Christianity Today has up an article
discussing racial slurs, character questions and the issue of morality. Obviously all those issues are related. But can you guess how they are related from a distinctly Christian perspective?
Surprise! They are not related in the way any normal --sane-- person would say. A person who lies, cheats and steals cannot be described as a liar, cheater or thief by anyone and they be moral for making that accusation according to Christian theology; so says Mark Galli. Whereas, it is moral to call a dark-skinned person of recent-times African descent (we are all of African descent if we go back to the origins of humanity) a 'nigger', 'darkie', 'colored', etc. The reason why, according to Mark, will surprise you.
Mark opens with this (try and spot the obvious error(s)):
A thought experiment: Is it worse to call former secretary of state Colin Powell a racial slur, or to call him a liar?
Let's see, being born black or choosing to mislead a nation into an unnecessary war which has caused the deaths of more Americans than 9-11...
Hmm. Woooo Boy. That is a tough one. Calling Powell a 'nigger' for being born black, or calling him a liar for causing the deaths of thousands of Americans. I think I'll have to go with door number one here. That is certainly more immoral. He can no more change his heritage than the moon can change its composition to swiss cheese. But lying?? He did that, and the blood of thousands of Americans is on his head (along with many others, of course). Powell committed a huge immoral act, and calling it such is in no way itself immoral.
But racial slurs, that is entirely different in nature. It does not become a slur if it is simply a description. 'Black' is still acceptable as it is merely a differentiation between 'White'. 'Black' is only a slur if it is used in place of 'nigger'. So why then, is it a slur? Because it suggests more than simply heritage. It suggests many negative general qualities. Intelligence, untrustworthyness, conniving are but some of the other attributes that accompany 'nigger' outside of skin color. If 'nigger' only meant 'black' then it would be as harmless as calling someone tall or short or fat or skinny, or Asian, or African or European. But 'nigger' has nothing to do with inherant traits such as these. It has everything to do with characteristics. And those characteristics are not ones that are earned --i.e. the individual may never have stolen or killed-- but are generalities unrightly bestowed upon an entire group because of prejudice. Undeserved characteristics are the bedrock of racial slurs. This is the the most glaring distinction between slurs and labelling Colin Powell a 'liar'. He lied. He has admitted he lied.
But Mark does not see it that way. He thinks it is worse to identify a person by what they are according to their actions than to misidentify an entire race according to qualities for which they are innocent of.
Let us see how he puts it:
Most people would agree that to call Colin Powell a racial slur reflects nothing on Colin Powell as much as it says something about the person using the word. But if one calls Colin Powell a liar, (as some are now doing regarding his role leading up to the Iraq war) then that is a direct attack on his very character. While many would not believe for a second that Powell is a liar, it raises in other minds the possibility that maybe he is—and thus his character is smirched.
Ok, Colin Powell isn't a liar. He was given false information and turned around and spread it around the entire planet even though he personally had strong reservations about the authenticity of the information. But he went ahead and told the world Iraq had WMDs when reality said they didn't -- i.e. He told a lie. But he is not a liar.
It is really simple. He told the world Iraq had WMDs. They did not. He lied. It does not require any sort of logical gymnastics to call him a liar. He lied, that makes him a liar. He could have done something about it at the time, like refusing to tell the lie. But he didn't. What about the other side of the coin? Can he do something about the color of his skin? So if someone demonizes him with generalized characteristics based solely on the color of his skin, that is more moral? According to Mark it is.
If that wasn't enough, then read this:
Many were aghast recently when they learned that reality show star Dog the Bounty Hunter used the n-word to describe some blacks, and earlier we were disturbed that shock jock Don Imus implied that certain black athletes were prostitutes—both comments manifestly silly that reflected nothing about the character of the people they were talking about. Yet when bloggers and pundits—and even leading Christians who describe themselves as "social prophets"—call their current political leaders "liars" and "murderers"—well, we hardly blink.
Maybe because the direct and specific accusation fits their willful crimes. Why is it wrong, in Mark's view, to call a person who lies a liar? And please correct me if I'm wrong, but don't Christians call abortion doctors 'murderers'? So are those Christians less moral than white supremicists who call blacks 'niggers'?
If a person is guilty of the willful committal of the crime, be it lying or murdering, then calling by that title seems appropriate. We now know Powell told the world something he knew to be untrue. He admits that now. That makes him a liar.
But then, the very next paragraph goes off the rails, he completely changes subject. It almost is as if he accidentally spliced two seperate posts together...
We are appalled when men treat women like sex objects, when they use sexually demeaning terms to talk about and to them. But we as a society wink and smile when we hear jokes on sitcoms that imply that a sexually healthy person will—of course! —look at pornography now and then. If there were ever a world where women are really demeaned and abused, it would be pornography. While we've
created workplace laws to prevent verbally demeaning talk, we have no political
will to create laws that will stop the pornographic degradation of women.
I get it, this isn't about calling a black person a 'nigger' at all... It is about pornography! Because women the world over are all demeaned when some women make money off their bodies. Of course the men making money off their bodies in the same movies is not demeaning to men everywhere. And sex... Whoa! No one should ever admit to liking or even having sex because it is just too dirty. That peeping tom sky fairy is watching all of us even in the shower when we may possibly be --gasp-- masturbating. So sex and porn is worse than racial degradation and racial slander. As is calling a liar a liar.
Then he jumps into probably the only coherent statement he makes in the entire post:
In the church, examples abound. Take just one: I've noted how some members are shocked, just shocked, if their minister uses an occasional swear word in conversation, yet they don't seem to worry much if he rarely preaches about bringing justice to the poor.
He is completely correct here. If you actually read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you will find that social justice and caring for the poor is the primary teaching of Jesus. Yet only the liberal pro-gay Christian churches teach this aspect of Jesus. All other more conservative churches teach hellfire and forced dominionism on the masses. If all Christian churches focused on justice for the poor instead of electing conservative politicians who lie rape and murder, then not only would this be a strongly Democratic nation, the poor would not be so poor. Why is the occasional swear word more important than starving children? You would have to ask a Christian to get that answer.
He draws all this together in his final point:
Jesus talked about the nature of our spoken words in a larger context. He told a story about a father with two sons. One son says the socially correct thing to a command of his father: "Yes, Father, I will go work in the fields." The other son says the socially scandalous thing: "No, Father, I will not go work in the fields." Yet later, the socially incorrect son actually went into the field to work, and the socially correct son did not.
Jesus said the socially incorrect son was the righteous one. The words we use to talk about others, and the promises we make to others—that is, how we use language—seems secondary to Jesus. It's what we do with our lives that counts. Not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" (or avoids swearing or slurs), will enter the kingdom of
So the 'socially correct' son lied. The "socially incorrect" son did not lie. The socially incorrect son made no promise that he didn't think he could keep. And he in fact went against his statement because he was concerned with more important things, namely doing the right thing -- helping his father in the fields. The other son, the 'socially correct' son, lied. He said he would help and then did not. This story proves that Mark is completely 'talking out of his ass'. For he admits that lying and thus being labeled a liar is less moral than being called something that has no relation to who you really are. For in this analogy, the 'socially incorrect' son is innocent of his label. But the 'socially correct' son is properly labeled a liar. Calling a liar a liar is more moral than calling someone who is innocent of the accusation, a 'nigger', things he is innocent of. Thus Mark disproves his entire thesis here.. Ironically enough with the very words of the God he believes in.
My personal observation is this: Lying is one of the Ten Commandments no no's... But forget about all that according to Mark. Calling someone a liar because they lie is wrong. Throw those commandments out the window. From now on, the new laws of Christians is to be racial, commit whatever crime you feel like, but never ever expose wrongdoing, for that is the one true immoral act.
Labels: apologetics, christianity, reason