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August 23, 2005

It Was The Christian Thing To Do

I don't know what everybody's getting so upset at Pat Robertson for. I mean, sure, it's not exactly neighborly to call for Hugo Chavez's assassination, but neither is it necessarily un-Christian. The Bible, after all, offers no shortage of grounds on which you can put a man to death. All we need to do is catch him on one.

Think he's ever masturbated? If so, Genesis 38:8 says he's finished. Exodus 12:12 lets us off him if he's ever struck another man with a deadly blow, a particularly helpful passage if we let Robertson do the deed himself with a blunt object -- they can exit stage left together. I don't know if Chavez ever hit his parents, but Exodus 21:15 finishes him if he did. Better yet, he sure seems like he was stubborn and rebellious as a kid, a juvenile heritage that we can stone him for (Deuteronomy 21:18). If Hugo's got any friends who pray to a God other than the fearsome overlord of the Bible, we can take him down for letting them live (Deuteronomy 13:6). But screw it, we can basically throw all this out and follow Titus 1:10 which says, in essence, that there are tons of talkers and deceivers, many though not all of them Jews, who we can silence for the good of the community. I'm sure Hugo fits in that category fairly neatly.

So enough of this pious squeamishness. Compared to the Bible, Tony Soprano is an all-too-merciful wimp. Chavez has had it coming to him for a long time. But then, so has Pat, George Dubya, any number of on-air evangelists and on-pulpit preachers, your humble host, and all you sinners reading along. The Bible, if read unmercifully, is a cruel, indiscriminate tome that leaves little room for saints and none at all for sinners. So what a shame that the current crowd exults in the blood and gore, justifying their actions through obscure rules meant to regulate the social behaviors of a tribe of nomads rather than following the professed verbatim quotations of the peaceful man-lord they worship as savior.

August 23, 2005 in Religion | Permalink

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» Televangelist Calls for Chavez' Death from Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator
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Television evangelist Pat Robertson told viewers the U.S. should kill Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to prevent the Latin American country from becoming a ``launching pad'' for extremism, the Associated Press said. From Bloomberg. Ezra Klein has com... [Read More]

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» From the "Who Will Rid Me Of This Meddlesome Priest" Department... from Emergent Chaos
Television evangelist Pat Robertson told viewers the U.S. should kill Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to prevent the Latin American country from becoming a ``launching pad'' for extremism, the Associated Press said. From Bloomberg. Ezra Klein has com... [Read More]

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The recent case of Pat Robertson foot-in-mouth disease has spead wide and far. Both the local WB and Fox affiliates here in Los Angeles reported it on the 10 o'clock news and interviewed people for their reactions. One streetgoer [Read More]

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Comments

Good one.

The other strange thing about Robertson's speech is his claim that Chavez was affliliated with "Muslim extremism." What the hell? It's like David Horowitz logic--if I disagree with somebody, then they're all connected in every way to everyone else I disagree with."

Posted by: Scott Lemieux | Aug 23, 2005 12:50:24 AM

Least we overlook it in this context, there is also 'eye for eye' justice offered in the bible. That surely could be read as assassination for assassination as well.

That would be road that sane people would likely not want to take because it has no end, but those who think an assassination of troublesome foreign leaders is deserved may not pass a sanity test anyway.

Rumsfeld really doesn't like Chavez, so who knows what advance information Robertson may have gotten from a journalist who got it from an anonymous high government official. Robertson may just be softening up the media for a follow-on story of the results of an actual plan, kind of like Judith Miller maybe.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Aug 23, 2005 2:56:20 AM

Ezra,

While I agree with you in principle, most of the verses you quote are Old Testament, except for Titus, where in 1:13 he says:

This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith
.Nothing particularly lethal here.

As I mentioned to you at the 1st Annual LA Bloggers Poolside Barbecue, the Born Agains are a single issue voting block: "Democrats Kill Babies."

They wriggle out of the quotes you posted by saying the the New Covenant established by Jesus supersedes the Old Testament. Weasel words, to be sure, but still, that's the belief:

"That old shit was cool, but it really doesn't matter anymore.
. Convenient Christianity, as practiced by many who attend the mega churches in Orange County. Not dissimilar to the "Kill A Commie For Christ" motto that flew around the media during the cold war, when I was kid. Amazingly, seemingly devout folks can be caught up in such barbarian ideation while thinking that it is righteous.

Robertson is especially henious, since he practices what he preaches: Greed, Intolerance, Hypocrisy, and profound Evil.

Posted by: SteveAudio | Aug 23, 2005 3:01:16 AM

"'Do not do unto others as you would not have others do unto you,' is the whole of the Torah. The rest is commentary." - Hillel (and then he put his left foot down)

You know, sometimes I say to myself, "Religion could be a wonderful thing," but then Robertson opens his piehole and I'm reminded why irreligion has its upside as well.

Posted by: pansauce | Aug 23, 2005 5:33:44 AM

"Weasel words, to be sure, but still, that's the belief:"

The families of millions of dead Jews would say that there's quite a difference between the New and Old Testaments, but that would be introducing reality into hyper-partisanship.

Think before you type, people. You too, Ezra.

Posted by: Ricky | Aug 23, 2005 6:55:43 AM

These types of posts are simply HATE CHRISTIANS posts. They have no other value. I only wish the Muslim Imams would stand tall and shun those who use religion as a shield as the Christians do. Few cheer Eric Rudolph, but millions upon millions cheer Osama.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 23, 2005 8:56:47 AM

Um, Fred, if even a tenth of the Christians in this country would shun those who use religion as a shield, W would never have been reelected. The man practiclaly dresses up like Jesus at every available opportunity.

Posted by: Keith | Aug 23, 2005 9:17:45 AM

Bullshit, Fred. Just as having a problem with Bush has nothing to do with the troops. Pointing out the hypocrisy and overall stack of shit that is Pat Robertson is no reflection on everyone else.

Posted by: Mr Furious | Aug 23, 2005 9:32:58 AM

Call their 'prayer line' -- 800-759-0700 -- and ask the flunky on the other end to join you in praying for Chavez' assassination. I did. The woman I spoke to seemed geuinely surprised that her boss was publicly calling for somebody's death, and balked at praying for assassination Goddam bleeding hearts.....

Posted by: sglover | Aug 23, 2005 9:52:58 AM

The other strange thing about Robertson's speech is his claim that Chavez was affliliated with "Muslim extremism."

It was even loopier: According to Robertson, Chavez is an ally of Muslim extremism AND -- Communism! (Because everyone knows how well those belief systems have got on over the years.) Christ, why didn't he throw in tooth decay as well?

Posted by: sglover | Aug 23, 2005 9:57:15 AM

With all due respect, this post is absolute bullshit. I'm not even Christian and I can tell that quotes from long-ignored Torah law have no bearing on how Christians should behave themselves. Jesus didn't just command his follows to love their neighbors - he told them to love their enemies. Big difference between that and commissioning assassinations.

Frankly, Ezra, every time a liberal makes a cute-but-snotty joke like this it only helps to marginalize the large but severely disorganized block of liberal Christians trying to reclaim Christianity for progressives. As long as liberals are willing to paint Christianity as belonging to the radical right, the radical right will own it, and pretty much own religion in this country - which is a recipe for political suicide. Think next time.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Aug 23, 2005 10:20:37 AM

Um, Fred, if even a tenth of the Christians in this country would shun those who use religion as a shield, W would never have been reelected.

How many Christians do you even know? Liberal and fundamentalist Christians don't have to shun each other, they pretty much do it already. Fundamentalists don't see liberals as being "real" Christians anyway, and leave them outside their own insular communities. Please stick toa subject you know something about.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Aug 23, 2005 10:23:02 AM

Few cheer Eric Rudolph, but millions upon millions cheer Osama.

I wanted to repost this not-so-insignificant fact. It's really hard to get around. Most here choose to ignore it for that very reason. While railing upon Christians for their fundamentalist factions who mostly use tough talk, you dismiss the Muslim fundamentalism that plot to murder, targeting innocent civilians, including children.
I firmly believe that the reason why is that Christians stand in the way of the radical left's agenda.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 23, 2005 10:23:32 AM

The families of millions of dead Jews would say that there's quite a difference between the New and Old Testaments, but that would be introducing reality into hyper-partisanship.

And what the hell is this supposed to mean? Is this supposed to imply that the Nazis were Christians, because if so, what the hell was all that Nordic mysticism doing in it? Or is it supposed to imply that the holocaust was carried out for purely religious reasons, and that Jews who converted from Judaism would be spared - because that certainly didn't happen either. But pointing that out would be introducing history into bugfuck-crazyism.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Aug 23, 2005 10:28:32 AM

Few cheer Eric Rudolph, but millions upon millions cheer Osama.

I wanted to repost this not-so-insignificant fact. It's really hard to get around. Most here choose to ignore it for that very reason. While railing upon Christians for their fundamentalist factions who mostly use tough talk, you dismiss the Muslim fundamentalism that plot to murder, targeting innocent civilians, including children.
I firmly believe that the reason why is that Christians stand in the way of the radical left's agenda.

So you're saying that there is no supprt for extremist anti-abortion protestors among the conservative Christian community? This isn't to say that they would all go out and shoot a doctor, but I would wager that many (not most, mind you; I mean a dedicated minority) on the Christian Right sympathize with those who advocate extreme measures against abortion providers.

Likewise, most Muslims who express sympathy for Bin Laden and his cause would not actually go out with a bomb strapped to their chest, but still can understand the position of those who do.

I realize that these are not the same issues, but don't try to argue that conservative christians never advocate violence against innocents. Clearly, some do.

Posted by: Matt F | Aug 23, 2005 10:53:32 AM

It's interesting to me that folks seem to think Christ invalidated Biblical law -- he didn't, he came to uphold it, and said so explicitly. In any case, Christians believe both were written by God, Christ in an incarnation of God thus none of this can really be too left field.

In any case, modern Christianity crutches on the Old Testament something awful. That's where the admonition against homosexuality comes in, for instance. And that, here, is what I'm pointingt out. The way many of us conceive of Christianity, it makes no sense to call for another's murder. But the punitive version Robertson and his ilk ascribe to make it a perfectly logical step.

They're extremists, and they're twisting a religion in much the way Muslim Jihadists do. It's not that they can't find the textual authority to do so, but that they shouldn't.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | Aug 23, 2005 11:04:46 AM

So you're saying that there is no supprt for extremist anti-abortion protestors among the conservative Christian community?

What's wrong with protesting? Let's as Cindy Sheehan.

I would wager that many (not most, mind you; I mean a dedicated minority) on the Christian Right sympathize with those who advocate extreme measures against abortion providers.

If by "extreme measures" you mean bombing clinics taking innocent lives in the process, no. You are wrong. There is little sympathy for these people. Your attempt to make the acts of Christians and Muslims equivalent is lame. Powerful Christian leaders stood firm against clinic bombings denouncing all who participate. Now, the Powerful Muslim Imams.....well, that's a different story, isn't it? They issue Fatwahs giving permission to murder in the name of Islam and are silent when it happens.
You should learn more about the majority religion in your own country before running off your mouth about them, Matt.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 23, 2005 11:10:25 AM

These types of posts are simply HATE CHRISTIANS posts. They have no other value.

No, this post is no different than one decrying a mullah who issues a fatwa against a world leader... which is what Pat Robertson does. We liberals do a lot of hand-wringing about all of the voters who get their news from Fox. A much, much bigger problem is those who get their news from the 700 Club... and giving a national platform to the equivalent of a radical cleric issuing fatwas against foreign leaders doesn't help. Hardly any Christians endorse Eric Rudolph. But we're never going to hear George W. Bush or any Republican leader in bed with the religious right condemning Pat Robertson.

Yes, Ezra added some silly snark along with the post, but that comes more from a misplaced attempt at humor than anything else.

Posted by: Constantine | Aug 23, 2005 11:10:31 AM

-if I disagree with somebody, then they're all connected in every way to everyone else I disagree with.

That's actually precisely what the evangelical apocalyptic mythology believes. This sort of logic is how Bush somehow marked Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an "axis of evil"-- they're all evil, so they must be "in league" with each other. In the same fashion, in apocalyptic rapture theology, the world bankers, communists, and radical islamists are all joined together in a plot against Christianity and Israel.

It actually makes sense if you have a very simplistic view of the devil... "all evil comes from Satan. Therefore, all evil people are allied with Satan. Therefore, all evil people are allied with each other!"

Posted by: Constantine | Aug 23, 2005 11:15:09 AM

"They're extremists, and they're twisting a religion in much the way Muslim Jihadists do."
Correct, you are.

"It's not that they can't find the textual authority to do so, but that they shouldn't."
Correct again. They shouldn't. And neither should you. Nor should you follow it up with an excuse as to why you did for it's just as lame as if "they" did and then said "none of this can really be too left field".

It's left field.
You're wrong.

Posted by: RW | Aug 23, 2005 11:19:56 AM

That's not even an argument, Ricky, that's a plea that I don't expose the nastier aspects of Christianity to sunlight because, well, I shouldn't. And it holds no water. People should understand how Robertson calls himself a Christian and does what he does. Religion have gradations and their extremists, a few hundred years ago, were the mainstream and Robertson, with millions of viewers and a massive business, is pretty mainstream even now. And we should just ignore him because it makes you uncomofrtalbe or because God made a mistake in dictation?

Posted by: Ezra Klein | Aug 23, 2005 11:43:42 AM

It's interesting to me that folks seem to think Christ invalidated Biblical law -- he didn't, he came to uphold it, and said so explicitly.

Actually, no, Christ specifically invalidates specific portions of Old Testament law. He even says he's come to replace the old law. Have you read the New Testament, Ezra? For that matter, have you read the Old Testament, or better yet, read some of the research on how either of them were written? I'm not saying Jesus is a great big lovey-dovey hippy who dances in the sunshine of human rights, but if you bother to read some actual scholarship on the subject it becomes clear that the Jesus movements of the first century were quite separate and distinct from both traditional bloodthirsty Judaism, and from modern-day conservative Christianity. Your attempts to lump all things Christian in with either remain as myopic as ever.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Aug 23, 2005 11:55:50 AM

In any case, modern Christianity crutches on the Old Testament something awful. That's where the admonition against homosexuality comes in, for instance.

And do you want to act as an accomplice to Robertson by saying "yeah, you're the real, authentic face of Christianity, not those guys at the Universal Church of Christ"? Because Robertson and Dobson and the rest of them are more than happy to take you up on the offer.

The way many of us conceive of Christianity, it makes no sense to call for another's murder. But the punitive version Robertson and his ilk ascribe to make it a perfectly logical step.

And when you make a snotty, and frankly ignorant, post justifying Robertson's vision of a bloodthirsty right-wing Christianity, whose side does that help? It does nothing but marginalize the already poorly-organized liberal Christians democrats should be trying to reach out to, and it paints all of Christianity as belonging to Robertson's side. It does nothing but play into their hands.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Aug 23, 2005 12:03:54 PM

My understanding of evangelical and/or conservative Christianity is that they believe that all of the Bible, both old and new testaments, is the literal word of God and cannot be interpreted by man.

That belief underlies, for instance, their insistence based on several lines of text in both testaments, that homosexuality is wrong in the eyes of God, and therefore cannot be accepted by man.

In their view, if they were consistent, the bible is not a menu from which one can choose, accepting some and rejecting some. Hence, the world is less than 10,000 years old, the world was created in seven days, and man is made in the image of God.

Clearly other non-evangelical/conservative Christians hold other views, but those driving the political programs of the fundamental Christians, including Robertson and Dobson and Falwell do take the entire bible literally and hold it up as a guide for determining the policies that should prevail in the US.

That they actuall ignore some parts of the bible, new and old testaments alike, while proclaiming other parts as inviolable - and maintaining that all of it is the word of God - is hypocrisy and deserves to be so identified.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Aug 23, 2005 12:22:53 PM

Yes, I've read my Bible, studied it, and read the scholarship. I spent awhile as a religious studies major, in fact. And I think you're forgetting your contradictions here. Christ, in some portions (Romans 7:4, for instance), says Christians can disregard the old text. But then, in Matthew, he says:

"5:17 Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets [two of the three divisions of Jewish scripture]; I have come not to abolish, but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven.

I've yet to find where my post is ignorant. Indeed, it isn't. Unpleasant, maybe, but not ignorant. Those words are from the Bible. Christians and Jews (at least for the OT parts) believe them to be divinely inspired. Unless you find transcription errors, there's nothing ignorant there. Is the post snotty? Sure, maybe a bit. But only because you don't like the target. I have nothing against Christianity, I have lovingly underlined books of Jesus's sayings that I refer to in tough times. But let's not pretend that these religions are spot free or that Robertson is coming out of left field. He isn't. Contemporary Christianity in America is almost obsessed with the Biblical codes, so saying their recitation is somehow ignorant is simple denial.

Now, you make a different point, which is that Jesus was a sectarian reaction to the Essenes, Pharisees, Saducees, and so forth, and that his sect wasn't another bloodthristy eschatological group. Fair enough. But then, we're dealing with Christianity as practiced in this country, not as conceived in contemporary academic scholarship. I completely agree that Jesus wasn't for these rules. I completely agree that Christians practive a perverted "Paulinity" that was largely written and theorized by Paul to gain adherents. But this isn't church, it's politics, and so I'm dealing with the version of Christianity that is currently bearing on the electoral sphere. And I'm sorry if you take offense at it, it's not written for that reason.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | Aug 23, 2005 12:28:32 PM

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