Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The puzzle of Matt. 5:38-41

In Matthew’s report of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.  And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”

Mainstream Christians essentially ignore this pretty clear instruction.  They go to war, they fight back, they sue etc.  It is only some of the smaller denominations who take it seriously: Traditional Quakers, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses etc.  I respected my Bible from an early age so, at around age 14, I became a pacifist in obedience to that scripture.  Not long after I became an atheist, I joined the army.

But the reason why the scripture is mostly ignored is that it runs against all nature.  No-one naturally behaves that way.  It is anti-instinctual.  But despite my defection from Christianity, I have always wondered if I was missing something in that teaching.  And I now think I was.

As any serious Bible student will tell you, context can be enormously important in studying scripture.  The "proof-text" approach to exegesis can easily get it wrong.  You have to study what went before and after a passage as well as the passage itself.

So what context do we need to understand Matthew 5:38ff?  Is it the commandment to love others as ourselves?  That would certainly fit as equally unrealistic. But "I came not to bring peace but a sword" (Matthew 10:34) would seem an outright contradiction.

I think the context we need is in fact the whole of the Gospels.  We have to look at the whole message of the Gospels.  And that message is that Jesus knew from the beginning he was a new and different teacher and that his difference would get him killed.  And he saw great meaning in his life and death.  And the time he spent teaching his disciples tells us that he did not see his death as the end of his message.  He wanted his teachings to survive and be passed on. And exactly that happened, of course.

But part of his foresight was that his disciples would be persecuted -- so it was important that he give them ways of surviving that.  He had to tell them to behave in a way that would protect them.  He had to give them what modern-day psychologists call "de-escalation techniques".  Above all else they had to avoid getting killed by hostile others.  And in Matthew 5:38ff he taught exactly how.  He taught his disciples to be unthreatening and even likable when confronted with hostility.  He was giving them lessons in survival against great threat -- things to do right from that point onwards, not rules for all times and all situations.  And when modern-day psychologists look at his rules they will see that his de-escalation techniques were pretty good. You can turn down hostility if you go about it the right way.

So Matthew 5:38ff was the practical aspect of his teachings.  What at first sight seems totally impractical was in fact superbly practical. The survival of Christianity attests to that. -- JR


A totally unhinged health-care debate

by Jeff Jacoby

Democrats protest in front of a Harlem school last week before the expected visit of House Speaker Paul Ryan.
THE ANONYMOUS comment sections of many publications are notorious for their incivility and malignant smears. But in the debate over replacing Obamacare with a Republican alternative, the American Health Care Act, the online trolls and fever-swamp fanatics have been hard to distinguish from mainstream politicians, journalists, and commentators.

Listen to some what passes for political discourse these days.

"Donald Trump and Republicans just celebrated voting to let thousands of Americans die so that billionaires get tax breaks." Those are the words of a prominent US senator.
"They" — Republican House members who voted for the AHCA — "should be lined up and shot. That's not hyperbole; blood is on their hands." So fumes a professor at the Art Institute of Washington.

"I hope every GOPer who voted for Trumpcare sees a family member get long-term condition, lose insurance, and die. I want the GOPers who support this to feel the pain in their own families. . . . I want them to be tortured." Those sentiments are expressed via Twitter by a senior writer at Newsweek.
"The GOP Plan For Obamacare Could Kill More People Each Year Than Gun Homicides." That's the headline in Vox, a popular news and opinion website.

There is no shortage of additional examples, just as enraged or hysterical.

So much fury over dead Americans! So much loathing for ghouls who murdered them! A neophyte in the public square, encountering all this shrieking about blood and killing, might imagine that the nation was erupting over a military operation gone wrong, or a plot to release terrorists from supermax prisons.

But this is what discussions of public policy sound like now — even when the issues in contention are about insurance subsidies and Medicaid waivers, not war and peace. The most deranged charges are casually lobbed at political opponents, with little regard for truth. Political debate in America has grown so poisonous that it no longer comes as a shock to hear Democrats accuse Republicans of favoring changes in Obamacare because they want people to die. It isn't only nameless crazies in some unpaved alley of the internet who verbalize a desire to see conservatives "lined up and shot." Now writers for well-known newsmagazines tweet such vitriol too.

Some progressives justify the shredding of civil discourse; with Trump in the White House, they say, courtesy is a luxury the nation can't afford. "America, don't be polite in the face of demagoguery," exhorts Jessica Valenti in the Guardian. Representative Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat, is likewise unapologetic about resorting to rhetorical brutality. "This is a new time in politics where people are just blatantly lying and essentially producing policies that are going to kill people," Gallego tells CNN. "I think the old time of civility needs to go until we actually go back to the rules."

Trump's crude insults and noisome vulgarity are foul indeed. But the "old time of civility" was crumbling long before Trump entered national politics. An endless array of revolting political slanders was hurled against George W. Bush, for example — that he was a Nazi, that he ought to be assassinated, that he had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. Those attacks came not just from moonbats on the far-left fringe, but from respectable, mainstream pundits and politicians.

The collapse of respectful discourse in public life began decades ago. And if for many years it was a more common phenomenon on the left, too many on the right have learned to traffic in wild accusations and hateful talking points as well.

It was a Republican, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who told senior citizens back in 2009 that if the Affordable Care Act passed, "you're going to die soon." It was Representative Michele Bachmann, another Republican, who railed on the House floor that Obamacare "literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens." It was Sarah Palin, a GOP governor and vice-presidential nominee, who warned that under the ACA, the sick and the elderly would "have to stand in front of Obama's 'Death Panel'" and have bureaucrats decide if they live or die.

If, as a liberal, you were disgusted when Republicans resorted to such toxic arguments then, you should be horrified to hear your fellow liberals resort to them now. Conversely, if you're a mainstream conservative sickened at the way Democrats now play the "death" card, did you have the same objection when the GOP was doing so during the Obama years?

There were legitimate arguments to be made for and against enacting Obamacare; there are legitimate arguments to be made for and against replacing it. There are decent ways to argue that a given bill may have grave unintended consequences.

But it is wholly illegitimate and indecent to portray those who disagree with your view as eager champions of death and suffering. It is vile beyond words to avidly wish for them to be "lined up and shot" or to "be tortured" by the death of loved ones. Such fury should be deployed against the real monsters who threaten us — not against fellow Americans guilty of only a different political outlook. If we have forgotten how to tell the difference, we are in bigger trouble than we know.



Blonde in the Belly of the Beast

I like political arguments to be in writing so I rarely put up political videos.  But the young woman below is a "must" of an exception.  Just a sampling of her videos below.  Immediately below, she sees two of the layers of Leftism. I divide her group A into the purely emotional/feel good ones, and the image/status focused ones.

But she is a bit brutal. Considering what she suggests as a solution I am surprised this video of hers below has been allowed to remain on youtube.

She makes a point below that few will make. Many people side with  those who will do them most harm. Most lefties are basically cowards who lack individual initiative and principles. Therefore they will side with those who will ultimately do them most harm, not with those who are right, or who are good, or by those who would protect them and are their friends.

She has a website here with much more.  Incidentally, the "Belly of the Beast" appears to be Seattle.


ABC Cancels hate-filled ‘Real O’Neals’

The show was bigoted, vile and unfunny. The characters were one-dimensional, the gags were as obvious as they were offensive, and the entire thing never rose above predictable anti-Catholic, pro-gay agitprop. The ratings were bad and even the critics didn’t care for it. So of course ABC went ahead with development and then gave The Real O’Neals a second season.

But there won’t be a third. According to Deadline Hollywood, “ABC has canceled sophomore [sophomoric is more like it] comedy The Real O’Neals. The family comedy showed enough promise in its midseason launch last spring to get a second season but has delivered disappointing ratings in its second year.”

Supposedly based loosely on the youth of noted anti-bullying bully, militant gay activist, bigot and sex columnist Dan Savage, The Real O’Neals centered on an Irish Catholic family and their gay teenage son. Far from being a gentle send-up, the sitcom was as nasty and contemptuous of traditional family life and religion as Savage is himself. In the first episode MRC counted 93 separate visual or verbal reminders that the show targeted Catholics, including a statue of the Blessed Virgin on the toilet back to remind the O’Neal boys to “put the seat down.”

The characters were mired in hypocrisy and thoughtless, superstitious piety. The parents were splitting up, the young teen daughter stole from the poor box and the parish priest cried poverty but drove a Lexus. Episodes discussed gay porn, chronic masturbation, underage boys using gay dating apps to pick up older men, a wedding-like divorce ceremony, God being a woman and endless derision for the Church, it’s teachings and its people.

After ABC ordered the pilot for The Real O’Neals in 2015, MRC organized a protest, along with other conservative and religious organizations. The show lost at least one sponsor during its brief run thanks to the efforts of The Catholic League. But the show collapsed under the weight of its own hatred.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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