Taking “In But Not Of” Too Far?

After the reelection of Dubya, the blogosphere was abuzz with talk of "Jesusland". Well, it seems there is a group of Christians who are looking to make it a reality.

"Christians have actively tried to return the United States to their moral foundations for more than 30 years. We now have a professing Christian president, a Republican Congress and a Republican Supreme Court."

[Insert list of Republichristian grumblings here.]

"Attempts at reform have proven futile. Future elections will not stop the above atrocities, but rather will lead us down an even more deadly path because both national parties routinely disobey the U.S. Constitution."

"So what can be done? ChristianExodus.org offers the opportunity to try a strategy not yet employed by Bible-believing Christians. Rather than spend resources in continued efforts to redirect the entire nation, we will redeem States one at a time. Millions of Christian conservatives are geographically spread out and diluted at the national level. Therefore, we must concentrate our numbers in a geographical region with a sovereign government we can influence through the electoral process."

"ChristianExodus.org is orchestrating the move of thousands of Christians to reacquire our Constitutional rights by electing State and local officials who will interpose on behalf of the people and refuse to enforce illegal federal acts."

Who needs straw men when you have weirdos like this?

Seriously, though, what’s so inherently Christian about a constitutionally limited federal government? Has anybody else noticed that these kinds of fundamentalists treat the Constitution as inerrant Scripture and liberal justices as heretics?

Comments 13

  1. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Ooh, crap, I missed this earlier. Oh well, for the record…

    those reasons paint religion as little more than a complex of social controllers endeavoring to perpetuate itself. The moment you say that about your own religion is the moment you cease to be a part of it.

    I disagree. Religion is a complex of social controllers, just as is society is such a complex and culture is such a complex. None of these are merely that, of course. Do I no longer consider myself part of a culture once I recognize that it is “a complex of social controllers”? No. In fact, if I’m convinced that the social controllers are set up and ordered for mine and/or society’s good, then I might support them all the more.

    And…

    But once your beliefs are guided by “human reason alone,” you’ve already admitted that those beliefs aren’t self-sufficient.

    I know of no one making such a claim, viz. self-sufficiency, about their “beliefs”. It’s preposterous to think that any set of beliefs would purport to tell us everything we possibly can know. I suppose I could go ’round being completely agnostic about everything that is not directly addressed by my religious beliefs (which socks to wear today, Raisin Bran or Cheerios, &c.), but I am not, and I don’t know anyone who is.

    Best regards

    Posted 08 Aug 2005 at 2:40 am
  2. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Well, I’m sure this is all water under the bridge by now… (I’ve been out of ASCII-reach for the past 4 days), but what I meant by “black and white” was your rather cut and dried assumption that of course the RCC (along with other sects who constantly obsess over fertility) is more concerned with popping out the next, larger generation of mindless minions than it is concerned with value or rights of individuals.

    And yeah, okay, cities have existed for quite a long time. But until now, it has always been a minority of humans living in them. According to this source, more people worldwide will live in urban centers than in rural areas beginning in about 2007. This ramp up has been very rapid and recent.

    The Global Problem Solving Squad is a straw man, but certainly no joke. I intended it as a rather opaque short-hand for casting doubt (if not contempt) on the prudence of attempting to solve “Global Problems” in general. I’m far more ammenable to attempting to solve local problems in local ways.

    Posted 04 Aug 2005 at 9:17 pm
  3. theomorph wrote:

    Who needs straw men when you have weirdos like this?

    Indeed. But every time I bring up folks like this, I get accused of putting forth straw men.

    Posted 27 Jul 2005 at 7:01 pm
  4. Funky Dung wrote:

    Well, I still wouldn’t want to have Christianity judged based solely on people like this.

    “With friends like this, who needs enemies?”

    Posted 27 Jul 2005 at 7:32 pm
  5. theomorph wrote:

    They’re just as much Christians as anybody else. They even maintain the hunkered-down, let’s-overthrow-our-corrupt-society mentality the Christians had in the early days.

    Besides, it’s not like there aren’t plenty of people who think huge swaths of Catholicism are equally loony, equally aggressive, equally dangerous, but rhetorically distinct, merely offering more sophisticated obscurantism in its writings. The Protestant fundamentalist wants to change the culture by getting people to bail on federalism and move back toward state sovereignty (and from there, no doubt, even more locally); the Catholic wants to change the culture by getting people to bail on federalism and move into the sovereignty of the church. Or did you forget that recent post about how abominable it is for Catholics to put nationalism above their religion?

    The common denominator is that Christians of all stripes seem to distrust any system of social organization or political decision-making that does not fit their theology.

    Posted 27 Jul 2005 at 8:14 pm
  6. Funky Dung wrote:

    You make some valid points, but I’m sure there are atheists you wouldn’t want representing you (like a certain fellow I won’t mention by name). Is it a dodge or a cheat to say “I distrust X as much as the next Y, but those people have gone off the deep end.”?

    Posted 27 Jul 2005 at 8:19 pm
  7. theomorph wrote:

    Unfortunately for your point, however, there is no Atheism to be diversely represented, only many individual atheists, almost all of whom seem to see things differently. And, as on of my atheist friends recently pointed out, we tend to be constitutionally incapable of organizing meaningfully, partly because we distrust organizations based on metaphysical propositions (or the denial of metaphysical propositions) because those organizations are, in a word, religions.

    That said, there are certainly atheists who I think are nuts, but I don’t feel damaged by them, nor threatened by their existence. However, I think I have good grounds to object when the views of another atheist are pretended to be my own. Conversely, you have good grounds to object when, say, Protestant theology is foisted upon you as your own. However, there is no denying that all Christians, if they are honest Christians, must put their loyalties to their religion, their theology, their idea of what their faith means, above everything else. At my end, there is no corresponding subordination according to some imagined doctrinal Atheism. (One might argue that there is a subordination to rationalism, but find that argument weak simply because everyone subordinates to rational thought—we only disagree on the propositions being rationalized.)

    Posted 27 Jul 2005 at 10:08 pm
  8. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Theo’s right. These nut jobs have only one fault: actually believing what they believe… and it just so happens that what they happen believe is an error. But they get brownie points for believing it more strongly than most people who believe the truth believe it (if, in fact, one can actually believe without practicing it, which is a whole nuther metaphysical question). Come to think of it, there’s probably more nobility in the Garden Variety Islamic Suicide Bomber than in many lukewarm Christians.

    ‘Kay, I’m headed for cover now…

    Posted 28 Jul 2005 at 4:58 am
  9. theomorph wrote:

    Come to think of it, there’s probably more nobility in the Garden Variety Islamic Suicide Bomber than in many lukewarm Christians.

    Only if by “nobility” you mean “the ability to believe ‘an error’ so fervently that you’ll die and kill for it.” While your observation is certainly rational if founded on that premise, your casually uncritical recognition that religion at its “noblest” is zealotry even unto destruction is precisely what puts you into the same category as “these nut jobs.” If you say that suicide bombers possess more “nobility” than “lukewarm Christians,” what does that imply those lukewarm Christians should do?

    You know, suicide bombers are willing to die for their cause, while it seems that Christians would rather just breed for theirs. But one Islamic bomber can kill far more people than one Christian can birth, and killing is much easier than child-rearing. Neither strategy goes beyond one central principle, though: the religion carried in the most bodies is the religion that wins. Which is more noble, to kill for your god, or breed for him? Either way, the people themselves don’t matter—it only matters which religion they carry.

    Posted 28 Jul 2005 at 5:23 am
  10. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Heh! Well breeding is much more pleasurable…

    At any rate, I was using nobility as the choice, ability, and fortitude to live by transcendant propositions whether they happen to be true or false. It’s obviously better to believe the true ones. And since my understanding of Christianity doesn’t allow killing for my God, I’d have to side with breeding as more noble (but do note that Muslims are doing an excellent job at this, too). I don’t see how “people themselves don’t matter” follows.

    In the short analysis, suicide bombers are fighting a war in the only way available to them. They spend a few $thousands and end up costing Western societies $billions. I think they have a just cause (get imperial “infidels” off our land and stop them from corrupting our lives, manners, customs, &c.), but they wage it in an unjust manner because it necessarily involves intentional killing of non-combatants (“soft targets”) which my religion happens to forbid. So I’m ambivalent, tho’ I’d very much like to see the imperial infidels (i.e., “us”) get off their land and leave them alone.

    Cheers!

    Posted 28 Jul 2005 at 11:08 pm
  11. theomorph wrote:

    [S]ince my understanding of Christianity doesn’t allow killing for my God, I’d have to side with breeding as more noble (but do note that Muslims are doing an excellent job at this, too). I don’t see how ‘people themselves don’t matter’ follows.

    It follows insofar as Christians, Muslims, or members of any religion, cult, sect, or ideological group intentionally increase reproduction, either in accordance with their own desire to raise new group members or in accordance with the reproductive responsibilities stipulated by the group (which come with the tacit understanding that children tend to follow the belief systems of their parents).

    People have many motivations for reproduction or parenthood, some perhaps better than others. But when a group ideology (such as a religion) has the effect of increasing a person’s or a couple’s reproductive rate where it would otherwise be lower, that fact cannot be taken in isolation. As I mentioned above, it is widely recognized that children tend to follow the belief systems of their parents. If the belief system guiding a group then encourages parents to have more children, the net effect on the group is to create more members. In other words, the motivation for reproduction has become, at least partially, to serve the increase of the group and its belief system. Hence, the individual children themselves are less important in the scheme of the belief system than the question of whether they become carriers of the belief system.

    This, of course, can always be avoided, ignored, rationalized, or glossed over by the fact that any given person or couple has multiple motivations for reproduction. These other motivations can be trotted out to defend against the allegation that high reproductive rates are practiced in service to an ideology rather than for biological or economic reasons, thus avoiding the distasteful possibility that one’s children exist not for themselves or their parents, but for a religion they did not choose themselves.

    This can get sticky, of course, because private motivations can never be known. But, as I said above, certain inferences can be made when reproductive rates are higher on average for members of a particular group which also happens to hold successful reproduction in high sacramental esteem.

    On the other hand, there are economic reasons for having more children, too. For instance, in agrarian societies with less advanced medical technology, more births mean greater insurance against high infant mortality rates and more labor. Since all human societies, even modern, industrialized, urban ones, have descended from agrarian societies with less advanced medical technology, all human societies have some kind of legacy of this economic need for high reproductive rates enmeshed in a traditional structure. It is not at all unthinkable to suppose that, for instance, the Roman Catholic Church esteems reproduction so highly not simply because it means more members, but because it has institutionalized a cultural economic need from an earlier age. But that hardly makes its motivations any more honorable to someone who questions the value of maintaining traditions for the sake of traditions, or the sake of institutional loyalty, rather than for the sake of their intrinsic value.

    That said, there has also been much talk recently of declining reproductive rates in Europe and other modernized countries, where reproduction has fallen below the rate required for simple replacement and maintenance of a population. If that is in fact a long-term trend that will not abate without conscious cultural institutionalization of a reproductive ideal, then perhaps such a thing will be necessary. However, I am skeptical of the assertion that declining birthrates in Europe and elsewhere will continue without spontaneous abatement. (By “spontaneous” I mean, without a conscious cultural institutionalization or doctrinal program; a statistical phenomenon emerging from the actions of individuals rather than a governing system.) I have seen population growth curves for species without the cultural aspect of human societies, and they tend to rise until they’ve surpassed the limit of their locale, then fall, then stabilize. Human populations may indeed do the same thing.

    For instance, if the European population declines and the amount of wealth in the region is then distributed across fewer people, perhaps people will be more interested in reproducing, thus raising the birthrate to a stable replacement level. I don’t know.

    But my point is simply that ideological governance of reproductive rates is hardly a sensible way to go, because ideologies do not take into account economic factors such as limited resources. I.e., Christianity does not address whether the earth has a limit to its human carrying capacity, and merely assumes that more people means more potential Christians means more glory for God and so on.

    Posted 29 Jul 2005 at 7:22 pm
  12. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Afraid I don’t have time to thoroughly fisk this, but I’ll take a cursory crack. Theo, you’re seeing this in way too much black and white. Reproduction is a fundamental aspect of life. Just ask any seal, bear, chicken, or water buffalo. They do simply what comes naturally to them. They fulfill their “destiny” or their “natures” as seals, bears, chickens, or water buffaloes. You seem to ignore the possibility that a sect could simply be encouraging its adherents to fully embrace their humanness. This is, I think, what the major anti-contraceptive religions (actually traditionalist-orthodox sects within major religions) seek to do. The possibility that this may increase the number of adherents of the particular religion is really quite incidental and secondary. If true, great. If not, well… “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” If this is the case, i.e., the major motivation to “be fruitful and multiply” is really seen as a transcendant good above any demographic or political considerations, then this notion that the spread of the ideology, or the insurance that all adherents continue to devoutly adhere, or whatever trumps the value of the individual simply doesn’t follow.

    the Roman Catholic Church esteems reproduction so highly not simply because it means more members, but because it has institutionalized a cultural economic need from an earlier age. But that hardly makes its motivations any more honorable to someone who questions the value of maintaining traditions for the sake of traditions, or the sake of institutional loyalty, rather than for the sake of their intrinsic value.

    First, you are jumping to conclusions about why the Catholic Church has institutionalized (perhaps “normalized” is a more accurate term) “large families”. In fact, you are jumping too quickly to the prior conclusion that the Catholic Church has normalized large families at all. The Catholic Church has carefully stated its moral reasoning regarding contraception for most of its history, but it does recognize the possibility of a need to limit the size of families. And of late it has recognized the moral licitness of natural family planning to do so. Furthermore recognize that the Catholic Church mandates a variety of celibate vocations. If such a time were to exist where “overpopulation” was an actual threat, the Church and its families could simply encourage more celibate vocations. (I don’t happen to think “overpopulation” is a real threat in the next century or two. In fact, if current trends continue, quite the opposite will be the problem.)

    Secondly, who is to say that economic realities have permanently changed? Urbanization, centralization, and industrialization are very, very recent phenomena on the scale of human history. These trends hinge entirely upon mankind using up 100s of millions of years worth of the earth’s stored solar energy in scarcely two centuries. It is not unforeseeable (I think quite likely) that future energy prices will simply not allow food and necessary goods to be shipped from remote locations to cloistered urbanites. People will have to move back to the land, whereupon large family sizes will once again become advantageous. Groups already acclimated and committed to natural fecundity might be at a tremendous advantage.

    Finally, you haven’t proven what “motivations” the Catholic Church has actually had, but rather merely (and I think quite falsely) assumed them. So I don’t see how you can question whether they are more or less honorable than any other motivation, from any particular perspective.

    Christianity does not need to address whether the earth has a limit to its human carrying capacity. Human reason alone addresses this. Of course there is. But there is little evidence to suggest we are anywhere near it. Bangladesh is impoverished, Japan is not. Mumbai has obscene poverty, Hong Kong has rather little. The problem is, and always has been, an inequitable and unjust distribution of wealth (power, the same thing) in communities and in the world. Intentional sterility doesn’t solve this. Fecundity is in fact an unrelated issue. And it is only the eugenically-inclined Global Problem Solving Squad that tries to tie them together.

    Random musings….

    Posted 30 Jul 2005 at 5:39 am
  13. theomorph wrote:

    Black and white? Huh? Did you not notice all the qualifications and hedges I made on the notion that reproduction has numerous motivations? Recall the point here was not why people reproduce, but whether it’s possible for religion to affect reproductive rates, and what that might mean. (I mentioned that religion can affect reproductive rates and speculated as to some reasons why it might do that. You admit that religion can affect reproductive rates but rejected the reasons I offered. Can’t say I’m surprised, as those reasons paint religion as little more than a complex of social controllers endeavoring to perpetuate itself. The moment you say that about your own religion is the moment you cease to be a part of it.)

    Urbanism and centralization recent phenomena? Huh? They’ve been around for thousands of years. Industrialization, yeah, that’s new.

    Christianity does not need to address whether the earth has a limit to its human carrying capacity. Human reason alone addresses this.

    But once your beliefs are guided by “human reason alone,” you’ve already admitted that those beliefs aren’t self-sufficient.

    [I]t is only the eugenically-inclined Global Problem Solving Squad that tries to tie [iniquity and fecundity] together.

    Huh? “Global Problem Solving Squad”? If you’re going to make a straw man, at least don’t give it some blatantly bogus straw name, too. That just turns it into a joke.

    Posted 30 Jul 2005 at 4:47 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 1

  1. From John Roberts’, Catholicism, and Abortion | Pro-Life @ Ales Rarus on 25 Sep 2006 at 9:44 pm

    […] As opposed to what? Are we talking denotation or connotation? letter or spirit? expression or intention?"What the law actually says" is often up to interpretation. Legalese is notoriously riddled with loopholes and wiggle room (The much-abused "pastoral reasons" in canon law is a prime example.). As I mentioned the other day, a lot of people seem to treat the Constitution like they treat Holy Scripture. That is, it's infallible in every single word and the letter of the law always trumps the spirit. Then again, others seem to treat it, much as they do Scripture, as warm and fuzzy platitudes written in invisible ink and forever open to revision by anyone with a pet cause. […]

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