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Friday, February 09, 2018

Gullotta, Carrier, and Rank Raglan

In On The Historicity of Jesus, Richard Carrier differentiated between the historical evidence for a claim, say "Jesus lived," and the prior probability that such a claim would be true.  One rightly does this with all claims.  If you say, "I flew to Los Angeles last week," and if I perceive you as a generally honest person, not suffering from dementia, and have nothing particular to gain (say, an alibi in a murder trial), I won't ask to see your ticket stub.  But if you say, "I flew to Mars last week," I'll just chuckle and wait for the punchline.  In both cases the evidence is the same -- your word for what you yourself allegedly experienced in the recent past -- but while lots of people fly to Los Angeles (for some reason), Mars is a long ways off, and I doubt anyone has made the journey yet.  (And given present technology, it would be more than a week if they had.)  So aside from historical evidence per se, we also need to consider prior probability for any claimed event.  
So far, so good. 
But then Carrier deduces the prior probability of Jesus' existence by claiming that Jesus belonged to a mythological type which he calls "Rank Raglan," after (supposedly, but see below) its two inventors, Otto Rank and Lord Raglan.  He thinks that belonging to that class makes it more likely a priori that Jesus was also a myth, not an historical person.  He argued that Jesus met at least 20 of 22 criteria for a Rank-Raglan myth in the Gospel of Matthew.  He claimed that "hundreds of millions" of real historical persons lived in the ancient world who did not satisfy these criteria, while all the figures we know who did, belonged to the mere thousands of ancient myths.  This makes it far more likely that Jesus, too, was a fictional being.  He claimed that it didn't matter if Matthew was later than Mark, as he insists elsewhere, because even if a person is reduced to this type long after his alleged life-time, even being placed in that fraternity after your "death" makes it far more likely (before we examine the historical evidence) that you are no more than a legend (apologies to Will Smith) as well.  
In Jesus is No Myth, I found fault with almost everything about this argument.  I pointed out that while Carrier claimed Mark was the earliest account of the Jesus story, he concentrated mainly on Matthew apparently because it seemed to better support his theory.  I questioned the fairy-tale logic of this procedure, which assumes that the work of later writers can somehow cast its spell on the historicity of earlier records.  I pointed out that Carrier's argument depends on knowledge we don't have: Carrier cannot know how many RR traits those hundreds of millions of people whose lives he has not examined, really exhibited.  We can only compare Jesus to people whom we actually know about and have sufficient evidence for.  
I further argued that by Carrier's own definition of "myth," the ancient world would in fact have produced hundreds of billions not just thousands of myths.  Also that many of the RR qualities Carrier pointed to lay within the infancy narratives.  Good historical method should differentiate distant accounts that would be less well-reported (infancy stories) from later accounts that would have been publicly observed and more widely known (Jesus' ministry).  Carrier's RR argument fails to make that distinction properly. 
Furthermore, I showed that even if you analyze the 22 traits Carrier lists "rigorously," as Carrier demands, in fact not even in Matthew (including the infancy narrative) does Jesus meet that many of them.  RR is an almost complete failure in relation to the ministry of Jesus in Mark, which for most scholars, is the material within the gospels that is closest in time to the events it records.
"If we focus on Mark, or ignore the birth narrative (in Matthew), Jesus meets only two or three criteria."   
And that is meaningless.  For instance, one criteria that Jesus really does meet is that "he dies atop a hill or high place."  So what?  Where else were Romans supposed to crucify people to terrorize the local population, in a cave?  Such details do nothing whatsoever to undermine the earliest accounts of Jesus' life.  
One thing I did not do: I did not question that Carrier represented Rank and Raglan accurately.  Perhaps naively, perhaps lazily (RR was obviously toast anyway), I took the fact that Carrier had accurately represented some combination of Rank and Raglan's criteria for granted.  Maybe he had adjusted them a little for the sake of clarity.  I even praised Carrier, compared to Reza Aslan whose work I had dissected in an earlier chapter, for finding a way to avoid subjective confirmation bias, for latching onto a set of fixed criteria by which to evaluate the gospels (as I would do myself, in more credible detail I think, later in the book): 
"The argument, I concede, does enjoy one virtue.  Rank-Raglan brings a mostly predetermined set of criteria to the table, rather than indulging in the ad hoc cherry-picking that has bedeviled our search so far.  This is the first search for 'parallel gospels' or 'parallel Christs' we have discussed in which most of the traits to compare are set in advance." (31)
Sadly, I wrote too soon.  
Gullotta argues that in fact, Carrier radically reworked the criteria created by Rank and Raglan to make those criteria more closely conform to the New Testament blueprint.  
"Furthermore, Carrier changes Raglan's traditional list and does not inform his readers how and why he is doing this.  For example, Carrier changes the specificity of the 'hero's mother is a royal virgin,' to the more ambiguous 'the hero's mother is a virgin.'  He modifies that the hero's 'father is a king' to the far more open 'father is a king or the heir of a king' in order to include Jesus' claimed Davidic lineage.   He also excludes from his scale that the attempt on the hero's life at birth is 'usually by his father or his maternal grandfather.  Carrier adds the qualifying 'one or more foster-parents' when the hero is spirited away to a far country, while Raglan only states 'foster-parents.'  A significant change Carrier makes is that the hero is only 'crowned, hailed, or becomes king' whereas Raglan states that the hero 'becomes king.'   Another important change made by Carrier is that the hero's 'body turns up missing' whereas Raglan's list has that the 'body is not buried.'  After examination, it is clear that Carrier has modified Raglan's qualifications in order to make this archetypal hero model better fit the Jesus tradition."  
Frankly, I am surprised even Richard Carrier would stoop to making such changes without informing his readers.  And looking over those pages again, I find that he didn't. 
What is Carrier's reaction?  First he tries a little psychobabble and historical revisionism, poking at me:
"Finally, Gullotta takes aim at the Rank-Raglan argument that freaks out everyone else like him.  I've already rebutted their frightened obsession with this in my response to Christian fundamentalist David Marshall, notably also an adviser to Gullotta (as listed on the title note)."
It always amazes me how many errors atheist fundamentalists like Richard Carrier manage to pack into so few words (it is like a form of poetry): 
1.  I am not a "fundamentalist."
2. Gullotta did not cite me anywhere in the article. 
3. Still less did I "advise" him on anything.  (Though I have now.)
4. I am unsure in what sense I am like Mr. Gullotta, a PhD student at Stanford whose views about almost anything are left unclear in the one piece of his I have read. 
5. Carrier's response to my book was lame in the extreme: indeed, I am amazed that he still dares show his face publicly, after such a counter-factual hysterical outburst.   
6. But let me assure Richard, the fact that I wrote ten pages on this subject in Jesus is No Myth, one quarter of which were quotes from him (a practice he ought to emulate), or even that I'm mentioning the subject here again, neither constitutes an "obsession" nor a fear.  More on my real feelings and motivations for writing below.   
Carrier claims he was being generous to Jesus when he reworked RR:  
"I explain (on page 231) that by making the criteria even broader than Gullotta thinks Rank and Raglan had applied them, this should have increased the number of historical persons who score above half.  In other words, I set each criteria more general than specified.  Thus, it should be easier for someone who really existed to score.  That they don't, actually makes what I did a stronger argument for my conclusion, not a weaker one as Gullotta mistakenly claims." (Carrier's emphases)
If Carrier is going to rework the criteria so radically, why call it Rank Raglan?  Why not call it the Carrier, Richard Archetype for Mythology (CRAM)? 
But remarkably, in a footnote from 232 to 233, Carrier criticizes other people for "making the criteria even broader," (just as he does!) to include Alexander the Great and Mithradates of Pontus.  "They can only be inappropriately overscored by an inappropriately loose assignment of criteria."  Yet at the very same moment, Carrier himself is loosening the criteria without telling his readers, so as to "over-score" Jesus, along with all the other shenanigans he has cooked up, described above.  So it's right and proper to loosen criteria when it comes to Jesus, without mentioning the fact, but underhanded to do so with Alexander. 
And if that is how the game is played, expanding categories strategically to make general types fit individual cases better, imagine the conclusions we can reach:  
"An elf is a sentient being who lives in the woods, or gets its PhD at a university within walking distance of Central Park."
"An elf is capable of mild forms of magic, including sleight of hand with the premises of historical arguments."
"The hair on an elf's head resembles forest foliage, often curving like new ferns."
"Elves kill goblins and curse fundamentalist, math-deficient liars who spit in the face of Moses." 
"Therefore, Richard Carrier is Legolas' second cousin."  
All great fun.  But such sleight-of-hand spoils the one virtue I admitted Carrier's RR argument held: the use of pre-set criteria to check one's bias.  Carrier is back in cherry-picking land.   He is demonstrating the value of my own approach to the gospels, which is based on analyzing the original texts first, finding qualities that they share, and then rigorously comparing other texts to the gospels according to a clear list of pre-set criteria.  But he is demonstrating the value of good method by showing what happens when you use bad method -- twisting RR criteria AND the texts AND his own historical methods to make a poor case for nothing.    
"Listen to that rant!  How Marshall obsesses over my argument!  He must be cowering in fear!"

There you go again.  

"Freaked Out" by Rank-Raglan-Carrier?
Carrier further protests that Rank Raglan is not really so important to his argument, so why do people (apologists in particular) get so upset about it?  Do these hysterical Christians and historicists not demonstrate their frightened desperation by attacking an argument that, in the end, Carrier uses to only generate a fairly weak (on the low end) prior probability against Jesus ever walking the Earth?
Maybe I should buy a mood ring so Richard can tell my emotions. 
Sometimes when I begin reading a new book debunking Christianity, I do feel a slight tinge of fear.  Could this be the work that actually makes a convincing case?  I never end those books in that mood, though.  
I do not consider Richard Carrier, or even Bart Ehrman or the old Jesus Seminar, serious threats to the Christian faith.  Some people are talked out of their faith by such persons, so it is worthwhile rebutting their arguments.  More importantly to me, they often bring up facts and lines of reasoning that, when properly examined, strongly support the truth of Christianity.  And I find it fun to search for those treasures.  I debunk arguments like Rank Raglan not because I think them important, but partly for amusement, and partly because I find them symptomatic.   It is like working a rich mine that was dug by a miner with a burnt-out headlamp, who did the work of excavating some of the depths of the classical world, but missed huge gold nuggets and glittering sapphires shining from the very works he excavated. 
Richard Carrier is not a serious thinker or a very good historian.  But he is dedicated, and he is ingenious.  In all his fumbling, he does sometimes light on interesting texts, many of which (I show in Jesus is No Myth) prove pure gold for demonstrating the credibility of the Christian gospels, once you shine a proper light upon them.  

Saturday, February 03, 2018

A challenge to Robert Williams

Amazon is a fun place, but I wish the natives would wittle up some sharper spears.  Here's a critic, I think an editor in real life, who once wrote a poor review of The Truth Behind the New Atheism which I debunked on Amazon, trying to describe me and my motives to another skeptic.  I then offer a response, encouraging him to think deeper and read better: 

"I'm not sure if you are entirely aware that David Marshall's main occupation and preoccupation, beyond writing non-selling books has been to systematically trash every Atheist writer and book he can lay his quivering hands on, especially those sold here on Amazon. He does this because he is a slobbering jealous malcontent who is completely outraged because books by Dan Barker and Richard Dawkins are outselling his own tomes, ten to one.

"Curiously, one might conclude that this is due in part to the recent rise in popularity of New Atheism, however, this would be incorrect because even half cracked biblical twits like Lee Strobel and Ken Ham have no difficulties peddling their own books by the thousands, perhaps even millions. The real reason for this disparity is because David's books, although having some really good ideas, cause the reader to stop half way through and ask himself, what in the world is this guy talking about? The unsuspecting reader quickly becomes lost and awash in a bewildering trail of convoluted rhetoric, profusely speckled with the names of every important person David has ever heard of. Reality fades and quickly dissipates together with all logic, sensibility and reason .

"David also defends his own works like a hungry mastiff guarding a greasy bone and viciously attacks anyone and everyone who dares to discredit his love for Jesus naritive with a single one star review. But that's the nature of religion."

Robert: You say you "always try to give Marshall the credit he deserves," but then in this very thread, you tell the most ridiculous falsehoods about me.  (Again.)

"I'm not sure if you are entirely aware that David Marshall's main occupation and preoccupation, beyond writing non-selling books has been to systematically trash every Atheist writer and book he can lay his quivering hands on . . . "

#1 No, my "main occupation," actually, is to run a school.  Amazon is a hobby.
#2 I have, indeed, posted hundreds of book reviews on-line over the past twenty years.  But only a small minority were by atheists.  Despite my wretched writing, those reviews have garnered some 14,000 "helpful" votes so far, even occasional comments like "Best.  Review.   Ever."   I enjoy this hobby very much, and try to give readers a truthful anticipation of what they will find in the books I recommend or censor. 
#3 SOME books by atheists I reviewed favorably, when they deserved it, such as Bertrand Russell's autobiography, and Phil Zuckerman's fascinating account of secularism in Scandinavia.   Also Richard Dawkins' beautiful book on evolution comes to mind. 
#4 I only post negative reviews of books I find poorly written, poorly-argued, tendentious, dishonest, fanatical -- in short, more or less the kind of book you seem to like.  (Except the poorly written part -- let me try to be fair.)  So no wonder we disagree on specifics. 

"especially those sold here on Amazon. He does this because he is a slobbering jealous malcontent who is completely outraged because books by Dan Barker and Richard Dawkins are outselling his own tomes, ten to one."

#5 A lot more than that.
#6 But your psychobabble is self-evidently absurd, because I give five stars to many books, MOST of which are best-sellers, or at least sell better than mine.  Of course that includes Russell's book.  And I EVEN posted a positive review of Dawkins' beautiful book on evolution.  So your psychological acuity leaves something to be desired.  That's two bad guesses about my motives.

"Curiously, one might conclude that this is due in part to the recent rise in popularity of New Atheism, however, this would be incorrect because even half cracked biblical twits like Lee Strobel and Ken Ham have no difficulties peddling their own books by the thousands, perhaps even millions. The real reason for this disparity is because David's books, although having some really good ideas, cause the reader to stop half way through and ask himself, what in the world is this guy talking about?"

# 7 I accept your report that you often failed to get my point.  My working class parents, however, and my carpenter brother, also other working-class readers, generally seem to understand.  My own suspicion is that ill-will explains the frequent failure of determined skeptics to follow even easy contrary arguments -- as when after our debate, Richard Carrier posted a "review" of Jesus is No Myth that misrepresented almost every single facet of the book that he mentioned, even its main point, while calling me lots of nasty names and wishing a premature death upon me.  The bias is often father to the misreading.   

"The unsuspecting reader quickly becomes lost and awash in a bewildering trail of convoluted rhetoric, profusely speckled with the names of every important person David has ever heard of. Reality fades and quickly dissipates together with all logic, sensibility and reason."

#8 Odd, then, that so many reviewers have commented on how well-written my books are.  But I try not to talk down to people: I think most readers like to see arguments framed in their larger contexts.  As an historian, I make no apology for appealing to that bigger picture, and the names of people associated with it.   
#9 I also think the reason survives just fine, even if it escapes many atheists.  (They are often sloppy jail-keepers.)

"David also defends his own works like a hungry mastiff guarding a greasy bone and viciously attacks anyone and everyone who dares to discredit his love for Jesus naritive (sic) with a single one star review. But that's the nature of religion."

#10 It seems to be the nature of the New Atheism that its defenders will tell even the most taudry and absurd falsehoods to defend it. 

Again, I have given positive reviews to works by Dawkins, Russell, Loftus (he even asked for a blurb, which I gave), and Zuckerman, among other skeptics.  Susan Jacoby's well-written history of American secularism also comes to mind. So your accusation is just false.  Therefore your reading of my psychology is as false as the mistaken premises on which it is based. 

But yeah, I am inclined to refute lame rebuttals of my arguments.  Is there something wrong with that? 

The solution, were you to avail yourself of it, and which would make me growl and snap less, would be for you to read with a more open mind, and then make better and more sincere arguments for whatever point you find yourself unconvinced about.  The world has enough over-generalizations, poorly-evidenced premises, flat-out falsehoods (such as that you try to give me fair credit), and psychobabble, already.  I gather you can write.  I have yet to see much evidence that you can read well, but I'd be delighted to encounter it. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Have Trump Supporters Killed Christianity?

That's what Miguel de la Torre says.  At least in the US: 


See the source image
A typical evangelical worship service. 
"Christianity has died in the hands of Evangelicals. Evangelicalism ceased being a religious faith tradition following Jesus’ teachings concerning justice for the betterment of humanity when it made a Faustian bargain for the sake of political influence. The beauty of the gospel message — of love, of peace and of fraternity — has been murdered by the ambitions of Trumpish flimflammers who have sold their souls for expediency. No greater proof is needed of the death of Christianity than the rush to defend a child molester in order to maintain a majority in the U.S. Senate."

Miguel isn't the first liberal Christian to express concerns in such rhetoric.  While I did not vote for Donald Trump, and indeed wrote an e-book in the vain hope of stopping him in the primaries, after the election I responded to such worries at The Stream.  

But De La Torre is exceptionally overwrought.
 
(1) Do "evangelicals" really have the power to kill "Christianity?"  Wouldn't Catholicism at least survive the apocalypse?  What about Christians who are not white evangelicals?  Shouldn't a remnant survive among the black churches, even on his End-Times premises? 

(2) Was Jesus mainly teaching "justice for the betterment of humanity?"  No doubt justice and progress were in there somewhere, but I seem also to remember other teachings about loving your enemies, for instance.  To whom would that apply in Mr. De La Torre's case?    

(3) I met a lot of evangelical Trump voters last fall, as I traveled around the US speaking on Jesus is No Myth.  But what they most often expressed concern about, the reason they said they were going to vote for the man, was to save the lives of unborn children.  Is the devil really in favor of that?  Last I recall, it was God who got mad when idolaters sacrificed babies to the gods.  So far as that goes, seems to me those voters were on the side of the unfallen angels. 

(4)  Roy Moore LOST.  That is quite an achievement for a Republican in the state of Alabama.   Would a Democrat lose to a Republican in Washington State if forty years ago, he had dated a teenage girl?  Are you kidding?  The last mayor of Seattle won despite (apparently true) allegations of abusing boys.  

I doubt if Moore had really enjoyed the solid support of evangelicals that he could have lost that seat.  And that despite the fact that a Democratic Senator is bound to support the nomination of Supreme Court justices who will go along with the legal fiction that the Constitution disallows the states from passing laws against killing unborn children.  

(5) Yes Moore dated teenage girls when he was in his early 30s.  Yes he made passes at some of them.  And Mohammed married a 9 year old girl when he was in his 50s, yet you also identify fear of the religion he founded, and that continues such practices by law in some Islamic countries, as a "phobia." 

Maybe I'm wrong: I haven't followed all the details.  But it seems to me that you have to stretch things pretty far to describe the Moore of 40 years later as a "child molester" based on those early, consensual dates.  And I think we should be careful about calling people that name: use it too often, and it looses potency where it is needed.  

De La Torre is on a tear, though: 


"Evangelicals have constructed an exclusive interpretation which fuses and confuses white supremacy with salvation. Only those from the dominant culture, along with their supposed inferiors who with colonized minds embrace assimilation, can be saved. But their salvation damns Jesus. To save Jesus from those claiming to be his heirs, we must wrench him from the hands of those who use him as a fa├žade from which to hide their phobias — their fear of blacks, their fear of the undocumented, their fear of Muslims, their fear of everything queer.'
(6) Which evangelicals have "fused white supremacy with salvation?"  What is this man even talking about?  I've been to hundreds of evangelical churches around the world (with fellow believers of all colors -- this morning's worship here in China was led by a group composed of about 70% Zimbabweans 30% Americans), and have never run into even a hint of such nonsense.
Isn't it a bit odious to glibly accuse a whole class of Christians -- big enough to destroy Christianity, so we must not be talking about a few fringe cases - of such awful crimes?
(7) Given that more than 60% of Christians in the world today live outside of Europe and North America now, where does De la Torre get off implying that such believers have "colonized minds?"   In my little cohort at the Oxford Centre for Missions Studies where I worked on my PhD, we had an Indian working in Japan, a Romanian, a Burmese, a Nigerian, an English, and Americans working in China (me) and Romania.  Dozens of countries were represented in our meetings, as we sang  one another's songs, read one another's articles, critiqued and received criticism.  If my work was supervised by a Chinese in Hong Kong and an Indian in Calcutta, then critiqued by an Indian from Kenya teaching at the University of Bristol, the thought never even crossed my mind that anything was amiss, still less that I was the colonizer and my supervisors and critics those colonized.  
What a small, sad little world Mr. De La Torre seems to live in. 
(8) Fear of Islam?  The premise is that there is nothing to fear in Islam.  Is that because ideologies in general never hurt people?  Or that in his career of aggressive conquest, rape, enslaving, and assassination, Mohammed in particular set no worrisome example for the likes of Osama bin Laden to follow?
Why are evangelicals evil because some supported a 34 year old who once dated (not raped) a 14 year old, and also evil because they don't support a 53 year old who raped (not dated) a nine-year-old?  
Anyway, calling the fear a "phobia" begs the question. 
(9) "Fear of the undocumented?"  Is the assumption that nations have no right to enforce their borders?  Or does that rule only apply to one nation?  
(10) Given that radical "queers" have taken to driving Christians out of business for not affirming their unions, it appears fear in some cases is justified.
(11) I think De La Torre just adds "fear of blacks" because he wants to build a coalition against evangelicals, and that kind of coalition (otherwise known as a lynch mob) is best assembled in this way.   
De La Torre tears on: 
"Evangelicalism has ceased to be a faith perspective rooted on Jesus the Christ and has become a political movement whose beliefs repudiate all Jesus advocated.  A message of hate permeates their pronouncements, evident in sulphurous proclamations like the Nashville Statement, which elevates centuries of sexual dysfunctionalities since the days of Augustine by imposing them upon Holy Writ. They condemn as sin those who express love outside the evangelical anti-body straight jacket."

(12) The "straightjacket" referred to here is the following horribly confining restriction from Nashville: 

"Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God." 

Because Jesus, as a good 21st Century Democrat, boldly and clearly affirmed that we have a right to make up our own gender identity.  

Oddly enough, on a recent visit to San Francisco, I noticed that airport restrooms even in that city are also likewise restricted to this oppressive binary choice.  When I worked on a Russian fishing ship, the biologist who was responsible for "sexing" the fish also Puritanically confined himself to categorizing them in just two ways.  

Maybe De La Terre should begin his revolution at SFO, or on a fishing boat.

(13) "Express love" here,  of course, means "sex."  The Nashville Statement never forbids anyone from washing dishes for your friend, or giving him a ride to the airport, or taking care of his kids while he's out with his wife -- means of expressing love which De La Torre seems to overlook. 

(14) "Sexual disfunction" appears to refer to life-long love between one man and one woman.  Proper function refers to, uh, putting round pegs in square . . . gee, it's hard to be vague enough to avoid being obscene, trying to explain what De La Terre thinks is proper sexual function.    

The preacher rolls on like a river: 


"Evangelicalism’s unholy marriage to the Prosperity Gospel justifies multi-millionaire bilkers wearing holy vestments made of sheep’s clothing who discovered being profiteers rather than prophets delivers an earthly security never promised by the One in whose name they slaughter those who are hungry, thirsty and naked, and the alien among them. Christianity at a profit is an abomination before all that is Holy.  From their gilded pedestals erected in white centers of wealth and power, they gaslight all to believe they are the ones being persecuted because of their faith."
(15) Translation: "Some preachers scam their flocks, as Jesus warned, and all those I disagree with in the Church support them in doing so.  (How dare you call me a liar!)  Also a bunch of poor people are getting murdered somewhere -- sorry I don't have time to tell you who or where, or report the murderers to the police -- take my word for it that the whole evangelical church is in on the crime."  
(16) "Also evangelicals are really powerful, and did I mention they're all white?"
(This pablum was shared by almost 27,000 people, can you believe it?) 
"Evangelicalism’s embrace of a new age of ignorance, blames homosexuality for Harvey’s rage rather than considering the scientific consequences climate change has on the number of increasing storms of greater and greater ferocity.  To ignore the damage caused to God’s creation so the few can profit in raping Mother Earth causes celebrations in the fiery pits of Gehenna."

(17)  Christopher Landsea says there's no measurable increase in hurricane frequency in recent decades, not related to Global Warming, anyway.  But what does he know?  He's just the Science and Operations Officer at the National Hurricane Center.  

(18) Hell rejoices because Mother Earth is being "raped" for the rich?  But what "few" is profiting from, say, oil extraction?  Does Mr. De La Terre own an automobile?  Is he raping Mother Earth?  Or perhaps that union should be counted as proper sexual function, since it doesn't involve anything so bourgeois as a man and a woman getting married?  


"Evangelicalism forsakes holding a sexual predator, an adulterer, a liar and a racist accountable, instead serving as a shield against those who question POTUS’ immorality because of some warped reincarnation of Cyrus.  Laying holy hands upon the incarnation of the very vices Jesus condemned to advance a political agenda — instead of rebuking and chastising in loving prayer — has prostituted the gospel in exchange for the victory of a Supreme Court pick."
(19) Whatever else De La Terre  may be, he is a crap writer: even purple prose shouldn't need Google Translator to make sense.  What is that first sentence supposed to mean?  De La Terre seems to think eloquence means laying allusions on with a trowel until they stiffen into concrete and topple on the reader and crush his cranium. 
(20) I didn't vote for Trump, but I'm glad we have an honest man in the Supreme Court who will interpret, not make, the law, and probably won't pretend the Constitution sanctifies baby-killing.  (There, now I'm going purple!  It's catching!)
"Evangelicalism either remained silent or actually supported Charlottesville goose steppers because they protect their white privilege with the doublespeak of preserving heritage, leading them to equate opponents of fascist movements with the purveyors of hatred.  Jesus has yet recovered from the vomiting induced by the Christian defenders of torch-wielding white nationalists calling for “blood-and-soil.”
(21) De La Terre should have his mouth washed out with soap for the phrase "evangelicalism remained silent or supported goose steppers."  Such an ugly abstraction cannot speak or not speak: it is a reification.  
But I don't know anyone who had anything good to say about the Nazis in Charlottesville, or anywhere else.  If De La Terre has located such a clown, good for him: I've located a De La Terre, shared by 27,000 left-wingers, to balance his absurdities out:  
"The Evangelicals’ Jesus is satanic, and those who hustle this demon are “false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (2 Cor. 11:13-15, NIV).

(22) Now American evangelicals are all going to go to hell.  And you thought the Westboro Baptists were nasty.  


"You might wonder if my condemnation is too harsh. It is not, for the Spirit of the Lord has convicted me to shout from the mountaintop how God’s precious children are being devoured by the hatred and bigotry of those who have positioned themselves as the voice of God in America."
(23) Now evangelicals are not only killing people in the streets (but not, De La Terre does not claim, in the womb), we are eating them as well.  And the Spirit of God, which once seemed to be against homosexual acts and the killing of babies, has revealed this to our dear brother Miguel.  
Would it be crazy of me to suppose Miguel's conscience might be bothering him in some way?  
"As a young man, I walked down the sawdust aisle at a Southern Baptist church and gave my heart to Jesus. Besides offering my broken heart, I also gave my mind to understanding God, and my arm to procuring God’s call for justice. I have always considered myself to be an evangelical, but I can no longer allow my name to be tarnished by that political party masquerading as Christian. Like many women and men of good will who still struggle to believe, but not in the evangelical political agenda, I too no longer want or wish to be associated with an ideology responsible for tearing humanity apart. But if you, dear reader, still cling to a hate-mongering ideology, may I humbly suggest you get saved."

So repent and feel the Bern!  By supporting Donald Trump (to some extent), we have lost this gentle brother from the Church of Evangelicalism!  

But welcome to the club -- sort of.    


I personally do not particular identify as an "evangelical."  I think of myself, beyond my deserts, and often beyond even my honest wishes, to be a follower of Jesus.  I find my fellow believers on the Right and Left, in Catholic and Orthodox churches as well as in Assembly of God, Foursquare, Southern Baptist, PC-USA, Methodist, home churches here in China and the Three Self, High Church and Low Church, several believers in the school where I work whose politics and whose denominational affiliations I have never even thought to ask.  

Humanity is already torn apart already.  We Christians do not always solve that problem.  People in churches, like people everywhere, like to argue, and often get into fights.  

But I don't see anything in this post by Mr. De La Terre that is humble or kind or understanding or fair and helpful.  Certainly nothing that brings people on different sides of important issues together.  Miguel literally, not figuratively, demonizes those he disagrees with.  We are murderers (just not of babies) and cannibals and racists and everything vile and evil.  

I look around me, and I see Christians -- evangelical Christians -- who vote Republican and paint peoples' houses and fix pipes, who bring meals to the hungry.  Arthur Brooks tells me that those who go to church regularly give four times as much to charity as those who do not in the United States.  Most of them vote for the Party of Lincoln.  I have seen that generosity and that Christ-likeness in many (of course not all) who attend evangelical churches.  I have no trouble believing it is also true of many Christians on the left, and in other churches.  

The weird thing is, De La Terre actually thinks he stands against hatred.  Many of his other columns, in their purple prose, boldly take that stand:

"Hatred has won."  (Meaning Republicans.)

"I refuse to base my actions (dancing in the street when Fidel Castro died) on hatred."

Yet his writing is a sticky, gooey, gloppy mass of vitriol.  A large, eager market for hostility is the only explanation I can find for why so vitriolic a glop of cyber-ink as this column could prove so popular.

Indeed, De La Terre is a warning of the extremes of hatred to which polarized politics are pushing us these days.  Let us step back from the brink, and see each other with at least an attempt at understanding.  And let us not judge everyone on the other side by the sins of the worst.