Facebook is an interesting place but it also a dangerous place. I think it has evolved a bit from a place to keep up with friends, to a place of much more. Opinions get shared, liked, linked, and blasted. I admit that I do not always post on Facebook, after all, I do have a job and can not live on the site like some people do. Sometimes I will mention something fun that is going on in my life but, in general I am a introvert and prefer not to speak. Occasionally I will link a good article or mention something that I think is worth mentioning. Yes, like nearly everything shared on Facebook it will be liked by some and offensive to others. That is to be expected. Believe it or not I do often read links that people put up even if I know it will offend me. Why subject my mind (and time) to trivial matters that loathe, despise, or that I otherwise disagree with? (Forgive me English majors for ending a sentence with a preposition, I do try to avoid such matters.) I do so for mental aptitude. It is good practice to understand how people think. I read evaluate and move along. I believe that if something that someone posts offends you that it is best not start an argument with the person, just let it go. Understand that arguing will do nothing, especially on Facebook. If you really want to disagree there are means at your disposal like a blog, a web page of your own, or do things the old fashion way and write a book. Some of you may see where I am heading with this and if so your thinking abilities are good, unless of course you think that I am on a rant. Much to the contrary I am simply evaluating an argument that I saw recently issued by someone on Facebook. It is a hot button issue and if you disagree with me, I do not care, tear me apart on your blog, ripe me up on your web site, unfriend me ( I can not help but laugh at the thought of that because of the recent car insurance commercial, “That’s not how this works!”), or talk about about how ignorant you think I really am with your friends.
I was glancing through the various posts of various friends, and yes I will use the terms friends because at some point in my life we were friends or acquaintances. Quite a few of my [Facebook] friends have rather contrary views that I do, so we really would not get along other than whatever past connection we had. Only once did I ever have conversation with someone on the site that was argumentative in style. It was by no means ugly on my part because the person disagreed with something I wrote and decided to let me know that I was wrong. I simply responded in a civil manner, and back and forth we went and the person eventually quit responding. Now back to the issue at hand. This is the image I saw this morning. I will present it in pieces for evaluation purposes.
First, we will just read the writing. What is point that is being driven home? The point is pretty clear and can be stated simply as, “The Bible is not used for hurting, it is for love.” If you disagree reread it and look at the terms used. The illustrator is verbally pointing out using, the Bible, hurt, people, and wrong. In the Romans quote the illustrator is drawing attention to no harm, neighbor, love, and law. These are all key words. At least in the words of the illustration everything seems to make sense and sounds good. Since we are just looking at the words let us evaluate them. If we can narrow down each sentence to just one word, what would each word be. What you come up with is ‘hurt’ and ‘love’. There is a contrast that is being made in the two sentences between hurt and love. The constant between the two sentences is the Bible, seeing that one is a statement about the Bible and the other is a quote from it. So the argument is: That the Bible is not for hurting others, it is for loving others, so love others. Again that seems to be a legit argument, and if you are a Logic fan I am sorry I did not write the syllogism out correctly. Let me call attention to the fact that we have not defined the terms yet. Do you define the Bible as the Word of God (verbal plenary inspiration), the word of God (merely capturing the essence of an ideal goodness envisioned in God), the authoritative religious book by which everybody must conform, or a religious book among others that teaches wholesome ideals. It makes a huge difference which I will point out later because the illustrator is presenting it in two different ways. Do you define hurt as inconvenience, damage, wounding of feelings, mental distress, or physical injury all of these and then some are acceptable definitions of hurt according to Webster. Better yet, how you define ‘is’ can change the meaning completely, just ask Bill Clinton. I have only scratched the surface here and all that you and I truly know is that the illustrator is making a claim about the Bible by contrasting hurt and love but we do not know how that person defines any of the terms. With just the words that are vaguely defined we can be drawn into agreement rather easily. Without rambling on and on about definitions, let us look at the visual that goes with the words.
Second, I want you to forget the words that we have looked at above and just focus on the image. What do you see on the surface? On the surface I see three angry men beating a man with Bibles. Do you see the same? Now, look again and what do you see? I see three preachers bludgeoning a G/L/T/AL (gay/lesbian/transgender/alternative lifestyle) person to death with their Bibles. Do you see the same? Now, look again and what do you see? I see a good person who either is or supports the G/L/T/AL being bludgeoned to death by three evil religious preachers using their Bibles as weapons . Do you see the same? Notice the subtly of the illustrators visual argument. The preachers are presented as evil because they are all dressed in solid black suits, with hatred on their faces. The good person is the G/L/T/AL because that person is wearing white pants. The rainbow colors are a clear delineation of the lifestyle and they add color to an otherwise drab picture which creates a degree of warmth. Here is the one person who you should see standing and full of life, but instead they are face down bleeding to death or otherwise already dead. Are your eyes not drawn to the white pants the colorful shirt and crimson blood on the ground? Do you not feel some sort of pity towards this person? Now for the kicker. Do you not feel hatred towards those evil religious preachers? Do you not want to see them punished for their crime? Now lets put the two together.
Third, I want you to see the words and the visual together. Since we have broken down the image on two levels let us look at the whole argument. Now we see that the Bible as understood by the religious is being defined in the first statement as an authoritative book that demands conformity and hurt is being defined as a physical injury (even death). Before you get get bent out of shape I do understand hyperbole and symbolism and that it is at play here. The illustrator, however, is redefining Bible as a book of wholesome values and that those using it as a blanket book of authority demanding conformity are using it wrong. The illustrator proves them wrong with a quote from Romans. Taking into account hyperbole and symbolism the illustration is seems to be saying that, “The Bible teaches love and not hurt, so love and stop misusing the Bible.” At least this is what you see, but really the message goes much deeper to, “The Bible teaches you to approve (cloaked in the term of love) my lifestyle, and if you do not you are an evil person that needs to be punished for hate crimes.” Go back and look at the illustration and again and look at it at every level. I think the message is pretty clear, that it is not about hurting or love, rather it is about the evil of disapproval presented in hyperbolic fashion.
I have tried to brief on each level, but detailed enough for you to see everything that is going on in the illustration. What troubled me the most was the inconstancy of the argument one four points. It is inconstant in what it claims about the Bible. The Bible claims of itself, verbal plenary inspiration. It is inconsistent with labeling those who believe in the Bible as evil haters of G/L/T/AL people. Those who believe the Bible, believe in a good and just God who is the measure of good morality, while there are some extremists with poor theology that are on the fringes that are violent and admittedly evil, the people whose theology is right are not evil. It is also inconsistent with the apparent message of the Bible. The message of the Bible does teach love, but that love is defined in a good God who loves His creation enough that when it choose to reject Him, He choose to offer a way to save it. I want to clarify another aspect of this point here on the book of Romans since the illustrator used it to justify his position, because the book Romans clearly rejects the G/L/T/AL position as good in 1:26-27. I guess the illustrator skipped over that part of Romans. Finally it is also inconsistent with its’ call for love/acceptance/approval, yet invoking hatred by criminalizing other people. The message of love is undercut by the emotions of hatred the illustrator draws up towards the religious men. Clearly the illustrator demands acceptance in the name of love but is unwilling to accept anyone who disagrees.
This is the one fairly consistent thing that I have noticed in the G/L/T/AL community: approve my lifestyle while I refuse to approve yours. I say fairly consistent because I understand that not everyone thinks the same and I have met a few in that lifestyle who where accepting of what I believe. I did not try and convert them and they did not try and punish me. We mutually accepted our differences and that was that. A recent article just came across the news this week in New Mexico that I think aptly reveals the approve or be punished mentality. You can read the story for yourself here. I find it disturbing that this couple is criminalized for remaining true to their beliefs and forced to compromise. . Let me rephrase that, they told her, “if you want to stay in business you will subjugate yourself to the wishes of state and the G/L/T/AL community. There is no compromise or freedom in that. If the couple wants to lose money by standing by their religious convictions let them lose money. The couple in question were able to find another photographer for a cheaper rate. The photographer in question lost the money of that couple and anyone that would have been referred by the couple. Was it not compromise before the couple sued? Of course it was. The photographer and her husband did not agree with the couple but they did not force them to change their lifestyle. So whose lifestyle was really violated?