Trigger Alert! Merry Christmas!

In the first place, I would like to draw your attention to this chart helpfully supplied at the web site of one Rachel Held Evans. I will give you a second to go take a gander. As you do so, I would invite you to remember that what is sauce for the gander is sauce for the gaze. Or something like that.

Now that you are back, two quick points on the merits, and then I would like to move on to the aspect of this that really is wheeze-worthy.

First, persecution is defined by the Scriptures, and not by theological liberals who are in the process of shifting their loyalties over to the other side. The Lord Jesus defines persecution to include verbal abuse (Matt. 5:11). And Paul says Isaac was persecuted by Ishmael because he was laughed at (Gal. 4:29). So we are not limited to an entirely arbitrary list on a chart of false alternatives.

But second, I quite agree that conservative Christians ought not to be whining about any of this. There is nothing here to surprise us, and subbing in Winter Holiday for Christmas is not exactly a fiery trial yet.

I have discussed these points more thoroughly here.

So now, here is the fun part. Rachel Held Evans is lecturing us all on how we ought to be grown ups, and not get an owie on our feelings when a cashier neglects to acknowledge that Jesus is the reason for the season. Okay, but she is the same person who quoted from my book Fidelity last year. Before doing so, she cordoned off the offensive quote with a bright yellow “trigger warning: rape, sexual abuse.” Her post was written in a high dudgeon, for had I not said that the sexual act — when not performed by non-Euclideans — was not an egalitarian pleasuring party? I had done so, I confess it, and would be willing to say it again, if anybody would just ask.

On that occasion, she led the charge of a brigade of church ladies of both sexes, and they were apparently in search of a swooning couch, crying out as they went for the smelling salts of public apologies from those who differed with them, and in a number of other ways they all displayed the firm independence of the modern woman.
So I will conclude with a paraphrase and modification of an exhortation that she delivered to us at that time.

When your brother in Christ tells you that your words trigger upsetting images of it being always winter and never Christmas, and all those poor animals turned to stone, especially the baby squirrel, you should listen to him, not dismiss him.

But in order to do that, you will have to drop the Turkish Delight of your boxed egalitarianism, and get off the sled.

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87 comments on “Trigger Alert! Merry Christmas!

  1. It still bugs me that nobody ever went back and rescued the baby squirrel. It comes of that British reluctance to get too personal. If Edmund had ever been made to give his testimony, he might have gotten to, “And I finally started thinking about others when . . . Oh, crap! We never unstoned those poor critters at their Christmas party! Hey, Luce, do ya think your cordial would work for that? No? Well, somebody jot it down on a list of stuff to ask Aslan to fix next time anybody sees him.”

  2. Perhaps if RHE ever tried living biblically for a year or so, she might know what persecution feels like.  And I really think you should have titled this post “church ladies of both sexes.” 

  3. I remember when I was a kid, hearing Billy Graham telling kids from the pulpit that if they are getting a hard time for becoming a Christian, that is a form of persecution

  4. Yah know, with RHE I have kind of passed over to the other side.  I am no longer outraged, merely amused.  She is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
    Besides, such a loose canon is sooner or later bound to blow herself up.  What she has going is not a formula for lasting success.

  5. It is interesting and useful to be reminded that abuse, vilification and mockery are part of persecution.  I think one of the reasons many Christians are not awake to this reality is because the abuse, vilification and mockery is, in this day and age, largely not directed at them personally or even at individual Christians so much, but at the church, ‘evangelicals’, ‘creationists’, etc.  Because of our individualism we tend to assume that they are not talking about us, but as part of the body of Christ, of course they are talking about us.  I suspect we should take offence, or rather feel it, as intensely if not more so as a result.
    Which is not to suggest that we should react in ways that RHE is so annoyed by.  But an insult to Christ is an insult to his Church to whom he is united.  And he showed us how to react…and to rejoice.
    ‘…a charge of a brigade of church ladies…’.  A very ‘Light brigade’ in truth, such is the depth of their theology and last year’s foray resulted in a similarly disastrous exposure as the original ‘noble 600′, which, I have to say, was rather enjoyable to see unfold!
    ‘Canon to the right of them
    Canon to the left of them
    Cannon in front of them
    Volley’d and thunder’d.’
    There the similarity with the ‘noble 600′ ends!

  6. It was the noise of all that squawking over the quote that so offended RHE and some others that attracted my attention to these parts in the first place. 

  7. Thursday, I can’t help but wonder whether “loose canon” was a Chestertonian slip :)

  8. “church ladies of both sexes”  howls of derisive laughter.
    “…drop the Turkish Delight…and get off the sled.”  Good show :-)

  9. Didn’t RHE just loudly claim persecution of women last week when she was not invited to speak at “The Nines” Seminar? She refers to their response to her complaint as ‘patronization’.  You can read the conversation here:   http://storify.com/RachelHeldEvans/this-is-what-patronization-looks-like

  10. Dear Pastor Wilson,
    Thank you.   I have wrestled for a long time (years) with this question (How can I consider “minor” things persecution, even though they sure seem like more than an “owie”?) and had never had a satisfactory answer.  Two days ago I brought it to God and now he has spoken through your posts.  (And, I have learned I should have read the persecution Bible verses more attentively to find my answers!)

  11. I entirely agree with everything in this post, but I think she DOES have a point with the Happy Holidays thing. “Minor” forms of opposition and ridicule can certainly qualify as forms of persecution, but does someone saying Happy Holidays, even out of a conscious desire to avoid Merry Christmas, even meet that test? I’m not sure “not going along with Christian conventions” quite adds up to “persecution,” even though it might be associated with it sometimes. I think RHE has a tendency to mock the concerns of Christians if she does not share those concerns, and this would be of a piece with that, but I do wonder if the whole Happy Holidays thing hasn’t become something of a false issue in the first place  — a sort of deflection from where the real battle is, that’s easy to take up and fuss about. The battle is not waged on the level of an unbeliever mindlessly substituting a pseudo-secularized greeting for an explicitly Christian one he didn’t believe back when he said it, even if the substitution is a small side effect of the battle that is really being waged.

  12. Wow, absolutely chilling. You folks are welcome to practice this kind of thuggish patriarchy as long as it’s 100% voluntary on the part of all involved, men and women.
    But thank God for the separation of church and state, where under the law, men and women are equal, and all offices of secular authority are open to all.
     
     
     

  13. I have to confess at snorting in laughter a bit when I read “Trigger Alert.” I knew RHE would be mentioned.

  14. Doug.  There is a WORLD of difference between taking offense at a holiday phraseology (from the world)  that edits Christ’s name, intentionally or unintentionally, and asking a fellow Christian to consider that their words/approach might be offensive and traumatic to a significant percentage of their sisters.  Do you NOT see how your comparison minimizes sexual abuse????  No, apparently you don’t.  My 14 yr old son could discern that easily.  Shame on you.

  15. It is interesting and useful to be reminded that abuse, vilification and mockery are part of persecution. 

    Actually, no-one needs to be reminded of this, because everyone already knows it. The professionally-offended class knows that abuse, vilification and mockery are part of persecution and takes full advantage of that fact when listing their grievances against any who dare criticise them.

    ………………..

    It’s only when Christians start getting offended that the professionally-offended types start complaining about how sensitive people can be, and why don’t they try growing a thicker skin?

    ………….

    That said, Jane’s point about picking one’s battles is well taken.

  16. Happy Holidays and the surrounding furor illustrates one of the strangest aspects of social life, which is that groups often end up effectively taking a position more extreme than that which is held by any of the members.  I highly doubt that any significant number of Christians complaining about Happy Holidays literally think it is persecution, but nevertheless that is somehow the message sent and received.

  17. Matt: The issue for me is language control. Because of where I work, I could (possibly) get fired if I tell someone Merry Christmas and they get offended enough. THAT is persecution. It isn’t the words themselves it’s the coercion involved. If I didn’t get fired I am quite certain I would get “talked to” about not using the phrase with customers.

  18. SarahS, I agree with Jane’s point made above about levels of seriousness. But the thrust of this post was an illustration that RHE is using unequal weights and measures. Someone writing a book of straight talk to men cannot in any way be construed as a threat to “life, safety, civil liberty, or right to worship.” And thus, on her showing, it wasn’t that big a deal.

  19. Seth, I agree with you — but that’s an example of YOU getting in trouble for saying “Merry Christmas.” Rachel was specifically talking about people who think that someone else saying TO YOU “Happy Holidays” is a form of persecution, and they are out there. I just can’t call that persecution — but also, with Matt, I tend to think that there are very few actual people who think that is persecution, but somehow that position has become identified with evangelicals. So I suppose I would say that Rachel’s graphic is absolutely unassailable on its own merits, but it’s her need to frame the issue the way she did that’s rather telling.

  20. Seth, I’m having trouble even understanding how it’s persecution for your employer to decide that it’s good customer relations (and therefore good business) to create as few opportunities for controversy as possible.  You’re there to serve the interests of your employer.  Suppose your customer base were mostly Jewish and your boss told you to wish everyone a Happy Hannukah; would you consider that persecution?  On your own time, you can wish people whatever you like.

  21. Jane: Ah. Noted. =)
    Eric: If there’s any aspect of my religion that I get told is officially unacceptable and can’t be practiced that is by definition religion persecution. I understand *why* my company does what it does, but my point still stands.

  22. Mr. Wilson, I’ve read your thoughts on “trigger alerts” before. As a rape survivor, I find them very helpful. I was sad to read the sarcasm in the title of your post. 

  23. “…life, safety, civil liberty, or right to worship.”  Was this actual wording RHE used? B/c if so I missed it.  I think the thrust of this post was to mock women who are triggered, or concerned about those who are triggered, by hearing their Christian brothers using language that promotes domination, aggression, and force towards them  in their sexual relationships. “In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, **and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.”  Our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage because it’s been presented  one-dimensionally (instead of emphasizing the mutual submission found in Scripture) even from the Church, and b/c the authority itself has been completely abused.  Have you ever spoken about how this might appear/play out in an ideal patriocentric marriage?  What exactly does it mean to you?  Because it makes no.sense.at.all. to me apart from some twisted desire to establish one’s own dominance.  There is certainly theology in biology.  JP2 understood this.  But…let’s have a care what we deduce from it. 

  24. Sarah, the “life, civil liberties, or right to worship” reference is coming from the original post, which is about Rachel’s chart. See the link in the first sentence of the post.

  25. and I should add, that your continuing “Who, me??” posture is reminiscent of Mike and Debi Pearl in regards to their ill-conceived advice in the child training manual they produced in the ’80s which has been implicated now in several deaths.   “Oh, but we always said parents should discipline in love, not in anger, etc etc.”  Regardless, there were passages which instructed ‘complete dominance’ over rebellious children to the point of sitting on them, hosing them down in cold weather stripped of clothing, withholding food *until they child complied in eating it, (which caused several very young children to become dangerously dehydrated), and other extreme measures such as discipline sessions that continued indefinitely until compliance was gained,  laying  the groundwork for well-meaning but  overly zealous disciples to literally beat their children to death without realizing what they were doing.  Methodically, calmly, immovably.  And with all kinds of theology, however mistaken, behind it.  

  26. Seth, respectfully, that sounds like a huge sense of entitlement to me.  Your employer isn’t telling you not to practice your religion; they’re telling you that while you’re on duty at your place of employment is not the time and place to practice your religion.  

  27. Also, Seth, is the same principle true in reverse?  Suppose you owned a business, and you had an employee who was an atheist, and that atheist employee took to telling customers to have a godless day.  Would you consider him persecuted if you told him to knock it off?  Or would you in that case recognize the principle that one’s place of employment is not the appropriate place to raise one’s doctrinal flag?

  28. SarahS, the problem is that you compare what we teach with what the Pearls teach, and compare a “who, me?” demeanor from each. But you overlook the fact that we have (vehemently) taught against all such abusive practices for many years.

  29. @Eric: Out of curiosity, are you advocating that someone in Seth’s hypothetical position should, as it were, “go along to get along”?

  30. “Happy Holidays” is not persecution.  It is, however, somewhat pathetic, and serves as a minor but representative example of post- Enlightment and Romantic society’s desire to maintain the out-workings of a partially Christianised society while rejecting the world-view that produced it in favour of individualist and sentimental mush.  They want houses without foundations and table settings without tables, while blaming the consequential failures on the traditionalists who in lamenting the missing foundations and tables display their lack of commitment to the new reality.

    ….

    Note that I’m not claiming that “traditional” is ever good nor that “change” is ever bad.  Unthinking allegiance to tradition is only better than unthinking allegiance to one’s own independence in that there’s more scope for learning from others’ mistakes.  But most traditions have a history of struggling with the big questions of life and death, and this philosophy both undergirds the tradition and calls it to account.  Which is more than one can say of movements governed by the principles of autonomy and the winds of public opinion.

  31. Ok thanks Jane.  He doesn’t get off that easily though b/c civil liberties, safety, right to worship, and life have ALL been threatened under the guise of Christian patriarchal teaching.  Mr. Wilson (understandably, but unfortunately) doesn’t see any connection between that  and what he promulgates, which although carefully worded for deniability (again, I’m not attributing malice here, only caution) carry a tone which allows for and enables the demeaning and abuse of women.  I make the Pearl analogy, only b/c they say essentially what Mr. Wilson says here.  “I never said to abuse your children!!  I only said ‘here’s the exact kind of instrument to use when lovingly correcting your child for hours on end with breaks in between for prayer and hugs!’”  I’m not at all overlooking your teaching (DW) against abusive practice, only arguing that you don’t understand what abusive practice is, and someone is trying to help you with that.  I’ve read around a bit under the search term ‘trigger’ here, and I found this quote from March: This means that when somebody says that they find the word submission offensive, I want to be as likely to point to a passage they would find ten times worse than I am to sandpaper the Bible passage they found troublesome.   I understand this sentiment, and I essentially agree with it.  Faithful Christians of any stripe want to accurately and unapologetically stand w/ Scripture.  I’m simply saying, it’s not the word submission I find offensive.  It’s what you’ve done with it.  Like I said, I do believe there is theology in biology.  However… isn’t it just as true that a man gives a total donation of self in the act of intimacy, as much as the woman?  That he becomes vulnerable?  That he gives HER a certain power over him?  That he undresses his soul?  Isn’t the genius of egalitarianism that both parties win?  What’s so Wrong w/ an ‘egalitarian pleasure party’??   Why does gender have to be about who is in charge and who has the last say?  I find that depressing and ugly and in no way Biblical. This is your blog and I am it’s guest…and as such I’d like to have been a little more charitable.  I know it’s a LOT to ask of someone of your position and stage of life to rethink such a pivotal theology.  But I assume if you’re wrong, you’d like to know it.  I’m trying to make that a motto for my life.  Ignorance really isn’t bliss after all.  

  32. Seth, when the state tells you that you can’t stand in the street and say Merry Christmas, that will be a genuine violation of your rights to practice your faith.  But employers have a right to set rules about what you can say to customers and coworkers while you are on the clock.  A store owner who allowed a Muslim employee to say God is Great in Arabic to his predominantly Christian and Jewish customers would be the one suffering persecution in his pocketbook.  I have many Jewish friends who deal with this issue every year.  Some respond to Merry Christmas with a smile, but others would feel that replying in kind amounts to denying their faith.  Their employer might prefer them not to launch into explanations with their customers; is this persecution?  I think this whole issue is a bit silly and inures people to the possibility that real religious persecution occurs.

  33. I’m looking for someone to slightly re-work the chart for me. I’d like to change that middle box on the right to read: Were you denied ordination because you are a woman?

  34. P.S. don’t you think fainting couches are a bit, well, passsake now it’s called a “Pouting Chair”:
     
    http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/10-tips-online-criticism
     
    (See item #9)

  35. Not to hog the comment thread or anything, but I left that as is. Can anyone tell me how passé (which was there, because I saw the clever autocorrect add the accent mark) got changed?

  36. Ssrah, that’s an awfully long response to a brief explanation of what you missed. You asked where the reference came from, I answered. Sometime you’re going to have distinguish between factual responses on particular matters and general defenses of men in all their actions. I’m mostly willing to defend Doug Wilson and mostly not very interested in defending Doug Phlilips (though neither am I interested in a round condemnation) but in both cases I’m interested above all in factual readings of the situation over emotional responses to things completely outside of either situation.

  37. Arwen, I’m saying that apparently there is a fundamental disagreement between Seth and his employer as to why Seth has a job.  Seth’s employer apparently believes, and how silly, that while Seth is on duty, his time, words and deeds belong to his employer.  Seth, on the other hand, apparently believes that the employer has graciously provided Seth with an opportunity to practice his religion for pay.  And Seth is no more being told to go along to get along, than would an orthodox Jew who takes a job at a deli and is then expected to make ham sandwiches.  If your religious convictions prevent you from doing the job that your employer has hired you to do, then find another job.  It really is that simple.

  38. Jill, the fact that an employer has the right to act in certain ways doesn’t necessarily not make it persecution. If persecution is acting against someone because of actions done out of their faith, it might be wholly within another’s rights to do so, but it’s still persecution. Whether this qualifies is a separate point.

  39. I think SarahS just shifted her argument.

  40. I agree with Eric that being instructed not to say “Merry Christmas” by your employer is not persecution.  However, it may well be the result of persecution.  The employer, in Eric’s example, has no personal convictions on the matter, but is seeking to “create as few opportunities for controversy.”  But the only reason for controversy would be religious persecution.  If people erupt in rage and boycott the Jewish deli because they wish their customers “Happy Hanukkah” so that the employer has to silence the workers, we’d call that persecution, right?

  41. Jonathan, I’m an atheist, and I don’t get all bent out of shape if someone says “God bless you” to me when I sneeze, because I understand they’re trying to be nice.  Some atheists do, and I think they’re silly.  If someone says “Merry Christmas” to me, I smile and say “you too” because, again, I understand they’re trying to be nice.  I try to save my outrage for stuff that is truly outrageous (like, I don’t know, patriarchy, for example).  That said, we live in a culture in which people can be trusted to take offense over anything and everything.  You’ve got atheists offended by being wished Merry Christmas, and Christians being offended by being wished happy holidays.  And it’s not just religion; it’s impossible to have a conversation about pretty much anything without someone taking offense.  Since we have become a society of the perpetually offended, merchants are stuck in the middle, and the safest course of action for them is the lowest common denominator.  At my work place, any discussion of religion or politics at all is a firing offense, and that’s the reason.  I don’t see that as persecution so much as the consequence of living in a society of thin-skinned whiners.

  42. By the way, I have an acquaintance who is both an atheist and a critical care nurse.  On occasion, he’s had a patient in discomfort ask to be prayed with.  He takes that patient’s hands and prays beautiful prayers that would bring tears to the eyes of everyone here.  He thinks it’s complete nonsense, but he understands that it’s about the patient, not about him, and if it makes the patient feel better, it may even have a placebo affect.  I myself am not a good enough actor to pull that off; if I were a nurse and someone asked to be prayed with, I’d probably go find a chaplain.  But I think he has the right idea.
     

  43. Is Christmas a federally mandated national holiday or not?  If so, why would any person in the USA find mention of this day offensive?  If I were in Israel I would be plain stupid to be offended because someone wished me a ‘Happy Hanukkah’ and if I were in any other Middle Eastern Country I would be stupid and bizarre to be offended because someone wished me a peaceful ‘Ramadan’.  People have been wishing others a “Merry Christmas” for over two hundred years in this country and nobody thought a thing of it nor did they find the greeting itself to be particularly religious in nature.  When did it become offensive?  Only when white university types decided that they were too smart for a nation that put the Judeo-Christian God into all of their founding documents.  The persecution of Biblical Christianity (as opposed to liberal Christianity) in this country has not been started by folks with non-christian backgrounds but by those with christian or pseudo-christian backgrounds.  I teach in a public school district and my Middle Eastern students as well as my Asian students are wishing each other “Merry Christmas”. 

  44. “Happy Holiday” is quite simply, the mark that proves jews rule over our people. It is just that simple. Resist.

  45. Jane, I suppose it seems so but I was more responding to Doug’s last comment, just bundled it into yours.  Thursday: How so? Eric: I like you.   

  46. so… Doug posts RHE’s chart. Makes a number of bizarre and convoluted insults.  Then says he agrees.  
    Then he says the reason he can be mad at her even though he agrees is that she said that when he said that
    however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.”
    it sounds like rape.
    Lets try a thought experiment. Since Mr. Wilson is talking about sex, and his words have us construct the image of a woman being conquered and colonized in a sexual act- it should be ok to think about, right? I mean- he’s the one who knows whats ok and what’s not, right?
    So construct the image of a man- perhaps whatever man who, for you, embodies the paradigm of manliness- in a sexual act.  Imagine that, in this act, the man in question is penetrated, conquered, colonized, and implanted.  The man finally surrenders and accepts, but he has no pleasure in this- no- his conqueror feels pleasure, but not him.
    Isn’t this rape?
    Is it emotionally disturbing to hear?
    Fancy that.  “What’s sauce for the GOOSE is sauce for the GANDER.”  
    To Hel with all of the rest of this stuff.  I’ve got go get ready to celebrate Yule. Properly. So that the Frost Giants don’t take over the universe this year.

  47. You were triggered, moderator, were’t you?  
    But its ok by you to talk about men treating women this way.
    People curse the name of your god because of you.
     

  48. Jane, of course you’re right.  I did not think it all the way through as I can easily think of examples of employer-mandated behavior that could amount to religious persecution.  I was once ordered to attend a political rally for a party I did not support; as it was on company time, I suppose the employer was technically within his rights.  So yes.  (I refused to go and nothing happened to me, so I can’t claim that actual persecution resulted!)  I still think that happy winter holiday is not the hill we want to die on.  I agree with Eric that we should interpret it as a pleasantry and be glad that there is still a modicum of civility and grace in our interactions.  When people wish me happy thanksgiving, it would be churlish and tiresome of me to reply that as a Canadian I can’t relate to pilgrims and that my people celebrate it in October so there.  I think it is tiresome of atheists to get bent out of shape about a conventional remark that nobody interprets as a sincere belief in the Christian faith.  I think it would be tiresome of Jewish people to start yelling, hey, how about me, and I don’t find that they do.  But I think it is tiresome for Christians to claim persecution for trivia.  Nobody will believe us when real abuse occurs. 

  49. Sarah, a lot of the classic love poetry that many normal, healthy people find erotic reflects the imagery used by Mr. Wilson.  We will find imagery that is far more suggestive of conquest and submission in John Donne and Shakespeare.  I was troubled by Mr. Wilson’s comments until I saw them as descriptive, not prescriptive.  This is a traditional interpretation of the dynamics of the sexual act.  When Donne calls his lady “My America, my new found land/Safeliest with one man manned,” or when he says “She is all states, all princes I,” he is saying the same thing as Wilson.  It’s a lot more attractive, but it expresses the same view.  Whether this view promotes rape culture is up for discussion, but I personally can’t see it.  The same love poetry usually reflects an understanding that the lady’s submission results in her holding dominion over the gentleman.  The lady’s consent must be sought, and only a fool would think her pleasure unimportant.   But regardless of how Mr. Wilson views the sexual act, I have seen nothing in his writings to suggest he supports rape, brutality, or even self-indulgent complacence towards women.  I think you would find a more balanced presentation of his views in his writings decrying the pathological mindset of works like 50 Shades.  I seldom agree with Mr. Wilson’s opinions but I think you might be attributing to him abhorrent beliefs that he does not in fact hold.

  50. Gah.  The internetz can be so frustrating.  Does or does not Wilson hold to the tenents of what he terms, ‘biblical patriarchy’?  Then I oppose that and find it…unbiblical. I too hope and believe that he is using descriptive, not prescriptive language regarding the marriage bed.  I agree that one does not find support of rape, brutality, or ‘self-indulgent complacence’ here.  What I find, is a mindset that is like a gate-way drug to these things and ought to be roundly denounced from the pulipit instead of defended.  (I have the same complaint about Mark Driscoll.  Piper I think is just…confused.)  A worship of hypermasculinity, an assumption that the Church also is or ought to be predominately masculine….an entitlement mentality.  A benevolent tyranny (the worst kind).  Above all, a pervading condescendence and patronization.  Anyway.  I thought I’d been pretty clear about that.  It’s going to take someone much more patient and clever than myself to unravel this mess.  Carry on.  Peace!  I’m going to go invest some woman-hours into training my sons not to be these guys.  

  51. Jill Smith, lovely comment. What do they teach them in these schools?

  52. “Your employer isn’t telling you not to practice your religion; they’re telling you that while you’re on duty at your place of employment is not the time and place to practice your religion.  ”
    Eric, “Do not steal” and “Do not murder” are deeply held religious convictions of mine, and I absolutely refuse not to practice them at the workplace.

  53. Seth, not stealing and not murdering may well be religious convictions (they also happen to be my non-religious convictions), but they also coincide with the interests of your employer, unless your employer happens to be the Mafia or some such.  If and when your employer becomes the Mafia and tells you to steal and kill as far part of your job, then I would say it’s probably time to start looking for another job.

  54. Be that as it may, your “you can’t practice your religion at the workplace” rule is, at best, poorly phrased, because I’m sure Seth does intend to refrain from theft and rejoice in all things while at work, both of which are, for Christians, rooted exclusively in our religious beliefs. What you really mean is “you can’t practice those aspects of your religion that non-religious people deem to be outside the scope of things that should be done in the workplace, at your workplace,” which is not dependent on any absolute or even agreed-upon definition of what “religious behavior” is permissible in the workplace and what is not. It is also rather circular:  we’re allowed to forbid the things we want to forbid because those things are the things it is right to forbid.

  55. Jane, the rule is not “you can’t practice your religion at the workplace.”  Rather, the rule is that when you are on the employer’s clock, you are expected to be doing the job the employer has hired you to do, in the way that the employer wants it to be performed.  Obviously there is some overlap between religious practice and good employment practice, but to the extent that they are in conflict, if you can’t do the employer’s work while you’re on the clock, then you shouldn’t be on the clock.  In other words, a person’s religion may well require them to do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, but that’s not the reason the emloyer wants them to give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.  Since in that case religion and the employer both require the same practice, there’s no issue, and it really doesn’t matter whether the employee is giving an honest day’s work out of religious belief, loyalty to the employer, or for some other reason.  So the answer to the question, what religious practice is allowed at the workplace, is really very simple:  Such religious practice as furthers the interests of the employer.  And yes, the employer does get to make that call.

  56. “While you’re on duty at the workplace is not the time and place to practice your religion” were your own words. If you wish to retract them, I can live with that.

  57. And again, the employer gets to make the call, no one is disputing that. But the point is that the employer’s right to make certain determinations about his employees’ activities does not exempt him from the possibility of acting as a persecutor even when he is acting within those rights. A father who tells his young child he’s going to be grounded every time he’s caught reading his Bible is entirely within his rights as a parent, but is still engaging in persecuting behavior. Again, whether a certain action directed at religious practice meets the definition of persecution is something that can be debated, but the employer’s right to do it is orthogonal to the question of whether it’s persecution.

  58. Graded levels of persecution only matter if we are trying to avoid it. Paul saw every persecution as an *opportunity* for legal witness, and therefore rejoiced in it. The bigger the persecution, the bigger the opportunity. But take the little ones, too. Has anyone read Esther? Under Mordecai’s instruction, she did not take advantage of the little opportunities, so God sent a big one. Mordecai and Esther failed at the start but ended up passing with flying colors – nailed to the mast.

  59. Eric the Red wrote:

    Your employer isn’t telling you not to practice your religion; they’re telling you that while you’re on duty at your place of employment is not the time and place to practice your religion.

    Actually, one does not escape the practice of their religion so easily.  Our worldview follows us into every room of every place we enter.  Scripture condemns those who go around stirring up controversy as a matter of habit.  “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel.” (Prov 20:3)  So for honorable Christians, particularly in the context of their vocation, the avoidance of unnecessary strife is faithful obedience, an essential feature and outworking of the Christian religion.  It is a bringing in of religious convictions, not a turning off of our religion while on the job.  Context is key.  Knowing the difference between the bathroom and the kitchen is very important when you want to cook a roast, but everyone practices their actual religion in the whole house, at all times.

     

    Scripture describes those who have a morbid interest in controversy, wrangle about words, and produce constant friction.  Some theists do it because they think it’s a sign of their extreme godliness, or they think God needs all the help He can get.  Some atheists do it because they are angry at God and His people.  Employers may have to crack down on this type of “religion in the workplace” whether it is coming from the theist or the atheist.

  60. Jane, “you can’t practice your religion at the workplace” and “the workplace is not the place to practice your religion” are not quite the same thing; though the two concepts are similar there is a fairly significant difference.  There are a great many things that you “can” do that nevertheless are not appropriate, even though some people do them anyway.  And Katecho, religion and worldview are not the same thing either, but we’ve already covered that ground. 

  61. “religion and worldview are not the same thing either”
     

    I confess that I am somewhat confused by this statement. How are they different exactly? Does not one’s religion determine one’s worldview, and vice-versa? How can they be separated, in practice?

  62. Arwen, in previous conversations katecho (and others) have attempted to use the terms “religion” and “worldview” interchangeably by arguing that all world views are religious.  It’s a fairly lame attempt to argue that atheism is a religion.  I would say that some world views are religious, some are not, and if you are religious then yes, you most likely have a religious world view.  My world view, however, is entirely non-religious; there isn’t a god to be found in it anywhere.

  63. I screwed up and typed in “Eric the Read” rather than “Eric the Red” so the system now thinks I’m a new commenter and my response to Arwen is awaiting moderation.  So, let me try again:  Arwen, in previous conversations katecho (and others) have attempted to use the terms “religion” and “worldview” interchangeably by arguing that all world views are religious.  It’s a fairly lame attempt to argue that atheism is a religion.  I would say that some world views are religious, some are not, and if you are religious then yes, you most likely have a religious world view.  My world view, however, is entirely non-religious; there isn’t a god to be found in it anywhere.

  64. Language which suggests that sex is always more like a man “conquer[ing]” and “coloniz[ing]” than like an “egalitarian pleasure party” is certainly implicative of rape. I don’t think concerns about that can honestly be construed as people being over-dramatic about their silly egalitarian hurt feelings. I am an egalitarian, but one certainly doesn’t need to hold an egalitarian viewpoint to be disturbed by a quote which sounds like it’s describing sexual assault when it claims to be describing normal sex.
    Regarding the idea that being told not to say “Merry Christmas” at the workplace is a form of persecution — if it is, then so is being told not to say “Happy Ramadan.” I doubt most workplaces would allow employees to say that to the customers… Seth, if you want to hold the view that this is persecution, I hope you view it not as persecution that uniquely targets Christians, but as persecution that affects people of various faiths.

  65. …he said, with religious conviction.

  66. Katecho, find a God anywhere in my world view, then we can talk.  Until then, your claiming that it’s religious doesn’t make it so.

  67. Eric, I can’t speak for Katecho, but I would agree with you that “atheism” is not a religion, nor is it a worldview. But it is a tenet of certain religions/worldviews, yours among them. You can narrowly define the word “religion” to only mean a belief in some form of a deity or deities if you like, but that misses the point. The point is that individual lives, as well as societies, are ordered according to a set of beliefs and convictions about the nature of reality and truth. And while you may not believe in, nor serve, any “gods” or God, strictly defined. But you do ascribe ultimate value to something, and that something functions as your god.

  68. some religions are headless (fatherless).

  69. But Ree, you’re essentially conflating “religion” and “values” or “religion” and “worldview”.  My worldview is that facts are supreme, no matter how unpleasant they may be at times, and regardless of any perceptual difficulty we as frail humans may have in recognizing them as facts.  From that I then observe that one set of facts tells us that if you want to achieve certain results, you have to behave in a certain way.  So, my “Greatest Commandment,” if you want to call it that, is simply “Thou Shalt Not Try to Ignore Reality.”  And it seems to me to be a huge stretch to expand the definition of religion to take that in.  In order to do so, you essentially have to expand religion beyond any reasonable definition of the word.

  70. A universe where everything is and nothing ought to be. I don’t understand how you find this to be viable at even the most basic level, Eric.

  71. Except, perhaps, that you simply “do,” with no concern over whether you “ought to.”

  72. Matthias, if indeed my universe is one in which everything is and nothing ought to be (a characterization I would dispute, by the way), then that’s just one of those unpleasant facts of life and has nothing whatsoever to do with whether that’s true.  The fact that you prefer a universe filled with oughts does not bring that universe into existence.  But let’s start with something more basic than that.  If truth relies on God for its existence — a theme I’ve often heard repeated here — does that mean that in a universe in which God does not exist, 2+2 no longer equals four, hydrogen is no longer the first element on the periodic table, and ice no longer floats?  Because I think that question goes to the heart of what separates us.  In my godless universe, the laws of science and math don’t require any propping up by a deity; they just are.  If you agree with me that 2+2=4 whether God exists or not, then we’re quibbling over details rather than over first principles.  And if you don’t agree with me, then I’m awfully curious as to how much two plus two would be without God, and how you would know.

  73. Values derive from worldview and worldviews can be either overtly or covertly religious, but they function in the same way. All worldviews value facts, but the means and sources on which one relies to determine what constitutes “facts” differ. As do the results one wants to achieve as well as the reasons  one considers those results desirable.

  74. I’m not sure that all worldviews do value facts.  I think if I took a poll of the regulars here and asked, “Suppose God doesn’t exist, would you want to know, or would you prefer to remain in blissful ignorance,” I’ll bet at least some here would prefer to remain ignorant.  And there are probably atheists who would also rather not know if they’re wrong.  And, yes, a worldview can be either overtly or covertly religious; it can also be non-religious.

  75. And as far as what different people find desirable, I suppose if you look hard enough you will find someone somewhere who prefers eating used cat litter to having a meal in a five-star restaurant, but the fact that the overwhelming majority finds the same general sorts of things desirable should be a clue.  Even though people sometimes aren’t very good at living in such a way that gets them those results.
     

  76. Thanks for the reply Eric. I particularly appreciate how you worded your response, because it allows me to highlight what I consider to be your most clear confusion about Christianity and its claims. You said: <blockquote>But let’s start with something more basic than that.  If truth relies on God for its existence — a theme I’ve often heard repeated here — does that mean that in a universe in which God does not exist, 2+2 no longer equals four, hydrogen is no longer the first element on the periodic table, and ice no longer floats?</blockquote> Yes, that’s precisely what it means. But that’s not all it means. It’s not merely that values would be <em>different</em> if God didn’t exist. It’s that there would be no values, period. There would be no possibility of “change” in value, therefore. You also said: <blockquote>In my godless universe, the laws of science and math don’t require any propping up by a deity; they just are.  If you agree with me that 2+2=4 whether God exists or not, then we’re quibbling over details rather than over first principles.</blockquote> I do not, in fact, agree. 2+2 wouldn’t = anything. There would be no 2+2. We both live in the same universe. One in which I affirm God’s existence, and one in which you deny His existence. Now, if my affirmation of His existence does not bring about a world in which God exists, then neither does your denial of His existence eradicate His existence from the universe. We both realize this, so let’s get past it. I think you realize you have no way to conclude that God either does or does not exist, but that doesn’t mean I also have no way to do it. <blockquote>…then I’m awfully curious as to how much two plus two would be without God, and how you would know. </blockquote> Well, that’s just it. Without God (that is, “if He didn’t exist,” not merely “if I don’t affirm his existence”), nothing would exist. 2+2 wouldn’t equal anything else, because it wouldn’t equal anything, because it wouldn’t exist. And I know this because without God, we couldn’t know anything.

  77. lol. Oh well.

  78. I enjoy both Eric the Red and Eric the Read. I also pray for both. If he is eventually gathered he will be a solid asset for “our side”. Oh, the reminiscing we will do. Hey, do you remember when you said…………?

  79. Matthias, you can’t *know* that without God there would be no values, just as I can’t *know* that God doesn’t exist.  All either of us can do is take the best evidence we can find and run with it.  The fact that so far, nobody has offered what I consider persuasive evidence doesn’t mean that somebody won’t tomorrow.  It’s possible that at some point, something might happen to cause you to disbelieve God’s existence as well.  I have a slight advantage in this conversation because I was raised Reformed; I went to a fairly prestigious Bible school, and I used to be one of you.  I read a whole shelf of books on Christian apologetics in an attempt to find an argument that would persuade me to stay, and came up empty.  So, I’ve already demonstrated a willingness to set aside my entire world view if I become convinced it’s not tenable.  Do you have an equally open mind?

  80. Either Eric has a short memory, or he thinks we do.  Eric wrote:

    My worldview is that facts are supreme, no matter how unpleasant they may be at times,

    Oh really?  Contrast this with what Eric wrote in the “Food Libertarian” thread about two weeks ago:

    “…life is not pointless, especially to an atheist like me:  Think of life as being like a party.  I get to eat good food, and talk to interesting people, and play some fun party games, and maybe learn some interesting things.  At some point it will come to an end, as all parties do, and it will be time to go.  But just because the party ends at some point doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a fantastic party while it lasts, or that I wasn’t hugely lucky to have been invited to it.  I am not a young man, and I won’t be around forever, but as I look back on my life, I can only be incredibly happy at having had the opportunity to live it.  Even the bad parts weren’t as bad as they could have been.  And morality?  That’s leaving the ballroom in good shape so the next generation of partiers can enjoy themselves as much as I did.”

    I pointed out in that thread that this is nothing other than a make-believe Cinderella narrative that Eric is knowingly superimposing over his life in spite of what he claims to be the facts.  In other words, in Eric’s religion, facts are not supreme.  He gives himself permission to indulge his fantasies about being invited to a ballroom party.  Apparently he thinks a fairytale narrative gives him access to meaning and purpose and values and morality.  He knows it is a self-delusion.  Pure make believe.  But he seems to be okay with that.  It’s like a warm blanket.  Anything, so long as he doesn’t have to acknowledge God for the invitation to the party.  Remember kids, “facts are supreme, no matter how unpleasant they may be at times”.  And atheists have the nerve to accuse us of making up God?
     

  81. What this may indicate is that Eric has not yet come to terms with the implications of his materialistic atheism.  He is still trying to assign a narrative to give himself purpose and meaning and morality.  He is not ready to let go and fall back into the abyss of nihilism that awaits him.  This is actually a good sign, but he can’t have it both ways.  Either there is a narrative that is not of Eric’s own make-believe fantasy, or there is no narrative (and therefore no purpose, no value, no intent, no morality).  Eric should feel the pressure and weight of this question every time he visits dougwils.com.  I think he’s worth it.

  82. A claim that facts are supreme is not inconsistent with using metaphor and storytelling to illustrate a point.  And “does my life have a purpose for me and for those who love me” is not quite the same question as whether there is a benevolent deity out there running the show.  

  83. Eric said:

    Matthias, you can’t *know* that without God there would be no values, just as I can’t *know* that God doesn’t exist.  All either of us can do is take the best evidence we can find and run with it.

    Do you know what the difference is between an argument and an assertion? What I have argued is that God is the pre-condition for intelligibility and existence and values (prepare for clarifying redundancy) of any sort. Therefore, without God, there would be no value. You might challenge the soundness of the argument, but all you’ve done is counter with assertions you haven’t argued for.

    The fact that so far, nobody has offered what I consider persuasive evidence doesn’t mean that somebody won’t tomorrow.

    The fact that you don’t consider any of it to be persuasive tells more about you than it does about the evidence. Dead men don’t bleed.

    I have a slight advantage in this conversation because I was raised Reformed; I went to a fairly prestigious Bible school, and I used to be one of you.  I read a whole shelf of books on Christian apologetics in an attempt to find an argument that would persuade me to stay, and came up empty.

    Setting aside the obvious difficulty with this understanding (keeping in mind the very reformed understanding of apostasy), it’s amazing to me exactly what you have to stand on, and exactly what it would take to persuade you to stay. I think it’s been shown sufficiently that your Plan B is little more than a non-plan.

    So, I’ve already demonstrated a willingness to set aside my entire world view if I become convinced it’s not tenable.

    You’ve demonstrated that an ad hoc position that itself is demonstrably untenable and recklessly articulated is more persuasive to you than one with millenia of historical attestation, systematic logical coherence, and philosophical thoroughness. As I’ve said to someone before, to determine that the Bible doesn’t qualify as the ultimate, infallible standard requires that you have already given it up as one. You have only begged the question in favor of some other standard. Could you tell me what that might be and why it is more ultimate?

    Do you have an equally open mind?

    In light of what you consider to be an “open mind,” I’m glad to say no. Certainly not “equally” by any means.

  84. Yes, I know what an assertion is; it’s when you make the bald, naked, wholly unsupported claim that without God there would be no value.  Any basis for making that wild claim, or I’m just supposed to take your word for it?  It’s not my burden to disprove the Bible or the existence of God, any more than it would be your burden to disprove the Koran or the existence of All-Father Odin; since you’re the one claiming them to be true, it’s your burden to prove it.  The person claiming X is true is always the person with the burden of proof; that’s why a prosecutor has to prove you guilty rather than you having to prove your innocence.  And that, it seems to me, is what Christian apologetics mostly boils down to:  You believe it just because you do.

  85. I imagine the take-away from all that is simply that you have no standard? You didn’t seem to want to answer anything I said other than the semantic issue.

    Yes, I know what an assertion is; it’s when you make the bald, naked, wholly unsupported claim that without God there would be no value.

    That can indeed be asserted. “Assertion” can be described with terms like “naked” and “unsupported,” which means those ideas are not inherent in the meaning of “assertion.” In addition, assertions can be argued for, which makes mine neither “naked” nor “wholly unsupported,” like your statement:

    Matthias, you can’t *know* that without God there would be no values… All either of us can do is take the best evidence we can find and run with it.

    Yes, you say this. But your denial of my God doesn’t substantiate this statement, and that’s all you’ve offered. The atheists’ burden of proof exists because of statements like yours above. Yours is explicitly stated, while most of the time they’re implicitly stated.

    And that, it seems to me,…

    …in lieu of clear, direct statements to the contrary, from us, to you…

    …is what Christian apologetics mostly boils down to:  You believe it just because you do.

    I suppose that only if you ignore all the reasons you’ve been given can you rightfully say that this is what our entire enterprise boils down to. It’s been proven beyond reasonable doubt. Your insistence upon doubting does nothing to disprove my point, I hope you realize.

  86. Katecho, you wrote:

     In other words, in Eric’s religion, facts are not supreme.  He gives himself permission to indulge his fantasies about being invited to a ballroom party.  Apparently he thinks a fairytale narrative gives him access to meaning and purpose and values and morality.  He knows it is a self-delusion.  Pure make believe.  But he seems to be okay with that.  It’s like a warm blanket.

    This doesn’t seem to describe what Eric actually said. You’re equating 1) using a metaphor that describes life and morality to 2) believing in a fairytale narrative. I don’t think the two are the same. I don’t see a basis for your claim that Eric has such “fantasies about being invited to a ballroom party” simply because of his metaphor. There’s so little evidence for such a claim.

    What this may indicate is that Eric has not yet come to terms with the implications of his materialistic atheism.  He is still trying to assign a narrative to give himself purpose and meaning and morality. 

    You believe that atheism implies there is no purpose, no meaning and no morality. I think your argument is that — correct me if I’m wrong — without God to give us morality/a conscience, we would have no sense of morality. This makes sense from a religious perspective. If God is the source of morality (and of all creation), then without Him there would not be any morality. However, I don’t think atheism as a perspective implies no meaning, no purpose, no morality. It may imply that people create their own meanings, their own purpose, their own morality. One can say this is flawed view of morality because if there is no one higher source of Truth, then there is no way to show that any given moral value, or conclusion about morality, is True. But even with religion, people still have to interpret their sacred book themselves, and there may not be a way to prove which interpretation of a certain passage is the correct one. And I don’t think people need to know God exists to know that murder is wrong, that hurting other people is wrong. I think most people have an innate sense that tells them this is wrong. From a religious perspective, we have a conscience because God gave it to us. But that doesn’t mean an atheistic perspective implies no morality; that perspective would imply that morality doesn’t come from God. An atheistic perspective might be, “I don’t need religion to tell me that murder, adultery, etc. are wrong. I already know these things are wrong because they hurt other people.”

    As I’ve said to someone before, to determine that the Bible doesn’t qualify as the ultimate, infallible standard requires that you have already given it up as one. You have only begged the question in favor of some other standard. Could you tell me what that might be and why it is more ultimate?

    Matthias, I don’t see why this statement would hold any more weight than saying that “To determine that the Bible qualifies as the ultimate, infallible standard requires that you have already set it up as the one.” Also, if there are flaws in a standard, then that standard will not somehow still be infallible just because there is no higher standard to point to. The standard has already been shown to be fallible by its flaws. I am not arguing one way or another whether the Bible is infallible, but pointing out that Eric doesn’t need to point to a higher standard in order to determine that the Bible is fallible. Pointing to flaws is enough.
     

  87. Grace, I point that out because Eric once professed to be a Christian and so therefore once professed to hold the Bible to be the highest standard of truth. It cannot be pointed out that a standard itself is flawed except in light of some other standard that is higher than it. I cannot tell you your logic is flawed unless there’s a standard of logic that you are violating. This is actually quite elementary. You assert baldly that there are flaws in the Bible (you used “standard”). I’m sorry, I disagree. Things are only “right” and “wrong” or “flawless” and “flawed” with respect to a given standard.

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