Liberal Christianity in a nutshell

The comments on Traditional Christianity are really good.  The trouble is that there are a lot of them, and you can easily burn an hour on that site without noticing it.  I always seem to show up too late for the discussion, so any thoughts they prompt in me tend to end up here.  Take Morticia’s article “What wives can learn from whores“.  Her main point was that wives should make at least as much effort into pleasing their husbands for love as a prostitute would do for money.  Whatever one thinks about that claim, what really interested me was the discussion, where commenter “A Lady” chided the others for being insufficiently respectful toward prostitutes.

Statements like the crap about them all being ‘dead eyed’ and well, much of this stupid thread are a big part of why it’s so hard to leave that work. Whores are beautiful, they are damaged in a different way by the nature of their sin and being sinned against, but to dehumanize them with that sort of remark is hardly Christian. They need love too. It’s hard to be buffeted by supposedly Christ-loving types sneering and snotting and putting on airs about how they are so superior and a pathetic whore has nothing to teach them.

What they have to teach is that there are ways to care about other people even when you are being ill used. They teach resilience, kindness, compassion and pity. They can teach about loving someone no matter who they are or what they look like. Bluh. The smug is so thick I could slice it with a knife. Oh well.

If you don’t think a whore can teach you anything, I guess Rahab is a figment of my freaking imagination. Bleargh.

[This is such a good statement of the liberal Christian worldview, I just can’t resist using it for myself.  Apologies to A Lady for ending up on this disreputable site through no fault of her own.]

Behold the Dumbledore Fallacy to the Nth degree!  It is possible (at least in our imaginations) that the grave evil of prostitution is conjoined in some particular soul with some real virtues.  Therefore, not only should we not look down on prostitutes, prostitutes are all our moral superiors!  They are–if not every one of them, at least more of them than in the nonharlotry world–kind, compassionate, and loving.  Why yes, those streetwalkers who spread their legs for money are actually exemplars of Christian love and charity.  They love people no matter who they are or what they look like.  Why, we should all aspire to be like hookers.  We should get down on our knees before the next whore to walk by and ask for her blessing.

The Dumbledore fallacy plays a particularly large role in the minds of liberal Christians.  (I think that outright atheists are less given to this particular form of silliness.)  They get a story in their mind about someone who engages in some sin but has other redeeming virtues, and then they imagine that these vices and virtues are conjoined not by accident but by essence.  They see enough westerns where an unattached stranger saves the day, and they imagine that particularist loyalty and courage actually oppose one another, rather than the one inspiring the other, as is more often the case.  The New York Times feeds them a steady diet of sodomites rescuing drowning kittens, or whatnot, and they swallow it whole.  In mysteries, the suspect with the antisocial or criminal past is always innocent.  The killer is always a priest, general, or respected businessman.  So liberal Christians imagine that respectability makes people violent, while gang members are sensitive souls underneath.

But surely there’s some genuine Christian message in all of these stories about sinners with bits of decency?  Indeed there is.  The message is that no soul on this side of death is beyond redemption, and God is working in every soul to the extent that soul allows.  The message is one of hope–we see hints of what these fallen men and women could be and may yet be through God’s grace.  And, of course, we’re all in this same situation to some degree, all sinners who may yet be saved by faith.  This message sort of gets lost though if we make out whores, fags, and crooks to be moral exemplars as they currently are.

22 Responses

  1. Prostitutes are far superior to sluts, which means that prostitutes are far superior to most American women. Neither Jesus nor the Old Testament had anything against prostitutes, only Paul did. (And I don’t care much for Paul.) This has nothing to do with the Dumbledore Fallacy. It is no accident that America, the country most afflicted by feminism, is where prostitution is the most persecuted. Prostitution is valuable for lowering the value, and therefore the power, of sluts.

    It’s important to recognize the true enemies of tradition and focus one’s criticism on them. Whores, gays, and other fringe groups are not the problem. The problem is sluts, cads, liberals, and feminists.

  2. What’s with all this dissing of Dumbledore, Harry Potter and JKR?

    Read the sub-text! as advocated in this comment on The Hogwarts Professor blog by someone with (ahem) similar views to myself:

    Dear John,

    Since homosexuality is one of those issue which cannot be written about honestly in public, for fear of attracting dangerous hostility; I wondered whether you had privately noticed the way that this question is handled in the HP books.

    I find it very plausible and consistent to accept that Dumbledore was indeed conceived of as homosexual from the start (and that this was not merely a frivolous comment of JKR’s, nor merely an attempt to curry favor).

    But the public discussion of Gay Dumbledore has been (understandably) confused on this issue – because the truth of the situation as portrayed in the books is unacceptable in mainstream discourse.

    Surely, Rowling is stating clearly in the HP books that Dumbledore’s homosexual infatuation was harmful, led to actual worldly harm and preventable suffering and loss of life (due to Dumbledore’s excessive delay in tackling Grindlewald); and that Dumbledore repented of it, and henceforth lived a celibate life?

    And that this is exactly what happened to homosexual Christians in the past – for example Fr Seraphim Rose who (apparently, probably) led an ‘actively’ homosexual life as a young man and was by disposition homosexual – yet rejected this decisively and became a celibate monk.

    Traditional Catholicism never was hostile to the small minority of people who are of homosexual disposition, but did state that they should try to be celibate, and should not defend or advocate homosexuality.

    As such, people of homosexual disposition sometimes attained the very highest levels of spiritual advancement, of holiness. (As did, for that matter, eunuchs during the Byzantine Empire.)

    And surely this was precisely the path followed by Dumbledore!
    So the fact (which I accept) that Dumbledore is indeed by disposition a homosexual in no sense whatsoever endorses a homosexual lifestyle (especially not a modern homosexual lifestyle of wholesale causal promiscuity, sexual experimentation and boundary transgression; of advertisement and advocacy, of – indeed – assertions of the superiority of this lifestyle over conventional family-based heterosexuality or celibacy) – but quite the opposite.(…)

    Of course JKR could not say this in public (without considerable risk to herself) and she may not even perceive that this is implied by her work (since her work seems quite sharply detached from he explicit views, in some areas).

    But surely it is there in the text – quite plainly?

  3. Haha, this was funny. I see that you have mastered the snark. Thing about the ladies at TC is that they can get a little carried away when it comes to the forgiveness and redemption deal, but none of(the Christian ones) them are Liberal Christians, including A Lady. She just got carried away as women are wont to do.

  4. I’ve just entered the word harlot into an on line concordance, and am now scrolling through a long list of evidence that suggests you are wrong. Yes, it is clear from several passages in the OT and Gospels that harlots (and publicans) are not the worst sorts of people, but these same passages make sense only if harlots (and publicans) are pretty bad (Matt. 21:31-32). They are not bad people who happen to practice harlotry, but bad because they practice harlotry.

    The resurrected Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene, whom many believe was formerly a prostitute, and the fact is probably significant. Mary Magdalene was a sinner, and Christ came for us sinners. If Jesus had “no problem” with prostitution, then Mary Magdalene was in no special way emblematic of (repented) sin, and his appearing to her first makes no sense.

    When I was 18 I made a heroic effort to show that Jesus had no problem with fornication. It was pure sophistry, but it served to imperil my soul for several years. I don’t mean to sound like a scold on this, but I don;t think your argument will stand.

  5. The trouble is that these fringe groups are used as battering rams to beat down the norms imposed on the rest of us. It’s hard to ostracize sluts if you accept prostitution.

  6. Oh dear. I guess I misjudged A Lady. You’ve got to admit, though, that she speaks liberal-christianese convincingly.

  7. Yes, she does. When I first read that comment by her, I was confused as well.

    Bonald, the conservative Christian women over at TC, on other sites, as well as the ones I know in real life sometimes speak liberal-christianese. I mean, you know how women are when they get emotional, right?

  8. I always got the impression that when the prophets accused Israel of harlotry, it wasn’t meant as a compliment.

  9. Is Matt. 21:31-32 the best you could find? Prostitutes are compared to tax collectors. Both were held in low esteem and both are necessary.

  10. It’s not hard to ostracize sluts if you accept prostitution. All societies that I know of in history that had stable marriages also had readily available prostitution. Prostitution is necessary to preserve the chastity of women by giving men a safe outlet for their lust. Without prostitutes, men would chase all women (as they do in America) and would end chastity and create sluts. As Saint Augustine said “If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust.”

  11. Great post. We pick up on slightly different things to object to, though.

    They can teach about loving someone no matter who they are or what they look like.

    To me, this sentence is the crux of the problem. What in the world does she mean by the word “love” here? Whores “love” their Johns? Seriously?

    If she means by love, agape, then what she is saying makes no sense to me at all. To display agape is to consciously decide to act in the properly-ordered interests of another, at a cost to oneself. Helping someone fornicate in exchange for money doesn’t seem to qualify. Ironically, rebuking whores does seem to qualify.

    If she means by love, affection, then what she is saying makes even less sense. For reasons which have to be obvious to everyone, whores don’t typically feel affection for Johns, especially not more or better affection than wives feel for husbands. Even worse, affection isn’t something a Christian particularly needs to “learn” about (whatever that means). It isn’t virtuous. So, even in the cloud cuckoo land of whores passionately emotionally attached to their Johns, they have nothing to teach.

    What she seems to be doing is conflating the sexual act with love. This is seriously disordered. The two are not exactly unrelated, but they are pretty distantly related. “Making love” is a disastrously misleading euphemism. “Fucking” is a superior denotation for the sexual act.

  12. Just for the sake of controversy, I’m going to put the best possible construction on the quote. (What “A Lady” actually thinks is beside the point.) This means I will suppress everything she says or implies about “loving” and focusing on the word “pity.” What a prostitute understands, and what some wives might learn from a prostitute, is that male sexual desire is real and urgent. It causes him real suffering. Next, the wife might learn that male sexual desire is, in most cases, simple and easily satisfied. Satisfying her husband sexually is, in most cases, far less work that cooking his dinner.

    Now the prostitute exploits all of this, and this is why she is not an angel of mercy. Sex with a prostitute (or slut) intentionally excludes the procreative and unitive functions that are the only legitimate grounds of sex. I’m in complete agreement with Bill on this. And a wife who exploits her husband’s sexual desire, by turning what should be a gift into a bribe, is probably closer to the prostitute than she’d like to think. So, taken as a whole, the prostitute is a disastrous model for ordered female sexuality, but (as Morticia implies) she is not devoid of valuable insight. Here is where the wife parts with the prostitute: what the prostitute performs as an act of commerce, the wife performs as an act of charity.

    (I know that I’ve left female sexual desire out of this, but I’m writing a comment, not a treatise.)

  13. Yes – I’ve appreciated much that I’ve encountered at the Traditional Christianity blog, and like bonald, am usually unable to keep up with conversations occurring there because it is so fast-paced.

    I’ve also learned that there are certain topics you simply don’t bring up there, unless you are willing to be subject to armchair psychoanalysis, in which regular commenters reveal your previously unknown thoughts and motives to yourself and all other readers. It’s understandable that this should occur, but annoying nonetheless.

  14. This is too generous a construction to generate controversy, at least with me. I have no problem with the content of the generous interpretation. But, if the generous interpretation is right, then why are whores brought up at all? You don’t have to bring up whores in order to say “Wives should have sex with their husbands (& vice versa)” You don’t have to bring up whores in order to say “Wives should make themselves appealing to their husbands (& vice versa)” You don’t have to bring up whores to explain that men crave sex in roughly the way women crave chit-chat. In fact, bringing it up this way would even give you a chance to point out that husbands have an obligation to engage in some amount of chit chat or that husbands have an obligation to engage in “game” (more properly, masculine charm).

    What’s going on with this (the need to bring up whores and what women can learn from them) is the same thing that is often going on when people start to babble about the Theology of the Body or NFP. Don’t despise me! I’m not really guilty of that most egregious of Modernist sins: repressedness! Please?!! We’re naughty too!! We want to learn from whores!!!! Plus, we like hip hop!

    It is absolutely pathetic, and in its repulsiveness actually evil. Which loses more souls, Christian prudishness or the suspicion that we don’t believe our own bullshit?

  15. But prostitution is very much readily available in the US and in Western Europe and it hasn’t had much of a dent in sluttery. Prostitution rings get enforced against, still, in the US, but the garden variety independent internet escort doesn’t, and it’s hardly inaccessible. In fact, the escort business is booming. And women other than escorts are still behaving like sluts.

  16. Prostitution is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition, for a moral culture. Because it is persecuted, prostitution in America is low quality and over priced. At least that is how it was when I was a weekly customer before I got married, but that was over 20 years ago and I don’t know if it has changed since. The poor value of American prostitution, along with the social stigma, makes most American men choose the more immoral path of chasing sluts instead of going to prostitutes.

  17. I think just reposting my other comment there is well enough. It probably reeks of liberality to you as well, but it is clear that I am aware and acknowledge readily that whoredom is disordered.

    http://traditionalchristianity.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/what-wives-can-learn-from-whores/#comment-15655

  18. Hello “A Lady”,

    Thank you for prompting this discussion! And, to be fair, you did indicate in your first post that I quoted that prostitution is sinful. I do think you have an over-sentimentalized view of this particular class of sinners.

  19. What topics?

  20. I think you’re right to say that some Christians would rather be indecent than be thought a prude, and that broadmindedness is often a cover under which we indulge in smutty and salacious talk. I’m guilty. The truth is, it’s very hard to think about prostitutes, much less talk about them, with an altogether chaste mind. Jesus could consort with them; but he was, well, Jesus. That doesn’t mean I’m safe to go and pass out tracts in a brothel.

    What your describing is what we might call Regular Joe Christianity. You know, “I’m a Christian, but I’m really just a Regular Joe who can curse and leer and covet like everyone else.” I’ve got a long way to go, but my goal since I was in my mid-thirties has been, every year, to grow a little more up-tight, inhibited, and narrow minded. Broad minds are even less attractive than broad bottoms. Whoops!

  21. I want to know, so I can go over there and stir things.

  22. […] Moral Inversion Syndrome, and she’ll go around haranguing her fellow Christians about the many moral lessons they can learn from prostitutes.  This sort of thing is not the proper interpretation, but I’m afraid all Christians are prone […]

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