Thursday, September 23, 2004

Offender of the Faith

Via the Seattle Times

Evangelist Swaggart apologizes for remark about gays.

Original Post, 1:27 PM PDT, 21 September, 2004:Thanks for the Memory to the Twisted Spinster.

Apparently Eugene Volokh over at the Volokh Conspiracy is upset by a comment made by Jimmy Swaggart:

I'm trying to find the correct name for it . . . this utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men. . . . I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died.

Oh, apparently, Andrew Sullivan weighs in on this too. There's a surprise.

First of all, let me say I'm not a regular visitor to Volokh's blog. I know it's popular, and from what I see, well-written, but it's not on my list of frequents. Nothing against it, I just thought it fair warning.

Apparently what upset Volokh most was not the comment itself, but the lack of outrage from the Christian Community:

But it seems to me that decent Christians ought to condemn this defender of murder, who publicly says that he'd violate the Ten Commandments when someone "looks at [him]" the wrong way, while purporting to preach God's word and lead Christian congregations. Tell us, at least, that this supposed Christian — who was once one of the nation's leading evangelists, until he was tripped up by another of the Commandments — doesn't speak for you.

Trust me, Eugene, he doesn't speak for me -- about a great many things. I'm not at ALL a member of Jimmy Swaggart's regular audience -- nor for that matter, a WILLING member of his audience PERIOD. Setting aside the above quote, the man espouses a doctrine (the Word Faith Movement) I find abhorrent. I believe that most Christians who follow it are merely deceived, and doctrinally in error, but I am also firm in my belief that most pastors teaching it, especially leaders like Swaggart, are espousing Heresy. About that I will not equivocate. For this reason I would discourage ANY Christian from paying heed to ANYTHING being preached by Swaggart.

And that's the reason THIS Christian has not yet denounced Swaggart's comment -- because I do my best to completely avoid or ignore him, I had no idea Swaggart had said something like this. If I had, I would have denounced it, as I do now. I wonder how many other Christians, and even pastors, are in the same boat. While Swaggart is still popular in some circles, I doubt he's as influential as he once was, or as Volokh believes him to be.

Having said that, I do denounce this statement. It is not at all in keeping with Christian Doctrine to speak of killing someone because they look at you with unwanted sexual intent -- nor, for that matter, for sinning at all. That's the Law, we live under Grace. As for the part about "telling God he died", theologically, that's just... What's the word? Oh, yeah -- stupid.

I do hope that any Christian leader who hears of this will vocally step to the plate and agree.

But there was something else about the Volokh blog entry that bothered me. In an update to the post, he linked to a response from another blogger, Sweeny A. of Ipsa Loquitur, who writes in part:

Eugene is certainly right that ethical people should condemn [Swaggart's] words, but one wonder's [sic] about Eugene's implication that this moral stain is automatically conferred to other Christians until they renounce it. One might say that for a Christian who has heard this comment to consciously refuse to renounce it is a tacit endorsement. That may be true, but the very terms in which Volokh has couched the ultimatum is unfair.

Since advocating murder because a gay man looks at you wrong is an obvious violation of the Christian ethic, why should Christians, qua Christians, feel obligated to renounce the remarks any more than people who share the last name of Swaggart?

Volokh has a lengthy response, but this is the part of it that caught my attention:

Christianity is a belief system — not just an involuntary status such as race or ethnicity, but a consciously chosen belief system that is based on certain writings and certain traditions. Historically, Christians have often stressed the importance of those writings, which supposedly provide something of an objective standard of behavior, and of a Christian community, which helps enforce this behavioral standard. In recent decades, many Christians have also tried to downplay denominational differences (say, between Protestants and Catholics), and to stress the common purpose of those who follow Jesus's [sic] teachings.

When someone who is a Christian minister, and still something of a Christian leader, makes a claim about what Christian scriptures mean, it seems to me that those Christians who condemn his views — and condemn them as deeply evil, rather than just subtly or slightly wrong — do have a responsibility to speak out.

and later,

I'm not asking for anything much — I'm simply saying that Christians should be outraged at Swaggart's essentially slandering their religion, and should denounce his views, to make clear that his views (though purportedly Christian) are not mainstream Christian views.

If I interpret Volokh's point correctly, he believes we Christians should not only condemn Swaggart's statement as morally reprehensible, but as doctrinally unorthodox. When he says "Historically, Christians have often stressed the importance of those writings, which supposedly provide something of an objective standard of behavior," that's as close as he's ever going to come to what we say when we acknowledge the inspiration and authority of scripture. In other words, we should reassure him that Swaggart doesn't speak for us because "That's not what our Scriptures teach."

Well, fine, Eugene. If you'll go back to my response to Swaggart's statement, that's exactly what I did. I stated my denouncing of the statement out of adherence to sound doctrine.

And here's the irony. That same adherence to sound doctrine requires that I take stances on many issues that I'm sure Volokh and Sullivan would both find... Distasteful, at best. That includes believing that adherence to certain tenets of the faith is requisite for being acknowledged as a Christian, believing that orthodox Christianity is the exclusive means by which an individual can know and have fellowship with God, and, yes, believing that homosexual behavior is in opposition to the commands of God.

Yet when I make such statements, rest assured that a great many people, both theologically liberal Christians and Non-Christians alike, will denounce me as being too closed-minded, too narrow, too devoted to an ancient book.

I'm sorry, you can't have it both ways. If you want Christians to speak out against Swaggart, and specifically want us to do so based on his violation of some standard of orthodoxy based on our Scriptures, then you are giving us your assent that we are correct in acknowledging the authority of those scriptures in establishing ALL standards of orthodoxy.

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