Saturday, February 13, 2010

False Stereotyping, I Thought It was our OPPONENTS Who Did That by Anthony McCarthy

A number of weeks ago, during a blog discussion of some issue, I don’t remember which one, I made a rash statement that liberal Christians needed to take back the discussion or they would be blamed for the identification of Christianity with fundamentalism. Which was an illustration that some things that are kinda true are, nonetheless, rather stupid statements. And I did know better. Putting the blame on liberal Christians for the identification of Christianity with fundamentalists is just wrong and stupid.

As the fine blogger RMJ pointed out, in answer to my foolish statement, liberal Christians have tried. over and over again, to take back the discussion but they are ignored. Liberal Christians (and Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, etc.) have issued a myriad of statements supporting justice, reason, civil rights of all variety, economic justice, the separation of church and state, contraceptive education, ... pretty much the liberal agenda. They have also issued statements condemning sexism, racism, gay hatred, trans gender discrimination, environmental destruction, economic injustice. They have issued statements, press releases, position papers, sermons, etc. and they have been just about as completely shut out of the media as secular groups issuing the same kinds of statements have been. No, that’s not true either. Mainline Christian churches, speaking on behalf of justice, are more completely excluded from mainstream media than secular groups. You should read RMJ’s posts* on the subject, they are some of the best anywhere. Since he pointed this out to me, again, I have tried to correct myself and make amends for past sins of that kind.

We talk about “Christianity” and about “religion” as if there was really something that “was” either one or both. But there isn’t. There are thousands of groups and billions of different people who identify themselves as “Christians” today. But as anyone who has read the Pauline epistles will know, there hasn’t been any one “Christianity” since a few decades after the death of Jesus. In fact, there were already people presenting themselves as speaking authoritatively on his behalf during his lifetime. Jesus is on record as having warned about that, himself.

During another blog fight yesterday about the charge that “Xians” all shared in some kind of blood guilt over the Ugandan pogrom against gay people, the ususal suspects, including me, pointed out that Episcopalians, United Church of Christ** and a slew of other mainline churches and Christians have issued official statements condemning the hateful bills going through the Ugandan government. The first things I ever saw about it were warnings and condemnations coming from liberal Christian sources, well before I heard about it on NPR or the commercial media, well before I noticed blog atheists on the subject. One of the “Xian” bashers, after having it suggested to them that they google the topic and see the many, many condemnations made by Christians against the Ugandan Government-The Family oppression of gay people, said this:

So it's up to me to google every denomination on the planet to see for myself where each and every flavor of each and every superstition stands on Ugandan xians who want to slaughter people for being gay? Come on. The onus is on them to inform me!

This sums up the problem. People exempting themselves from the most basic requirements of both reason and justice by virtue of their atheism, or Buddhism, or paganism or Christianity or adherence to science or Islam or any other presumed virtue of self-identification.

Of course the answer is, YES, it is up to you to know that you're telling the truth. If you don't, you shouldn't make the statement. I’m kind of amazed that the self-proclaimed “rationalists” don’t seem to realize that if you’re going to talk about something that the onus is on you to get it right. I’m stunned that in a blog discussion on a leftist blog that people can claim there is a right to lie about large groups of people, by people who exempt themselves from the requirement to know the hell what they’re talking about. Call me old fashioned, but I thought that’s what we were fighting against.

There was a time I thought that people preening over their own rationality would have realized one of the ground level requirements of reason was that you had to deal with things as they are, not as you distort it for convenience and self-service.

I will get around to talking about how stupid it would be for the left to reject organizations representing many millions of voters who are, in some instances, more progressive than many secular groups, because they are Christian. Apart from the essential issue of justice, that’s a lot of votes and a lot of motivated workers to reject. You’d think any reasoning person would realize that. But that's a lesser question of practicality. If you don't feel an obligation to tell the truth, it doesn't matter.

* I think this passage from RMJ is as perfect as statement of the matter as possible.

The UCC issues press releases constantly out of Cleveland (where it is headquartered). Ever hear of them? Not on Keith or Rachel, not even on Democracy Now! (where I often get news no one else is reporting). Not on BBC World Service (another excellent news source). Nowhere. I never see them reported, except by the UCC newsletter, and who outside the UCC (or inside, it, for that matter) reads that?. The same is true for the Lutherans, the Methodists, the Episcopalians: if they bother to issue press releases, who republishes them? As Arianna Huffington pointed out on Countdown last night, Dick Cheney only issues a press release condemning Obama's efforts in the "war on terror," and Politico published it and over a week later, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow were still talking about it. But a press release from a mainline denomination?


So it goes, actually. That's the nature of the world. Or at least of a Jeffersonian culture where we have always valued the separation of church and state (even the "liberal" Guardian of London regularly publishes columns, opinion, and information, about religion, and especially about the Church of England). But it's one of the qualities of "news" that what is published, broadcast, bandied about, even discussed on the internet, is only "news" if someone somewhere says it is. And for all the interest in "religion" I see even on the internets, there's precious little real interest in the subject or in the nature of the mainline churches. Everyone prefers either the self-promotional caricatures of Joel Osteen or Rick Warren or James Dobson or Pat Robertson (all of whom have something, or sometimes many things, to sell) or their own desultory (and uninformed) opinions over the actions and statements of Geoffrey Black or Katherine Jefferts Schori.

You can read RMJ’s blog Adventus by clicking on the link at the head of Echidne’s blog roll. ---->

** I mentioned in passing that I and another man could talk to the closest UCC church and arrange to be married in it. Yes, married, it’s in New Hampshire. And the only question would be if the church was available that day. The UCC has been especially good on the issue of non-discrimination against LGBT people, as have been the Episcopalians of New Hampshire and elsewhere. I’m not ignoring that because it makes some bigots uncomfortable.

The UCC, Episcopalians, and many other Christians, individually and as groups have stood by GLBT people and I'm bound by both morality and honor to stand by them.