Local Goatherd Explains Haitian Orphan Dilemma in Shockingly Simple Terms

February 19th, 2010

The Country Doctor was up at the ER a few nights ago consulting with a local goatherd known for his fiery opinions and his unruly beard.  The goatherd brought up the problem of the American missionary group in Haiti who took orphans who were not even orphans and attempted to cross over into the Dominican Republic with them.  

The wise goatherd likened the situation to a boat full of Haitian missionaries descending on New Orleans right after the hurricane, talking to desperate parents who were staying in the chaotic Superdome, and promising to take the children to a safe place until their parents could take care of them.  The Haitian missionaries would then load up the kids and haul them off to Haiti.  

Yeah.

Just try and imagine what the American reaction have been to that particular scenario.

Even if the Haitians had been christian missionaries with the best interest of the children at heart.

Even if they said god had been leading them to take those kids away on a boat to Haiti.

Even if they promised that they only wanted to help the kids.

What do you think would have happened to those kindly Haitian missionaries attempting to take kids from devastated New Orleans?

It wouldn’t be pretty would it?

Tis good to talk to a local goatherd once in a while.  

They often have a slightly unusual perspective.

Must be all that goat milk.

Comments

  • Seana:

    I like this analogy.

    It’s better than the one I came up with. I was wondering if these missionaries from Idaho or wherever would have shown up in New Orleans and absconded with children, perhaps attempting to transport them across state lines with no apparent way for the parents/family members to contact them or vice versa.

    It seems ludicrous to me that anyone would think removing children from their home country without any appropriate paperwork was even remotely a good idea not to mention legal.

  • Twin-Skies:

    Laura Silsby, the head organizer of the “Haiti 10″ apparently has a reputation of jumping the gun when it comes to situations like this.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2010/feb/13/us-baptists-haiti-earthquake-case

    She has good intentions at least, but that doesn’t excuse her from making very, very stupid decisions such as what happened in Haiti.

  • I read about her today Twin Skies. She seems to have had a lot of people hoodwinked or under a spell or something. Perhaps people will be a bit more skittish about following strangers on mission trips after this.

  • What a display of arrogance, to just assume they had any right to do that – on top of the ridiculous assumption that they were doing those kids some good, you know?

  • But Christians DO know better, they know what God’s Will is. How fortuitous that His will coincides with theirs. I have never met a Xtian where this is not the case.
    From reading the linked article, it may be that the Silsby is ill. It is a serious possibility. Something is seriously amiss with her.

  • You may have a better idea where I come from by reading the second half of this post:
    http://colinknits.blogspot.com/2010/02/how-belief-hurts.html

  • Stephanie:

    I agree with the goatherder…great to send aid…and when it settles any true orphans would surely be adopted but to rush in amid the chaos and snatch children is wrong….

  • That’s interesting, Colin, but you’ve never met me, or, I suspect, many more Christians who do not think as you describe. That’s okay, though, I will try not to assume I know how all non-Christians think based on what you have said here;o)

    Actually, I don’t believe the goatherd’s perspective is at all unusual. I’ve heard nothing but criticism of these people’s actions. Some are less harsh in their criticism, but I haven’t heard a single person say they thought the group was doing the right thing or a good thing or an excusable thing. Perhaps I don’t listen to the right radio programs. I just don’t know.

  • Something was definitely off with these people….they didn’t think before they acted. No legal paperwork, just grab some kids and go….NOT A GOOD PLAN IN ANY COUNTRY!

  • That’s interesting, Colin, but you’ve never met me, or, I suspect, many more Christians who do not think as you describe. That’s okay, though, I will try not to assume I know how all non-Christians think based on what you have said here;o)

    Unfortunately you already have made assumptions based on what you think I wrote, not what I wrote. It is an easy enough mistake to make. People do it all the time(hence flaming-no I know you didn’t flame.) especially when they prefer to think ill of another. (Again not assuming that is your motive.)

    There is a vast difference between ‘never having met one’ and ‘they are all the same’. The former I wrote and mean to be the best of my knowledge. the latter I did not write, do not believe, and have never written or said.

  • Martha in Kansas:

    Reversing things is a great way to gain new perspective. That goat guy is wise!

  • And I was hoping that one of the “orphans” being absconded into the Dominican Republic was Pat Robertson. What a great goatherd he would make!

  • Simply brilliant. Like Martha said, looking at things from the 180 degree view sometimes can give some much needed perspective.

  • I followed this story pretty closely at first, but it made me so mad I had to stop seeking out news about it. Twin-Skies, that Guardian piece was really interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  • LucyGolden:

    I love the goatherd! Great analogy!

  • What would have happened?

    They would have been labeled terrorists and Elizabeth Hasselbeck would have been screeching for their internment at Guantanamo. Cheney would have been rubbing his grubby little hands to make sure they were waterboarded as soon as they were removed from American soil. You know, because we can’t have CHRISTIAN children removed from this CHRISTIAN nation by a marauding band of marauding marauders.

    The terror alert would have been raised by 5 colors, we would have been flooded with news stories, warnings and advice on how to protect our CHRISTIAN children.

    We would have been advised to get even more duct tape and rolls of plastic to keep the marauding marauders out in case they came to our houses trying to abscond with our CHRISTIAN children.

    The Constitution would have been attacked again via The Patriot Act – you know, so as to protect us.

    In the end, instead of listing the (non) rebuilding of New Orleans as one of Bush’s many Presidential failures they would have been able to spin the terrorist angle and claim victory instead.

    The End.

  • AnnB:

    I suggest the following: Don’t respond to Colin.

  • Fran:

    oh so wise, yon goatherd.

  • CJ :):

    We need to put that man’s goat milk in church air conditioning ducts.

  • CilleyGirl:

    Haiti is actually predominantly Christian. The majority are Roman Catholic with Protestants making up most of the rest. So in the New Orleans scenario you would have had CHRISTIAN children being removed from a CHRISTIAN nation by a marauding band of marauding CHRISTIANS. But since anyone with dark skin must be terrorists anyway, I have no doubt that GreenInOC is still right on the money.

  • CilleyGirl – Your point about skin color is spot on.

    My use of the word CHRISTIAN wasn’t about religion but about how when people in the U.S., especially politicians, are trying to make a point, scare people, etc…, the word CHRISTIAN is used as a rallying cry.

    For example:

    “We can’t let “this” happen, we are a CHRISTIAN nation”!

    “The Patriot Act is intended to protect the good CHRISTIAN people of our country!”

    “Don’t vote for him, he might not be CHRISTIAN!”

  • Pamapajama:

    It’s difficult for privileged Americans lounging in their Lazy-Boys, absorbing the world’s “news” from their big screen HDTVs to understand why any parent would allow a stranger to take their child away with promises of a better life. It seems to them unconscionable that any person could suggest removing children from their homeland, no matter how miserable the conditions of that place. How many Americans voicing their opinions about the motives of the missionaries or the parents have ever had to live without water, food or shelter for a long period of time? Americans simply can’t wrap their minds around such things but it doesn’t stop them from passing judgment.
    Why is there no mention of the unscrupulous Haitians who were advising the Americans in this debacle? It sounds to me like the Americans naively put their trust in shady advisors with ulterior motives.
    Mr. Goatherd has some problems with logic since his analogy doesn’t fit considering the idea is removing children from horrendous life-threatening conditions to a healtheir place and taking children from New Orleans to Haiti would not have been an improvement (even before the Haitian earthquake).

  • km:

    Pamapajama,
    I live here in the US. I am also cognizant of the colonial history of the country of my birth, and that of indigenous people in this nation and others. Missionary interference, though possible well-intended, was not viewed favorably by Native Americans, Aboriginal people, the Irish or any other. The Unscrupulous Haitians sounds like the “Africans rounded up the slaves” and “Jewish people themselves helped the Nazis in the concentration camps” type logic.

  • Pamapajama:

    Which makes the point that the human condition, which I would call “sinful”, (don’t know what aethists would call it) is the same in every person of every religion or non, in every circumstance throughout history, including btw, the various tribes of indigenous groups everywhere. Why point fingers only at one group?

  • I liked this goatherd. I wish more religious people would follow some of their own tenets, such as: Do unto others as you would like others done unto you. So, next ask yourself this, do I want my kids taken from me by others? No, then don’t take other peoples kids. Then, the next question, do the kids need help? Yes, then how can I help them without taking them away from their parents. Thinking in those terms, I’m sure one could come up with a myriad of things to do for both the kids and the parents that would be beneficial to all involved, maybe even yourself.

    Great story!

  • Kait:

    High on a hill was a lonely goatherd
    Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo
    Loud was the voice of the lonely goatherd
    Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo

    Good one! But now I have this song stuck in my head and I don’t know all the words! Sound of Music here I come.

  • km:

    Pamapajama, explain your last comment. I must be dense. I don’t see your point.

  • Ted Powell:

    km wrote: Pamapajama, explain your last comment. …Well, my interpretation is: Everybody does bad things, so why comment only on the group which is the topic of Rechelle’s post?I could be way off base, of course, which could be evidence of density on my part, or taken as feedback on the clarity of Pamapajama’s exposition.

  • km:

    thanks Ted.
    Pamapajama, I feel like I’m drifting into a strawman argument.

  • km:

    Rechelle,
    The google ads that generate based on content can often be hilarious:)

  • Pamapajama:

    My point is that certain people, namely atheists, seem to take great delight in vilifying the wrong-doing of other people if those perceived wronged-doers happen to be Christians as though Christians were the only people on the planet or throughout history that commit offenses. The bottom line is that ALL people commit offenses against other people. Religion is not the cause of offenses, (sinful) human nature is the cause of the offenses. Religious people are not alone in causing offenses. The offenses caused by the Idahoans in Haiti were not caused by their religion! Why focus on their religion? There were other people involved in it (Haitians) and their religion had nothing to do with it either! Everyone had their own motivations and so many are making judgments without knowing all the evidence and by using their own pre-conceived prejudices.

    Remove the religion of the Idahoans in the description and consider that they were trying to help needy children in desperate conditions. Naive and ill-advised they committed offenses. Even the Haitian judge has determined no crime.

  • Jadehawk:

    pamapajama sez: My point is that certain people, namely atheists, seem to take great delight in vilifying the wrong-doing of other people if those perceived wronged-doers happen to be Christians as though Christians were the only people on the planet or throughout history that commit offenses. The bottom line is that ALL people commit offenses against other people.

    ““Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” — Stephen Weinberg

    point is: these missionaries aren’t innocent lambs not knowing what they were doing. religious adoption scams like that are notorious, and missionaries (especially evangelicals and mormons) are known among NGO workers, anthropologists, etc. to basically run blackmail operations: convert to our faith, or we won’t give you medicine. it’s not like it isn’t “fashionable” among the super-fundies to adopt foreign kids for the sole purpose of converting them. and only recently one of them died and another ended up in a hospital, because their parents believed in “biblical discipline”; and unfortunately that isn’t even a rare thing.

    You’re right that all people can be bad, but it takes dogma and blind faith in your own righteousness to make good people do bad things. and religion is the single most powerful tool to accomplish that.

  • Jadehawk:

    pamapajama sez:Even the Haitian judge has determined no crime.

    I guess you’re not very familiar with the political tensions between the U.S. and Haiti. Keep in mind that the CIA staged a coup against the Haitian president in 1994, and then actually KIDNAPPED him in 2004 when he won a re-election. Haitians are scared stupid and would never do anything to upset Americans, so they’re not in the position to convict the kidnappers. That’s what Rechelle pointed out: do you honestly believe that foreigners kidnapping American kids would not spend years in prison for it? and yet, these people will go unpunished, because they’re Americans, and because there’s this stupid belief that “missionaries” are somehow magical good people who would never commit a crime knowingly. if they were non-religious, or Muslim, they wouldn’t be excused of their wrong-doing by everyone.

  • Stephanie:

    I would freak the hell out if there was a local disaster and I was separated from my kids. But to them have them taken away by an unknown group of people, who’d come to the area because of the disaster? Nooooo. Homey don’t play that! Just to think they thought they had the right to do it is what galls me.

    I don’t know what these missionaries were thinking, as I haven’t heard their side of the story yet. But it doesn’t look good from my armchair.

  • Joel Wheeler:

    For Pamapajama:

    I think the reason that Christians are singled out for special condemnation in situations like this is that the CLAIM that they make is that they have been transformed by their religious belief. While it is true that all humans, with or without faith, have a tendency to misbehave, the Christian typically exercises special pleading and wants to have it both ways, in essence saying “I am just a dirty sinner like everyone else! Why be so mean?” while simultaneously being deeply convinced that they ARE, indeed, totally different (saved) by virtue of believing a specific story about having been washed in the blood of the lamb. Everyone is guilty, but Christians won’t be punished. THAT’s the difference.

  • Twin-Skies:

    @Jadehawk

    You wouldn’t happen to be the same Jadehawk at Pharyngula, would you?

  • Twin-Skies:

    @pampajama

    “The offenses caused by the Idahoans in Haiti were not caused by their religion! ”

    Not motivated by their religion? Then somebody better tell Sislby that:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8490843.stm

    “The charity, which Ms Silsby incorporated in Idaho in November last year, says it is “dedicated to rescuing, loving and caring for orphaned, abandoned and impoverished Haitian and Dominican children, demonstrating God’s love and helping each child find healing, hope, joy and new life in Christ”.”

    While claiming that Haiti has been a hotbed of slave trafficking for years, that’s not what’s under fire here, so please stop resorting to Red Herrings, and Strawmen.

  • Pamapajama:

    Jadehawk: With your pre-conceived predjudices you have drawn conclusions, judged and condemned this particular group of people with very little knowledge or evidence of the event. So much for the system of innocent until proven guilty.

    Stephanie: I know that I cannot judge the parents who made a choice to pass their children over to a group of strangers (let’s state what was really in the news and not spin it to “kidnapping”) because I have never been in a situation where I could not give my children water or food or medical help and I’ve never had dead bodies rotting all around me while I sat near a pile of rubble that used to be my dwelling. I’m not sure what I would do under those conditions.

    Joel: Are you applying this argument to the Idahoans in particular? They claim innocence based on good Christian intentions? As a Christian I can clarify for you the Christian stand: that I am a miserable sinner who has been made a child of God because I believe that God has offered forgiveness to me and I don’t have to be perfect to be His child. Because I am grateful for this forgiveness I strive daily to live as a new creature. I struggle against my sinful human nature but fail to always do as I should but I do try. If I were to fail in human terms (for example if I got a speeding ticket) I would accept my punishment as deserved. Being a Christian doesn’t keep me from ever committing offenses or exempt me from deserving punishment on earth but it does free me and all who believe it from eternal repercussions.

    If those Idahoans committed any kind of a crime they deserve to be punished according to the law regardless of good intentions or evil ones. Judging their faith can be left up to the One who can read hearts.

  • Pamapajama:

    Twin-skies: there is a difference between “cause” and “motivation.” I didn’t comment on their motivation.

    Jadehawk brought in the red herring with the reference to colonial history and the Haitian connection is a very real part of this event and not a straw man at all.

  • Twin-Skies:

    @Pamapajama

    Quit playing semantics. You very well know what caused them to act so irrationally.

  • I think this Silsby girl is trouble and troubled. She has a past that points to manipulative behavior in particular targeting her church buddies to come to her aid in various business schemes. She is being sued for not paying her former employees. I am sure that many of the other missionaries in her group would not have followed her lead if they had known a bit about her past. Unless she is very good at spinning a story and plying on christian trust.

    I always liked that scriptural admonition ‘shrewd as serpents – innocent as doves – it seems to me that too many christians err on the side of the innocent doves instead of the side of the shrewd serpents when it comes to faith based decisions.

  • Jadehawk:

    “colonial history”?! 5 years ago is not history!

    and yes, I’m the me from Pharyngula.

  • Twin-Skies:

    @Jade

    Actually, technically, my history proff would disagree. History is always in the making, as he’d put it.

    Perhaps it’s more accurate to say it’s not Ancient History? XD

  • Pamapajama:

    I’m sorry, Jadehawk, it was km that brought up colonial history. My bad.

  • Jadehawk:

    Actually, technically, my history proff would disagree. History is always in the making, as he’d put it.

    ah, the glorious double-meaning of “history”; these are certainly events of historical importance and influence, but they’re not “history” in the sense of “done and over with”. I mean, even in this crisis, the U.S. didn’t allow Aristide to come back and help his country :-(

  • Jadehawk:

    anyway, I’m still amazed and disgusted at the double standard… I mean really, you can ask any lawyer you want, Ignorance is not an excuse when one is committing a crime. Add to this the arrogance of believing that you know better what’s good for those kids than their parents, and the negligent way in which the kids were treated (they arrived in the Dominican Republic completely dehydrated! would it have been that difficult to give them at least something to drink?! that’s just inhumane), and we have these sort of instances “clueless imperialism”. or, to put it in Christian terms: “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”

  • Forget about putting the goat milk in the church duct work, let’s switch it out for the drinking water.
    This old fart needs his own blog.

  • Joel Wheeler:

    Pamapajama:

    I was painting with broad strokes, as were you when you said that “certain people, namely atheists, seem to take great delight in vilifying the wrong-doing of other people if those perceived wronged-doers happen to be Christians as though Christians were the only people on the planet or throughout history that commit offenses.” You went on to acknowledge that “ALL people commit offenses against other people” and assert that “religion is not the cause of offenses, (sinful) human nature is the cause of the offenses.”

    Religion may well not be the cause of offenses. But it is all too often offered as the motivation and justification for offenses. I was simply pointing out that it is this perceived hypocrisy that accounts for much of the criticism leveled at Christians, especially meddlesome Christians.

    As a former Christian, I understand well the Christian stand. I also understand that I, too, can strive to be a new creature, without any supernatural intervention. One needn’t be a Christian to ‘try’ in a general sense, to be good, to do right. And I guess that’s what it comes down to: what really makes the new creature, the striving, or the supernatural intervention? Christianity, when it comes down to it, insists that it’s the intervention, that without it, the trying is in vain. But, by your own admission (and by my own experience) even WITH it, the trying is in vain. The problem is that, rather than finding true commonality with non-Believers (or other faiths) in this, the Believer finds exemption through Right Belief. The Christian simply believes that, trying or not, in vain or not, what really tips the scales toward an eternity in heaven – a clearly either/or proposition – is not really about the trying, but about accepting the alleged deal, the forgiveness that only God can give for the hideous crime of being born broken.

    You conclude with this: “Being a Christian doesn’t keep me from ever committing offenses or exempt me from deserving punishment on earth but it does free me and all who believe it from eternal repercussions.” This is precisely why, as I said, Christians get singled out when they behave egregiously: because they are more than happy to admit the wrong-doings, and just as happy to let God himself take the fall for them. I, personally, am loathe to let anyone – especially someone I claim to love – suffer, in my stead, a punishment that I deserve: this becomes even more true as the crime/punishment worsens. I fail to understand why this perfectly sensible principle of justice, so sacred to civil society, gets the mother of all exemptions at the grandest of scales.

    As a humanist, a skeptic, and an optimist, I feel reasonably certain, just from your few short posts, that you are almost certainly a ‘good person’. Please don’t take any of this personally. You asked, perhaps rhetorically, why Christians tend get so much heat when they willfully or ignorantly misbehave or meddle, and I’m just trying to show you – having been there – how it looks from the outside.

  • Kimberly:

    Actually I heard goat’s milk is the closest to human milk, so technically it is more ‘normal’ to drink than cow’s milk. Personally I think drinking the milk of another mammal is gross, but hey, that’s just me.

    I was disusted when I read about Silsby’s recent actions the other day on Unreasonable Faith. Apparently she rented a van/bus and kept stopping at orphanages demanding they hand over children when they were already well taken care of. And then there is that couple from KY (I think) that she wouldn’t stop harassing about picking up kids for them in Haiti while she was there. I don’t know, I just hope SOMEBODY puts a stop to her horrible child exploiting actions.

  • Pamapajama:

    Joel Wheeler: I appreciate your comments.

    If you will, clarify your comment “the Believer finds exemption through right belief.” Exemption from what? Accountability for actions? If this is what you mean then I have to disagree heartily. Christianity does not teach any such exemption. The Christian life is to repent of the wrong-doings but still accept the earthly consequences (and there certainly are many). You also say, “they (Christians) are just as happy to let God himself take the fall for them.” On the contrary, I am grieved that my wrong actions (sins) add to the burden of sin that Christ bore for me. Like you, I am not happy to let another suffer for me but still grateful that He did.

    You wonder why there is this “mother of all exemptions at the grandest of scales”? Because without it, no one would meet the requirements. As agreed, the trying is in vain. I can be, with or without the spiritual intervention, as good as I can be, but there will always be shortcomings. I’ll never be perfect. I’ve broken the laws of morality as well as earthly laws. I deserve punishment. God is just. But He also is Love and pardons me.

    Thank you for trying to point out why Christians get so much heat. The key words in your comments were “perceived hypocrisy.” Where does the action lie there? With those who are doing the perceiving. To judge whether some is a hypocrite is a serious undertaking. There is a lack of understanding in that even Christians are sinners and they cause offenses, break laws and mess up. That doesn’t make them hypocrites, it makes them human. I perceive that there is a disproportionate amount of heat given specifically to those of the Christian religion over any other religion or lack thereof.

    Pam

  • Twin-Skies:

    @Kimberly

    Goat milk also makes for good cheese :)

  • Since I was freed from a belief system that kept me in chains, I have been reborn. I am happy and content. I no longer cut myself, starve myself, don’t live in fear, don’t allow others to absue me or take advantage, don’t hide in ‘dark shrouds’ for clothing.
    I am not perfect, no one is, but am no longe rwracked with gulit and shame for being who I am and for being unable to accept the unaccpetable. I lived without love most of my life because of what I was taught to bleieve. Today I knwo that I am loved and my love and empathy and compassion for others is a greater as a result. What is more I don’t have to bleieve anything, declare anything or do anything for love, just be. I am a human being, not a human doing. I am acceptable just because I am and I bleive the same about others. I know for a fact the we suffer much acording to what our beliefs about ourselves and about others are but I do not believe at all that there is an external being whom I must appease and I certainly do not beleive that you and I are so bad that soemen had to pay a price for it! What sort of God needs that? A human god, that’s who. As for the so calle dsuffering of Jesus, he had good parents, was brought up well. In the end we are told he was betrayed by a friend and he died a horrid death. Millions of human beings have suffered far far worse than that.
    Whilst it is likely a futile request, i owuld be grateful that you don’t read hate speech into my words and therefore feel justfied in spiteful retorts. My comments have never come from such a place and I am still stupid enough to think yours wouldn’t either.

  • alex:

    Mm, goatmilk. Good stuff, good stuff.

    I actually think that people who behave like those missionaries did are more cult members than they are religious folk. But then again, I think a lot of religious folk I know (talking about super conservative born agains, here) are, essentially, cult members.

  • Joel Wheeler:

    Pama -

    And I appreciate your engaging and inquisitive spirit!

    It occurred to me that one reason that Christians may receive a disproportionate amount of heat is that they are a disproportionate chunk of the US population. If any given US citizen behaves egregiously, there is a roughly 75% demographic chance that they will be Christian. I think this Haiti debacle underscores the greatly increased likelihood for religiously (or at least ideologically) motivated folks to take certain actions that transcend the ‘earthly’ law, based on a perceived higher calling. To be generous, their charity got the better of them.

    By exemption through Right Belief, I do not mean accountability for actions. I mean accountability for a very specific action, or lack of action. I’ll try to explain.

    According to most Christian doctrines, If one has lived a decent and happiness-generating life, always made amends with those one has harmed, raised and nurtured a strong and loving family, and generally contributed to a just and good community, but does not believe himself a filthy and irredeemable sinner, and really just doesn’t think that someone else’s death absolved, or even could absolve this sinful state, then he will be judged guilty before God and denied entry to heaven. If one has lived a tragic and broken life, perhaps spoiled and selfish, proud and boastful, abusive toward others, maybe even criminal, but has embraced his sinful nature and believes in the redemption of Christ, then he will be absolved before God and permitted entry to heaven. This is explicitly NOT about accountability for actions. In the eyes of God, these individuals, regardless of actions, are, by His requirements, the same. But one accepted the ‘forgiveness’ and one didn’t. The ‘requirement’ you speak of – let’s call it Being Holy – is unattainable through human effort, only through believing in the literal truth of a specific story, thereby acquiring the required Holiness vicariously through the blood of Christ. I agree with you that this is not justice, but I also wouldn’t call it mercy. For the criminal, it IS mercy, but for the healthy and happy community leader? The one with the loving family? It is irrational, ruthless, and cruel.

    Justice is a fairly clear concept that connotes something along the lines of ‘punishment fits the crime.’ Mercy is also a fairly clear concept, suggesting absolution when a crime is committed. A moment’s study reveals that these two concepts are in direct conflict. They see the same crime but produce different outcomes. So when you say that God is just, but that he also loves and pardons… well then, He isn’t just anymore; at least not while He’s loving and pardoning. One can be just, or one can be merciful, but one cannot meaningfully be both at the same time – that’s just poetry. And if one is sometimes just and sometimes merciful, then something larger is governing the choice between the two. What God offers is neither justice or mercy: for the Christian, the heaven/hell dealbreaker is an ARBITRARY justice and mercy that has no relation to behavior or even sin, only to belief, and is known by another name: righteousness. (Vicarious righteousness, to be exact.) Is your name in the Book of Life? You’re in. No? Then too bad about that really good person you were, and that loving family. To declare oneself ‘saved’ is to effectively declare oneself exempt from eternal justice, via an automatic mercy pass, simply by virtue of believing it so.

    For better or worse, non-believers perceive hypocrisy in this worldview. I’m not judging you a hypocrite, really. Many Christians, perhaps most, really aren’t – most PEOPLE aren’t – at least in the sense of openly behaving hypocritically. In my view, most folks behave pretty admirably, especially when most of their ‘earthly’ needs are met. But Christians, by virtue of declaring themselves exempt from the very system of cosmic justice that they embrace and endorse, tend to get the label more often than non-Believers.

  • Joel-that was excellent. may I have your permission to quote this elsewhere please?

  • So much of life has improved beyond measure and changed almost beyond recognition just because I think differently today. Gone is the rigid black and white thinking, based upon me being evil and defective. The cruellest thing of all when children are taught what to think instead of how to think, is that as adults that is what they think-what they were taught to think. Had my therapist not been skilled at deprogramming, I’d not be here today. My thinking, as I was taught to think, rejected any form of help that wasn’t within the constructs I had been taught. Guilt and shame and FEAR forced me to reject ideas foreign to those I had been taught. Don’t forget, I had been taught that to question was evil and God would smite me for doubting. THAT was a very difficult thing to get past. Once I did, well, WOW! LIFE!!!!! I never in my wildest dreams thought I would have the good life I now have and that I would be free to enjoy it.
    Hence I find Rechelle’s writing refreshing and it hits home.

  • Axelle the french reader:

    We had a similar story, in France, in 2007. A french association, “L’arche de Zoé”, have tried to take more than 100 children out Tchad. But at the frontier, they have been arrested by Tchadian authorities, telling that all the children were not all orphans.
    It has been a huge scandal in France, against this association. A very ashaming event. The boss of this association have always said they were innocent. They have been “condamné at 8 years of jail. At the end, Tchad president have them free.
    But we still don’t know what exactly happened.
    When we heard about what happened with Haitians children and American people, most of french people remain quiet, thinking by themselves :”Don’t criticize … remember l’Arche de Zoé…”

  • Pamapajama:

    To Joel Wheeler:
    You said: “One can be just, or one can be merciful, but one cannot meaningfully be both at the same time.”
    The justice (in Christianity) comes in that the price had to be paid and it was paid- by God Himself. The price had to be paid (justice) the benefit was applied to all (mercy). I don’t agree that justice and mercy cannot meaningfully be present at the same time.

    You said:” for the Christian, the heaven/hell dealbreaker is an ARBITRARY justice and mercy that has no relation to behavior or even sin”
    This justice is not arbitrary at all. The whole world has been justified by the Savior. (Yes, with no relation to behavior or sin) It is a judicial act of God. Every single person on earth has been justified by God, this is called obejective justification – “And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.” If the justice only applied to the Christians, or the “really” sinful, then no one would know for sure that it applied to himself and that would be arbitrary. It applies to everyone. No one is left out.
    You said- “In the eyes of God, these individuals, regardless of actions, are, by His requirements, the same. But one accepted the ‘forgiveness’ and one didn’t. ”
    Believing it so- subjective justification. The free gift waiting there (justification) doesn’t do any personal good unless it is received. Bread nourishes us, but only if we eat it, -but we cannot eat it if it isn’t there. The same is true for justification. We’ve been declared just (forgiven) but it doesn’t personally justify us unless we accept it, believe it, possess it.
    The biggest, most significant problem is, human nature wants to earn its own way. It objects to not getting credit for the efforts to be good. Every other religion in the world and those with no defined religion want to earn their own way. You pointed this out yourself with your comparison of someone leading a “good” life that gets no credit for it, and someone who leads a selfish life and gets no blame for it. The desire to have the deeds weighed and measured and the returns rewarded accordingly is universal. This idea is what you conveyed in your comment. God’s way, Christianity, is distasteful to human nature because it wants nothing. Salvation is given freely. The world wants to win heaven from God by right although He wants to give it to us for nothing. Every other religion requires its members to work for their salvation. Unbelievers pridefully reject God because their good life can’t be good enough and they don’t get the credit they think they deserve or they see those they think don’t deserve it, getting the same rewards.
    I have read most of the comments on Rechelle’s posts since her “transformation” as well as many writings by atheists and humanists and I see this attitude of pride and arrogance repeated over and over. I see mostly a lack of real understanding of this Christian principle of God’s free gift and His universal love. So many see God as a task master, a demanding law giver. Commenters talk about the guilt they suffered while they followed Christianity. Yet that indicates a deep disconnect with what Christianity really means –release from guilt by knowing that our failures are paid for, salvation is FREE.

    Thanks, Rechelle, for letting us have this conversation here.
    Pam

  • LucyGolden:
  • Pam-The desire to have the deeds weighed and measured and the returns rewarded accordingly is universal.
    Me-never felt like that, still don’t.
    PamSalvation is given freely.
    Me-No it isn’t. It requires one to believe in something wicked, or at least, against one’s conscience. The very idea that God needs payment is sick. God in Man’s image. If Jesus was God, the story is even more ludicrous.
    Pam:I have read most of the comments on Rechelle’s posts since her “transformation” as well as many writings by atheists and humanists and I see this attitude of pride and arrogance repeated over and over.
    Me: you almost had me thinking you were indeed different.
    Pam: Commenters talk about the guilt they suffered while they followed Christianity. Yet that indicates a deep disconnect with what Christianity really means –
    Me: and clearly you have no idea the damage done to children by believers who force their beliefs onto children and you clearly do not really read the comments. I have more than once explained very clearly how this happens.

  • Joel Wheeler:

    Pam, thanks for following up. I guess I’ve stated my position as clearly as I can; I only sought to explain how non-Believers see the Christian worldview. I can certainly understand how it looks to you, as I was once a believer and created for myself many of the same justifications that you have presented here.

    All I can offer in response is the idea that any free ‘gift’ that carries a threat of punishment if it is not received is no gift at all. You can say that “the desire to have the deeds weighed and measured and the returns rewarded accordingly is universal,” but I would add that this universality is no accident; it is a function of the USEFULNESS of that kind of justice. Justice, the kind that humans use and have refined through the ages, simply works. The divine justice alleged by believers is an affront to our understanding of the concept of justice, which is why we reject it. It’s easy to label this as prideful and arrogant, but to me it just makes sense.

    And it’s just as easy for me to label as prideful and arrogant the notion that a Divine Fiat will erase a lifetime of terrible behavior. If God’s love is universal, then it’s universal. If one has to believe an unlikely story to receive it, then it’s not universal, it’s conditional. One can believe that one is inherently sinful, but redeemed by divine gift, or one can simply reject the notion of original sin – which is also based on an unlikely story. The end result is the same – a sense of freedom. I happen to think that the approach with fewer steps and fewer unsupportable premises is more parsimonious and more elegant, and therefore preferable. And I guess that’s where we’ll just have to agree to disagree!

    And yes, thank you Rechelle for hosting, and Colin, you may quote as you see fit.

    Peace to ALL of you.

  • Joel Wheeler:

    One other thing; (sorry, this was kind of bugging me!)

    Pam said “The free gift waiting there (justification) doesn’t do any personal good unless it is received. Bread nourishes us, but only if we eat it, -but we cannot eat it if it isn’t there. The same is true for justification. We’ve been declared just (forgiven) but it doesn’t personally justify us unless we accept it, believe it, possess it.”
    I can’t help but notice what’s happening in this explanation, and I’d like to gently draw attention to it, because it’s not uncommon in Christian apologetics.

    What’s being discussed is ‘objective justification,’ an alleged action taken by the Son of God. With this action, “The whole world has been justified by the Savior… It applies to everyone. No one is left out.” This sounds pretty declarative and final. But then look what happens: the ‘action’ becomes inert – a loaf of bread. Now, suddenly, the action hasn’t had any effect at all… until YOU act. YOU must eat the bread, or it won’t nourish and save you. The burden of action has been subtly shifted onto the believer. The believer has to DO something: accept it, believe it, possess it.

    Did the objective justification occur, or didn’t it? If it did, we’re all saved. If it hinges on an action I have to take, then it was conditional. It’s not as though Christ paid the price and then right before the deal closed, glanced meaningfully at every human being ever, with some cosmic pregnant pause – will you or won’t you? – and the outcome is still up in the air. It either happened or it didn’t. But for Christians, the burden of action is always shifted onto the believer. God needn’t reveal Himself to YOU, YOU must accept/believe/possess.

    Nothing personal, Pam – I’ve used these arguments myself.

  • Pamapajama:

    Truly, I am grateful to hear you opinions. I am interested in hearing how people go from one set of beliefs to another. Especially radically different ones. I appreciate your responses to mine.

    The bread analogy doesn’t stand on the act of eating. The act of eating is not what nourishes. The bread itself still does. It is an imperfect analogy because of the action. I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength come to faith in Christ, but that He comes to me. We do have the free will to reject it because God did not create robots to love Him without will.

    No one is ever convinced by argument. I don’t expect to convince anyone of my position, just to enlighten because I think there is so much misunderstanding about Christianity because of the groups of extra-visible, extra-vocal church-goers that do not speak for all. Please know that not all Christians love GWBush or support the war or zealousy believe that the Constitution was a Christian document. Conclusions are continually drawn because someone carries the label “Christian” and this was part of what began this discussion with the Idahoan “Christian missionaries.” I am just trying to speak to some pre-conceived notions and we’ve definitely gone on a few tangents.

    Colin, I’m sorry you’ve had bad experiences with religion. I am not trying in anyway to speak to your experiences. My comments are meant in a generalized way. Not personal at all. There have been explanations regarding how Christians are perceived and I was conveying how I have perceived the attitudes of atheists and humanists (in general) from their writings- but not necessarily Joel Wheeler or Colin. :-)

    Pam

  • In the end one still has to DO something in order to receive this ‘unconditional’ love, which makes it conditional, which makes it not love at all.
    No matter which way you dress it up. I saw this as a child though of course I kept it myself. I was in enough trouble already!
    Despite me being the centre of several ‘casting out of demons’ sessions, I am more me now than I ever was. The love of those around me was certainly conditional and of course I was cast out of family, community etc