Elmer Furtick

Looks like Steven Furtick took a page out of Elmer Gantry’s playbook (and I can’t get over how much he looks like Boyd Crowder):

In Scranton, they had unusually exasperating patients.  Scranton had been saved by a number of other evangelists before their arrival, and had become almost anesthetic.  Ten nights they sweated over the audience without a single sinner coming forward, and Elmer had to go out and hire half a dozen convincing converts.

He found them in a mission near the river, and explained that by giving a good example to the slothful, they would be doing the work of God, and that if the example was good enough, he would give them five dollars apiece.  The missioner himself came in during the conference and offered to get converted for ten, but he was so well known that Elmer had to give him the ten to stay away.

His gang of converts was very impressive, but thereafter no member of the evangelistic troupe was safe.  The professional Christians besieged the tent night and day.  They wanted to be saved again.  When they were refused, they offered to produce new converts at five dollars apiece–three dollars apiece–fifty cents and a square meal.  By this time enough authentic and free enthusiasts were appearing, and though they were fervent, they did not relish being saved in company with hoboes who smelled.  When the half dozen cappers were thrown out, bodily, by Elmer and Art Nichols, they took to coming to the meetings and catcalling, so that for the rest of the series they had to be paid a dollar a night each to stay away.


What Makes Killing Wrong?

That’s the question that “bioethicists” are trying to answer.  (Whenever I see the word “bioethicist,” by the way, I get a little queasy.)  From a non-religious point of view, and certainly from a non-Judaeo-Christian point of view, I can understand why philosophers and bioethicists would argue this way.  After all, pragmatism and utilitarianism rule every other facet of our lives: does it work or not? and, will the end(s) justify the means?  Those are obviously simplistic ways of putting the question, but that is how those philosophical ideas trickle down into the thoughts and lives of an ordinary person.  So for killing: does it work for saving money, or beds, or human organs, or time, etc.?  Will it justify the ends of making life better for other people, or, since we cannot imagine any sense in which lying in a hospital bed might be better than our judgments of what make life worth living, will death make life better for the person who is killed?  (Yeah, I don’t get it, either.)

I have a difficult time wading through the shoddy and laughable logic employed by Sinnot-Armstrong and Miller in this piece.  It is full of unsubstantiated assumptions and appeals to “intuition.”  Why these assumptions and these intuitions should be reliable bases from which to draw conclusions is left unexplained and, apparently, unexamined.

Our intuitions about this case seem clear. We see nothing to make Betty’s death worse than her total disability. This intuition seems to be widely shared, since many people dread death no more than and for the same reasons that they would dread total disability. There is nothing to be dreaded about death that wouldn’t also be dreaded about total disability. Indeed, one of us even finds it plausible to see total disability as worse than death, because there is disvalue in a disordered state of consciousness with no control over experiences. In any case, Betty is not worse off dead. In our view, then, what explains the wrongness of Abe’s act of killing Betty is not that he caused her death but only that he caused her total disability.

“Our intuitions”?  “We see nothing”?  From this to killing the seemingly permanently disabled?  They assume they know what is going on inside someone’s (“Betty”) mind, and from that they are willing to make life-and-death decisions.  Not only that, but since “many people” share this intuition, the feelings of the majority easily trump any rational consideration of what makes life worth living.

I am not arguing that people should be kept artificially alive, if that means a machine pumping blood, and a machine inflating and deflating lungs.  But that is, by its nature, a very gray line, and it is a fearful thing to make such flimsy assumptions–including the claim that we know what is happening inside the brains of those in, for example, a “persistent vegetative state” (a degrading term, if I’ve ever heard one)–the basis for deciding whether one’s life is worthy of life, or not.

Moreover, it is not clear whether the traditions that say ‘Life is sacred’ or ‘Killing is wrong’ really believe what they say. The point is not (just) that these traditions also justify killing in self-defence or war as well as capital punishment. That might be explained by the qualification ‘… without an adequate reason’. Instead, the point here is about whether the tradition really means ‘life’ and ‘killing’. If life were really what is sacred, then all life would be sacred. But nobody believes that—not even Jains. After all, weeds are alive. Hence, if killing were wrong just because it is causing death or the loss of life, then the same principle would apply with the same strength to pulling weeds out of a garden. If it is not immoral to weed a garden, then life as such cannot really be sacred, and killing as such cannot be morally wrong. Of course, what people mean when they say ‘Don’t kill’ is ‘Don’t kill humans’ (or maybe ‘Don’t kill sentient animals’). But why then are humans (or sentient animals) singled out for moral protection? The natural answer is that humans (and sentient animals) have greater abilities than plants, and those abilities give human lives more value. Humans can think and make decisions as well as feel (an ability that they share with sentient animals). But if these abilities are what make it immoral to kill humans (but not weeds), then what really matters is the loss of ability when humans (but not weeds) are killed. And then the view that human life is sacred does not conflict with—and might even depend on—the view that what makes life sacred (if it is) is ability, so the basic moral rule is not ‘Don’t kill’ but is instead ‘Don’t disable’.

Huh?  Have these people ever encountered any of these “traditions”?  Or are they making these straw men up just to knock them down and argue that it’s okay to take human life if we think they’d be better off dead?  It is not “killing…without an adequate reason,” it is “You shall not murder,” at least for Israelites and Christians.  That tradition is clear that the government has the authority to take life as punishment or to protect its citizens (though, of course, this does not mean that the government must exercise capital punishment).  That is not murder, though it is killing.  The whole section is based on the assumption that what, especially, religious traditions object to is killing qua killing, when that is clearly not the case.  Nor is it simply “without an adequate reason.”  And it is not only that human life is intrinsically sacred, but that only God may decide when a person dies.  (Something Christians seem to have forgotten is that life is sacred only in relation to the Holy One who created it and who sent His Son to die for it.)  According to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, He gives the authority to take life to government in a limited way, but it is still His authority.  He does not give it to individuals, not even to bioethicists.  When individuals or groups arrogate that authority to themselves, they infringe on an authority not their own, and they will, sooner or later, face the consequences for violating the divine order inherent in creation.

But if that’s unconvincing, because belief in divine authority is lacking (though, naturally, if a God exists, unbelief has no bearing on that fact), why is it not apparent that the position advocated by Sinnot-Armstrong and Miller has a long history and not a good one?  (Yes, I realize that’s a moral judgment, but also one that “many people share,” as long as we’re appealing to the majority.)  It has never failed that when anyone, regardless of his pedigree or title, presumes to decide who may be killed “morally,” the circle of those who should be thus eliminated widens ever further.  There is no limit to the boundaries of human imagination when it comes to genocide.  And this sort of reasoning, even to the amazing comparison between certain humans and weeds, is always at the root of genocide.  Of course they’re not advocating genocide, or eugenics, or forced sterilization (at least, here), or any of the other four-letter words of the 20th Century.  But neither will they have control over who appropriates their ideas.  Ideas have consequences, and the consequences of these ideas are very bad indeed.

Traditional medical ethics embraces the norm that doctors (and other healthcare professionals) must not kill their patients. This norm is often seen as absolute and universal. In contrast, we have argued that killing by itself is not morally wrong, although it is still morally wrong to cause total disability.

In what moral universe does that stand?  You can draw a line in the sand, but if the tide is still coming in, it will only last as long as the line is deep.  This seems like a very shallow line.  They go on to apply their definition of “total disability” to organ donation and, again, their logic depends on a number of unsubstantiated assumptions (as well as strange phrases such as “Consequently, no harm or wrong is done to them by vital organ procurement, after which they will become dead.”  Become dead?)  That their argument moves in this direction ought to, at least, make us reconsider organ donation–something which Gilbert Meilaender has done, in a different context, here.

I have probably spent too much time dissecting an argument (if it even rises to that level) which could probably be dispelled immediately with a sharper wit than mine.  Nevertheless, this is the sort of utilitarian argument we will hear more and more often in such a technologically and scientifically expert culture such as ours.  After all, these are bioethicists.  They have “ethics” in their name.  Surely they have insight we do not have.  And, as they point out, most people believe that there are some forms of life to which death is preferable.

That is perhaps the most dangerous assumption, held all too often by Christians, which gives this sort of plea its moral force.  Who wants to live life stuck in a hospital bed, we say.  Who wants to be helpless and hooked up to all sorts of machines?  Who would want to have to eat through a tube?  Those questions, and their rhetorical siblings, are the bedrock on which these philosophers and bioethicists stand.  If we don’t like their conclusions, maybe we shouldn’t grant their premises.



idiot: quoting an (unnamed) “international human rights attorney” (I heard you laugh!) to the effect that for the past eight years we have, unbeknownst to all but the left-wing, lunatic fringe, been living in a, quote, dictatorship, unquote.

Man, usually after eight years someone would have gotten wind of all the killings, political imprisonments, censorship, blatant propaganda, suppression of all voices but the State’s…or is that only in the Communist dictatorships?  I forget.  Anyway, good thing we have ol’ Keith to keep us up to date on what we didn’t know by quoting “international human rights attorneys.”  Otherwise, we never would have known about the dictatorship of the past eight years, which Comrade, er…The Anointed One, er…OMG, er…President Obama has only now saved us from.  Who knows what would have happened to all of Fuehrer Bush’s political enemies if Holy Obama hadn’t come along?


Hard to Find the Best Construction

Sue them to shut them up.  That will probably work.

Listen here:

Rebellious Pastor’s Wife here.

Sign the petition.  (Didn’t they learn from the last time not to make Issues fans mad?)

UPDATE: The opposition to Harry Madsen acquiring the trademark for “Issues, Etc.” has been withdrawn “with prejudice” (whatever that means–can anyone explain?) [Thanks to Dan at NR for the link, via the Brothers]


How Much Liberals Don’t Understand

Jacob Weisberg, writing in the online Newsweek, thinks he’s got conservatives figured out, and he sees a contradiction at the heart of their so-called “family values.”  For example, they are against abortion, but they also want stable nuclear families!  What could be more ridiculous?

If you’re not quite seeing how contradictory that contradiction is, I think I understand what Weisberg is trying to say.  See, those who have children when they’re married and when they’re financially able are healthier, wealthier, and wiser.

In fact, these two conservative social goals—ending abortion and upholding the model of the nuclear family—were always in tension. The reason is that, like it or not, the availability of legal abortion actually supports the kind of family structure that conservatives once felt so strongly about: two parents raising children in a stable relationship, without government assistance. By 12th grade, 60 percent of high-school girls are sexually active (or, as Reagan preferred, “promiscuous”). Teen pregnancy rates have been trending downward in recent years but, even so, 7 percent of high-school girls become pregnant every year. And the unfortunate reality is that teenagers who carry their pregnancies to term drastically diminish their chances of living out the conservative, or the American, dream.

Well, at least he recognizes that conservative = American.  Get it?  Conservatives should want “the model of the nuclear family” more than they should want to end abortion, because living the American dream is far more important than just living.  How do these people even come up with such tangled thought processes?

But there’s more (there’s always more):

Forget the “Juno” scenario—in the real world, few unwed mothers give up their babies for adoption. If you do not allow teenage girls who accidentally become pregnant to have abortions, you are demanding that they either raise their children as single mothers or that they marry in shotgun weddings. By the numbers, neither alternative is promising. Unmarried teenage moms seldom get much financial or emotional support from the fathers of their babies. They tend to drop out of high school, go on the dole and are prone to lives of poverty, frustration and disorder. Only 2 percent of them make it through college by the age of 30. The Bristol Palin option doesn’t promote family happiness, stability or traditional structure, either. Of women under 18 who marry, whether because of pregnancy or not, nearly half divorce within 10 years, double the rate for those who wait until they’re 25.

Get it?  Not allowing teenagers to have abortions actually condemns them and their children to a poor, hard life.  They don’t get financial or emotional support from their baby daddies, and they don’t even go to college.

So Mr. Weisberg’s argument is that because these girls make a bad (even, gasp, sinful) decision, they should be able to kill the baby resulting from that sinful decision so that they can have more money.  Makes sense to me…

This is nice: “But Palin’s pro-life purism is as ethically flawed as it is politically damaging to the GOP. By vaunting their pro-life agenda over everything else, conservatives are abandoning one of their most valuable insights, that intact, two-parent families are best for children and the foundation of a healthy society.”

Basically, according to Weisberg, these teenage girls and unwed women are going to get pregnant, no matter what the killjoy conservatives tell them, so the choice is reduced to one: support abortion or support “intact, two-parent families,” which are “best for children and the foundation of a healthy society.”  (I can’t help wondering if Weisberg means two parents of complementary sexes.)  It’s problematic because the families are not intact; some of their children have been taken apart by people with latex gloves and a vacuum.  Initially, it seems like moral equivalence: abortion vs. stable, two-parent families.  But Weisberg takes it a step further.  Families are more important than the smallest members of those families.

But don’t worry, the absurdities have only begun.


Thrivent and Syncretism K-I-S-S-I-N-G…

I am shocked by very little anymore. (That’s not necessarily a good thing.) If you are a Thrivent member, you probably get the Thrivent magazine called, creatively, Thrivent Magazine. In the most recent one, they give “A Portrait of Community” and highlight Peace Lutheran Church in Danville, California.

According to the Thrivent feature,

“We wanted something that would both capture a sense of the history of our congregation—its priorities and values over the years—and something that would convey the spirit we’re being led to in the future,” says the Rev. Steve Harms, Peace Lutheran’s senior pastor.

That “something that would convey the spirit we’re being led to in the future” (a nearly nonsensical sentence, logically and grammatically) would seem to be a nicely universal “faith community.” No wonder they have multiple Buddhist symbols. It’s a “spirit” the Buddhists could love. (Muslims, I’m not so sure. Can they handle their symbol being in a single mosaic with so many infidels?) Beyond the idiotic interchangeable “Mandalas” of each faith in the faith community, this mosaic loves its contradictions. A symbol of the Trinity peacefully coexisting with unitarian and non-theistic religious symbols, anyone? Gotta love it when Christians “lead the way” in ecumenical endeavors.

If this were Old Testament Israel, I would suggest that this high place of idolatry be burned to the ground and replaced with an altar to the true God.

You can read more about the “Peace Journey” (I mean “peacejourney”) here. Don’t throw up in your mouth.


Nanny Nation Exhibited

Hey, I say, no harm, no foul.  It’s that “it takes a village” garbage.  Can you imagine how much worse this will be under Hillary-rule?

And what is the actual problem here?  We never get all the details from the media, but I can’t see what the deal is, other than cell phones should be banned from all classrooms.  But I like this quote from the police chief: “It’s hard to tell what was going on, but there is always the chance that someone could get hurt or injured.”  What does that mean?  When is there not a chance that “someone could get hurt or injured”?  Now the police are investigating injuries that might be inflicted?  What is this, Minority Report?  

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I say let the parents parent their children, and prosecute where actual crimes have taken place.  Don’t we have enough actual bad parents and actual criminals to find them where they aren’t?