Is Barnaby Joyce the avante garde of the Christian literary tradition?

Ho ho ho, with a hat-tip to Russell Blackford. Barnaby Joyce is putting lead into the pencil of Christian literature, or at least, there’s probably lead in the crayons he ate from the Fairfax stationary.

Perhaps I’m being unkind…

‘My war is always against that religion called atheist extremism, that sneaky sect.’

(Barnaby Joyce, 2011).

Oh come on… It’s not so bad.

‘Yes, this sect’s followers make their way on to your veranda then hold a righteous court of sneering indignation about the crib in the park. You can hear yourself muttering under your breath, ”I wish you would go drown yourself, you pseudo-intellectual Gucci flea.” They write letters to complain about the incorrectness of carols at the school and picket the Christmas tree. To not insult their religion, you must no longer follow yours. They yearn for the fallacy of a vacuum and they demand that you join them in that philosophical void.’

(Barnaby Joyce, 2011)

Now I know what you’re thinking – incitement to violence, and in a Fairfax paper of all places!

But if you’ve learned anything about lit-crit, and religious texts, it’s that you can take these things to literally. He’s not suggesting that atheist should actually kill themselves, no, no, no.

You start out as a Gucci flea (whatever that is, I’m not sure of the Biblical reference – I’m not a Biblical scholar), then you submerge yourself in a baptism until you flatline. You are then born again, brain-dead, able to operate on, and in sympathy with, Joyce’s intellectual plane. Which apparently isn’t a void. Sort of a Cartesian dualism deal, or something – the brain is dead, but the soul goes on, un-vacuumed.

It’s hard to interpret such cutting edge stuff fairly. I may not be a Biblical scholar, but I know when new intertextualities arise, in more novel configurations, those familiar with the traditional – conservatives and laymen – are left scratching their heads.

Where he got the idea that atheism was a religion, much less a sect, I don’t know. There are too many new sources. Once upon a time, people knew that atheists were precisely not religious, which is why sometimes, they were killed. Not drowned so much as dismembered, hung, set on fire, or whatever.

No, Barnaby is obviously going with something post-modern, in response to the liberal secularism of early 20th century anglophone nations. The confabulation about Christian exclusion from schools, or the anxiety about freedom from religion being the freedom to take religion away. Not my tradition of choice, actually – bullshit actually – but that seems to be where Joyce, our latest national treasure, is coming from; late 20th, early 21st century, Christian self-pity.

But ignore the ressentiment, for a moment, because it’s only one facet of the human condition that Barnaby Joyce fleshes out. Joyce is nothing, if not a pluralist…

‘Anyway, Christmas is here and I hope we borrow a little from the person who kicked it off. The timing at the end of December has more to do with the celebration of the pagan festival of Saturnalia rather than when Christ was actually born. Those politically incorrect early Christians had the good sense to roll with the customs rather than to rage against them.’

(Barnaby Joyce, 2011)

I take it that this includes the concept of ‘December liberty’, where people could say what they wanted of their leaders, and others, without fear of reprisal. This is perhaps why Barnaby is so liberal with his own choice of words.

Allow me to reciprocate in the same spirit.

You Barnaby, are a complete and utter moron. I hope you asphyxiate on a dingleberry. (Not literally, of course.)

Oh, and it’s a few seconds from midnight… Happy Unholy Anti-Christmas! Here’s a jingle.

~ Bruce

The virtue of paying attention (to theological ethicists)…

Sometimes us Gnu Atheists, secular fundamentalists, and religious fifth columnists can be dismissive, even totalitarian when the need arises.

Not that we’ve come to power quite yet, or that we’re necessarily restricted to anti-theistic dictatorship when we do (the dwindling Christian minority can still spout its nonsense in public, and we can allow this to continue), it’s possibly time for a change in the mode of engagement. The Enemy is beaten.

Before the First Atheist International secures its first English-speaking nation at the Global Atheist Convention in 2012, it’d probably be worth considering the baby we risk throwing out with the bath water. It’s time – the first time – for us to truly consider what sophisticated theologians have been saying, without our snickering, and without ridicule.

It’s time, now that we have the time, and that victory is already assured, that we consider these things in a scholarly manner.

Consider gay marriage. We’ve been shutting down that particular discussion for decades now, by calling opponents ‘homophobes’ without any consideration of their actual position. Terrible for sure, but necessary for the revolution, at least up until now.

We’ve won the debate. Public sympathy is now irreversibly against the church in this matter. It’s now safe for us to consider the more sophisticated ethical arguments against gay marriage without fear of a loss of hegemony.

“It is significant that everywhere the issue has been debated it begins on the issue of fairness and justice and with majority support but that soon changes when people realise that there are deeper issues involved. After their legislature experimented with same-sex marriage, the people of California voted against the revisionist concept of marriage.” – Emphasis added.

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

There are deeper issues involved, and the revisionist concept of marriage, our revisionist concept of marriage, doesn’t account for them. You don’t have to be religious to note that if we assume power, and follow through by riding roughshod over these deeper issues, it could mean disaster! It could turn out to be just another facet, in possibly yet another failed secular revolution! We don’t want that.

“Changing the law so that marriage includes same-sex unions would be a change to what marriage means. Currently marriage involves a comprehensive union between a man and a woman, and norms of permanence and exclusivity. Marriage has a place in the law because a relationship between a man and a woman is the kind of relationship that may produce children. Marriage is linked to children, for the sake of children, protecting their identity and their nurture by a mother and a father.”

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

Think of the children! You’d never had heard of it, or come across the idea during the past two decades of discussions of revisionist marriage, if you hadn’t bothered to take down your blinkers – to pay attention to what sophisticated, scholarly, religious ethicists had been telling you all along.

Think of the children! You’d never had heard of it!

Clearly revising the definition of marriage opens up all sorts of terrible possibilities. First we’d let the gays marry – couples who can’t produce their own offspring naturally – and then we’d have to grant the right of marriage to barren heterosexuals as well. Why it’s a slippery slope!

And you just know that secular fundamentalist ethicists have never considered the ramifications of giving IVF and adoption in combination with marriage, to straight couples. I really feel like we’ve dodged a bullet here. We really weren’t prepared for this!

“If children happen to be in a same-sex household they will always have come from outside that relationship, either through an earlier relationship or through the use of some other biological parent and technology.”

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

You see, it is just the same as with all of the heterosexual couples with reproductive problems the state has conscientiously been barring from marriage all along!

“If the law were to be changed so that marriage included same-sex relationships [or heterosexual couples with reproductive problems], then marriage would no longer be about children. It would be about adults only.”

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

The state wouldn’t be thinking about the children anymore! Fellow ultra-secularists, I implore you to reconsider, whichever future your goodwill for gays and the infertile may lead you to, do you want it to be one where the state isn’t looking out for our precious, vulnerable younglings?

“Given the marital relationship’s natural orientation to children, it is not surprising that, according to the best available sociological evidence, children fare best on virtually every indicator of wellbeing when reared by their wedded biological parents. “

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

Never mind that the first study Benson et. al. cite in support of this, is a largely interpretative meta-analysis by the ‘independent’ Witherspoon Institute, isn’t peer-reviewed, is funded by the Templeton Foundation, and when statistical, is purely correlatory; worrying about such matters would be both prejudicial and reductionist. How often in the past have we secular fundamentalists stonewalled discussion by being prejudicial and reductionist, in addition to our use of ridicule and ad hominem? As necessary as it was then, it’s no longer a useful strategy. We need to change.

Never mind that the second study cited by Benson et. al., in as far as it addresses the issue of non-biological parents, concerns non-biological parents married to, or in defacto relationships with, biological parents, not at all considering married adoptive parents, or the use of IVF; such nitpicking would be missing the spirit of the concern. Sampling the population be damned, it takes only a little imagination to see these concerns as applying to gay (and infertile) couples as well. Don’t let statistical scientism prejudice your imagination!

Again, we’ve already won. Religion is an endangered species in Australian politics. We can finally afford to listen, and listen we should; we were all heading for disaster!

“In a liberal democracy, others can form other types of relationships; but ‘marriage’ is a term reserved for a particular kind of relationship that brings with it obligations to others beyond the two parties. Marriage is shared obligation for children.”

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

In other words, dear gay marriage advocates; think of the children because gay and reproductively challenged parents won’t, and nor will the state if we change the definition of marriage!

Finally, it all seems so… clear!

Honestly, I’m glad I took the time to delve through the cited material and the expressed argument, because in twenty odd years of watching this discussion unfurl, I’ve never seen anyone present a case quite like this. Think of the children! It never sprung to mind!

Never again will I write off an instance of theological ethics as unscholarly from such a piddling detail as the drawing of conclusions not supported by the cited research – this prejudices imagination! Why those pesky, unimaginative sceptics often marginalise alternative medicine in precisely the same way!

Never again will I dismiss the accumulated wisdom of tradition, like the long-established practice of barring non-reproductive heterosexual couples from the institution of marriage. There are rational reasons why traditions become entrenched, and change doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

The major difficulty I have in all of this, is how in light of my own secular totalitarianism, and that of my peers in the movement, I’m going to justify all of this while we send the theological ethicists off to the gulag political margins. I guess it’ll have to be a carefully crafted plagiarism that hides the original source, and the hypocrisy of using it.

We just can’t get by without this wisdom!

~ Bruce

It seems I’ll have to make my own exceptions to Hart’s rules

On pg. 382 of my New Hart’s Rules, ‘20.10 Blasphemy, obscenity, racial hatred, and official secrets’ says…

Publishing a work which contains contemptuous, scandalous, or insulting material relating to the Christian religion is a criminal offense, punishable by a fine or imprisonment. Note that only the Christian religion is covered by this law and that merely attacking Christianity is not blasphemy: the attack would be blasphemous only if it were contemptuous or insulting.

(New Hart’s Rules, 2005)

Which is to say that any attack is at least tantamount to blasphemy, contempt or insult being as easy to conjure, and as hard to dismiss as an unfalsifiable Freudian diagnosis.

I also don’t like the fact that blasphemy is lumped in the same section as racial hatred. A smear by association – I don’t, as a blasphemer, think it fair to lump me or anyone else with the same tolerant disposition towards race, with bigots.

And at the very least, the discrimination inherent in making a special case for protecting Christianity alone demonstrates that the law isn’t interested in equality. By all means, report the law (actually abolished in the UK in 2008 – after this edition of Hart’s Rules was published), but the unnecessary value judgements are something I can do without.

Oh, and on that part of Western Christianity where you’ll find a long anti-Semitic streak, I’ve left a great big, fat, hot, steaming metaphorical turd. Of course the flies were already there before I metaphorically passed my bowels, being attracted to the scent of a thousand and one shitty Passion plays, Mel Gibson’s included.

I simply shat in what was already a latrine.

I hold the original charge of Deicide in contempt. I hold the concept of The Mark of Cain in contempt, and not just the Jew-hating interpretations.

Contempt!

~ Bruce