muslim) traditions that we are completely evil with no redeeming characteristics is precisely why they have had trouble getting along with others. Even among conservative fundamentalist Christians, if you were to take away all of the people they condemn as either not being Christian or not being the “right sort” of Christian (such as progressives), a plus all of the minorities so that you would be left with white, conservatives that agree on the basics of the faith, such as salvation and following a strict adherance to the laws set down in the bible, even enshrining it in government policy, they would not be satisfied and would quickly attack each other like rabid wolves. The person who is my friend today in fighting the “evils” of others is my enemy tomorrow once we have defeated them. I have heard people argue that the muslim religion is wholly incompatable with civiilized society and I agree that in many cases that is true, although I don’t think that is true of all Muslims. However the type of Christiantiy that the conservatives push is just as hostile to civilized society as well. You can’t replace one repressive societal system with another and claim that one is good, but the other is bad, simply because you think that your God says your way is okay!

      Despite the accusation by conservatives that liberals use situation ethics and don’t believe in objective morality this is EXACTLY a case of situational ethics and not believing in objective morality!

      Sorry about the rant but these people make no sense at all! The fact is that progressives have done a favor for Christianity by civilizing it. Otherwise we would have a sytem very much like what you find in repressive Muslim countries.

      • Mary, have you read my piece on Removing the Linchpin of Christian Hate. I think a misinterpretation of Romans 3 is largely behind the notion that humanity is utterly wicked in Christianity. Whenever Paul and James and the other New Testament writers get really heavy-handed about sin, it’s in order to rebuke people who are judging others. If you look at the conclusion of Paul’s rant in Romans 3 where he’s quoting the “No one is righteous” psalm passages, he says that the purpose of the judgment is “so that every mouth would be silenced.” God doesn’t want to torture billions of people; He wants us to live under His mercy and stop trying to one up each other.

      • I know I am bit long-winded on my points but I wanted to add one more thing. My assertion Christians who believe in right wing ideology would quickly turn against each other once they got rid of the liberals, progressives, atheists, people of different faiths, etc, I think is very well supported by the fact that Billy Graham had a page on his website devoted to calling the Mormon religion a cult. He had a meeting with Romney and this page quietly disappeared. His implicit message was that as long as Romney believed that gays were evil as he does, then he would put aside the fact that he believes that Romney is not a Christian. In other words, if the gays were to disappear then he would have no problem with believing that Romney was a threat to America by virtue of being a member a religion that he believes to be a cult. I do not believe for one minute that he would have supported Romney under other any other circumstances. Of course there is also the possibiltiy that he believes that Obama is a muslim like so many of the religious right do. My point being that this is the height of hypocracy and even though I believe he is wrong about the gays and about Mormonism I would have more respect for him if he had stuck to his guns. This is exactly why a theocracy would never work in a million years,

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  24. I have a particular long-time friend who, a few years ago, came out of the closet. Most of his friends and his family abandoned him, at least temporarily. He no longer felt welcome in his church. The very next summer, he telephoned and asked me to march alongside him in the local Gay Pride parade. I immediately thought about the television cameras, and the distinct possibility that everyone I cared about–including my wife, my adult children, my fellow church members–would see me on the evening news. I quickly refused his request.

    It can be argued that he asked too much of me, which he probably did. But he was seeking a friend who would stand by him in a highly-emotional and difficult time of his life. In the end, my pride caused me to abandon my friend in a difficult situation. He marched alone, knowing no one else in that parade–friendless, frightened, and alone. I have carried the guilt since that day, because I am almost certain what decision Jesus would have made, given similar circumstances.

    I have since invested the time to reference the gay-Christian websites and fully re-read portions of relevant Scripture from the gay perspective. I sincerely desire to learn how they interpret relevant portions of Scripture. And I am secure enough in both my Christianity and my masculinity to have an open mind about the subject.

    My conclusion is that we should focus our efforts on feeding the hungry, caring for the less-fortunate, learning to live in peace toward each other. At such time as we have fully accomplished each of those lofty goals, then I would be willing to sit back, relax, and entertain the discussion about whether God might prefer heterosexuality over homosexuality.

  25. I see a lot of truth in what you say. While there is a danger in stereotyping the conservative Christians, there is the fact that a lot of them behave just as you say. Of course, it is usually the loudest and most obnoxious ones that get our attention. The fact is that there is a culture of paranoia among these people, and I have to wonder if it has to do with ultimately wanting to control the uncontrollable. The world is a scary place and it helps some people to believe that if they do X,Y and Z then they will be spared the evils of the world. Ultimately I believe that this is why there is such hysteria regarding gay marriage. While it may be true that some people simply disagree with it for purely on principle, there are many that do hate and fear these people for no rational reason at all. This is why this is so disturbing.and why I feel I must oppose this point of view. Even those who are against it with no malice in their hearts, I still think that they really do need to look at the issue with a little more understanding and compassion than they do. There is no good reason to keep people who love each other apart.
    I read an article online about the psychology of predjudice and they talked about how certain people are uncomfortable with the idea of ambuguity. They see everything as black and white because the idea of having a gray area cannot be tolerated. it generates fear. I wonder if this might have been an adaptive response when mankind lived in tribal societies. They certainly may have had a good reason to not automatically trust strangers from other tribes, especially if they were competing for the same resources. The problem is that the world is much smaller now and we are constantly bumping into people who are different.. It is easy to demonize people that are not like us.

    Ultimately we have to consider that when normally rational people beome hysterical over the supposed ‘threat” of the other, that it simply has to do with the fear of losing control. The boundaries that we considered that kept us safe are crumbling, and we don’t know what to do with it. It is especially hard when we consider that there are real threats in the world. We can’t control a hurricane, and to a large extent we can’t contol terrrorist attacks either. Evil abounds and we keep our guns near. I think it is especially scary because mankind used to be isolated in their own unique territories and we weren’t always aware of every bad thing that was happeing in the rest of the world. Now we have news running 24/7 telling us in excruciating detail about every bad thing that is happening worldwide. When it seems like things are getting worse in the world,and that the end-times seem near, it is often simply because we are more aware of what is going on everywhere.
    The unreasonable hysteria of the religious right (or religious wrong) that gun control equals taking their guns away entirely, can be traced to this fear that without guns, social order will simply fall apart. This is fueled by racism and the very legitimate fear of terrorism.
    But ultimately the religous right has very simplistic solution to the problems in the world and this is why ultimately knee-fear reactions will fail. We simply can’t always be in control and as long as we try to be in control then there is the very real possiblity that we will become the ones out of control, jumping at every shadow and attacking others without cause as with the whole “kill all the Muslims” philosophy dictates.
    We have to make peace with the fact that we can’t control every bad thing in the world. We can make ourselves as safe as we can be and often we are safer than we think we are anyway. Despite everything we are in much safer part of the world than many other places.

    • I agree. I think a lot of this has to do with hating ambiguity and complexity. That’s the thing with a literal interpretation of scripture. It’s not about the authority of the text; it’s the authority of the interpreter.

    • Although this may be somewhat tangential to the original post, this comment struck me:

      There is no good reason to keep people who love each other apart.

      Who is trying to keep people who love each other apart? I don’t doubt that there are some out there who would like to do this. Why, I have seen it among heterosexual couples as well many times, but this is not what the current legal controversy is about. Homosexual couples are free under the law to love each other and to be together. If there are any issues with this, they are local (and non-legal) issues like being shunned or treated a certain way within a neighborhood or community, but the legal debate is not about whether they are allowed to be together–they are allowed to be together, and in most communities in modern America this is probably not a huge problem, and the problem becomes less and less as the culture changes. It is about whether a legal status with a huge host of legal changes in privileges, rights, and duties designed for heterosexual couples should be conferred in toto on same-sex couples.

      Really, who of the opponents to same-sex marriage, except for some of the whackadoodle extremists who are caricatures of themselves, is trying to keep people apart? People are free to associate as they choose. The controversy is about whether one type of couple should be treated by law the same as another in a way that has a great many consequences beyond these sentimental observation of “people who love each other.”

      • I disagree. Here are the reaasons why:

        !. Refusing to recognize people’s inherrant worth and right under the law is a way of “keeping them from being together” by declaring their relationships to be invalid.While you may be right that no one is stopping them from being together, the fact is that this is only because the law forbids such actions. It is riidiclous to assume that most people accept the rights of gays to love each other, when at the same time they are being told that they have inferior rights as compared to others.,

        2. There are very good reasons to allow gay marriage to be recognized that have nothing to do with idealogical objections to it. This has to do with simple human decency. Recently there was a gay man who was evicted from a hospital for visiting his gay partner, even though his partner wanted him there and told the staff so. The hospital staff chose to listen to the gay man’s brother who didn’t want him there, over the objections of the patient himself! I am not a member of the gay community but just by following the news I can see this happens very frequently and it is plain wrong, period. Actions like this should not be enshrined by law.

        3. Finally if you really think that most people accept gay people’s rights to love each other then I suggest you try this mental exercise, “Gay for a Day” at:

        http://www.patheos,com/blogs/kimberlyknight/2013/04/gay-for-a-day

        Point being that you have no right to judge another’s experience without actually being there in their shoes.

      • Please forgive my spelling errors. I suffer from a chronic illness that makes it difficult for me to concentrate, plus I need new glasses.Some people use this as a reason to dismiss what I say so I want to lay this on the table so it is not an issue. Thank you.

  26. I very much enjoyed your post, and was personally convicted in a way I didn’t expect. I agree with you that we need to value mercy over judgement, and that many Christians are guilty of hypocrisy and creating an “us vs. them” mentality. And then I realized that I too am guilty of that. I am with the “good” people who don’t judge others, not with the “bad” people who oppose gay marriage and focus too strongly on “purity.” I often feel superior in some ways, because I used to believe those things and now think that I have a broader view of the world and scripture in general. It’s important to show grace and mercy to people I disagree with too, otherwise I’m just as much of a hypocrite as anyone else. After all, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, even if that’s where our similarities end.

  27. 1)God and Jesus didn’t hate sex; he told humans to populate the planet, remember? 2)Remember the parts in the bible where cities were built with one hand on a weapon and the other doing the work? You missed that part

  28. “Scott” said, “(m)arriage is about socially responsible fecund sex.” No, actually it’s not. It’s a legal arrangement designed to create a single economic unit where there were two before. If it were about “fecund sex” a childless marriage would be illegal. Oh, yeah, that’s right. I forgot about the Roman Catholics and their farcical “annulment” loophole. Religious organizations can make whatever rules for their club members they like, but those rules or definitions do not apply to members of society who don’t subscribe to that organization’s particular dogma.

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  30. “Now I do need to say as a former high school teacher that sexual promiscuity is a huge problem. A lot of my former students will earn minimum wage for the rest of their lives because they had kids when they were kids.”

    This sounds like a big problem. Maybe we should invent some kind of cheap, easily distributable technology that would allow people to promiscuously have sex without causing a pregnancy. Or we could universally educate (hetero and bi) children and encourage them to use non-penetrative sex acts that don’t cause pregnancy, and how to get and use that hypothetical technology above. You’re right, the absence of that technology and education does sound like a huge problem! Promiscuity, not so much.

    • I didn’t say anything one way or another about sex education. I will say that the farce of intimacy created by hookup culture is a separate problem than pregnancy itself.

  31. I rather like this “total depravity of everyone else” angle.

    My own experience with these two subjects–carrying guns in church and fathers’ protecting the purity of their daughters–is more countrified than suburban. My own state of Ohio has some of the more permissive firearms laws (although, it’s worth noting, a fat lot of good they’ll do you in the city: just try carrying openly in, say, Cleveland, and see how quickly the police detain you and very likely arrest you), and churches, unless they have an explicit policy allowing firearms (and some do, particularly in the country), are zones where guns are not permitted. I’m an old conservative from way back, right to bear arms and so on, but carrying a gun into church disturbs me. My own criticism has tended to be that church is the place where we go to meet God and to place ourselves in His hands, rely upon His mercy. Such hyper-vigilance about the evil and violence of this world as to carry your Glock into services strikes me as an incongruity. Add to this that a church in America is just about the safest place you can be on a Sunday morning (church gun violence stories make headlines because they are shocking, but it does not mean there is an epidemic), and I think carrying a loaded firearm into services is more a reflection of the state of mind of the carrier than it is a reflection of an objective danger. It certainly isn’t a reflection of a necessary Christian value or practice.

    What I mean to get at (and apparently it’s taking me a long time here) is that this “total depravity of everyone else” seems also to translate into “total macho righteousness and authority over even the most remote of earthly dangers.” When a man is even, say, sitting in his lounge chair in the living room, watching American Idol, with his pistol strapped to his belt on any old fine evening, I think it’s a lot more about his sense of himself and his psychological state than it is about protecting his home from the invaders that are likely to storm in while he’s watching TV. Again, I don’t see any of it as a reflection of Christian virtue, and the intimate association between Christian faith and gun ownership and promiscuous carrying of firearms troubles me. The two should not be so intimately related.

    And now for my thoughts on pre-marital sex and purity. On second thought, I’ve rambled enough. Sorry.

    • “When a man is even, say, sitting in his lounge chair in the living room, watching American Idol, with his pistol strapped to his belt on any old fine evening, I think it’s a lot more about his sense of himself and his psychological state than it is about protecting his home from the invaders that are likely to storm in while he’s watching TV.” YES! That nails it better than I did.

  32. I like the things you say about some believers drawing a contrast between themselves and the sin that is “out there.”

    Perhaps I emphasize it too much, but Jesus was always interested in the ‘sinners’ and reserved his criticism for the religious leaders who looked down on sinners.

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  34. This is a warped article. People against gay marriage does not equate to being against gay people. The two OK do NOT go together. The only easy they go together is mainly in th we minds of the supporters of gay marriage. If they can convince people that the detractor are all about “hate and bigotry” it makes their case so much easier. Marriage is about socially responsible fecund sex. Gay sex is NOT fecund and does not directly support it. In addition, the idea that some need the Government to sanction their relationship is ridiculous. That is not what Government is for.

    • I didn’t really talk about gay marriage in this post other than a brief mention in the opening paragraph so I’m not sure what you’re responding to.

      • I do believe Scott is responding something in your post. You say “I didn’t really talk about gay marriage in this post other than a brief mention in the opening paragraph” which is true enough. The first sentence of your article, “If I were a non-Christian looking from the outside in, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to think that American Christians’ two highest priorities right now are keeping the government from taking away our guns and stopping gay people from getting married.” is all that mention “gay Marriage” but if you read that sentence you do state that ” I don’t think it would be unreasonable to think that American Christians’ two highest priorities right now are keeping the government from taking away our guns and stopping gay people from getting married.”

        Now personally, the fact that you begin the article stating this give rise to the perception that when you speak of sex and sin you are talking about “Gays” and “Gay Marriage.” While you may be unable to see the causality and link between your opening sentence and the fact that someone would remark on that does not change the fact that your article gives the perception that you are saying people against “Gay Marriage” are basically bad people or suffering from Pharisee-ism as someone else put.

        Another thing I noticed is that when “perfectnumber628″ and “Lauraleeauthor” both brought up Homosexuality you do try to so blithely cast aside their feelings or remarks as you do Scott. I can’t help but wonder if this is in part due to your own ideology and personal belief system. The two people who “support” your view you don’t say “I only mention Gay Marriage in my opening paragraph so I’m not sure what you are responding to” to these two comment makers. Neither “perfectnumber628″ nor “Lauraleeauthor” specifically mention “Gay Marriage” in their comments but speak of Homosexuality in general. A subject which as far as I can tell you do not even mention in your article at all other than the “Gay Marriage” comment in the opening.

        In conclusion the question in my mind remains this: If you are unsure of what Scot is “responding to” because you only mention the words “Gay Marriage” in your opening para graph how is it you knew what “perfectnumber628″ and “Lauraleeauthor” were responding to when they comment on Homosexuality or “Gays” when you make no specific mention of them in the article beyond the “Gay Marriage” reference in the opening paragraph? These leads me two one of two conclusions about you as an individual. Either you really don’t see the double standards within your own writings with regards to judging people as you try to imply “those others” are suffering from in this article
        or
        you are a willing proponent of the hypocrisy that infests this country and should be given as much credence and credit as we would any Racist, Fascist, or any other person who tries to judge everyone who thinks differently than they do while pretending to be self-righteous and one of the “Good people.” Your article alone tends to make me believe it is the first conclusion and not the latter that is the case. And I truly hope it is. Because if it is the latter that is the case God help us, because we obviously can’t do it ourselves.

        • I guess what I should have said is that it really isn’t the point of the article. I have written about homosexuality elsewhere on my site. I’m not trying to hide anything. I’m just interested in this case in talking about the way that the instincts of suburban culture influence our doctrine of sin as such.

    • “Marriage is about socially responsible fecund sex.”

      Is that all marriage is about? That strikes me as a rather impoverished view of marriage. My marriage is about a lot more than just that. And it was about plenty enough other stuff to be worthwhile even before we had a child. Should my grandmother not have been allowed to get remarried after my grandfather died? Should my infertile sister’s marriage be annulled? Marriage is about social responsibility, but that covers much more than just fecund sex, and that responsibility can and does exist in the absence of fecundity. I am a strong proponent of marriage because of its many personal and social benefits. Which is why I and a strong proponent of gay marriage.

      • Yeah it really makes the bankruptcy obvious when the purpose of your definition of marriage is to force it it to be heterosexual.

    • I am a straight woman in poor health nearing 40. The strain of pregnancy would very likely leave me too ill to raise any children I might bear.

      Would it be socially irresponsible for me to fall in love and get married, or should I just refrain from having sex with my husband?

  35. I too would love to stand up in church and read this; specifically to the people who thing I am “bad” because of the people I mix with, some of whom are not only “not Christians” they are from “other religions”.

    When I was a teenager, the PCC at my church decided to bring in new, very strict, criteria for attendance at the youth club. They did it to keep out the boys they believed to be “bad” because they had long hair and wore leather jackets and werent from the village I lived in. I knew that actually, these boys were nice lads, genuinely Christian and clean living, it was the sons of the PCC members who dealt weed at youth club and had expectations of the girls. I left and went to another church!

      • Roger that! I once heard someome explain that the original meaning of ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ has nothing to do with loving yourself. Instead, it means we need to see our neighbor as being a member of our group, one of ‘us’. That opened my eyes. Thanks for your article!

  36. Morgan, I frequently read and often enjoy your insights, but tonight is an exception to that usual enjoyment. Their are some VERY broad brushstrokes and caricatures that actually seem to demonize those would want to do things like raise their children in an less violent environment, or Fathers who try their best to train up their daughters in the way they should go.
    I’m thankful my parents took me to those “purity” ceremonies and demonstrated how much they cared for me, but here you are trivializing these people in away that actually makes them seem like they are the ones more totally depraved by being a “suburban church”.

    I would also have to disagree with your premise that carrying a gun to church would embody a two-fold doctrine of sin. 1) If your saying that we’re in error if we don’t think we could stoop to killing someone over a doctrinal issue in a service and therefore shouldn’t carry a gun, should we not bring an ipad or laptop because we would be arrogantly assuming that we aren’t depraved enough to use it to look at porn at church? 2) Whether its coming from “out there” or “in here”, preventing injustices from being forced upon the weak or defenseless is a Godly trait (ie-Ps 82:3, Is 1:17). Several years ago a man walked into the church I was on staff at (in a more urban environment), went right into the children’s service claiming a girl was his niece and sat right by here. She immediately told the children’s pastor that she had no idea who this guy was, but he insisted she was a relative.
    We had to forcibly remove this man from this environment who was railing threats and profanities. We attempted to minister to him, got him coffee, prayed with him, but we also had to call the police who arrived about 15 minutes later. I would never desire to have to use lethal force in a church or anywhere else, but if this man had done something to harm or kill a child or children in the church while we waited for the guys with the guns to show up it would have been a tragedy.
    Its exactly because we acknowledge this depravity is evident everywhere, but also there are people called righteous , that we must have the righteous (not perfectly sanctified…but righteous still) defend the defenseless (including , but not limited to, our own sons and daughters).

    • Thanks for speaking up and doing so in a respectful, humble way, because otherwise I would not be convicted. I was incredibly frustrated with the vote in the Senate and the thought that millions of people who believe as I do have created the dysfunction. I think I shared that I lost a girl in my old youth group to gun violence; before that it wasn’t something I thought about one way or another. I also think that there is a tendency in evangelical culture to over-hype sin not in the form of genuine confession but as a means of showing that you’re on the “right side.” There is something at play in the manufacture of suburban identity that involves values which are in conflict with kingdom values. It’s hard to figure out how to say that without saying everyone who does X is doing so because of Y. Certainly it’s not the case that caring about your family’s safety makes you a Pharisee. I will try to do better. Please continue to be a truthful friend. Forgive me for my arrogance.

      • I appreciate your humility and your ability to differentiate between people exchanging differing ideas from people insecurely attacking each other. I wish this was the normal way for those of us who claim to follow Christ to interact online and in the real world. Its a tough job wrestling with the scriptures and discerning the voice of our Shepherd on these difficult issues. Processing them together without breaking into little tribal communities where everyone thinks the same is so important. If somehow Jesus can band together tax collectors and zealots, there’s hope that our full range of differing viewpoints among Christ followers doesn’t have to disintegrate our bonds of love in Christ.
        I appreciate you constantly pursuing this process in love, Morgan! Take care

  37. I have had a similar thought (and posted on it in the past) about the focus on homosexuality as a sin in particular. I believe the reason there has been such focus on it in particular is that, depending on whose figures you believe, only 2-10% of people are gay. Therefore, if you focus on homosexuality as the great sin, it is something that is not even tempting to a good 90% of people. That makes the sinner (for the majority) someone else. It is much more pleasant to worry about the sins of someone else than to do serious soul searching about the areas where you fall short yourself.

  38. Morgan: Excellent stuff. As I wrote on Facebook, I spend the first part of my criminology class trying to debunk the idea that criminals are different from “normal people”. I look at Spiderman villains who are created through genetic accident, look at Dick Tracy comic strips (the bad guys had names like wrinkles and mumbles — physical defects made them “oher”). Then I move on the Lombroso (who measured skull size to determine criminals were biological throwbacks to an earlier evolutionary stage). By the time I get to the learning based theories or the control theories, I’ve pretty well established that any of us could do those bad things in the right situation. This idea of duality helps justify inhumane incarceration conditions, denial of rights, and expectations of recidivism. It’s the general case of the specific theological case you rightly explore. Thanks for exploring this.

  39. This made me laugh out loud, and it put words to a feeling I couldn’t articulate – thanks. That last sentence is one I’d like to stand up in a lot of churches and share…

  40. Reblogged this on and commented:
    An interesting take from a Christian. Obviously I am not a Christian, but “People who have been smitten by God’s mercy aren’t oblivious to the reality of sin; they just don’t need to talk about it all the time. They’ve been set free of the need to justify themselves by parading their vigilance against the total depravity of everyone else.” is an attitude that I can get behind.

  41. Wow- really really good post. “The total depravity of everyone else.” That’s one suspicious thing about conservative Christianity’s anti-gay position- a majority of them are straight, so it’s all about condemning THOSE people, those dangerous people out there that we must protect our churches/society/children from. Tough on sin when it’s somebody else’s sin that we can’t relate to.

    And I definitely agree that this sort of ideology leads to Pharisee-ism. “the art of hating other people while technically avoiding every explicit sin that’s listed in the Bible” Wow. Well-said.

    • It’s such a delicious double-dip when you talk tough about other peoples’ sin because then you get credit for being tough on sin and you get to keep all your own sins.

      • Exactly. Not to start a complete rant, but I have had problems with people like that in my own family and I have literally had to cut them off from me. Example: I was kicked out of their house because I gave my nephew a birthday gift! The “sin’ I commited was that I did that instead of paying for his meal, whcih I had no idea that they wanted me to in the first place. I am disabled and I don’t have a lot of money to spend in the first place. Thsi nonsense stems partly because they claim to be devout Christians and that their church is the only right one. Since I do not belong then that means that I am morally inferior.

        Meanwhile they expect my elderly dad to completely support their family indefinately because the husband decided to start his own business which is not doing well. There is nothing wrong with starting your own business, but my father has made it very clear that he cannot afford to support them while he is doing it! Basically, my brother-in-law has expected him to support him in part or in whole for more than fifteen years, since he has gotten fired from many jobs for not following orders. When he got fired from his last job over two years ago, he has not felt compelled to find another one.

        While they have not attacked my father overtly like they have with me, the only way that I can see that they can justify this behavior is that they believe that he is also morally inferior as well. He does not belong to this church and does not want to because this is part of their dogma. He is a Christian, but not in their eyes.

        They boast about how they are “not like me” because they are such good Christians. Good Christians would not feel compelled to boast about it.

        I realize that it is wrong to stigmatize all Christians on the basis of a few. I do not think all Christians are like this. But the fact is that there is a grain of truth to this stereotype,and this is why it exists. Even among those who would not actively behave as badly as some of the oworst examples, still often have the attitude that are morally superior than those who believe differently. I see nothing Christ-like about this at all.

        When religous folk put their dogma over basic human decency then they have gone badly wrong. The problem I see too much with Christianity is that it places emphasis on the outer world, instead of the inner one. Thus their concern is not to become better Christians, but to try and convert others to their point of view, and condemn them if they don’t agree. This is not what Jesus taught at all. He very emphatically told others with this attitude that they needed to clean their own houses, intead of worrying about others”. Frankly I think this attitude among Christians may lead to their extinction. This kind if theology is not sustainable in a civilized world and people have every right to object to that.

      • Ah, Morgan. I think I made an offensive comment. I meant to say that this attitude may lead to the extinction of the church, simply because it gives it a bad name. That is not to say that the church should go extinct or that I condemn all Christians as being this way. I do not consider that Christianity as practiced by progressives to be uncivilized. I hope I have made myself clear.

    • I think the fair thing to say is that the majority of them SAY they’re straight. No one I know who really is straight feels the necessity to defend their positions this way; the only people I know who do are some I suspect are hiding their gayness from themselves and the community. You need only look at how many conservative anti-gay crusaders get caught with some other guy’s hand in their pants to know exactly what being anti-gay is really about among conservatives.

    • Not to be a smarty pants English major but I think the quote originated with the Russian novelist Solzheinytsin (sp?). Wright must have used it. It’s a very great quote!

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