Monthly Archives: March 2013

Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Rights and Laws: Arbitrarily Defining Everything?

My little rant for today.

It seems to me that gay rights activists are using the back door of civil rights to argue their case. Essentially, they are putting the cart before the horse. Here is how it works. First there are civil rights. Civil rights are about equality before the law. Then you have family law, marriage law, maritime law, etc. These laws deal with specifics and make PREJUDGMENTS about certain things. For example, through the legislative process, we come to make a law that says: “All families with children deserve tax breaks.” Civil law/rights would say that someone’s civil rights have been abrogated if a family with children did not receive a tax break. A family with NO children cannot say that their civil rights have been violated. If they did, they would have to show how this is so.

Well the same thing goes for marriage. Marriage law makes a PREJUDGMENT about what a marriage is–what it consists of. One cannot claim that their civil rights are being abrogated if they don’t fit an a priori definition. Law at a base level is about defining things. This is this and is not that. This is that and not this. It is not about arbitrary definitions. This whole debate, in my opinion, needs to be understood against that backdrop. The reason I say that is because it is an injustice when law, dealing with ANY matter does not define things properly. If you don’t think this is an issue? All you need to do is look up the “Pullman Strike” of 1894 where paternalism, in which a company viewed it’s employees as “family” was at least partly to blame for the mess caused there. You can read that here:

Thus, I would be worried about a government or law that arbitrarily defines ANYTHING.

Personal Purity and the Common Good

I saw this post

on my newsfeed from Peter Enns’on facebook yesterday and thought I would give a little rant about it. It’s becoming ever so popular today to dismiss the “purity movement” via personal piety. What I mean is that many Christians like Jamie, in this post, want to say that “purity” is so much more than sexual purity. Yeah, OK. I get that (though I would add that if one concerns themselves with sexual purity that that is not simply one part of their life cut off from the rest of their life–self-control is self control. It’s hard to imagine for one to have self-control with regard to sex but not have it with regard to, for example, your imagination or other drives for that matter).

But that’s the problem with blog posts like these. Everything is in one basket. As if the purity movement is all about, “Sexual purity! Sexual purity! Sexual purity! Rah! Rah! Rah! Zist boom bah!” “White knuckle Power!” (I can imagine a fist on a flag being waved around). Look at a few of Jamie’s statements:

“The second is from the Church, and it tells us that sex outside of marriage is the biggest deal of all the deals ever.”

“You’ve had sex outside of marriage? *gasp* So what! You are so much more than your sexuality.”

“Do I want my boys to wait? Absolutely. And they know it! But I refuse to tie their value as a human being to their junk like a shiny red balloon.”

“But I also want them to understand that the kind of sexual purity the Bible calls us to doesn’t begin or end with Virginity – It’s way bigger than that. It’s way more significant. And it’s way harder to hold on to.”

These are reflective of personal piety. Technically, I agree with that. Why purity in one area but not another? Again, as I said in a former post, what is real purity? Excellent point. I agree with it.

The problem is that we are not just talking about simple purity ON THIS LEVEL. Sex is also about “the good life” or relatedly, “the common good.” I don’t think many “younger evangelicals” are thinking on this level much at all.

Why has there been a call for sexual purity? Because, IDEALLY it is ALSO about the common good. Just take a look at what Josh McDowell says in, “Why Wait?”

“No, sex is not a private act when:
–unwanted children pay the price;
–the public pays the price.
–it results in deadly public epidemics.”
Pg. 52

I don’t know about you, but even with all the advanced reproductive technology, the usual way of still having babies is sexual intercourse. The usual way of getting STD’s or STI’s is still sexual intercourse. We’re not just talking about having pizza for dinner tonight with not much PUBLIC concern. Sure, there are going to be all kinds of times when people will have sex and not have unwanted children. Or when folks will have sex and not get some disease. But again, the best way to not having those unnecessary problems is to abstain from activities that will increase one’s chances of getting them. On THIS LEVEL? I’m really not that interested in personal Christian piety.

The Rule of Countercultural Witness: Analyzing What Warrants It Pt. 3

This is the last in this series of postings on this subject and more can be said, ie. the problem of trajectories in scripture, but I’m only keeping it to these issues so as to not overload the reader with details.

So, overall, what we have in the rule as Cosgrave states is this:

“The rule of countercultural witness depends on two basic theological judg-
ments: (1) that the Bible is a human witness to the divine word in which
God’s revelation is communicated but also distorted and (2) that God is
against ideology, that is, opposed to those cultural norms, values, institu-
tions, etc. that serve the interests of the more powerful at the expense of the
less powerful. These two judgments support the following two inferences:
(1) that one of the ways in which the Bible faithfully communicates the di-
vine revelation is by witnessing to God’s protest against ideology and
(2) that one of the ways in which the Bible distorts the divine revelation is through ideological distortion. The rule of countercultural witness dis- I
criminates between ideological assimilation and counter-ideological pro-
test in scripture. The rule accords special weight to those voices in scripture
that advocate for the socially powerless or marginalized against dominant
cultural value systems. The rule presumes that these marginalized voices
have a greater claim than culturally-affiliating voices to speak for the God
made known in Jesus Christ who, in order to save both oppressed and op-
pressor, joined with the outcasts, the suspects, the maltreated, the power-
less, the weak.”

Essentially, one of the problems of the countercultural witness rule is what I hinted at in the previous post but want to look at a little closer here. Though the rule does not consider everything that is countercultural as good or its opposite, that everything culturally normative is bad it, as Cosgrave says, it “focuses on culture as a vehicle of asymmetrical power relations.”

As a result, it is presumed by most everyone that works with the rule that everything that “every countercultural interest or value of the disenfranchised is morally good. Well, you can already see where something like this goes. There may be some moral practices that are treated good that shouldn’t be. Now, if those working with the countercultural rule respond to this by showing that something must be “manifestly unjust or immoral” the problem with this is, manifestly unjust and immoral to whom?

An example that Cosgrave uses is that of chattel slavery. For slaveholders, the emancipation of slaves meant a “signified loss of ‘property’ and being placed on equal footing with blacks.” And for those who do not adhere to the countercultural witness rule? They do so on the basis of what THEY consider as manifestly unjust or immoral.

In our age of liberation people working with the rule of countercultural witness wonder how people at that time could have thought that slavery or patriarchy was morally good. They work with an “ideology as a vindication of the theory of ideology as an explanatory system”–a sort of circular argument. In other words, they use ideology so as “to map the moral landscape today in order to position themselves against ideology.”

Now, if you are on the “receiving end” of those who adhere to this rule they more than likely will see you as not giving greater credence to those with less power. For them, if you are to have moral knowledge of the powerless, it HAS to come from the powerless. They are the best voices. The minority voices.

But there is a problem with this. There is the question of whether a potential ideology is EVER GENERATED FROM BELOW. And the reason why this is, is because it is questioned that those who ARE disenfranchised are ever really able to do so in a way that is countercultural. In other words, do the disenfranchised produced ALTERNATIVE VISIONS that are either:

A. variations of the ruling ideology and hence not really countercultural (though they may potentially be)?
B. are genuinely utopian?

Now, if the disenfranchised produce potential visions that are both alternative AND a variation of the dominant ideology that are POTENTIAL then it is very well possible that this will be so for “B,” utopian visions. And to the extent “that advocates of utopian visions make their case from dominant traditions (including a revered past) they show their visions to be in some sense variations of the dominant tradition.” In other words, “Revolution must borrow from what it inevitably wants to destroy.” (Roland Barthes, “Writing Degree Zero”). So, even though there is always continuity with the past, a sort of paradox and dialectic, one should still be cautious in the use of the rule as such.

Lastly, according to Cosgrave, because the rule depends on a general moral hermeneutic of the oppressed, is it not really repeating what one knows through ideological critique? If such is the case, then one is really not APPEALING to scripture but rather, is appealing to an hermeneutic so as to provide a way of validating or invalidating the voices of scripture. There are many influences that bear upon us as we read the Bible and even an ideology has a place. However, when it comes down to it, the “church’s understanding of the Bible as a whole can appropriately shape the church’s hermeneutical approach to the Bible in any of it’s parts.” Thus, even if you are a feminist theologian, the Bible will have an authority based in “scripture’s overall redemptive purpose which would include redemption of scripture from the bondage of patriarchy.”

In the end, Cosgrave says that ideology, while providing a basis for a rule, the rule is presumptive at best and not final or absolute force. As a presumptive force, the rule would/should be “controlling UNLESS and UNTIL countervailing reasons are adduced against its application in a particular instance.”