Friday, February 6, 2015

Debate on President Obama's statements at the National Prayer Breakfast

Today I got in a debate about the President’s comments at the National Prayer Breakfast. I supported them, but most people in the conservative group I was in did not. It basically turned into 20 uber-Christians ganging up on me and I don’t have time to copy and paste everything they said, but I’ll post the 2 or 3 comments I responded to directly. The rest are just a transcript of my own frenzied comments trying to keep up with all they were saying. Hopefully you can pick up enough of the context indirectly based on my counterarguments.

David - But Why? Why always tearing down America and Christianity? "You didn't build that", "American's aren't exceptional, after burning a man alive comparing ISIS to Christians. Yes, he is fundamentally changing America and you, I see compliment him.
I don't think he's tearing down America and Christianity so much as keeping us honest about our judgment of OTHER faiths and places. In the wake of isis brutality, Americans' passions too often spill over into animosity against ALL Muslims. It's important to adopt a conciliatory tone that reminds us that neither Islam, Christianity nor any other religion is the problem, only those who bastardize them to justify horrid acts.
Marty, why limit it to "burning for heresy"? ISIS burned this guy for bombing them, essentially for murder. Christians have done that within the past century.

This is a picture of Jesse Washington, a black teenager accused of rape in Texas in 1916. Members of the mob castrated Washington, cut off his fingers, and hung him over a bonfire. He was repeatedly lowered and raised over the fire for about two hours. After the fire was extinguished, his charred torso was dragged through the town and parts of his body were sold as souvenirs. A professional photographer took pictures as the event unfolded. The pictures were printed and sold as postcards in Waco. 10,000 people included the event, and it was intentionally scheduled during lunch hour so that local schoolchildren could watch as well.

The middle east is a less developed place than the west: economically, culturally, socially, politically, etc. They have a lot of progress to make, and they are yet to learn many of the lessons we've learned. But that is not the fault of Islam any more than this unspeakable picture is the fault of Christianity.
The Bible teaches some pretty messed up stuff too, Mary, if you interpret it literally. Children who disobey their parents should be stoned to death, etc. Part of joining the modern century is about recognizing the literal text of people writing multiple millennium ago should be interpreted somewhat figuratively and symbolically, and that's as true for Christianity as it is for Islam. Thankfully, the vast majority of the 1 billion + Muslims in the world get that. But when you're growing up in desperate poverty in a war-torn region, and many of the bombs falling on your neighborhood are coming from American drones, you often can't see things as clearly as you or I sitting back in our comfortable Western lifestyles. Rand Paul understands that.
Nobody is justifying what ISIS is doing! If you watch the speech or read the transcript, you'll see Obama criticized them very strongly, called them a "death cult", etc. He wasn't comparing ISIS to Christianity though, he was comparing Islam to Christianity, and showing how it wasn't too long ago that a small group of radicals warped the otherwise good and decent Christian faith into doing horrible things as well.
Michael - I just can't find it plausible that anyone, with the least of morals, can justify what ISIS is doing. Comparing ISIS to Christianity was only done to further divide us. You fell for it...
Were the Nazis and the KKK Christian terrorists, Michael? Because technically they were Christian, and they certainly committed acts of terrorism. Or, is the fact that the Nazis and KKK are Christian somewhat incidental to the fact that they committed acts of terrorism, such that calling them "Christian terrorists" would unfairly associate them with what most Christians are all about?
Scott - Andrew- please explain two things: 1- Crusades. What were Christians fighting for? and 2- With Obama's Jim Crow/slavery innuendo, what group was primarily responsible for ending slavery?
In the Crusades, the Christians were mostly fighting to expand the power and reach of greedy popes, under the guise of evangelism. The group primarily responsible for ending slavery was northern abolitionists, which at the time found a home on the radical fringe of the Republican party.
I'd be happy to hear your version of history if you think I'm wrong. What do you think the crusades were about? Do you think they were morally justified and that God was smiling down upon them? Do you think slavery was ended by somebody other than the Republican party?
Mercedes, I think it is productive to break down Islamophobic prejudice and hone our outrage at the specific individuals responsible. That will make it harder for Rand Paul's opponents to smear him or his followers as racists.
Matt - Andrew Doris the Crusades started as Christians defending themselves from Muslims trying to invade and kill them, and the Christian pilgrims who would peacefully go to the Holy Land then get murdered by the Muslims.
Matthew I have no doubt the Muslims committed atrocities of their own, but the idea that all of the Crusades were purely defensive is just hogwash. Popes wanting to reclaim the Holy Land they'd lost centuries before does not count as defensive. There were 7-9 crusades committed for a variety of reasons, but most of them were launched by aggressive and expansionist popes, nobles who wanted land, soldiers wanted places to pillage and take the spoils from, etc. They often burned and raped everything in their path. There were also political crusades against political enemies and their followers. It is not a proud moment in European history.
Charles - Alright, I'm going to wade into this. 1, Andrew you have a significant amount of logical fallacies. First, just because you call yourself a Christian doesn't mean you are one. Nice straw man, complete with burning corpse. The Nazis were not Christian. You can't replace the cross with a picture of Hitler and call yourself a Christian, it doesn't work that way. 2, the KKK and slavery. Slavery was brought to an end by the abolitionist movement and the second great awakening of the Christian Church. The KKK can wear white sheets and go to church, still not a Christian. Christianity means following the teachings of Jesus Christ. Ergo your previous examples of old testament treatment, stoning, etc. are not applicable. That's Jewish law, Mosaic law. I wish atheists could get that straight, but then I guess they'd have to have read the book and not cherry pick excerpts out of context. You can call a hoe a shovel but that doesn't make it one. What something is, is dictated by their actions in line with their stated principles. Finally, the Quran does state that Muslims should kill or convert all non believers. They should try to conquer the world. That all men should rule over women and treat them as chattel. Again, read the book instead of swallowing the rhetoric, calling it a religion of peace doesn't make it so. End rant.
Ok Charles, that was a great post - thanks for wading in. You're right I've been going purely by self-affiliation, so let's accept your definition. Couldn't the vast majority of peaceful muslims in the world just say the same thing about ISIS? "They're not real Muslims, they practice something very different from what we actually stand for." There's a bit of the "no true Scotsmen" fallacy in there. Secondly, aren't you just cherry-picking quotes from the Koran too? Have you read it cover to cover? I share your interpretation of the Bible that Jesus trumps the old testament and changed the game so to speak, but many Christians still use Old Testament, Abrahamic law to justify their political positions (10 commandments to prohibit certain sexual deeds, Deuteronomy to prohibit homosexuality, etc.). The point is that allowing ourselves an interpretation of the Bible that essentially ignores all the warts and ugly parts, without extending that same courtesy to other religious peoples who are trying to reconcile thousand-year-old belief systems with modern conceptions of morality, seems like a mighty convenient double standard. I highly doubt, if you were born in some other region of the world, that you would see it the same way.
The middle east as a region is less advanced and developed than the west as a region. This is true economically, culturally, socially, religiously, politically, and in most other ways. This is partly do to centuries of Western colonialism and domination, but that's another story - point is they're behind, for whatever reason. Nobody is contesting the idea that the level of barbarism, violence, oppression of women and all around evil that goes on in Christian countries TODAY is far less than the amount that goes on in primarily Muslim countries TODAY. But that does NOT mean that religion is the reason for that, any more than skin color or climate is the reason for that. It's not that simple, sorry! The middle east is violent for many of the same reasons sub-Saharan Africa is violent - not because they're muslim, but because they're desperately poor, wracked by tribal rivalries that go back centuries, were set back in their development by centuries of Western colonialism and oppression, and lots of other complicated reasons. To blame this complex web causes all on Islam is to fundamentally misunderstand the problem out of intellectual laziness and chest-thumping ethnocentric jingoism, which makes us more likely to worsen the problem than to solve it.

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