Here are some things I read this week. Inclusion does not equal a full endorsement. To read the post in its entirety click on the title beneath each excerpt. Anything is bold is something I chose to emphasize.
Lesley Stahl: Did you meet a lot of people who perpetrated war crimes who would otherwise in your opinion have been just a normal, upstanding citizen?
“War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.”
Benjamin Ferencz: Of course, is my answer. These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war. These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite–
Lesley Stahl: What turns a man into a savage beast like that?
Benjamin Ferencz: He’s not a savage. He’s an intelligent, patriotic human being.
Lesley Stahl: He’s a savage when he does the murder though.
Benjamin Ferencz: No. He’s a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country, in his mind.
Lesley Stahl: You don’t think they turn into savages even for the act?
Benjamin Ferencz: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people…
Benjamin Ferencz: Well, if it’s naive to want peace instead of war, let ’em make sure they say I’m naive. Because I want peace instead of war. If they tell me they want war instead of peace, I don’t say they’re naive, I say they’re stupid. Stupid to an incredible degree to send young people out to kill other young people they don’t even know, who never did anybody any harm, never harmed them. That is the current system. I am naive? That’s insane.”
What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know by Lesley Stahl
“What I’m struggling to address here is a weird belief that seems to be the source of a lot of pain for a lot of people — both for the Christians trapped in this form of belief and for the millions of others (many of whom are also Christians) who have to live in a world shaped by the consequences of this weird belief.
It’s the idea that God is not as good as we’d like God to be. The idea that God isn’t as fair, or as kind, or as loving, as we ourselves would be if it were up to us.
This blasphemous accusation arises whenever we find our fallible conscience in conflict with our fallible perception of a divine commandment. It arises because we’ve had it drilled into our heads that our conscience is fallible and not always trustworthy, while at the same time we’ve desperately pretended that our perception of “God’s will” or “God’s commands” is not just as fallible and untrustworthy. So we wind up deferring to the latter, subordinating conscience to a dreadful obedience of a dreadful command.
That’s a terribly uncomfortable place to be, but it’s where millions of white evangelical Christians in America find themselves because it’s where they’ve been taught to believe they are required to be. They wish they could have a faith that better aligned with what their nagging conscience is telling them would be more good, more beautiful, more true, more just, and more loving, but they’ve been taught to believe that such faith is not permitted…
What we quite often see these days, instead, is a form of Christianity that no one wishes to be true — not even many of its believers…
It’s very hard to invite anyone to believe anything that they have no reason to want to believe in. It’s very hard to convince anyone to believe in a God who seems distasteful — even to you.
Here’s the really, really weird part of this: Conservative evangelicals reading this are now convinced that what I’m saying here is that we need to reinvent God according to our own preferences. They think I’m saying we need to change what God is really like and who God really is in order to make the idea of God more popular — more palatable and more acceptable.
Let that sink in for a second. Consider the assumptions that shape that criticism — what one would have to presume in order for that criticism to make any sense at all.
What they’re really saying — what they’re really confessing — is that they believe that the actual truth about God is, in fact, unpalatable and unacceptable. They believe that God’s actual character is, in fact, distasteful — that God is exclusive, condemning and oppressive. And that any attempt to portray God as otherwise is a liberal lie.
In this view, God could decide to cherish us, but simply decides not to.”
“In particular, complementarianism can act to peripheralise women within churches, and in those contexts it’s easy to see how abuse can flourish undetected. In complementarian contexts, women have as much room to speak as the male leaders allow. That’s a profoundly vulnerable position to be in, and one which I suspect some male ministers are not always able to empathise with. If a woman suffering abuse wasn’t completely confident that she would be believed, that the particular nature of the abuse would be understood, and that she would be supported by her church’s leader, she would most likely continue to suffer alone. This is true for any church, whether complementarian or egalitarian, but within complementarian churches the capacity for women to shape teaching and policies is almost entirely dependent on the senior minister’s amenity. That makes it crucial that the senior minister seek out and really listen to the women of the church. They must also be clear-eyed about how they are received by the women of the church – are they regarded as trustworthy, knowledgeable about the issues which affect women, do they demonstrate a humble willingness to learn? If not, women will not disclose abuse to them…
After several years in ministry, I have come to expect that the women I meet with have had significant experiences of abuse, whether direct or indirect. The women who have not been abused (or have not yet disclosed abuse to me) are a minority. Most of the time, these women have told few people. They have learned to accommodate quietly. They swallow their pain…
Male leaders of both complementarian and egalitarian churches – are you confident that you are doing what is necessary to care for the women in your churches who are experiencing such things?
And more importantly, would the women of your church agree with you?”
Reflecting on complementarianism and domestic violence by Erica Hamence
“A few years after I came out I had lunch with my father in Toronto. He’s always been a bit more awkward than unaccepting when it came to my sexuality. As I sat across from him he relayed a perplexing story. At the garage he worked in, during lunch hour in a predominately male lunchroom in aforementioned small town Ontario, one of his colleagues made a homophobic remark and he froze. There was no defending his gay son, no calling out the bigotry. At first I was angry at his response. Why wouldn’t he stand up for me? Why would he even tell me this story with no happy ending? A potential moment of redemption seemed so glaringly obvious. Then something became suddenly clear to me. He too was saddled with shame. The culture he still lived in, the culture I moved away from, filled him too with fear of rejection and mockery. It was like this bizarre conversation was an apology and an acknowledgement. It was as if this was his way of saying he was starting to understand my struggle, and that he was ashamed for his part in it now that he too had felt the sting of homophobia, however vicarious…
The lesson here: take care with your choice to be homophobic because it lasts forever for both the victim and the victimizer. It doesn’t just affect gay people or people with gay kids either…”