If it’s wrong to do to women, it’s wrong to do to conservative women. (Yes, that includes Tomi Lahren.)

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I think Tomi Lahren is abysmal.

Lahren, for the blissfully uneducated, is the young Ann Coulter-in-training who makes her living proudly saying stupid things on TV. As things go, she’s a prime example of what’s wrong with our discourse these days.

However, this happened:

Lahren, whose conservative views and outspoken demeanor consistently rattle her critics, was with her mother at the UNION restaurant in Minneapolis when another diner tossed a glass of water on her as she walked past her table.

Footage of the attack circulated on Snapchat and Lahren, 25, was outraged.

Again: I think Tomi Lahren is abysmal. I also think if a stranger had made a video of throwing a drink at a female non-Fox commentator, we’d be talking — rightly — about the misogynistic abuse women face in public debates.

And I think that progressives — nominally feminist — have a blind spot when it comes to conservative women, that the humanity and courtesies we extend to women otherwise don’t quite apply if they vote Republican.

Instead, the president spoke up in her defense, and a lot of otherwise-progressive people offered reactions ranging from glee to dismissal.

So. Let’s be clear.

Just because Donald Trump defends her doesn’t make it right.

If it’s wrong to do to women, it’s wrong to do to conservative women.
It’s just that simple.

Good News, Bad News from the World of Christian Conservatives

Hi Joel,

The good news: Paige Patterson, the Southern Baptist who leads Southwestern Seminary, is out after the SBC could no longer manage the outcry that erupted when it became known that Patterson, one of the architects of the ouster of women from leadership in the SBC in the 1980s, encouraged abused wives to return to their husbands, justifying male objectification of women, lewd comments about 16 year old girls, and discouraged victims of rape on a Baptist college campus from reporting the crime committed against her.

The bad news: Patterson is 75 and leaves with the title of “Emeritus,” a fat severance package, and the right to live in swanky retiree campus housing with his wife, and both of them will retain the title “theologian-in-residence.” So they are still a revered part of campus life, and if you donate money to the seminary, you are funding their life escape. And if you visit campus, you could still run into this rape apologist.

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Above, Patterson. Unsurprisingly, men who argue against women speaking in church are also likely to be men who sexualize the bodies of women in public spaces, victim-blame rape victims and cover for sexual criminals, and defend spousal abuse as a means for guilting abusers into coming to church. Misogynists rarely oppress women in only one domain of their lives. 

I can see only two ways of understanding this:

  1. Southern Baptist leadership is okay with rewarding people being fundamentally (because not being able to discern that women should be treated with dignity is fundamentally wrong for a religious leader) terrible at their jobs. OR
  2. Southern Baptist leadership doesn’t think he was all that wrong.

It’s probably evidence that I’m cynical that I was frankly surprised that the #churchtoo effort to remove Patterson from office worked.

Rebecca

Should Christians shun gun owners? No.

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Dear Rebecca:

I’m going to do something I don’t do very often, or lightly: I’m going to disagree with you.

You raise the idea of “handing gun owners over to Satan” — shunning, essentially — and I deeply understand why: Friday saw another mass school shooting, about which our gun-besotted leaders continue to do nothing. As David Frum points out in The Atlantic, “Americans of high-school age are 82 times more likely to die from a gun homicide than 15- to 19-year-olds in the rest of the developed world.” That’s a startling statistic, one that suggests we Americans are doing something deeply wrong when it comes to our gun culture.

Certainly, if you choose to preserve your own safety by saying “No, I won’t come to your home for a meal or play on your team or sit in your classroom, because your choices endanger me and others, and I love life too much to risk mine and others’ by bringing them close to you,”I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. Only you can determine how best to preserve your safety and that of your family.

But you suggest that’s the approach Christians more broadly should take to all gun owners, and I can’t quite follow you there.

For one thing, there’s the practical matter: Shunning is used pretty rarely in the church — as you point out, it’s often been used against LGBT members, but not against serial sex abusers. That suggests to me the church has sufficiently bad judgement about when to employ the practice that it is, on the whole, best left in the toolkit rather than used.

And then there’s the question: Is gun ownership a sin?

We’ve discussed this before. My quick take: There are commandments against murder, but not against possessing weapons. Yes, those “who live by the sword shall die by the sword,” but I’m not sure how much clarity that offers. But we also know that Jesus healed the son of the Roman centurion, and apparently did so without ordering that centurion to give up his tools of violence — or his power to command others to commit violence.

Heck: One of the Bible’s most famous stories is that of David, a small man, using a small weapon to even the odds against a giant.

Let’s face it: The Bible is not exactly uncomplicated for us pacifism-loving Mennonites.

Don’t misunderstand: I think it’s clear that a lot more people think they are “good guys with a gun” than are actually “responsible, smart guys with a gun.” And I think your suggestions that gun owners bear more of the cost of gun violence “through insurance and through harsh punishments for crimes committed with their guns” is right and essential.

But while I think gun ownership is, on the whole, a bad choice for a great many people, I don’t know that you’ve established that it’s mortal sin that requires separation from the entire Christian community.

I don’t own guns. I’m not at risk of being cast out under your rules. But I’m having a hard time seeing that church schisms over gun ownership would be a useful thing.

With respect,

Joel

Handing Gun Owners Over to Satan

CW: Anti-gay “clobber verse” ahead

I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.–1 Corinthians 5:5

This passage terrified me as a child–the idea that a church could gather and “deliver”–pick up, plunk down on a doorstep, ring the bell, and run away–a person to the Devil himself. I knew it had to be a community’s response only for the most intractable of sins (incest, in the case referenced, though I only ever saw it used against gay people, never against sexual abusers). At the heart of this process was still the goal of saving the person, so it was an act of love, but it was an act that recognized that the community was done with the person.

“Delivering such a one to Satan” was for people who professed belief yet who lived lives deeply at odds with the love of Jesus. It was the community saying, “God, we can’t protect this person from the consequences of his sin. Given that situation, let those consequences be persuasive to him now.” But as much as it is about saving his soul, it is also about protecting the community. This is the sailors carrying Jonah to Tarshish tossing the reluctant prophet into the sea and immediately feeling it calm. We know that God will rescue him, but the sailors don’t, and they are still justified, the story suggests, in their choice.

Mostly my experiences with this verse have been negative: a church creating a boundary where none was needed, using it as a mechanism for preserving purity when they should have been living in grace.

But I want to redeem it, because I think there is some wisdom to it, especially today, as more school children were by killed mass gun violence that could have been prevented had adults, ranging from the father of the shooter to the entire US Congress, taken action.

What if we “handed over to Satan” gun owners? That is, what if we allowed them to experience the full risk of their choices rather than the rest of us absorbing it for them? What if we said, “This is not a cost we will collectively bear”? If we treated them like the dangers they are? We could do this legally by demanding that they absorb the cost of gun violence through insurance and through harsh punishments for crimes committed with their guns. Every gun used by a child, after all, has been touched by adults who don’t bother to secure it, yet we call this gross failure “tragedy” rather than “predictable.” Let’s make it impossible for people to underestimate the punishment for the choice to allow children to take up arms.

What if reasonable people–those of us who don’t think own a gun (the large majority of Americans)–shunned them? If we said, “No, I won’t come to your home for a meal or play on your team or sit in your classroom, because your choices endanger me and others, and I love life too much to risk mine and others’ by bringing them close to you.”

Above, an image from a fresco in the catacombs of Priscilla, in Rome, from 2-4 CE. The sailors were right: when people’s refusal to love others as God wants us to creates danger, you might have to act.  

Even if just Christians did this, we might see a drop in violence. What if Christians agreed, “I won’t live in fear, and I won’t dwell in a relationship with someone who seeks security in lethal weapons. I love you, friend, but God calls me to protect people, so we have to be done here. I cannot love our relationship more than I love the lives of innocent people”? Certainly, our rates of violence would fall, both because Christians could not be perpetrators and because we would not be allowing our guns to be used against others.

What if we tossed gun owners* overboard like those sailors tossed Jonah?

Rebecca

*Yes, I mean gun owners. I don’t consider shooting sports enough justification for the risk that guns pose to people. The case for snake-handling in churches is more defensible. Christians have no business with shooting people in self-defense. And hunting for food or wildlife control can be done without storing weapons in your home or vehicle, where they are increased risk of being stolen. The rest of the world has figured this out.

 

 

Who’s the Victim Here? Christian evangelist scares movie goers with rant about salvation in a darkened theater

Hi Joel,

Did you hear the one about the evangelist who stood up in a darkened theater, at the end of the most recent Avengers movie, and, as the credit rolled, preached that people needed to “repent or perish”?

Yeah, it’s not funny, which was the crowd’s panicked reaction, too, when Truth & Triumph Ministries’ Michael Webber decided to preach a little fire and brimstone in a movie theater in Redlands, California, this past week. Unsurprisingly, when you scream “If you were to die tonight, would your passage to heaven be guaranteed?” people don’t assume that you simply lack manners, are an entitled jerk who is robbing them of a peaceful experience watching the credits (and robbing the people credited of their recognition), or a person deeply concerned about their spiritual welfare. Because, while the first of these things is true (You are an entitled jerk), the third is not (You don’t really care about people’s welfare or else you’d have thought this stunt through more carefully); you’re just an ass.

See the source imageDoes Jesus want people who love the Avengers to also love God and their neighbor? Sure. But it’s hard for them to hear that message when they’re afraid for their lives.

Webber defended himself by saying that he’s frequently preached this way, blaming the panic on the fact that the lights didn’t come up soon after he started preaching, the way they usually do. (This means he doesn’t usually wait for the lights, I guess.) In a sympathetic interview with The Christian Post, he places his behavior–and the panic that it prompted and his arrest–within a narrative of Christian victimization:

The common thread I hear from people who disagreed with what I did is that it wasn’t the right “time and place” to stand up and preach.

Christians need to realize that if we don’t stand up now, there won’t be ANY “times or places” left. There was a period of time in America where standing up to preach the Gospel would have been met with applause. But even in past times when I’ve preached, the message has been met with cursing, objects being thrown, and so on.

Although I have had times where preaching in theaters has resulted in great fruit. Many people have said to leave the preaching for the pulpit. But, for one thing, the freedom of the pulpit is being infringed upon as we speak. And for another, not everyone attends church on Sunday. But every person should hear the Gospel of God’s love as expressed through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

We’ve talked about this before: Christians who don’t understand that their freedom of religion doesn’t entail anyone else subsidizing their faith. And when you rob a ticket-paying movie-goer of the chance to see the entire film (including the credits), you are doing that. A movie theater isn’t a public space.

But Webber doesn’t just believe that Christians are victims. He also seems to subscribe to the idea that Christianity itself must rule. Here he is again in The Christian Post:

The honest truth that every Christian must come to realize is this: Nature abhors vacuum. When the Church refuses to reign, someone else will. God has called every one of His people to rise up and be light for this world, and hope for their generation.

In other words, this isn’t about movie theaters or even about personal salvation. It’s about Christianity having power. Though Truth & Triumph seems focused mostly on “soul winning,” the language of “reign” rightly scares those of us who aren’t here to be won.

*****

Here’s a roundup of recent research about how those outside of conservative Christianity are faring under the renewed assertion of Christian hegemony. In short: it’s not good.

Abu-Ras, W., Suárez, Z. E., & Abu-Bader, S. (2018). Muslim Americans’ safety and well-being in the wake of Trump: A public health and social justice crisis. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. Advance online publication.

Key point: Perceptions of increased Islamophobia was associated with increased concerns about safety and increased stress, with some Muslim women and elders and older people experiencing additional negative outcomes because of their gender and age

Müller, Karsten and Schwarz, Carlo, Making America Hate Again? Twitter and Hate Crime Under Trump (March 30, 2018).

Key point: When Trump tweets anti-Muslim garbage, anti-Muslim crime increases.

Scheitle, C.P. “Religious Congregations’ Experiences with, Fears of, and Preparations for Crime: Results from a National Survey,” Review of Religious Research (2018) 60: 95. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13644-017-0316-3

Key point: Muslims and Jews are more likely to see their houses of worship vandalized.

.

Bigotry at Fresh Kitchen: The authoritarian impulse in the Age of Trump

Perhaps you’ve seen this video of a Manhattan attorney yelling at two women for speaking to each other in Spanish:

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Three thoughts:

• You live in New York City and you’re offended by the sound of people speaking languages other than English? Jeepers, man, it’s time to pack the U-Haul and get the hell out of town.

• As best I can tell, this man was not party to the conversation that set off his outrage. Yet he felt entitled to wade in and start instructing people to act according to his preferences. Why on earth would he feel like he deserves to interfere in somebody else’s conversation?

I mean, besides the fact that he’s a white guy?

• Notice, too, that the mere fact of speaking Spanish is enough for this man — an attorney, mind you, somebody who probably knows a thing or two about “probable cause” and “due process” — to threaten to bring the full weight of the federal government down on the people whose conversation he interrupted. Speak Spanish and you might end up in custody. Speak Spanish and you might be deported. Chilling.

He saw something. He said something.

This is the authoritarian impulse made manifest. It assumes that differences are evidence of illegality, and it let’s society’s winners show just how much they believe the levers of government are built for their own use, as opposed to protecting the rights of all people. This is an ugly incident. I’m not sure that it’s all that unusual.

Sex and violence: David French’s odd moral choices

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At least it’s not gay marriage?

I think I’m on record as being a fan, of sorts, of David French. I don’t agree with him on much, but I think he’s one of the better conservative writers out there — willing to characterize his opponents honestly, able to call out his own side when deserved. I even rooted for him to get the gig writing for The Atlantic when that publication fired Kevin Williamson.

Still: He’s conservative. I’m liberal. And on some things, we’re not going to get to a real understanding.

Take his latest column, which considers the morality of torture during wartime.

“War is hell,” Sherman famously declared, and life in that hell involves making the most challenging of moral decisions with the highest possible stakes. At a minimum, the consequences of failure can mean death and dismemberment. At most, they can mean the end of a civilization. In that circumstance, lines can and must be drawn, but they must often be drawn with pencils, not pens. Our enemies must know that when they violate the laws of war that they cannot rely on the straitjacket we stitch to save them from the fate they so richly deserve.

It’s not that I mind moral nuance, but contrast French’s position iffy-maybe stance on torture with, say, his stance on sex. You’ll recall he was one of the signers of the so-called “Nashville Resolution,” which didn’t leave much room at all for nuance.

Over the weekend, I was honored to sign a document called the Nashville Statement. It’s a basic declaration of Christian orthodoxy on sexuality, sexual orientation, and sexual identity. Its 14 articles can be boiled down to a simple statement: We believe the Bible is the word of God, and the word of God declares that sexual intimacy is reserved for the lifelong union of a man and a woman in marriage. It acknowledges the reality of same-sex attraction as well as the reality of transgender self-conceptions, but denies that God sanctions same-sex sexual activity or a transgendered self-conception that is at odds with biological reality. In other words, it’s basic Christianity.

It strikes me odd that a Christian can be ready to declare some kinds of love off-limits, yet leave the door open to committing deadly and abusive violence.

I understand that French makes his argument in the service of saving innocent life, yet the thing he argues for also involves the the taking of innocent life: Their civilians should be killed so that ours aren’t. We use nuclear weapons to kill their children so our soldiers won’t die. That’s justifiable, according to French … but it sure makes a lot of assumptions about God’s rooting interests in the world.

Meanwhile, there’s no question in French’s mind that gay marriage is wrong.

Me? I can more easily accept the mutual moral choices of consenting adults than I can the massacre of people who have no real choice to be targets. “Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword” seems pretty definitive to me, but we have thousands of years of theological rationalizing giving us reasons to think otherwise.

I’m not saying any of this is easy. I believe David French’s sincerity. But it’s easy to condemn sex and uphold military prerogatives when (like French) you’re a straight former Army officer. Our readings of Scripture — both mine and French’s — might come from motivated reasoning.