Posts Tagged “slavery”

MohlerPerhaps the most influential single theologian in the US is R. Albert Mohler. As the head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he’s the doctrinal custodian of the Southern Baptist Convention, and thus serves as one of the commandants of the Religious Right. I’m not sure why they thought they should do it, but CNN published his idiotic apologia for the Religious Right’s relentless war against gays (WebCite cached version):

Are conservative Christians hypocritical and selective when it comes to the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality? With all that the Bible condemns, why the focus on gay sex and same-sex marriage?

Given the heated nature of our current debates, it’s a question conservative Christians have learned to expect. “Look,” we are told, “the Bible condemns eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabrics and any number of other things. Why do you ignore those things and insist that the Bible must be obeyed when it comes to sex?”

Unfortunately, despite having posed it, Al doesn’t actually answer this question. Rather, he rationalizes avoiding an answer altogether. I’ll let his dodges and swerves speak for themselves … if you can stomach reading it.

What I would like to point out, is that Al — even though he’s a strict Biblical literalist — factually lied about what the Bible says:

Some people then ask, “What about slavery and polygamy?” In the first place, the New Testament never commands slavery, and it prizes freedom and human dignity.

In reality, the New Testament most assuredly does support slavery. It does so more than once, in fact. Read on:

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. (Eph 6:5-6).

Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. (Col 3:22)

I’m astonished that a supposed expert on the Bible such as Al Mohler would have said something as clearly and demonstrably untrue as this … but he did, nonetheless. Did he really think no one would notice his lie? Did he really think that people like myself, who have actually read the Bible (not only in English, but in other languages, including the original κοινη Greek of the New Testament), would not have been aware of this? Did he really think people are that fucking stupid? My guess is, he did think he’d get away with it — largely because he’s preaching to his own choir; other Southern Baptists would have taken him at his word and not questioned his statement. Regardless of his presumption of being able to get away with it, though, Al’s lie earns him entry into my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

It’s obvious by now that America’s Christofascists have to resort to lying about their own religion in order to support their hateful rhetoric. I’m not sure where in any of Jesus Christ’s own teachings they discovered the mandate to lie about him, but I’m sure they must have found it. Somewhere. I haven’t managed to find that chapter and verse, but Al and his cohorts must know what it is. I wonder if they’ll deign to divulge it to the rest of us “mere mortals”?

Photo credit: james.thompson.

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Rick Santorum speaks in Eastlake, OhioI’ve blogged about GOP presidential candidate and militant Christofascist Rick Santorum a number of times already. As his candidacy has slumped, I’d hoped I’d be able to avoid blogging any more about this walking train-wreck. But alas, Santorum has — once again — posed as a theologian. This time, he’s declared that Christianity — as he sees it, anyway — is the source of freedom in the US. ABC News’ The Note blog reports on his ludicrous Religious Rightist pontification, earlier in March (WebCite cached article):

Talking about American exceptionalism, Santorum said the concept of equality came from Christianity, not Islam.

“I love it because the left says equality, equality. Where does that concept come from? Does it come from Islam? Does it come from other cultures around the world? Are men and women treated equally? Are adults and children treated equally? No,” Santorum said. “It comes it comes from our culture and tradition, from the Judeo-Christian ethic. That’s where this comes from-the sense of equality.”

I’ve read this several times and cannot figure out where or how Islam comes into play in this. It doesn’t seem to be of any relevance to the subject at hand. I can only assume it was his attempt to somehow work some derision of Islam into his speech, and thus appeal to any Neocrusaders in the crowd.

As for whether or not Christianity, as a religion, supports or opposes the concept of equality, the record on that is slightly mixed. Christianity appeared in the Greco-Roman world, initially in its eastern portion, and as such was a product of that culture. Greco-Roman society was quite stratified, along many dimensions. There were a number of social classes, with the aristocracy at the top, and several layers underneath, ranging down to unskilled laborers and slaves at the bottom. The genders were divided. Ethnic groups tended to be segregated, in large cities often living in enclaves apart from others. Religions tended, too, to separate people, e.g. with Jews living in their own quarters of cities. The Greco-Roman world was one in which people were born into any number of stratifications, and with few exceptions, they stayed within them their entire lives.

The earliest extant Christian documents, the seven “genuine” Pauline epistles*, which date to the 50s CE, exhibit something of a departure from this, at least doctrinally. For example, Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). (Note, Col 3:11 says something almost identical, however, that epistle is not genuine, it was written long after Paul). Paul elsewhere refers to a blending of classes and genders within the church in his day. Only in the epistle to Philemon does Paul concede that there’s any validity to any class division, and that lies in his apparent support of slavery as it was practiced then.

Later on, however, we find the early church turning away from egalitarianism. In the gospels — written in the last quarter of the first century CE — we see references to people mainly by some sort of identifier (whether it’s ethnic, professional, or social class). In his parables and comments, Jesus uses stereotypes of these identifiers, sometimes ironically (e.g. the Good Samaritan). His reported interactions in the gospels are often with groups (e.g. he dressed down “the Pharisees”). Jesus also preached to the lower classes as though their plight had virtue in itself. In general, the gospels are written assuming that people fall into various fixed classifications, that this is how things were supposed to be, and that none other than Jesus Christ himself acted as though this was the case. In only one regard is Jesus said to have resisted the prevailing class-wisdom of his time, and this was by attracting “sinners” as followers.

Subsequent Christianity either stated explicitly, or implied, that social classifications, ethnicity, etc. were all God-ordained and that everyone was required to live within the strictures of his/her position in society. That remained the case until the Enlightenment. Even then, the notion of complete equality took a long time to develop. For instance, initially the United States gave voting privileges only to white landowning males. Suffrage was expanded only incrementally over the last 200 years. Also, slavery was legal in the early U.S. and was abolished only after the Civil War. Christianity’s teachings had little to do with this, at least for the first 16 centuries or so of its existence.

It’s true that equality movements like Abolition were comprised of many Christians who believed that Christianity taught to open freedom to others, but this was not universal in Christianity. The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, was founded by southern slave-owning Baptists who opposed the Abolitionist turn their denomination was taking in the 19th century. They, and other Christians, insisted that the Biblical “Curse of Ham” meant that God had rendered black Africans less-than-human.

It is correct to say that the concept of equality can, historically speaking, be viewed as anti-Christian (and anti-Judeo-Christian). Once again, by claiming otherwise, Santorum reveals his ignorance of both history and Christian theology. Well done, Rickie … well done!

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

Photo credit: PBS NewsHour.

* The seven epistles in question are: 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philemon, Philippians, Romans, and 1 Thessalonians.

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When the Fail is so strong, one Facepalm is not enough / Picard & Riker / based on HaHaStop.ComThe Religious Right is relentless in its determination to rewrite history so as to place themselves — and their current political causes — back in time, even though most of their efforts, such as promoting Creationism and stopping abortion, are all decidedly contemporary notions. Their anachronistic views reveal their ignorance and expose them as liars. Two recent examples of this phenomenon follow, although they’re hardly unique.

First, I’m sure you heard about Sarah Palin’s NRA-propagandized version of Paul Revere‘s ride to warn the Massachusetts militia about the movement of British troops; Here, for example, is a CBS News story on her lies, which were compounded by a Wikipedia war to make it appear she was actually correct (WebCite cached article):

Dozens of changes were made to the Revere page on the Internet site Sunday and Monday after Palin claimed Revere’s famous ride was intended to warn both his fellow colonists and British soldiers.

Palin claimed, among other things, that Revere had been trying to “warn the British”; that he was firing shots into the air as he rode; and that he was ringing bells as well. Not one of those things is true, at least not in the Charlton Heston style that Palin told it. While he did end up warning the British about the militia, that was only after he’d warned the colonials — who’d been the intended targets of his warning ride — and had been picked up by British troops. By then, the cat was already out of the bag, so to speak, so he was able to tell them little of any value (and they eventually let him go). He absolutely did not fire his musket into the air as he went; secrecy had been his goal, he needed to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British were on their way to arrest them. (Not to mention, loading and shooting a musket while on horseback is not exactly a simple feat.) Revere also did not ring bells as he rode, for the same reason.

Politifact and FactCheck have weighed in on her idiotic and anachronistic comments. The best either of them can say is that Palin was “barely truthful” … and that’s being generous.

Even after caught lying, and putting NRA words into Paul Revere’s mouth, Mrs Palin irrationally insisted she was correct. That also is quite in line with Religious Right practice; no Religious Rightist ever concedes error. Ever. Not for any reason, no matter the facts, and no matter how idiotic they sound. Hence, the campaign by her supporters to make Wikipedia back up her version of Paul Revere’s ride.

My second example of the Religious Right’s ignorance of, and lies about, history is from David Barton, the man whom the R.R. hails as a historian, when in fact, he is not, and never has been a historian (either by virtue of having a degree in history or having published an article in a peer-reviewed history journal). Right Wing Watch reports (video included) on his claim that the Founding Fathers supported Creationism and dismissed evolution (WebCite cached article):

Naturally, Barton says that the Founding Fathers “already had the entire debate on creation and evolution,” and sided with Creationism.

The problem with this, of course, is that evolution wasn’t really known until the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859, nearly a century after them. The liar Barton went on to make an even more absurd and factually-incorrect claim:

“That’s why we said we want to separate from Britain, so we can end slavery,” Barton said.

Yes, folks, according to pseudohistorian Barton, the Revolutionary War was fought not to gain independence from Great Britain, but to free the slaves! The problem here, of course, is that the Constitution those same Founding Fathers wrote after that war, contained provisions allowing for slavery in the new country, and slavery wasn’t abolished until the end of the Civil War, again, decades later.

I have no idea what it is that Palin or Barton are smoking. But they’re hardly alone. The R.R. continuously represents itself as modern-day Founding Fathers, even though the R.R. is predicated on a form of fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity that did not exist in the F.F.s’ time. They apparently just can’t help themselves. In any event, whatever their motives might be, Palin and Barton’s lies place them squarely in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Hat tip: Religion Dispatches.

Photo credit: Based on HaHaStop.Com.

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I blogged a couple times already on a report by an investigative commission in Ireland on the abuse of children in the care of the Roman Catholic Church (such as orphanages and schools) which had been released in May. That report focused mainly on the operations of facilities, which had been mostly in the care of religious orders such as the Christian Brothers. A subsequent report, released a few days ago, delves deeper into the Church hierarchy’s cover-up, and the complicity not only of the religious orders but of the Dublin archdiocese, as well as government officials, police, etc. The New York Times reports on these additional revelations:

Report Says Irish Bishops and Police Hid Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church and the police in Ireland systematically colluded in covering up decades of child sex abuse by priests in Dublin, according to a scathing report released Thursday.

The cover-ups spanned the tenures of four Dublin archbishops and continued through to the mid-1990s and beyond, even after the church was beginning to admit to its failings and had professed that it was confronting abuse by its priests.

But rather than helping the victims, the church was concerned only with “the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church, and the preservation of its assets,” said the 700-page report, prepared by a group appointed by the Irish government and called the Commission of Investigation Into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin.

The abuse — and the cover-up — were extensive, pervasive, and multi-generational. The Church’s reaction? I’ll relay what the Times reported (emphasis mine):

In a statement, the current archbishop, Diarmuid Martin, acknowledged the “revolting story” of abuses that the report detailed, saying, “No words of apology will ever be sufficient.” He added, “The report highlights devastating failings of the past.”

Note his Excellency’s specific mention of “the past.” It’s all “water under the bridge” for the Archbishop, it seems. How nice — and Christian of him to slough off any responsibility. What a way to uphold a higher standard of morality.

It wasn’t just the Roman Catholic hierarchy that allowed this to happen, though … many others colluded with the Church and were complicit in the abuse:

The report said the Irish police allowed the church to act with impunity and often referred abuse complaints back to the archdiocese for internal investigations.

The police said Thursday that they regretted their failure to act. “Because of acts or omissions, individuals who sought assistance did not always receive the level of response or protection which any citizen in trouble is entitled to expect,” Ireland’s police commissioner, Fachtna Murphy, said, adding he was “deeply sorry.”

It’s interesting how so many people are willing to apologize … but they’re only doing so after the fact, and essentially they plan never actually to truly do anything to express their remorse, or prevent such things ever from happening again. The government promised prosecutions, as the Times explains:

The Irish government vowed to make amends to the victims. The justice minister, Dermot Ahern, promised that “the persons who committed these dreadful crimes — no matter when they happened — will continue to be pursued.”

The problem, however, is that, as a result of a 2004 lawsuit by the aforementioned Christian Brothers, Irish courts caved in to the Church and have prevented the Commission from releasing the names of the abusers. Because of that, prosecutions will be next to impossible.

P.S. I assume that the fact that the New York Times reported on this, will only further convince Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, that the Times is “anti-Catholic.” He seems to believe the R.C. Church should be insulated from having its misdeeds reported publicly … and that the misdeeds of other churches and religions somehow grant the Catholic Church permission to misbehave. I guess these ideas, too, are part of the Catholic Church’s high moral standards … although most of us know better.

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A commission in Ireland — appointed some 9 years ago to catalog and report on abuses by Roman Catholic institutions meant to house “wayward” children — has finally issued a report on the matter. Though the institutions in question were all closed by the 1990s, revelations of these abuses were a scandal in Ireland that the commission had been appointed to address. It is a damning report listing indescribable abuses, and shows how both Roman Catholic Church officials, and the government of Ireland, cooperated in a scheme which in some cases amounted to institutionalized slavery. The New York Times reports (WebCite cached article):

Tens of thousands of Irish children were sexually, physically and emotionally abused by nuns, priests and others over 60 years in a network of church-run residential schools meant to care for the poor, the vulnerable and the unwanted, according to a report released in Dublin on Wednesday.

The 2,600-page report paints a picture of institutions run more like Dickensian orphanages than 20th-century schools, characterized by privation and cruelty that could be both casual and choreographed.

“A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions,” the report says. In the boys’ schools, it says, sexual abuse was “endemic.”

The length of time it took to produce this report is, perhaps, a reflection of internal interference within the Irish government, which had actually cooperated and fueled the Church’s institutions, as well as a lawsuit by a Church order:

It was delayed because of a lawsuit brought by the Christian Brothers, the religious order that ran many of the boys’ schools and that fought, ultimately successfully, to have the abusers’ names omitted. In 2003, the commission’s first chairwoman resigned, saying that Ireland’s Department of Education had refused to release crucial documents. …

It exposes for the first time the scope of the problem in Ireland, as well as how the government and the church colluded in perpetuating an abusive system. The revelations have also had the effect of stripping the Catholic Church, which once set the agenda in Ireland, of much of its moral authority and political power.

The report singles out Ireland’s Department of Education, meant to regulate the schools, for running “toothless” inspections that overlooked glaring problems and deferred to church authority.

It’s understandable, then, that some in Ireland’s government had tried to hinder this investigation … their culpability in this scheme to abuse and enslave children has been exposed.

The reality of this systemic abuse got major international attention in 2002 with the release of a movie about the so-called “Magdalene asylums” (or “Magdalene laundries”), called The Magdalene Sisters. News programs in the US followed this with presentations on the issue. But while the Magdalene asylums were scandalous enough, the abuse, it turns out, was much wider in scope than that.

Given that the Roman Catholic Church holds itself up as the sole arbiter of morality and ethics in the world, one would think the Church has something to say in the wake of the commission’s report. An apology at the very least. But guess again:

The Vatican had no response. But leaders of various religious orders — who often argued during the investigations that the abuse was a relic of another time, reflecting past societal standards — issued abject apologies on Wednesday, taking care to frame the problem as something that is now behind them.

Cardinal Sean Brady, the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, said in a statement that he was “profoundly sorry and deeply ashamed,” adding, “I hope the publication of today’s report will help heal the hurts of victims and address the wrongs of the past.”

Essentially the Vatican is ducking the issue completely, and the religious orders that orchestrated these crimes are mouthing mild admissions and insincere well-wishes for the abused, in order to evade civil lawsuits that have been filed against them. (The Vatican officially condemned The Magdalene Sisters when it was released, and called for a boycott of it, so silence from the Holy See is an improvement on that … I guess.)

The next time the Roman Catholic Church tells you what’s moral and what isn’t, remember their ineffective, insincere and evasive response to this travesty. Oh, and when a Catholic tells you that atrocities such as the Inquisitions are “a thing of the past,” you might remind them that there are very likely still Catholic nuns, priests and brothers in Ireland, who’d once been part of this slavery scheme — one for which they have not even yet been brought to justice.

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