For my first diary here, I would just like to briefly make a comment or two about the "No True Scotsman Fallacy". Whenever a diary gets published talking about the latest lunacy of the Christian Right, some progressive Christians inevitably says "they're not truly Christians". For example, you'll find such remarks in the comments to this front page post from yesterday. At the risk of committing this fallacy myself, I would like to suggest that no true Christian should respond to these diaries in this way. Follow me below the fold to see why.
I am not here to debate with you about the particulars of your faith. Despite being an atheist, I have no desire to take your faith away. Paraphrasing Gandhi, I find much to admire in your Christ. I am above all not interested in getting involved in a debate that's been going on for 2000 years as to which version of Christianity is the true and right version of Christianity.
I understand that you feel compelled to defend your faith and what you believe is the true version of Christianity. While I strongly disagree with anything that involves the supernatural, if we have to have religion and Christianity I would certainly like to see your form of Christianity be the one that becomes dominant in our country; and this because I believe your ethical values are largely in line with my own.
I do, however, think that committing the No True Scotsman Fallacy is a very Un-Christian thing to do in these discussions. Why? Well, because it makes the discussion about you rather than those that are marginalized, oppressed, and being attacked by these groups. It muddies the issue and makes it more difficult to respond to these exceptionally oppressive movements. Here's the bottom line:
Whatever the true version of Christianity might be, the fact remains that there is a worldly institution composed of people that call themselves Christians, that are attacking women, GLBT folk, that are advancing economic policy that creates further inequality, that are assaulting science, and that through their End Time's theology are making it exceedingly difficult to respond to climate change as we need to.The issue is not whether or not this is a true or legitimate form of Christianity, but of responding to these groups. When you commit the No True Scotsman Fallacy you make it harder to respond to these groups, by making the discussion about whether or not these people are true Christians rather than about how to respond to the impact they've had on our politics and the oppression of various people's they've advanced.
If I understand Jesus's ethical philosophy correctly, it is an ethics of love, compassion, and above all allegiance to the marginalized, excluded, oppressed, and underprivileged. Everywhere Jesus rails against power, privilege, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy. One of the most fascinating things about Jesus's ethical teaching is that he seems to be striving for a form of community without tribalism. For example, in Luke 14:26 Jesus says,
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple.Many give this a vanilla interpretation and say Jesus is saying "you must love me above all other things". I think he's saying something different. If we place his words in their historical context, Jesus's words are nothing short of astonishing (and in that context, extremely offensive), because Judaic citizenship is based on kinship relations (tribal relations). Jesus is saying that we must abandon our tribalistic impulses or our desire to base social relations on labels (Christian, Jewish, Roman, Pharisee, etc) or kinship lineage. Jesus seems to be calling for both a society composed of heterogeneous peoples without common label, beliefs, or biological lineage, based on love rather than membership.
This reading is further confirmed by his constant polemics against the Pharisees (the most respected and religiously righteous of the Jewish sects of his day and the equivalent of the Religious Right), but above all by the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In my view, the most crucial element of the parable of the good Samaritan is not that a stranger helped someone else, but that the Samaritan's were the mortal enemies of the Jews and considered the lowest of the low, the scum of the earth. Think about this for a moment. Jesus saying that it's the Samaritan that's the good one would be like Pat Robertson saying that it is the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or Atheist that is the good one. It was an amazing thing for him to say and couldn't have failed to be utterly astonishing to his listeners in that historical context.
So what's my point? My point is that if you're genuinely Christian, if you truly follow this ethical philosophy, then you side with the oppressed without question or qualification, up to and including those scenarios where the oppressed is the atheist. This doesn't mean you give up your beliefs or embrace the atheist's beliefs. It means that you fight on their behalf because you love your neighbor, and support compassion and attending to the marginalized. You don't make the discussion about you, which is a betrayal of this ethical teaching. When you commit the No True Scotsman Fallacy this is exactly what you're doing. Keep the struggle where it belongs: against those that would oppress and marginalize and that live without compassion and love.
UPDATE: In comments I received the following remark:
I'm not even religious, but I would suggest that when you have a group that encompasses roughly 2 billion people, it's probably going to be legit if a member of that group says they shouldn't have to answer for the most extreme members of that group.This is a variation of the No True Scotsman Fallacy that functions to derail the issue. To this I respond:
Seems to me in a group that large, you are going to have a few folks who say/do/believe some crazy things.
I'd also say there is not a "worldly institution" doing the things you are saying. Christianity has more cracks in it then a dried up lake. I can't count how many sects it has.
Even Catholicism has a wide range of beliefs and positions (e.g. American Catholics are much more liberal than Catholics in many other countries both theologically and politically).
As I've argued elsewhere on DK, that's a variant of the "white reaction" syndrome. It works like this. Black person X talks about problems of racism in the white community. White male responds "we're not all like that!" and tries to make the discussion about him rather than racism. This is a way of derailing addressing the problem and exactly the same thing happens among Christians. If you're not a part of the problem then you shouldn't see yourself as being painted by this brush. Rather, you should be like the white person that sides against racism without qualification, the male that sides against sexism without qualification, the heterosexual that sides against homophobia without qualification. You are not the target until you make this sort of argument and thereby make it more difficult to fight these things. It's not about you. Quit making it about you.We all understand that in critiques of racism, sexism, and homophobia it isn't all whites, men, or heterosexuals that are being addressed. Why should this be different in critiques of Christian privilege and oppression? In most cases what those fighting this oppression are targeting is quite clear from either the context, the issues they discuss, or because they use qualifications like "Christian right". Language is imprecise. Don't make it harder for those trying to be treated equitably and as full citizens to fight assaults on their very life.