Monday, April 13, 2009

Culture Wars Lost: Good vs. Evil?

Think Progress catches statements James Dobson made yesterday regarding the culture wars, emphasis original:
The battles that we fought in the Eighties now, we were victorious in many of those conflicts with the culture, trying to defend righteousness, trying to defend the unborn child, trying to preserve the dignity of the family and the definition of marriage. We fought all those battles and really it was a holding action. […]

[W]e made a lot of progress through the Eighties but then we turned into the Nineties and the internet came along and a new president came along and all of that went away and now we are absolutely awash in evil. And we are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say that we have lost all those battles, but God is in control and we are not going to give up now, right?

Disagreement with people on these tough and difficult issues is one thing. But, to exclusively consign those with legitimate disagreement into the category of "evil," over and against the agreeing "good," is just irresponsible and potentially violent.


Jason said...

To reference our conversation from a few weeks ago, this language fits in with the inside/outside, world/church, us/them linguistic pattern that conservative evangelicals have always used--just a bit more blatant here.

matt said...

devil's advocate here (pun intended): not discounting the volatility of that statement, but a strict interpretation of the bible would leave one with the conclusion that the opposite viewpoint on many of these issues, or more to the point, the execution of these viewpoints, is 'evil', wouldn't it? however, i believe the bible also says something along the lines of loving the sinner, but not the sin. a lot of evangelicals conveniently forget about that.

Vince said...

dobson. what a donkey. his presuppositions are highly rejectable.

Jason said...

I would agree Matt, a "strict" or maybe literal interpretation of the Bible could lead some to believe that people, actions, or things can be definitively placed in a "good" or "evil" camp. And it just so happens (no surprise here) that that is the type of hermeneutic that conservative evangelicals like Dobson operate with. Interestingly, evangelicals use a "relational" method for growth and evangelism, displacing the us/them-good/evil dichotomy, but maintain a "hard" definition of "good" and "evil" in culture war stuff.

And, btw, there are plenty of Christians who take the Bible seriously but who don't stretch it (literally--pun intended) to fit what they may or may not like in society.

Drew said...

Matt, you are absolutely correct. If a person believes the Bible is literally true, then it is a short logical step, however unfortunate, to say that those who agree with the Bible/God are Good, and those who work cross-purposes with God, Evil.

In my article on religion and violence, I argue that certainty of interpretation - adhering to absolute truth claims - is also increases the likelihood of violence. That is not to say that people who believe the bible is literally true are violent, but that that 100% certainty increases the likelihood of violence. Most, if not all, of the biblical literalists I know are not violent, but researching the phenomenon worldwide, this certainty is correlated with violence. And, the use of a binary worldview, Good/Evil, Sacred/Profane, Light/Darkness, also increases the likelihood of violence ... see Dobson's quote as an example.

Shameless plug: read more here.

Kent H said...

As the literalist in the bunch, I guess I'm surprised to hear a man like Dobson being called names and the literal hermeneutic misunderstood as greatly as it is here.
Dobson has never been all that controversial. He has spent over thirty years trying to help families grow stronger and help Capitol Hill (to which he was invited several times)create legislature that would reinforce strong families at the national level.
On the subject of literal interpretation, how else would you have God's word interpreted? Jesus held to a literal Bible (OT) in His teachings. A literal hermeneutic actually arises out of the text itself (that is not say that the literalist does not allow for figures of speech, parables, etc).
A Bible without a consistent hermeneutic does not communicate anything at all and can be made to say anything at all. An allegorical interpretation makes the interpreter - not God - the author of revelation. That scares the crap out of me.

Vince said...

Kent, the subjectivity of interpretation that is possible when the Bible is not interpreted literally scares me as well. I will not argue that there is no danger in a more ambiguous hermeneutic. However--aside from the fact that there are very real dangers in a literalist hermeneutic as well--fear of the alternative is not adequate justification for accepting an inadequate hermeneutic. In fact, I would argue that acceptance of an inadequate view of Scripture (and therefore of the Divine) out of fear constitutes the very antithesis of faith.

Jason said...

Well put Vince.

Kent H said...

I completely agree that an inadequate hermeneutic is a dangerous thing because all Scriptures are not given their proper application in light of historical, grammatical, and theological interpretation. In fact, that is at least part of why I prefer the literal-grammatical hermeneutic. It leaves me to know God's character and then "study to show myself approved unto God." God says what He wants and I accept that He is the smart one. There is nothing "sloppy" (to address another post) about that.

But my main point would always be that what is at stake is so crucial. Liberal interpretation would make all things OK (except a literal hermeneutic) and basically most people are OK. The literal interpretation holds eternity at stake for all who are without a proper understanding of the biblical gospel. So my fear is in misrepresenting God to a world that so desperately needs Him.


A Faithrul Reader said...

Consider the source. A man once respected is now a whistle in the wind - making noise every time a breeze kicks up. He was not a prophet then and is not a prophet now -- he is just a shepherd of dying sheep.