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Jarring Juxtapositions: The Hypocrisy of the Religious Right

The good old Religious Right, RR for short, has been getting on my nerves a lot lately. Politically, I am not a leftist in the slightest, but my politics are based on pragmatic views which I willingly allow to be subverted by the Bible. That means that I might think a given economic system works the best, but the ethical demands placed upon me by God supersede the pragmatic foundations of my economic theory. In other words, a just economic system has a higher moral value than say having the smoothest or most stable economy. This puts me in a weird place where the injustice of our current system makes me look–I believe under the guidance of Scripture–much more “liberal” than I probably really am. This half-way an outsider perspective has helped me look closely at the Religious Right/Evangelical Conservatives in a way that I feel was impossible a few years ago.  What follows is simply an unorganized list at the most galling hypocrisies that I have noticed.

 

RR on Guns: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Inanimate objects can’t cause people to do things, it is the sin in their heart.

RR on Contraception in Schools: ZOMG, the condoms and birth control will make all the children instantly break out in orgies. Save the children! Abstinence education only.

Conclusion: Inanimate objects can only make people have sex.

 

RR on women: God really wants a woman to stay home and take care of the kids. That’s her highest calling.

RR on poor women: Why should I pay anyone to sit on their butts? Those lazy whores need to get to work.

Conclusion: If white women stay home, they are doing God’s work. If black women stay home, they are lazy (and probably promiscuous).

 

RR on tiny humans: Life begins at the moment of fertilization. Every embryo is a gift from God. God loves life and demands we protect it.

RR on big humans:  Incarcerate everyone and load the system with mandatory minimums. Execute as many criminals as possible. Preserve American hegemony through armed conflict on the thinnest of pretexts.

Conclusion: God loves babies. Screw everybody else.

 

RR on regulations: The government needs to stop intruding in the lives of its citizens. It just needs to leave me alone.

RR on gay marriage: Marriage is a religious institution that the government needs to regulate to save it from all the queers.

Conclusion: Government intrusion in the lives of sinners is always acceptable

 

RR on evolution: Teach the controversy!

RR on homeschooling/private schools: Don’t teach the controversy! Evolution-free zones!

Conclusion: Darwin is the Schroedinger’s Cat of RR education policy

 

RR on Israel: God gave them that land! Those Arabs and Terrorists, but I repeat myself, need to GTFO.

RR on Tattoos/Pork/Mixed-fiber clothing: That’s OT stuff and purely ceremonial.

Conclusion: All that stuff God said about foreigners and strangers was ceremonial.

 

RR on Ford: You are covered in gay cooties and we won’t buy your cars until you’ve had a shower and said you are sorry for offending us.

RR on Chick-Fil-A: Freedom of Speech! Saint Cathy of the Chicken Sandwich has been persecuted and is being led to Fowl Golgotha!

Conclusion: Freedom of Speech means agreeing with the RR.

 

I have more, but you get the idea. These shenanigans are tiresome, and I don’t feel like holding back my mockery any longer.

 

 

 

 

 

Primary Source Saturday: Martial

Martialis (source: Wikipedia)

Martial (source: Wikipedia)

Who: Marcus Valerius Martialis was a Latin poet born between 38 and 41 CE and who died between 100 and 104 CE.

What: His literary legacy is comprised of books of epigrams, that is, short witty poems. Some of them are quite beautiful, describing the deaths of friends or reflecting on the grace of the hare as it swiftly flies across the arena, but the majority are focused on the lives of Rome’s elite offering praise and scorn (mostly the latter). He has a reputation for writing explicit poems, but most of the time he is simply rude rather than ribald.

Why: Like Lucian, who was discussed last week, Martial is an important source of information on the social engagements of the Greco-Roman world. Several epigrams speak directly both to the conditions Martial endured as a client to a wealthy patron and Martial’s expectations (often unfulfilled) of the benefits he would reap from the arrangement. Since Martial often situated his epigrams within the daily affairs of affluent Romans, he provides insight into a wide variety of subjects. For example, his epigrams describing the arena offer interesting background relevant to the Christian martyrs. He describes instances where prisoners are made to dress up as figures from myth or from theater and act out the stories for the amusement of the crowd. Martial describes a prisoner forced to play the part of a robber, Laureolus, about whom there was a popular mime:

As, fettered on a Scythian crag, Prometheus fed
the untiring fowl with his too prolific heart, so
Laureolus, hanging on no unreal cross, gave up his
vitals defenseless to a Caledonian bear. His mangled limbs lived, though the parts dripped gore, and in all his body was nowhere a body’s shape. A punishment deserved at length he won he in his guilt had with his sword pierced his parent’s or his master’s throat, or in his madness robbed a temple of its close-hidden gold, or had laid by stealth his savage torch to thee, O Rome. Accursed, he had outdone the crimes told of by ancient lore ; in him that which had been a show before was punishment. (On the Spectacles, VII)

This habit of using the arena to play out legendary stories may be behind an enigmatic passage in 1 Clement:

 1CL 6:1 To These men with their holy lives was gathered a great multitude of the chosen, who were the victims of jealousy and offered among us the fairest example in their endurance under many indignities and tortures.

2 Through jealousy women were persecuted as Danaids and Dircae, suffering terrible and unholy indignities; they steadfastly finished the course of faith, and received a noble reward, weak in the body though they were. (Lake)

“Danaids” probably refers to the fifty daughters of Danaus who were forced by their uncle to marry their fifty male cousins and who subsequently murdered their husbands on their wedding night. How the women were made to play out this story is hard to decipher, but the other example, “Dircae,” requires little imagination. Dirce was killed by being bound to the horns of a bull.

Martial also sheds light on another difficult historical subject: the development of the codex form of the book. It will not be news to most of you that books used to be written on scrolls, but you might not know that the transition from scroll to bound leaves is not well understood. From what we can tell, the success of the book as we know it today is largely due to the influence of Christians. It is clear that the codex format had predecessors in the wax tablets and parchment notebooks used by businessmen and government officials to take notes and compose documents. Less clear is how we got from these reusable notebooks to papyrus codices. Given the scant nature of the evidence, it is somewhat surprising that Martial contains one of the only explicit mentions of the use of a codex for a literary work in the first century CE.

You, who wish my poems should be everywhere
with you, and look to have them as companions on a
long journey, buy these which the parchment confines
in small pages. Assign your book-boxes to the great;
this copy of me one hand can grasp. Yet, that
you may not fail to know where I am for sale, or
wander aimlessly all over the town, if you accept
my guidance you will be sure. Seek out Secundus,
the freedman of learned Lucensis, behind the entrance
to the temple of Peace and the Forum of Pallas. (Book I, II)

So early is Martial’s reference that the Latin word “codex” was apparently not yet in use. Instead, Martial uses the phrase “membrana tabellis” translated somewhat loosely above but literally meaning parchment tablets. The reference to grasping one-handed amply demonstrates that Martial describes a small codex. In addition to this helpful clue about the development of the codex, Martial also sheds light on the book trade in general. Notice in the above quote he directs readers to a book seller in Rome. The normal method of book propagation involved borrowing a copy from a friend and hiring a scribe to produce a copy, so it is interesting to get a peek into the world of book dealers. (See Harry Gamble’s recent article in Hill and Kruger (eds.), The Early Text of the New Testament) Martial is an important source for both Roman life and for the development of the codex, one of Christianity’s most enduring legacies. Not bad for a bawdy poet who spends most of his time gossiping about his peers.

The Lord Has Graciously Provided Me With Laughter Today

I saw this at a news stand in the airport today.

irony

Seeing things like this makes me want to get all imprecatory, but I have a feeling that if you dashed Osteen’s head against the rocks nothing would come out.

The Church History Forced March

My apologies for the lack of updates after the first day of starting the blog, but I am in the middle of a two week summer intensive that meets 4 hours each day for lecture and then has piles of reading to do. The professor explained on the first day that the class is a sort of forced march through medieval and reformation church history. We have a test on each Friday of the two weeks, the midterm which is tomorrow, and the final which is the next Friday. I am presently attempting to work through hundreds of pages of reading and using the blog here to procrastinate. I have about three unfinished posts in the pipeline so keep your eyes peeled. The first is on economic factors influencing the interpretation of Luke-Acts. I also have some book reviews and such. I should have things flowing again tomorrow.

© Jeremiah and Ashleigh Bailey 2012