Saturday, January 14, 2012

If I am evil, what then?

Ed Brayton (and many others) are posting on the ugly comments/threats/harassment faced by the high-school girl Jessica Ahlquist, who won her lawsuit over a large prayer mural on display at her public high school.1 The mural will be removed. I agree with the decision. I am not sure why any Christian thinks we are mandated to post doctrine, theology, or prayers in public areas. There is nothing in the New Testament that instructs us to make such in-your-face empty gestures. There is no precedent. If we are to offend, it is only by presenting the gospel, when it is welcomed. Otherwise dust off your feet and move on. It is certain that we are not to offend by vulgar displays of power (which we have enjoyed in the US over the years--arguably not to our benefit) over what is displayed in the public spaces we share with unbelievers and advocates of other faiths.

I expressed my contempt for the hate with this comment:

I truly despise, with what I hope is a righteous anger but what I suspect is garden-variety revulsion, those Christians who made such hate-filled comments. It demonstrates the truth, yet again, that the church has nothing to fear from atheists–they are impotent in their ability to harm us–we can only harm ourselves. One of these vile comments does more damage than a sea of gnu atheists. What an utter embarrassment, disgrace and humiliation.

Dispatches superstar commenter Michael Heath2 responded to my comment:
Your post rings hollow for two reasons:

1) Your refusal to own to up to the reality and I think, your own personal responsibility, that it is your form of biblical inerrant beliefs that enables, justifies, and maximizes people who believe and think like this.

2) That you too celebrate the existence of a god who promises to punish eternally. These people’s very role model is no different than the OT god who hates and the NT god who promises eternal punishment and to bring a sword. Yes it requires the avoid certain biblical verses to so, but there’s also ample verses that also support such a position.
Whether you like it or not heddle, you are far more closely associated with this reprehensible behavior than you are to those who condemn such beliefs. As I wrote in my previous post, believing such, mourning this perception, and working to save others because of this belief is a moral high ground. But celebrating such a reality as you do should have us seriously considering whether such behavior is also demonstrably evil. I do not yet weigh in because I've just started considering this and have read little on the topic to weigh others’ good arguments.
I then have the following question for Michael:

Let's grant your argument or at least your potential argument. Let's accept that my brand of biblical-inerrancy, hell-affirming Christianity—even if I do not commit acts such as those described in Ed’s post—even if I unambiguously condemn such acts-- is inherently evil.

That then leaves the ball in your court, does it not? Are you going to be the proverbial good man who does nothing, allowing evil to win? What action do you advocate against evil such as I am, or do you just stand by and then, by similar reasoning by association, become a guilty accomplice? Do you think blog-commenting is a sufficient response to evil? What are you going to do about it?

Yes, I'm trying to paint Michael in a corner--but he is quite formidable so I fully suspect I haven't.

1 One cannot rule out the possibility that some of the comments are from non-Christians, designed to make Christians look bad—but at the same time we must admit the likelihood that most of the comments do indeed come from professing Christians. We are good at making ourselves look bad.

I mean that in a sincerely complimentary fashion. No Dispatches commenter is as noted as Michael Heath for a sustained record of well-reasoned responses.


  1. you are invited to follow my blog

  2. I've emailed you my response given a 4096 character limit here; my response is about 3X that. I'm open to suggestions on how to post it.

  3. Well, as an atheist who can only judge people by what they do, rather than by what God has in mind for them, I would say that the Bible, like most religious texts, has a pretty mixed record. The same is true, of course, of secular belief systems.

  4. It's interesting that on Ed's blog you say that atheists can't hurt Christianity, only Christians acting badly can. And yet, six out of your eight most recent posts are detailed arguments against atheists. None of them are detailed arguments against so-called Christians doing evil in Christ's name.

    Why do you spend your time arguing against people who can't hurt you while ignoring those who can?

  5. Alex,

    "Why do you spend your time arguing against people who can't hurt you while ignoring those who can?"

    Why do you think blogging should primarily be about who can hurt you? Because I think it is about what you find interesting.

  6. I agree that blogging is about what you're interested it, but it seems to me that you're interested in the gnats and are ignoring the camels.

  7. Alex,

    Thanks for your concern over what I find interesting.

  8. Quite the rambling post, but no, belief in the Bible does not foster hateful responses, since the Bible says to love you're enemies. Additionally, the Bible does not tell believers to get involved in government at all.

  9. Hi Dave - hope you and your family are well. I often think of these Church / state things in terms of Matthew 6:5...