Losing Is the New Winning

What do Canadian soccer scores, the Gaza Flotilla Incident, Marxism, and the origins of Christianity have in common? Simple: They all rely on the notion that winning is bad. The triumph of the downtrodden.

We now see the culmination of a grand historical arc playing out right before our eyes. And just as at most epochal turning points, the people experiencing it have little or no idea that it’s even happening.

I want to say just a few words about the Gaza Flotilla, but to arrive there I must first take a roundabout digression. Let’s start our journey in Canada.

The more you score, the closer you come to defeat

A kids’ soccer league in Ottawa recently instituted a new rule: If your team outscores your opponents by more than five goals, then you lose. That’s right — the high-scoring team loses the game:

Win a soccer game by more than five points and you lose, Ottawa league says

In yet another nod to the protection of fledgling self-esteem, an Ottawa children’s soccer league has introduced a rule that says any team that wins a game by more than five points will lose by default.

The Gloucester Dragons Recreational Soccer league’s newly implemented edict is intended to dissuade a runaway game in favour of sportsmanship. The rule replaces its five-point mercy regulation, whereby any points scored beyond a five-point differential would not be registered.

Kevin Cappon said he first heard about the rule on May 20 — right after he had scored his team’s last allowable goal. His team then tossed the ball around for fear of losing the game.

As insane as this new rule might seem to the naive, it’s neither surprising nor unexpected: Similar anti-competition guidelines which punish winners have seeped into our culture over the last several decades. This Ottawa soccer rule is just the consummation of a larger trend. Many public school districts in the US now discourage or prohibit intra-class competition, not just in games but scholastically as well. Why? Because competition inevitably leads to winners and losers, which leads to athletic or intellectual hierarchies, which leads to social hierarchies, which leads to social inequality. And that‘s the biggest no-no of all.

But the prohibition against competition is often a prelude to a more Orwellian inversion of reality. Many kids’ sporting leagues have something called The Mercy Rule, in which the officials stop keeping score after a certain point if two teams are so mismatched that the game would otherwise become a farce. From there, however, it is a small step to the “Ottawa Rule” whereby you are allowed to score as much as you want, but if you outscore your opponent by too much, you’ll be declared the loser. (One imagines that inept-but-clever Canadian soccer teams will henceforth attempt to win games by “accidentally” scoring own-goals and kicking the ball backwards into their own nets as often as possible; eventually the league could devolve into a frenzy of “suicide soccer” as teams try to rack up as many points for the opponents as they can, seeking to “win” by losing by more than five goals.)

A similar thing happened to me in my elementary school days. One spring, our hip teacher announced that he would soon hand out the award for “Best Student” in the class. Much speculation ensued among the kids as to who it might be; the general consensus was that three students, based on our speed in finishing quizzes ahead of everyone else, were the obvious candidates: Karen, Ronald, or me. But when the big day arrived, the teacher announced, to everyone’s shock, that the Best Student prize was going not to any of us three but instead to Wayne. Wayne?!?!?!? Everyone turned to look at him in amazement. Wayne was, by any valid measure, far and away the worst student in the class. He still had not yet learned how to read. He couldn’t do basic arithmetic. He sat in the back of the room and harassed other students, and didn’t even bother to complete most assignments. In the modern era, he definitely would have been placed in a “special education” class for learning-disabled students, but our public school district back then had eliminated all “tracking” as discriminatory, so students of all calibers were lumped together. Our teacher explained that he was giving the award to Wayne because Wayne needed it more than anyone else, in order to boost his low self-esteem, which was the cause of his misbehavior. (Of course, having his psyche dissected in front of the class humiliated him even more, completely undoing any psychological benefit the award may have given him.) But here’s the kicker: our teacher then announced that Karen, Ronald and me had to sit in the corner and not participate every time there was a quiz for the rest of the year, as punishment for “embarrassing the other students” by finishing too fast and getting perfect scores.

My school district was ahead of the curve when it came to progressive ideals, and what happened to me back then is a natural progression from the non-competition guidelines now becoming commonplace across the country — just as Mercy Rules in sports can eventually lead to “the high-scoring team loses” Ottawa-style decrees.

Christianity, Marxism, and the Triumph of the Downtrodden

Championing the underdog is nothing new. There is a long history leading to what happened in Ottawa and my school.

While these days we tend to think of Christianity and Marxism as polar opposite ideologies in direct contradiction to each other, they both can be seen as formal expressions of the same notion: That the downtrodden, society’s losers, are actually the winners; and that the rich and powerful are the losers.

Jesus said, in Matthew 19:24, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” He also, in Matthew 19:21, said “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The inescapable conclusion one draws from these statements by Jesus is that people who are wealthy and successful will in the long run be the greatest losers of all, because they cannot enter heaven when they die. You may be on top now, Jesus is saying, but eventually only society’s losers (the destitute) will get the ultimate reward — eternity in heaven.

From Christianity’s founding and for the next three centuries it was indeed the religion of the underdog; not only were Christians persecuted and oppressed, but their very oppression was seen by early Christians as evidence of their moral rectitude. Suffering was a way of cleansing the soul; the worse off your station in life was, the closer you were to God. Early Christianity was a religion of the lower classes, not of the elite or aristocracy, and as such was almost a form of spiritual proto-Marxism. The worse off you were in social terms, the better off on the spiritual plane. By losing in this this life, you win in the next.

(Of course, all of that changed starting in the 4th century with Constantine, the Council of Nicea and Theodosius, when Christianity transformed into a state-sponsored religion and a powerful political force — but that’s for a different essay.)

1500 years later, Karl Marx came along and invented an anti-religion which nonetheless derived from the same principle: that poor people were the actual possessors of power. The difference between Marxism and Christianity is that under Jesus’ teachings the underdogs’ reward was in the afterlife, whereas Marx envisioned a here-and-now revolution for the oppressed to seize power and become the winners on Earth.

Both Christianity and Marxism appeal to people’s sense of empathy and compassion, something which had been somewhat lacking in other religions and economic systems. But history has shown us that once the oppressed become winners and take power — whether it be the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages or the Russian serfs after the 1917 Revolution — they in turn inevitably become the oppressors themselves. From this we can derive a new axiom: The new boss is always the same as the old boss.

(Of course, I fully realize that Christians will be just as horrified to have their faith compared to Marxism as Marxists will be horrified to have their ideology compared to Christianity, but the key point of similarity, at least to me, is undeniable. Of course there are innumerable differences as well, and both philosophies have changed over the centuries, yet still at their origins they both claimed to champion the underdog.)

Using our empathy as a tool against us

To this day, both Christianity and Marxism are hugely influential worldviews, and aside from those people who overtly identify with one camp or the other, most everyone else ascribes to some kind of political ideology which is at a minimum informed by either Christianity or Marxism. That is to say, Christian values suffuse conservatism, and Marxist values suffuse liberalism — even if you yourself don’t think of yourself as a Christian or a Marxist. Yet since both ideologies share one common feature — sympathy for the underdog — and since most people fall somewhere in the conservative/liberal dichotomy, then everyone in the Western world, regardless of what side you might be on, harbors some secret sympathy for the oppressed and disdain for the victorious.

It is this salient fact that the propaganda maestros of the Gaza Flotilla are banking on. The whole goal of sailing ships toward Gaza is not to “break the blockade,” but rather to seek out and initiate a conflict with the Israeli military. And here’s the key: not merely to enter into a conflict with the Israelis, but specifically to lose a conflict with the Israelis. Because only by losing can the activists and militants claim the victimhood mantle and declare a moral victory. So, just as in a Canadian soccer game, by losing they win.

Arab Culture and the Strong Horse

The West’s affection for the underdog is now widespread throughout the world — except in the Middle East, where Arab culture still reveres the powerful and the victorious. In 2001, Osama bin Laden famously remarked, “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” This seemingly innocuous homily summarizes the difference between traditional Arab values and Western values: Not only do bin Laden and his ilk revere the dominant party in any relationship, he assumes that everyone else does likewise. It is for this specific reason that Al Qaeda (and Al Qaeda’s millions of admirers) thought that the 9/11 attacks were a good idea: If we can inflict a defeat on the enemy, Al Qaeda reasoned, then we will gain the world’s sympathy, because we we will have taken the role of the Strong Horse.

Needless to say, bin Laden got it completely reversed: Every time terrorists strike, their cause loses credibility in the West’s eyes, because by killing innocents they have become the aggressor and the oppressor. Most terror groups and Islamic extremist groups still operate under bin Laden’s “Strong Horse” misapprehension.

Luckily for the Islamic extremists, some Western leftists more clever than they have stepped in to rescue the otherwise-discredited Islamist cause. Far-left groups like the Free Palestine Movement and the International Solidarity Movement, along with their innumerable media enablers and Marxist Euro diplomats, have patiently explained to the Islamists that scoring violent victories is counterproductive; the real way to achieve political success in the Western world is to be the victim of a violent defeat. That way, you earn the world’s sympathy, and the powers-that-be give you what you want. It worked for Gandhi in India; it worked for the 1950s Civil Rights movement in the US; it can work for you. Lose your way to victory. Problem is, every power in the Western world already knows this, and they thereby resist appearing as bullies — so the only way to become a victim is to goad your unwilling opponent into defeating you. If you can sufficiently hide the goading from public view, then the response will seem like an aggression, and you win if you lose.

I imagine it must have taken quite a bit of philosophical reconfiguring for the extremists to grasp this ridiculous and counter-intuitive Western way of thinking, but they decided to give it a try. Lo and behold — it worked! At least it worked if you are an MSM collaborator in the ruse. In reality, most of the Islamists still don’t quite grasp the whole concept, so (for example) one can still see the militants on the Gaza flotilla chanting slogans about killing Jews and hoping for success or martyrdom. Uh, fellas, we’re supposed to be posing as the victims here — cool it, will ya?

What we’re now seeing is the tug-of-war internecine struggle between the power-seeking Islamic militants who still live by ancient Arabian codes, and their Marx-inspired Western partners trying to rein them in and use the victimhood/sympathy technique instead. Back and forth, back and forth, as the rest of the world watches in disgust: Violent terrorist acts and declarations of supremacy are interspersed with poorly acted passion plays of victimhood. Do the Islamists really expect us to permanently grant them the role of victim when half the time they’re the victimizers?

Personally, I’m tired of the game, specifically because I know it’s a game. Their real goal is victory and dominance by any means, and I’m not fooled when they use our own cultural norms to deceive us.

Rather than posting a variety of short videos documenting the incitements and failed attempts at victimhood-posturing by the Gaza flotilla militants, I strongly encourage readers to view this clip by Shraga Simmons of MediaGoliath which not only incorporates much of the video evidence into one handy package, but also crisply explains the win-by-losing victimhood strategy explained in this essay:

33 Responses to “Losing Is the New Winning”

  1. 1Perpetua on Jun 5, 2010 at 10:11 am:

  2. 2Winslow on Jun 5, 2010 at 10:56 am:

    Zombie, you’ve written an absolutely first-rate essay. Now go sit in the corner.

  3. 3Jason M on Jun 5, 2010 at 11:29 am:

    It is all part of a fundamental shift towards forced equality.

    You can make profit….but not too much. You can win….but not by much, and don’t make a big deal of it.


  4. 4Bakunin on Jun 5, 2010 at 12:07 pm:


  5. 5RNB on Jun 5, 2010 at 5:51 pm:

    Two words: Harrison. Bergeron.

  6. 6Ringo the Gringo on Jun 5, 2010 at 10:01 pm:

    Strength through weakness!

  7. 7Starless on Jun 6, 2010 at 4:21 am:

    Heh — the “Ottawa Rule” story reminds me of the trend (I don’t know if it still is anymore) of replacing a red pen with a purple one to mark wrong answers. As though children don’t innately establish a pecking order, understand the reality of winning and losing and therefore purple just becomes the new red. All this screwing around with rules and high-minded pedagogy does is confuse children and create new problems for them. Kids already know who the winners and losers are — they don’t need adults to explain it to them.

    What always baffles me is that there are still adults who think they can get kids to believe — in the most fundamental sense — that black is white and up is down and that doing so is a good thing when reality demonstrates repeatedly that that just isn’t so. I think this erroneous belief was demonstrated very aptly by the Democratic/Leftist idea of “framing” and now we’re seeing it applied to terrorist organizations. As though it doesn’t matter that their fundamental beliefs still don’t include the destruction of Western culture and more specifically, Israel — corrections: the elimination of the Jews — as long as they frame their message properly, they think, then they will be able to get the world to believe that black is white.

    The kid who insists on holding to the “Ottawa Rule” once the idiotic adults have left the playground will be seen as a little creep by the rest of the kids who understand and are willing to acknowledge reality, hopefully that kid won’t be allowed to hold a position of power.

  8. 8Ringo the Gringo on Jun 6, 2010 at 11:06 am:

    Victory through defeat!

  9. 9Iron Confederate on Jun 6, 2010 at 10:41 pm:

    If you don’t mind my two cents, Jesus Christ does remind his followers to follow the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. In Old Testament, The Jews didn’t rely on being the victim of the Philistines and have outside condemnation to do the rest because the world wasn’t like that back then. Back then, tribes had to fight for survival.

    You would also have to take note that Jesus is very much aware that people will ultimately commit acts of sin and thus sacrificed himself to spiritually save them so that people can go to heaven through Jesus.

    Now for the story of Job, Job was a man who had it all, land, wealth, and family yet he is extremely faithful to God. As the story goes, Satan claims that that the only reason why Job is so faithful to God was because of all the blessings. To prove the point that Job’s faith is honest, God allowed Satan to fustercluck Job’s life under the condition that Job doesn’t get killed in the process. So after being biologically raped by disease, his whole family killed in a storm, and all his property destroyed, Job remained faithful to God. It was then that God rewarded Job for having the most ballsiest of patience by giving Job a new family, a far better home, and wealth that exceeds the previous amount.

    I believe that Jesus’ quote was geared towards the people who have everything in terms of wealth but spiritually have nothing. It’s like in order to appreciate of what you have, you have to lose it first. You get what I mean?

  10. 10jelena on Jun 7, 2010 at 12:07 am:

    you’re right, it’s amazing how this damn logic works: the oppressed equals the (morally) good. but even though the supposed to be islamist victims still wouldn’t really get the rule and strike against the little and the big satan they can be assured that there always will be people in the west to claim it was an act of desperation. the west to those people always is the offender – at least in a structural way, you know, all the ballast of colonialism settled in the westerners consciousness… and this is i presume not just a phenomenon true for the leftists but for a large number of people in the west. it’s weird though that those people claim to be anti-racists as they recognize the others still as the passiv counterpart to the westerners actions. the arabs never could be a subject to them to be hold responsible for their actions. they are the object either to the racist imagination of the necessity to be ruled by the white man or to the anti-racist imagination of necessarily being the passiv victim of western oppression.
    as to your remarks about the victim-ideology of christianity i had to think of nietzsche, who claimed the whole victimizing-scheme to be a kind of revenge the unfortunate imagine themselves to have on those who came off better – which would automatically take place in the afterlife but was good enough to feed your misery-inflicted contempt here and now. i guess he himself had a thing with the christians…

  11. 11Starless on Jun 7, 2010 at 3:34 am:

    Iron Confederate: I believe that Jesus’ quote was geared towards the people who have everything in terms of wealth but spiritually have nothing.

    If you check the Debunker link Zombie has provided, you will see that that is exactly what he/she is arguing is a fallacy.

    An interpretation which is just as valid as yours is that the message in the camel/needle parable is that it is telling followers that unless they submit themselves to the church (by giving their wealth to the church which is acting as a proxy for the poor), they will not get into heaven.

  12. 12Phil on Jun 7, 2010 at 4:19 am:

    I echo Winslow’s (Commenter #2) compliment.
    I didn’t think of his cute joke that followed, but I’ll go along with that one, too.

  13. 13KimberGrl on Jun 7, 2010 at 11:19 am:


    An interpretation which is just as valid as yours is that the message in the camel/needle parable is that it is telling followers that unless they submit themselves to the church (by giving their wealth to the church which is acting as a proxy for the poor), they will not get into heaven.

    Sorry, but no. “The church” was not established Jesus, but by his disciples, therefore he was not suggesting that you give your money to “the church”, there was no chruch. You submit to God, no one else.

    Christians are not against wealth, it is merely seen as a potential obstacle to faith. One of the classic examples of a “good” rich person in the New Testament is Joseph of Arimathea, whose tomb was used to place Jesus’ body in after the crucifixion. In the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16:1-9 Jesus says to “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9). If he were so against rich people, why was a rich person the hero of the parable?

    Zombie, sorry you had that experience in school, it is outrageous. However, it is not a Christian thing. I went to Catholic school through undergrad and we had a valedictorian at our high school as well as an Honor Roll. College was the same way, academic achievement was rewarded. If what you are saying is accurate, then that should not have happened.

    What Christians are supposed to do, is recognize that their talent ultimately comes from God and that we are to do the best we can with what we have been given. If you are good at making money then go do it! What a Christian should then do, is give a large amount of it away to help as many people as they can. Note, they have to decide to give the money away, that decision should NOT be made for them (i.e. redistribution of wealth by a government) or it is pointless. You have to FREELY give. You may be better at something than me and you have every right, and in fact a Christian obligation, to use that talent to the best of your abilities. As a Christian, I am supposed to be happy for you. We are not supposed to covet what our neighbor has. What Jesus said, was that we were all equal in the eyes of God. This means that God is going to judge you based on what you were given and what you did with it. You as individual, not a comparison to someone else. For example, Zombie, you are a much better photographer and writer than I am. I love reading your stuff (even when I disagree) and am glad you are willing to share so much.

  14. 14CattusMagnus on Jun 7, 2010 at 11:33 am:

    I give this post two thumbs way up!

  15. 15Iron Confederate on Jun 7, 2010 at 6:01 pm:

    Thanks, Kim!

  16. 16Stone K on Jun 7, 2010 at 7:52 pm:

    Great essay

    It reminded me of my history… At my school I was put in the “Bilingual” class because my parents were both Hispanic, it did not matter I spoke and read perfect English and My Spanish had been and is still atrocious. The funny thing was we had kids from all over, white, black, Hispanic, Asian and Middle Eastern. There were probably 6 or 7 different languages in the class any given year. It never bothered me until I got older and I saw that the non-bilingual classes were far more advanced than we were. By the fifth grade they were reading Huck Finn and I was learning how to make Chinese new year decorations.

    Sadly it carried over to the next several years… Despite grading highest in Reading and Science I was put in what can only be called remedial classes.

    It still bothers me that I could have been learning more sooner just because they assumed I could not keep up with the non-bilingual kids. I found out there were kids taking real history classesin 4th grade, while I was learning to sing “De Colores”…

    Damn the progressives…

  17. 17Starless on Jun 8, 2010 at 3:50 am:

    KimberGrl: Sorry, but no. “The church” was not established Jesus, but by his disciples, therefore he was not suggesting that you give your money to “the church”, there was no chruch [sic]. You submit to God, no one else.

    You really missed on that one. What Christ did or did not mean to those of us who live now hinges entirely on our interpretation of the words written, included, and approved by those who decided what the canon of Christianity would be.

    KimberGrl: If he were so against rich people, why was a rich person the hero of the parable?

    A more relevant question is: why was this parable included in the canon?

    KimberGrl: Christians are not against wealth, it is merely seen as a potential obstacle to faith.

    Yes, I know. That’s the point.

    KimberGrl: Note, they have to decide to give the money away, that decision should NOT be made for them (i.e. redistribution of wealth by a government) or it is pointless. You have to FREELY give.

    Really? I’ve seen the plate passed more than a few times and to claim that there isn’t an implicit threat in that act is to ignore what’s really going on.

  18. 18Rhinestone Suderman on Jun 8, 2010 at 5:44 am:

    Ah, yes, Starless! Many’s the time I’ve seen people shot, clubbed or beaten up, when they refused to put something in the collection plate! Or people who just put in something like a dollar, forced, at gunpoint, to put in a $10.00 or a $20.00! The horror of the collection plate!

    A threat indeed!

    (Actually, there’s been times I didn’t put anything in, and nothing happened to me! If you really find passing the collection plate threatening, I fear your reality check may have bounced.)

  19. 19KimberGrl on Jun 8, 2010 at 6:30 am:

    Starless, let me ask you something. Do you believe that money alone makes you happy? I say it doesn’t and I see lots of empirical evidence to back me up. I will claim that helping someone makes you happy. When you are solely focused on “things”, your life is very superficial. The more money you have, the greater the temptation to do this, hence money can become an obstacle to faith. You miss out on good stuff in your life because you are so focused on, well, stupid stuff.

    As for “passing the plate”, yes, I do contribute to my church because I know what they do for the community. Ever hear of a place in the tenderloin in San Francisco called the Dining Room? It was started by a Franciscan. They serve meals to homeless people as if they were at a restaurant. His point is to give these people back some of their dignity. These kind of places exist all over the world, helping people get out of their poverty. It is people of faith that do this, I have yet to see this kind of effort make by atheists. This help costs money, and yes, I will give to that, freely!

  20. 20James on Jun 8, 2010 at 9:35 am:

    Remember..in “Jesus day” wealth was considered God’s Blessing (in Jewish Culture). Christ came as a Jew and Rabbi and began to explain what the heart of the Jewish scriptures were all about. he really rocked the boat by dispelling common practice. Typically, the temple leaders became lawyers, twisting the Law around so they could keep the law yet do whatever they really wanted. The heart of the thing was lost. Jesus came in as God and began kicking ass and exposing the leaders errors. Salvation and approval never hinged on giving away money. Heaven and the kingdom of God were to be entered NOW, not when you are dead. You get in now and start thinking, seeing, living in the present. SOoo..the idea that riches and money do NOT automatcically mean God’s favor was a game changer! Pissed a lot of wealthy people off. It also transformed the minds of poorer people who believed their lack was because God did not love them. For some people their money IS their personal prison. If that person was you, Christ’s words would ring especially true. The informed reader should know that Christ’s words are sometimes directed at a certain person or audience. You “know it” when you should pay particular attention. I don’t know how many times I have had to release my grasp on something and let it go only to have it restored to me later. The “dying” had to happen in order to prepare me to handle what I actually wanted to do, to own, etc. Pride and self-reliance along with worshiping the “thing” will always get in the way of God especially if he has that very “thing” in his plan for you. Wow! Spiritual struggles with Zombie. Who would have thought it. If you disagree..no prob! There will be no head chopping!

  21. 21Starless on Jun 8, 2010 at 10:28 am:

    Rhinestone Suderman

    Ah, I see you are taking the old aggressive-Christian-asshole approach to debate.

    KimberGrl: This help costs money, and yes, I will give to that, freely!

    Great, then, but you still miss the point. The supremo numero uno rule from God is that you have to have faith — full stop. All of the other rules are subordinate to that. The only thing the other ten rules say about wealth is that you mustn’t covet anyone else’s. Anything about wealth beyond that is something generated from within the church. IOW, the debate about whether wealth is good or bad is a materialistic issue having to do with the here and now, not a spiritual issue having to do with the afterlife. So, frankly, I find these attempts to bolster capitalism with religious doctrine rather disingenuous. The Bible is very clear in many places that according to Christ, poverty is virtuous and the church continually sends the message that in order to be more Christ-like, you must give your wealth away. Preferably to them.

    There is the implicit threat: if you get too rich and uppity and don’t pay up in the here and now, you may regret it in the afterlife.

  22. 22KimberGrl on Jun 8, 2010 at 11:10 am:

    Anything about wealth beyond that is something generated from within the church. IOW, the debate about whether wealth is good or bad is a materialistic issue having to do with the here and now, not a spiritual issue having to do with the afterlife.

    I have several questions. What are good and bad? Without a spiritual grounding, how can you distinguish between the two? And what do you mean by church?

    As I said before, you will be judged by what you were given and what you did with you what you were given. If you are not given much (i.e. you are poor), you will have an easier time. James is right, being rich does not mean you have God’s favor, it actually means, you better get busy, you have a lot to do.

    Giving your money away to a church is one option, but should certainly not be the only one. If fact, I will say that if that is all you do, you are being lazy. There are a lot of ways to share your talents in a positive manner with your fellow man. Giving money is just one way. In addition, the term church, should be a verb, not a noun. It is a group of believers, not an institution or a place. Unfortunately, there are individuals that have tried to make church into a noun, but it should not be. If you are looking for a church, this is a warning sign. If they demand that you tithe or or pressure you to tithe, move on. Giving must be done freely.

  23. 23Dymphna on Jun 8, 2010 at 12:56 pm:

    Loved this post. My caveat is the same as several others, however. One can cherry-pick biblical quotations to come up with any point of view necessary to the occasion.

    My personal favorite is Christ’s saying that we have to be as clever as a serpent and as innocent as a dove.

    The term “church”, as Kimbergirl says, is not a noun. The early ecclesia was not the modern splintered behemoths that exist today. For the day-to-day life that Paul encountered and challenged, I recommend Sarah Ruden’s book:


    From the Book List review:

    Paul’s cross-references show us a Greek and Roman world of great brutality, given to pleasures carried to damaging and even fatal extremes. Nor was there any notion of inhumane punishment; hence, crucifixion, to which only commoners and slaves were subjected. Homosexuality was basically anal rape of adolescent boys, the more painful the better for the socially superior rapists. Women of high status were veiled, while unveiled women were treated as prostitutes and criminals. Slaves were so unequal to masters that they might have been a different, inferior species. The nonviolent love and community that Christianity preached radically differed from such exploitative, status-based norms, and Paul’s preaching, perceived as being against homosexuality and higher status for non-ruling-class women and slaves, looks very different when contrasted with those Greco-Roman norms as reported by writers from Aristophanes to Apuleius.

    Ruden is an accomplished translator of Roman and Greek classical literature. She knows her subject from both sides.

    As for Marx and Christianity, I have found Marx’s thought to derive from that most ancient tradition of the Jewish prophets like Isaiah. This is the culture from which Marx came, one whose rhetoric and pov he understood well enough to turn it on its head. There is nothign more intellectually powerful (or morally deadening) than an aggressively atheist writer whose cultural roots are Jewish.

    By the same token, there is nothing more morally compelling or hopeful than a theistic Jew who lives, moves, and has his being in the Torah/Pentateuch. Martin Buber is one such writer.

    At any rate, the modern Christian church (pick your demonination) is a perversion of “where two or three are gathered in His Name”. Instead, it is “where two or three are gathered in His Name, at least two are vying for power”. It has always been this way, from the very beginning. That’s why both Jewish and Christian scripture is so enduring. In each of them, the flaws, warts, and failings of all of us are held up to the light, not for condemnation (not in our job description) but to better understand that human nature without God is Sartre’s “No Exit”.

    People don’t ‘choose’ their belief in theism or atheism. It chooses them. We all come to our own conclusions based on our experiences and the faculty of the will. However, both sides are indeed belief systems, they just have different content stuffed into the same template.

    Wonderful post, even though I choose to disagree with your lumping of the Christian religions in with the rest. It really doesn’t fit and if you read any robustly Christian theologians (or economists, for that matter) you’ll see what I mean. To begin with, you could try Frederic Bastiat. His economic theory is still the best. You can google his “Parable of the Broken Window” (I think that’s the name) to get the answer to why having govt fix things doesn’t work. It’s implicit in his theory, but it’s there.

  24. 24Rhinestone Suderman on Jun 8, 2010 at 3:28 pm:

    Well, I find the aggressive Christian asshole approach works just fine when coming up against the aggressive unbeliever asshole approach, whose message is usually some riff on the old Ayn Randian objectivist schtick: money, and money alone, is the true measure of human worth, and that it’s a waste of time to feel any sympathy for “losers”, who aren’t rich—or who get sick—or who ever need help—which actually includes most of the people on the planet at some point in their lives. Only superior “winners” count!

    And I’ve never, ever, had a church tell me I need to pay up in the here and now, or I won’t go to Heaven; that’s B.S.!

  25. 25Ringo the Gringo on Jun 8, 2010 at 3:35 pm:

    I must say that I’m enjoying the give and take on this thread.

  26. 26jelena on Jun 9, 2010 at 12:57 am:

    i guess there’s some confusion about christian tradition and typically all this chit chat about what jesus really meant before ‘the’ churchs takeover corrupted the true faith. i wouldn’t claim to be an expert on the topic but here are two or three things i can think of in this context. first of all, yes, jesus was a jew in the tradition of the late apocalyptic prophets. so he acted on the assumption that the end of the world – that is the end of the history to be seen as the interim between fall of mankind/ expulsion from paradise and salvation – is imminent. thus he breaks with all jewish – that is worldly (as it is you’d say the way of life then) – tradition. family? wouldn’t be the same when he claims that those who listen to his words were his family not his mother and his brother waiting outside. property? what’s that good for? leave it behind because it’s just dead weight while you should prepare for the end of the world. and above all: there’s nothing you can do to appeal to god – you wouldn’t have to follow the religious rules anymore to be saved in the end. don’t you try to bargain with god! ok, let’s say this certainly had some ‘political’ consequences. it was kind of a rebellious act i guess. now. as the story goes on jesus sacrifices himself for the greater good, that is – to be short – humankinds salvation. the ultimate sacrifice, which by now would be ritually re-enacted in the sacrament (while the catholics are much less symbolic in that matter). but as jesus sacrificed himself and resurrected his followers still have to wait for his second coming which would then put an end to the historic world. so they wait. for quite a while but the world still goes on. and when the first generation vanishes there’s paul who thankworthy found a solution for the dilemma: as we still live in the world we’re already saved. the rules in the world wouldn’t apply to us any other than like in a formal way. but no following the rules will make god love you better or love you at all. the calvinists later would be very strict about that point. and here’s also the thing with the worldly possessions and there meaning: for them getting rich, being successfull and so on is a sign which might tell you that you’ll be saved (after calvin found that following augustin in that matter the story of jacob and esau sheds some light on the fact that god might have chosen those to be saved before all times and without humanly recognizable reason). if you’d become an alcoholic or fail in business you might be damned. yeah, sorry about that. so, if you’re one of the happy few and you get into a lot of money remember, don’t spend it, don’t use it on pleasure, it’s just a sign! the best you can do is to live abstinent from the worldly matters because there’s no good coming from the historic world. there’s no right and everything’s corrupted in the world as luther pointed out pretty impressive…
    ok. enough of this. i think the main thing about christianity to be concluded is to deny yourself. salvation only comes from god. don’t you dare to be so egomaniac and claim you convinced god to like you, that you by any means changed his mind!

  27. 27jelena on Jun 9, 2010 at 3:27 am:

    i might have forgotten two things.
    first: sure, you have to believe to be saved. but it’s certainly not your good deeds that will get you to heaven.
    second: the discussion about property like if jesus had property is mostly bound to the question if the church should have worldly power and interfere with political matters. and as zombie pointed out with constantine, his probable conversion and his political interest in christianity – plus in the interpretations of eusebius and lactantius – you can find this tendency towards political theology since the beginning of the 4th century already.

  28. 28Ken on Jun 9, 2010 at 5:06 pm:

    the prohibition against competition is often a prelude to a more Orwellian inversion of reality.

    I beg to differ. In many cultures it’s seen as one of the only things that keeps social harmony humming along smoothly. Nicholas Kristof wrote an interesting article about this topic:


  29. 29TK on Jun 16, 2010 at 9:03 am:

    KimberGrl: These kind of places exist all over the world, helping people get out of their poverty. It is people of faith that do this, I have yet to see this kind of effort make by atheists.

    You don’t get out much do you?

  30. 30شات كتابي on Sep 27, 2010 at 11:54 am:

    I registered REPUB last Tuesday for no other reason than to help the push for Bob Vanderplaats for IA gov’ner, among other “conservative”-type leaders. But Iowa repubs just wanted the wishy-washy Branstad (Ex-gov, ‘83-’99), who has no chance against jackass-incumbant Culver. I’m returning to “no party” thanks.

  31. 31jonn1 on Jun 14, 2011 at 9:35 pm:


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