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Of Rights and Morality November 3, 2008

Posted by caseyww in Politics.
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Election week!  For those of you getting into the groove of how Valence is working you’ve seen that we’ve been posting usually on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.  The trouble this week is that whatever I write is guaranteed to be old news come Tuesday night as it is certain to be swamped by election news.

So, instead of fighting it, I’ll embrace the election again this week.  However, I’m going to keep this post a bit short and just expand briefly on one of the ideas that seemed to draw a distinct divide in the comments section on the previous post concerning Prop 8.  Namely, the question of: How should our morality inform the way we vote?  Or, should we legislate our conscience?

Prop 8 seems to be a unique case for discussing morality and politics because it draws in such sharp contrast a religious opinion vs the state constitution on marriage.  I doubt we as voters often have the opportunity to so directly affect the rights of our fellow citizens.

I think much of the divide that has occurred in discussing Prop 8 stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of these civil rights and as such I’d like to widen the discussion to include rights in general (especially since Prop 8 will have been decided by the time most of us get around to commenting).

First a couple of quotes:

“It seems to me that the governing principle, especially in a plural community, cannot be moral rightness because the substance of what’s “morally right” is not shared by everyone in the community; and politics is about sharing the world with others – living together. In that case, what is “politically right” must use a different measure than one particular sense of morality.” -Antony (Comment #16, Calling out The Call)

“The most sacred of the duties of a government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens.” –Thomas Jefferson: Note in Destutt de Tracy, “Political Economy,” 1816. ME 14:465

(By the way, I don’t mean to flatter Antony by quoting him in the same breath as Jefferson.  I just think the ideas work well together.)

Here is how I understand rights and I’m certainly open to correction or expansion if I’m being too simplistic.  Rights at their simplest are protections against the infringement of each of our pursuits of life, liberty and happiness.  As long as our actions are not causing suffering or themselves limiting others’ “pursuit” than our actions are ideally protected.

Our constitution, however imperfectly formed or poorly executed in the past, has been built around the value that above all personal moral concerns there are rights that are inalienable and should be equitably distributed.  Our country is beautiful because we as a secular pluralistic society have chosen to value each others’ rights over our own conscience.

This act is radical in its implications because it essentially limits how far our personal sense of morality can affect change.  By drafting constitutions we’ve fenced in our individual power to let any one perspective of morality determine the laws we all must abide by.

Now, because of this value for rights our society has chosen to protect some actions that are distasteful and disgusting.  An example brought up in the comments is the free speech protection afforded to white supremacist groups.  I personally find these groups repugnant but I can’t argue that we should lower our collective value for free speech in order to silence them.

An interesting turn that has occurred in discussing Prop 8 is that some of those who feel that homosexuality is immoral assert that they would be betraying their personal sense of right and wrong (or even betraying God) by protecting gay rights.  I personally think this is a bit unfair because it adds far more weight to the issue on a personal level than necessary.  Let me explain.

My advocacy for the free speech rights of the KKK does not in any way mean that I condone their behavior.  All it means is that I value equal rights being extended to all of our citizens above and beyond what my conscience tells me about how wrong they are.  At the foundation of this argument is an admittedly selfish premise:

I value my rights.  If we weaken our commitment to the personal liberty of a few of our citizens we weaken the foundation of rights for all.

Extending the example, if I opposed free speech rights for the KKK then I really wouldn’t have much ground to stand on if someone else asserted that Valence needs to be censored because it incites doubt and offends their personal moral bearings.  It’s not too hard to insert whatever right is most important to each of us here.

By protecting the rights of the least or most eccentric or even the morally worst among us we protect all of our rights.

One last word on Prop 8.  Prop 8 is revoking a current right to marriage afforded to the gay community in order to define marriage by Judeo-Christian principles.  A no vote on Prop 8 does not indicate you condone homosexual behavior but instead a no vote on Prop 8 simply indicates that you value your personal rights enough to want to protect all of our rights.

That’s it for this week!  I hope everyone has a great election day.

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Comments»

1. bear - November 3, 2008

First! uh–no comment

2. paul - November 3, 2008

Heh, you should ask people what they think of when they hear political words today to see what connotations the words we use carry, and, are they even correct portrayals of the words/ideas. I’ll toss out a few here:

1) Liberal
2) Conservative
3) Socialist
4) Fascist
5) Communist
6) Free-Market

What does the great blogsphere think these words mean to them? Or what do they think these words mean to the masses?

3. Mark N. - November 3, 2008

Thanks Casey for laying that out. I think too many of us confuse our own sense of what is morally right with what is politically right. The rights and benefits conferred by the legal recognition of a union are what is at stake here, not our own idea or any religions idea of what constitutes marriage. It is the rights and benefits afforded legally recognized unions being protected. Much like the free speech example you give – it isn’t the content of the speech that is protected, it is the right to speak. Here, the government isn’t stamping same sex marriage with moral approval, it is merely giving such couples legal status that brings with it basic protections and rights afforded other couples.

4. Emmet - November 4, 2008

I have to admit that prop 8 is the only “chad” I’m undecided on. The funny thing is that my indecision has nothing to do with morality or a Christian ethic. In the most simplistic terms, I don’t think Jesus cares one way or the other about what the California Constitution says about marriage. As best as I can figure, it isn’t exactly a document he holds himself accountable to. My general views on homosexuality are way more complex and completely irrelevant to the topic.
At the end of the day, I believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman which tempts me to vote for “8”. In addition, my guess is that if the writers of the constitution knew that there would be this controversy, they would have used much more specific “man” “woman” language in the first place making this a non issue. But they didn’t and so here we are.
I’m tempted to vote against “8” simply because the fundamentalists piss me off and seem to do everything in their power to make us Conservative Libertarian Christian types look like religious nut jobs, to which I say “Thanks but no thanks, I can do that for myself!” As for the “rights” issue, I don’t see it that way, but thats just because I don’t see marriage as a right and I think it is foolish to depend on the government to legitimate any relationship. That said, it is a convenience I’ll cash in on whenever I see the benefit and I’ll piss and moan about it if I ever get hosed by a lack of it.
So with my general agreement for what the prop says, a general dislike for the way it’s being supported and apposed, and an overwhelming desire for denial, I fear that I may take the cowardly approach and simply not vote on it.
Before you get all mad at me for taking the cowards way out, keep in mind that if forced to act I could end up canceling your vote…. whatever it may be.

5. Paul - November 4, 2008

I’m going to take you to task here Casey. And I think the statement, though valid, IS actually being a bit PC:

Our constitution, however imperfectly formed or poorly executed in the past, has been built around the value that above all personal moral concerns there are rights that are inalienable and should be equitably distributed.

I think if people stop to really think about it, the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should be a moral concern to us all. Any viewpoint that infringes on these basic rights of other human beings is a morally inferior position. This is because morality stems from the actual concern of the well-being of other individuals, and society as a whole. Though you may find those themes in a holy book, you will also find many moral contradictions that only further confuse how we should approach morality. On one hand we read the Good Samaritian and decide that this is a great moral lesson because it deals with being altruistic: That is to say, a genuine concern for the well-being of an individual no matter who they are. I think this is the lesson for which all other moral decisions and intuitions should be coming from. But then on the other hand we have statements by Paul that clearly say heaven and “being righteous” will be denied to those that don’t believe in Christ. So now you have set up a completely different moral construct for people to follow: Being good also depends on if you believe that Jesus exists, is the son of God, and rose from the dead.

Even if you can separate these two issues, you are still believing in what seems to me a strange, paradoxical morality:

1) That being good is genuine concern for their well-being and happiness regardless of who they are
and
2) That happiness and well-being will be denied to any individual that doesn’t think the evidence for Christ is that compelling

So on one hand, you should act altruistically but that does not mean that, according to an interpretation of the bible, God will act altruistically, for he will deny heaven to his creation simply because they didn’t think the extraordinary claims had sufficient evidence. Does anyone else see a problem with this? Be good to all, even those that are inferior to you and will thus go to hell because they don’t believe that Christ is the Savior.

Oh, and I guess I’ll try and start out the political thought excercise I started. I want to add to it, there are no right answers (there are right definitions of the terms, but that’s not what this experiment is about). I’m sure many will find my answers divisive, and “wrong” in terms of definition, but these are my honest feelings when i hear these words:

1) Liberal: open to new ideas
2) Conservative: stubborn, lives in the past
3) Socialist: Equitable
4) Fascist: Corporatist
5) Communist: Utopian, unrealistic
6) Free-Market: Predatory capitalism, feudalism

6. Eric - November 4, 2008

Emmet — It seems to me that if you “think it is foolish to depend on the government to legitimate any relationship”, then you should wait until there’s a proposition on the ballot eliminating all legal “conveniences” for any relationship between any two people, not just gays. But I’m pretty certain you wouldn’t agree with that, so I can only conclude that your “general views on homosexuality” are not in fact “completely irrelevant to the topic”. Whatever those views are, they are what is making you lean (however slightly) toward “yes” on 8, and as you yourself admit, the consequence of this will be eliminating a right (or a “convenience”, whatever) for an entire group of people that you will continue to (potentially, at least) enjoy.

7. Eric - November 4, 2008

Paul, you said in comment #5: “Does anyone else see a problem with this? Be good to all, even those that are inferior to you and will thus go to hell because they don’t believe that Christ is the Savior.”

No, I don’t see a problem with this, and I frankly don’t see why you do. I think believing in Christ entails being good to all here on earth, because it is not our place to pass the judgment of God. If they like, true believers can establish forums for discussion, like church services (or blogs!), where they can make clear to those they think won’t be saved why they think they won’t be saved and why they may want to reconsider their ways, but in the end I don’t think Jesus would be happy if they took God’s laws into their own hands.

8. Emmet - November 4, 2008

Thanks Eric for the comment. I understand why it could look that way, but it would take up a freak load of your time for me to explain why I don’t agree with you on my motivations (granted you could be right). I said that my views on homosexuality are irrelevant because on a personal level, I don’t really care if the prop passes or not.
You could say that my simple belief that marriage is a union between one man and one woman is an indicator of how I view homosexuality, but for me it is an indicator of how I view marriage. At the same time, if you wanted to pass a prop, or initiative, or whatever it would be which stated that any two people regardless of sex or sexual orientation could enter into a legal partnership with rights that more or less mirror those the state recognizes for a marriage union, then I would probably vote yes. But again I probably wouldn’t care too much, except for the twisted humor I would find in watching the fundies squirm again.
If it would make you feel better to, in a spirit of fairness, pass a petition calling for the elimination of all legal “conveniences” for any relationship between two people, I would likewise be seriously tempted to sign it. That, however, would have more to do with the way I view government than the way I view relationships. I think that this goes a long way in explaining my response to this election which is, “regardless of the outcome, at least it will be entertaining.” I used to get emotionally involved with the outcome of elections, but then I graduated high school (seriously, no joke). I realized that government is a necessary inconvenience which will support no messiah figures, outside of the Middle East and Africa (and just look at how well they function), which means that I have better places to place my hopes, dreams, desires, and expectations.
See you at the poles, hope you have a fun day regardless of the outcome.

9. Sam - November 4, 2008

Paul:

I full heartedly agree with your opening statements regarding our government, etc. (HA! I actually agree with Paul!?) I’ve said this previously—all people have the right to vote based upon their own moral concerns, or whatever criteria they deem to be the most important. That is the very nature of a democratic system. When we start voting based upon what society is leaning toward, we ARE operating in the realm of political correctness. Now—the politically correct action MAY be the morally correct action. But it isn’t always—and whether I believe it is, or I believe it is not, there are dozens of other people who believe otherwise, and their beliefs and right to disagree with the majority are as sacred as my own. To say that people should be voting based upon a broad political conscience over their own personal moral qualms is a very dangerous statement when operating in the realm of precedent and while living in a pluralistic society such as our own. Though Casey makes a strong case, his frame in his opening statement leaves no room for those who disagree with his moral convictions, while rhetorically effective, it can potentially be a dangerous frame. If we operate on a basis of politically conscience, then we are one step away from tyranny of the moral majority where our opinions are discouraged in favor of a popular publicly established morality.

Paul and I disagree on a lot of issues (well, mostly on the hows and whys of the issues more than the actual verdicts…) but I believe that his right to say whatever the hell he wants is as important as my own—I am arrogant—but I am not arrogant enough to believe that I know it all ; )

On the second half:

I can see where you are getting the paradoxical morality, but let me play the devil’s advocate (or maybe I’m God’s at the moment.. hrm…)

The story of the good Samaritan is a story of how best to treat your fellow man. Most sermons and discussions of the story that I have ever encountered focus on people using their own goodness as a testament to the goodness of their faith. Essentially the “walk the walk” concept—don’t just speak as if you love all men, actually go through the actions and do it. Those sermons and discussions have used the story, and the concept of taking the role of a good

Samaritan as a matter of witness—show those around you love as an extension of Gods own love to you.

The concept is not based on being good to all “even those that are inferior to you.” By the most basic doctrine Christ calls himself and his follower’s servants (the superiority complex was developed later by the Church to the point of self deification but that is neither here nor there).

Anyhow, my point is that the story of the Good Samaritan is not just about being altruistic; it is about being true to your beliefs in act and deed as well as in voice (lesson I truly believe in, inside and outside of religion). We can call your moral Paradox here to be consistent—God says he loves all men, why does he deny them heaven? Or we can call it consistent, saying “God just wants to be loved as he loves us” and call it consistent. Of course, I am coming from a rather literal place, and I believe that the alternative of heaven is simply the absence of God—which, I think, is quite similar to what a lot of us feel here on earth.

To ride this funky train back on topic, I fully believe that the two lessons of the Good Samaritan story should be constantly applied: that we should be consistent with our convictions, and that we should lookout for the wellbeing of others. Which is why, as a Christian, if I were in CA today I would vote against Prop 8, and why I think that anyone, be they a married gay couple, or a fundamentalist, MUST vote their conscience.

And, because I think your question is interesting, my own free association:

1) Liberal – change
2) Conservative – status quo
3) Socialist – interdependence
4) Fascist – Cheney
5) Communist – unnatural
6) Free-Market – corrupted by human nature

10. Antony - November 4, 2008

Well, I’ve voted and now I can’t concentrate on anything other than the election, so I might as well post here.

Paul, you brought up a serious conflict for Christians – and really any group that believes that they possess truth. For such groups, truth is almost always associated with happiness (I think this is where Christianity and Plato first meet). But of course, this ‘happiness’ is not material happiness (that is, suffering does not necessarily end, as utilitarians would have it). It’s the happiness of being fulfilled – of finding meaning in the knowledge/experience of the truth.

So yes, most Christians would say that a person cannot ACHIEVE happiness outside of “being in a relationship with Jesus” (which is understood differently depending on the type of Christian that you are – this is the works-grace controversy about salvation).

So, the Christian position is that Jesus is where happiness is ACHIEVED but this does not then necessarily lead to a desire to interfere in other people’s PURSUIT of happiness. Part of being good to others is in being a witness to others (Jesus should transform your life and you should practice that same love in your life). But since salvation requires a sincere turning to God, you cannot compel it, and thus, everyone must be free to pursue happiness as they deem fit. So to love someone (as in the parable of the Good Samaritan) regardless of who they are is key to being a witness – that is, living out the happiness and love one receives from Jesus.

One thing that I’d like to bring up because I think we’ve started dancing around this with Bear mentioning NT Wright’s Simply Christian in the last post and Eric & Paul talking about the Kingdom of God…and that is the Afterlife.

I tend to agree with Paul, that Christians are in a tough spot about avoiding judging the fate of others IF we think of the Kingdom of God as heaven – as an afterlife. How can you have the truth and not judge that those who lack it are at a disadvantage? (We don’t need to get into language of superiority/inferiority.)

One answer comes out of rethinking what the Kingdom of God means. Some recent Christian theology has gone back to the idea of the Kingdom of God and examines it in the context of 1st century Palestine. It’s pretty well known that the Jews didn’t have a very clear concept of an afterlife (this is still somewhat of an open question – were there sects that did have one? Etc). The Greeks and Romans also didn’t really have a clear idea of an afterlife, although you get echoes of it in Plato (Christianity’s main Greek influence).

This has led NT Wright (among others) to argue that the Kingdom of God should not really be thought of as an afterlife in the classic heaven-(purgatory)-hell way.

[By the way, I know that there are a number of seminarians and casual theologians who read this blog – so PLEASE correct me if I get any of this wrong…it’s been a while since I read it, and well, it’s not exactly my subject of expertise.]

The Kingdom is ‘already-not yet.’ In other words, it’s an earthly promise – so when Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” that means that it’s close in proximity and time. So it’s brought into being through our actions – it is making God present in our practices. And the second ‘at hand’ – the temporal aspect – does not have a clear afterlife component; it’s more a world-transformative principle rather than an eschatological one. That is, followers of Jesus can effect change in the world and bring a better world into being.

This understanding of the Kingdom of God makes the eschatological questions (‘the four last things – death, judgment, heaven and hell’) totally irrelevant to the way that one lives their life as a follower of Jesus.

What follows from that, as I understand it, is that being a Christian is about living a life in the present that aims at making the love of God present to our community. And I think, that Nancy O’s last statement on the last post (#145) about avoiding causing anguish is in-line with this thinking, as is the lesson of the Good Samaritan as Sam portrayed it.

Thoughts?

11. Paul - November 4, 2008

Antony, I think this is an extremely interesting thought that you laid out:

The Kingdom is ‘already-not yet.’ In other words, it’s an earthly promise – so when Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” that means that it’s close in proximity and time. So it’s brought into being through our actions – it is making God present in our practices. And the second ‘at hand’ – the temporal aspect – does not have a clear afterlife component; it’s more a world-transformative principle rather than an eschatological one. That is, followers of Jesus can effect change in the world and bring a better world into being.

And Sam, thanks for playing along 🙂 I’m interested to see what other people think when they see those words. I would add to the lesson of the Good Samaritan: It does not matter who you are or what you believe… The Samaritans were actually considered “bad” people in those times, and I think the real message that Jesus was hitting home with was that the importance of being godly is within everyone who works for the well-being of others, not what label/belief system we put on them or ourselves.

12. Doug Anderson - November 4, 2008

I want to play!

1) Liberal – too much
2) Conservative – not enough
3) Socialism – greed for the lazy
4) Fascism – greed for the angry
5) Communism – greed for the collective
Special Addition! = Capitalism – greed for the one
6) Free-Market – too good to be true for humans

13. Paul - November 4, 2008

Awesome thanks doug!

14. Sam - November 4, 2008

Doug wins the internet.

And Paul:

“The Samaritans were actually considered “bad” people in those times, and I think the real message that Jesus was hitting home with was that the importance of being godly is within everyone who works for the well-being of others, not what label/belief system we put on them or ourselves.”

I couldn’t agree more. I believe Christ was a very devoted humanist. Geeze, what is up with this topic?

15. Bill Whitsett - November 4, 2008

Of Rights and Morality…

A quote/line by Antony as used in Casey’s thrust: “Politics is about sharing the world with others”.
A quote/line by Jefferson as used in Casey’s thrust: “impartial justice to all its citizens”…

We live in a melting pot society, it is just one of the reasons for our love of Country…”give us your poor, your tired, your hungry masses”..we are about sharing the world with others. And as the others have come, they have brought with them their unique cultural flavors, their identities not left at the border, and a blending has occured…the original 13 colonies established mainly from white european ancestry, english in nature, writing the laws as they saw them, laying down the foundation of “justice” as they carried it with them…”political rightness” inbreed into them from their very own inception and yet flavored for sure from their own cultural heritage. English justice, English politics, English morality.

And waves of immigrants flooded the shores, a good thing for a melting pot society, and assimilation occured. And a watering down of the original plan to allow for the distinct flavors we absorbed. And it was different…morals began to change, definitions became gray. The Irish delt with things differently than did the English, they played by a different set of rules…perhaps more harsh in terms of “judgement”. And the Germans here did the same. Of course all the Chinese brought to work on railroads had their own sense of “right and wrong” and personal politics…etc. etc. etc.

Not stating this in the negative..it has been a very natural course for a melting pot society. But note however you take it, it is way off the course set for it by those English in inception Founding Fathers…

“Justice” to those who are of middle eastern heritage and practice strict laws of Islam…call for the “cutting off of hands of a thief”…and to those who now live amongst us, their is no moral dilemma in that judgment at all. Should our “politics” include and allow for such?
Mr. Jefferson if you were still alive, could you please in light of that give me a truthfull definition of ” impartial-justice”?

Read just a few days ago on Yahoo about a 13yr old girl stoned to death in Mogadashu Somalia by Islamic Extremist for the act of adultery (she claimed she had been raped) and over 1000 people stood by and watched while “justice” was served.

Our melting pot will have to take into account such believes very soon.

The more we assimilate, (and we will continue to assimilate) the more our definition of what is and what isnt moral will be challenged.

We assume that because we were born here, that ours (The U.S.A.) is the “right” way..that our spelling out of “human rights” is the only way. That our sense of “fair and equitable” treatment is ordained.

I have only been alive since the 1950’s, only cognizant really since the 1970’s, and in this short period of time I myself have seen the definitions of “right and wrong”, “justice”, “morality” all shift and change…you cannot blame the elderly for feeling “out of place” their world has changed. Yours will too.

1) Liberal: too soft
2) Conservative: too hard
3) Socialism: No chance for personal success
4) Fascism: No freedom to move or speak
5) Communism: In pure form Utopia, impossible in light of greed.
6)Free-Market: Allows for brilliance, leaves behind the less fortunate.

Antony….great thought….about the Kingdom being at hand!

One more thought: A quote not word for word because I cant find the sentence in the passage I read last night (damn it!) but the thought the same: by Charles Darwin on Justice….”How could God condemn a man to Infinate Hell, for a finate sin”?

16. caseyww - November 4, 2008

(RE: Comment #5)

Paul-

Luckily I like being taken to task. I’ll take it where I can get it. Okay, I’m going to respond but I have to warn you that I’m three beers down and watching the electoral returns so I can’t promise complete coherence.

The first of your two ideas:

…the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should be a moral concern to us all. Any viewpoint that infringes on these basic rights of other human beings is a morally inferior position.

I’m not sure where we disagree here. My argument is essentially that our constitutions represent a higher social agreement between our citizens that supercede whatever personal moral causes each of us invest in. If you want to label commitment to this agreement also as a moral concern than I really don’t take any issue. I think we should value each other’s rights above and beyond our personal religious convictions. I agree that this is a moral imperative. Can you expand on why you think this is PC?

(Sam- You also commented on this issue. I think we differ here. I certainly don’t think that calling all of us to a common cause in valuing each other’s rights is the same thing as the tyranny of the majority. For society to function we all must agree on something and I think this is it.)

Paul, the second idea you raised:

Be good to all, even those that are inferior to you and will thus go to hell because they don’t believe that Christ is the Savior.

I’ve read some of the other responses given to your concern here and I’m not sure I share their optimism. I personally think this is a serious problem for Christianity. The seat of moral wisdom for Christians is a deity who takes no issue with condemning detractors to eternal punishment while supposedly admonishing the rest of us to treat each other with respect and love. (I’m sure this statement is going to garner argument that in actuality it is humans who have invited punishment by betraying God in the first place and that it is only by God’s grace and his sacrificial offering of Jesus that we have opportunity to regain relationship with him. I’m just not so sure I agree.)

I do agree that examples like the “Good Samaritan” or the idea of the “Kingdom already but not yet” do soften the issue but they don’t resolve the paradox for me.

I just think it’s a stretch to claim that our morals actually originated or are dependent on the directives of this deity. I personally think that there is a much more viable naturalistic origin of human morals that doesn’t get caught up in the paradox you’ve so aptly noted.

17. caseyww - November 4, 2008

Oh yeah…

1) Liberal: The Big Lebowski
2) Conservative: Dr. Strangelove
3) Socialism: The Wizard of OZ
4) Fascism: 2001: A Space Odyssey
5) Communism: Toy Story
6)Free-Market: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

(By the way, I like the impromptu poll.)

18. paul - November 5, 2008

Bill I find your answers interesting and again, there is no right or wrong answer to this, but reading this definition:

5) Communism: In pure form Utopia, impossible in light of greed.

I felt it to actually be a perfect definition of communism AND Free-Market Liberatarianism. They both rely on the entirety of their societies to think like them, and if they don’t, they are subject to tyranny from greed… Communism faulters when workers get too greedy (plus communism has no checks on this, workers just are the owners of the means of production) and free-market liberatarianism faulters when employers get too greedy (like communism it shuns checks as a roadblock to perfect equilibrium as Milton Friedman put it).

Casey’s movie reference’s FTW. All about the Big Lebowski… I too hate the Eagles.

19. Mark N. - November 5, 2008

What happened with Prop 8 last night when the pro 8 crowd called it for itself was a strange. There was raucous celebration. This seemed odd – even terrifying. Winners here may feel vindicated or feel as though they have won a moral cause of some kind or another, but open celebration didn’t seem fitting. This was not that kind of victory. This was a time to maybe feel as though what you did was right according to a personal sense of moral or religious right and wrong, but it was not time to cheer and yell. This may strip marital status from couples that just celebrated the happiness of weddings. It may make certain members of our community feel excluded or discriminated against. No – last night – if it was a victory – was a time to maybe believe what you did was right by your personal or religious convictions, but it was also certainly a time to demonstrate some consideration and humanity for those that it may affect.

20. casey - November 5, 2008

Mark-

I absolutely agree. I went to bed last night depressed (even though I was happy about Obama) thinking of all the people in our state who had to reconcile that their form of showing love was being trampled on with celebration. I’ll repeat what I said in the previous post…these are people’s lives we’re talking about. Prop 8 conquered no darkness and defeated no evil but it did further alienate and marginalize an already demonized population. Even if one felt like Prop 8 was the right thing to do, success should have been accepted with the sober knowledge that we are devastating people’s personal relationships. This is no light matter and certainly no cause for a victory lap.

I ask myself how people can be so blind. I have to think that “moral certainty” is a dangerous thing. Believing that we have a lock on the most righteous way to live, endowed by an omniscient God no less, allows for incredible arrogance (despite claims that religion consistently leads to more humility). An arrogance which is so certain of its moral superiority that it has no qualms with garishly celebrating the pain it causes when forcing all who disagree to follow in lock step.

21. Paul - November 5, 2008

Though the decision to vote for prop 8 is a sad reminder that we still legislate from gut reaction instead of reason, I have faith that this issue will be brought before the supreme court at some point… then the issue of its constitutionality will bring up rights as the most important problem with this law. I think the supreme court will do the right thing and see this as a breech of equal rights… they won’t mandate that homosexuals can get married, but they will mandate that no state shall make a law preventing this from happening.

22. Paul - November 6, 2008

In regards to Prop 8, here is an interesting article that delves into the important people responsible for the money that launched the “yes on 8” campaign:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2008-11-03/the-man-behind-proposition-8/

pretty damned scary to see who began this proposition. Not to say that a good idea needs to originate from a good person, but i think you can question someone’s motives for pushing an issue.

23. Karen DeArmond - November 6, 2008

Liberal: Any thing goes
Conservative: Tradition!
Socialism: It’s all mine, if you work hard I might share
Fascism: It’s all mine and you can’t have any
Communism: It’s all about me, if you have what I want I will take it
Free-Market: Money, Money, Money

24. Eric - November 6, 2008

Liberal: progressive
Conservative: regressive
Socialism: digressive
Fascism: aggressive
Communism: passive-aggressive
Free-market capitalism: transgressive

25. Nancy O. - November 6, 2008

I know family and friends who “voted their conscience” who do not think of themselves as morally superior; on the contrary, these people are humble and have hearts full of tenderness for others. They live their lives to honor God. They try to live right, even in the little things. They were not among the jubilant crowd spoken of in these threads. They, like I, pondered deeply and prayed a lot before making such an enormous decision. They are not bad, arrogant, blind, or heartless and they certainly do not lack intelligence and they should not be labeled with such generalizations.

26. Nancy O. - November 6, 2008

I didn’t finish – I know nobody here labeled these people, my family, friends and others who voted yes with these generalizations but some people “out there” are and it’s really sad that people are so cruel to good-hearted people like that.

27. Karen DeArmond - November 6, 2008

Well said Nancy. I have been meaning to tell you how much I admire you for the stand you have taken. You have shared your heart and not backed down. I admit I became frustrated with all the words. I backed away and you didn’t. I have been cheering you on.

For the skeptics…
I keep hearing we should not legislate morality however either way the vote went we were legislating morality. Where does morality come from? I say God, you say no. Doesn’t change the truth, even if you don’t believe it. As someone told me last weekend at one time people believed the world was flat, what they believed did not change the truth that the world was round. The truth is God is, was, and will always be whether we believe it or not. What will it change if I live as a follower of God and get to the end of my life and find I was wrong? Nothing, as I will have led of life of intregity, richness, peace and joy, just as you are. And what if you get to the end of your life and find the Bible was truth and all you needed to do was surrender your life to Jesus, the One who died just for you?

God did not create Hell for humans, he created Hell for Satan. Out of His infinite love he sent his beloved Son to take the penalty for us. We have a choice to make. I, Nancy and others have made our choice not out of fear of hell but of wanting to live an abundant life, a life of freedom, of forgiveness (as I had made a mess out of my life and nearly destroyed the life of my children because of my choices).

In every profession there is the 1%. Does that mean the whole profession is bad. There are teachers who sleep with their students…does that mean all teachers are bad. There are hypocrites everywhere, not just in church. Do you quit going to the bar because the bar tender is married and tell all the guys what a hot wife he is married to yet when he sees a woman slips his ring off? Are all muslins extremists? No. Neither are all Christians. I am so sorry for what a few did in the name of Christ.

28. Nancy O. - November 7, 2008

Dear Karen,

Skeptics will sometimes overwhelm us with their knowledge. I have learned to meet them but I do not try to meet them on their own ground; rather, I meet them with my own knowledge of Christ. I can say I know they understand more than I do but I have something here that answers all the arguments, whatever they may be. He is Jesus Christ. I do not know what geology and scientists say. I may not understand all about history. I may not comprehend all things that they argue, but one thing I know – it is a matter of absolute consciousness to me – that I, who once doubted, have been made to see. I once tried to get away from God but now I strive every day to know Him more and more. I love the cross and would sacrifice my all for it. This change in my own life, in my own consciousness, this supernatural work in my spirit will stand all the arguments that can be drawn from sciences. My every day begins and ends with Christ. I find that by following my convictions, I am able to stand on my own feet, I do not lean on any person but only on God, who supports me in every single situation in life.

You are awesome. Like your sister, Loree, you have a huge heart for Christ and for others – I can tell from how you’ve expressed yourself in this blog.

29. paul - November 7, 2008

Karen I have a couple of comments about your posts:
“I keep hearing we should not legislate morality however either way the vote went we were legislating morality.”
Actually, those against Prop 8 are not voting based on morality, they are based on the Constitution and the equal protection clause. We are basing it off of law, not what we feel should happen. Does it line up with our morality? It could and it may, but as many other insightful posters have already stated (I think it was casey who really drove this point home) we are willing to put aside what we feel is good for the sake of the constitution which demands equal protection for all groups of people. The example of the KKK comes to mind… those voting no on 8 would use the same argument to not ban KKK members from organizing or protesting even though we think morally their views are reprehensible. It is because we realize that our civil rights and liberties are that much more important to our society.

“Where does morality come from? I say God, you say no.”
So where do you get all your moral lessons from? The god of the bible? You see if you say morality comes from god, then you will need to explain what in the bible (if you believe it literally) you consider to be “morality from God”, and you will have to explain all the egregious immoral laws and statements in the Bible. If you don’t take the bible literally, I think there is greater room for discussion about morality in general.

30. Nancy O. - November 7, 2008

Paul,

The Holy Spirit within us is for guidance. He opens up to us one truth after another by His light and by His guidance, and thus we are “taught of the Lord.”

It is hard to understand unless you’ve experienced it.

We can argue all day long about what the bible does or doesn’t say but the bottom line is morality comes from God within us.

31. Antony - November 7, 2008

Nancy O –

I’ve thought a lot about the last dozen posts on the last post (Calling Out The Call), and I realized that my second-to-last post was written more out of frustration and exasperation than the vulnerability that Casey (and I also) want to be at the heart of this blog. And since it came from frustration, it went nowhere. It was not productive.

What really seemed to be productive is when Eric, making the same argument that I did, put it in the language that you speak. Then, it made you really think through something you thought you were certain of.

If that exchange is the model for this blog, then I have to say that your post #28 greatly disappoints me. There you refuse to engage others on this blog in the language that THEY speak. You refuse to reach out and create an understanding, but instead, you take pride in declaring your determination to keep repeating Christianisms while others speak of science and history, etc.

Which leads me to my next point. I already know you’ll deny what I say here, but I ask you at least read what you said again and think about how it reads to others. You totally denigrate education and knowledge as if they are worthless and have nothing to show you.

Now, to claim that you don’t have a deep understanding of history or science is fine. Some of us have chosen life paths that have allowed us to study these things for many, many years and so we have gotten to know a lot about them. So it’s not the difference in knowledge that bothers me. It’s the idea that you think NONE of it has it any impact on your beliefs.

I think that is patently false. In fact, I think that is the point of Casey’s original skepticism post: We use the tools of thought (skepticism in this case) to evaluate every single belief that we encounter, except for those that we already believe. Casey’s question is – WHY? Why the special treatment for what you already believe? And honestly, I haven’t seen a believer respond to that question…

To claim to ‘just know’ is pointless here…I think that there are a number of people here who are seriously asking questions and seriously want to understand the relationship between God and the world of knowledge. So, if you want to speak to them, you need to move outside of your comfort zone. Your personal testimony is powerful and has clearly changed your life. Now, the question to you is how do you make this evident to those who speak another language?

32. Antony - November 7, 2008

Re: #30

Nancy O –

I separated this from my last post on purpose…

You said:

We can argue all day long about what the bible does or doesn’t say but the bottom line is morality comes from God within us.

I have a number of problems with this claim.

(1) I don’t think the claim that “morality comes from God within us” has any Biblical foundation whatsoever. Please correct me if I’m wrong. It seems your claim reduces the Holy Spirit to our conscience, but that cannot be the case. The Holy Spirit has a very different purpose in The Acts of the Apostles (and did people not have a conscience before that?). Please explain what you mean by “morality comes from God within us.”

(2) I also don’t think that it’s pointless to talk about what the Bible says and does not say. I think that’s the point, isn’t it? Paul (#29) expresses a difficulty that many have with accepting the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. It seems to contradict itself particularly in its expressions of what is right, moral and just. This is a problem that should be worked through, not dismissed out of hand.

This is an honest question and honest difficulty and it deserves serious consideration.

33. Michelle Wilson - November 7, 2008

I still think that the whole issue of gay marriage is more about your definition of marriage than about how to do politics. I’m 100% for equal rights. But I do think marriage is a specific thing which actually involves a certain kind of relationship between one male and one female. This is related to Bear’s comments earlier on mating. I don’t think you have to be able to have kids or anything as if that’s what it’s all about. But marriage like procreation is a gender specific arrangement. I support the rights of gays and lesbians to have sexual relationships and romantic relationships and to have legal protections for those relationships. But, I don’t believe this constitutes what I would call marriage.

I don’t have any witty definitions yet. But I do have a longstanding crush on socialism. Just wish it actually worked.

34. Paul - November 7, 2008

Constitutionally limited, social democracies are the better half of socialism Michelle… and they work extremely well for the countries that use it. Just check all the indexes at the UN for best overall health, education and happiness you will see a glaring distinction. All the countries in the top 5 are “socialist” (by how our media has defined the term) countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. The US is much lower on these lists than most americans would expect. Needless to say, an increase in GDP does not necessarily mean a better life for the most.

35. Antony - November 7, 2008

Re #33

Michelle,

I can’t understand how you can claim that the issue of gay marriage is not primarily about politics. It involves the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of other people in the community. This is not something you can define in ISOLATION. Your definition, if enacted into law, has consequences on the lives of OTHER people. That is what being political means – and to grant that it is an ‘issue’ is already to note its political characteristics.

And I’m really just not sure how you can defend your claims about marriage as being something special. Functionally speaking, there is nothing that distinguishes your idea of marriage from any other committed relationship between two consenting adults, other than your assertion that it is.

Rightly, you deny that marriage is for procreation because that would invalidate all marriages in which procreation was not happening or is not possible (by the way, a historically popular argument). Fine. But you still try to claim it has some ‘gender specific arrangement.’ WHY? What is gender specific about it? On what grounds are such claims justified?

Now, there is a Christian philosophy that has an answer to this – marriage is a holy sacrament. In that case, everything about the marriage is transformational. The sex is not just sex, it’s a sacrament. And the marital union is an instantiation of the relationship between Jesus and the church.

Short of a sacramental theology, a marriage is a just an arrangement that has legal, social, and personal significances. And there is nothing that necessitates a ‘gender specific arrangement’ as far as I can tell.

So I guess my question is two-fold: (1) Why do you personally believe that marriage is a gender specific arrangement, and (2) on what grounds can you claim your opinion should hold for everyone in the community?

36. Mark N. - November 7, 2008

One thing that’s bothered me in reading through the most recent posts is the idea that somehow skepticism is the opposite of faith. Some of the greatest saints, religious and faithful secular leaders were great skeptics and believed that skepticism gave strength to their faith (“skepticism is the beginning of faith,” “faith untested…”, etc.). I don’t understand how scientific and other thought is an attack on faith. It is not meant as such and many such as Einstein believed that religious feeling would only increased as man comes to a greater scientific and rational understanding of the world and universe around him. The motions of faith can often become more meaningful and powerful when tested.

37. Nancy O. - November 7, 2008

Anthony,

To clarify what I mean about meeting people “on my ground” in this forum:

I cannot meet you on your grounds of science and history because I am not nearly as educated as you on those particular subjects; therefore, I cannot intelligently contribute to those discussions using science and history as my basis.

Similarly, my experience with God unlocked the truths for me and it is probably impossible for you to believe or relate to because you have not experienced the same. I cannot pursuade you or convince you in any way. All I can do is encourage you to seek the truth, through Him, for yourself. The workings of the Holy Spirit and many passages of scripure sometimes cannot be made clear by anyone unless they are expounded by experience. I did not say it is pointless to argue the bible. What I said is you can argue the bible all day long but what it comes down to, for me, is the Holy Spirit that dwells inside makes crystal clear right from wrong, moral from immoral, etc.

You tell my how I “refuse” to reach out to others that do not speak my language. I have, Anthony, and we have had several interesting conversations. You point your finger saying I declare my points with “pride” when I share my heart about God. Earnestly sharing my experience does not come from a place of pride, it comes from a place of love and truth. Your judgement of me is wrong.

Eric did not change my mind about believing what the gospel says about homosexuality. I still am certain about that. What Eric did do was help me realize that my yes vote could potentially cause anguish to others, which I would never want to be responsible for. After all was said and done, I went to the voting booth torn about how I would vote. I could not vote yes because of the pain it could cause others and I could not bring myself to vote no because of the potential anguish I believe it would cause God for me to do that. So, I did not vote on Prop 8. For myself, I came to the conclusion that the issue is God’s responsibility, not mine, so I left it in His hands.

I did not mean to marginalize education. Not sure where what I wrote sounded like that but if you say I did – sorry. There are several people who I know that are highly intelligent and highly educated. Don’t get me wrong, Anthony, I respect education and wish I had more of it so that I could engage with every person in this blog instead of only the ones who do understand what I am talking about.

38. Nancy O. - November 7, 2008

Mark,

I don’t think skepticism is the opposite of faith or that there is anything wrong with skepticisim, in fact, I do not know a single person who was not skeptical of God before realizing the truth of His existence.

Some people (outside of this forum) have used science in an effort to reduce God to less than what He is. I understand what you are saying regarding how an understanding of the world and universe around us can bring greater belief and strength in faith. That is absolutely true.

39. Eric - November 8, 2008

Nancy O.,

I’ve been thinking about this and I’m amused that you (and Antony too, it seems, based on what he says in #31) are of the opinion that the apparent effectiveness of my comment #133 on the “Calling out The Call” post was due to my somehow “speaking in your language” (or however you may prefer to put it). I don’t see it that way. A more accurate (but far less flattering) way to look at it is that I used your own words against you. I simply used some basic logic to decompose the one biblical passage that you cited to support your views and pointed to an alternative conclusion that is also consistent with that passage. Now, just to be clear: I wasn’t being disingenuous in my comment, I meant it, but I just want to make clear that I was speaking the language of logic, not your language, or my language, or any such thing.

Note that the logical reasoning in my comment did not require that I know much about the bible (I don’t). Likewise, I don’t think you need to know much about “science” and “history” to apply logical reasoning to your own thinking, or to the thoughts of others — you can participate in (and learn from) all of the discussions on this blog just like many others (like me) do, just by making an effort to (a) make clear what you mean, and (b) understand what others are saying.

40. Antony - November 8, 2008

Nancy O –

Let me start by momentarily withdrawing the word ‘pride’ – you’re right, I can’t make assumptions about your attitude or intentions when reading a blog post. So my apologies for that. But I’d like to distinguish between your intentions (which I cannot know) and your presentation. And your presentation comes off as prideful.

To claim that you are coming from a “place of love and truth” can only be responded to as a posture of pride. You claim to be speaking from the truth? Then what are the rest of us doing? You are here to drop your testimonial on us so that we can see the truth that we have failed to experience? You should not be surprised when people bristle when you claim to be bringing them the truth – that implies certain things, whether or not you say them.

So, a couple of things in response –

(1) There are a lot of people on this blog who know a lot about various subjects. I also can’t keep up with all of them. My knowledge of evolution is passable, but hardly deep, for example. But in the end, it’s not about HOW much one knows or WHAT one knows, but a willingness to ask the questions that push the conversation forward. So to claim ‘ignorance’ is no excuse for refusing to meet others on their ground.

(2) And lastly, to reassert your point that “the Holy Spirit that dwells inside makes crystal clear right from wrong, moral from immoral, etc.” does not really answer me. My question is where does this belief come from? On what grounds is it made? And so, in this case, what the Bible says does matter. And if we have to argue it all day long, then so be it because your claim that it is so proves nothing to me.

And before you again invoke the idea that I would know if I had experienced the same thing as you, I must dismiss it for two reasons. First, because to say: it is not correct to conclude that if I agreed with you, then I’d know you were right is not. To agree with you is not to know that you’re right; it’s only to agree with you.

And second, you do not know my experiences – I’ve been deeply moved during a worship song – I’ve felt my heart race and my hands sweat when praying or meditating – and I’ve heard a word clearly spoken to me as if from inside.

Maybe I believe it’s God, maybe I don’t. Same type of experiences, different interpretations. So the problem with personal experience as evidence is that I have no reason to believe that your interpretation or my own are truth. The experience is real, no doubt. But the interpretation remains a question and thus it’s not an authority. And so, what makes you so certain that the Holy Spirit dwells inside of you and acts as your moral conscience?

41. Nancy O. - November 8, 2008

Anthony,

You have me all wrong. Honestly. I try to tell you with genuine sincerity who I am and that I truly am not coming from a prideful place but you turn that around and still spew unfair judgements by telling me I am prideful. You are come across as a mean-spiritied young man, Anthony. Is this how you treat every woman in your life or is it just easy to talk to me like that because – you think you don’t know me?

Loree can explain to you what I mean about Jesus living within and the enormous effect that has, which is what I’ve tried to explain but can’t seem to. Karen can also explain it. You said you can interpret the experiences you have had as God – but believe me, there is NO mistaking when it is God and no misinterpretation is possible – His holy presence is unmistakeable.

Eric,

I didn’t coin the term “my language” in relation to how you communicated to me. Anthony did. I knew you were using my own words but I didn’t realize you were using them “against” me. I was touched by the way you communicated helped me understand the simple logic. I thank you for that.

Michelle, Loree, Karen – you’ve truly blessed me. I understand where you all are coming from as far as your personal relationships with God and I know you understand me in that regard, too.

Casey – I hope you find what you are looking for and it is very good to know that you love and honor your Mom. She deserves it, I can tell, an incredible woman.

God bless you all and goodbye.

Nancy O.

42. Antony - November 8, 2008

Nancy O –

I’m sorry that you feel that you can’t contribute here. I’m not interested in apologizing to you because I did not say that you WERE prideful (I tried to make that clear in the last message). My problem is that when you enter into a conversation saying that you are speaking from the truth (however honestly or sincerely you believe that), you put yourself in a position above the others in the conversation.

If you speak from truth, then where do they speak from? And then, if someone asks you to justify what you’ve said, or even to explain it, then you take it as a sign that they just don’t know the truth. That’s absurd. How can a conversation happen?

And on a last note, I don’t mind it being suggested that I’m ‘mean-spirited’ but I don’t think that I have been here. And this is less a defense of me, and more a defense of what I think this blog is about. This is a place for asking questions and giving answers and thinking through things. One should not take offense when their arguments or statements are called into question. To be here and to be posting is to open yourself to questioning.

That said, I do, however, take great offense at the claim that I treat women cruelly (at least with a ‘mean spirit’). That’s absolute nonsense. I take great care in my life to treat others (men and women) with respect. So, don’t think for a second, Nancy that the responses I’ve had to your posts have anything to do with your sex; it’s the content of your arguments that I have questions about. And that is an important distinction.

43. Nancy O. - November 8, 2008

Anthony,

This will be my last post. I feel compelled to share this one final thing with you. Michelle put herself in a vulnerable position by sharing her testimony, which was a tremendous blessing. This is mine:

My mother died when I was a teenager. My father was an abuser. Home to me was a living hell; I was a young girl who was bruised, petrified, sad, and very lonely. I wanted to call the police but knew what I would face from my father if they didn’t take him away. My next door neighbor had been my mother’s best friend. She knew what was going on and made her house a place of refuge but there was nothing beyond that she could do. I would lay awake at night hearing my brothers cries as they were getting beaten and it truly hurt more to hear their cries than it hurt me to be slammed around night after night by my own father – the one man in the world who should have protected his own children. Their cries, like mine, were more of heartbreak than the physical pain of the senseless abuse.

It came to a point where I could not stand it any longer and I decided to end my life. I had it all planned out and I felt an odd kind of peace – an odd emptiness inside mixed with peace because I was going to finally have control and end everything once and for all.

I searched God desperately for help for a long time. I must have prayed the beads of my rosary 500 times in search for Him. But I never knew His presence. There was this huge bible in my house with beautiful pictures. One of the pictures was Jesus carrying the cross; that particular one pierced my heart and caused me fall in love with Him. But I prayed and prayed and still never felt that He was there to help me because nothing changed; the suffering continued.

On this particular night, I decided to try one last time to reach out to God. I was alone in the house and in the darkness of my bedroom, I literally cried out to Him. I said if You are for real, then You are powerful enough to show me. You know what I am about to do. If you are there, I need You to show me, God, and I need it now because you know I am at the end and if you don’t want me to go foward with this, then now is the time to show me you are here.

And then it happened. From the top of my head to the tips of my toes, like water being poured into a glass, He filled me with His Holy Spirit. It was the most amazing, incredible, spiritual, indescribable experience. He filled me with His presence. He heard my cries and He answered them. It was life-altering. In an instant my sadness was replaced with joy and He filled my heart full and overflowing with a love like a love I had never known. It was so pure and immense. That love, hope and joy has never left me. I have never been the same. He came inside of me and has never left. That is why I know that He lives inside of me.

From that day forward I did well in school, graduating with honors. I worked, saved, bought a car, and moved out of that house. While I lived there, I continued to endure pain but I had a new strength and a new hope and a new joy that got me through it.

God blessed me with the most amazing, gentle, kind, Christian man I have ever met in my life. Together, we have our beautiful daughter. God has blessed my life with pure happiness. He took a broken little girl and made her whole.

When I say I am speaking the “truth” Anthony, I am not speaking truth as if I know the truth and others do not. I am sorry for not communicating more clearly. I am not the best writer. I am only “telling” the truth of my experience with God. It’s hard not to want to share that with the world. Michelle shared it. Karen shared it. Loree shared it. And I got so excited and wanted to share it, too.

This will be the end of me “dropping” my Christian thoughts and such. I just felt like maybe this is what you might have wanted me to explain regarding the “experience” I have been eluding to.

You ask me to explain to you why I believe it truly is God who lives within me. I can’t explain it to you except to say I am telling the truth of what happened to me and there simply is no mistaking that God, the One I cried out to, answered in His supernatural way.

I do not have a way to prove it was/is God to anyone else but He proved it was Him to me.

44. bear - November 8, 2008

Nancy, I am not sure that you will read this since you aren’t going to post anymore (I hope you will) but I have to say that your story is powerful, and I am right there with you in the telling. This blog is an odd place to try and explain stories like yours because its intent leans more on the scientific method to understand claims and ideas. Before I read this last post by you, I truly felt a sense of tragedy. This is why: admittedly, in my own posts I have become incredibly frustrated to the point where my internal monologue actually surfaced and integrated itself into the posts—thus—extreme confusion for the readers. There has been anger between people, misunderstandings, clarification and reclarifications, testimonies, and counterclaims. I have to tell you thought that at the end of the “Calling out the Call,” comments, where you had a change of heart with regard to knowing what Jesus would NOT want you to do; I spent that next Election Day with an even deeper sense of hope and encouragement. In you, I saw the changing heart—or I should say—a true heart of someone flowing Jesus—you demonstrated the ability to learn, and grow, and love God enough to forsake a viewpoint for what you found to be truth, and based on how much you love God, and how much He seems to have interacted in your life, you have no regrets.
I want you to know that I was able to talk to a very good friend of mine about the postings when she sat there on Wed. Dismayed about the passing of Prop, and the idea that she and her wife might have their marriage annulled, and what that will do to their daughter. I told her that there is a change happening out there, and I described a bit about what happened in the postings, and she could at least agree with me that this was encouraging.

It felt tragic to me to read Eric’s latest post when he described what he wrote as “using it against you,” and I am going to believe, after reading the rest of what Eric wrote, that he only meant to tell you that n the same way he might not be an expert in the Bible, he was able to use simple logic to make a point. I am holding the idea that he was trying to encourage you to do the same since you have stated that you feel like you know little about this kind of stuff.

Anyway, I am sure there will be much more written to you, but this little part of your story that happened on this very challenging blog, is now part of my story, and it will be heard by others who need it too. Thank you for your testimony, it means a lot to read it.

Bear

45. bear - November 8, 2008

I meant to say “following Jesus” not flowing….sorry

46. Nancy O. - November 9, 2008

Bear,

I said I wasn’t going to post but I read your response to me, so here I am again posting to you because I want to thank you for your sincere kindness. It truly means a lot to me.

I listen to the Christian radio station, Air 1. They have an option in which people can subscribe to receiving a daily scripture through email, which I do. This morning’s scripture is awesome because it fits perfectly with my testimony:

“I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me.” Proverbs 8:17

There are those who question why God would have allowed such misery and why it continued even afterward. I didn’t know the answer before that night but I found out shortly afterward. There were reasons and they are good.

47. Eric - November 9, 2008

Bear — thank you for looking beyond my poor choice of words in my last comment, and for clarifying my intent: you got it exactly right.

Nancy O., if you’re still reading, I want to emphasize (along with others who have already said this before) that I value your contribution to this blog. Thank you for sharing your story — it’s a powerful one and definitely puts a lot of what you have written before in perspective. I only wish it were the case that more people who have found themselves in extremely difficult positions like yours (or like Michelle’s) could find that inner strength, whether they call God or anything else, to get beyond it like you did. I don’t have a comparable experience in my life, but I do have a personal story that I believe puts some of where I come from in perspective; in the interests of continuing our discussions here as openly as possible, I’ll tell that story in another post soon.

Finally, Nancy O., I disagree with your self-evaluation: I think you’re quite a good writer, especially given the difficulty of writing about the kinds of topics discussed on this blog. We’re all struggling here to express what we think about difficult issues and to have a productive conversation, and we all stumble in the process — as I did with my own poor choice of words noted above. If I were to write my last comment again, I’d change the “I used your own words against you” part to “I tried to show you a logically valid interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 that was slightly different than yours” (which is basically what my next sentence said, but I see how that could have gotten lost behind the ugliness of my original poor choice of words).

48. Eric - November 9, 2008

Whoops, “whether they call God” up there should have been “whether they call it God”…

While I’m at it, I guess I may as well just post my story here, such as it is. My parents were raised Roman Catholic in Bolivia, came to the US independently, and met & married here. My father began a career as an international banker and we lived in (predominantly Roman Catholic) Latin America from when I was 4 till I was 11. I had my First Communion there at the age of 10, something that I recall mostly as a rite of passage than as a religious experience.

Then we moved to Istanbul, Turkey, where we lived for two years. It was a very disorienting experience for all of us: a very different culture and language than we had known up to that point, my older brother had to go to boarding school in Switzerland (the American school in Istanbul only went to 9th grade), and of course we had no friends nor family there — and no church. We eventually found a beautiful Catholic church, but the service was in Latin. I could tell that my parents were upset about this, and so I offered to do a Spanish-language service in our living room just for them, using the Spanish Good News bible that I had used for first communion. I think my parents humored me with this idea once or twice, because of course I had no idea what I was doing.

In the meantime, I was meeting all kinds of different kids: my playmates in my apartment building were all (Turkish-speaking) Muslims, there were Muslims and Jews and various denominations of Christians (Mormons, Greek Orthodox, Lutherans…) represented at my school — they all spoke English, but also had different national and linguistic family backgrounds.

So one day I’m playing outside by myself and struggling to understand all this diversity. I could roughly understand what it meant to come from different countries and to speak different languages, since this had already been my own experience up to that point (I was born in the US but my parents in Bolivia, and we were bilingual). But I didn’t know what the difference between these different religions was, so I decided to go back inside and ask my mom: what’s the difference between Catholicism and other Christian denominations, or between Christianity and Islam and Judaism?

My mom responded in a way that to this day I think was the most important thing I’ve ever been told. Roughly, what she said was this: “All of these different people believe in a God, and they have a book that tells them about that God and about how to behave in the world. And there are some small differences between the books, but all of them say that you should behave and be good to others.”

I’ve found out since that my mom is not particularly religious, but it certainly wasn’t her intent to plant a seed of doubt in me that day. She was just making sure that I wouldn’t treat people differently or badly based on their different religious backgrounds, because there is a commonality among all religious beliefs that supercedes all differences.

Since my realization much later in life that I am an atheist, I have extended this beyond religion: I believe that what unites humanity (or what *should* unite humanity) is a common desire to be treated equally and with respect, and that it is incumbent upon each of us to try to satisfy that desire by (a) treating others equally and with respect and (b) reacting appropriately when we perceive that we or others are not being treated equally or with respect. I believe this is a baseline morality that does not require a God for justification; indeed, I cannot in my mind reconcile the differences among the many gods that humanity appeals to with this common baseline of morality that most if not all religions have in some form or another.

49. Nancy O. - November 11, 2008

Hi again 

Thomas Jefferson had a few things to say about where morality comes from, etc:

“He who made us would have been a pitiful bungler, if he had made the rules of our moral conduct a matter of science. For one man of science, there are thousands who are not. What would have become of them? Man was destined for society. His morality, therefore, was to be formed to this object. He was endowed with a sense of right and wrong merely relative to this. This sense is as much a part of his nature, as the sense of hearing, seeing feeling; it is the true foundation of morality. The moral sense or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm. It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree, as force of members is given them in a greater or less degree. It may be strengthened by exercise, as may any particular of the body. This sense is submitted indeed in some degree to the guidance of reason; but it is a small stock, which is required for this: even a less one than what we call common sense. State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it is well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules.” Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1787, ME 6:257, Papers 12:15.

“I consider ethics, as well as religion, as supplements to law in the government of man.” Thomas Jefferson to Augustus B. Woodward, 1824. ME 16:19

“Political interest can never be separated in the long run from moral right.” Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1806. FE 8:477

“It is rare that public sentiment decides immorally or unwisely, and the individual who differs from it ought to distrust and examine well his own opinion.” Thomas Jefferson to William Findley, 1801. FE 8:27

50. Paul - November 11, 2008

interesting choice of quotes Nancy… this one here is exactly what people who voted “No” on 8 would totally agree with:

For one man of science, there are thousands who are not. What would have become of them? Man was destined for society. His morality, therefore, was to be formed to this object.

If one is to agree that morality stems from man’s desire for society then we must make moral decisions based on what is good for the majority of society. These include not denying people of that society the same rights and liberties as those of the rest. I find it difficult to butress any religiously motivated opinion about laws and Thomas Jefferson. Wether he was a Deist or a type of Christian, clearly his idea of morality stems from the thinkers of the Enlightenment before him (read Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” and “The Rights of Man”) that valued liberty, equality and social cohesion over any religious quote of the day.

51. Nancy O. - November 11, 2008

Paul,

Do you agree with this?

“A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a second; that second for third’ and so on.”

What I am wondering is if same-sex marriage is fine because it doesn’t hurt anyone and affords liberty and equality to those involved, would it, in the same token, be right to also make polygamy and prostitution legal because people think those practices do not hurt anyone?

52. Eric - November 11, 2008

Nancy O. — you make a good point in comment #51 (and I think it was made sometime before in these comments, by Michelle Wilson if I’m not mistaken). But in order for the logic of this “slippery slope” argument to follow, one must already assume the following scale (where ‘>’ = ‘is morally superior to’):

heterosexual marriage > same-sex marriage > polygamy (and/or prostitution)

I think it’s safe to say that the bulk of opponents to Prop 8 don’t assume the first distinction in this scale — in other words, we don’t believe that granting marriage rights to same-sex couples is a step in the direction of legalizing polygamy or prostitution. There may even be some of us who don’t assume any of the distinctions in this scale, in which case there’s still no slope: legalizing polygamy or prostitution would simply be an option to such folks regardless of whether same-sex marriage is legal.

As a related aside: slippery slope arguments are difficult to maintain in many more obvious cases that are worth considering. Suppose you think people should be able to own small handguns (with a permit) but that they shouldn’t be able to own AK-47s. If we outlaw AK-47s, are we just one step away from outlawing handguns? (The NRA may like us to think so, but I don’t think it follows.) Or, more relatedly, suppose we had decided at some point in our history to continue to disallow interracial marriage because we suspected that it might lead to same-sex marriage (which may lead to polygamy, etc.) — does that sound right to you?

53. Nancy O. - November 11, 2008

Eric,

I don’t think allowing same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy, prostitution, etc.

Let’s look at polygamy as a completely separate issue from same-sex marriage and assume there are many groups of people who live it and would like to legalize it so that they can be afforded the same rights and liberties as everyone else. Should society legalize it?

54. Bill Whitsett - November 11, 2008

Of Rights and Morality….

Nancy O., I find your question to Eric in Post #53 very well thought out, and quite interesting in light of the subject…”Rights and Morality”, and I like the way you framed it too, offering it up not as a “tie in” to the slippery slope argument, but instead as a fresh piece of meat altogether.

So interesting that I wanted to answer it myself. Should society legalize “polygamy”….consenting adults, all in agreement to the situation of lifestyle….yes, my answer. As I do believe it was the answer of King Solomon was it not, considered in the Bible as the wisest man who ever lived? 3000 plus wives? Rather or not it is legal is a cultural thing, not a “right” and “wrong” thing.
Should society legalize “prostitution”….consenting adults in an exchange of sex for money. The state of Nevada has done it, as well as Nations in other parts of the world (Denmark, Germany etc. etc.) Because one crosses a state line from Calif to Nevada, does “right” suddenly become “wrong” because of “legalization”? Should society legalize it…they have, just depends on what side of the boundry/line/border you are on.

Very thoughtfull quotes from Thomas Jefferson: Do you know what his religious affiliation was? He was an avowed “Unitarian”…believed that there was a God for sure. One God. Not a Father, Son, and Holy Ghost…thats considered a tri-une God, as I believe that the majority of Christians today belive in. A Unitarian does not believe in Jesus as the Son of God…so to quote him (Jefferson) in context you have to understand where he was coming from when he spoke of God. I too find myself somewhat in line of the Unitarian belief system at this juncture of my life. To quote Thomas Jefferson you must believe him to be a very wise man…in all of his beliefs.

55. Nancy O. - November 11, 2008

Bill,

Thank you for responding! Another quote that Thomas Jefferson made is:

“Reading, reflection and time have convinced me that the interests of society require the observation of those moral precepts only in which all religious agree (for all forbid us to murder, steal, plunder, or bear false witness), and that we should not intermeddle with the particular dogmas in which all religions differ, and which are totally unconnected with morality.” Thomas Jefferson to James Fishback, 1809. ME 12:315

An additional thought I have:

Bigotry against same-sex marriage, polygamy, prostitution, adult incest, and obscenity cannot be carried by anyone decreeing that morals should not be a factor in legislation and who assert that we should not deny people the same rights and liberties as everyone else in society.

56. Nancy O. - November 11, 2008

I meant in which all religions agree (not religious)


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