Worth Reading This Week
This week, Fred Clark has been killing it at his Patheos blog Slacktivist. First, in “16 tons of brick without straw,” he tells us why companies challenging the federal government on birth control is a reversion to a time before labor laws changed how we view employee wages:
We should step back for a moment here to recognize the absurdity of CT’s attempt to make this a “religious” claim, because their argument is simply indefensible on Christian religious grounds. The religion in question here is evangelical Christianity — Bible Christianity. And the Christian Bible is resoundingly, unambiguously opposed to the exploitation of workers. This is not a gray area. From Laban’s swindling of the swindler Jacob, to Pharaoh’s oppressive edict to make bricks without straw (the original company scrip system), throughout the law and the prophets and the parables of the Gospels, from the epistle of James to the beastly monopoly of John’s apocalypse, the Bible is — start-to-finish and all the way through — vehemently opposed to the exploitation of workers. CT’s argument is not religiously permissible, let alone religiously supported. Their Bible forbids their argument.
But as biblically and religiously indefensible as CT’s position is, I don’t want to get sidetracked into a sectarian religious argument. First because sectarian religious arguments cannot be legally compelling. And second because, as CT sadly demonstrates, such arguments appear to be so infinitely elastic as to be meaningless. If the Bible can be read to approve of the denial of wages, then the Bible can be read to approve of anything. Why bother citing scripture to those who think the Bible allows and endorses such exploitation? Once “religion” has been redefined to endorse such views, it can no longer offer much in the way of a common language for moral argument.
Then, in “Rules For Christian Sex and Rules about Rules,” he breaks down the difference between the evangelical teaching about sex and the practice of healthy sexual ethics (namely that the hardline rules produced in the former make it nearly impossible to develop the latter).
My response to such accusations is always the same: I’m not saying anything goes, I simply want you to treat your “biblical rules about sex” exactly the same way that you’re already treating the biblical rules about money. I want you to take the exact same hermeneutical approach that you are already taking to every biblical teaching on wealth and possessions and apply that to biblical teaching on sexuality. Then treat both sets of teachings — and other people — with more respect than your current practice seems to do with regard to either subject.
My point here, though, is not to argue about the substance of the CRS/RCS, but to note that this rule-based approach is fundamentally misguided — that rules are just about the worst possible method for getting people to obey the rules.
Asserting and reasserting a list of rules rather than offering a functional sexual ethics won’t ever produce ethical behavior. All you’ll get from asserting a list of rules is a long list of people who break them.
And my last piece worth reading is actually from last week, but it’s just too good not to share. My friend Dani Kelley wrote in “The Body I Have” about learning to accept herself and her body and breaking from a culture that had declared open season on her because she a woman who happens to be larger than a Victoria’s Secret model.
But I do know that during this hours-long conversation, I kept adding things to my mental of list of Things To Do To Be A Good Christian Girl — a list that was comprised almost entirely of Things To Do To Be Pure, which looked a lot like Things To Do To Be Silent And Invisible.
And my quiet panic kept growing and growing, because I wanted so desperately to not be a stumbling block, but it was starting to sound like having long hair, breasts, and hips was stumbling block enough. I thought of my outrageously curly hair that I kept long out of personal religious duty. I thought of my large and endowed body. And my heart sank.
*I* was a stumbling block. *I* was impure — by simple inescapable virtue of being unable to hide the body I had.
So what have you been reading this week?