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Leighton
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I know no one is perfect and that stances change, and I'm certainly not claiming to be perfect. The addition of this sentence puzzled me until I thought back to what it's like to be in a church environment, where "Let [the one] who is without sin cast the first stone" and "Judge not lest ye be judged" apply not to the leadership (never to the leadership), but to those who try to point out flaws in how leaders behave. I'd forgotten about that; in every other culture I've been a part of, this is so obvious not to need mentioning. What a toxic environment American Christianity is.
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In a lot of ways, it's easier to discuss an issue with people who agree that it's important but disagree on how to approach it, than to try to convince someone who really doesn't care about the issue to care. It reminds me of a MLK quote from Letter from a Birmingham Jail: "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection." http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html I don't know if you find any use for cognitive therapy, but it's hard to translate criticisms like "Aren't you EVER pleased?" into an I-statement that looks much different than "I don't care, I don't want to hear it, equality doesn't matter to me." The cold reality is that when half the population of a community feels like outsiders, it's time to renegotiate the social contract. Being polite in the eyes of hegemons ought to take a backseat to this. (I am a white male and I approve this message.)
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A huge source of this problem (and arguably the biggest reason for the ridiculous number of transfers) is the desperate shortage of EOIR judges available to hear cases. If you thought the dockets of state and county courts were overflowing, they have nothing on the workloads of immigration judges. While having more judges would help, I think you touched on some deeper issues when you pointed out that most detainees are imprisoned for nonviolent crimes, and that the prison system is largely managed on a for-profit basis now. I believe that while our immigration policies do desperately need reform, most of the abuses of immigrants are part of a larger pattern of discrimination against poor and nonviolent offenders. Something is broken in our culture when our response to people behaving like assholes is to wish they would go to prison to be raped.
Toggle Commented Oct 27, 2011 on Observations from detention court at Natalie Burris
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I think this explains a lot. Now, here's where I think Smith's critique will have precisely no effect on biblicists (not that I get the impression he was trying to persuade them of anything). You mention how he points out that this approach "[is] a great weapon against the encroaching theological liberalism." This is what linguists would call the "pragmatics" of biblicism, namely the reason for making these claims in the first place, as opposed to talking about other things. The reality is that no semantic-level critique (along the lines of "But communication doesn't work like this, just look at these data...") will ever have an effect on people who don't actually care about communication - they're just using it as a series of moves on the chessboard to try to checkmate an enemy, and if it doesn't work, they'll discard it and put other pieces in its place. Assuming that people who talk about language actually care about language is what leads to a lot of the frustration in these conversations. Ironically, this assumption is a kind of conversational literalism.
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No doubt you're right. Having been free from the church for ten years, I keep forgetting how isolationist it can be. And I saw the same kind of language and assumptions from Church of Christ people who argue that Mohler and other SBCers aren't saved because they're too liberal and in love with "the ways of the world." You would think that spending your whole life trying to control other people would be the most "worldly" thing you could possibly do, but it's apparently okay if you deny yourself a few basic human needs like sexual fulfillment and emotional intimacy within healthy boundaries.
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Sorry, I didn't notice that your comments have hyperlinks disabled. My fault for not previewing. It's not a pretty link: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=augustine%2Bliteral%2Binterpretation%2Bof%2Bgenesis&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDYQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fcollege.holycross.edu%2Ffaculty%2Falaffey%2Fother_files%2FAugustine-Genesis1.pdf&ei=IzeiTrboKumYiQLlnoRi&usg=AFQjCNH3Mh69qFfvB_kEgvghh0vPM1Ad_A I don't have any particular interest in Genesis anymore, but insisting that any text can only have one interpretation (never mind that the details of the interpretation vary from literalist to literalist) flies in the face of everything we know about language. It's quite puzzling why such a thing would persist.
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I've never been mistaken for an art historian, but one pattern that seems to hold up just about everywhere is that depictions of humans in art tend to resemble the artists. A lot of our depictions of Biblical figures date back to the Renaissance or somewhat before, mostly in Europe, where people were (and largely are) white as the driven snow. At this time, the areas where Biblical figures actually lived were dominated by Muslim and Arab civilizations, and while there was some cultural interchange, neither group was decisively influential on the art of the other. (You see echoes of this in how many people in the West today think Middle Eastern art is strange and exotic.) As you probably know, non-"literal"* interpretations of Genesis are as old as the church itself. Here's a quote from Augustine of Hippo (apologies for the length): Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? source here (PDF). Augustine (like many of the church fathers) believed in an allegorical interpretation of much of the OT (entailing a one-to-one correspondence between images and symbolic meanings), which is not exactly a popular view today. But the quote is an insightful explication of how sweeping you can make your interpretation of a text before you run headlong into the brick wall of reality. * I use "literal" in scare quotes, because under what other circumstances would you say the literal interpretation of a work of mythology is purported history? How many Babylonians do you suppose actually came to blows over the details of Marduk's power struggles with Enlil?
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On the other hand, from a tactical perspective, there's a big difference between working in a conceptual framework that isn't optimal for communication, and actively participating in shenanigans like this. It's possible to believe really goofball things, even dangerous things, and not actively ruin other people's lives over it. I get that it's not always helpful to make a hard distinction between enablers and perpetrators, and it may depend on how broadly you want to define "intolerance." I also get that someone who doesn't share your core priorities is not likely to be a political ally on many issues. I just think "Those who are not for us are against us" was silly when Jesus said it, and it's silly now. Actual political landscapes are more complicated than that. Edit: testing the comment edit feature to see if there are any flags made to the comment. Edit 2: No mention in the page that the post was edited. Hmm...the possibilities...
You know, I hadn't thought about boredom as a motivation, but it makes sense. People who are more or less securely middle class rarely feel the need to be saved from violence or hunger or sin. But pointless, soul-crushing jobs? That's different. "Calling" is a convenient way to appeal to people desperate to know there's more to life than their daily drudgery, while not alienating the substantial base that believes GOP stands for God's Only Preference. Caring for the poor and working hard to build community are too Communist.
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One side effect (if it is a side effect, and not the main purpose) of the focus on calling is that it grants social standing to leader-types who are confident that they've found theirs. Questioning someone's power grab as an overreach is tantamount to doubting God, and ever so conveniently, doubt is seen as an unmitigated evil. The culture of credulity in evangelical circles can be a breeding ground for exploitation by sociopaths and psychopaths. But I've also heard of Christians using the concept of "vocation," which has the same connotations of finding or creating purpose through meaningful work, but without the messianic pretensions of "calling." Vocation seems to be a safer and more attainable goal, and it also acknowledges that there are other ways to find purpose than through epiphany. Sometimes it's just an accumulation of tiny insights that add up to a quiet realization one day that you've known something for quite a while.
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