Not With a Chicken Sandwich

The last thing I said to my wife last night as we went to sleep was “I am not interested in fighting a culture war with a chicken sandwich”. And sure enough, this morning I was hit by an onslaught of encouragement to eat more chicken while simultaneously avoiding cookies and office supplies. I’ve never been into boycotts and at times I think they’re nothing more than a form of power politics. “Believe like me or I’ll bring you to financial ruin.”

I needed a bright spot of encouragement as I felt the caustic attitude toward Christianity rising in the air and worried for my friends who might abandon the core of their faith rather than suffer contempt. I sat down with my Bible and was surprised to find this:

“Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.

Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.

. . .This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right.”
1 Peter 2:11-25

About these ads

18 thoughts on “Not With a Chicken Sandwich

  1. Wow. That was hands-down the worst Oatmeal comic I’ve seen, and I usually consider The Oatmeal pretty funny.

    The “atheism war” comic was almost as bad.

    (The “girl gamers” and “torrenting Game of Thrones” comics sucked, too, but not as much.)

    The Oatmeal should really stick to correcting grade school grammar on the Internet and making jokes about sex with bears. His snarks on religion are neither original nor particularly insightful.

  2. I think the comic’s popularity despite it’s obvious hypocrisy and lack of originality is what discouraged me about it. People are just giddy to say Christianity sucks.

  3. Really? It seems like the Oatmeal comic is mostly spot-on (except for my mild irritation at the popular but nevertheless bullheadedly normative assumption that evangelism is bad). And, for the record, so was the Game of Thrones one.

  4. “He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.”

    We’d better get busy then. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do. One thing he told the disciples was to divest themselves of all their possessions, or they could not be his disciples.

    Oops. Pardon me while I give away my computer. :D

  5. I’ll try to explain in more detail later why the religion comic is so bad. This post kind of summarizes, for me, why the torrenting-Game-of-Thrones comic was bad.

  6. Oh, well that’s fair. I also object to that kind of sense of entitlement–and in my experience, sci-fi/fantasy fans (a demographic I was raised in–both of my parents did RPG game art for a living and drug me to conventions from an early age) are the absolute worst.

    My brother keeps telling me that I just absolutely have to watch Game of Thrones. Although I am not even remotely interested in it, I do love my brother and respect his opinions and am generally willing to give something a shot if he recommends it so highly. the problem is, of course, that I have no reasonable way to watch it. Where I diverge from the Oatmeal comic is that I am not going to download it illegally (I don’t like watching shows legally on my computer; I’m certainly not going to break the law to do it). So we have this conversation over and over again: him telling me how much I absolutely have to see it, and me telling him to buy the DVDs and let me borrow them and I’ll be glad to, as there is no good way to just start with the first episode at a reasonable price and under what I consider reasonable conditions.

    So while I don;t follow the Oatmeal strip all the way to its conclusion, I sympathize with the irritation at HBO. (Confusingly, I am also thankful to HBO, since I don;t actually want to watch the show, and its unavailability gives me a handy excuse).

  7. That article against stealing was great. The comments could be a great focal point for an ethics discussion.

  8. What, no mention of the excellent passage? I love that one Tim – especially in this context. And we don’t even agree on the main issue….

  9. Tim said:

    I’ve never been into boycotts and at times I think they’re nothing more than a form of power politics. “Believe like me or I’ll bring you to financial ruin.”

    I have mixed thoughts on the matter. In general, I think that the best response to “bad speech” is “good speech” rather than attempts to silence the speaker, and it would take a particularly egregious situation for me to boycott a company because of something its CEO said. The only case I can think of where I have made a decision not to be a customer because of political statements involved a local company that used its readerboard to display supposedly witty right-wing slogans rather than promote services. I felt that company was, in effect, telling me it didn’t want my business, so I didn’t patronize it.

    That said, I do think it’s legitimate to patronize a business or not based on its business practices. A company that I know to mistreat its workers, for example, isn’t going to get me as a customer.

    Also:

    … I felt the caustic attitude toward Christianity rising in the air … People are just giddy to say Christianity sucks.

    There is plenty of that going on these days, isn’t there? As a result, I’ve all but quit reading reader comments on news sites with articles that have anything to do with religion, but Peter’s advice is better.

    I do think, though, that we (and I’m talking about evangelicals and Mormons) have brought it on ourselves to some extent. Jesus said that we would be known as his disciples out of our love for each other, but instead we have become known for our politics, judgmentalism and anti-science attitudes. When Christianity becomes a political movement, a political response shouldn’t be surprising.

    Ms. Jack said:

    I’ll try to explain in more detail later why the religion comic is so bad.

    I look forward to it.

    Also:

    This post kind of summarizes, for me, why the torrenting-Game-of-Thrones comic was bad.

    Yeah, good article.

  10. I have to admit that the Chik-fil-a thing strikes me as a crappy example of an attempt to shove political correctness down somebody’s throat. It seriously bugs me that city or local governments would attempt to deny Chik-fil-a operating permits because of the political statements of an executive. It is outrageous for the government to be involved like that.

    There are legitimate reasons to oppose gay marriage or gay lifestyle, i.e. you honestly believe God is opposed to it. In a healthy democracy the appropriate response is to argue against the position in a way that convinces those that adhere to it, not alienate or ostracize those who believe it.

  11. It seriously bugs me that city or local governments would attempt to deny Chik-fil-a operating permits because of the political statements of an executive. It is outrageous for the government to be involved like that.

    Also, this.

  12. Tim said:

    I’ve never been into boycotts and at times I think they’re nothing more than a form of power politics. “Believe like me or I’ll bring you to financial ruin.”

    Jared C said:

    I have to admit that the Chik-fil-a thing strikes me as a crappy example of an attempt to shove political correctness down somebody’s throat. It seriously bugs me that city or local governments would attempt to deny Chik-fil-a operating permits because of the political statements of an executive. It is outrageous for the government to be involved like that.

    There are legitimate reasons to oppose gay marriage or gay lifestyle, i.e. you honestly believe God is opposed to it. In a healthy democracy the appropriate response is to argue against the position in a way that convinces those that adhere to it, not alienate or ostracize those who believe it.

    Agreed, and agreed.

    Boycott a fast food place because it gets its meat from an animal torture factory? Fine. That makes sense. Because of exploitative employment practices? A little more tenuous (it makes more sense to boycott a bad employer by not working there) but whatever. Because you want to support local eateries instead? Sure, that makes sense from a marketplace perspective. This is the way the market is supposed to work.

    But boycott a business because of the beliefs or social policy preferences of its managers and officeholders? That rankles me. It’s using your leverage over situation B to coerce someone with regards to situation A. It’s holding a hostage isntead of dealing directly with the problem. Yes, I understand that shareholders will contribute profits they earn to causes I may not agree with. Reality check: that’s always the case, with every business entity. You can’t control what stakeholders do with their dividends any more than you can control what your employees do with their paychecks, and you shouldn’t expect to.

    I do avoid Chick fil A, but I avoid it because it’s fast food. That’s a different kind of culture war–one that’s about what we eat, how we consume, the lifestyles we live, the degree to which we are disconnected from the natural world that we are actually completely dependent on, and what is healthy for human bodies, minds, and (perhaps most importantly) souls–and its a culture war of which Chick fil A’s product and the money I can choose to spend on it are on the front lines. I think not eating at Chick fil A is an extremely spiritual issue, but one that has nothing to do with gay marriage.

  13. I liked both the Oatmeal comic (on religion: I know nothing about Game of Thrones) and Tim’s post. I see no reason for government to crack down on businesses because their owners say things that people don’t like. If you don’t want chikin, you don’t have to buy any, and there are plenty of places that will be happy to cater to you.

  14. For me, the takedown on Patheos fails when it brings up “not murdering” as a value comparable to the Oatmeal’s color preference. Every human society of record kills people. Every human society of record creates legitimate ways of ending human life violently. No human society anywhere teaches that random, wanton killing (murder) is justified. From my perspective, it appears to be a natural condition for human beings to value life (instinctively): in other words, the vast majority of us like that color (not murdering) because we aren’t psychopaths, not because we lucked out and stumbled into the church of God instead of the mosque of Satan (where PZ Myers teaches kids that it is perfectly fine to snack on human entrails).

    But we can overcome the natural brakes on our human machine. It is possible, historically, to convince people that the category of people who can (and should) be slaughtered is much larger than it needs to be. How do we do this? How do we convince decent young men and women who aren’t psychopaths to blow themselves up in public places, or take up a submachine gun and mow people down that they would otherwise never touch? We organize them. We preach to them. We tell them, “Peace is great, but we need someone to defend us from the Muslim menace (or the American menace or the Soviet menace or the Christian menace or the Arab menace or the Jewish menace). We need someone to stand up for good, for God, with a big gun that will blow the enemies of righteousness to kingdom come.” I am not saying that this is how religion always works, or that pacifism is the only way to be really ethical (I don’t think it is), but I do have a big problem with people assuming that stuff they would never do on their own is somehow unproblematically fine and acceptable because they read it in a holy book (any of them) or heard it from the mouth of one of God’s prophets (any of them: on my reading, a prophet is someone who speaks with divine authority in any community). Every time you take someone else’s life (or try to), you take your own life — and (to some extent) the life of your community — in your hands. Don’t ever take that lightly. Don’t do something you feel wrong doing, no matter who tells you it must be OK. If you would rather die than fight, dying (or walking away) might be a better option (for you). Question your leaders. Question your books (holy or otherwise). Question yourself. Where you find doubts, hesitate. Don’t blow stuff up that doesn’t need to be blown up. Follow the counsel in Timothy and let God sort the violence out with somebody else on the front line. Don’t be one of the Lord’s followers that leave the rest of us in constant fear for our lives every time someone cracks a holy book or offers a sermon.

    Is this what we talk about in churches? Maybe somewhere, but in my experience, church is a lot more like what the Oatmeal says. You go and hear all these funny stories about how the world was created (stories in which we are molded out of dirt, or the first man’s rib, or a clot of blood) and what our ancestors did (stories which include a lot of very troubling holy wars, no matter what religious tradition you grow up in), and what God wants you to do now: usually, the latter is something mundane. Don’t drink. Don’t smoke. Say this prayer. No, say that one. Sing this song. Wear these clothes, not those ones. Wear earrings like this, not like that. Eat food like this, not like that. Have sex like this, not like that. Little stuff, compared with the holy wars. Trivial stuff. Stuff that I mostly couldn’t care one way or the other about. (If you want to wear a burkha, that is fine with me — whether you are a Catholic nun or a Muslim woman. I don’t feel my personal style cramped at all by your fashion choices. If you want to wear Mormon temple garments, no big deal! They are just clothes: some textiles that have special meaning for some people and say diddly-squat to the rest of us.) The real problem comes when people aren’t content with taking these harmless diversions personally — when they instead try to force them upon the rest of the world. I don’t care if you wear a burkha or Mormon garments (or anything at all, really), but I will wear the clothes that speak to me, thank you very much, and this difference between us should most definitely not be settled on the battlefield of another jihad. That would be as stupid as fighting World War III to decide the world’s one “true” favorite color. Too many people (of all faiths) seem to live with a worldview in which this kind of outcome seems at least somewhat reasonable. It is utterly, irredeemably, and even dangerously idiotic. If there is a real God that anyone with any self-respect should worship out there somewhere, he (she, or it) would never condone such nonsense.

  15. I would actually be kind of sad if people saw me as being caustic to Christianity. As part of human history (including my own personal history), Christianity is complicated: it contains good and evil. In general, I strive to be as caustic with the evil as I need to be (whether in myself or other people) while embracing as much of the good as I can contain. I am the kind of person who pleads guilty to charges of heresy and atheism leveled by the religious establishment, and then turns around to find heretics and atheists of conscience engaged in the same kind of work that inspires good people of faith. We are all humans. We all strive for the good that is in our nature, and against the bad. Some of us see the good differently than others, but there are peaceful ways to resolve those differences to all our liking, if we are humble and honest (with ourselves and others, too).

    In my optimistic moments, I like to hope that society is moving toward greater honesty (less hypocrisy), greater engagement (with critical ideas, including ideas that challenge many cherished preconceptions that are just wrong), and (ultimately) a fuller understanding of what it means to be human and to live well (as individuals and large, diverse communities that will not be homogenous in the way that many of our ancestors have imagined). To me, this seems like something worth striving for. Whatever you call yourself, wherever you go on Sunday, whatever stories you tell around the campfire as inspiration — this is the kind of thing that we can all get behind. Protestantism doesn’t mean the end of faith, Catholics. Disestablishment doesn’t necessarily mean the end of faith, Catholics and Old World types. Mormonism doesn’t mean the end of faith, Protestants. Atheism doesn’t mean the end of faith, either. (Neither does Islam, by the way.) The real good endures because we are all here: we are people, with all the attributes that all the greatest prophets in any religion anywhere have ever had. If God is out there, then he will reach us as surely as he ever reached anybody. If He isn’t out there, then we will still craft societies much as we have done before (for the foreseeable future). Religion isn’t going away. Faith isn’t going away (though faith in things that aren’t really helpful might have to, if we want to avoid fighting constant wars whose downside keeps growing larger and larger as the upside gets smaller and smaller). Let’s make peace with that, and with each other. We can do that. We’ve done it before. We don’t always suck at this religion thing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s