January 21, 2021

Saturday Ramblings, July 12, 2014

Fast-food culture wars, Dumb and Dumber sermons, and judges who are okay with incest. Welcome to the weekend, fellow imonkers.

The big news in sports yesterday was that LeBron James announced he is returning to Cleveland.  That city has not won a sports championship of any kind in over 50 years.  But with three number one draft picks in the last four years, and now the King coming back…well, let’s just say expectations are a little high: 68feeb80-eb51-0131-c072-0eb233c768fb

It’s Argentina versus Germany for the World Cup final tomorrow.  Out of the almost 200 countries in the world, the final two countries are also the two home countries of the two living Popes.  Coincidence?  popes

Readers may recall a few weeks ago we reported that the Polish Prime Minister, in a fit of historical amnesia, made the statement, “Regardless of what his conscience is telling him, [a doctor] must carry out the law.”  He was referring to a doctor who refused to perform an abortion because of religious objections.  The doctor has now been fired.

“God can take your dumb and dumber and turn it into greater and greater!” Thus tweeted Mega-church Pastor Ed Young, obviously doing his best to channel Augustine.  The tweet was to promote his new sermon series, At The Movies, and in particular the first installment, the 1994 comedy, Dumb and Dumber.  Yeah, this one:dumb_a

The ever informative Christian Post even has a sample of Young’s “exegesis”.  First he showed  a clip where one character (not sure if it was dumb or dumber)  says, “I’m sick and tired of having to eke my way through life. I’m sick and tired of bein’ a nobody. But most of all… I’m sick and tired of havin’ nobody.” Pastor Young then explains “If you also feel you’re a nobody … Jesus died on the cross for nobodies like you and me…Why are we nobodies? Because we are sinners. We decided to move from being a somebody created in God’s image to being a nobody”. But after speaking so  profoundly about our depravity, Young brings a word of hope:  “We’re somebody because Jesus gave His body; He sacrificed His life, His blood for our shortcomings…”   Okaaaaaaaay.   And they say deep Bible teaching is a thing of the past…So this is what we have: a dumbed down sermon illustrated by Dumb and Dumber.  A perfect example of the old chestnut, “the medium is the message”.  Which leads me to this discussion starter:   Name a preacher or church and the movie which would best represent their presentation of Christianity.  Be (somewhat) nice.

Pope Francis met with some American televangelists this week.  He even gave James Robison the first recorded papal high-five10916-pope high five edited.800w.tnThis seems odd to me.  Francis has been a consistent and vocal critic of clergy wealth.  But perhaps this just demonstrates that he will meet with anyone, just as Jesus was mostly willing to do.

“A jury might find nothing untoward in the advance of a brother towards his sister once she had sexually matured, had sexual relationships with other men and was now ‘available,’ not having [a] sexual partner.” This from a judge (!!!) in Australia, arguing that incest really isn’t that bad.  Garry Neilson argued that incest is still a crime only “to prevent chromosomal abnormalities” in any potential pregnancies, “but even that falls away to an extent [because] there is such ease of contraception and readily access to abortion.”  Neilson further argued that just has society had changed its mind about the morality of homosexuality, it is bound to do so about incest as well. zxl58Pv

Author and pastor Thom Rainer this week listed 6 signs of a dysfunctional church.

1. Severe theological errors are pervasive in the church.
2. The church is known as a “pastor-eater.
3. The congregation experiences severe conflict.
4. Hardly anyone in the community knows the church exists.
5. The church is declining while the community is growing.
6. The church is “family owned and family operated.”

I wrote my own list, but you are encouraged to make additions in the comments.

1. New member’s kit includes a bible, copy of Mein Kampf, and an Uzi
2. The church staff consists of Senior Pastor, Youth Pastor and Chief Legal Counsel.
3. Pianist plays “Stairway to Heaven” during altar call
4. Ushers ask, “Snake-handling, or non-snake-handling?”
5. Youth Pastor announces a new ministry of spray-painting bible verses on city buildings; Calls it “evandalism”.
6. Church cross replaced by dollar sign
7. Baptistery has wave-maker and/or Jacuzzi jets installed
8. Ushers take communion with offering plate in one hand, cattle prod in the other
9. Worship Team has its own twerker
10. Senior Pastor is married to the Ladies Trio

The always helpful Cosmopolitan this week gave us an article entitled, 19 Things Not to say to a Young Christian.  #13 is “Do you play with snakes?”  Apparently Cosmo readers need to be informed that snake-handling is not in the mainstream of Christian practice. This makes me curious: what is the strangest question you have ever been asked about your religious beliefs?

BurgerKAlan Noble has a very well-written article about the fast food culture wars.  Didn’t know there was a fast food culture war?  But comrade, it is all war, all the time!  The battle ground this week was Burger King promoting a Proud Whopper.  Noble: for Burger King’s part, that YouTube video uses customer reactions to imply that they’re taking a real and meaningful stand for LGBT rights by wrapping their strictly meh burger in a rainbow wrapper with the words, “We Are All the Same Inside.” So, sex, gender, and orientation are just like cheap, fattening, mediocre burgers? Setting aside the problematic division of outside/inside as an analogy to orientation and gender/humanity, doesn’t this promotion trivialize advocacy for LGBT rights? Isn’t it kind of condescending? And the jokes about wanting “meat” and going “both ways,” how did they make it past the marketing department? Middle school jokes about gays hardly seem supportive, but if that’s the style they were going for, they at least could have changed their name to “Burger Queen” for the commercial.” I like this guy.

I have no idea what to make of this: apparently the seven-year sabbatical cycle in the Torah controls current events in America.  This is the thesis of Jonathon Cahn, a Rabbi who wrote a book called Harbinger which sold 1.6 million copies.  The Great Depression, 9/11 and even the rise and fall of America are linked to the seven year pattern.  Imonk reader Randy Thompson sent this my way, along with a very good question: Why does it always seem to take 2000 years before someone is smart enough to figure these things out?

Well, that wraps up this week’s Ramblings.  I will be camping next week, and so will not be with you.  Grace and peace to you all.


  1. If “love” is really all that matters between people…then why not incest? Why not polygamy? How can anyone deny those folks who love each other?

    • Love? The actual motivation — love, lust, recreation, whatever — is immaterial. There things that people want to do together, sometimes with a contract. If there’s mutual consent, why should anyone else care? Everyone has the right to pursue happiness in their own way, as long as it does not interfere with the rights of others.

      So the argument goes. And mere repugnance toward the conduct that one finds reprehensible is not a persuasive response. A better answer, I think, will appeal to the truth insofar as one can grasp it — truth about human nature, about consequences and risks, and about what God has revealed in his Word.

      We tend to moralize, though, often without recognizing that what is right is closely tied to what is best, and then actually speaking with conviction in terms of what is best. But love for oneself and one’s neighbor always wants the highest blessing.

      When my father, as he was growing up, was inclined toward foolish behavior, his mother would say, “There’s no blessing in that.” And often, as a deterrent, that alone was persuasive.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Just say “Homosexuality Slippery Slope” argument.
      That’s all you need to say; we’ve been hearing it from every Chrsitianese Culture War outlet for 40+ years and all know the drill.

      • Yes, it is a tired argument. One that is looking increasingly true, unfortunately.

        • Rick Ro. says


          Just because the “slippery slope” argument is tired and a bit like crying Wolf, doesn’t mean that sometimes the wolf shows up.

          • +1

          • +10000

            Once the Rubicon of “we love each other, who are you to judge?” has been crossed, there is no putting the Genie back in the bottle. Natural law has been judged to have NO place in legal decisions (let alone any religious issues) and the barn door is open….permanently!

          • Faulty O-Ring says

            You’re talking to a Furry. They LIKE wolves.

          • Danielle says

            “Once the Rubicon of “we love each other, who are you to judge?” has been crossed, there is no putting the Genie back in the bottle.”

            Meh. One hears this sort of thing repeated by people all the time. It’s a sloppy, amorphous argument that can be used to justify all kinds of practices.

            However, it is not the material from which the case for same-sex marriage has been built. That argument rests on the idea that there are multiple sexual orientations–thus, there is a sexual minority who can only find a legitimate outlet for sexual expression, and marriage, with persons of the same sex. This is quite a different claim from the idea that, “any random person ought to be able to boink or marry any other particular individual, so long as they love each other, consequences or natural law be damned.” One can make a natural law argument for same-sex marriage based on human nature and its relationship to the institution of marriage. This argument concerns the rights of groups and it affects categories of marriage.

            Hetereosexual siblings who want to marry are merely claiming the right to have a relationship with a particular individual. There is nothing in their “nature” that necessitates the choice; they are, in fact, free to marry any other of millions of other people to whom they could become sexually attracted.

          • The fact of the matter is, though, that plenty of contemporary argumentation in favor of same-sex marriage follows the reasoning Steve criticized, not that which you put forward. Which also means that if we’re going to make the slippery slope argument, we should be making it relative to specific arguments for same-sex marriage and not same-sex marriage itself.

            The only other change in our definition of marriage that I can think of that would logically result from acceptance of same-sex marriage (on the principles Danielle laid out) would be polygamy. Polygamy’s place in the debate is actually somewhat ironic because Scripture never even explicitly condemns it but many conservatives are portraying it as even worse than gay marriage. Once you get into other sexual situations, the orientation claim could be easily made but the consent factor would presumably cancel that argument out. That’s not to eliminate the concern that consent itself could be set aside in service of progressivism, though.

        • Dr. Neurobrain says

          Oh you poor put-upon Christian, so weary with righteousness and being right about things.

          How hard it must be for you.

          • I wish I could be more open minded and non-judgmental, like you.

          • Actually, I’m guessing even left-leaning agnostics and atheists probably have issues with incest as a viable sexual choice. So if you think this is a burden for poor put-upon Christians, I think you’re wrong.

    • That really caught me by surprise. I really expected polygamy, polyamory, pushback against certain age restrictions, etc.. all to try to get their foot in the door after gay marriage. I did not see this one coming.

  2. I can assure your readers that Australians were horrified to hear the judge’s comments. He has been referred to the legal professional standards organisation for investigation/hearing and has been removed from hearing any criminal matters until this is resolved in some appropriate manner. Apparently, it’s not the first time he’s made such comments – so the question is how come it hasn’t been addressed before? Perhaps we will hear of an early retirement soon – we can only hope. I should think that most people would think his removal would be the only way to resolve the issue, but that can only happen with Parliament’s approval, in this case New South Wales.

  3. Vega Magnus says

    I must point out that the Uzi is an Israeli weapon. I doubt that folks who would include Mein Kampf in their membership kit would approve of it.

  4. Robert F says

    According to the linked article, the way the law is written in Poland, Professor Chazan was required to refer his patient to an abortion provider, and so it was legal to fire him for not doing so. If this is true, then it seems to me that Polish law makes it impossible for anyone to be a conscientious Catholic and a law-abiding doctor at the same time. So, as Catholic as Poland is culturally, it has nevertheless reached a point in its social and legal development where the prevailing secular values have made it impossible to practice Catholic Christianity in certain vocations.

    This is the way secularism wages culture war.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And we must EXTERMINATE them before they can EXTERMINATE us.

      And if we don’t, God Will Punish Us by EXTERMINATING us.

      Chrsitianese Culture War — Same old, same old.

      • You have a humorous and entertaining way of putting your words in other people’s mouths, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t simply building straw men with which to argue. Caricature and lampoon have their place, but they will never make-up the core of a reasoned argument. You haven’t replied to my comment in the least; you’ve just taken a couple of cheap, cartoonish, purely rhetorical jabs at me, which makes you sound like a sophist in clown’s costume.

    • This doctor was “…director of Warsaw’s Holy Family Hospital.” The name of the hospital, “Holy Family.” which I understand to mean Jesus, Mary & Joseph, caught my attention. Is this a Roman Catholic hospital? And if so, how can the town’s mayor have the authority to fire the director of a Roman Catholic hospital? Are all Polish hospitals public hospitals?

      Not knowing much about Polish law I would assume that things are quite different there than here. I pray that never happens here.

    • The rub is that this isn’t a straightforward matter of freedom of conscience. It would be, if the doctor declined to perform an abortion himself. From the article, it sounds like the doctor refused to provide a referral, and did not provide information on what options the patient had. So the hospital effectively denied the patient access to all the facts and removed her power to make a decision about a very delicate medical situation. This is quite different from a provider explaining what standard, legal options are, and then explaining that they cannot provide one or more of those options.

      What I find problematic in these conversations about “the state” vs. doctors or businesses is the question of the patient’s rights to information and to make decisions based on their own religious views.

      Of course, I am saying this from an American POV. I do not know how laws or expectations in Poland differ from my own.

      • I was aware of the context about the refusal to provide the referral. That doesn’t change the issue: many conscientious Roman Catholics physicians would refuse to provide such a referral; to them, the referral itself would participate in the evil. In effect, they are unable to practice their vocation in Poland.

        Ironic, considering that it’s arguable that Christians invented the concept and practice of the hospital.

        • Danielle says

          Yes, but how do you address the issue of the patient’s right to information and agency? This is just as much a part of the picture as the doctor’s rights. The doctor has some obligations to the patient that outweigh personal opinion and interest. Otherwise, she is no doctor.

          I am at sympathy of ensuring that the medical system gives doctors and hospitals a lot of latitude, and where most questions of conscience are respected. But whatever that system is, it cannot withhold information from the patient, and the individual doctor or hospital that wants to constrict choices should not be the patient’s only source of care. I cannot tell from the article what the situation is in Poland. If the mother could easily have gone elsewhere, then I’m willing to extend greater sympathy with the doctor/administrator. However, if she was made to believe she couldn’t get care elsewhere or was in fact limited to this hospital, my sympathies are more on the patient’s side.

          “Ironic, considering that it’s arguable that Christians invented the concept and practice of the hospital.”

          It might be ironic. But if the church’s current stance (or they way it is being applied) disrespects patient autonomy and right to information, then the inventor of the hospital is no longer the best source of medical care, at least not in obstetrics.

          I have many laudatory things to say about Catholic hospitals, but I’m reluctant to use a Catholic institution for OB care. There have been situations in which Catholic hospitals have not offered a full range of choices to OB patients facing high-risk medical situations. The situations in which I would make a different medical choice than a Catholic medical provider would like me to make are few, and relatively rare. But they exist. And the last thing my husband needs to be doing in a life or death medical situation is running up against a hospital administration that isn’t willing to discuss all options with him. This isn’t a big enough factor to make me avoid a Catholic hospital altogether, especially not if its the only or best game in town. However, I live in a city with several major hospitals, so I ruled out this remote possibility of bruhahaha by become a patient of Johns Hopkins. (And truth be known, in a very high risk situation, Hopkins arguably has the best specialists anyway.)

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

        Yes, that is how I understood the article. If such is the case, I actually agree with the doctor’s consequences. One’s right to conscience should not extend to denying information on legal rights and options to the healthcare patient.

  5. Interesting that he would name his book “Harbinger.” Isn’t a harbinger something that presages the future? And it’s interesting that all these folks (including Jack Van Impe, Salem Kirban, and Hal Lindsay from our illustrious Christian tradition of predicting the second coming) have nice, neat explanations of the past but really fall short of predicting the future.

    For instance, you don’t hear much about the “budding of the fig tree” and “this generation shall not pass” any more because Israel has been quite uncooperative when it comes to fulfilling biblical prophecy. They should have rebuilt the temple by now and they STILL haven’t done it. I guess the best we can hope for is a Nicolas Cage version of Left Behind which will do for Evangelical Eschatology what The Exorcist did for RC Demonology.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Remember Gog & Magog, and all the PROOF from SCRIPTURE that they were the Soviet Union?

      And how Henry Kissinger’s name could be tweaked through numerology to add up to 666?


      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

        88 reasons Jesus will return in 1988…

        I’m pretty sure that was an actual book.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says

          It was..

        • Danielle says

          I have a copy in the basement somewhere. Or used to.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          The actual title was “88 Reasons the Rapture WILL Happen in 1988” by Edgar Weisenhaunt.
          Christian Best-seller.

          Followed the next year by a sequel: “89 Reasons the Rapture WILL Happen in 1989”.
          Sales of the sequel tanked.

          • I wonder what the title the guy would’ve used had he written a book in 2001. “1 Reason the Rapture WILL happen in 2001″…?

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

            They actually did, Rick Ro.
            But they only had enough text for a tract.

  6. Robert F says

    The primary moral arguments against incest (excluding the medical issue of consanguinity as it impacts reproduction) between adults are necessarily religious ones. If those religious arguments are removed from the legal discussion, as secularism logically seems to require, then all that is left is custom, and customs change.

    There might be a tangential concern having to do with how adult incest affects wider family psycho-dynamics in society, and how this in turn affects rearing of children in a strongly boundaried, sex-free intra-family zones, which is necessary for the sound psychological development of children. But secularism, left to its own tendency, would ultimately set aside this concern, since it has a strong default setting in the direction of favoring maximal “individual autonomy” against these kinds of community concerns.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      But the revulsion against incest is not originally religious in nature, since incest is avoided by and large in the animal kingdom – incest avoidance is evolutionary selected for. Religious and cultural taboos are merely codifications of an underlying evolutionary reality, namely, that incest is bad for the species.

      The same myth is at work here on both sides, namely that morality exists apart from biology, and thus can summarily be ignored (secular side), or does not exist outside of religious context (religious side). Of course, one should add that after we achieved self awareness of our moral systems, some developmwnt indpependant of the original socio-biological evolution also happened, which could be examined- for example, the chauvinism of some cultures/religions. It is never simple, is it?

      • “But the revulsion against incest is not originally religious in nature, since incest is avoided by and large in the animal kingdom – incest avoidance is evolutionary selected for. ”

        Yes, because consanguinity leads to a high incidence of physiological defects in offspring, natural selection preferred those members of the species less likely to mate with their kin, both in the human and other animal kingdom. But human beings routinely, especially in the West, routinely have sexual relations without intending to have offspring; many marriages and other long-term relationships, especially in Europe, do not include having children as part of the project of the relationship.

        Given greater human control over reproduction, which results in less human vulnerability to biological fate in this matter, what non-religious account can you give for an ethical argument against incest between mutually consenting adults, aside from the “ick” factor, which is no argument at all?

        It’s not that, strictly speaking, morality cannot exist outside a religious system; it can, however, only exist with a metaphysical source, whether that source is recognized or not, whether it is followed with deliberate recognition or has become a matter of mere cultural habit and socialization.

        Morality rooted only in biology in not morality at all, which is not to deny that biology plays an important part in morality. You can hardly say animals are following a moral code when they avoid incest solely for evolutionarily innate reasons.

        Btw, I don’t think “revulsion” is a word that can be applied to avoidance of incest in the animal kingdom.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says

          Robert, you make some strong statements from your third paragraph onwards, but can you back any of them up?

          You might be interested to follow the work of someone like the Dutch primatologist, Frans de Waal. His “The Bononbo and the Atheist” is well written and contains numerous examples of documented cases of atnleast proto-moralism, empathy etc etc in our primate cousins. You write about “animals following a moral code” – well, it bonobo societies, proto-moral codes clearly exist. Just because they are necessarily MUCH more primitive than our own is no reason to dismiss them.

          All in all, I think you are attempting to separate into clear categories that which is actually much more of a continuum.

          • I can accept that what you say may be true; I do think, for existence, that examples of empathy exist among animals, even examples of inter-species empathy, that seem to have no survival value, from an evolutionary perspective. These may indeed point to a kind of proto-morality (have I not also read that bonobo societies routinely engage in violent warfare with each other, which would also exhibit another stream on contituinity with human experience and behavior).

            The possible existence of ethical, and even moral, behavior that in animals seems to have no survival value, however, only strengthens my point that morality must necessarily transcend the biological for it to be morality. So I repeat my question, in a revised form: can you give a non-metaphysical moral account of why mutually consenting adult siblings, or other relatives, should not engage in sexual relations with each other, apart from the revulsion factor, which is no argument at all because what revolts one person or social group may not revolt another (incest prohibitions are after all drawn in different places by different societies)?

          • My own understanding of what it means to have a moral code or system is informed by Alasdair MacIntyre, who asserts that in order for a behavior to be regarded as moral, the one engaging in it must be able to give an account of why the action is a moral as opposed to immoral or amoral one, or at least be able to point to a moral tradition which itself gives such an account.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            That is a ridculous definition. Why? It immediately precludes a not insignificant swathe of humanity from being moral – the mentally challenged, the very young etc etc. Whereas psychological research has shown that even the very young has a moral sense, without being able to do any of that which you quote Alistair MacIntyre to be saying.

            I understand what he is trying to do. But reality does not back him up.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            As to your comment that altruism etc has no survival value – quite wrong. You are thinking of survival as an individual thing, which is understandable, given he background of American Individualism which rules the roost south of the 49th. That idea though is utter hogwash. Survival is more effective when seen within the context of the group or even species – altruism, and a proto moral “code” strengthens the group bonds, which improves the odds of survival – these groups are thus more “fit”. Super individualists make themselves tagrgets, and decrease the odds of survival. A measure of altruism and moralism (note the word measure) is evolutionary selected for.

          • Robert F says

            That’s the first time I’ve heard MacIntyre referred to as ridiculous.

            Empathy and conscience are not the same as morality. MacIntyre is saying something that to me is obvious: that instinctual drives are not moral drives, and that morality has to exist within a tradition that gives account for it. In other words, morality is a skill that is taught.

            The mentally challenged and children are both able to learn, and point to, a moral tradition that exists outside themselves, though they may understand it less than the fully informed adult of average intelligence.

            It’s a matter of degree. Moral systems appeal to empathy and conscience, but they are not exhausted by them, and sometimes they must over-ride them.

            You still haven’t answered my question.

          • Robert F says

            Regarding the practice of morality, please remember own words to me: It exists along a continuum.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            Sorry I missed the question first time round: 2 answers – the obvious biological one, and linked to that, the sociological one – it is as bad for social development as for biological development. Social cross pollination is as important as biological cross pollination.

            As to MacIntyre – I didn’t say he is ridiculous, I criticized his defintion. Nobody is perfect, even our idols 🙂

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            In what context are you quoting my words back at me?

          • Robert F says

            The onus would be on you to prove the second answer, since it impinges on the prerogatives of other individuals. Can you do that, other than by referring to current custom, which after all changes, quite often in modern times?

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            Sociologically, we are enriched by intermingling – you can easily observe the mental decline in close family grouos that are isolated for a long time like some extreme sects (ok, that might have something to do with their beliefs, but then the argument becomes – chicken or egg, since the sociological isolation strengthens the mental aberrations – the software virusses if you will). I am not a psychologist, but that is my summary. Although I find it slightly rich that you demand proof of my, but all you have given up to now are assertions and arguments by authority.

            Btw, where did current custom, and the ick factor, derive from?

          • Letting evolutionary psychology and sociobiology explaining morality doesn’t really work. Yes, altruism may well be an evolved instinct; that’s not the problem. Hurting others for our own benefit could also be an evolved instinct. Treating our altruistic instincts are the “better” or higher ones is appealing to a standard that transcends biology and materialism.

            As “bioethicist” Peter Singer (who says, among other things, that a 2-week old child’s life has less value than an adult dog) helpfully shows us, even the idea that the flourishing of the human species is a good thing is a metaphysical claim.

          • Robert F says


            My authority is purely religious: incest is a sin, according to my tradition, from time immemorial. It’s in opposition to God’s will. I can’t ground that prohibition without referring to my religious tradition. If I didn’t hold my religious views, I don’t believe I could justifiably hold others to the prohibition against incest, whatever I might choose to do mself. It would be purely a matter of preference; you to yours, and me to mine.

            I don’t find your argument convincing, and, in a few decades, I doubt that our secular society will either.

          • Robert F says

            +1 Joel.

          • Robert F says


            The ick factor is the result of our moral traditions investing the act of incest with an additional layer of prohibition around it, to reinforce our biological programming against it where it is weak. It’s the result of moral tradition reinforcing biological programming with a socialized reaction of disgust.

          • Some have argued against incest based on one lover having too much power over the other due to the nature of their relationship. The problem is that this will disappear when you’re talking about adult siblings who are reasonably close in age.

            I think you can make non-religious, non-consequentialist arguments against incest based on the integrity of the family structure and the importance of a family providing a safe space for people. Though I’m cagey about trying to do too much with this sort of “natural law” argument because you can create all sorts of just-so stories to say almost anything. But I think it has some validity here.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

            I don’t think it is accurate to say that our “ick” factor is related to our ethical traditions in a didactic sense. We all came of age and learned about sex and most of us never for a moment thought about our siblings that way. When we did learn about incest, there was probably an “ick” factor. And yet I doubt that a single reader ever heard once that incest was wrong growing up. It likely was not a topic at all. Now there is the somatic learning that occurs simply by virtue of the fact that we don’t practice incest, but I’m not sure that is sufficient to explain our reflexive revulsion.

          • Robert F says

            If the “ick” factor is not learned in specific ethical traditions, then why does it kick in for first cousins in some societies, and not in others?

    • which is necessary for the sound psychological development of children

      This is a very negotiable criteria with miles of wiggle room. Ultimately, society doesn’t care about this. We’ve shown time and time again that we’re more interested in our own personal agendas than the well being of our children, and we’ll deny clear evidence that contradicts our wishes, even make it politically incorrect, before we let the comfort of a healthy family home cramp our style.

  7. Cosmo lady stole my answer about Dinosaurs.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I like #1: “You’re normal; how can you be a Christian?”

      Someone’s spent too much time in-country in the Evangelical Circus.
      Isn’t there an IMonk classic titled “I’m Weary of Weird Christians”?

  8. Robert F says

    Well, Daniel, this pope, to his credit, is trying to build bridges to the world of Christian evangelicals, and to recognize them as brothers and sister in Jesus Christ (something which makes some conservative Catholics very unhappy). And, like it or not, this is the face of evangelicalism as seen in some of its well-known, popular leaders: Robison, Osteen, et al., and so these are some of the people with whom the pope has to deal, and be cordial. As an evangelical, you may not know that, to Roman Catholics, the evangelical world has always looked a little, sometimes more than a little, crazy.

    Pray for the pope.

    • Cedric Klein says

      This is the first time you’ve heard the Sabbatical cycle applied to U.S. economic cycles? Heck, Pat Robertson was teaching on that 30 years ago, as well as the Jubilee Cycle of 50 years.

      The article on the Pope & the Televangelists even points out that James Robison is distinct from the rest. Now for the Pope to also meet with job-creating, successful Christian business people who might work with him to find other ways to advocate for economic & social justice besides state-directed redistribution.

      Yeah, I figured adult-consensual-incest would be the next taboo challenged. Watch for sitcoms to start introducing eccentric but lovable sibling or aunt-nephew, uncle-niece couples. At least the culture is still resisting lowering age of consent, which some (Bill Maher) have talked about.

    • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

      To be honest, I’m not sure RC can appreciate a difference between Joel Osteen and Al Mohler. The higher your orbit, the more homogeneous the evangelical landscape appears.

  9. (Evandalism) You have worked with youth, Awesome!

  10. RIP, Tommy Ramone.

  11. If we have to argue about “slippery slopes”, I think polygamy/polyamory will be the next barrier to fall. In the West we’re at the point of practical polyamory; working in local government, I can’t reveal anything confidential but even in my part of our green little island, it is now unremarkable for women or men to have multiple children by multiple partners, whether their marriage has broken up and they’ve moved on to the new love, they’ve never been married and have bounced from one partner to the next, or they’ve broken up with a long-standing partner (not a spouse) and are now getting married to the new love.

    If Joe can be living with Sally and seeing Rita on the side, or Joe has been with Sally, moved on to Rita, and now Rita is leaving him for Bill, why not say that Joe, Sally and Rita may as well form a de jure as well as a de facto civilly recognised legal relationship to sort out things like maintenance, family home, etc. etc. etc.?

    Moving on to the World Cup which is a bit less depressing: the Germany-Brazil semi-final was a shocker in that Brazil were so bad. I expected Germany to win in their usual efficient if dour 1-0 fashion; I had no idea (and neither did anyone else) that it would end up 7-1, and that scoreline only because the Germans slacked off in the second half and ONLY scored two more goals!

    This pub in Galway certainly didn’t expect that scoreline 🙂

    The Netherlands-Argentina match got back to normality, but it was just as bad because it was so dull. Both teams concentrating on playing defensively, but I was inclining to think the Netherlands would do it because when Argentina got chances, they couldn’t make the best of them. Went to extra time, still nothing. Went to penalties and that was when Louis van Gaal, who had been hailed as a genius for his trick with subbing the goalie in the match before this one, couldn’t play the same trick twice and his first-choice goalie couldn’t save enough.

    Pope Francis definitely prayed Argentina through in that one!

    Today is the third-place decider between Brazil and the Netherlands, neither of which (I think) are particularly happy to be playing for that consolation prize.

    What the Argentina-Germany match will be like, heaven knows. Again, you have to go for Germany to win, especially with Argentina’s performance against the Dutch. Even Lionel Messi can’t win a match all on his own, particularly against Germany who keep up the tradition of solid if dour achievement.

    • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

      To be fair, I did have an inkling, but I am a part time handicapper (soccer and horse racing only). Brasil had issues with its backfield all tournament, and it fielded a team with virtually no experience after not practicing well or with the displaced (injured) starters. But 7-1 was a lot higher than my 4-1 handicap!

    • Faulty O-Ring says

      Well, you can’t call it unbiblical.

      And it’s only fair–why should the law prefer Christian mores over Muslim ones? Aren’t all religions equal?

      • There’s a difference between legal equality and ethical equality. I’d argue that Christian mores are objective superior, but every rule must be taken on its own merit and not just accepted because a religion says it. Not that most religions have a whole lot of internal consistency, anyways. I can only imagine the kind of debates we’d have if they actually did make the Bible the law of the land.

        But if you think you can’t make a decent case against polygamy from the Bible, you should look a bit closer to the New Testament. Just because it was permitted in the Old Testament doesn’t mean it is a Christian moral absolute. They stoned gays in the OT, but Jesus clearly overturns that. There won’t be any sort of direct statement such as “thou shalt not…” if that’s what you’d expect to see, but if you examine closely New Testament teaching on marriage and sexuality, in light of the cultural context of first century Judaism, I think a convincing enough argument could be made.

  12. On incest – although the judge’s comments on the morality of incest, pedophilia, etc are rather disturbing, I can really see no reason why incest should be illegal as long as the partners are both of age. If a sexual practice is non-coercive (which obviously excludes rape, pedophilia, and the like), then the government should not regulate it. Period.

    • Although I’m extremely uncomfortable with your position, and can’t really agree with it, it is totally consistent with the project of modernity to provide or allow maximal personal autonomy (understood as non-interference by community choices), “as long as nobody gets hurt.” Ultimately, the only argument against it from within that framework would be that someone is indeed getting hurt, but that would need evidence to substantiate.

      • If you don’t agree, do you have an alternate proposal of how the state should deal with sexual immorality (I don’t mean to sound condescending here; I really am curious). I understand the argument that government should not recognize immoral unions (whether we’re talking about gay marriage or incestuous unions or polygamy – and I realize that we may disagree about the morality of any of them) by giving them marital status, but I don’t see how laws against consensual sexual practice can either accomplish any societal change or avoid becoming draconian and intrusive.

        • Robert F says

          No, I have no alternative; therein lay much of my discomfort.

        • Just because a government will not be able to enforce something completely, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it shouldn’t be illegal. Many sexual acts are illegal and should remain so. Not everything consensual is harmless.

          • Rick Ro. says

            I keep thinking about the movie, “The Ice Storm.” Lots of sexual revolution is portrayed, a lot of consensual stuff, but it does a great job of showing the harm with the assumption that there’s no danger in everything consensual. Brilliant movie.

          • My argument is not merely that government cannot enforce laws against incest, but that it should not.

            I don’t think that incest is harmless; I’m actually very conservative with regard to sexuality and regard premarital sex, homosexual sex, incest, polygamy, et al as sinful and ultimately harmful to those who practice them. However, I also believe that turning to the government to provide the solution to the problem of these sexual acts is unethical because it assumes that, if you are consensually engaging in an act that is harmful to yourself, then it is the right of the state to stop you. In my opinion, the idea that the government should protect us from ourselves is civilly an attack on human freedom and theologically (if we’re making religious moral arguments) a violation of the basic principle that Christians and the Church should not use violence, or advocate for the use of violence, to advance the kingdom or to thwart sin.

            Yes, I am also aware that our sinful actions, whether sexual or otherwise, have consequences that reach far beyond the harm we incur ourselves by them, and that matters of “personal morality” affect others more than we like to admit. But once civil authorities cross the line from protecting their citizens from direct harm at the hands of another person to attempting to regulate actions that may indirectly harm another person, they have already essentially reached the point of social engineering and set a precedent that could justify their making practically anything illegal.

          • Any government can always justify making anything illegal. The difference between what causes direct harm and what may cause indirect harm is not a very strong criteria. Incest is bad for society, period, in just about every conceivable way. It is not a right we should be protecting.

          • Faulty O-Ring says

            I think it’s kind of hot.

          • Lots of things are bad for society. Should the government make it illegal to become fat because obesity is a problem in our culture? Should it ban Fifty Shades of Grey because of its obscenity and dehumanizing messages? Should it conduct raids on college parties where there might be hookups going on? The distinction between direct and indirect harm is not arbitrary, and it’s not just a slippery slope; its a fundamental distinction when it comes to law and what legislation the government should have the right to pass. The fact that something is bad for society, even unequivocally bad, is not sufficient reason to make a law against it; for something to be illegal, it must be an action that justifies the use of violent force against the perpetrator, for all laws, if they are to be enforced, must necessarily involve the threat of violence against someone’s property or person.

          • it must be an action that justifies the use of violent force against the perpetrator

            That still sounds pretty arbitrary. I’m not entirely sure all laws are enforced by threat of violence either. There are many steps of intervention that usually precede that. In our country, the law is almost never authorized to actually use violence beyond restraining (except in self defense). By that criteria, a lot of very harmful things, which we have laws against, should not be illegal.

            Are you saying that our laws already are based on this criteria, or that they should be? I can just think of so many that don’t make that cut.

          • I agree with you that many of our laws do not meet this criteria, what I’m saying is that they should. You’re right in that many steps precede actual violence in law enforcement. But ultimately, if a law is going to be enforced, the threat of violence has to be the backdrop for that enforcement. Consider fines as a penalty for criminal activity, for example. Is it violent to require someone to pay a fine? At first glance, it appears not to be so, for all the convicted person has to do is go into court and hand over the money. But what if he refuses to pay? Then his assets must be seized, and if he attempts to protect his assets, he must be physically prevented from doing so. And restraint is a violent act in and of itself, because it coerces a person with physical force to do something he does not want to do. In a similar way, a mugger who apprehends a person on the street and demands money under the threat of violence might not actually physically harm his victim (if the victim obliges and hands over his wallet), but he is still committing a violent act in the sense that the threat of violence underlines his actions and compels the victim to comply in order to save his skin.

    • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

      I think it is difficult to argue that there is no or even little coercive dynamic in incestuous relations. Admittedly, these dangers are present in other relationships as well.

      • For some incestuous relationships, yes. If you’re talking about two adult siblings who are capable of living independently and somewhat close in age, I don’t think the “unequal power” argument works.

        • That all depends on the personal dynamics between the two people. Just like it does in all relationships.

          And with siblings of close age you have to take in just what happened during that 10 to 20 year period when they were likely in the same house hold.

    • I could consider this position if I was pro-choice. Birth control is only 99% effective, which is basically a guarantee that it will fail eventually. It is not fair to bring those children into the world, and the solution is not to kill them first. The solution is to not boink your sibbling, and as long as I am pro-life, I will insist that this is the law.

      • Danielle says

        Even if you are pro-choice, I still don’t think the judge’s argument holds.

        Sure, it is possible for an incestuous couple to practice birth control consistently, and to use abortion as a fall-back if birth control fails. However, there is no reason to think that all such couples would follow this plan. Some people will become pregnant and refuse the abortion. Others will decide that they want to have children and will get pregnant on purpose. Unless the state can require people submit to sterilization or abortion, which it has no power to do, then there will be children. And the genetic risks to the children are unacceptable.

        This makes incest, which always carries an unacceptable risk of harm to others, a fundamentally different case from either “traditional” heterosexual marriage or same-sex marriage, which do not. So there really should not be a slippery slope from same-sex marriage to incest. Or to any form of consensual sex to non-consensual sex. Questioning the definitions and limits of marriage encourages discussion and legal challenges of various kinds, but the cases should be considered too different from each other for one to “lead to” the other.

        • So what if there is zero chance of children because one or both of the couple is infertile – maybe the woman is post-menopause, or the man has a vasectomy or something else? Birth defects can be at best a secondary argument against incest.

        • Or if they just have a sexual relationship that excludes full intercourse? Like I said – birth defects are a concern, but they can only be a secondary reason at best for why incest is wrong (just like using STDs and unplanned pregnancies as reasons for why fornication is bad).

    • Christiane says

      I can see a potential for great psychological damage to the ‘child’ of the adult in that relationship . . .

  13. Love is ALL that matters.

    So we cannot have any standards or rules set up to protect children or society. Because we love…what we love…and we want what we want.

    And if you have a problem wit dat den you are just some sort of a Christian, or right wing bigot or homophobe.

    • …and soon to be in the position of having one’s social standing challenged by holding such “hateful, unenlightened, and hurtful to others” views. Christians will be ridiculed and excluded….but this should come as no surprise. We were never meant to be “of this world”.

  14. A delightful array of topics to consider today: a humbled prodigal returns to Cleveland; pastors saying stupid things; pastors going beyond borders; merchandizers stretching for a buck, and of course, an OSS (obligatory sex subject). Great stuff, Daniel.

    For tomorrow’s game of the world: as they will likely not be acting in their shepherds’ capacities, Jorje will head over to Joe’s house to watch the match. Outside, in the Vatican galley truck’s cooler awaiting the outcome, are two mate’s and two Weltenbuger Klostrbrauerei specials drawn for the proud victor to share.

    As for your movie challenge, I find it easier to suggest films about churches and faith expressions as we might want them to be than as they are. While not knowing the hearts of mega evandalists (insert your favorite target) when they began their ministries (pre-mammon temptation), one might suggest “Quiz Show” as representative of moral hazards and failings that can result. As for faith positives: “Chariots of Fire” for successfully balancing call and essence; “Schindler’s List” to remind that our individual life experiences are preparation for at least one moment when we must give up who we think we are for what we were created to be; “Les Miserables” (especially the version with Geoffrey Rush as Javert) on the importance of accepting grace; and “Babette’s Feast” on the joy of the Eucharistic sacrifice.

    As for pastors going beyond comfort zones: checkout online, the 45-minute video of the encounter of Pope Francis and Kenneth Copeland. It is amazing what can happen when hearts are tainted by love.

  15. Rick Ro. says

    Daniel, your add-ons to the list of “signs your in a dysfunctional church” are brilliant! Here are a couple more:

    – People walk around with copies of the denomination’s church manual, but it’s difficult to find a Bible.
    – You hear the words, “We must have unity” more than you hear the words, “We must have Jesus.”
    – The pastor frequents strip clubs….as a stripper.
    – Your church’s website is “GodHatesFags.com”.
    – The pastor constantly berates the congregation, “You need to do more,” but you never see him at any of the activities.

  16. I take issue with some of Rainer’s “symptoms of a dysfunctional church.”

    1. Severe theological errors. He means heresy. Now yes, heresy makes you dysfunctional vis-à-vis relating to Christ, and of course his Christians outside the heretic-church clique. But dysfunctional per se? The Mormons I know are definitely kinder to one another than the folks in the local Independent Baptist church.

    I for one am pretty sure a lack of fruit of the Spirit is gonna bollix any given church. But, typical of too many evangelicals, Rainer puts his priority of orthodoxy over Christ’s and Paul’s priority of fruit.

    2. Pastor-eaters. By which he means a church which fires a lot of pastors. In my experience, churches which do so tend to be congregationalist, not presbyterian nor episcopal: The people in charge of the hiring and firing aren’t mature Christians, but a majority of the members—and anybody can become a member once they sign the statement of faith. Pastor-eating is the symptom, but the real issue are churches who think majority, not maturity, should rule the day.

    3. Severe conflict. This is the definition of dysfunctional, but he makes it a bullet point. Shoulda stuck with five.

    4. People don’t know the church is there. I once went to a church which advertised like crazy, whose members did charity work like crazy, and there were still people in town who knew nothing of it. Never underestimate the power of blind spots. And don’t blame the church for them.

    5. Growing community, shrinking church. In my state, communities grow because materialists build houses, and other materialists move into ’em. It’s not natural population growth. Consequently a sudden influx of pagans isn’t gonna grow your church any; it might even make ’em want to move away. In any event, stats aren’t a valid indicator of health.

    6. Family-owned/operated church. In his example, the church exists solely to minister to one extended family. Those churches tend to stay very small, and tend to get pretty cultlike. But I’ve visited various churches where the pastor, spouse, and kids were all in leadership, and the church was doing just fine: They didn’t prioritize themselves, which always makes the difference.

    I already touched on fruitlessness, but let me add:

    Leaders who lack character. Churches pick leaders based on charisma, education, nepotism, even who owns the mortgage on the building. But if they lack character, they have no business in leadership. And we tend to forgive ’em instead of hold them accountable.

    Pursuing the wrong kingdom. Not the Kingdom of God, but political might, material prosperity, an antebellum Gothard-style utopia, signs and wonders without fruit, books and CD deals and fame, the pastor’s personal fiefdom, you name it. Anything but life in Christ.

    Dark Christianity. The emphasis in that church isn’t grace, forgiveness, and love, but on the sins of the world, and hell. Not that such things don’t exist, and don’t merit correction and warnings, but we’re to think on what’s true, noble, right, pure, excellent, and praiseworthy. Living in the light doesn’t mean we’re constantly thinking about the dark.

    • Rick Ro. says

      Your three additions are spot-on, K.W.

    • Christiane says

      this ‘Dark Christianity’ excuses finger-pointing and judging and from what I can see, the participants assume a ‘God-role’ in claiming the ability to condemn others to hell and to decide that they themselves ‘are saved’ . . .

      it’s a picture of the Pharisee in the temple whose words did not please God . . . but because these ‘Dark’ ones don’t prioritize Christ as the lens through which to understand sacred Scripture, they can no longer see clearly enough to realize that hubris and pride are wrong

      is that too strong an evaluation? I don’t think it applies to all evangelical people, no. But there is an element there that is enamored of controlling and manipulation the emotions of others by making them fearful and dependent on the judgement of fundamentalist interpretations and leadership that can only be termed ‘dark’ upon examination.

      • By “dark Christianity” I refer to the obsession with darkness that too many fearful Christians have. And since perfect fear casts out love, all those misbehaviors you’re talking about totally describe them. No, you’ve not made too strong an evaluation. And true, not all evangelicals are dark.

        But I the motive for all their control and manipulation isn’t entirely hubris, or love of power. (Though that’s certainly there.) It’s mostly fear. It’s what they worry might happen if the “bad guys,” real or imaginary, have that power instead. It’s the false belief that knowing the enemy makes us better able to fight him; that God’s infinitely overwhelming just might may not be enough, so let’s stash some backup weapons just in case the Almighty hangs us out to dry.

    • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

      Excellent! Well done.

    • Rainer puts his priority of orthodoxy over Christ’s and Paul’s priority of fruit.

      I really take issue with that. I’m not sure that is Christ and Paul’s priority at all. In fact, they spend lots of extended periods of text specifically on doctrine, especially Paul. Additionally, I feel like that’s putting the cart before the horse. Apart from orthodoxy, we have no criteria for “fruit.” Right belief leads to right action because how we behave is the revelation of what we truly believe (or at least the strength of our faith).

      But I’m with Rick: your last three are the best.

      • Doctrine tends to be our priority, so we read our view into Christ and Paul, and avoid the uncomfortable fact that those who lack fruit do not inherit the Kingdom. (Ga 5.21, Mt 25.45-46).

        It is, after all, way easier for me to have my theological ducks in a row than to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. It’s easier to figure, “I believe in grace, therefore I’m saved,” rather than to produce good fruit and prove I don’t just believe in it, but that the Spirit empowers me to live in it. And this is why cheap grace dominates the Evangelical spectrum.

        • Doctrine tends to be our priority, so we read our view into Christ and Paul,

          Absolutely not. They have extended passages of text teaching on doctrine. We are not reading doctrine into the New Testament text: It is chock full of it, with comparatively few verses about “bearing fruit” (which are themselves doctrinal anyways). We must do something with these texts: the primary fruit for a believer is faith: any good works must flow from faith, else they are not good works. What’s not of faith is sin.

          I propose that many who think they “have their theological ducks in a row” are quite mistaken, and many who see themselves as quite fruitful are equally mistaken. Right belief and right practice are not attainable ideals, but constant goals to be sought. Our faith is never strong enough to keep us from sin at all times, and our good works are never faithful enough to bear true witness to Christ. We must always keep seeking more Christ, and hold to His Words and doctrines, for they alone are capable of producing in us pure faith and good works.

          • And the Old Testament has extended passages of text on the Law. Because the Law, like doctrine, is important. But grace still takes priority over Law.

            I’m not at all saying ditch orthodoxy and doctrine. I’m saying let’s keep our priorities straight. Right doctrine doesn’t produce grace. Grace produces right doctrine. God saved Israel from Egypt, then gave them the Law. Jesus saved us from sin, then gave us good works to do. (Ep 2.9-10) And knowing theology doesn’t make me fruitful; the desire God gives me to grow fruit makes me study theology so I can grow better fruit.

  17. Faulty O-Ring says

    There ought to be a law against blow-up dolls. For one thing, there’s the “ick” factor. For another, it spreads disease (especially when the whole fraternity pledge class shares it)–there’s actually research on this, believe it or not. And of course, it dehumanizes women. There’s a reason why no traditional culture or religion has recognized blow-up dolls as a legitimate outlet for human lust.

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