Saturday, April 11, 2009

Asshat of the Day - April 11th, 2009

Today's Asshat of the Day? Paul Edwards.

Now, were it not for a case of mistaken identity in a Pharyngula comment thread, I'd never know of the man. Mr. Edwards is a pastor and radio host for WLQV, an evangelical Christian radio broadcaster operating out of southern Michigan. Given their transmission wattage, they cover nearly four states and southern Ontario with their broadcast.

Now, Mr. Edwards was fortunate enough to have the esteemed Christopher Hitchens on his show (hence the confusion in the comment thread from a similar interview), and, for the most part, was respectful. Granted, he repeatedly said that he wasn't out to win a debate, but to "show the Gospel to Mr. Hitchens", but pretty much all evangelists are like that, so I suppose that cannot be held against him.


Now, to digress for a moment, I was under the impression that Pastors were, among their various theological studies, trained in the sort of interpersonal techniques that in which psychologists and counselors are trained. If so, Mr. Edwards clearly failed that part of seminary, because he totally fails to see the points at which he says things that are so abhorrent to Mr. Hitchens as to prompt the later comment, "I felt as though I wanted to hang up, just then." In fact, he goes on, after the interview is over, to ask his audience to "show [him] the point at which Christopher Hitchens got emotional".

I can tell you the things that you said that disgusted him, Mr. Edwards (though I'm not dead certain about the order):

  • Mr. Hitchens had already made it clear earlier in the program, that the Bible's acceptance (and mild support) of slavery was absolutely revolting in his eyes, and that he felt that there are few greater evils than one person claiming to own another. And then you went and said that you are a "willing slave to Jesus Christ", and moreover, that you "Do what God wants, without question". Slavish thinking, slavish action - both of these, Christopher Hitchens made it clear he despises and wishes to see eradicated, and you held them up as virtues. If you wanted to deliver the Gospel to your guest, that was not the way to go about it. Specifically, he made reference to Abraham and Isaac, with regards to the slavish obedience to the Lord, with the question being this: What if God hadn't stayed Abraham's hand? Abraham would have killed his own son, just because God told him to do so.

  • You also clearly missed the point Mr. Hitchens was making when he said you owed the American Armed Forces an apology for your comparison. You attempted to spin it, in the after-talk, to sound like he was accusing you of suggesting that the US Army had committed war crimes, but this was not the case. In Iraq, the invasion was partially for oil, partially as a victory when Osama Bin Laden couldn't be found, but ostensibly to free the citizens from a tyrannical dictator. The only people they were aiming to kill (and even then, only after a fair trial) were Saddam and his ruling council. If enemy combatants faced them, certainly, there could be deaths. But, tragic though it may be, battlefield deaths are a generally-accepted part of war. What were "God's orders" to the Israelites regarding the Alamekites? Oh, right:
    Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (1 Samuel 15:3)

    Now, assuming that we're treating the Bible as a fairy story (and what better way to treat it?) wherein every single Alamekite was not only evil, but born evil, perhaps this is acceptable. But if you want to claim that the bible represents parts of history, this is religion-motivated genocide. An effective means of ending an opponents ability to pose a threat, true, but you can't claim it to be good, nor can you draw a parallel between it and modern warfare conducted by any nation that follows the Geneva Conventions. According to the Story Book, God told the Israelites to kill every man, woman, and child in Alamek, and not one Israelite stopped and said, "Hang on, they can't all be evil." Mind you, later, when Moses instructs them not to kill everyone, it gets even worse.

  • Finally, I think the third major point wherein you got Mr. Hitchens angry was in stating that you were not his enemy, and alluding to Matthew 5:43. On the face of it, this is just fine. Hate is, after all, a destructive emotion - very little good has come of it. But doing good for those who hate you is a recipe for an abusive relationship! Feeling empathy for your enemies is fine, and good - but loving them as you would love your neighbour is both impractical and dangerous!

    In many ways, this passage (and, later, Mark 9) are representative of one of the truly frightening messages espoused by believers of many stripes - that what happens in this life doesn't matter. That suffering under your enemy's hands while you love him, or that mutilating yourself rather than admit fault are good options, because you'll be rewarded once this life is over. Those, however, who do not believe, view this as insanely self-destructive - and worse, it can impact them as well, even though they don't think they're getting any sort of benefit after death other than decomposition. It's what makes religious fanatics so unstoppable - death is merely a transition to reward. It seems to me that is the reason why suicide, at least in the Christian doctrine, is a sin. They needed a way to stop people from taking the shortcut to the good life. This is what horrified Christopher Hitchens.

So there you are. Now you know. And, to top it off, you're the Asshat of the Day.

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