jesus of anger / jesus of love

Last night, after posting that “Backlash” piece, I started reading the next book chosen for the Ypsi-Arbor Progressive Reading Club, Bruce Bawer’s, “Stealing Jesus : How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity.” I knew it would be somewhat pertinent to the theme of my post, which had to do with conservative, evangelical Christianity as it’s been expressed by visitors to the comments section of this site, but I wasn’t ready for just how dead-on appropriate it would be. As I don’t have the time right now to do much transcribing, here are two quick clips. The first involves the differences, in the author’s opinion, between what he terms the “legalistic,” or conservative, and “nonlegalistic,” or liberal, camps of Protestant Christianity:

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  1. Posted June 22, 2005 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    I’m to page 40, and I had a similar reaction, Mark. Several times I remembered “Religion: Believe It or Not” as I read from the book. Every year I teach The Crucible. One point I try to stress is that it can happen here and now just as easily as it did back then. Now I want to go into more depth in researching the Puritans and the Salem Witch Trials. What could have been done to stop it? How did witch trials fade from American culture? “Pure”-itans are all around us, vying for another spot in the limelight so that they can burn some more witches. We must stop them. I wonder if Jim has studied the Puritans in depth at all.

    Also, I’m still mulling around that idea about combating religious fundamentalists with anti-cult tactics and deprogramming techniques. Probably nothing there.

    My favorite passages so far:

    “Why did this kind of religion develop in America, of all places? Well, first of all, America is the place to which the Puritans came, and their fixation on stark antitheses (God and Satan, saints and sinners), their conviction that you’re damned unless you believe exactly the right doctrine, and their tendency to equate immorality with sex all helped lay the foundations for today’s legalistic Christianity. So did the pragmatism and materialism of the pioneers, whose respect for ‘honest work’ and suspicion of professors, philosophers, and others who don’t produce anything ‘real’ spelled success for faiths that involved quantifiable sacrifice, little or no abstract reflection, and a concrete payoff in the form of a tangible heaven. Those pioneers’ individualistic sentiments, moreover, made them distrust ecclesiastical elites and accept the right of every person to interpret the Bible according to his or her own lights; this emphasis on scripture was also fed by the notion of America as a new Eden, which, as the religious historian George M. Marsden has noted, ‘readily translated into Biblical primitivism,’ the idea that ‘the Bible alone should be one’s guide.’ Yet given those pioneers’ literal-mindedness and aversion to abstract interpretation, it was a short–and disastrous–step from the idea of the Bible as guide to a twisted insistence on biblical literalism” (page 9).


    “In any event, the problem with legalistic Christianity is not simply that it affirms that God can be evil; it’s that it imagines a manifestly evil God and calls that evil good. In effect, as we shall see, it worships evil.” (page 10)

  2. Jim
    Posted June 22, 2005 at 8:28 am | Permalink


  3. Posted June 22, 2005 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    dirtgrain – If you’re interested in scholarly articles on the Puritanism and Salem topic, please search for the author Gerald F. Moran. He’s a brilliant historian out of Univ of Mich-Dearborn.

  4. Jim
    Posted June 22, 2005 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I think that part of the answer to Mark’s question about the lack of prominent liberal Christian leaders is that the most well-known fundamentalist/”legalist” leaders are not heads of Christian denominations, but have gained prominence through TV and radio–Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, etc. The dominance of religious conservatives in religious broadcasting seems to parallel the dominance of political conservatives in political talk radio. If liberal Christians want a higher profile, they might do well to build their own TV and radio networks.

  5. Posted June 22, 2005 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    The idea of nonviolent resistance is pretty powerful. It has one law – “do onto others as you would have them do to you.” An S&M joke could be made of that, but, all jokes aside, I think that most people understand the meaning of it.

    The Leo Tostoy link in an earlier comment was to a book called “The Kingdom of God is Within You.” It is in the public domain and is available at the project gutenburg site. In it, Tolstoy makes the argument that the Christian Church does not follow the Golden Rule, that it actually condones violence and war, and that this is directly opposed to the fundamental teaching of Christ ( the Golden Rule from the Sermon on the Mount.)

    It is an incredibly difficult idea to embody when it comes to “turning the other cheek.” “Non resistance to evil by force” requires no response with violence ( of words or actions ) to scenarios that make most people upset just considering them.

    The most interesting thing about this idea is its relationship to laws. Laws are designed to limit freedoms (within a sovereignty) to protect the many from the actions of a few. Or, in the case of a corrupt sovereignty, to protect the few from the actions of the many.

    Gandhi’s Satyagraha was directly influenced by Tolstoy’s book. Gandhi was trained as a lawyer in Britain. He realized that the laws set up by Britain in India were designed to protect Britain’s interest at the expense of India, and he decided that the most effective way to change those laws was not through the courts but through a movement of nonviolent resistance to unjust laws.

    Doctor King followed the same path when leading the civil rights movement, and many others have been equally successful.

    The expression of love as a way to try and convince someone they are wrong is interesting. In the case Jim mentions from the NYT Magazine article, the expression was to protect a law that many people feel is unjust rather than question and test it against the Golden Rule.

    A law, Golden or otherwise, is still a limit of one’s freedom.

  6. john galt
    Posted June 22, 2005 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    an example of a current non-violent movement

    Suddenly this morning, two stories appear in mainstream media about the Islamic Thinkers Society, covered two weeks ago at LGF; the first is in the New York Times, where the headline stresses the group

  7. john galt
    Posted June 22, 2005 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    for the record I think the “dangerous” Robertson is pretty amicable compared to these guys.

  8. mark
    Posted June 22, 2005 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Why, when you’re talking about the torture at Abu Ghraib, John, it’s a “few bad apples,” but when it comes to a few Muslim community college students with bullhorns it’s indicative of all those who practice the religion?

    Personally, I abhor religious extremism of every sort, Muslim or Christian… I know I’ve told you that before, John, but you keep forgetting.

  9. john galt
    Posted June 22, 2005 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    well you guys seem to keep ignoring the posts (of course Galt isn’t a jewish name so what right fo I have)

    from Australia.. Dhimmitude in action

    A Victorian Tribunal has ordered a Christian group to publicly apologise for vilifying Muslims at a religious conference and on the Internet.

    The orders are believed the first of their kind under Victoria

  10. mark
    Posted June 22, 2005 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    This is absolutely fascinating, John, but I’m not sure I get your point.

  11. john galt
    Posted June 22, 2005 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Just to follow up Mark, You have no problem castigating those terrible evangelicals, but as long as I’ve been posting on here you’ve never denounced in any way muslim radicals.. Seems like they’re off limits to the multi-culti crowd. You lovingly post front page stories about radical dems who invite these same sorts to their events, and the equivocate about how the had no Idea that their guests were anti-semites.. If the republicans were to invite KKK members to their events, I bet you would be calling for their resignation. You are at the moment calling for an impeachment of Bush because before 9/11 he apparently wanted to prepare for an invasion of Iraq, Given the intel at the time, wouldn’t he have been remiss to not consider it.. I guess planning for war should only occur after millions have died in a pre-emptive attack by a foreign nation.. His oath of office says he will protect America.. Maybe we should just remove that part..

  12. john galt
    Posted June 22, 2005 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    luckily the Dems havent had any involvment with racism….

    Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WV, has said repeatedly over the years that he joined the notorious anti-black hate group the Ku Klux Klan during World War II – not because he was a racist – but because the Klan had taken a strong stance against communism, a system of government that then existed only in the Soviet Union.

    But Byrd’s KKK alibi doesn’t stand up to even the most cursory historical scrutiny, as a World War II veteran pointed out to Wednesday.

    “When Byrd said he joined the Klan, it couldn’t have been famous for being anti-Communist, since in 1943 the Soviet Union was our crucial ally in World War II,” said our source, who served in Air Force, then known as the Army Air Corps, in preparation for the Normandy invasion.

    “In 1943 Franklin Roosevelt was still calling Stalin ‘Uncle Joe’,” he added. “And I remember U.S. military maps that showed the Red Army’s advances toward Berlin, which was something we were all happy about.”

    Further puncturing Sen. Byrd’s KKK alibi, the World War II vet recalled, “There would have been no reason for any patriotic American to have been anti-Communist in 1943 – because we were doing everything we could to help the Reds beat Hitler on the Eastern Front.”

    In fact, anti-communism didn’t emerge as a genuine force in American politics until 1947, with the outbreak of the Cold War – four years after Byrd says he left the Klan. Two weeks ago the West Virginia Democrat’s press secretary Tom Gavin said his boss had belonged to the Klan for only “a number of months.”

    It was during this period that Byrd – supposedly by then an EX-Klansman – was advising Grand Imperial Wizard Samuel Green on whom to appoint to important posts in the hierarchy of the hate group. In a letter to Green, Byrd urged, “the Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia” and “in every state in the Union.”

    A year later in 1948, Byrd opposed President Truman’s initiative to integrate the Armed Forces – and he did so using the language of a very much active Klansman.

    The powerful Senate Democrat vowed then that he would “never submit to fight beneath that banner (the American flag) with a Negro by my side. Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.”

    “If Byrd said he thought the Klan’s main job was fighting communism, he’s either not being honest about why he joined – or he was a Klansman a lot longer than he now wants to admit,” said the World War II vet.

    You know during the civil rights stuggle, almost every Southern State was controlled by dems.. Byrd by the way dropped the N-Bomb on a Fox interview about a year ago.. outrage.. none.. guess you get a pass based on party affiliation.

  13. Ken
    Posted June 22, 2005 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    What is the plan John? Maybe round up the muslims and put ’em in camps until they renounce their religion. Or is your job just to get Mark to say something bad about them? That will solve all the problems. What about Bush? He doesn’t speak bad of them. In fact, he goes over there and holds hands with them. But I guess that is just to keep the oil flowing.

  14. mark
    Posted June 22, 2005 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Just tell me what I need to say and I’ll do it, John… How’s this for a start?

    “I believe Christ is angry and full of hatred, but I love him anyway.”

    “I hate all Muslims… and there is no such thing as a peaceful one.”

    “Democrats are evil… worse even than the Nazis. If it were up to them, they’d kill the Jews and re-enslave the blacks.”

    “Corporations are wonderful. They have only our best interests in mind. Always.”

    “Only conservative Christians can get into heaven. Sad as it is, Muslim babies that die will have to burn for eternity in a lake of fire.”

    “To question our great leader is as unpatriotic as driving a compact car.”

    “Science is a cult.”

    What else, John?

  15. Ken
    Posted June 22, 2005 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    You forgot to renounce apple pie.

  16. chris
    Posted June 22, 2005 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    John fascinates me. BTW I checked out the Northridge site and they look like they’ve got it goin’ on. Man, I’d go if I knew I could still have an abortion, marry the same sex, and keep who I voted for my business just like in old timey times. AND NO I am not stoned again.

    I went to church with the bass player from the Revolution and Prince when I was a kid so they would have to kick in a rock star too. Oh yeah, and real wine during communion, grape juice is so tacky.

  17. Posted June 22, 2005 at 10:27 pm | Permalink


  18. Doug Skinner
    Posted June 23, 2005 at 2:24 am | Permalink

    In the interest of accuracy — Byrd was not only a Klan member, but a Kleagle. His was not a passing involvement.

    By the way, the Klan was not a purely Southern movement. It was big in the Midwest and Southwest too, especially in its later incarnations.

    The South was indeed solidly Democratic during the civil rights struggle. Once LBJ committed the party to civil rights and publicly endorsed Dr. King, the South mostly went Republican, at least in national elections.

  19. Doug Skinner
    Posted June 23, 2005 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    And Mark — I think you’ve got the Republican catechism down! You may be hearing from Karl Rove soon.

    You left out “Mission Accomplished,” though.

  20. Ken
    Posted June 23, 2005 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Too bad you really, really hate Jesus because you will never get to drive this sweet ass ride.

  21. [steph]
    Posted June 23, 2005 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I can think of an incredibly intelligent, well-spoken, open-minded, insightful, witty and inspiring liberal Christian leader: Al Sharpton. Unfortunately, there are many people, particularly in the media, who go out of their way to discredit him every chance they get. Just look at the reaction to his speech at the last Democratic Convention. It’s really a shame that he is treated that way. I, for one, really admire and respect the man. He deserves much more credit than he is given.

  22. john galt
    Posted June 23, 2005 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    from rich lowry concerning Sharpton

  23. chris
    Posted June 23, 2005 at 9:50 pm | Permalink


    OK, I give…dare I ask, what’s a Kleagle?

    John, good antagonism is identified in part by its brevity. If you still expect us to get into that ring with could you please give us the abridged version?

  24. john galt
    Posted June 23, 2005 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    sorry to overwhelm you chris, you must be stoned again… Keep tokin.. Next time I’ll try my best to edit down to a “community organizer” level.. THere are also two tools you should know about, one is called google, the other wikipedia.

  25. john galt
    Posted June 23, 2005 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    since it must be hard to type while on the chronic.. from wiki

    Kleagle is the title held by a form of Ku Klux Klan officer whose role is to recruit new members.

    Senator Robert Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia, is a notable Kleagle in KKK history. He was member from early 20s to his early 30s. He was defending the KKK as late as 1958 when he was 41 years old. He has since renounced his membership.

    Kleagle is also the rank held by Edgar Ray Killen, a Mississippi Klansman long suspected of involvement in a notorious civil rights movement murder that was subject of the movie Mississippi Burning. He was found guilty of manslaughter on June 21, 2005.

  26. chris
    Posted June 23, 2005 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Aaaaah…much better.

  27. chris
    Posted June 23, 2005 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the definition. But why do I get the feeling that you used neither wikipedia or google to come up with it?

  28. Doug Skinner
    Posted June 24, 2005 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Mr. Galt; saves me the trouble. I’ve admired many of Byrd’s speeches, but the man was a serious Klansman, and that’s inexcusble. I was also going to point out that Edgar Ray Killen was a Kleagle. Since the original jury refused to indict him because he was also a preacher, I think we should dignify him with the title Rev. Killen.

    Chris — Sorry, I didn’t mean to be obscure. I guess the term is less familiar now, since the KKK is much less active. Wikipedia does have a good article on the KKK, and I’m sure John did pull his post from there.
    The history of American conservatism makes for interesting reading.

  29. Jim
    Posted June 24, 2005 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Although Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are prominent _political_ liberals, I don’t think that they are well-known as _religious_ liberals (or non-legalists, to use Bawer’s term). In their public statements (at least, in those widely reported in the media), they focus on liberal politics, not theology.

    Am I wrong about this? Has either of them made public statements that would identify him as either a legalist or non-legalist Christian?

  30. [steph]
    Posted June 24, 2005 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Al Sharpton has made some mistakes in his past, and he has apologized publicly for these mistakes. I think he has certainly done more good than harm and he is a refreshing voice in the Democratic party. I don’t think he will ever get a political office, and that’s too bad. But his real position of importance is to keep bringing issues to the forefront of discussion that might otherwise go ignored. And yes, one of these issues is that of race. I don’t see how fighting to assure that instances of racial prejudice are not ignored and that equal rights are upheld for all people makes one a “race hustler.” There is an attitude used to discredit people like Al Sharpton that to be an activist is somehow bad, and makes one a radical. This country was founded by activists and activists continue to have a role in assuring that America remains the great place that it is. Organizing a minority community to make itself heard that it will accept nothing less than equality is not a negative thing in my mind. If this country is devoid of prejudice as some claim, then they should have no problem with people who push the issue. Since we do still live in a country plagued by racism and other forms of prejudice, I only wish there were more people like Al Sharpton who could get the issues heard.

    In response to the article that has been posted, here are some facts that I found:

    “In an exception, Tom Brokaw recently asked Sharpton if he would apologize for his role in the Brawley case. Sharpton had a defamation judgment against him in the case, but he stood by his smear and responded with a fusillade of obfuscation that eventually wore Brokaw down.”

    Here is the actual conversation:

    Brokaw: Reverend Sharpton, Howard Dean did apologize for his remarks about the Confederate flag on the back of a pickup truck. But a lot of people who admire you and especially like your spirit in engagements like this are wondering whether you’re ever going to apologize for your role in the Tawana Brawley case.

    Sharpton: Absolutely. If–I would apologize if I felt I was wrong. I think if you think you’re right, you pay the penalty for it and you stand there. If Governor Dean thought he was right, he should have taken whatever that was. He, after some assessment, felt he was wrong.
    I don’t feel I was wrong. I’ve stood up on cases, one was the Central Park jogger case–13 years later people felt I was right. But I think also, Tom, to compare a case of a young lady telling us something that we believe with a Confederate flag that represented a society’s commitment to lynching, to rape, to murder and treason, I think that’s a stretch even for Tom Brokaw.

    Brokaw: I wasn’t making–I wasn’t making a judgment. What I was saying was that people, once there was a body of evidence in the Tawana Brawley case

  31. mark
    Posted June 24, 2005 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard that you’ll wet your pants if you let your Kleagle lose its tone.

  32. Shanster
    Posted October 18, 2005 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    Well, I guess everybody has finished the book and has moved on to more intellectual pursuits, such as America’s Next Top Porn Star and Samhain celebrations. I just picked up the book, and read through the first chapter. I agree with my buddy Jim about the thesis and the labels, which I basically rejected as completely skewed. I’ll keep reading.

  33. mark
    Posted October 18, 2005 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    variety is the spice of life, shanster… don’t worry though, i’ll be back to the serious stuff soon enough.

    i’m glad to hear you’re reading the book.

  34. girl oder
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    One can hold both anger an love in his heart.

  35. Posted April 12, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Wow, girl oder, thanks for bringing me back in time to this old, classic thread. I’d forgotten about Shanster and Mr. Galt… Good times.

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