Better stop sobbing now

11 02 2015

I have no sympathy for Christians who whine that President was unfair to Christianity at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Not just because I am not a Christian, nor because I disagree more generally with these folks’ politics.

No, the reason for my “get over it” response is their unwillingness to grapple with the violence woven into the history of the belief they hold dear. It’s as if they can only hold to Christianity if Christianity without [recent] flaws.

Oh, wait, that’s pretty much exactly what they mean, even if they didn’t mean to mean it.

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a couple of posts on the response to Obama’s remarks, as does Jamelle Bouie, and they do a fine job of tag-teaming the No-True-Christian phalanx: here is this example and this example and this example and, oh look, another example of how Christianity was used to justify violence and oppression.

Reference to the historical record is crucial (even if the tres or quinque solas types want to claim history’s got nothin’ on them) if want wants to make or rebut historical claims—that’s kinda the whole point of historical claim-making.

But I want to focus here on the bad faith of those who seek to wash Christianity of its sins: they cannot abide criticism of their faith, not because God will punish them if they don’t savage the critics—I’d think such a position bonkers at best and murderous (see: killers acting to uphold the honor of the Prophet Mohammaed) at worst, but it has its own kind of insane integrity—but because it is “offensive” to and displays “contempt” for Christians.

And, yes, I get why these folks don’t like having the unsavory bits of Christianity against the unsavory bits of Islam—We’re good and they’re bad so how dare you!—but honest to pete, is their faith so thin that it is bruised by mere mention of imperfection?

I’m a pinko, and there has been all sorts of nasty shit—war, oppression, mass murder—done in the name of pinkoism. I can say Oh, but I’m not a Bolshevik/Leninist/Stalinist/Maoist, that’s got nothing to do with me, and nothing to do with Real Socialism, but that would properly be understood as a bullshit response.

I am an adherent to a tradition which has all too often failed miserably, murderously, to uphold its promises of liberation and the creation of a truly human society, and it would not be in any way unreasonable for you say, Uhhh, so why do you hold to ideas which have been used to justify those miserable, murderous failures?

And whether or not your motives were bad in asking this, I’d still respond, with both acknowledgement of the flaws in various incarnations of the socialist politics and a defense of the socialism itself—because I am fucking serious about my belief in socialism. As long as I think it possible to avoid or overcome the problems of previous socialist regimes, I will continue to think socialism is a program worth pursuing.

In other words, even though socialism has been flawed six ways to Sunday, I still think there’s something there worth hanging on to. I take socialism as it is, and as it has been, and what I think it could be. It ain’t perfect, but it’s all right.

Now, I understand that it’s easier to hold to imperfection in political than in religious programs, and my general sense that, well, to quote Leonard Cohen, there is a crack in everything, means that I can still see that’s how the light gets in. I don’t require perfection because I don’t think it’s necessary (which is also handy, given that I don’t think it’s possible).

Still, even you do believe that Christ were perfect, and that Christianity is the only path to salvation, it’s not clear why you can’t accept the bountiful historical evidence that that belief in something perfect has nonetheless been used to justify war, oppression, and mass murder. It’s a hard acceptance, sure, but if you want to argue on behalf of the Christian movement within history, then you have to engage that history, not wave it away or scourge those who dare to refer to it.

Again, radical sola types may not bother with history one way or another—all that matters is God, and we can’t really expect much of humans, etc.—but those who are incensed at the mere suggestion that Christian history might fairly be compared to Islam’s history clearly do believe that this history—the actions of Christians in the world—matters.

So to those who think history matters but are unwilling to look closely at it, I can only ask, Why not?

Because if you cannot accept the imperfections of Christianity in this world and still have faith in it, then I question whether you can have any faith at all.





You know, I’ve got a funny feeling I’ve seen this all before

10 09 2014

President Obama is speaking now about the necessity of going after ISIL, currently the most rabid of death-eaters of the Middle East.

ISIL is terrible, and terrible for the people of Iraq and Syria.

The US, by waging war on and in Iraq, has helped (but did not solely) prepare the ground on which ISIL arose. The Iraqi government, thru spectacular mismanagement and churlish policies toward its Sunni citizens, fertilized that ground, and Syrian President Assad, by emptying his jails of militants, gleefully seeded it.

Whatever the US responsibility for ISIL’s rise, however, it is not at all clear that we have the competence to clean up our own mess.

I wasn’t opposed to the limited bombing in support of the evacuation of the Yazidis, largely because it was limited in time and place and for a specific purpose, and for which the alternatives, including doing nothing, were unlikely to work in preventing a massacre.

But this, this expanded campaign  to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” ISIL?

No.

The president’s speech was short, and of the parts which weren’t filled with the usual boo-yah blather, strove for a combination of modesty and determination: no ground troops, working with allies, humanitarian assistance, strikes in Syria (not modest!), all geared toward long-term peace.

Peace—what a lovely idea.

But if we are determined to eliminate ISIL, modesty likely will not do, and I am concerned that if these modest efforts don’t work or work as well or as quickly as the war-bangers want, then we’ll hear—are already hearing—that determination requires immodesty, and by gum the US is weak, weak, I tell ya!, unless we’re willing to kill and die and kill some more.

As I’ve mentioned before, I do not believe that we act ably or well in our military endeavors in the Middle East.

It’s not so much that I fear that we might fail as believe that we have already failed, and with this re-engagement, are about to amplify that failure.





Get up, stand up

25 06 2014

I look forward to SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES John Boehner filing a lawsuit against President Obama for, uh, presidenting.

After all, what other options does the SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES  have in dealing with a president?

Sure, it’s possible that some incompetent bastard who slid thru the confirmation process might allow the suit to go forward, but it is far more likely that the judge, after s/he stops laughing, would gavel down the suit and yell at the SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES to get out of her/his courtroom, quit wasting everyone’s time,  go back to Congress and do his job.

Hell, I’d pay five bucks for a seat in the courtroom to see that happen.