A Critical Argument in Biblical Scholarship, Part II: “What the heck was he talking about?”

By now, some who have read the previous post may be legitimately scratching their own heads and wondering that question in the title, above. Let’s first start by saying what the post was NOT about:

  1. The post was not an argument against modern language translations. Those are necessary, though to what extent depends on how much someone understands and lives by them (see this post).
  2. The post was not an argument for either the King James or the New King James. While I adore and enjoy them for what they are, they’re not particularly superior to any other English translation, per se, and especially not superior to the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic scripts.***

 

Now for the positives:

The post is an argument for taking a closer look at our justifications behind using the Critical Text. Simply arguing that the Critical Text is superior for translation due to being the oldest extant source of manuscripts is severely flawed from historical, physical and logical points of view.

The post is an argument against faulty association between the Textus Receptus and the King James tradition. Often times, arguments for translations based on the Critical Text will seek justification by referring (however nonchalantly) to flaws in the King James Version’s form of English. This reference to Jacobean English is precisely the problem; the Textus Receptus is not Jacobean English, and in fact tens if not hundreds of translations had been done based on the Textus Receptus that were not the King James Version. Arguing that the Textus Receptus shouldn’t be used for translation because of the King James is much like arguing that a Corvette shouldn’t have been built because the Ford Model T existed: the archaic Ford Model T is not the same thing as the concept of a car, or the ability to accurately design a more relevant car model; likewise, the archaic Jacobean English in the KJV is not the same thing as the Textus Receptus source of manuscripts and the ability to translate a more relevant English version of the TR apart from the KJV.

This last statement needs some further unpacking, because even attempts at translating from the Textus Receptus fall into the very same fallacy of faulty association. Whether it’s the NKJV, the KV21, or the more recent release of the MEV, every single translation that bases itself from the Textus Receptus feels a need to justify itself not by pointing out outdated facets of the King James Version, but by arguing its consistency with the King James Version. So the Critical Text translations say “six of one” and the Textus Receptus translations say “half a dozen of the other,” thereby committing the same error. (Please feel free to enact your own *facepalm* at home here.)  

The point is that the King James Version and tradition should be allowed to be valued for its own sake, while not further compromising either the legitimacy of source material or the understanding of that material in the current English language. What would I argue instead? Namely that people raised on a bible other than the King James start translating the Textus Receptus using contemporary English, without worrying about “how much it sounds like the King James Version.” This is entirely plausible, as many people now of age to accurately and academically translate could have been raised on the NIV, NASB, NKJV, or even NLT, and they’d certainly be more familiar with those translations than seemingly anyone doing work on the MEV.

The main hope here is that we as the Church recognize the value of our history, the value of all available manuscripts, and the value of God’s choice to place us in this particular culture, with this particular language, at this particular time.

+MSH 

***A discerning reader might counter: “You’ve just admitted that the original manuscripts are superior; you cannot also say the Critical Text is inferior.” Actually, yes I can; the argument is that the Critical Text, while closer in age to the originals, is not a guaranteed full representation of the originals, precisely due to its age and state of disrepair. In other words, it is a fallacy of faulty association to equate “original” with “Critical Text.”

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A Critical Argument in Biblical Scholarship

If you’re a consistent reader of CU, or have spent time in the archived posts, you may have noticed that from time to time, CU gets a little academic. This can’t be helped; I’ve given a great deal of time, interest, capital and service to the intellectual side of the Christian faith, and if nothing else it seems to feed a more rounded acceptance of doctrinal points.

However, what I’m about to process here isn’t exactly something for which intellectuals tend to hop on a bandwagon. 

A little background: when it comes to bible translation, and specifically New Testament translation, there’s often a question needing discernment, even if that question doesn’t take up too much time. That question is, which Greek manuscripts do we translate? There are three major groups from which translators can choose:

1. The Textus Receptus (“TR”); this is a collection of medieval manuscripts from which translations contemporary to the King James Version originate. They are extant mostly thanks to the work of one Desiderius Erasmus, a Greek scholar during the Renaissance and a contemporary of Martin Luther. Erasmus published the manuscripts in a collected text known as Erasmus 1516 (for obvious reasons, since it was published at that time). The point behind the TR is that it means a collection of texts published from the available Greek manuscripts during the Renaissance period. 

2. The Critical Text (“CT”); this is so named because it refers to the collection of published works based on the Greek manuscripts discovered and recovered during the excavation of Western sites, mainly ancient Alexandria (and to be fair, the Dead Sea Scrolls), during the 1800s. There are not as many available texts in this group; however, the CT’s claim to fame is that it represents the oldest available manuscripts, with the earliest year dates ranging from 100-600.

3. The Majority Text (“MT”); this group of texts is not quite a “group” in the same way as the previous two, because as it stands, it is the name given to what the majority of all existing manuscripts say. Think of it as an ecumenical approach to translation scholarship, rather than a separate denomination.

Oh, the varietal joys of discussion we could have here. In due time, though.

Most current translations choose to translate from the CT; only a few have ever translated from the TR. Let me first say that I’m not attempting to propose a certain group over another at this point; I currently use translations from both groups, and anyone who’s been in ministry with me should be able to agree that I’m more likely to advocate a translation someone will actually read rather than any notion of a “superior” translation. That doesn’t mean I don’t have beefs with faulty arguments, though.

At this point, you may be thinking, “He’s going to argue against the TR.” 

You’d be incorrect.

While it’s true that the TR, and arguments for it, tend to be in the more inflammatory and intellectually challenged categories, it’s not true that all arguments against the TR are void of error. Take for example the following: 

Some will argue, almost automatically, that the CT is best used because it is the “oldest available evidence.” It’s an agreeable statement, if by “evidence” we mean evidence for a Christian community, in those places, writing these scripts, practicing this kind of faith. It’s not an agreeable statement if we mean evidence for everything that was written and or copied for the New Testament. Let me explain by way of an analogy:

Computers. We may love them or hate them—feel grateful for everything they do or stand frustrated at anything they make humans unable to do. But one thing we can’t do is ignore the fact that they need constant updating. Why does technology get updated? Simple: it fulfills the purpose of technology in the first place, by making tasks more efficient and relevant to present needs. (Perhaps ironically, this argument is often used for updating bible translations, but that’s part of another translation discussion…like the ones here, here and here.)

You may be noticing where the argument is headed now. Anyone who argues that the first IBM computer is the ideal one for understanding and engaging technology today would be laughed out of relevance. Why? As time went on, computing needed to be upgraded to stay productive.

This isn’t just for computers, though if you still work from a something even as old as a laptop from 2000 you’ll realize how inefficient that computer has become. Hold onto anything for too long and you’ll find out just how much use it loses over time…unless you give it proper upkeep, restoration and care. Seeing old cars restored exemplifies this point – a 1967 Shelby Cobra may seem old, the manufacturing and technology certainly less than at 2014 Corvette. But as long as it’s kept up, repaired, restored, properly understood and maintained the ’67 Shelby Cobra is a near priceless piece of machinery.

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And yet anyone who argues that the oldest copies of manuscripts are the best available for translation seem to be missing both of these points. Just because something is old doesn’t mean it is reliable, or up to date. The oldest manuscripts, to be the most reliable, would have to be pristine in condition. They would have to render the decision to keep manuscripts new and usable by constantly copying them onto fresh material obsolete. But we don’t have that evidence. The fact is that most of these manuscripts are fragments. Most of them are truly worn out and old, decrepit and without major quality. Some arbiters for the CT are so devout to their position that they will go many miles to point out differentiations between the CT and the TR; and yet such a practice seems to be just as much evidence that they could be incorrect as that they could be accurate. If anything, the state that most of the CT is in suggests that they were simply source material for new copies, being left to age and fall apart. The fact is that it’s entirely plausible that the later manuscripts are not embellished fabrications but simply faithful restorations of previous material. The fact that we don’t find, just for example, the Story of the Adulteress in the earliest manuscripts could mean in equal measure that it either wasn’t part of the original, OR that the original and oldest manuscripts available simply fell into such disrepair that a record no longer exists on a document that old.

It’s not a question of which text is heresy; all three of the groups agree enough that there are no substantive doctrinal differences. And it’s not a question of Christianity’s verifiability (sorry, atheist friends—there are much stronger arguments than one about the bible’s text sources). It’s not as if, for example, the CT is inaccurate; it’s simply a question of why it doesn’t contain what later manuscripts do. There are certainly other arguments for the CT. But that begs the question: Why is there near unmitigated approval for the CT by way of this “oldest available evidence” argument?

Frankly, I have no idea. But if academics desire to be serious about their biblical scholarship, this kind of herd-mentality logic needs to be addressed.

+MSH

As A Child

As parents know well, kids are mistake-prone. They fall down; they hit things; sometimes, they say the wrong words. And as parents, most of us are perfectly fine with feeling bemused, letting them learn, and letting the event pass.

As Christians, we might well argue, we ought to hold the same kind of view for any child, no matter what. Why is this? Well, for obvious starters, God seems to have a special heart for children. Such might be seen easily in passages like Mark 10:13-16 and its parallels. Jesus expressly forbids people from hindering children to approach him. His stance is major at the time, because in the first century (especially in Roman-held territory), children were seen as little more than an expenditure, a source of family income, a source of completely inappropriate pleasure, or a general nuisance. In other words, we ought to value them not just because God does, but because God values the underappreciated, marginalized, weak, helpless and vulnerable. In fact, if one were to look just a bit further in the passage, Jesus himself addresses the disciples as children (v. 24). The list of passages using such a metaphor could be expanded, but clearly in addition to the reasons above,  we value children precisely because our own lives in relation to God are very much as a child to a parent.

This also means how we treat children very closely resembles (or perhaps reveals) our own perceptions of how we are getting along with God.

One instance that I’ll not soon forget is seeing a Christian teacher post, publicly, a grievous mistake that one of her students made in class. This student was perhaps not more than eight or nine years old, as the assignment was based upon the act of spelling simple words. Unfortunately for the child, the spelling mistake was so poor that the sentence ended up communicating a perfectly tame event like a perfectly inappropriate one, especially in regard to being a child. I won’t post the picture, or say what the spelling sheet said, but the sentence would’ve have been accepted as evidence against a parent for abuse if it were freely written by the child without external cause.

Now, apart from those obvious concerns about the apparent confusion this teacher suffers between the legal necessity to report such matters and the personal desire to shame a child, exposing the child’s mistake in the first place seems rather misguided at best. Surely the child had no idea what they’d done; surely the child would never have intended to do such a thing had they known. The question is why the first or at least overriding instinct for a guardian of children is to shame children, let alone why a Christian would want to publicly divulge explicit and inappropriate language.

I can’t answer those questions for that teacher, and I can only hope the child was shielded as much as possible from feeling depressed over something they couldn’t control, but I can take from their interaction the need to evaluate my own ideals and values as to whether or not they match up with mercy and righteousness. How we relate to children matters more than we realize; it reveals our attitude towards helplessness, our approach towards the desire to do what is right, and our own perceptions of God as a parental figure.

P.S., He doesn’t shame us. 

+MSH

Take Action Against Abuse

Earlier this week, news we are all now familiar with broke a tragedy wide open: Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely; he was taken out of video games; he was cut from his team. However, he was punished in this way not because of his abuse of his then-fiancée and now current wife. He was punished precisely because the video of his abuse went public and viral.

Many people asked why the NFL hadn’t cared enough until now. Many people still seem reticent to admit it was strictly for PR and pocketbook concerns.

Proof for this proposed reason? The NFL knew Rice had been not just arrested but convicted of assault months prior. In fact, contrary to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s own public testimony following the video’s release, NFL executives saw and had the video in their possession thanks to relevant legal authorities…at the NFL’s own request. 

But what was the punishment before the video became public? The NFL gave Rice a meager two-game suspension. 

The punishment after the video became viral: essentially Rice is banned for life from any association with the NFL without pay. 

If you’re a parent, you’ve played this game in board books with your kids: now that you’ve seen both pictures, can you tell what’s different? Only one thing changed between the two-game suspension and the ban: everyone has now seen proof of the abuse, they know that the NFL had that proof, and that means severe financial fallout for the league. 

Also earlier this week, in addition to this news and its ramifications for the ills people truly understand and pay attention to within our society, I ruminated about the likelihood anyone would respond in more than a superficial way. Regardless of the likelihood, the question might rightfully be asked: what course of action might be rational to suggest? 

For one, I hope people are seriously considering not purchasing any material from the Ravens organization. For another, I hope people are willing to stay financially away from any organization that has convicted felons of abuse or any other crime. This step in particular hits home heavily for me, as I’m a born-and-raised 49er fan, and anyone who follows football knows the 49ers continue to have behavioral issues with their personnel. But I am willing to do both of these proposed actions, and more.

Someone might reasonably contest that financial boycotts are a mess, because it punishes the economy and people within the organization that have had nothing to do with the criminal activity. While this is an understandable contention, if one weren’t to consider a boycott, it remains to be seen how anyone not connected directly to the Baltimore Ravens, Ray Rice, or Roger Goodell would effectively be heard in their opposition to either (1) the league’s handling of the incident, or (2) the league’s precautions against perpetuating a culture of violence that under any other circumstances would be deemed unethical at best and criminal at worst.

Even if someone doesn’t agree with the above rationale, there are still other opportunities to take action, especially if someone is a casual observer of the game or not particularly financially invested. Tonight, Thursday September 11, the Ravens play. What seems a considerable action is simply to keep from watching the game tonight, and instead, pray for the situation—the victims, enablers, and committers of domestic violence and abuse. Pray for those who can’t come forward; pray for those who don’t realize they’re caught in abuse’s viciousness; pray for those who want help but can’t ask for fear of judgment; pray for providers of help; pray for point-blank healing.

There are plenty of resources on the subject, and there will be some listed below. But what can change a situation best is prayer, consideration within ourselves and to our God about how best to reverse attitudes, alter behavior, grow mindfulness, and establish firm safety for any affected by the torment of real physical, emotional, mental and spiritual abuse. This is the best way to first be prepared, aware, equipped, discerning and ready to both receive and bestow healing. God created every human soul, no one is disqualified in Christ, and the Spirit seeks to heal damage. 

Are we more willing and able to bring healing when called, or to continue drowning ourselves in entertainment when it’s unnecessary? We may see tonight.

+MSH

Resources:

http://www.thehotline.org/

http://www.abusedwomen.org/resources.html

http://netgrace.org/

https://rainn.org/get-help/sexual-assault-and-rape-international-resources

http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Resource_Centers/Child_Abuse_Resource_Center/Home.aspx

https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/substance/resources.cfm

 

Qualification or Discrimination

“…with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” – Matthew 7:1-2

 

I keep thinking I’ve seen everything; I keep being wrong.

The California State University system has now effectively banned a religious group from its campuses because that group insists on being run by people who are honestly members of that group.

 

Wait, what?

 

It’s true. Multiple sources, including my alma mater Fuller Seminary, are now reporting that CSU is no longer allowing public access and/or usage of its facilities to Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, a group I will freely admit to being a part of, an in fact holding several leadership positions within, more than a dozen years ago. So please do understand that some of this, as much as I hope against it, may be tinged with a little bias. But facts are facts. 

One of the facts is the main reason for this…shall we say “ceased contract extension” with IVCF: a lack of signing a “non-discrimination policy.” If one were to take such a reason at face value, failing to comply with it would look pretty bad for IVCF; one of the main tenets of Christianity is agreement with Paul’s proclamation that there is nothing but social equality as regards access to, and life with, God (Gal 3:26-28). God is no discriminator, as Peter states directly himself (Acts 10:34), and therefore his loving followers being such is purely antithetical, a denial and not an embodiment of the nature of God. 

However, closer dissection of this “non-discrimination” policy seems to render the term illogical, and functionally meaningless. CSU’s definition, apparently, of “non-discrimination” is that anyone at all should be allowed to lead any group of their choice, regardless of characteristic or qualification. The essence of this policy is rooted in unchangeable characteristics, such as race – an essence obviously founded as a point of mutual understanding with Christianity. The enactment of this policy, however, is now exercised through changeable characteristics, and seems to undermine the point of such a group in the first place.

Who would expect someone without an advanced degree in biology to oversee genetic testing? Who would expect someone without knowledge of the American justice system to oversee a trial? Who would cross a bridge designed by first-year, pre-engineering students? Who would trust the grade earned in a class, or even attend a class, where the instructor didn’t know the first thing about what he was teaching? Who would trust a loving dog to someone who doesn’t know chocolate is bad for a canine, and hasn’t yet learned therefore to keep them apart? Who would expect to receive a five-course meal from someone who hasn’t yet managed to successfully prepare boxed mac-n-cheese? 

And yet CSU expects an organization to survive, thrive, and feel welcomed for its full, special uniqueness with people leading it that have absolutely no knowledge or qualification to do so. The alternative is that perhaps it doesn’t, and such a possibility is even more serious, because it would mean the CSU system is guilty of being biased against the success of a facet of the very diversity it purports to be encouraging by insisting on the policy; in other words, to claim equality in diversity would be a contradiction, leaving their policy meaningless at-best and untrustworthy at-worst. Idealistic diversity is being used to make genuine diversity impossible. 

This is disheartening to say the least, not because Christianity will suffer – in fact, it seems more likely to boom around the campus now, just in areas not covered by this new mandate. Nope; this is disheartening because of what it means for other groups of people expecting protection or recognition, for expectations of meaningfully qualified leadership in other areas of campus life, and for organizations that could flourish and contribute with the proper care but will now probably fail to gain steam due to a serious vulnerability in practical structure, including those grounded in academics. 

The university zeitgeist is nothing if not academic, so without fidelity to that academic rigor in its policies, it shall eventually seem to be nothing. And if an entire university system cannot understand the simple logical necessity that qualification is not discrimination, it remains to be seen how it can remain qualified itself as a trustworthy embodiment of academic integrity, empowerment and spirit.

 

+MSH

 

The Islamic Samaritan

…a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”   – Luke 10:27-29

“I keep thinking I’ve seen everything; I keep being wrong.”

This is tried and true phrase of a good friend of mine in the Spirit, Roger Wolsey. And I can attest to the fact that he never runs out of reasons to utter it. But I can guarantee he’d never imagine I’d start saying it myself.

Take a look at this article and the first interrogative you’ll utter is most likely “how.” Brian McLaren recently called Cass (as well as a number of Charisma News executives) to account, primarily over the concern for how it could have become a published piece of writing. My concern is how it could have reached the point of being presented for publishing, as it would first have to reach the state of being a piece of writing.

You know, the life of prophetic witness is a difficult one. There’s no money in it, you never choose when the Spirit is going to give you something to say, once you do say it you barely feel as if you chose the words to say, and once it’s out there you wonder if it was really the Spirit in the first place. Most people won’t hear it, and a good portion that do will be upset because it’s the truth and not some kind of pyrotechnic, sensationalist, glamour-rock show.

But I can tell you this: if I ever once published anything that I knew was deliberately ad hominem, deliberately immoral, or deliberately fear-mongered, every single entity possible would know it was not of divine inspiration. This is why, most of the time (though ideally it should be all of the time), I’ll catch something before I write it, let alone before I revise it, and still further before I publish it. And I rarely have anyone but myself to check it. We are all mistake-prone; we all fall short of an ideal moral life. But that is why we try to aim for as many checks as possible before we make those mistakes.

None of these checks apparently occurred when “Reverend” Cass wrote against Muslims everywhere as if they were all counterproductive, self-defeating, hateful and anti-Christian extremists.

If Cass had simply wished to make sure his sentiment cleared logical fortitude, he may have been drawn to the recent campaign by our own government to dissuade Muslims from joining ISIS. In material for that campaign, he’d see how blatantly anti-Islam ISIS actually becomes, killing its own people, forcing its own people to do things no lifelong Muslim would ever advise. So it seems the most unfortunate thing is that Cass and ISIS have one thing in common: they are both, at the core, self-defeating anti-Islamists, which ironically therefore leaves little room for being pro-Christian. 

Well, and this is rightly questioned, what of his logic? What argument does he present? Let’s see:

  • “My fear is not an irrational fear…” Fair enough. Let’s see what you have to say, rationally.
  • ISIS is doing to American journalists what every true follower of Muhammad wants to do to you and yours—subjugate or murder you.” Hmm. I wasn’t aware that “every true follower” was different enough from “ISIS” to be addressed separately, and yet exactly the same as ISIS. Might want to check your referents there; the fallacy is called a bait-and-switch.
  • “They believe they have been given a mandate by Allah (Satan) to dominate the world.” (1) Who is “they,” ISIS or “every true believer”? I know, I know: REFERENTS ARE HARD. (2) “Allah” is a very different term from “Satan,” even linguistically. (3) Proof for anything in any part of this sentence? None.
  • “Fourteen years of history, both ancient and modern…”  Wow, history is only 14 years old? I guess Jesus didn’t have time to exist. Whoopsie for your conscience.
  • “…tell us that Muslims are deadly serious about their infernal goals. Now we get to watch their violent, demonic fanaticism on YouTube videos.” See, now there you go again with the referents and the vague pronoun bait-and-switch. Not only does the last “their” refer to ISIS and not Muslims, even if all ISIS members were Muslims, that would not necessitate all Muslims being ISIS. Frankly, I’m glad that’s true, because otherwise we’d already be fighting them…wait, Cass already wants us to do that (more on that later).
  • “History shows that when Muslims get the power and means to subjugate and behead Christians, Jews, et al, they do it.” Perhaps Mr. Cass would like to find out and learn about Moorish Spain, Andalucia.
  • “Its what Muhammad did and taught.” Perhaps he’d like to learn about what Muhammad really thought about “people of the book”: they were siblings. Of course, Muslims think Islam is the superior next-step, but then we Christians believe the same thing about Christ, do we not? And yes, “Its” is a typo in the original article.
  • “So I have what I believe is a very rational fear…” Actually, sir, it seems you didn’t offer anything rational at all.
  • “Do you?” Well, yes…but it has more to do with the irrational demonism and aggression that you seem to share with ISIS.
  • “Muslims laugh at us for how stupid we are when it comes to dealing with them.” If by that you mean non-ISIS Muslims…then yes; if they were to read this article, I’d not be surprised that they do.

At this point in the article, it seems Cass isn’t giving us much hope for a “rational fear” or argument of any kind. But perhaps he argues better for his “solutions”:

  • “[Conversion to Christianity] is not biblically doable. Why? God has a plan and he revealed it at the birth of Ishmael, the father of the Arabs.” Um…did you read the entirety, or in fact any, of Paul’s letters to non-Jews? Every single thing offered in this paragraph of the original article is every single thing Jewish Christians hurled at Paul against his Gentile converts. Every..single..thing. Apart from the unease felt at conversion being the first proposed solution (Dark Ages, anyone?), if Muslims can’t be converted, then logically neither can you, and that must mean the argument isn’t worth listening to anyway.
  • “D.A.M.N. (Deport All Muslims Now).” Yes, a Christian leader just judged himself by forming his condemnation of others into a condemnable term borne out of a condemnable approach to his fellow human beings. If that’s not the biggest self-refutation….then let’s continue, because there’s more.
  • “Deport them like Spain was forced to do when they deported the Muslim Moors.” That…that event wasn’t forced, at least on anyone but the Moors. See, now this is why it would’ve paid to research Moorish Spain.
  • “Muslims in America are procreating at twice the rate of other groups.” I believe I’ve heard this about all Hispanic groups, too. I’m sensing a theme, and it’s not exactly immune to racism… Oh, wait: is there proof for this statement? Because if there is, I can listen to….nope, no proof.
  • “So either we force them all to get sterilized…” I’m going to pretend I didn’t just hear a crystal clear Nazi-eugenics statement out of the mouth of someone acting as if he’s some kind of Christian leader.
  • “…or we wait for the “Army of Islam” to arise in our midst and do what Muslims always do, resort to violence” Apart from the subconscious obviousness that the written use of air-quotes means he knows it’s a constructed falsehood, “always” isn’t true in any case. Well, unless there’s…nope. You know, eventually I’ll get the idea that this isn’t a proof-driven statement from Cass.
  • “Just see what they are doing in France, Britain and Scandinavia…” Which is what, dealing with it? Accepting Muslims as equal citizens? What?
  • “But history shows America is always late to the fight.” Unless you mean the Revolution…or Manifest Destiny against the Natives…or the Mexican-American War…or the Spanish-American War…or saving the world at D-Day…or Iraq…or Afghanistan… Shall I continue?
  • “most Americans…wishfully think we are the exception and Muslims will all of a sudden change and want to co-exist.” To change would mean to go from one state of being to a different one; most Muslims are in horror over ISIS, because, unlike you, they know ISIS is actually anti-Islamic, and they’d be forced to do the same things you yourself want to avoid. Even a son of a convicted terrorist is able to turn away from the behavior, so if anything it seems the exact opposite of this sentiment is true. 
  • “This is irrational and stupid.” You mean your own argument, right? Totally agree there. Wow; agreement!
  • “…we must be prepared for the increase of terror at home and abroad.” Again, you mean stuff like the mentality you’re espousing right?
  • “First trust in God, then obtain a gun(s), learn to shoot, teach your kids the Christian doctrines of just war and self-defense…” I believe we just suffered tremendous heartbreak at kids even being around guns, sir, let alone learning to use them. And by the way, Just War Theory is not a Christian doctrine…there is no mandate from Christ to slay infidels. Just War Theory is one doctrine out of many formulated by Christians. That’s not the same thing. Christians can make some mighty fine ale, too, and in fact were the first ones to perfect it, literally saving lives in the process – but you wouldn’t argue distillery’s a Christian doctrine, would you Mr. Cass?

Then again, perhaps Cass should argue something like that, because after something like that, I certainly feel the need to ease some serious pain over the faith suffering from incalculable ignorance. We need love-fueled Christian leaders, not fear-engulfed war-mongerers. I have one remaining question for Mr. Cass, and everyone who agrees with him: who is your neighbor?

+MSH

Ignorance Begets Violence

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” (Hosea 4:6)

Is our culture so bent on manufactured entertainment that we refuse to effectively care even as it destroys us?

The outcry is hot and heavy against Ray Rice and the Baltimore Ravens. Once a top-tier running back for the NFL organization, Rice had his contract terminated indefinitely after a video surfaced publicly, showing him committing blatant physical violence against his then-fiancée. Obvious evidence, case closed.

Wrong.

The outcry doesn’t stop with the current punishment. The availability of the video prior to the first disciplinary action against Rice, a suspension for a simple two games, suggests that the NFL either lied about asking for all the evidence, or sat on it hoping they could sweep the problem away like they had for several years with other players. The outcry also seems to spring from the woman’s ability to stay in a relationship with someone abusive, and from Rice apologizing first not to his wife but to his coach.

These protests are yet weak.

One real protest would be about a culture that continues to undergird violence with public attention. Any parent of a toddler learns eventually that the child will only act out what they observe, and what acquires attention. Most of our people are the working poor, yet we continue to pour money into a sport that literally thrives on contact. Say what we will about adjusted rules, added protection to players, and personal responsibility: this is not a culture of obvious grace and peace. These players are not only trained day in and day out to engage in hitting other people, but are conditioned to expect their livelihood from it. Many of these players would have (and will have) absolutely nothing to earn a living from after their football careers are over. Unless we expect players to starve themselves to death, we need to acknowledge that they will do whatever is technically legal (not necessarily ethical) to provide for others. Point blank: if we don’t like players getting into criminal activity, we need to stop surrounding them with aggressive behavior. It’s not yet worth starting on the recent upsurge in UFC fighting (the founder in a local newscast once joked about asking himself, “Is this even legal?”…and now he makes millions from its questionable ethics), but the results will soon be the same from that, if not more so, and the UFC’s popularity only supports the reality of the culture’s continued acclimation to violence. Do we question this? Not more than we play the fool and pretend there are no consequences.

Another real protest would be the pervading ignorance surrounding abuse. One might rightfully argue that women are to be treated as precious, and such would be correct, though women are also not the only ones to suffer abuse. Relationships, if unhealthy, will always center around what we counselor-types will call a “power-grab.” This means, simply, that one partner will seize control as a means of perpetuating the relationship, usually out of a significant source of insecurity; this means, by definition, that another will assume the submissive role, or play the dominant role in a more exaggerated fashion given the chance. This means only one of two things; either the relationship will continue in a cycle of violence, or it will assume a psychological condition known as co-dependence, or in these cases more extremely known as Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm Syndrome is the condition in which one person emotionally attaches to their abuser simply to keep from being abused more, and in fact sees their abuser as the most important, necessary facet of their own dehumanized existence. People who blame Ray Rice’s wife, or more poignantly do ANYTHING other than encourage a stop to the relationship so the two have even the remotest chance to be healthy, seem not to understand the gravity, addictive nature and automation of this kind of psychological state. Once again, ignorance is the social drug of choice.

Perhaps the issue with the most wide-ranging social consequences is a dynamic that has seemed to overtake the United States: that of corporate elitism. Oh, yes. There is no more troubling aspect of our society except that of exempting oneself from the law. For those readers wanting Christian reference, Paul’s exhortation to obey the governing authorities in seeking the good of the society is extensive in Romans 13. Yet in dealing with criminal offenses by players in the most hushed manner, what the NFL seems to be implying is the idea that as a for-profit corporation, they can not only have their own code of conduct exempting themselves from American justice, but they have the right to exercise their own set of “laws” instead, and indeed have a right to demand evidence from the authorities to discipline players like Rice, as if they are the authorities and not the civilians, when they have no role in administrating civil justice. The relevant NFL leadership knew Rice had committed domestic assault before this video became public; they suspended Rice for two games, certainly not a punishment anywhere near the equivalent of his criminal punishment in civil society, and the NFL even defended the decision at its top-most echelon. What the NFL truly believes is that instead of upholding the American system of justice, as a corporation (albeit American) it would rather see profit in the short-term by allowing criminals to play as long as the public remains ignorant than profit in the long-term by upholding honor and character. Almighty money still doesn’t care about people; it doesn’t care about Rice being acculturated to violence; it doesn’t care about his wife being made a slave to fear; it doesn’t care about upholding justice and law; it cares about how willing you are to spend it. Money, bluntly, is ignorant; by its association with us, we become ignorant ourselves.

And it would seem the NFL cares more about damage to its wallet than to its own country’s citizens.

While not the most exacting protest, one might argue that a final one to hold would be the culture’s ability not to speak out against domestic or other form of criminal violence in professional sports, but its unwillingness to take substantial action in support of those words. Words by themselves are hollow, folks. And millions of people are going to do one of a number of things: ignore the cases of Ray Rice, Ray McDonald, Aldon Smith, and countless other players now spanning decades; pay enough attention to act like they care by saying something about it but still enjoying every minute of every player that hasn’t yet become so criminal they can no longer play; or take substantive financial, social or other legal action until the NFL knows it’s not above the law and this behavior stops well in advance of another committed crime.

Betting on the third option would lose a lot of money, whether or not we realize it.

+MSH

Faith itself coming to faith.

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