Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Comment

I posted this elsewhere as a comment; reproduced here simply because (a) it's already written and (b) the topic is important.

Writing at HuffPost, somebody named Phil Zuckerman indulges his hatred for evangelicals with an essay entitled "Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus". He argues:
Evangelicals don't exactly hate Jesus... They do love him dearly. But not because of what he tried to teach humanity. Rather, Evangelicals love Jesus for what he does for them. Through his magical grace, and by shedding his precious blood, Jesus saves Evangelicals from everlasting torture in hell, and guarantees them a premium, luxury villa in heaven. For this, and this only, they love him. They can't stop thanking him. And yet, as for Jesus himself -- his core values of peace, his core teachings of social justice, his core commandments of goodwill -- most Evangelicals seem to have nothing but disdain.
Zuckerman is intellectually lazy. Evangelicals are far from perfect, but they give more to charity (even non-church charities) than any other group in the population. Evangelicals and Catholics are pretty much the only group opposing easy divorce laws. Evangelicals led the anti-slavery movement and black evangelicals led the civil rights movement; evangelicals currently lead the defense of the unborn.

Zuckerman assumes that Jesus teaching about giving to the poor & eschewing wealth was an institutional command, not an individual one. That's a legitimate point to discuss, but by assuming that it's an institutional command (and ignoring data on individual charity) he begs the question and smears those he despises. I have a big problem with Christians who enjoy most of their wealth, but I don't think the government can legislate financial holiness.

Zuckerman assumes that Jesus was opposed to the death penalty; the only evidence for this is the story of the adulterous woman, which is weakly attested in texts, and requires a lot of interpretation.

Zuckerman assumes that Jesus was pacifist and anti-weapon. At times, it's true, He preached non-resistance. But He never preached non-violent resistance (just non-resistance), and He once told His disciples to go buy swords.

If you take Zuckerman literally, he's advocating a theocracy! He seems to think that we should legislate Jesus' commands, or in any case those which Zuckerman imagines to be Jesus' commands. In truth, what Zuckerman really hates about evangelicals is that they disagree with himself and his cut-and-paste Jesus.

There are excellent critiques of American evangelicism; this is not one of them.


Chops said...

American Evangelicals have also done more in the past century to (try to) help alleviate suffering, promote health & education, and care for widows and orphans in the third world than any other group has done outside their own borders anywhere on earth.

Casey said...

I hate seeing articles like this. Zuckerman is just trying to rouse misinformed and misdirected hatred. He's committing the very sin he ascribes to Evangelicals -- violating his core principles. As a sociologist, he should be promoting understanding of the various social groups in the country. Instead he is cultivating misunderstanding and hatred.

What a jerk. Seriously.