Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Empire, Religion, Fear, Torture & Truth

Posted by Clamence/The Chaplain on June 17, 2009

barbariansI just finished reading J. M. Coetzee’s novel Waiting for the Barbarians, and I am very impressed by it. I have yet to be disappointed by any of Coetzee’s works, and I have read a fair number of them. The fact that I read this book now, while the whole American torture “debate” has been going on, has meant that I couldn’t help but read the novel as an allegory for what happened during the Bush administration. Those eight years revealed, in a more accelerated fashion than has been the case in the past, exactly what happens when war-monger, military-industrial-complex types–who view war and weaponry as a business and have a decidedly imperialistic, manifest-destiny conception of nationhood–have the political capital to fully implement their form of chauvinistic, pro-business/anti-citizen policies that use fear and intimidation in a matter-of-fact Machiavellian, lying way to manipulate public opinion in order to rule and wage war.

The narrator of the novel is a man referred to only as the “Magistrate.” He runs a small outpost, a walled and fortified settlement of the “Empire,” at the edge of territory inhabited by those referred to as “the barbarians.” There is peace in the outpost city, until one day a man named Colonel Joll shows up in the Magistrate’s office. He works for the “Bureau”: a branch of the Empire’s military. Due to vague rumors (whose source is unclear) that the barbarians are planning to attack the Empire, Colonel Joll has war-time powers to do as he sees fit; the full cooperation of the Magistrate is expected.

Colonel Joll decides to go on an expedition to round up some barbarians. He comes back with several (a father and his young daughter are among them) who he then proceeds to torture on a daily basis. The Magistrate is horrified by all of this, but has no power to stop it or do anything but try to understand what is going on. In the following passage, he confronts Colonel Joll about the logic of torture:

When I see Colonel Joll again, when he has the leisure, I bring the conversation around to torture. “What if your prisoner is telling the truth,” I ask, “yet finds he is not believed? Is that not a terrible position? Imagine: to be prepared to yield, to yield, to have nothing more to yield, to be broken, yet to be pressed to yield more! And what a responsibility for the interrogator! How do you ever know when a man has told you the truth?”
“There is a certain tone,” Joll says. “A certain tone enters the voice of a man who is telling the truth. Training and experience teach us to recognize that tone.”
“The tone of the truth! Can you pick up this tone in everyday speech? Can you hear whether I am telling the truth?”
This is the most intimate moment we have yet had, which he brushes off with a little wave of the hand. “No, you misunderstand me. I am speaking only of a special situation now, I am speaking of a situation in which I am probing for the truth, in which I have to exert pressure to find it. First I get lies, you see–this is what happens–first lies, then pressure, then more lies, then more pressure, then the break, then more pressure, then the truth. That is how you get the truth.”
Pain is truth; all else is subject to doubt. That is what I bear away from my conversation with Colonel Joll…

It isn’t too hard to see the flaws in Colonel Joll’s logic; the most obvious one is his assumption that the “enemy” will always lie. The Magistrate notes this error in thinking as he sits imprisoned in his cell, a victim of the Empire’s need for enemies:

No matter if I told my interrogators the truth, recounted every word I uttered on my visit to the barbarians, no matter even if they were tempted to believe me, they would press on with their grim business, for it is an article of faith with them that the last truth is told only in the last extremity.

This belief that the truth lies in pain and fear is built into the very heart of evangelical Christianity: fear of suffering the tortures of hell for eternity. Not surprisingly, a recent survey revealed that “62 percent of white evangelical Protestants say that the use of torture against suspected terrorists can be often or sometimes justified in order to gain important information. When asked the same question, 40 percent of the “religiously unaffiliated” say torture can be often or sometimes justified.” I don’t want to belabor this point, since I think much of this evangelical support has its roots in Republican propaganda that spreads its way like cancer throughout the Christian community; they voted for President Bush, and they want to support their team, even if it means supporting torture. I discovered a similar reaction in a debate with Christians about whether the Bible condones slavery. Since it is impossible to argue that the Bible condemns slavery, these Christians were quick to embrace Biblical slavery by rationalizing that it wasn’t that bad, since it was a way for the poor to escape from poverty. (I can see the TV ads in modern America: “Buried in debt? Living in poverty? Become a slave! The Bible tells us its okay!”) Still, it seems to me there is something inherent in Christianity that is allowing believers to think it is okay to drown people, slam their heads against walls, or break their legs, despite the fact that their innocence or guilt has not yet been established. (Or am I wrong and this support of injustice and violence is simply another case of Christian cognitive dissonance?) Perhaps they have been desensitized to violence after reading the God-sanctioned genocide in the Old Testament, or after reveling in the violence and torture of Mel Gibson’s film? (As an aside, why did they support the film of a raging anti-Semite?) I imagine the explanation lies in the confluence of political propaganda, a desensitization to violence, a fear of being tortured for eternity, and previous practice believing ideas that contradict each other (cognitive dissonance). If one does believe that this life on earth is inconsequential compared to the afterlife, then torture and justice in this life is meaningless. Becoming born-again allows a person to follow the path Colonel Joll believes his captives take once he has tortured them: the primordial fear of death and pain allows one to arrive at Truth. Just as Colonel Joll has no evidence to support his assertion about the efficacy of torture (Dick Cheney comes to mind), Christians have no evidence of an afterlife or the existence of their deity. For them, to simply believe in something is enough to make it true. To echo Voltaire, holding onto a belief with absolute certainty is the path to atrocity.

My attempts to understand people who view torture as anything other than an atrocity parallels the Magistrate’s own desire to comprehend. When he is eventually released, after being repeatedly tortured, hung from a tree by the neck and never given a trial, he confronts his torturer, Warrant Officer Mandel:

I hesitate before I pass through. There is something I would like to know. I look into Mandel’s face, at the clear eyes, windows of his soul, at the mouth from which his spirit utters itself. “Have you a minute to spare?” I say. We stand in the gateway, with the guard in the background pretending not to hear. I say: “I am not a young man any more, and whatever future I had in this place is in ruins.” I gesture around the square, at the dust that scuds before the hot late summer wind, bringer of blights and plagues. “Also I have already died one death, on that tree, only you decided to save me. So there is something I would like to know before I go. If it is not too late, with the barbarian at the gate.” I feel the tiniest smile of mockery brush my lips, I cannot help it. I glance up at the empty sky. “Forgive me if the question seems impudent, but I would like to ask: How do you find it possible to eat afterwards, after you have been . . . working with people? That is a question I have always asked myself about executioners and other such people. Wait! Listen to me a moment longer, I am sincere, it has cost me a great deal to come out with this, since I am terrified of you, I need not tell you that, I am sure you are aware of it. Do you find it easy to take food afterwards? I have imagined that one would want to wash one’s hands. But no ordinary washing would be enough, one would require priestly intervention, a ceremonial of cleansing, don’t you think? Some kind of purging of one’s soul too–that is how I have imagined it. Otherwise how would it be possible to return to everyday life–to sit down at table, for instance, and break bread with one’s family or one’s comrades?”
He turns away, but with a slow claw-like hand I manage to catch his arm. “No, listen!” I say. “Do not misunderstand me, I am not blaming you or accusing you, I am long past that. Remember, I too have devoted a life to the law, I know its processes, I know that the workings of justice are often obscure. I am only trying to understand. I am trying to understand the zone in which you live. I am trying to imagine how you breathe and eat and live from day to day. But I cannot! That is what troubles me! If I were he, I say to myself, my hands would feel so dirty that it would choke me–”
He wrenches himself free and hits me so hard in the chest that I gasp and stumble backwards. “You bastard!” he shouts. “You fucking old lunatic! Get out! Go and die somewhere!”
“When are you going to put me on trial?” I shout at his retreating back. He pays no heed.

This point reminds me of another passage of Coetzee’s novel, where the Magistrate ponders the dreams of the sleeping inhabitants of his city. After reading the passage, go back and try replacing the word “Empire” with “Christianity”:

Without exception they are dreams of ends: dreams not of how to live but of how to die. And everyone, I know, in that walled town sinking now into darkness (I hear the two thin trumpet calls that announce the closing of the gates) is similarly preoccupied. Everyone but the children! The children never doubt that the great old trees in whose shade they play will stand forever, that one day they will grow to be strong like their fathers, fertile like their mothers, that they will live and prosper and raise their own children and grow old in the place where they were born. What has made it impossible for us to live in time like fish in water, like birds in air, like children? It is the fault of Empire! Empire has created the time of history. Empire has located its existence not in the smooth recurrent spinning time of the cycle of the seasons but in the jagged time of rise and fall, of beginning and end, of catastrophe. Empire dooms itself to live in history and plot against history. One thought alone preoccupies the submerged mind of Empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era. By day it pursues its enemies. It is cunning and ruthless, it sends its bloodhounds everywhere. By night it feeds on images of disaster: the sack of cities, the rape of populations, pyramids of bones, acres of desolation. A mad vision yet a virulent one: I, wading in the ooze, am no less infected with it than the faithful Colonel Joll as he tracks the enemies of Empire through the boundless desert, sword unsheathed to cut down barbarian after barbarian until at last he finds and slays the one whose destiny it should be (or if not he then his son’s or unborn grandson’s) to climb the bronze gateway to the Summer Palace and topple the globe surmounted by the tiger rampant that symbolizes eternal domination, while his comrades below cheer and fire their muskets in the air.

The fear of death is part and parcel of being mortal; we as a species exist because we evolved the desire to avoid death. (Poor Dodo birds!) Although I understand this desire, I find it hard to comprehend the need to believe in fictional stories that tell us we won’t die. I get that there is comfort in thinking Papa God is watching out for you the way a parent watches out for a child, but “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up my childish ways.” If we must retain some aspect of child-like thinking, let it be like the dreams of the children in the passage above; instead of focusing on “dreams not of how to live but of how to die,” let us “live in time” and “never doubt that the great old trees in whose shade [we] play will stand forever, that one day [we] will grow to be strong like [our] fathers, fertile like [our] mothers, that [we] will live and prosper and raise [our] own children and grow old in the place where [we] were born.”

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21 Responses to “Empire, Religion, Fear, Torture & Truth”

  1. Rock Throwing Peasant said

    Please tell me you have enough professionalism to give a “D” to any student that would turn in something like this. Give me hope that you care enough about your profession that you’d roll your eyes at a cliche-filled, banal, and intellectually flawed critique like this one.

    Cripes, man. Your intense hatred of all things Bush has warped your mind.

    I mean, talk about thinking like a child. You lambast Christians for liking a Mel Gibson movie because he’s anti-Semitic, but that drunken arrest (2006) came after the film was released (2004). Simple fact-check could’ve saved you from getting called out for trying to piece the two things together without justification.

    Okay, you say, why do they still support him (in whatever fevered way you think they support the guy)? Well, first, they’re compelled to hate the sin, but love the sinner. Right? Further, you of all people should have sympathy for someone raised in a household of a particular mindset (Mel’s father’s a nutjob anti-Semite) and having to adjust to the world outside what was once “normal.” Is that too much to ask of you, or is being judgmental terrible for others, but fine for you? Have some intellectual honesty when dealing with the lion’s share of Christians. Sloppy, man.

    I’m not even getting to that whole, simpering, “Torture is bad, umkay?” routine. You can’t even define torture without twisting yourself into a logical knot. TRUST ME. The reason is because you’ve neer really thought about it. You’ve looked at Bush and Co. and said, “Whatever they are, I am not.” So, you look for intellectual allies in the debate and parrot their thoughts on the subject.

    I mean, that’s all well and good. You’re under no obligation to think independently.

    Just spare us the clap-trap, dude.

    That was just painful.

    • The Chaplain said

      Despite the nom de plume I recognize that writing voice! Folks, let me introduce all of you to Calvinist Friend of Angry Conversations fame. Thank you for sharing your perspective with me and the other fffmks readers.

  2. RockThrowingPeasant said

    You recognize the writing voice? Boy, nothing gets by your sharp, analytical mind.

    Who are you talking to, anyway? I’m about the only person who has responded to your posts that hasn’t talked about something more interesting – namely food.

    I’m not “Angry Calvinist.” Not a Calvinist, actually. So, I’d take that writing voice analysis tool you bought back to Walmart. I am a guy who has read enough “Chimpy McBusHitler” rants to know the frauds when I see them. I also notice there was no definition of torture. And, please spare me the Webster’s version. If I wanted more derivitive and reductio ad absurdum (or, perhaps in this case, reductio ad hitlerum) work from you, I can always scroll down and read the next fascinating piece on navel gazing.

    Wait. This isn’t how I want to be.

    We got off on a wrong foot. I apologize. I was jumping around the interwebs, looking for interesting bits. I read Life and Times of Michael K when an undergrad and thought a review of another work might be interesting. I admit that was a bold assumption and I have been proven wrong.

    Anyway, maybe you, Angry Calvinist and I can go out for beers.

  3. RockThrowingPeasant said

    As do angry, intellectual narcissists who can’t muster a simple definition of “torture,” despite years of service in academia. Don’t think it’s gone unnoticed that you’re running from that one. You just have a mirror in front of you (that would be this blog – I don’t want you to think the mirror is somehow Bush, which seems to be the pattern in your work) and gaze lovingly without actually interacting.

    When you pen something that is distinguishable from Jenene Garafalo, send me a link.

    • The Chaplain said

      Well, I was originally not going to address any of your points, since I felt they were so obviously without merit that it was a waste of time. Also, you sounded just like Calvinist Friend, and I thoroughly debunked his arguments (and yours, by extension) in my archived posts. So, since I am now convinced you are not him, and since I am glad to have another reader visit the site–even if it’s only to make ad hominem attacks on me–I will go ahead and address what you wrote. Don’t be surprised if I ignore most of the ad hominem attacks, since I know there rhetorical purpose is simply to allow you to vent your emotions and anger towards people who don’t think the way you do. Probably the most important thing to do first, in response to the issues you raise, is to verbalize some of the false assumptions behind the points you make. Let me start with your first comment:

      “Please tell me you have enough professionalism to give a “D” to any student that would turn in something like this. Give me hope that you care enough about your profession that you’d roll your eyes at a cliche-filled, banal, and intellectually flawed critique like this one.”
      Here, you make the false assumption that I am trying to create a “critique” of Coetzee’s book that could be submitted in a literature course. It is obvious what my intention was, because I say quite clearly that the parallels between the book and Bush’s term are eerily similar. If something like this were to be submitted to me in a literature course, it could only fit under the category of a reader-response journal. Even then, that would be stretching it, since I like students to spend more time focused on the particulars of the text. Also, I would never give a good grade to an analytic piece that quotes so much from the text. But, this is not an analytic piece; it is simply a gathering of my thoughts that my mind related to the novel as I read it.

      “You lambast Christians for liking a Mel Gibson movie because he’s anti-Semitic, but that drunken arrest (2006) came after the film was released (2004). Simple fact-check could’ve saved you from getting called out for trying to piece the two things together without justification.”
      You incorrectly assume that I am referring to Gibson’s drunk driving arrest. However, accusations of anti-Semitism were aimed at Gibson when the film was initially being screened. Simple fact-check…

      “Well, first, they’re compelled to hate the sin, but love the sinner. Right?”
      Perhaps, but I can think of plenty of “sinners” who Christians do not support or love. Given that fact, it seems more likely that Christians simply didn’t care about the charge of anti-Semitism, since their own pastors and talk-radio propagandists didn’t bring it up. Since you are a Christian yourself, I’m sure you are aware of the bubble that many Christians live in. Even now that they are aware of Gibson’s racism and alcoholism, most Christians don’t care. They just want to see the myths they believe in turned into a big Hollywood production. The fact that it has lots of gore and violence and makes them cry for Jesus, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

      “Further, you of all people should have sympathy for someone raised in a household of a particular mindset (Mel’s father’s a nutjob anti-Semite) and having to adjust to the world outside what was once “normal.” Is that too much to ask of you, or is being judgmental terrible for others, but fine for you? Have some intellectual honesty when dealing with the lion’s share of Christians.”
      Yes, I imagine Gibson’s childhood with that father of his must have been hell. I would hazard a guess that his alcoholism is directly connected to it. Still, if someone is an anti-Semite, I’m not going to support them–quite the opposite.

      “I’m not even getting to that whole, simpering, “Torture is bad, umkay?” routine. You can’t even define torture without twisting yourself into a logical knot. TRUST ME. The reason is because you’ve neer really thought about it. You’ve looked at Bush and Co. and said, “Whatever they are, I am not.” So, you look for intellectual allies in the debate and parrot their thoughts on the subject.”
      Here is your definition of torture: U.N. CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE
      and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
      Treatment or Punishment

      I’ll get to your other points in another reply.

      • The Chaplain said

        “Who are you talking to, anyway? I’m about the only person who has responded to your posts that hasn’t talked about something more interesting – namely food.”
        Here you make the false assumption that people who read my blog also respond to posts on my blog. That would certainly be nice. It’s not true though. I get blog hits from various sources and I know the exact number of hits I get thanks to WordPress’ excellent blog statistics tools. Those are the people I was talking to (as well as my fellow contributors).

        “I’m not “Angry Calvinist.” Not a Calvinist, actually.”
        My mistake. If I am looking at the correct website, you appear to be a Catholic. I will avoid any jokes about the Pope’s hats.

        “I was jumping around the interwebs, looking for interesting bits. I read Life and Times of Michael K when an undergrad and thought a review of another work might be interesting. I admit that was a bold assumption and I have been proven wrong.”
        My essay wasn’t a review, so you can keep looking for one. I would suggest the JSTOR or MLA databases. Coetzee’s other novels (and his memoirs) are worth checking out.

      • The Chaplain said

        “As do angry, intellectual narcissists . . . You just have a mirror in front of you (that would be this blog – I don’t want you to think the mirror is somehow Bush, which seems to be the pattern in your work) and gaze lovingly without actually interacting.”
        Seen your own blog lately? You definitely toot your own horn. Of course, you should be proud of your accomplishments, as I am proud of mine (so far). Really, anyone who has a blog is opening himself to a charge of narcissism. Maybe it’s true, who knows? I can think of worse narcissists though, so I’m not worried about it.

        “When you pen something that is distinguishable from Jenene Garafalo, send me a link.”
        I know that she was on Air America, although I never actually listened to that radio station. (Isn’t it only available on satellite radio?) I didn’t know she wrote, so I have no way of gauging whether my posts are similar. Since you seem familiar with her writing, I’ll leave that research up to you.

  4. RockThrowingPeasant said

    So, to recap:

    1. You wouldn’t accept what you just wrote as worth submitting, but you’ll post it. Thanks. Next time, get us a pair of socks.

    2. The Christians who do not condemn Gibson should be more judgmental and certainly not be thought associating in any capacity with the least of our society. I’ll have to file that thought under “He just said what?”

    3. I never said you had to support Gibson, just humanize him and realize he grew up in a household with a dominant view that he struggles to reconcile with his experiences in the world. I’d say something about throwing the first stone, planks in the eye, but…

    4. Regarding “plenty of Christians” do this and “pastors and radio” do that, I’d remind you what a great intellectual mind once said (Pat Moynihan, though I don’t think it was originally his), “The plural of anecdote is not ‘data.'” I know plenty of Christians who walk in humility and love their fellow man as a flawed, but redeemable person. Rage against the machine, but I’m sticking with that philosophy.

    5. So, in other words, you aren’t going to define torture. You’re just going to copy a link and not read it, contemplate it, or go any deeper than the surface. Great. That took some effort on your part.

    What’s stopping you from defining it on your own terms? You are comfortable discussing it, comparing it, and condemning it.

    6. I am a narcissist. If you were me, you’d love me some me, too. What blog?

    7. Not Catholic. What site says I’m Catholic?

    • The Chaplain said

      1. I can tell you’re purposely ignoring my points simply to be combative. My blog is not a lit class, nor is it an assignment with certain criteria to be fulfilled. Choose not to understand if you would like.

      2. No, not more judgmental, simply more informed and less willing to embrace racists. You have created an either-or fallacy: either you go out and give Gibson millions of dollars for his religious snuff film, or be judgmental. There are many other gradations of possibilities in the middle.

      3. I already know he’s human. Who said he wasn’t? I’m just not going to give him my money. That qualifies as dehumanizing to you, eh? Well, then I just dehumanized the owners of Applebee’s restaurant today, because I refuse to give them my money for crappy food.

      4. The fact that I know plenty of Christians, talk to them on a regular basis, and know the intimate thoughts of hundreds of them allows me to make generalizations about most of them. “Most” is a qualifier, by the way.

      5. I’m not going to paraphrase the definition on my own, if that is what you are asking. The link I gave you defines it much better than I can. Again, it’s clear you are simply playing games and are not a very serious person when it comes to having an honest discussion. Your type of posts would be more at home on a site where flames and ad hominem attacks appear regularly–like on one of the message boards at the conservative web sites you listed as your favorites on your blog.

      6. This blog: Airborne Eagle

      7. I see. You were raised Catholic, perhaps? At least that’s what your blog says. So you are no longer a believer in the Judeo-Christian God or is it just Catholicism?

  5. RockThrowingPeasant said

    1. I can tell you’re purposely ignoring my points simply to be combative. My blog is not a lit class, nor is it an assignment with certain criteria to be fulfilled. Choose not to understand if you would like.

    No, I understand what you blog is. I guess I thought someone with you firepower would do better. Choose not to raise the bar if you would like.

    2. No, not more judgmental, simply more informed and less willing to embrace racists. You have created an either-or fallacy: either you go out and give Gibson millions of dollars for his religious snuff film, or be judgmental. There are many other gradations of possibilities in the middle.

    Sorry, was there an “either/or” for loving the unlovable? It’s easy to love the lovable, right? I think that either/or was set in place to purposefully challenge Christians to accept and love the whole person and, you know, hate the sin.

    The gradiations are fine. Just not sure that’s what Christians are called to do. Seems like “gradiations” is simply another way to pass judgment. Don’t you? You can love someone if they meet certain standards, but should avoid them if you have judged them…fill in the blank, but I suggest “anti-semitic” for best effect.

    3. I already know he’s human. Who said he wasn’t? I’m just not going to give him my money. That qualifies as dehumanizing to you, eh? Well, then I just dehumanized the owners of Applebee’s restaurant today, because I refuse to give them my money for crappy food.

    Giving him money is one thing. Something tells me, if you were to be honest, that your sentiment toward Gibson runs deeper than just not giving him money. After all, I don’t give Applebees my money, but I don’t drag them into conversations about the best way to grill a steak. Sure, I could make comparisons and wonder about Applebees, but bringing them in means that place is more than just a little on my mind.

    So, time for honesty. How have you reacted to his antics and drunken bursts? Shrugging and saying, “What do I care? I never give him money.” Or are you more prone to lob a couple ad hominems his way. One such is “anti-Semite.” But, wait. He is one! Sure. That, however, is not a basis to dismiss his argument, is it? His argument should stand or fall on it’s own merit. That the words or movie came from an anti-Semite is a point of fact, but it is also a fallacy to bring it to the attention if your point is that an argument (or movie) is flawed.

    In short, you pulled your own ad hominem to purposefully taint the conversation about “The Passion.” Let the movie stand or fall on it’s own, as if we found it in a time capsule with no identifying marks. That is how an argument is meant to be viewed, correctly? No attacks on the person or appeals to authority, etc.

    His movie should be tainted for Christians because it was made by an anti-Semite.

    Dismiss his argument without hearing it because it is made by an anti-Semite.

    See, I don’t see the anti-Semitism in the movie that many of the “We’re gonna hate a Christian movie regardless” crowd chiped about. I didn’t leave thinking, “Jews killed him!” Of course, for me, it might as well have been me driving the nails into His hands. That a Jewish crowd condemned Him is inconsequential, since He was the final sacrifice. He could have been condemned by a non-descript crowd, but it wouldn’t have made much sense since he wasn’t upsetting everyone’s applecart – just the Jewish leadership. That the crowd was Jewish is no more of a matter to me than saying, “Jesus looked Arab.” Of course He did. He was in the Middle East among a population of Jewish folks. It’s not Jewish nature to try to kill peaceful prophets. It’s just a matter of history and not a matter of damning a people. Ignoring that the leadership was Jewish would be intellectually dishonest for a film-maker. Right?

    4. The fact that I know plenty of Christians, talk to them on a regular basis, and know the intimate thoughts of hundreds of them allows me to make generalizations about most of them. “Most” is a qualifier, by the way.

    Never said folks can’t make genreralizations. I couldn’t imagine making it through the day without using a reasoning process. My point was that there is also a problem with over-generalization. You have a bitter view of Christians. I don’t. You see religion, likely, as an evil influence (or, at least, an opiate). I don’t. I’ve met so many caring, loving, humble Christians – flawed, sinful, and at times hypocritical and, yes, a couple who make me shake my head and pray for them – that my opinion is not as jaded.

    5. I’m not going to paraphrase the definition on my own, if that is what you are asking. The link I gave you defines it much better than I can. Again, it’s clear you are simply playing games and are not a very serious person when it comes to having an honest discussion. Your type of posts would be more at home on a site where flames and ad hominem attacks appear regularly–like on one of the message boards at the conservative web sites you listed as your favorites on your blog.

    Oh, I’m very serious when people accuse my fellow veterans of torture. And this is not just a subject of casual concern or study to me. I take it very seriously, which is why I don’t appreciate when someone with a passing knowledge of things decides to sit in judgment and condemn my friends of crimes.

    So, here we are.

    I think we both know why you’re not going to put your own definition forward and it is only superficially because you think the UN (THE UN!) did a better job.

    I think it might be a good idea that if you’re not going to take the subject seriously, you don’t throw serious allegations around.

    6. This blog: Airborne Eagle

    Talk about a blast form the past! I haven’t seen that in years! I made that when I was teaching myself Frontpage. That may have been updated, I don’t know, 2002 or so. Didn’t realize it was still up. Dog’s gone (got a new one), kids are grown, I’m out of the military, new job, Eagles still break my heart, and I’m 20 lbs heavier. Thanks for the last reminder.

    7. I see. You were raised Catholic, perhaps? At least that’s what your blog says. So you are no longer a believer in the Judeo-Christian God or is it just Catholicism?

    I went through about a decade of atheism between being Catholic and what I am now…which doesn’t really have a term. Not a Calvinist (the whole “limited atonement” issue is still a subject of internal debate and introspection), not a Catholic (though I do appreciate Chesterton’s take on why he converted to Catholicism), not a Baptist (I like beer), and not a Pentacostalist (I barely stumble through “Where is the bathroom” in Spanish, so more difficult tongues are off limits).

  6. RockThrowingPeasant said

    Dang it, forgot to close the html bold after the UN. Help a brother out?

  7. Rock Throwing Peasant said

    I got to thinking about what you said about how Christians should be wary of who their patrons are. You have a point that “love thy neighbor” isn’t a suicide pact. You should make reasonable decisions. G-d did give us the ability to reason, after all.

    So, maybe we Christians should make sure our movie-makers, writers, and spiritual gurus should be properly vetted. After all, what comes out of the mouth is as important as who is saying it. I’d hate to be reading a good book and find out that this preachy guy once was a conpirator in the murder of a Jew. Who wants to hear words of piety from a seriel adulterer? Pfft. And you know some really suspicious types write history books – some even write about the Jews and put them in some terrible light, suggesting they’re backsliders and idolators and prone to deliberately turning their back on their own G-d.

    Wait a sec.

    Something….

    Dang! I knew that flowed too easily from my mind. I had heard about those disreputable characters before. Paul, David, Moses. Heck, there’s more in the Bible, as you can attest. Got some guy who allowed foreign gods to be worshipped. Another dude who mocked a perfectly respectable religion with a comment about their god sleeping or something. Heck, the guy who was picked to be the rock on which to build the church kept turning his back on Christ. Who could possibly read what they wrote, or take them seriously – as a Jew of Christian?

    I think, when it really comes down to brass tacks (what kind of expression is that?), a true Christian – a Christian who understands that the message is firmly attached to the author – should do the only respectable thing.

    The last think a Christian should do is read a Bible.

    Oh, man! I figured it out now.

    You’re not an atheist. You’re a Catholic!

    I kid, I kid.

    Put some ice on it before it swells.

    • The Chaplain said

      You seem to have spent a fair amount of time thinking of the things and people that bug the hell out of you. You certainly have constructed some very well-developed straw men with inventive names. A novelist would be proud of what you have erected. I just hope that one day you see through those fabrications to see that that bizarre, whiny, limp-wristed, over-reactor you describe is unrecognizable to me. I don’t know any people like that. Interesting to read your stream-of-consciousness rant though.

  8. JN said

    Being an atheist (more-or-less), would you argue that slavery has been wrong from the beginning, or was there a time in human development that slavery became wrong for one reason or another?

    (This is just a question, not a trap.)

    • JN said

      I forgot to read my own post. I should have said, “Being a Darwinian.” Being an atheist may or may not be relevant.

      • The Chaplain said

        Whoops, somehow I missed this question. Sorry about that. I just happened to stumble upon it as I was browsing the site.

        It is difficult for me to answer your question, since there are a few underlying assumptions in it that I do not agree with.

        For starters, I am unsure of how you intend for me to interpret the word “wrong.” If you mean wrong in the sense that there are absolutes that reside in a supernatural deity, then I am unable to answer the question. It would be like asking me if I think frogs have always had wings or if they recently evolved them. So, I guess my answer is “neither.”

        If you mean “wrong” the way I mean it (that it is culturally determined by the zeitgeist and that some human ideas have their roots in our human biology to a certain degree), then you already know the answer: we, as a society, used to think it was right and now we think it is wrong. I personally think it has always been hugely destructive to both the slave and the slave owner (but obviously not as much to the owner). I don’t think I need to list all of the things that make slavery bad. In that sense it is wrong. You’ve already read my ideas on how humans through the ages have been honing heuristics for human governance, relationships, etc. The harm caused by slavery was finally acknowledged by enough of a majority of citizens that it was able to be stopped. In this sense, the second part of your question is true: people decided that it was wrong for one reason or another. I, on the other hand, think it was always harmful and destructive (despite what our mutual acquaintance Lazer might think). If I lived during an earlier time, who knows what I would have thought.

        I think that about covers it. By the way, calling someone a “Darwinian” is a Christian thing. It’s an attempt to make evolution about Darwin, instead of focusing on what the overwhelming majority of rational scientists accept because it is substantiated fact (evolution, not Darwin’s initial Theory of Natural Selection). I would never say to you, “Being a Copernican…” It would be ridiculous. Only someone wanting to undermine heliocentrism would refer to someone who accepts the substantiated facts Copernicus discovered this way. Now if I had asked the question 🙂 I would have asked it this way: “As someone who accepts the discoveries of science…” Of course, asking it that way reminds a person that Christians do not accept the discoveries of science that contradict the Bible. And you gotta ask questions in a way that make your team look good. Am I right? (rhetorical question)

      • JN said

        See my post below…

  9. JN said

    You answered my question in the second paragraph. I don’t have any curve balls, and I’m not trying to change your mind. Actually, I kind of argued that same position you did a little back in the Myspace days (RIP), but Paulo laughed at me (maybe I just didn’t word it right).

    Sorry about calling you a Darwinian. Darwinist probably would have been a more accurate word than Darwinian. Darwinian needs a noun or noun phrase after it: Darwinian view of life, Darwinian evolution, Darwinian crud catcher (massive beard). Maybe neither work. I’ve never been accused of being a prolific terminologist of scientific terms.

  10. Paulo said

    I laughed at you? Sorry. I don’t remember much about the MySpace conversations on this topic, but I do remember somebody brought up a verse in the Bible for masters to be nice to their slaves, which I found funny…

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