Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 6, 2010

THIS WEEK IN GOD.... First up from the God Machine this week is a fairly prominent religious right organization, pushing a line that may seem like a parody, but is apparently quite sincere.

You have heard about the recent death of a trainer at Sea World. The American Family Association, a group best known for launching odd boycotts and claiming to fight the "War on Christmas," believes the incident would have not have occurred at the Orlando theme park if only it had followed Biblical mandates. From a piece the AFA published this week:

If the counsel of the Judeo-Christian tradition had been followed, Tillikum would have been put out of everyone's misery back in 1991 and would not have had the opportunity to claim two more human lives.

Says the ancient civil code of Israel, "When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable." (Exodus 21:28)

So, your animal kills somebody, your moral responsibility is to put that animal to death. You have no moral culpability in the death, because you didn't know the animal was going to go postal on somebody.

But, the Scripture soberly warns, if one of your animals kills a second time because you didn't kill it after it claimed its first human victim, this time you die right along with your animal. To use the example from Exodus, if your ox kills a second time, "the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death." (Exodus 21:29)

Sounds a bit like the AFA wants Sea World's owners to be executed, too.*

Also from the God Machine this week:

* In Amarillo, Texas, an organization called "Repent Amarillo" is starting to draw increased attention. The outfit is apparently made up of a bunch of right-wing religious activists who harass locals who engage in legal behavior the group finds morally offensive. It is, by most measures, almost a literal example of an American Taliban, and it's pretty scary stuff.

* Another painful embarrassment for the Vatican: "A singer in an elite Vatican choir and a jailed Italian public works executive who served as a papal usher were let go by the Vatican this week amid allegations that they were involved in what prosecutors believe was an organized network of gay prostitution, Italian news media reported."

* And the religious right really wasn't happy about Obama administration officials meeting with atheist and secular groups last week.

* Update: I had originally included a paragraph from ThinkProgress about AFA's relationship with congressional Republicans, but it turns out that paragraph was mistaken. I've deleted it.

Steve Benen 10:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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Comments

Well, here goes - God help us all - especially those who end up in Mr. Benen's This Week in God stories! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 6, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

I would be more than happy to let them stone the whale if they also allow the stoning of adulterers, which is also advocated in the Bible. I'm guessing Vitter and Ensign would quickly rise to the whale's defense.

Posted by: Steve on March 6, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Religious nuttiness aside, I do find it odd that a whale was returned to its job after killing someone. Its not like Tillikum is a professional boxer, after all.
On the other hand, my understanding is that Tillikum was merely involved in a couple of mysterious deaths, and can't be proven to have been the killer.
Still, I hope Marco Rubio takes advantage of this in his race against Crist. Killer whales passing through a furlough revolving door would make a great image for a campaign ad.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on March 6, 2010 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

I totally agree with the idea that the owners of Tillikum should be put to death ... because that is what the bible says. We believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible when it is about homos, and we should believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible about human eating animals as well.

I assume that the Sea World company is traded on the stock exchange, so we will need to seek out every stock owner and stone them to death.

The Bible commands us to do this.

And given that most every company in the US is owned in part by a few pension funds, we must find every connected person saving for retirement and stone them as well.

The Bible commands us to do this.

Many millions will die.

But THE BIBLE COMMANDS US TO DO THIS.

Posted by: Bucky on March 6, 2010 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

I just stoned a whale to death, and boy are my arms tired!

Posted by: hells littlest angel on March 6, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

There are many powerful GOP lawmakers and leaders who regularly frequent the AFA radio program and AFA events, such as Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Steve King (R-IA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Tom Price (R-GA), as well as Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Mike Johanns (R-NE), and Sam Brownback (R-KS).

They all seem pretty fringy-nutty to me.

Actually, Sea World should be closed down. Period. Having the other intelligent species on the planet enslaved to provide entertainment for the gaggles of slack-jawed morons who make up the American Booboisie is a crime.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 6, 2010 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

"because you didn't know the animal was going to go postal on somebody."

What an interesting turn of phrase using the word "postal." I'm not sure if this was an attempt to personify the animal or represents an underlying psychological element based in anger. or something

Posted by: r_m on March 6, 2010 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Don't be too defensive of Sea World's owners. I won't call for their deaths, but: they have been pushing those bright, sensitive animals too hard (as so many corporations push humans and other animals both.) Don't stone either, let the whale go. Maybe all of them?

BTW, these rightist Christianists love to quote the Bible rules they like, and ignore other ones about interest and forgiving debts, about paying workers every day, etc.

Posted by: neil b on March 6, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

"Says the ancient civil code of Israel, "When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable." (Exodus 21:28)..."

So these people can't tell the difference between and ox and a whale? Or are they telling us that they finally accept that there are deep evolutionary relationships between all organisms on earth?
And how exactly does one stone a whale to death?

Posted by: Varecia on March 6, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Let's be real biblical literalists here. The passage in question from Exodus refers only to oxen. It says if an ox gores someone to death, the ox must be killed. It says nothing about killer whales. Therefore, the rule applies only to oxen, and the whale goes free. What part of "oxen only" does. Mr. Fischer not understand?

Posted by: Morbo on March 6, 2010 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

I guess when it comes to values, it doesn't get much more traditional than stoning.

Posted by: JoeW on March 6, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

You'll notice Tillikum is never invited on FOX News to be interviewed by Killer Hannity. You don't see Killer Bachmann engaging in a face-to-face confrontation with Tillikum, do ya?

They are afraid.

There's a lesson for Democrats in that.

To my mind, Tillikum is merely eating the wrong people. I'd like to train Tillikum to fly as well and send the beast on political missions.

On the other hand, the Federal Government could tax Tillikum each time the animal misbehaves (ya know, if you want less of something, tax it) and the whale will be welcomed into the Republican Party and begin posting at Redstate.

Frank Luntz will give Tillikum an image makeover, the first step of which will be changing the moniker "killer whale" to "tea party whale".

The AFA will cast aside its objections to all of the previous killing, given the prospect of lower marginal rates.

The whale's candidate will depict Democratic candidates as seals with ponytails.

Posted by: John Thullen on March 6, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

So what is the penalty for _three_ strikes on a whale? Oh, a KILLER whale? Never mind.

Posted by: Kevin on March 6, 2010 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

What an interesting turn of phrase using the word "postal." I'm not sure if this was an attempt to personify the animal or represents an underlying psychological element based in anger. or something

Are you unfamiliar with the phrase? It refers to a period back in the 80s when several postal employees, over the course of many months, went on shooting sprees. A statistical cluster, more than anything else, but it unfortunately added a new trope to the language.

In any event, Tillikum didn't "go postal," he apparently just got playful in a way he was supposedly trained out of.

As a counter-example, trained elephants very rarely kill people except in a fit of temper, as they are used to dealing with smaller creatures and understand, at an animal level, their fragility. In the natural world, orcas don't usually interact with small animals unless they are eating them. If an orca decides to play with a human, it can easily turn fatal.

Posted by: Midland on March 6, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

"...mistaken. I've deleted it"
Being informed by Benen is never having to say you are sorry. His blog should share stage with Jon Stewart as the most trusted journalism available

Posted by: Chopin on March 6, 2010 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

To my mind, Tillikum is merely eating the wrong people. I'd like to train Tillikum to fly as well and send the beast on political missions.

There's already a giant flying shark movie in the works at the Sci-Fi channel, so it's too late to copyright that idea.

Oh, who am I kidding? "Flying Sharks vs Winged Orcas" is probably scheduled for production in Bulgaria next year.

Posted by: Midland on March 6, 2010 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Those people are crazy!,,,
if they can't discern between an ox and a whale.

Posted by: cwolf on March 6, 2010 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

If the Biblical injunction applies to all animals and not just oxen, why should the Biblical injunction be seen as applying only to animals? Why not apply it to other things that one has dominion over?

For instance, if a food processing corporation has procedures that let a lot of e.coli through, and someone sickens and dies as a result, then the corporation should be required to fix those procedures, with no fault judged against them if they do.

But if they fail to fix those procedures and more people die, then the corporate executives should be stoned, and that corporate operation should be destroyed as well.

Seems to me like a reasonable adaptation of a Scripture written in an agricultural era to a modern, corporate era.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on March 6, 2010 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Daily Kos has more on the Amarillo hate group.:

... Led by a man named David Grisham, a security guard at a nuclear-bomb facility called Pantex, Repent first gained media attention in Texas following a campaign to boycott Houston for electing a gay mayor. The group, which is associated with Raven Ministries, collaborates with other Christian groups as well as forced pregnancy advocacy associations like “Bound 4 Life.”
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/3/6/843408/-Repent-Amarillo:-The-Hate-Group-With-A-Nuclear-Twist . .


Posted by: Mike S on March 6, 2010 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Repent Amarillo- I'd love to have a look at the 'History' menu on their web browsers...

Posted by: hawiken on March 6, 2010 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

OK, fine, the ox shall be stoned, but you explain to me how to get an ox to take a hit off a bong. And you can forget about trying to get a whale high.

Meanwhile, in Amarillo, Texas, an organization called "Repent Amarillo" is acting out the movie "Footloose."

Posted by: josef on March 6, 2010 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's election has resurrected the white supremacy fascists, like this cracker bunch in Amarillo, who now want to save the country in the name of God, the Constitution, or 'freedom'. They are racist bigots of the worst kind, but they aren't considered potential terrorists. Why not?

Law enforcement is frequently populated by right wing types, and when one of these militia organizations finally goes over the edge it will be interesting to see how law enforcement handles the atrocity.

Posted by: rRRk1 on March 6, 2010 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

The whale's candidate will depict Democratic candidates as seals with ponytails.

Thullen, I knew it was you by the third graf.

You still need your own blog.

Posted by: efgoldman on March 6, 2010 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with those that point out that an ox is not a whale (this seems rather obvious). I suppose you could argue a bible verse about an ox is actually a metaphor (or an allegory, whatever) that applies to whales, but oh boy, once you start interpreting the bible rather than excepting it as God’s simple literal truth before you know it you are on the slippery slope to teaching evolution and moral relativism in the schools.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on March 6, 2010 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

I meant "accepting it as God's simple literal truth". Freudian slip I suspect.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on March 6, 2010 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

Why do so many of these religious extremist stories sound like they would make a screenplay. Even a porno movie with religious overtones. Add the Texas vigilantes with their camo trousers and you've got something.

Posted by: jonthebru on March 6, 2010 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

Frank Parnell (@21:59) et al

The Bible (Old Testament) also says that you shouldn't "seethe a kid in its mother's milk". For ages, this has been interpreted, very broadly, as "no meat and dairy in on the same table, much less in the same dish".

But there are some mavens -- much derided by the rest of the faithful, BTW -- who say that the injunction ought to be taken literally. That is, it's OK to cook chicken in cream, because fowls produce no milk with which they feed their young.

The "an ox is not a whale" argument belongs in the same hair-splitting category. It goes, perhaps, even a step further, into the area of "what about an *old* goat, not a kid?) and "what about a calf, rather than kid?"

What's really revolting is not that The American Family Association is using an ox in a whale situation; it's that they're trying to cram -- yet again! -- religious dicta (and of a particular brand of religion, too) down everyone's throat, whatever the religion (or lack thereof) of the hapless "Everyone".

Posted by: exlibra on March 6, 2010 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the Bible was supposed to be LITERALLY correct.

So the stuff about ox-goring is about oxen. Not killer whales.

Any attempt to read the verse as covering killer whales is not Biblical. Period!

Posted by: Nancy Irving on March 7, 2010 at 3:00 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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