Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Theology of Disproportionate Retribution

There will never be peace in the Middle East until both sides drop their theology of disproportionate retribution.

In the U.S. we have an expression: "The punishment should fit the crime."

Not so in the Bible.  One of the few sermons I remember from church-going days was an explanation of "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" as an attempt to dial back excessive punishment.  Instead of wiping out an entire town for the actions of a few people, that line in the Old Testament urges restraint.

Apparently only Christians have read it, but not many of them.

Even Christians who have read it misunderestimate the punishment.  Just after 9/11 I was talking to a Christian who was fuming with anger at the A-rabs who perpetrated the crime.  He said we should "nuke them all.  An eye for an eye!"  ... as if nuking millions of people was a suitable punishment despite killing millions of innocent people who had nothing to do with the al Qaeda terrorist attacks ... that weren't even launched from the Middle East - they were based in Afghanistan.

Our wonderful president and his "neo" Conservatives apparently felt the same way.  They punished Iraq for the actions of a group of people that secular Saddam Hussein actually had no use for.  The neo-cons had planned ahead of time for this, and then waited for a suitable trigger to set their plan into motion.  They started talking about it on September 12, 2001.

I suspect something similar happened in Israel.  Three teenagers were murdered, and rather than track down the individual(s) who did it, Israel launched an attack on Hamas itself. ... along with the innocent people who are either human shields or collateral damage, depending on your point of view.  The targets were too specific and too sweeping to have been chosen just recently.  This is a well thought-out campaign designed to bring down their (rather horrible) enemy.  The everyday people of Gaza won't blame Hamas for this, though.  They will blame Israel because people who had nothing to do with the murder of those teens are dying by the hundreds, leaving behind relatives with nothing left but their anger.

Most of what I've seen and read misses the point, I think.  The point is that both parties practice disproportionate retribution.  Just like the deity they worship, who supposedly wiped out the entire population with a flood (including innocent children and fetuses), and ordered genocide after commanding his people not to kill, they feel justified taking out their anger on large numbers of innocents.

Israel should not be building settlements so close to Gaza.  Palestinians shouldn't take it out on the residents of those settlements, because they're not the ones who are defying Palestianian sensibilities.  Those settlers could settle elsewhere.

And then when Palestinians take it out on the residents, Israel can't retreat.  That would be a sign of weakness!  They can't move the settlers to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.  They can't not bomb schools if they are being used to house both children and bombs. They can't cave in to the human shield because everyone would start using that tactic!

And Palestinians can't just take the bombing laying down.  There is nowhere for them to run. Egypt won't take them in, because they get too much money and arms from the U.S. in exchange for not waging war on Israel.  Jordan won't take them back because Jordan is not interested in them.  (They screwed them as far back as the 1940s)  Britain won't take them because although their colonization of Palestine is the reason the Palestinians were displaced to make room for post-war Jews, they are joined at the hip to the U.S.  When you can't take flight, you must fight.

And the U.S. can't let any of this change because Christian dominionists believe Israel's renaissance fortells the coming of the Lawd.  As long as Israel exists, the Lawd will come and take them to Paradise (because apparently the Lawd can't change his mind and blow off prophesy and just do what he wants, when he wants to)

And the Christian Lawd's retribution for not believing in him, or in believing in the wrong version of him, or for believing in some other deity, is disproportionate indeed.  A 13-year-old atheist will burn in Hell for eternity for a year or two of apostasy (assuming that children get some break for not being of an age yet).  A sincere believer in Catholicism, or Pentecostalism, or Methodism (take your pick) will burn in Hell for eternity for missing the mark, even though they've lived an ideal life.

If Christian dominionists didn't believe in the Rapture, if Jews didn't believe in a god who regularly ordered them to commit genocide, if Muslims didn't believe in a god who orders girls to marry their rapists, or apostates to be executed, or thieves to have their hands chopped off, then perhaps there might be something resembling peace.

You know, when a crime happens the criminals are punished, in proportion to their crime, and everyone else is left alone.  That's how secular people behave.

You know, morally.

Until then, the Middle East will continue to be the big mess it was as described in the Old Testament, with warring tribes committing genocide because that's what their deities would want.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Today's TED Talk: Muslim vs. Muslim Terrorism

Karima Bennoue is a law professor at the University of California - Davis School of Law and the author of Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.

In this TED Talk, she speaks about the devastating impact of fundamentalist violence on people who don't share their vision of Islam.  She makes the point that fundamentalisms are dangerous, not just certain ones, and celebrates the courage of those who refuse to be repressed. I think her own successes should also be celebrated.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Well Organized Protection of Pedophiles isn't just a Catholic Thing

I have run across random references to the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church movement, but the word "independent" seems to give the stories of abuse in these churches some kind of pass for the other churches. But people who have been following them have revealed that there is indeed an organization of sorts underpinning their abusive practices, and that the abusive pastors, members and churches are not isolated incidences.

This story called A Christianity to Make Satan Proud at a Christian Patheos blog gives a chilling account of the power that men of this movement wield over women and children, and how they manage to avoid the long arm of the law.

In this post, a letter from a young woman who was sexually abused by her father for years, shows that denial and victim-blaming is endemic in this movement. Here's just one part of her story:

When I started to try to tell the pastor—my pastor—and his wife that my father had been molesting me since I was three or four years old, he stopped me. “Don’t tell me,” he said. “I don’t want to hear it! If you tell me, then I am required to call the police and report this. You don’t want your daddy going to prison over a misunderstanding, do you?”

Misunderstanding????   Children are indoctrinated into believing they can only trust insiders of their church, that all outsiders including others who claim to be Christians, are not to be trusted, and then what happens when they confide in their authority figures?

These horrible people make up about 2.5% of the American population.  There are probably some near you.

Notable points in her story:
  • Her pedophile father was moved to a different church in another state. Hmmm are they sure they're not Catholic?
  • Her grandparents were in collusion with her father and the church, sending her to a re-education camp (not the infamous Hepzibah House but it sounds similar) after she came forward with accusations of sex abuse.
  • She was instructed to visit her step-father in prison (there for other offenses) to tell him she forgives him.
  • She followed her family tradition of attending Bob Jones University, where denial and victim-blaming were just as institutionalized as in her local church.  BJU is the wellspring of the movement and the university that grants "degrees" to the Bible Church pastors perpetrating abuses around the country.
  • Her PTSD nightmares were so bad her dormmates' sleep was disturbed, and yet her accusations were dismissed. (How many people are dishonest in their dreams?)
    This isn't an isolated instance at all, just an incredibly well-coordinated suppression of the truth. The TV show "20/20" covered an equally egregious instance, in which a 15-year-old girl was sexually abused by her father and raped by a man in her church.  She was forced to confess in front of the entire congregation, then sent away to have the rapist's baby.... which the church forced her to give up for adoption to a "Christian" family.  They interviewed the pastor, who now works in Indianapolis, and he stuck to his guns.  Incredibly, after the 20/20 episode the creep kept his job! 

  • (God, however, was extremely pissed off and used a bus wreck to kill the pastor's son, daughter-in-law, and her fetus.  Note what they say on their site: "On Saturday, July 27, 2013 at around 4:30 p.m., the Lord allowed a bus accident to take Pastor Chad and Courtney Phelps and their unborn baby (see below) and Mrs. Tonya Weindorf (see below) home to enjoy Him in His presence forever")

    More sites:
    Baptist Deception: articles on the theological problems and abuses of the movement
    Bruce Gensner, a former IFB pastor, on the rise and (hopefully) decline of the IFB movement and on its cultish attributes.
    Sheldon, of the Ramblings of Sheldon blog, on the IFB as a guest blogger.  He also has a series on Exposing the IFB.