Religion, State, and the New Christian Spirit

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Tiassa, Nov 1, 2023.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

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    Two quick-takes on Speaker Mike Johnson. First, the Speaker himself:

    "I'm not trying to establish Christianity as the national religion, or something, that's not what this is about, at all. If you truly believe in the Bible's commands, and you seek to follow those, it is impossible to be a hateful person, because the greatest command in the Bible is that you love God with everything you have, and you love your neighbor as yourself."

    (qtd in. Acyn↱)

    And then there is John Pavlovitz↱, a former youth pastor fired for not being conservative enough in his ministry:

    Mike Johnson is not a follower of Jesus. He’s a phobic bigot using religion to justify things antithetical to Jesus’ teaching.

    It's a pretty straightforward contrast, and in its way, left as it is, both can be true.

    Still, there is what history tells, and the future to come. Some part of the assessment ought to be easy.
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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Some context: the bible commands no less than the death sentence for all kinds of innocuous or harmless infractions of God's law. For some reason, this isn't hateful?
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  5. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Depends on how you read it. As you're already aware, the Bible is separated into two main parts, Old and New Testaments; these are also referred to as the Herew and Chrisian Scriptures.

    Speaker Johnson identifies as Christian.

    Biblically, Jesus Christ approached these commands in a particular way.

    As an atheist, James, and one with long experience and research into these issues, you're also already aware that modern Christianist political argumentation more often than not relies on the Hebrew Scriptures and the portion of the Christian Scripture often referred to as the Pauline Evangelism, i.e., the letters of the evangelist Paul, than the Gospels describing the ministry of Jesus.

    And therein lies the difference. If a Christian follows the Bible's commands, the ministry of Jesus takes precedent, and it is within these pretenses about humility, forgiveness, and judgment that the shiny-happy Christian idea emerges.

    That storybook idyll isn't quite explicit. Sure, there is a question of whether or how it is impossible to be hateful, but the parts you wonder about are largely other parts interpreted according to other interests. That is to say, sure, this part or that exists, but it's not always clear what it means.¹

    So this comes back, in a way, to what seems kind of obvious: Don't let people you know are wrong set the terms of the discussion.

    Your underlying question, "this isn't hateful?" is not wrong, but relies on interpretations and applications described by people you already know are wrong. The Speaker's claim that it should become impossible to be a hateful person is more ironic than anything. While it is an exaggeration more than an outright fabrication, Johnson is not necessarily following the Bible's commands; check Pavlovitz on that point. There is a biblical question whether Pavlovitz should be the one saying it, but he is not wrong insofar as Johnson does not follow Jesus.

    The part of the assessment that ought to be easy is that Johnson does not appear to be following Jesus, and that his assertion toward the impossibility of being hateful is presumptuous, self-serving excrement; as Jesus said, it is not what goes into a man's mouth that makes him unclean, but what comes out (Mt. 15.11).


    ¹ Certain rules make more sense for a commune wandering the desert than a petty-bourgeois, homeowning family in the 'burbs. Tattoos, toilet hygeine, menstruation, &c. Also, you might have noticed that American Jews have largely checked in on the side of their LGBTQ+ neighbors, and they stopped stoning their disappointing progeny, uh, yeah, I don't know how long ago, but it's been a while.​
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  7. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    I would not put it as simply as that. The Jews do not recognize Jesus as Nazareth as the Messiah let alone god.
    Jesus however knew nothing whatsoever of Christianity of course, he was a pious Jew and quoted and followed scripture.

    The OT is very much immoral, bad, wicked whatever way you read it.

    Rules owning and beating slaves in Exodus 21 being a good example.

    Numbers 31 another, the worst we can possibly be as humans
  8. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    But you would put it as simply as:

    That is its own sort of discussion. I mean, going after Jews, like that, is one thing, but I'm uncertain what that has to do with the Speaker's particular assertion of Christianity.
  9. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    Ah ah stop right there sir. No one is "going after" anyone at all.
    I do not recognize Jesus of Nazareth as anything other than a preacher and healer.
    I reject his claims.

    SCRIPTURE is clearly inhumane, backward and savage.
    Treatment of women, homosexuals, slaves and POWS. That is surely obvious.
    If you need the citations I can give them to you. Same with the Koran.
    Jesus did not renounce slavery or taking virgin girls at booty of war.
    The very concept of a human sacrifice in Jesus for the sin of mythical Adam and Eve is nonsensical.
  10. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Saw an interesting (edited) piece by Jen Psaki (ex-White House Press Secretary under Biden) giving her views on this guy. She's clearly not a fan.

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    Apparently in 2016 he blamed school shootings on no-fault divorce laws, radical feminism, and legal abortion. She sums up his views as being rooted in the 18th century, and his vision for America being less democratic, less tolerant. And he has previously said that "they told us [not sure who they are?] that if we didn't maintain those 18th century values that the Republic would not stand."
    Anyhoo - worth a watch if you can find it. I saw it via MeidasTouch, so not her whole piece and interspersed with other commentary. I'm trying to find the entire piece but no luck thus far.

    Anyhoo - I also saw/read something about Johnson's views on Church v State, effectively re-interpreting what was written in and understood about the Constitution, stating that “the founders wanted to protect the church from an encroaching state, not the other way around." and that his generation have been wrongly convinced that the Constitution outlined a separation of the two. I don't know enough about the Constitution to say whether his arguments / view has merit, but found it noteworthy.
  11. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Spare us.

    As you have stated it, even the Jews can't find a reading of the Hebrew Scriptures that isn't immoral, bad, and wicked.

    Maybe you should have thought that one through.

    Kind of like the rest of your post, which is largely irrelevant; to wit:

    Good for you.

    But it doesn't really have anything to do with the discussion at hand.

    And that could be a fascinating thread.

    To wit:

    That's entirely your own expectation. And, again, it could be a fascinating discussion, especially if there is a real historical thread to pull on.

    A lot about early Christianity, such as virgin birth, struck their neighbors as nonsensical.

    But tying all that, in this thread, back to the Speaker of the House is probably difficult and unnecessarily limiting of your context. Your opinions of Jesus, "SCRIPTURE", war booty, and human sacrifice could easily make for discussions of their own, but not only do they not, at this point, have much to do with Speaker Johnson, it's also a strange tie-on.

    So let us clear up the part about the Hebrew experience and Hebrew Scriptures: Did you really intend to preclude Jews, i.e., Hebrews, from reading the Hebrew Scriptures in a way that is not immoral, bad, and wicked? You did say, "whichever way you read it".

    Even still, it remains uncertain what any of that has to do with the Speaker's particular assertion of Christianity.
  12. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    Meaning what?

    I did not "go after" anyone. I was citing scripture and the people who wrote it over 2,500 years ago, so I think they are safe, even if I did try to "go after" them.

    That is not what I was getting at. The OT IS full of hate vengeance death genocide rape and slavery, that is not my opinion - that is scripture.

    What is not quite as simple is " As you're already aware, the Bible is separated into two main parts, Old and New Testaments; these are also referred to as the Herew and Chrisian Scriptures."

    This certainly not true for all Jews and Christians today and throughout history, what they read what they believe what they think is relevant. The Christians I have spoken to over the years have a weird view of the OT and it is certainly NOT consistent.

    What is Christianity? Is it what Paul preached or what Jesus preached? They are different. Mark and John are very different and as I said Jesus was a pious Jew himself.

    I am not saying OT- Jews, NT Christians, is just your view, that is a standard answer and it is much more complicated than that was my point.

    You CAN say without ambiguity however that the OT is backward, tribal and often savage.

    Jesus is associated with love peace mercy and the golden rule- this does not sit with the scripture he cited through his ministry.

    My main response was to your quote below, it obviously IS possible since Christians have behaved hatefully historically and continue to do so.

  13. ThazzarBaal Registered Senior Member

    Quite a discussion you have going on here. Church, state, and the "new" Christian spirit ... Which is what exactly?

    The new Christian spirit ... Is it reserved for new Christians or is it an entirely new type of spirit? I'm curious. Going back to old school politics via Hebrew culture or is it Jewish culture with set rules, laws, etc that they were expected to follow ... I guess we each have a set of rules and laws as territories or cultures, set in place for whatever reason these rules and laws were chosen to be used to meet whatever end they were enacted for, which is pretty much the crux of the disagreements ... Correct me if I'm wrong. Like, in Dade county Florida, at least at one time if not present day, pitbull ownership was outlawed while tiger ownership permitted. Weird I know, but that's the nature of community politics and I'm sure there are good enough reasons for outlawing pitbull ownership in that specific county in Florida.

    So, the separation of church and state comes down to not respecting one religion over another religion, as far as religious laws go, and to operate this republic via democratic process, which offers we the people, no matter your religious affiliation, an opportunity to become part of the law making and policy processes via voting for which ever representatives you deem fit to represent you.

    I'm sure church or religions operate somewhat the same, at least in terms of representation. It's a ongoing thing that tends to change as time passes and as people change, etc. The funny thing is, least I think it to be, is that some people still attempt to hold people accountable for old ways of doing things, which pretty much throws repentance out the window, given repentance is in fact about change. I wouldn't resist buying a mattress on Sunday, but in Washington, for whatever reason buying mattresses on Sunday was in fact outlawed. Go figure ... How things change, eh? Anyway, what is this new Christian spirit you brought to the table?
  14. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    Re Johnson I have just googled him.

    Not my ideology: anti gay; anti abortion; anti Evolution; right wing Republican...

    "Impossible to be a hateful person...."

    Unless you you are a woman who would prefer politicians keep their god damn nose out of decisions regarding their body.

    Are Gay and would prefer politicians keep their god damn nose out of decisions regarding who they sleep with.

  15. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    Googled the other guy.

    He comes across as a Christian I could get on board with.
  16. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    Tiassa I did focus on what was said rather than who said it so noted on that.
    Now I know.
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  17. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    So, then, should I just ignore what you say?

    (No, really, am I supposed to be psychic, so that I can know what you're getting at?)

    A proper history book is likely to be full of vengeance, death, genocide, rape, and slavery.

    If that's what's important to you.

    But you seem to have missed the point. Consider TB's question↑ about the "new" Christian spirit. Part of that answer is the same thing you've overlooked, Pinball: Modern Christianist political argumentation more often than not relies on the Hebrew Scriptures and the Pauline Evangelism instead of the Gospels describing the ministry of Jesus.

    In this case, there is a question of what passes for new. I might reach back forty years, or maybe to the seventeenth century, but even compared to forty years ago, Speaker Johnson's version of Christianity is innovative and solipsistic. Like I said, therein lies the difference.

    Note the part, though, where I said both can be true; the quote in the topic post↗ is a political pitch. "Not trying to establish Christianity as the national religion", for instance, is approximately akin to the difference between creationism and "intelligent design". Moreover, the potential Johnson describes is more an exaggeration than outright fabrication, so Pavlovitz can also be accurate in pointing out that Johnson does not follow the teachings of Jesus.

    And that difference is important. Nothing good comes from pretending it is indistinguishible from anything else.
  18. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    Can I ask what your view is?
  19. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Which view?

    I'm not going to blame Quakers for Speaker Johnson. Beyond that, I'd have to guess which view you mean.
  20. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    On all of it really. I'm a Brit so do not follow the political players as closely as you.
    What is your view
    Are you a Christian?
    I am an atheist that is interested in the life and times of Jesus.
  21. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    And on Johnson
  22. Pinball1970 Registered Senior Member

    No, more general. Ideology, science and world view.
  23. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    While the President is the executive and head of state, the Speaker of the House of Representatives is arguably the most powerful individual political office in the United States. Republicans, in recent times, have been really bad at the job.¹

    From 2017↗, since it's easier that way:

    I use the word "Apathetic" to describe my outlook on God; I am neither theist nor atheist nor agnostic, and I literally do not care if God exists because it is just a word, and in the monotheistic framework describes an abstraction; this notion is not any pioneering work of my own, but something I learned from reading really smart people giving their best historical analyses to notions they personally didn't believe.

    2016↗, in a slightly different application:

    I am neither theist nor atheist nor agnostic; I am apathetic. I genuinely don't care whether or not God exists, because in the end it's all the same, anyway. The math is the math, and the reason we spend time developing intricate rituals and concomitant obligations―the creed, code, and cult of religion―is pretty much because we don't like what the math tells us .... Right and wrong are right and wrong. The only thing God ever seems to do is complicate that notion because, as the Sufis put it, the rest is the balance of religion.

    I happened to reiterate that post in 2018↗, and that points me to 2013↗ ("I don't give a damn if God exists, as It is pointless"), but also reaches back to 2000, reminding of Diderot ca. 1746: "Whether God exists or does not exist, He has come to rank among the most sublime and useless truths."

    While he probably won't look and sound as ridiculous as Boris Johnson, the thing is that Mike Johnson is really dangerous.

    And toward that, blending him back into the noise only camouflages the danger.

    Consider James R, for a moment, since he's in this thread, because one piece of common ground he and I share has to do with "the point where their unsupported beliefs start having detrimental impacts on other people", as he put it↗. And the fact that Mike Johnson now holds the Speaker's gavel brings that point to focus in extraordinary context. It's an important threshold occurring in a rarefied context.

    Comprehending the unsupported beliefs is not impossible; understanding and responding to the danger should be well within the capabilities of competent critics. However, general denucniations of religion, Christianity, and scripture won't be up to the job.


    ¹ Short form, because it can seem unbelievable: After a forty-year minority in the House, Republicans won a majority in '94. Speaker Gingrich was largely effective, but eventually driven out for ethics concerns. As for Christianity, the philandering Gingrich led the charge against a philandering President Clinton, so when it emerged that his intended replacement, Bob Livingston, had an extramarital affair, House Republicans needed a new candidate and elected Dennis Hastert, who would later be revealed as a predatory sexual abuser. John Boehner was an effective disruptor, but could not control the Republican caucus, and was eventually hounded out by his own party. House Republicans passed over Kevin McCarthy in order to raise Paul Ryan, and we might call him effective, but mostly he just broke stuff; depending on how we measure "bad", he might have been the least bad at the job, among recent Republican Speakers. After the Democrats held the gavel for four years, Republicans finally went with McCarthy, but handicapped him at the outset, leading to his seemingly inevitable ouster, and while he was a terrible Speaker of the House, Republicans brought the vote to vacate because he wasn't terrible enough. So then Republicans tried to choose between Jordan, who like Hastert is a wrestling coach with a sex abuse scandal on his record, and Scalise, who is an open white supremacist with neo-Nazi associations. That all went poorly, so they settled on the hardline Christian insurrectionist with really sketchy finances. But, yes, Republicans are pretty bad at being Speaker, these days.​
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