Thursday, June 05, 2003
What's the frequency, Jesus?

Over at Matthew Yglesias's corner, there's what I consider to be a great debate going on in the comments section. The post that started it concerns the Vatican's suggestion that Christianity be specifically mentioned in the EU constitution, but the dialogue quickly derailed into an evaluation of the Church's history. Should Christianity be condemned for the faults of its practice--including the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the Holocaust? Is Christianity in fact responsible for the Holocaust? Don P, a very good debator and a frequent commentor there, says yes; I say no. I'm going to quote my best point from the debate, and all apologies if you find this stuff terribly uninteresting, 'cause it's long:
One reason that Christianity finds so much apologism is that there are countless vantage points from which a politically charged individual may take the religion and run with it. Invariably, it is very difficult to pin the most aggregious [sic--I was sleepy!] crimes committed in the name of Christianity to a cohesive foundation in Christianity itself--because of many of those contradictions I referenced, which foreswear such radical interpretations. Almost like checks and balances. Hitler being a case in point: you'll have a hard time finding support if your opinion is that Hitler rationally and fairly interpreted the Bible or Jesus or what have you and then acted. It does not get any closer to what is a "real" Christianity, but Hitler's interpretation violates enough obvious, essential Christian principles that you can't really argue that it's his dogma versus, say, St. Augustine's.

If you want to challenge the nature of interpretation itself, or say that Christianity is so open to interpretation that any can be considered the true Christianity, I understand. Those are fair arguments that have plague Christian theologians and non-partisan philosophers. Still, there is a viewpoint from which you can rightly say that, on the balance, Hitler--much as he professed his religious allegiances--did not logically follow the dictates of Christ.

Back to those inconsistencies: When an individual employs Christianity to validate very obviously non-Christian principles, it should be asked if Christianity is the only mitigating influence. Were it, the contradictions might weigh so heavily on an individual that he is stunned into indecision. (Kierkegaard being one example.) If an individual can then do decidedly un-Christian things in the name of Christ, because of Christ, you may assume that he is motivated by external influences, and/or he is incapable of understanding the Bible in a cohesive manner and acting according to its whole.

I am reminded of your argument about the extreme anti-abortion lobby: If pro-lifers evaluate abortion as murder, why aren't they waging war against pro-choice advocates as if they were murderers? (I think it is a very bright analysis.) These pro-life advocates are not capable of fully understanding the logical implications of their position, and so the pro-life standpoint is pretty illegitimate by their own actions. Similarly, these violent Christians (Hitler being the case in point) can't seem to understand the logic of Christianity, perhaps the illogic of Christianity, and so their interpretation is illegitimate.

Full disclosure: I'm not a Christian but I am mesmerized by Catholic humanism of the Renaissance variety, and I'm also inane enough to be giddy over a good debate on dogma. If you're similarly inclined maybe you should head over.