I really enjoyed reading this editorial. I hope you do as well. If you don't read it all, don't bother commenting. If all you have to offer is a personal attack or blanket attack on all Christians, save it...because all it does it make enemies. Aren't there enough wars going on in the world?
How About Some Left Wing Fundamentalism?
By Carl S. Milsted, Jr.
In reading left-leaning publications over the past year or so I have come across many articles critical of “fundamentalism.” Fundamentalists have been described as hateful, uncaring, inflexible, right wing, conservative, violent and/or unspiritual. As a Christian who is more fundamentalist than most, I take some exception to these characterizations.
Yes, there are many fundamentalist Christians who meet some of the above descriptions to varying degrees; however, these are not the defining characteristics of Christian fundamentalism. Oft times, these characteristics are more associated with people better described as traditionalists, not fundamentalists.
Fundamentalism, in the original sense of the word, is often opposed to traditionalism. Fundamentalism is reactionary, not conservative; it is a call to reject both questionable new doctrines and accumulated traditions in favor of a faithful interpretation of the original text. When the original text in question is the Christian Bible, the resulting moral views are not exactly right win.
True, the Bible does espouse some very conservative views; it is very intolerant of idol worshipping, homosexuality, adultery, and channeling spirits. The Old Testament is big on the death penalty, extending it even to those who merely light a fire on the Sabbath [Numbers 15:32-36]. And the military tactics applied in the conquest of the Holy Land make George Bush look like a pacifist.
But note that such enforcement of the Law was limited to the Holy Land. There was no call in the Old Testament for the Hebrews to sweep across the world destroying idols and other abominations. The Holy Land was an example for the rest of the world, which could choose to emulate its ways or not.
This pattern continues into the New Testament, with the holy nation being replaced by holy people. Jesus called upon his followers to spread the word across the world, while at the same time calling for his followers to be forgiving and non-violent. Forcible conversion to Christianity is a later tradition, one that should be rejected by a true fundamentalist. The same goes for enforcing Christian standards of behavior on non-Christians [see 1 Corinthians 5-6].
But even if we restrict our study to the Old Testament, we can find many ideas which qualify as liberal and/or libertarian.
Under the original system set up by Moses, there was to be no police force or standing army. Such matters were community affairs like in the wildest parts of the American Wild West. The closest things to taxation were the tithes that were mainly for supporting the priesthood and for religious celebrations. From what I can tell, paying tithes was a mostly voluntary act; the only enforcement provision I could find was peer pressure.
Yet despite the lack of what most conservatives would consider the “necessary parts of government,” there was an extensive welfare system! The poor were allowed to pick food by hand from other people’s fields [Deuteronomy 23:24-25], and to use tools after the harvest [Leviticus 19:9-10, Deuteronomy 24:19-22]. The rich were forbidden from buying up large estates; they could only buy leaseholds. Every 50 years farmland reverted back to the original families [Leviticus 25]. Furthermore, the wealthy were expected to grant zero interest loans to those in need [Deuteronomy 15:1-18].
In many areas law enforcement was more lenient than today. There were no jails. Property criminals who provided adequate compensation were let off without further punishment [Exodus 22:1-9]. Those who could not repay had to be servants for a time[Exodus 22:3, Exodus 21:2], but they were to be well treated [Leviticus 25:40], not to be separated from their families[Exodus 21:3], and given startup capital (including wine!) upon release[Deuteronomy 14:12-14].
Speaking of wine, calls for complete abstention from alcohol are a later, post-Biblical, tradition. The Bible has many passages celebrating the virtues of alcoholic beverages (and good food) [see Deuteronomy 14:22-26]. It is the excessive consumption of such (and gluttony) that is condemned. Prohibition is a recent tradition. And unless getting stoned and watching Gilligan’s Island constitutes witchcraft, the War on Drugs is also a violation of fundamentalist Christian principles.
One can even make a case against anti-prostitution laws on fundamentalist Christian grounds. Under Old Testament Law, a woman with other means of support – a married woman, a girl still living with parents [Deuteronomy 22:13-21], or the daughter of a priest [Leviticus 21:9] – was forbidden upon pain of death to play the harlot. There was no blanket probation on harlotry, however. It is worth noting that Solomon’s first recorded action upon receiving wisdom was to adjudicate a dispute between two harlots; he did not have them punished for harlotry [1 Kings 3:16-28].
One can even make a Biblical case against factory farming [Deuteronomy 25:4 and Exodus 20:10] and genetically modified foods [Deuteronomy 22:9-11].
So, whenever you are troubled by right-wing Christian fundamentalists, keep in mind that the problem could be that the objects of your ire are not fundamentalist enough.
Carl Milsted is a senior editor for The Free Liberal.
I prefer to believe in the god of the anus of the dung bettle's supreme mother. Don't criticize or you could make enemies. Gotta go now, have to go listen to a new band, its all priests, they call themselves "God's Assmonkeys" You don't believe in the anus of the dung beetle's supreme mother, , enough. Its not conservatism,, its just super stupid judegmental conservatism. Nice try at repairing the image of two really crap covered words, (conservatism and fundamentalism), both are covered in shit. Now you can change the meaning of them again on the fly, while the preachers and priests continue their attacks on humanity and even peace. What a corporate pr machine the church has, thousands of zealots making up excuses, just like always.
Yes, we can cherry-pick the Bible and find quotes that make Christ sound more like a socialist than a libertarian or conservative. To wit:
Matthew 19:24: "Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Luke 12:15: Then He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions."
I have no problem with fundamentalists who interpret the Bible in their way to live their own lives. I take issue with fundamentalists, though, who want to tell me how to live my life.
Yet I have an even bigger disagreement with those promoting the nonsense of Gospel of Prosperity. Now, if a person turnes out to be a financial success, congratulations may be in order, but please don't try to convince us that Jesus Christ wants us to tool around in a Mercedes 500-SL and live in a 6,500-sq. foot house.
When I want to understand Christ, I try not to stray far from the Gospels, and Christ was clear about what He expected of His disciples in terms of materialism in Luke 12: 22-34:
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. [emphasis added by historymike] Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also ."
I think you might have missed your true calling historymike. This was uplifting, and expresses in a way that I never could, what I believe true faith to be.
Excellent posting HistoryMike. I'm curious though... have I ever said or posted anything opposing that? I'm not being coy here...I really don't understand why I always seem to get nothing but sneers.
HistoryMike said: Yet I have an even bigger disagreement with those promoting the nonsense of Gospel of Prosperity. Now, if a person turnes out to be a financial success, congratulations may be in order, but please don't try to convince us that Jesus Christ wants us to tool around in a Mercedes 500-SL and live in a 6,500-sq. foot house.
WE AGREE! But I don't understand why you took that direction in relation to my post. I can only assume you are making assumptions about me. ???
Not meant specifically at you, but at the contents of the article. I find it interesting how people (like the author)will see in Jesus what they want to see, and that the Bible often gets used to support or negate all sorts of activities.
Slavers and slave owners used to find quotes to support slavery, especially passages like Ephesians 6:5:
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ.
Also, I recently got into a Net debate about homosexuality with some religious minded folks who were happy to quote the Leviticus prohibitions against same sex relationships, but who did not want to follow other Biblical prohibitions on things like diet or the subservience of women to men. Some folks are all too quick to claim the Bible as literal truth, but then they start throwing exceptions out as needed.
I prefer to see the Bible as inspired wisdom, using human efforts to translate this divine inspiration into written form. Given the fact that there are dozens of different authors who wrote the books of the Bible over many centuries (not to mention the various church councils who made arbitrary decisions on what constituted the official canon), I do not believe in the Bible as a literal, unerring document, but rather a collection of texts that are meant to provide us divine guidance.
I think that God - if He were truly desirous of humanity possessing a literal, word-for-word textual source - would have composed such a book Himself, instead of leaving the job in the hands of mere mortals.
Also, He wouldn't have bothered to burden us with big brains if He didn't intend for us to use them.
Simply seeing politics as linear and 1 dimensional is douchey fundamentalism.
Reality has 4 sometimes 5 dimensions, so why settle for one of the more important aspects of modern life as just 1. That's short-sighted at best or just lazy/sloth-like. And I'm purty sure that's one of the 7 deadly sins, mental sloth.
FatBabe, I don't know why you even bother with any posts commenting on Chritianity any more, because all it does is bring out the intolerant secularists that reside here. No other religion in the world seems to bring out such rabid mocking hate. I just don't get it.
I can offer my opinion about what upsets me about the Christian right. The major one is what I perceive to be very hurtful intolerance of any group or individual that doesn't adhere to their belief system, such as gay marriage. The second is the effort through government to set up a kind of a "parallel legal system" to legislate and enforce their religious views on others. One example is the Federal funding of "abstinence only" sex education in schools, even though that approach clearly doesn't work in reducing the number of unwanted pregnancys. I know that Tom Delay once stated that he was "on a mission from God to promote a 'biblical worldview' in American politics." I'm not a complete secularist but this kind of legislating religious views flys in the face of what I thought was supposed to be a free country. Don't you think it arrogant that Tom Delay thought he knew what God wanted and attempted to enforce it through the political system? I could list more examples but you get the idea. It's fine to have a faith and to practice it. It's not fine to impose it on those who don't share that faith. It's down right scarey when someone in political office intimates he has a direct line to God's intentions.
Ok points, but it still doesn't explain all the sheer rabid hatred that came forth say, last year when Jerry Falwell died. Man-the intolerance on the other side is JUST AS BAD-or even worse. Not all people who believe in the bible are knuckle-dragging cro-magnons, but so what if they were? I see as much hate on internet boards from the other side, is all I'm saying-not including you, Holland-but there even seems to be a certain smugness in it as well. as if to say those who are secular or atheistic are somehow more enlightened. That's why I don't discuss some things much-it just isn't worth the bother because the trolls come out.
They didn't just joing a political party, they put it in office, to the horror of us all they prayed for the final battle to end the world. They were calling George Bush, "Jesus", and other claimed he was bringing Jesus to earth for shit sake.
Most of us have awakened to this now, but there are still 150 graduates of Pat Robertson's phony suicide cult law school, working in the U.S. Justice Department, and many local, and state government offices. Many similar nutcases in cabinet, military, etc. There is no forgiveness of these maniacs, you have to understand,, they are not done. Not done dividing us yet, and certainly not done destroying us yet, not done destroying the constitution yet, not done at all with us.
The bible and church are a control mechanism that emerged because of our need to be assured and led and consoled. Problem is that they are leading us in a fashion that is criminally divisive, and a treason against our souls and our lives and our country.
Even the devil can quote scripture, and "he" sure the hell does.
I see, yeah. It's all Bush's fault. Boy, a TON of you people are going to have a rude awakening after this election, once Bush and Cheney are gone. Without a meed for that unbridled hatred, what will your reason for existence be?
Holland - everything you said above is correct. I wish I could better express myself sometimes, but I too hate the hypocrisy of the "Christian/Conservative Right". The problem I have with your statement is that it sounds like you are placing all Christianity under that "Christian Right" label you use.
I belong to a church that is very loving and very non-judgmental. We have so many members that have said they are there because when they visited for the first time, they were actually welcomed and not judged for their appearance. They felt loved.
I'm not trying to be pious here. I am not even close to being Christ-like or perfect, but I try, try try. My faults are many.
The reason I always bring up "Faith Issues" here is because I can see that so many of you here have a very slanted and preconceived notion on anyone claiming their faith as a Christian. YOU HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO FEEL THAT WAY. I am trying to bring other viewpoints into the arena hoping to show you that we aren't all the same. There is no "christian mold" that we all fit into. (The noisiest ones that get the most attention).
I don't know what your life experiences are or those of the others here on this forum, but I am finding that they must have included some really bad experiences with some very bad people claiming to be Christian. I am very sorry for that. I can identify. I've had a few myself.
I no longer put my faith in man or "men of God" for inspiration or guidance. We are fallible. You might say, "then why trust the Bible because it was written by man". I would say, that's where my spiritual faith steps in. They were inspired by the Holy Spirit. I believe He gives me discernment on what is good and acceptable. I could list scriptures to back up my belief about that, but what's the point? No one wants me to do that.
I will however close with this one. I will try harder to live by it.
A Warning against Prejudice
1 My dear brothers and sisters,[a] how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?
2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting[b] dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?
5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name© you bear?
8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[d] 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.
You're right about bush, he is guilty of treason, hundreds of counts, he is guilty of lying to take the nation to war, including multiple counts of fucking with intel and cherry picking intel. He is guilty of intentionally buying arms a services to enrich both his oil friends, and select end-times greedy pig war contractors. He has intentionally divided our nation in hate, for his political advantage in two elections. He has rolled back every environmental law every written in the last 30 years, and he has done it with administrative laws, and putting pieces of shit from polluter corporations at the head of EPA and other environmental govt agencies. He rolleb back all the environmental laws to save his polluter buddies money while they kill more Americans with their pollution. He did it without the consent of congress via the adminstrative rules which he can change as easy as a roll of toilet paper. What's not to hate, but something that calls the constitution of the United States, "just a god damned piece of paper". There isn't much to love in the bush presidency. Ooops I left out the kool Aide drinking cults that he has allowed and enabled to move into every branch and sinkhole of government. This end of the world seeking nutjobs will take years to root out. You see, they are different than the old version of end of the world nutjobs. The new version believes that they should use a position in government to hasten the day when jesus returns to earth , and that included the final battle to end the world. Kool Aide for sale , 5 cents.
And History Mike,
I have an issue with liberal agnostics, atheists, who force their way of life on society...i.e. homosexual unions, teaching homosexuality in schools, removing our views while adding yours in public places....that my friend is tyranny.
Why, Kooz, I thought you were all for the smoker ban? Telling others how to run their private property/business and live? Your ox has now been gored-as I TOLD you it would someday-and you aren't getting a bit of sympathy from me. I hope gays move in all around you. I hope they all smoke, too.
fatbabe - I don't believe there's ever been a blanket 'hate the Christians' on these boards. Most (if any) posters do not hate Christians at all. We may not always agree on some of the things that you believe in, and we may disagree or debate those issues - but that does not translate into 'Hate the Christians". You've said this same thing about people who hate Christians on this forum. Not true. I do question how some Christians throw out that love word when they don't mean it. I think the word "love" has meaning, and it shouldn't be tossed out lightly, and used only if you mean it. I find it difficult to believe that Christians love everybody, even if they are everything that goes against Christian beliefs. It's not love, it's tolerance - and some Christians don't do so well with even that. Some Christians expect complete agreement from others & if somebody disagrees with them, they leap to the conclusion that the person just hates Christians. Hate is a pretty strong word. I'd have trouble even believing that those who disagree with Christian beliefs 'hate Christians'. I think a little tolerance is needed for everybody, but people need to stop taking it as personal attacks just because somebody may have different views or opinions on issues like whether people are born gay, etc.
Is it possible that the people who were so nasty about Jerry falwell (et al) were opposed to his smug attitude & big bank accounts (via the church) & his homophobia - rather than just a hate of his religion? Jerry Falwell was an ass, and he shot his mouth off & offended a lot of people - and if I ever felt distaste for the man, that is why. Had nothing to do with the fact that he was a Christian. Had to do with the fact that he was a pompous ass who shot his mouth off & offended people.
I can't speak for anybody but myself, but personally, the only time I have 'problems' with religious people (Christians or any) is when they shove their religon & beliefs down other's throats, and get furious if anybody has a different point of view or opinion - and immediately make that leap of calling everybody else "Christian haters". It is NOT your religion that people have a problem with - in fact, I bet most non-religious people have the same ethical/moral inner compass as Christians do. It is the self-righteous, smug, know-it=all, if you don't believe as I do you're going straight to hell but I love you even if I disagree with you when you don't really mean you love the person - attitude that drives me nuts. Why is it that anybody who does not proclaim themselves "Christians" (even if they are Christians) diaagrees with the proclaimed "INYOURFACE ChRISTIANS" - then we are labeled as hating Chrisitans? I may not agree with you on whether people are born gay, or whether a raped 15 yr old girl should be allowed to get an abortion - but it does not mean that I don't believe you have the right to your own beliefs. It does not mean that I do not respect your religious faith. Just that I disagree with some things you believe in. I guess I doh't understand why the loudly self proclaimed Christians are so defensive.