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"If you ask one of the crucial theological questions - why was Jesus killed? -- the answer isn't "because God wants us to love one another." Why in the hell would anyone kill Jesus for that?  That's stupid.  It's not even interesting.  Why did he get killed?  Because he challenged the powers that be.  The church is a political institution calling people to be an alternative to the world.  That's what the cross is about."
Stanley Hauerwas {Gospel}
I don't follow him. Jesus challenged the powers that be - the Jewish religous ones, not the secular ( i.e political ) authoritys, who are the equivalent of the governments and states of the modern world. He didn't ( directly ) call for the abolition of slavery, or a democratic political system, or equal rights for women, etc. Hauerwas seems to be implying that Jesus was some sort of political martyr. There have been plenty of those at all periods of history, but only one of them claimed to be dying for the sins of mankind. I thought atonement is what the cross was supposed to be about, not politics... -- Xarak
Hauerwas follows John Howard Yoder in writing a political account of Jesus which suggests that he challenged not only the Jewish authorities, but the Roman authorities too.  Pontius Pilate doesn't get a mention for nothing.  I think Christianity no longer looks as though it challenges conventional politics, because for many years, we've had the "upper hand".  We'e worked out obedience to Christ by being conforming members of the state, instead of realising that Christ suggested a different ethic.  Yoder goes back and reads the Gospel of Luke to demonstrate the kind of social ethic that he thinks Christ inaugurates.  He sees Mary, the mother of Jesus, as proclaiming a new politics too.  Mary prayers a prayer that we call the Magnificat, but if you look at it closely, it's a piece of revolutionary literature... "He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly... He has filled the hungry with good things...".  This is not supposed to be taken 'spiritually' in a way that has relevance for our personal lives alone, but I think he is spelling out that salvation is a communal ethic.  Yoder continues through Luke explaining why Jesus' rejection of temptation is political, why his clearing of the temple is political and why his execution is political.  Christians have softened this, made it palatable by insisting that it refers to the private... We have been tempted to say that Christ is a moralist or a spiritual teacher or a sacrificial lamb.  But Christ inaugurates a new kingdom, he begins a new way of life that starts with the people of Israel, and will come to include the Gentiles.  When Christians practice infant baptism, although it might look like just wetting a head, we believe you're handing a child over to the Church.  You give them new parents - "God-parents".  You give them new brothers and sisters.  You are effectly saying "this child that Christ has given us will be brought up as a citizen of the Kingdom", and through baptism, we believe he or she will receive the Holy Spirit in order to live a renewed life within that kingdom."  I think that's political because it means the state no longer has primary control over what is done with your life or with your body.  --AR

Wasn't Pilate actually trying to get Jesus off, and unhappy when political pressure forced him to okay the execution? That's how I remember him being portrayed anyway.
I remember a friend mentioning they'd seen the pictures saying 'Jesus is Che!' and thought: 'isn't it usually the other way around?'
Pilate has been portrayed differently by different people.  I'm not sure that it affects the argument that Jesus' inauguration of the Kingdom is a political act. --AR
Nice dodge. Looking for a career in politics? No, but answer the question. How is he portrayed in the only source documents available? Some evidence that 'Jesus [...] challenged not only the Jewish authorities, but the Roman authorities too', please.
It affects the argument because one of your arguments in support of it (well, I think -- when you go into screeds like that it's difficult to tell what is argument and what is just random stream-of-consciousness asides that are passing through your mind at the time you write) was 'Pontius Pilate doesn't get a mention for nothing.'
I do not think that the political pressure that Pilate was under to "get Jesus off" was purely that of the Jewish authorities.  I'm sure that John's gospel mentions Roman opposition to Jesus (Romans 18:12).  I would agree that in John's gospel (which I've been through with a fine tooth comb), there appears to be more Jewish opposition than Roman.  I consider that Jewish opposition is political (and Roman opposition, not irreligious), because membership of Israel was about membership of a people, more than belonging to a religion in a democracy.  I realise that the way I answer questions leaves something to be desired when arguing with you.  I'm not convinced that what you think are 'random' streams of consciousness have nothing to do with what else I have to say.  But my failings include a tendency to be verbose, I'll admit that.  --AR
Maybe so, but surely Jesus' attracted the ire of the Jewish authoritys precisely because he contravened their religous teachings and laws. Perhaps they had a political motive in maintaining the religous status quo...but calling the issue "political" seems very misleading, unless it's quickly qualified with "and theological".  To clarify, I didn't write any of the above unsigned material... -- Xarak
Back then there was no distinction between 'political' and 'religious' in the Jewish state, whereas there was in the Roman way of looking at things. But be that as it may. The claim was that 'Pontius Pilate doesn't get a mention for nothing', in connection with opposition to Jesus being political. I'm wondering why exactly the writer thinks that Pontius Pilate does get a mention, given that he is in fact the authority figure most sympathetic to Jesus and thus proves that whatever opposition to Jesus there was politically in the secular Roman power structure it wasn't unanamous, doesn't seem to have been widespread, and didn't reach the top of the local tree. So. If Pilate doesn't get a mention for nothing, why does he get a mention?

I see what you are saying when you suggest that Christ didn't abolish slavery or enact equal rights for women, but Christians believe that he inaugurated a kingdom where a new kind of living is a possibility.  Slaves are to be treated as your brothers and sisters.  Women are not to be stoned when caught in adultery.  These are all political acts, although they may look less revolutionary to us now because we expect something different when we speak about political (and also, just perhaps, because certain Kingdom values have come to look like "the norm").  But politics is just about a state, a group of people, a new kind of city - that's what we believe about the Kingdom of God too.  So I do see Jesus as a kind of political martyr, and I think atonement is a political act.  Incidentally, don't just take my word for it that this is the case.  John Howard Yoder is a Mennonite, so he has a different reading of what the Church is from the 'established' Church.  Obviously his reading has been questionned by various theologians and scripture scholars.  The book that I refer to is called "The politics of Jesus" and it is generally accessible.  --AR

I find this kind of reading helpful as a kind of challenge to the "me and my personal jesus" morality.  I often want to say, "It's not about you...  It's about the Kingdom that Christ has inaugurated.  It's not yours... It's about the Church, and the new way of living that the Church has opened us up to.  It's not personal... It will probably affect you in areas of you life that have been previously called "your private life", but it's not personal.  It is political.  (The one feminist slogan that I have any time for is 'the personal is the political'.)  It's about the Body of which you've become a part.  You were right that it is about Jesus, but you have no claim over Jesus.  His claim is over you.  Now live it out - what the hell does it mean when we say that the Kingdom is constituted of people who love their enemies?  Go on then Mr Bush or Mrs Thatcher or Mr Blair... you all claim to be Christian, but how does the Church have a hold over you so that you love your enemies?  Do you think, maybe that that might mean not dropping bombs on their heads?  [see: ChristianPacifism -- Ed.] No?  Well is it a Christianity worth laying claim to then?  What does it mean when we pray for daily bread, and our neighbours don't have any?  Doesn't Jesus being our shared bread mean that we have a responsibility to ensure that all in the Kingdom are nourished?  If this thing means anything, if this thing is worth dying for, if this Saviour is a Saviour worth imitating, then don't tell me that Good News is just about how you live in the sphere wrongly named personal.  So you have a "personal Jesus"?  Oh well, big deal, because I want you to have the Church's Jesus, not your own comfortable middle-class morality.  And I want you to be lead by people who have learned what it is to be lowly, to have nothing, to have given all of their lives away for the sake of the Kingdom and to be left with nothing but "common life".  Go on, try living next to people who are oppressed, and try claiming their lives.  I actually want to see you hanging around with people who smell.  Hang around with people who you'd rather not be seen dead with, who won't make you powerful, and then I might just be tempted to believe that the one you call Jesus is worth following.  Religion is not above "the family that prays together stays together" or people living longer because they have some kind of intrinsic psychological bonus or "God blessing America".  It's about feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoners, befriending the prostitutes, learning what it means to be faithful to God when trying to determine how to use our Body, (and thus our bodies), for the sake of the Kingdom of God that Christians pray for."  --AR

Is it about protecting the weak from the strong, too? - PlasmonPerson
Or is it more about convincing the strong not to put the weak in a position where they have to be protected? About removing the distinction between 'strong' and 'weak'? (Yes, I know that's rhetoric.) --Requiem
(MoonShadow) Wouldn't protecting the weak imply that one has to be [not meek]? Yet that might not be a [good] thing...
I think one would need to be more specific about who was deemed weak and who strong.  I think it is about living in such a way that both the oppressed and the strong receive God's justice, but as I've made clear before, I don't think that that requires violent behaviour.  I realise that that's currently open to attack as deontological, but I do think that there are certain ways of acting that can never be considered virtuous eg. dropping napalm on children.  Some ways of acting undermine the point of the community and the point of being virtuous.  Some actions destroy the community that makes the action possible, and thus ought never to be deemed moral.  --AR
Simple answer: No. There is no conflict between being meek  and protecting. You can be mild of temper and slow to anger and still stay the hand that is about to inflict a blow.
Actually, I'd agree with this, so long as the staying of the hand does not involve violence, and does involve something other than criticising those who stay hands violently. --AR
Define 'violence', I don't think you ever did on the ChristianPacifism page.
I did actually.  --AR
Oh, I must have missed it in the shuffle. What was it?
Well, blessed are the meek etc. But you need a good definition of 'meek' before saying that you can't be meek and yet still stick up for yourslf and others. --Requiem
You can be strong and meek just like you can be talented and modest.
"..and still stay the hand that is about to inflict a blow" - that seems a bit glib. I'm certainly not against stopping blows in general. I'm trying to reference the ChristianPacifism discussion here - namely, if you're out to kill the strong, whatever your motives, you're gonna have a hard time calling yourself [gentle]. - MoonShadow
So you would add 'protecting the weak from the strong' on to Angela's list, then?
I'd add "protecting people" on, yes. Actually, I don't know about "add" - I think a number of items already on the list are subsets of "protecting people" ("feeding the poor", "clothing the naked"...) and could be summarised that way; "protecting people" is itself a subset of loving people, which is what Jesus called us to do. Exactly who is "weak" when and what form "protection" might take in certain cases is still open for discussion on ChristianPacifism. - MoonShadow




"You say: 'You can’t tell a child what to do. You can’t tell a child what to be.' Hogwash!! Everybody else is telling your kid what to do. Everybody else is telling your kid what to be. Does the peer group tell the kid what to do, what to be? Does television tell the kid what to do or what to be? Everybody is telling your kid what to do or what to be – except you!"
Tony Campolo {Family}

An excellent quote, and an excellent point. That really got me thinking. Of course, like most good ideas, it's open to being taken too far. There's an important line between, for example, teaching your kids how to behaive, and telling them what they should believe. -- Xarak
I'm not sure that the two can be separated.  I happen to think it's important to tell children what to believe.  The debate surrounds how that is done.  Even if you argue that children ought (at some stage), to be able to make up their own minds, then you're telling them what they should believe, (that is, that they ought to make up their minds).  I think that telling people (or better, asking people) to believe something requires an authority that has to be earned.  It has to be about weighing up of the lives of people against what they are saying.  If your parents say that violence is wrong, and then they smack you, there is good reason to doubt their authority.  Telling people what to believe (or asking them to trust you) also requires telling them that they are being told what to believe (if that makes sense).  It's about openness.  I am asking you to believe that gravity exists prior to demonstrating (within a kind of system) that that is true.  When I hear a sermon, I know I am being asked to believe something (within a kind of system), that is to be demonsrated in the lives of others.  When I teach a child to say the Lord's prayer, I am in a certain way, telling them what to believe.  If I am honest, I will say "there are people who do not say this prayer", but I won't not teach it.  Being able to think within a system can be the best way of learning to be critical of that system. --AR
I don't agree that telling people to think for themselves is telling them what to believe. --Xarak
Hear, hear. This simply cannot be stated too often. - MoonShadow
I'm not sure what I can say if you don't accept that.  I think it is a highly deceptive way of telling people what to think.  You've fooled them into thinking that they've made up their mind on the issue of thinking when they have had to accept your conception of what freedom is about.  Is it possible to have a more conventional message in today's society than "make up your own mind"?  I think that only having developed a discipline of learning are you capable of thinking.  Whose language are you going to use, after all?  What I'm trying to question is an Enlightenment presumption hidden deep in some of the University and some of society that, /without prior training/, you are capable of making up your own mind.  The Enlightenment tells people that they possess a common capacity to reason that transcends culture or language.  It tells people to stand aside from the narratives that formed them.  But following a philosopher called Alastair MacIntyre?, I don't think that's possible.  I think it is better to see people as products of their culture.  That's why it's important to ask who people believe they are speaking for and what community they belong to.  If you don't think you have a community or a narrative, or alternatively, you think you have a way of telling a story that is somehow independent of all that has gone before, I think you have been deeply misled.  One way of putting this might be to say that we (at least many of the current generation) are a Google-shaped people.  If you pretend or genuinely believe that you've not been formed by any narrative than that of "thinking for yourself", then you are blind to the narrative that has created you, that is the narrative of consumerism.  Maybe telling people to make up their own minds used to be a revolutionary cry, but now it's what society wants you to think.  I suspect it also links to the individualism necessary to keep our present economy going. My feeling is that many Toothywikizens have not made the cultural shift away from Enlightenment thought. --AR

That's exactly my thinking. You need to be taught ( even "conditioned" maybe ) to be able to think for yourself! Just as freedom requires laws to protect that freedom, free thought requires rules to allow it to work. However, my point was that there's a great difference between teaching someone how to think for themselves, and teaching someone to think or believe a certain way. "Make up your own mind" is a common and now mostly empty sentiment, and I can see your point that this is itself a belief which people are conditioned to believe ( or rather they believe that thinking for yourself is good, which it is, but they also believe that they are thinking for themselves, which generally they arn't. ) Really thinking for yourself, however, is not a slogan, or a belief system, but a process. We should be teaching that process. Actually, I think we are doing so better than we have before in our history, marginally so. I think people are genuinely more skeptical ( or, if you prefer, cynical... ) than they used to be. The Enlightenment achieved much. There's still a long way to go. -- Xarak

P.S That idea goes back well beyond MacIntyre?. Karl Marx certainly argued something simelar, and it may well go back much further... -- Xarak

I'm glad that you agree that you need to be taught how to think.  However, I'm beginning to wonder whether "making up your mind" is an anomalous as well as empty phrase.  One only learns to think as well as the best thinkers.  I'm not convinced about the "really" implied in your speech about thinking for yourself, (I think you take away with your left hand what you just gave with your right).  Further, I do not think the Enlightenment was a step forward.  But then I have an unapologetic, conditioned and traditioned approach to reality.  I'm not interested in teaching process, but imitating Christ :-).  In itself, that is a learning process.  It may be better described as witness, but there is a sense in which process describes something of it because of its nature as journey.  The point of questionning is not for the sake of questionning in itself, but in order to discard and demolish idols.  I think I like your return to process, but I don't think that it can be taught as an object, only displayed.  What I'm trying to say (in a convoluted way) is that the way we think cannot be separated from what we think.  Our method for thinking is as crucial as the subject of our thought.  Your remark that an idea goes back beyond MacIntyre? confirms that even MacIntyre? is not thinking for himself :-)... --AR

You make part of your point simply by virtue of the above text being very hard reading. The introduction of undefined loaded jargon such as "story" (which, to someone who hasn't read the same things you have and in the absence of any references, carries the subtext "it's irrelevant whether it's actually true" - is that intentional?) serves to confuse matters for me, not clarify. As a result, I can very much appreciate the part of your point that it is very hard to make one's mind up about a subject without first learning something about it - assuming that was part of your point. - MoonShadow
Ironically, I think I may have made my point in my method.  You are correct to discern that I use the word "story" in a way that does not need to imply untruth.  Not all stories are untrue.  But what I'm saying is that we're all using "loaded jargon".  That's why I asked above, "whose language are you going to use?".  See http://www.bethelks.edu/mennonitelife/2003Mar/huebner.php (and the first paragraph in italics about why this is difficult...  BTW, I've only just started the article.  I haven't got to the end of it yet.)

Just to clarify: "Here are the arguments for POV x, here are the arguments for POV y, here's where you can read up more on the subject. Do what you see fit." vs "I think x, and your mother thinks x and your grandparents think x and your family have all thought x for as long as I can remember. All the people who think y are wrong and are going to hell. You should live your life as though x was true, and if you ever start looking into y I shall be very disappointed in you." Which do you think is a better way of bringing up children?
I do see what you're saying.  However, let x= "here are the arguments for POV y and z, and here's where you can read up on it".  Now look at the second clause after the vs.  What is the difference between what you are saying and what the people of the second clause are saying?  That's why I think it important to ask about the particular end of any community...  One of my criteria for discerning whether something is worth hearing is whether it does violence to somebody else's way of thinking.  Perhaps (although I don't want to tell you what you're thinking) one of your critera for discerning whether something is worth hearing is whether it allows as broad a scope for questionning as possible.  All that I'm trying to make clear is that we have to have criteria.  We're all stuck in the same boat.  So the better way of bringing up children comes to mean existing honestly as a community in which questionning is encouraged within a tradition. --AR

If you don't genuinely think it's the latter, could you expand the jargon in the above passages - lines like "I happen to think it's important to tell children what to believe"; don't write more passages, just rewrite what you've already got in place - so it's harder to misread as supporting that? Could you give some examples on how one might inform a child on a subject where two conflicting points of view exist and you think one of them is right and the other wrong, while following your philosophy? Thanks.. - MoonShadow
You don't want anything easy :-)!  I hope I've made clear that I don't see your two examples as genuinely conflicting.  I think the best you can do is teach a child to question.  Why?  Because our telos, our goal, is truth.  As far as I'm concerned, as far as I've read, as far as I've been trained, Christianity offers a set of fantastic questions.  But the Christian message, by virtue of its own criterion is not a message that is allowed to exist in a ghetto.  If you're not in the world preaching the gospel, then you're not obeying the internal logic of the system.  That opens you to critique from those within Christianity.  Logically, if you are in the world preaching the gospel, you'll come upon other systems... I prefer to say "other languages", and in order to preach, you'll need to learn those languages.  And from there, you might discover that other people have better questions.  I don't think that's a reason to fear, but a way to bring up children that fosters an openness to truth. --AR


It's telling them how to think, but teaching them to think in a way that allows them to decide for themselves what to believe. It's teaching them how to think freely, something that doesn't always come naturally. Of course, it's easier said than done. Teaching children the Lord's prayer...well, I'm of the opinion that anyone who values the Lord's prayer should never teach it to children. I went to a C of E primary school, and said the Lord's prayer every morning from about age 5. It was never explained what it actually meant ( the vicar may have attempted this at some point, but if so, I don't remember it ), we just learnt it and repeated it by rote...it was completely devalued. Any spiritual power it had was totally worn out. I don't think the average child can understand it, or the religion behind it ( I'd say that any theology that a child can genuinely understand isn't much of a theology, although I'm sure you could convincingly argue the exact opposite. ), so I don't think they should be taught it...I don't think a parent should try to teach a child the ways of their religion until they are old enough to make their own decision ( when this age is, is a good question ), because I don't think they could really understand it. They could understand that their religion was right and others were wrong, but not why, and that's a poor state of affairs. -- Xarak

Children see everything as a matter of right and wrong and look to an authority to tell them what that is. If parents and schoolteachers don't fit the bill, then they have only popular culture to turn to - and that leads to a worse outcome than would occur if the authority figure told a child what to think. I think it is very important, even the duty of a Christian, to raise a child in the Christian faith from as early as possible. This involves teaching the meaning of things along with the things themselves - of course it does. But if the child is not raised in Christ, they must find Him for themselves, and that is a difficult journey upon which many stumble and fall. When the child is old enough to make their own decisions, they must already be informed as to the possible choices - and as to what the authority figures in their life believe to be the correct choices. Or they will make the wrong choices and it will be very hard for them to change. We are not in the business of sending people out into the world at random - we are in the business of giving our children the best possible start. --Requiem

They should be informed as to the possible choices, exactly. They shouldn't be only informed as to the choice which the parent's happen to believe is the right one. It's true that popular culture etc. exert an influence, so the role of the parent ( or the school ) should be to provide balance, countering any bias from the media or whatever, without introducing their own and hence making matters worse.    I'd say if a child asked authority figure "Does God exist?" or a simelar question, the best answer would be "Some people say yes, some people say no", regardless of what the figure personally believed; not as a way of ducking of the question but as a way of counter-balancing dogmatism from various quarters. Actually, the very best answer might be "Let's bake a cake." I really don't think children should spend their time worrying about religous questions too much ^_^ -- Xarak
I don't think it's possible to be unbiased. So maybe the best way to ensure the child gets a balanced view is to expose them to as much variety as possible. I suspect this will end up leaving the child very confused. Also, if one holds strongly to a view that one believes is important to life, one is convinced that that view is correct and that teaching a child anything else is, if not bad, then not as good. I would most definitely want any child we had to choose freely what to believe - but I'd like the result of that free choice to be Christianity - SunKitten
If a child of mine (assuming I ever had one) asked me if God existed, the only answer I could give them that would be honest from my perspective, would be 'yes'. Should I willfully lie to my child or give them a belief-centric answer? "Some people think so" sounds like "No, and people that hold that belief are abnormal", coming from an authority figure. --Requiem
I'm envious that you're so certain. From my POV, a flat "yes" would be a lie by omission of important context. I'm pretty certain he does, but I have no proof that would convince another, only my faith and the ability to point at the Bible. Moreover, failing to mention the existence of disagreement at all could easily result in the child either assuming the rest of his peer group have no good (from their POV) reasons to deny God's existence and therefore are idiots or deliberately malicious (with alienation, inability to communicate on the subject - especially crushing in the face of youth christian groups expecting their members to attempt to evangelise their friends! - and teenage depression as a result), or siding with his/her peer group against me (with total loss of my authority on matters where the peer group disagree with me as a result). I don't think that'd make for a very good start in life. I'd probably answer something like "Yes, I'm pretty sure He does", or "as far as I know, He does"; and expand with "well, people disagree, because.. Here's why I think what I do..." when quizzed further (as one is bound to be since such questions aren't likely to happen unless the child has already realised that some of his peer group doesn't think God exists).. Not that I know what I'd actually do, not having any kids; but it's my best guess. - MoonShadow

Um, you are making the unwarranted assumption that your religion is correct or at least the best way of thinking to fit the childs environment.  That may or may not be true - but taking it as an axiom isn't excatly the best way to find out whether it is or not.  I point out that plenty of kids with Christian upbringings come to bad ends and plenty without come to good ones.  Anyone got any stats?  It'd be funny as hell to have info to convince rationalists that the best way to raise a child is religious :)  --Vitenka
This isn't a question of logic. It's a question of religion. Personally, if I couldn't make the assumption that my religion was correct, why the hell is it my religion? And yeah - I'll go hunt for some statistics on this ^_^ --Requiem
You say that, but I have a friend who insists that when he has children, he's going to become a miserable fundamentalist to ensure that when his children rebel, they rebel to become like him as he is now :) (but then, he thinks he's about as good as it gets.. ^^;;) - SunKitten
My slightly obfuscated point was that you need logic to convince a rationalist.  But the bit I was responding to was the "Give our kids the best posisble start" - I suppose we might be defining 'best' differently.  Most effective vs most good, perhaps?  --Vitenka (I strongly suspect that the most effective start is to raise a kid in the mafia and when they rebel they go into business or politics)
I wouldn't use this argument with a rationalist as they wouldn't accept many of my axioms as true. <syllogism> Kids need authority. If we don't provide it, then popular culture will. Thus if we do not consider popular culture to be a suitable authority, then we must provide the authority ourselves. </syllogism> --Requiem
Authority doesn't preclude using statements such as "I think x because y. If x was untrue, we'd have z, and you can see we don't." and "x is right/wrong because y. If it were otherwise, we'd end up with z, and you can see you wouldn't want that." instead of statements like "Think x 'cos mummy does." "x is right/wrong 'cos daddy says so and daddy knows." -MoonShadow
And why the first because?  And why your assertion that !x->z? And why does y imply x?  Because DaddySaysSo?.  --Vitenka
When they ask that, don't cop out with DaddySaysSo? - answer to the best of your ability, instead. "I'll tell you a little later when we're not in the middle of a busy street" is acceptable if you do actually do it. So is getting them to try and remember your previous answers to the same questions. - MoonShadow
Oh - the first two statements are what is said by the parents. The second two are what is heard by the child. Of course you don't want an old-fashioned 'Why? Because I say so!' approach. --Requiem
Why not?  Such an approach is, at least, honest.  If you can't match the kid's logic, why not just present the outcome and let them work their logic around to it?  --Vitenka  (Who confused himself a while ago)
I think it's important to introduce the idea of at least trying to support theories with logical arguments based on observed information, even if the kid doesn't bother to do that there and then. The valuable part is to get them used to statements of the form "consider this because of this reasoning" rather than the form "accept this because of my authority". - MoonShadow
But there's no fundamental difference.  (Assuming a malleability of mind) You could imprint the child with any desired system of logic and any desired conclusions - in the end it all stems from your authority as the person on the spot telling the child things giving you the ability to give the child beliefs.  Now some beliefs "Don't get run over" are probably going to be universally accepted as good beliefs to imprint.  Others (Scientology anyone?) quite possibly aren't.  And the acceptance of a belief is based upon the local culture anyway.  So which beliefs should you imprint?  And what system of attaining those beliefs?  It's fairly reasonable that a rationalist would want to imprint logic - but why is that intrinsically better than imprinting a blind belief in authority?  (And yeah - there's a while seperate discussion on why logic is better than blindness - but I'm not sure that's the point, I'm just having a hard time coming up with logic to show a system of belief other than logic which could be just as valid.)  --Vitenka
Blind belief in authority is more likely to stop one adapting and coming up with new things. The computer you are using to type your points is one of very many reasons why being able to come up with new things in the face of authority that tells you they are impossible and/or evil is good. - MoonShadow
Oh, personally I agree - but then, I was raised in this culture where such things are seen as a good thing...  MoralRelativism?.  That's the term I'm looking for.  All discussions end up there eventually :)  Oh, since I haven't actually commented, I basically agree with the quote, though don't think it particularly deep and obviously think it can be carried too far.  --Vitenka
I also agree that the quote isn't that deep, but the process of quote collecting is for the end of better describing the world.  It's a case of putting snippets of ideas together, and seeing what comes up.  That expresses, in a way that a contemporary person can understand, some of the ideas of (say) MacIntyre? that I find interesting.  I find it interesting to see what others find worth discussing in the quotes.  --AR

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Pacifists are often challenged after an event like September 11 with the question, “Well, what alternative do you have to bombing Afghanistan?” Such a question assumes that pacifists must have an alternative foreign policy. My only response is I do not have a foreign policy. I have something better—a church constituted by people who would rather die than kill."
StanleyHauerwas

I'm sorry, but I can't read this in any way other than "I'm wonderful because I sit in church and pray and let others get their hands dirty trying to solve the problem (who I can then condemn for their actions)".  A 'church constituted by people who would rather die than kill' is undoubtably a wonderful thing but how, exactly, does this offer a solution to the problem? --K

I've moved the discussion here so as not to clog up the quotes page.  I think, in a way, that a solution to the problem is not offered.  I took a lot of the quotes that I got last night from this page: http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/911site/hauerwas.html It might give more context to the debate.  Partly, I think your question is answered in this bit: "Christian nonviolence is not a strategy to rid the world of violence, but rather the way Christians must live in a world of violence."  The answer to the problem is that we don't have an answer that can be put in a way that means a government might make a policy decision from it.  Our answer is to continue living out peaceful practices in the recognition that the world might become more violent despite our presence.  That's ultimately why I think that we might be asked to die before we would allow ourselves to kill.  I wonder what percentage of the US army call themselves "Christian", and whether the US would have an armed forces worth speaking about without the presence of those people.  Part of adopting a peaceful stance forces us to be more imaginative.  If we really cared, then perhaps we would have just agreed, as a Church, to be present in Iraq, to move our families and friends over, and go and share the Eucharist with Iraqi Christians.  So as opposed to portraying what we do as "praying and letting others get their hands dirty", I think a peaceful strategy would involves us praying and dirtying our hands, but dirtying our hands in a way that meant we would be on the side of those who were being bombed, rather than those doing the bombing.  It's not an "answer" that can be codified, but I hope it means doing more than sitting around condemning those who fight (and who, incidentally, have found something worth dying for). --AR


You're missing the bit where they assimilate everyone else in the world into their church and so there's no problem any more. - MoonShadow

That simply won't happen.  The world can't be assimilated like that.  It would, in any case, risk being a violent manouvere.  The problem remains, and what we have to do is to live in light of that. --AR

An amusing tale I have heard is as follows:  The Bahai and the quakers intend to patiently wait until everyone on earth follows one or the other of their faiths - and then settle the question (of which is better) with one single knock-down battle.  They're just saving their strength for it.  --Vitenka



The question isn't about dying rather than killing. It's about letting others die rather than killing. Do you think a teacher whose class is attacked by a maniac with a machete should stand back and let them die, if the only way they can stop the maniac is by killing them? If a child fell in a river, I would hope the teacher would throw them a line; if attacked by an animal, that the teacher would do whatever it took to stop the creature. I don't see why the duty of care disappears because the threat comes from a person. - PlasmonPerson

The question is about both dying and letting others die, rather than killing.  I am not convinced that the only answer is to "stand back".  I think that stepping forward in front of the maniac with the machete would be more of an active option than "standing back" and letting them die.  As I say, more imagination is required.  But I don't distinguish between the children and the maniac, one life (or even one set of lives) is not more important than another life or set of lives.  The child falling in the river is a different case.  I think I would attempt to rescue a child if they fell in a river.  It would probably not involve killing anybody in the process.  I suppose what I am arguing is that the duty of care extends as far as the maniac.  And I don't think that this view is a view that just anybody can hold.  It doesn't make sense outsidedef a Christian community that practices an active form of peace-making.  But my job is not to provide a universal ethic that we can all live by, but demonstrate how Christians might be faithful to Christ. --AR

Stepping forward in front of the maniac just means you die and he then goes on to kill the children. Which, when you think about it, you can't do, because you're throwing away your life needlessly, and as you think life is valuable that's bad.
I would not see it as a needless throwing away of a life, but as a supreme demonstration of Christ's action. --AR

Take the old chestnut of the runaway train where all you can do is steer it onto one line or another. On the first line, five people are working. On the second, only one. If you do nothing, five people die, but you can claim your hands are clean. If you change the points only one dies, but you can't kid yourself.
It's a no win situation.  Mostly, such situations do not occur.  One would simply have to decide what to do in the situation, and do it. --AR

It's rather supercilious of you to go on about this not being a view that anyone can hold, either. It makes just as much sense in the mouth of an atheist as it does in the mouth of a Christian (however much or little sense that might be).
I'm afraid I don't agree.  If I weren't a Christian, I'd have joined the armed forces long ago.  It is only because I think Jesus set forward an example of peace, that I believe I am called to live peacefully.  It is only because I think that the community within which I operate would rather die as martyrs than fight that I think the practice of peace makes sense.  --AR

But to return: if you turn your other cheek, that's fine. But if you aid, even by inaction, an attacker, you become complicit in the assault. Standing back is not a morally neutral action. There is no 'default'.
That's why I'm trying, as much as possible, to present ChristianPacifism not as an option of inaction, but of different action.  I agree with you that standing back is not morally neutral. --AR

What if whoever is in the situation with the children is a good enough shot to injure, rather than kill, the attacker? Is that violence, and so prohibited?
I'm working on an answer for your question about what constitutes violence on the ChristianPacifism page, but it might take me some time to formulate.  --AR

It is indeed a no win situation. THAT IS THE POINT. No win situations occur. And you can wibble all you like about alternatives to violence, but most people who are not pacifists would agree with you that where there is an alternative, that alternative should be used.
And obviously, as they are not pacifists, they'd be free to use those alternatives.  I'm not claiming that as a pacifist, I don't have bloody hands.  I don't see it as a position in which one can stand back and be smug, indeed non-violence might provoke others to more violence.  I am not claiming that this is a method for success or power.  But then I do not need a method for success or power because I think that all that can be done has been done by Christ on the cross. --AR

So all your points about 'different action' are irrelevant. If there is an alternative to violence, use it! The difficult question is what to do when there is no alternative.
I would hope that I have been shaped so as to use a non-violent alternative to violence. --AR

What do you do in a no-win situation?

(The answer, of course, is lose. But being glib doesn't help in the real life situation.)

In other responses, your throwing away your life to achieve precisely nothing is a demonstrating of Christ giving up his life to achieve everything? Good lord woman, that's presumption!
I do not accept that throwing away life would be a demonstration of nothing.  I believe it would be a witness to what Christ's everything had already achieved. --AR
I fail to understand understand how getting yourself killed helps anyone else. As an atheist I am only guessing but there was supposedly a point to Christ sacreficing himself wasn't there? If you throw yourself in front of a manic with no chance of reasoning with them or defending yourself you will die, and those behind you will die. By dieing pointlessly you hurt your family and friends as well as your financial dependants, your employer and the people you could have defended or lead to safety. Martyrdom is in many ways a very selfish choice. --King DJ
I've said several times through the debate that I don't think this position makes sense outside of a Christian context.  I accept that from the outside that martyrdom looks like a selfish choice.  I don't deny that it is done for selfish motives sometimes (especially since I don't accept there is any such thing as altruism).  But getting oneself killed for others (even if they may be killed afterwards) is a non-violent option open to somebody who seeks to imitate Christ.  We hope that it is the last one necessary, and that other options might be taken before it.  But at the end of the day, if it's being killed or killing, the response is to be killed.  I think that part of the difficulty is that it doesn't look like it has a "point" or a "purpose";, but its purpose is bound up in Christ's self-emptying.  --AR
The thing is I have absolutely no problem with people harming themselves though their decisions. What I have a problem with is people who harm others as a result of their decisions. Christians are mostly harmless however what you appear to be saying about pacifism seems to suggest that it is actually dangerous. --King DJ
Yes.  Christianity is dangerous is definitely what I'm saying.  You wouldn't hire me as a kindergarten teacher now, would you?  I could stand for election, but I really doubt that you'd want a Christian politician like me.  However, I think that the danger with this debate is that it polarises too easily.  Even those Christians who believe in "just war", (actually, even anybody who takes part in any war at all) has to watch people being harmed as a result of the decisions of others.  Lots of 'innocent' Iraqi citizens (children, if you like), will have been killed by the armed forces of the UK and the US, and that is harming people as a result of decisions that they didn't make.  Whether you do something or do nothing, you'll be guilty of harming others.  But you're the first one to point out that I might actually be dangerous. --AR

And maybe if you weren't a Christian you'd have joined the armed forces long ago but -- guess what -- there are atheists who are pacifists too! Do you really have the gall to say that their stance is nonsensical while yours makes perfect sense?
I would say that their stance does not make sense from within a Christian perspective.  If I said it did make sense, I may well be undermining their arguments.  I don't know whether or not their stances make sense as atheist stances.  --AR




Postulate:  Pacifists have an enhanced tendency to fight with words, as an alternative outlet for the usual violence drive.  --Vitenka

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