[personal profile] wingedbeast
This isn't one of my Cases. In my "Evangelizing Advice From an Atheist", one of my early tips was on useful definitions*. The argument was for using definitions to expand communication options, rather than eliminate them. One of the most obvious examples I used was the matter of eliminating the moral embarassments from the category of "True Christians" or "Real Christians". I want to make the case, for both Christians and the rest of the world, to not allow that.

Ostensibly, I get it. For a common view of Jesus Christ, certain actions just don't follow from his teachings. So, for Christians, this seems an obvious reason why people who act against those teachings don't count. And, even for non-Christians, it seems like it might be a means of shaming self-identifying Christians into not being hateful pricks.

In that latter case, it never works. I'm sure it's also an attempt to be nice to your Christian friends who don't go in for that hateful prickery, but that's not worth it.

There's one thing that this elimination of moral failures/embarrassments does that is, arguably, why we're at a point where 81% of Evangelical Christians support family separation and concentration camps. As Fred Clark over at Slacktivist points out, much of that is due to the focus on abortion as the moral concern that overrides all others**. That much is true. But, I think that is protected by that elimination.

In the beginning of the Southern Baptist Convention, a pro-slavery message in the Bible wasn't just the prevailing biblical interpretation. It was the point. Much of biblical literalism and Creationism as we know it today was birthed there.

By both placing their faith in the Bible and insisting that the Bible was not only the holy text, not only the barer of holy tales and stories, not only intended in its current form by God himself, but also a complete work of non-fictional, factually accurate history, they achieved a reading that could yield what they wanted. With such a reading, there would be no need to read the Bible to find various ethics and ways of dealing with people.

No, all they had to do, in that understanding of the Bible, is read the rules and work from there. Well, by the clearly stated rules, the Bible is pro-slavery. There are rules there regarding who you can have for a slave versus (in the more contemporary language) an indentured servant. Add in references to the Curse of Ham, and the justification for race-based slavery was there.

That not only justified slavery, that justified a war to maintain it. And, they lost that war.

It wasn't long before pro-slavery positions didn't have the sympathies they once did. Now, that should be a problem for Christianity, wherein an adherence to the teachings of Christ didn't yield explicit anti-slavery rules and could, in fact, be turned to a pro-slavery argument. It's right there in Jesus saying that those who teach that the old laws could be ignored would be among the least in Heaven. And, if not a problem for Christianity as a whole (as it was also used to argue for Abolition), it should have been a problem for the SBC.

Once America was, by and large, anti-slavery enough that you couldn't really make that argument anymore, we understood that those who kept slaves, even the "nice" ones, were... "not acting in accordance with the loving teachings and commandments of Jesus Christ". In other words, those people weren't really Christians, were they?

But, the SBC didn't have to drop the methodology that had served them in the pro-slavery argument. They never had to contend with the fact that this way of relating to their faith lead them down a horrible path. No, that path just wasn't really Christian and no more needed to be said on the matter, not when the moral matter of preserving segregation was on the line.

Private Catholic Schools largely started out of a desire of Cathlic parents to avoid having their children required to recite Protestant prayers (thus be practicing a faith they didn't believe or else be outted for being what was still a hated minority). To contrast, Baptist schools in the South started when Separate But Equal ended.

The method was largely the same. Focus faith on not only the Bible, but this particular understanding thereof. Once you're there, there's the matter of the "unequally yolked" to avoid and there's the actions of Ezra to praise. By a strict reading (that doesn't admit to the idiosyncratic nature of that reading) the Bible was "clearly" against race mixing.

It would be decades, yet, before their right to racially segregate in schools on religious grounds would end in yet another Supreme Court decision.

And, quite quickly, they switched from that focus to abortion. I'll again go to Fred Clark who has repeatedly argued that the focus on abortion was, in addition to being a cause that would maintain the unified power of Evangelicals as a voting block, a distraction from the supreme moral failure that was segregation. And, we'll find that such would happen again, supporting segregation was no true Christian thing to do and no more need be said on the matter... not when there's abortion and homosexuality to focus on.

Neither Christianity, as a set of traditions and beliefs purported to make you more moral a person, nor the Southern Baptist strain of the Evangelical strain of Christianity received any lasting moral marks against them. All sins done in the name of Christianity or as result of a particular method of relating to the faith would be forgotten and, therefore, neither Christianity nor that particular method would have to contend with them.

Nowadays, we have 81% of Evangelical Christians who will, if history is any indicator, quickly forget that they ever supported Trump. Obviously, putting refugees from gangs and murderous governments in concentration camps isn't something True Christians would ever do, so that doesn't count.

I don't say this to try to eliminate Christianity. I don't see any method of attempting such a thing that wouldn't both be massively against my values and massively unsuccessful. I do this because I want Christianity, as a set of beliefs and traditions that, among other things, has the intention of moral improvement of individual Christians, to get better at that goal.

That means that Christians have to contend with where Christianity has not only failed, but done the opposite. That means that the Southern Baptist Convention has to be presented with its historical support for slavery and for segregation. The fact that they don't anymore is... nice, but not enough. The same habits, traditions, and methods of interacting with the faith that lead to/gave cover to slavery are still in practice. We do our world no favor by letting them remain.

If Christianity, as a religion, is to live up to the frequent claims to make people better, more compassionate, more loving people, it has to learn to deal with the fact that it has failed for reasons that don't boil down to individuals not really meaning it.

* https://wingedbeast.dreamwidth.org/8662.html
** http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2018/07/03/the-con-game-of-anti-abortion-partisanship-that-replaced-christianity-has-been-so-successful-that-we-forget-how-recently-it-was-invented/

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