Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More God, Less Name-calling

While on dinner break at the UCC General Synod yesterday I happened to see Ann Coulter on Hardball with Chris Matthews. During the questions from the crowd, an Obama supporter asked her how she can call this church-going man "godless." You can see the question and answer here (at the end of the segment). She somewhat dodges the question by discounting Trinity Church UCC in Chicago (Barack's church) by stating the pastor supports Qaddafi and says that we deserved 9/11. Actually, she says that the church is sort of crazy. I've yet to find a reference for making that assertion. And even if (a big if) that might have some validity, it remains a smokescreen to the issue of Obama's faith practice. Indeed, the young man is right to call her on her ability to call a fellow believer "godless" (as one could infer from her book about liberalism, even if she hasn't said so directly...indeed, here was her opportunity to set the record straight if she didn't intend the slur).

And it seems like she is incapable of stopping herself from mud-slinging. Prior to her appearance on
Hardball, she was on the June 25 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, where she said, "I do think anyone named B. Hussein Obama should avoid using 'hijack' and 'religion' in the same sentence." She was apparently referring to Obama's remark in Saturday's speech to the UCC General Synod that "somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked."

When this passes for informed public discourse on the issues of the day then we should not be surprised that we are so polarized. Ms. Coulter has a habit of saying nasty things about people. For that Chuck Currie, on his blog, calls her a sinner. Indeed she is (as are we all), but she is surely not godless. Neither is she the "worst person in the world" as Keith Olberman called her.

There is certainly room for differences of opinion in America, as surely as there is the same room with Christianity. Why must some among us so consistently claim that this is not so? Name-calling quickly shuts down any chance of dialogue. I'll concede that it is difficult to accept that a person whose beliefs are radically different from mine might still be part of the same family of faith with me, but I try always to be willing to start with that assumption until proven otherwise. In this way we can sometimes find acceptable common ground solutions to move us forward. Cutting the other off at the knees only creates a shortcut to a guaranteed impasse...and should lead me to my knees in confession. I pray that Ann Coulter will do just that. How about instead of more "godless" name-calling, seek more God, less name-calling?


David J said...

Ian, good post my friend,

I agree with the body and most all of your post, the ending was a bit flat. "Less name calling and more God" is like telling my kids to "knock it off and play nice". That might work well with my kids, but this grown woman, who's actually brilliant, and has more sense and allure than she's propagating these days, needs to muffle her comments and find better, more controlled comebacks for her enemies. She's also going to completely disable the conservative movement if she keeps going. Each new attack is like a bad cartoon that will run on all the late night shows and make conservative talk radio an apology zone rather than a good idea zone.

What this is also showing, is that conservatives like myself, who like Obama will not go down the "B. Hussein" road as a way to justify why Barak can't be president. Her justifications could be easily labeled as racist in their tone. If anything she's made Islam all one bad religion and made Barak a part of that, even though he seems to be a devout Christian who understands the dynamics of other faiths.

Conservatives need to come clean on the fact that hurling insults, although briefly makes for good fodder, is not what the Doctor ordered in the Good Book. Coulter has crossed a dangerous line in her assessment of who God is and what God wants. One of the reasons I like Barak is that he truly gets the fact that Americans have had it with the name calling and the insults. It is time to raise the bar. It's easy to jab but much harder to fight the good fight St. Paul spoke of.

Hollands Opus said...

You are both quite correct. I find it interesting (and I have done it too) that when we want to make a case for less name calling and better dialogue, we go after someone from the polar opposite of our own political party or faith.

I cannot judge anyone's motive accurately without more info than I have, but in my own case, I know I have done that more to make the other party look bad, than a genuine concern for gentlemanly discourse, or at the very least, I have attempted to hide a bad motive within a good one.

Just a thought! But Ian, you are right on about the subject matter, and perhaps a few more trips to the woodshed as a young lady would have made for a more refined proper lady! Too bad too, because she is actually quite articulate and intelligent, but she squanders it!

mkz said...

While Ann Coulter's intellectual credentials may not be suspect, the lack of her displaying them in this instance is disappointing. I am all for colorful,(not profane) articulately crafted arguments to illustrate a position or point as anyone here can attest to, but I must agree the emotion charged grade school level oral ballistics of this woman are cheap, and do nothing to further the conservative right, and less to glorify her faith.
In my opinion there are plenty of Biblically and politically valid points Ms. Coulter can call Sen. Obama to task on, without resorting to attacks based on questionable assumptions, inaccurate information, and what appears at times to be an unbridled animus at anything she refuses examine beyond the parameters of her own thoughts.
This type of rhetoric is heavily damaging to the efforts of so many who want to engage the threat of liberal politics and questionable theology with good arguments based in research, fact, and sound Biblical understanding and present them in a forum where anger, resentment and childish disdain do not poison the stew.

David J said...

MKZ, again, I've got to call you on the way you phrase stuff. "The threat of liberal politics" just doesn't mean anything to me. Aren't you an enviromental hawk? Which adminstration would better protect the environment :) A-The Thompson Administration or B-An Obama administration? Let's be totally honest. So, does protecting the earth rank up with gay marriage? And as far as abortion goes, more of them are occuring under W. Likely for the same reason they were high during the end of Bush 41. It's a lot of talk and smoke screen and promises. It's the same as promising you I'll be more tolerant of your views on this blog as I ruthlessly attack you and your character as I finish the sentence on being more charitable. Liberal politics are not always bad Mike. In some cases they are REALLY good. And it's even more telling when the abortion rate goes up under a pro-life president who's done little but court the votes of those who care about life. The abortion rate in the last year of Clinton was 800,000 cases. This past year it was 1.1 million. Sometimes what we think is the right catch phrase or buzz-word is only a method to mobilize votes.

mkz said...

Hello David, It seems you have an awful lot to say about a comment that doesn't mean anything to you. Be that as it may, yes I am an environmental advocate, but remember, inevitably all the earth will burn with fervent heat one day, and God calls us ultimately to place our concerns on His Kingdom, not on the world. If that means supporting a candidate that at the least presents himself ethically, morally, and/or Biblically correct over one who practices a liberal theology and supports sinful,ethically questionable behavior as God defines it, then I will side with him, knowing full well that he is still only human and prone to all manner of faults and failings, subject to God's Sovereignty and Grace.
Because you argue from a liberal standpoint, with no Biblically absolute standard of reference I can't see tail chasing these subjects with you again. As you seem to consistently reject the absolute authority of Scripture as God presents it to us even though you know the text, we are unlikely to come to a fruitful conclusion over any number of successive posts.

David J said...

MKZ, I wanted to challange a belief of yours and not get into a Biblical tit for tat. You have expressed often about how you are an environmentalist of some kind. You spoke passionately on that several times, and your ammo seemed to come from Scripture and your ability to reason from Scripture.

So, because the earth will someday become a fiery trash can, we are to somehow prioritize one kind of sin or immorality over another kind, i.e. (everybody's favorite sin) homosexuality ? Before I go on, yes, the arguments do get a bit circular, as your reasoning rotates around your understanding of Scripture and that often ends a debate before it can begin. I'm not asking for you ro agree with my position. I am trying to find out where you stand on environmental protection and if that's at all relevant as to how you read the Bible. You seem to understand the other kinds of depravity very well. I'm just curious to know if environmental destruction was on your list, or because the earth is soon to be an inferno, so party we shall? That's like inferring that since we're all going to die anyway, that maybe we can abuse ourselves as much as possible since the vessel we live in will soon be gone? I think Scripture is clear on dominion and on taking care of ourselves. I'm not sure how certain sins seem to carry more weight than others. You may be right. And I apologize if my tone is abrasive. I tend to get that way when I feel a viewpoint is constantly underrepresented. Cheers and happy 4th!

mkz said...

Hello David,
I can make a Biblical argument for some sin being more heinous than others. Throughout Scripture God makes reference to some sin leading to death, others that require reparation to the offended before repentance, and of course the unpardonable sin of cursing the Holy Spirit. Homosexuality, and bestiality among others are specifically labeled 'abomination', a harsh term seemingly reserved for things God finds especially repugnant, and also used often in Revelation to describe terrible evil and sin.
Yet I believe sin is sin, none of it good, and all to be identified and called to light for what it is, not smoothed over with platitudes for the sake of a false, human based sense of unity that has no Biblical precedence. Remember, Christ came to separate the lambs from the goats, not to integrate them into the same fold, 'even a little leaven spoils the lump' The Word says, and human history bears this out.
As for concerns of ecology and the environment, we are called to subdue, but I can't find where we are to destroy in the process. God tells us we are to give thanks for all things, including His gift of the earth I feel, and this would seem to require respecting, caring for, and maintaining it to the best of our ability. Today we are far more concerned with wealth and economy, than with the health and ecology of our God's gift to us.
While I have not found reference to ecological decimation as sin, the selfishness, greed, covetness, lies, murder, and disregard for life and welfare of our fellow man certainly qualify.

mkz said...

David please add in the reading of my last post in the last sentence between 'welfare of our fellow man' and 'certainly qualify', this insertion;

'In our almost careless exploitation of the planet,'

Ian said...

This exchange goes to show that one person's "obvious Biblical truth" is another person's "not-so-obvious Biblical truth." The important points I would like to highlight about this are that:
1. Both sides are looking to the Bible for the truth they seek
2. This can be done with passion without resorting to putting down the other through snide, snarky or insulting comments

I have posted previously about my views of scripture (do a search on the Bible tag on this blog) so I won't get into that here (although I may post again on the topic soon) I would point out that Dave seems not to agree with my position on the authority of scripture, being closer to Mike's and Pat's, but yet is able to draw similar conclusions as I do. In other words, even if you think I am throwing out scripture, that doesn't necessarily mean that my views cannot be Biblical. This sort of thinking is vital to continued discussion in this corner of the blogosphere, otherwise we are just talking past each other.

Finally, I just want to make a quick comment about "abomination." This will likely lead to another post, but it is my understanding that this refers primarily to ritual purity in the ancient Jewish temple code and thus is actually a lesser sin rather than a greater one. Again, I'll do more research and likely post again.

Hollands Opus said...

"In other words, even if you think I am throwing out scripture, that doesn't necessarily mean that my views cannot be Biblical."

That is a great point, and I agree and I am glad you made it, it is good logic! Any valid argument would have to proceed from there.

If I may add some input to "abomination", the book of Proverbs informs us of seven things that are abomination to God, among them are lying and feet that are swift in running to mischief. I do not think that is merely a ritual purity concern. It also means that God despises lying as much as homosexuality. Each is an abuse of His revealed will.

p.s. Good job getting rid of that gent trying to sell t-shirts!

mkz said...

Ian and OP, Please clarify for me "even if you think I am throwing out scripture, that doesn't necessarily mean that my views cannot be Biblical"
If one tosses out, or disqualifies scripture in part or on the whole, so goes it's in errancy for the pitcher, and that of the Bible. So is not a view based on partial or edited scripture something less than Biblically sound? Would this not be like taking a line or chapter out of context to attempt to establish a point that does not hold with what we know to be true in light of the rest of Scripture?
Here is where my simplistic approach to the Word of God may be failing my ability to understand the statement Ian made and OP qualified.
Please elaborate!

Hollands Opus said...

I took Ian's comments to mean that I may be wrong in properly exegeting the scripture. Or, I may think that he is wrong on a certain point, but not that he is throwing out the entire scripture. Or, there may be a sort of hierarchy of what applies before what (and this can be tricky). As a weak example, he may think that feeding the poor takes precedent over trying to stop same sex marriage.

It is a willingness to grasp where he is coming from with respect to the scripture, while not at all intending to surrender inerrancy.

I hope that helps.

mkz said...

Do you mean that he may be making a reasonable point of argument based on a limited interpretation of the word?
Does this make me too exclusive in my arguments because I look to contextual Biblical truth as a base for most of my discussions?
It occurs to me that after living such a life of filth and abomination as an enemy of God I am to leery to step from the solid rock I know in Christ onto the possible shifting sands of a looser interpretation of Christian theology. Is my fear of this slide unjustified, it seems to my limited experience a fragile edge leading to a fall to a liberal theological mindset, which was not the message of Christ as I understand it.

Ian said...

There may be a little "over-thinking" going on here. I simply meant to say that some positions may actually be what someone else calls "biblical" even if the person making he point has a different understanding of scripture. In other words, we may be able to draw the same conclusions without agreeing on the underlying principles.

The value to our discussions here lies in the ability to hear the other's view without always resorting to an argument about biblical interpretation. And yes, I think that we can share some, but not all principles and still have a fruitful debate.

David J said...

I'd like to chime in if I may. Ian, and to some extent yours truly believe that the Bible is essential to the Christian life. But there are portions of the Bible that I can't (and I do mean can't) make intellectual sense in light of scientific discovery (mainly the enlightenment period) and certain Biblical endorsements that have since been exegeted out of the theoligical mix. One of them is slavery. Both the new testament and old make positive references to it. Another is genocide. God actually ordered it in the old testament.

I was once very wooden in my understanding of Scripture and less concerned with a more than literal or metaphorical reading of the Bible which can often produce greater and more intricate truths than the literal message being addressed to that culture at that moment, at that time.

As Ian pointed out, we seem to blog and then devolve into litmus testing each other in order to have a continued dialogue. From a debating standpoint, we may as well blog back and forth on the emerging paradigm, which as Ian points out, includes millions of believing Christians world wide. There's even evidence that this method of interpretation was widely accepted up until about three hundred years ago when Christians became so concerned about the purity of doctrine that that their method of applying Scripture became increasingly sterile and rigid and often strayed wildly from the context or metaphorical truths that had been applied in years past.

Finally, and this is going to cause some shock waves, I believe the Bible is a divine document, written by men, as a response to God and not neccessarily all inspired by God directly. And I know that will cause many to see my views as liberal or meaningless. But I am finding more meaning in the texts that were often very settled and sometimes misapplied by practicing things like Lectio Divina that offer a rich bounty of spiritual insight and understanding beyond the usual Bible study.

I used to think it was more important that you believed certain doctrinal things to be true or have happened with all certainty as the dominant criteria for being a Christian. I am slowly evolving away from that type of thought process. I can no longer accept things that don't make sense and call it "faith" to justify it. Why would God want us to accept things that don't make sense in order to be a good believer? I think how Christians behave is far more important than what they believe. I will say more on this in the future, likely on my own blog. For now, that's more than enough!

mkz said...

David, the admission that you do not believe The Bible is the complete inspired Word of God is painful, and I feel pain for your soul that you do not have the absolute assurance of His Word in your heart. This goes a long way to explain your misinterpretations of Scripture, and why you can not seem to find the peace and contentment in your life you so desperately strive for. I feel for you Brother, and will continue to pray that God gives you greater faith in, and clearer understanding of the inerent truth of His inspired Word.

David J said...

MKZ, as you would say, wow! Believing in a book or words does not somehow discount who I believe in or his finished work on the cross. And your response to my admission is as much disturbing to me, as it must be to you. As you are basically saying that I have some sort of mental disorder or deficit that I need prayer for. I still have faith in Christ, in the person of Jesus, but somehow to question the Bible makes me some sort of Christian misfit. And that is so disappointing. I have the absolute assurance that God is real and that the Bible contains truths than can penetrate the human heart and change lives. Your quick retort here has certainly made Ian's point. By the way, I have plenty of peace and contentment in my life. The fact that I admit my struggles and bare my soul to you all should not be evidence to the contrary. What I am truly struggling with is your insistance on my acceptance of your settled theology and views. I will pray likewise that you can come to grips with my warped theology.

Hollands Opus said...

you should absolutely question things and seek answer. To just accept claims of inspiration and inerrancy from man would be foolish without further investigation. Having said that, I want to encourage you to find answers to your questions. Knowledge and faith are inseparable. Much has been written about the very questions that you ask. I recently wrote a 12 page paper on Christianity and slavery, for example, after some considerable research of my own. I would be happy to get you a copy of it.

As I think you know, I am working on an MA in Christian Apologetics. This has turned into a devotional enterprise as I find God actually providing answers. I know Him better, am amazed by Him constantly.

So I want to caution you to seek answers from those more learned than you and I. I have found that those unresolved issues are mental and spiritual plagues. They really keep us from intimacy with God and genuine soul formation. Don't let your inability to reconcile your concerns about genocide, slavery etc be the arbiter of what is divinely inspired and what is not. There are answers that at least are powerful enough to remove barriers, even if at the end of the day you are not 100% certain.

Also, email me if you want, for it is beyond this blog to address. You have questions about the challenge of science. I am an old -earth- old universe guy and this in no way compromises scripture. Again, I have studied much and written several papers on Intelligent design etc. I am not saying I have all your answers, but I know, for God has so gifted me, how to help remove the stumbling block to a more robust discipleship.

Never check your brain at the door Dave - that itch is God given though the questions are as spots on your back you cannot each, you can ask others to scratch there.

Peace to all.

Hollands Opus said...

"Never check your brain at the door Dave - that itch is God given though the questions are as spots on your back you cannot each, you can ask others to scratch there.:

each there, should of course be reach!

Ian, may I offer my email address here?

David J said...

HO, Obviously I appreciate the offer to study further. I may or may not take you up on the offer. It would be very interesting how the apologetics work you are doing can answer slavery and genocide and so forth. In the end, it has to be God that opens the door to that and right now my time and resources are very limited.

Also, I appreciate your reasoned response to what I posted here. This was the equivalent of "coming out of the closet" theologically speaking, and your gentle and thoughtful reply was welcome amidst the worries over my salvation, et. all.

I'm not sure if my beliefs of the former can be reconciled to what they once were. I'm glad you're an old earth guy, but again, this is another belief that was unheard of for Christians just a short time ago. I do believe science and Christianity can co-exist, but only with an open mind.


Ian said...

Well, I suppose it will come as no surprise how I feel about Dave's "coming out." There are many who are more learned than those of us here who would espouse views similar to Dave's and mine. We could do battle with degrees and scholars, but I don't think that would satisfy any of us.

I applaud Dave's courage to seek. I also know the peace and contentment that comes from this journey; the liberation to seek for more, to find God in the now. I am glad that Pat and Mike find comfort in their positions, I just don't happen to agree with them.

This is not a new topic on our blogs, so I won't attempt to re-hash things here. I look forward to Dave's posts on his blog about the journey as it goes forward.

mkz said...

Brother David,
You obviously took my heartfelt angst at your inability (for whatever reason) to find Scripture inerrant as some kind of attack on your Faith in Christ. Please, I feel the need to beg your forgiveness on this point. I did not mean to degrade, insult, or belittle your journey or faith. Assuming you know Christ as your Saviour, and I believe you do, He was born of a virgin, you believe Faith in Christ as the only atonement for sin and so the only way for reconciliation to the Father, and that He died on the Cross, was buried, and rose on the third day, you are neighbor and brother in Christ even if we can never agree if the sky is azure or cerulean on any given day.
My previous post was not an offhanded snipe at your character, intellect, or mental health. (believe me, I am the one here who is on stress, anxiety, and psych meds for mental and emotional issues linked to chronic debilitating health issues)
While these issues may contribute to some of my callousness, they are not an excuse for it. I offered my prayers in sincerity and have included you in my time with God every day since that post, and many times intermittently in the past year that He would by His Grace provide you with the understanding you seek, and the reconciliation with His Word that will bring you deep soul abiding joy.
Please accept my apology with the brotherly love and humility with which it is tendered.

YBIC, Mike Z.

David J said...

No need to apologize. I think we are very much at odds theologically speaking. I guess we've picked up where we left off prior to your trip to Haiti. I'd like to agree with you guys more so we could all just get along. The problem is, I did that for a number of years. And my "coming out" admonition was genuine. Maybe my heart is wicked and deceitful and all of what Jeremiah said. But I think heart important. You can have heart and head focused on God without losing one over the other.

But getting back to our squabbles, per se, nothing here convinces me that you are not also on a journey filled with steps, trying to walk toward Jesus. I have just embarked on a different path and that may be unsettling to you. And it's completely understood, that someone who was once firmly conservative has now gone over to the dark side (somewhat). God is hopefully still able to mold this rebellious prodigal into something worthy of His time. I'm a true work in progress!

Hollands Opus said...

David, perhaps I speak for only me, but even if I were concerned about your going to some dark side, I believe that you are true to your convictions and take things seriously. That is as it should be.


mkz said...

Thank you David, you have lifted a great weight from my heart, may God richly bless you!

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