Judge not…

I have, once again, gotten into a discussion with someone who believes, oddly enough, that the bible verse “Judge not lest ye be judged” means that Christians should not exercise moral judgment. It does not. Here’s a synopsis of something I posted awhile ago on a USENET discussion group about this.

The idea that Christians should not make moral judgments is simply not supported by the New Testement. Even a quick review would show that the writers of the Testament were filled to the brim with opinions and judgments. They encouraged us as Christians to make them and speak them aloud — even at the expense of their own lives. You cannot proclaim the truth of Christ without noting that other paths do not have it, and that is a judgment.

The verse that one should not judge lest they be judged is better understood if we let Jesus complete His thought:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

That is *excellent* advice. We should judge carefully and consistently. We should not judge others any different than we judge ourselves or we expect to be judged by others. To do otherwise would be hypocrisy, and Jesus certainly didn’t like that — even though we are all, to one degree or another, guilty of it.

But we should judge, and that “judge not…” verse people who don’t like Christian judgment use tells us how to do so, if we allow Jesus to speak for Himself. Jesus’ idea was expanded upon by Paul:

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.[...] The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment.

Not only are Christians to make judgment, we are to make judgments about all things.

Jesus was not opposed to moral judgment, He was opposed to thoughtless and inconsistent judgment. As he told the Pharisees:

Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

Don’t stop judging, instead learn to judge correctly. Makes sense. And we should be careful, because the power of our judgments is *respected* (not condemned) by God. As He noted:

I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

And, as Paul expanded when discussing disagreements between Christians:

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!

It was for the *purpose* of introducing correct judgment into the world that Jesus came:

Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

The idea that we should never make moral judgments is silly on its face. And it requires that we choose one verse from one sermon and ignore all of the rest of His teaching — and indeed the rest of His sentence even in that sermon. Do people who claim we should not judge really mean that we should not condemn murder? Rape? Should we really sit down and say “Well, child abuse doesn’t look good, perhaps, but you know, we really shouldn’t be judgmental?”

Petty antichristians try to demean Christian judgment by pretending that Christianity demands that we surrender our moral judgment. They certainly wish it were so, and unfortunately, many Christians who do not understand the *responsibility* we have to make moral judgment fall for that line. But in doing so, they abandon the power and the responsibility that the Spirit gives us. We are to use our moral judgment not just for ourselves, but to change society itself. As John Adams noted about the establishment of the American government:

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

As Patrick Henry noted

“It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.�

And that remains true today. The American ideals of liberty are based on Christian ethics and morality, and when those are lost, so will our liberties be lost.

Southern Baptists do it again

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It’s one of those good news bad news things. The good news is that they went to Alabama to help hurricane victims. The bad news is that they wouldn’t give the victims water because the water was provided by a beer company. Doh.

Didn’t Jesus have something to say to the Pharisees about legalism opposing godliness?

Hat tip reformissionary.

Update: To be fair, the SBC folk *were* handing out water, they just declined to hand out water they found offensive.

Thinking of joining the ACLU?

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I was once a member of the ACLU (aka AntiChristian Litigation Union), until I noted it’s out and out hatred for the free expression of religion. There are alternatives, such as the Becket fund, which states:

Freedom of religion is a basic human right that no government may lawfully deny; it is not a gift of the state, but instead is rooted in the inherent dignity of the human person. Religious expression (of all traditions) is a natural part of life in civilized society, and religious arguments (on all sides of a question) are a normal and healthy element of public debate. Religious people and institutions are entitled to participate in government affairs on an equal basis with everyone else, and should not be excluded for professing their faith.

Sounds good to me.

Hat tip to stoptheaclu

Book Review: 1776

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1776
By David McCullough
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 24, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN: 0743226712

This book has been around awhile and it’s been reviewed by everybody, so there’s not too much I can add. I was looking for something that would be a good Saturday read, and this fulfilled that requirement nicely. McCullough is a well-known historian who won a Pulitzer for John Adams. This book is a little like Winick’s April 1865: The Month That Saved America, in that it concentrates on a relatively small slice of time during a much longer conflict and explains the importance of that period to the history of the period.

This book follows the young Continental Army from a rag tag collection of militias under the command of an inexperienced and vacillating General Washington through the first important battles of the American Revolution. It starts with the surprise victory of Washington at Boston, follows through the disasters in New York, and ends with the victories at Trenton and Princeton. The book’s primary value to me was in following the maturation of Washington, who had to suffer the defeats in New York in order to learn the most important lesson of military command — there is nothing worse than vacillation. It is much better to make the wrong decision than to make no decision at all, and Washington did not start to win until he took that lesson to heart. It cost him the support of Nahaniel Lee, one of his most important generals, who wrote to another of Washington’s officers, Joseph Reed:

I received your most obliging, flattering letter — lament with you that fatal indecision of mind which in war is a much greater disqualification than stupidity or even want of personal courage. Accident may put a decisive blunder in the right, but eternal defeat and miscarriage must attend the men of the best parts if cursed with indecision.

Had not Lee been captured shortly thereafter, there might well have been a mutiny. Washington was losing the war, and was losing the support of his officers and men. Machiavelli noted centuries before that

Of this, however, I am well persuaded, that it is better to be impetuous than cautious. For Fortune is a woman who to be kept under must be beaten and roughly handled; and we see that she suffers herself to be more readily mastered by those who so treat her than by those who are more timid in their approaches. And always, like a woman, she favours the young, because they are less scrupulous and fiercer, and command her with greater audacity.

While the approval of rough handling of women is not palatable as it was in the 16th century, the importance of audacity has not changed.

McCullough’s writing is not as easily read as Winick’s, and it focuses on command issues a bit to the exclusion of many other important issues of the day. But the book moves quickly enough, and goes deeply enough in its focus to provide interesting nuggets that are missing in broader approaches. One such nugget was scattered mention of the importance of black freemen to the fight, and the consternation that caused among the southern militias.

It is well worth the price. Any book like this is a worthy read in a country that no longer teaches its own history. Of course, the book, relying as it does so heavily on the writings of the persons involveed, cannot help but reveal the religious character of the fight. That will of course annoy those revisionists who insist that the Founding Fathers were secularists. If that offends, it might be better to stick to secularly bowlderized texts provided by the more politically correct revisionists.

Check it out!

Hunting and moral parasitism

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Gekko has a discussion on hunting on her blog deriving from the statement of another poster that he considered my hunting to be murder and that it was repugnant. A case can be made that all killing is repugnant, thought taking that to the extreme of including killing plants would make survival a bit probematic. However, one of the great religions of mankind takes the position that all killing of animals is evil. As noted at swaminarayan.org:

A practical application of Ahinsã seen in Hinduism is vegetarianism – as it fosters the sentiment of respect for other living creatures. The most ancient Hindu scriptures curbed the practice of killing animals by imposing strict ritualistic regulations which are very difficult to ordinarily meet. Those who were following the spiritual path and wanted to attain God were prohibited altogether from killing animals and consuming animal flesh because such consumption hinders spiritual progress. Hindu scriptures say that killing animals and consuming their flesh leads to violence in our thoughts and behavior. It spoils one’s character and obstructs one’s acquisition of noble virtues.

I can respect that, though I clearly disagree, being both a carnivore and a hunter. Further, as a Christian, I am provided not only with the Old Testament commandment to hunt for my meat, but also the practical example of the Christ directing the killing of creatures for food, and providing meat to eat — though Paul clearly notes that whether or not to eat meat is essentially irrelevant to Christian practice:

He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

And, in fact, one of the ways that the Christ proved to his disciples that he had risen from the dead was to eat meat:

While they were still talking about this [the appearance of Jesus], Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.

He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”

They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

What I cannot respect is for someone who eats the meat of factory-killed animals to call a hunter someone who “murders” animals and that the practice is “repugnant.” For someone to do this is yet another example of what I have called moral parasitism, which is when someone decries an action as immoral and, while not doing it himself or herself, avoids the act by having someone else perform it on their behalf. Examples are Christians who abhor fornication and adultery, yet make use of pornography, and, of course, pacifists who rely on others to do their violence for them.

A person who eats meat yet condemns hunters is another example. Supposedly, hunting an animal in the wild for its meat is “murder” and is “repugnant,” yet mass factory killing is morally acceptable. Like the pacifist who basks in his nonviolent superiority by relying on others to commit violence for his or her protection, the meat eater who pretends to moral superiority while hiring others to kill for him is engaging in simple self-deception. This is again pointed out by Hindu doctrine:

Today, some people feel that because they are not actually killing the animal themselves, eating the flesh and other body parts of a dead animal does not violate the code of Ahinsã. However, Hindus consider the consumption of dead animal flesh to be a barbaric practice. The Vãsudev Mãhãtmya and other Hindu scriptures state that one who consumes animal flesh, who sells animal flesh, or who prepares animal flesh – all of these people accrue the same sin as the person who slaughters the animal. This is similar to the Western idea that the murderer and the accessory to the murder are both guilty of the killing.

Indeed.

In contrast, a good argument can be made that hunting for one’s food is morally superior than paying others to engage in factory killing to fill one’s table. The first reason is that hunting establishes the relationship between the predator and the prey. A person who distances himself from the animal whose meat he eats by viewing it only a nice plastic processed product distances himself not only from the moral reality of what he is supporting, but also from the physical reality of his existence. We are creatures who are not separate from the world — a world of blood, sex, pain, and predation. Hunters and anglers, by the act of going out into the wild and engaging in the biologic act of predation establishes not only their relationship with that individual prey, but also as part of the environmental process that provides life to all of us. The relationship between predator and prey is hardly “repugnant,” unless the human condition itself is “repugnant.” The transcendence of this relationship is formalized in many American Indian religions. In fact, the predator relationship of a diety is in direct contrast to the sacrificial role of the Christ, as noted in one site discussing Navajo healing rituals:

Mysticism, the ultimate religious posture that implies that man surrender his ego to be absorbed into a greater-than-human reality, is universally understood by religious people. Christian mystics become one with the universal Christ; Navajo Coyoteway singers and patients become one with the universal Coyote. The external differences among these two kinds of mysticism are related directly to the differences which exist among the concerns and fascinations in the traditions of monarchial herdsmen and primal hunters.

Coyote and his carnivorous relatives are predators—in relation to man they are fellow hunters and not sacrificial victims of the hunt. By contrast, the Christian savior is generally encountered within the thought structure of a sheepherder’s world; he is the atoning and sacri­ficial Lamb of God. Coyotes eat lambs; and it is for this and other reasons that some Navajo Christians, shepherds, have concluded that Coyote is the Navajo devil. The counterpart to the Lamb of God in the traditional Navajo hunter religion is Deer (see Luckert 1975). The holy Deer People gave their flesh and blood sacrificially to the hunter ancestors of the Navajos.

Whether the Christian storyteller likes it or not, deity, in Navajo tradition, is revealed, among others, also in Coyote. God “appeared in flesh”—if you like—as a fellow hunter-person. He stood his ground aggressively, after the manner in which Christ “barked at”—again if you like—the anti-human forces of his time. Christ stood his ground until he lost and was killed. In the eyes of some he was executed as an agent of the Devil; to the eyes of those who know better he has revealed himself as the heavenly Shepherd’s sacrificial Lamb, sent for the sal­vation of humankind. Coyote, while insisting on his incarnate dignity as a fellow hunter person, was in the end himself hunted and killed. Coyotes, in predator-animal form, are killed because to some they appear to be agents of evil; from the perspective of those who know better. Coyotes must die in accordance with a procedure prescribed by Coyote gods, to furnish the paraphernalia and means for saving human patients.

In our post-hunting era many Navajo hunter gods have lost their influence over the people. Roaming now mainly among shepherds and planters, many have also lost their reputation with regard to being dependable savior gods. And so it seems the more remarkable that a rather pure hunter mysticism has survived to this day, intact, in the nearly extinct Coyoteway healing ceremonial. ..

This relationshp between predator and prey is further established by the common act of the hunter thanking the prey, or at least the spirit of the prey, for the kill.

In addition, the act of hunting reinforces another feature that is often hidden in modern society, that of our own mortality. The act of killing prey is quite literally a “hands-on” experience with death, and a reminder that the hunter is doomed, eventually, to be prey in his turn — if not to a larger creature, then to a smaller one. The act of hunting thus becomes not only a reminder of the environmental cycle of life, but of our own individual fragility and the inevitability of our own death. This recognition is something many people do find repugnant, but it is something that we need to deal with, and deal with in some concrete manner. As Paul continues from the passage previously quoted:

For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.

The hunting ritual, like all rituals, formalizes cultural meaning in how the hunting is done. When hunting alone, the hunter becomes part of the wild. When engaged in communal hunting, it ritualizes the relationship between the community and the environment, and the dependency relationship among the hunters.

It should be no surprise that the most effective environmentalists and conservators have been hunters and anglers, and not the faux environmentalists who persist in pursuing a view of nature derived primarily from ideologic and technological roots and imposed upon, not derived from, the environment. Real environmentalists know what really happens to Bambi, and don’t try to make the world reflect the cartoon.

Certainly there are hunters who hunt in ways that degrade themselves and the prey, but unlike the propaganda of the anti-gun fanatic, these are the minority.

We are not murderers, and we are not repugnant. And any person shoveling out money for the flesh of factory killed animals who pretends to some sort of moral superiority is deceiving himself.

Book Review: Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine

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Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine
By H. Wayne House
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (August 10, 1992)
ISBN: 0310416612

This book is one of a series that take various religious subjects and reduce them to simple charts and tables. This particular volume takes a number of major theologic ideas and presents them diagrammatically. It’s sort of an “Idiot’s guide” to theology, but concentrating on organization rather than explanation.

While it is not a texbook or explanatory text, I have found it very useful for my self-studies in theology. The bottom line for me is that it is difficult to keep track of things sometimes — how, in a nutshell, did the Ebionites differ from the Docetists from the Arians from the Appollinarians from the Nestorians from the Eutychians again? What are the six common variants of feminist theology? What are the prominent tenets of so-called “black” theology? I’ve been reading about church history for many years, but I still have to go back and refresh what is what.

The book is a little dated, having been written in 1992. For instance, it does not include my favorite feminist theologian, Sallie McFague, who wrote Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language in 1997. And, of course, it reflects in part the opinions and biases of the author.

It’s not a substitute for actually studying the theology behind these charts, but it is a nice set of mnemonics and graphics to help organize self-study, and is a great starting point for developing your own tables and charts for your own teaching if you teach Sunday School or other devotional services.

It’s also, much like Berry’s book on sex and the church, a dramatic display of the diversity of Christian thought. The MSM tells us Christianity consists primarily of caricatures of a certain kind of fundamentalism. It would behoove a few of the folk from CBS or ABC to take the 10 seconds needed to peruse the table showing six very different major theories of inspiration of scripture, or four disparate evangelical theories on inerrancy (varying from complete inerrance to irrelavancy of inerrancy). On the other hand, the diversity presented *is* limited — it is clearly a Protestant text, and gives short shrift to things like Eastern Orthodox mysticism.

Still, it’s a great book to look over for a few minutes at a time to see if you are familiar with the concepts that are diagrammed or listed, and it provides a quick pointer to places to look if you are not.

Check it out!

Heroism in Georgia

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Governor Purdue just released the named of the 2005 recipients of the Georgia Public Safety Awards for acts of heroism in the service of the people of Georgia. My hat goes of to these folk, and all the folk who keep us safe and help us when we are hurt. The honorees are:

O. J. Concepcion – Police Officer – DeKalb County Police Department

Thomas J. Crawford, III – Special Agent – Georgia Bureau of Investigation

Michael D. DeWald – Police Officer – DeKalb County Police Department

Beth Gatny – Patrol Officer – Acworth Police Department

Brian E. Johnston – Special Agent – Georgia Bureau of Investigation

Doug Mattox – Sergeant – Gwinnett County Police Department

Michael P. McKeithan – Sergeant – Gwinnett County Police Department

Kevin Moran – Lieutenant – Gwinnett County Police Department

Mary L. Price – Correctional Officer II – Georgia Department of Corrections

Laila Sabree – Police Officer – Atlanta Police Department

Jerry Stancel – Sergeant – Gwinnett County Police Department

Blake Thompson – Director/Paramedic – Wilkes County EMS

For more information on what they did, see this list

The jury system

John Schroeder over at Blogotional has a post about his experience on a hung jury. He is upset because some of the jurors did not use appropriate reasoning, to his mind, and the jury could not come to a conclusion. As an expert witness, I have been involved in innumerable trials in many states and in federal court. The most recent case I was involved in also resulted in a hung jury. The final vote was 11-1 to convict, with the holdout engaging in basic denial — it was a murder case in which the last juror basically said that he didn’t care what the evidence was, he just didn’t believe the killer meant to kill and that was that.

Juries aren’t perfect — if perfect is defined as coming to the conclusion I would come to. But it’s a little like republican democracy; it sucks the least. The alternative of dispensing with juries and leaving things up to the whim of a judge, as in the Dutch system, is worse (as the recent events in Aruba demonstrate). I have seen some wacky jurors, but I have also seen some pretty poor judges. I prefer a hung jury to an arbitrary decision by a bad judge. The faith that people have in the infallibility of judges is greatly misplaced. A 2001 study of judge’s ability to determine what is and is not good science under Daubert (the federal rules for allowing or not allowing expert testimony), showec that judges were, in general, pretty clueless. Making the judges the gatekeeper made the determination of what is and is not “good” science in the courtroom more arbitrary, not less, than other previous rules (called the Frye rule) that used general acceptance within the scientific community.

In contrast, while some juries don’t seem to make the best decisions, I have been almost invariably impressed with effort and responsible actions of juries I have dealt with. They take their jobs seriously and while they certainly do take the baggage of their lives into the jury room, that is arguably a very good thing. We are, as Scroeder notes, a nation of laws, but those laws have to be applied within a cultural context and not rigidly and without the use of judgement. We allow discretion on the part of the police on who to arrest and who not to arrest. We allow discretion on the part of the prosecution on who to charge and who not to charge. And it is appropriate for citizens to use discretion in who to convict and who not to convict. The biggest problem, to my mind, is not the use of juries, but the loss of the ability of judges to use discretion and the imposition of mandatory sentences. Being a nation of laws does not mean a nation that abandons judgement.

The juries I have seen listen hard, pay attention, and do their best. As an expert witness, my biggest problem is trying to educate the jury about forensic pathology while presenting the data to them. It’s hard to teach a homogeneous group when they can’t ask questions. In some jurisdictions, the jury can submit questions to the witnesses, but in general they cannot (except in grand jury proceedings). When I have been in courts that allowed jury questions, they reflected a seriousness and an effort to understand that was laudable.

Often, when reading the newspaper, it seems that juries are clueless. But one must remember that the data provided to the jury is not the same data that one sees in the newspaper. When I have seen a decision that looks wacky when viewed in the light of newspaper accounts and have then looked at what the jury was actually allowed to see, the jury decision invariably made a lot of sense in light of the latter. I have been barred from saying important things, showing crucial pictures, and presenting valuable data in my testimony because of procedural and other objections. For instance, if a judge decides that a photograph of an injury will cause more emotional reaction than is warranted by its value as evidence it will not be allowed; thus, many autopsy images are ruled “prejudicial” and are not allowed.

A single member of a jury can, indeed, hang it and force another trial. That’s not a disaster. A single person acting as judge and jury can be a disaster. The jury system is not perfect, but it is way, way better than any alternative.