Contemplation on the Nicene Creed and the Death of Christ

According to the Nicene Creed, Jesus Christ was “crucified under Pontius Pilate” for our sake. However, according to the Gospel, he was crucified for the sake of punishment for his crimes in the state. This brings up the question of how his execution was for our sake when it was a penalty for a civil crime. If, as the Gospel according to Matthew suggests, he planned his crucifixion, using Pilate and the legal system as ploys in his larger scheme, is his death ultimately a suicide? This then calls for an explanation of how a suicide can be for the sake of another.
According to the next line of the Creed, Jesus “suffered death and buried”. This fits with the purpose of a punishment as generally they entail some sort of suffering. It also fits with a sacrifice, though, as sacrifice entails some sort of loss. If this is the case, Jesus sacrificed himself for our sake, “our” referring to those who endorse the Nicene Creed at least,and possibly others—the Creed does not specify. But this method of sacrifice is very unusual. Animals being sacrificed do not sacrifice themselves, nor are they sacrificed via being convicted criminals executed for their crimes. This detail complicates how Jesus’s death may be a sacrifice as the method has no precedent.
The other possibility, then, if the death itself is not a sacrifice, but the death is for our
sake, is that the actions surrounding it are for our sake. For example, if a soldier were to free a group of prisoners of war but were then executed for doing so, his death could be said to be for their sake. Likewise, Jesus’s acts which led to his execution may then be the actions that are for our sake whilst his death itself is the culmination of those actions and the sacrifice in the sense of personal loss that he endured to be able to have committed such acts.

Remix

Another iteration. New. Again.
Again let’s go again let’s go again.
Remix. Repeat. Remix. Repeat. Again.
Let’s go again let’s go again let’s go.
It’s all been done. Do it again. Once more.
All-American suicide. Revive.
Sell me your toes. One dollar each. Regrow.
I know you slip. I heard from Dante you
will burn, too. Can you feel the fire burning?
There is a spectre haunting this house and
I wonder who it could be. Maybe that
old ghost of Communism is back. Or is
God back? Maybe a broken family.
Let us begin again. Once more. Again.
I’ll tell you over and over. Again.
One more Pan-European patricide.
Perhaps the whole world will sing too. Somebody
once told me to ask what I know for sure,
but I was not sure I knew what he asked.
Try all you want to make me understand.
All that you can do is remix the words.
I’m not sure you know anyway what you mean.
Sound and fury signifies nothing. But we
make do with what we have and what we are
nothing. Negate the being and remix.
Repent. Reiterate and then repent.
Go collect all the gems and free the slaves.
If you can summon your heart’s desire.
The nothingness that is me is no thing
that is you is the other is just Hell
so to Hell with the other people! Leave
me be alone. Forget the meaningless
despair, though. Just rock and roll all nite or
love it when you one-two step please don’t stop.
Hide tragedy. Say never again,
Just once more for our justice so they say,
now never again except now we get
a turn for our revenge. Retribution.
But there’s no crime without a victim so
I guess you’re fine. Recapitulate and
decapitate. Remix the words and you’ll
get something new. Reiterate the moves
and you can have some meaning. But feel the
respect for nothingness.

Welcome back, piracy

I saw this image on Facebook:

Image may contain: text

I’m not quite sure whether the network execs aren’t thinking this sorta thing through or just assume everyone forgot how to acquire things for free. Piracy rates plummeted when Netflix, Spotify, etc. got big because, sure, you could download things one by one for free, but then you have to remember to do it and manage a library and have storage space and all those annoyances. It’s easier to drop $7 a month to just have everything you want or might want in one place, ready to go whenever, and already managed in the cloud.

I get why they’re doing this: They all want their own streaming services now. Except that kills the benefits. Now it’s $7 or whatever per service, which would quickly let prices approach the old cable range, not in one place, requiring switching services depending on what you want, and managed with irrelevant borders. (Music has the added drawback of not being able to shuffle everything. Just whatever is on what you’re using at the moment.)

At that point, well, piracy is looking a lot nicer. (I’ve seen quite a few people at least see themselves as justified enough if they buy one service and then steal the rest. “I’m already paying for Netflix. I’ll just steal whatever HBO refuses to put on.”) Maybe some estimates have the gain from the people jumping on board the new services outweighing whatever loss there is from not collecting from existing services. Regardless, theft technology has gotten a lot better over the past several years, so perhaps this time we won’t see legal trolls trying to ruin people’s lives as much this time around.

Even if the Bible is not the law, it is the document a lot of Americans look to for values

In the US, a lot of people are Christian. Christianity is a big enough force in the country that the “Religious Right” is a thing. While not all Republicans are concerned with religion, it’s at least a staple of the party, and any conservative politician will at least pay lip service to it. The Trump administration is no exception, and it has indeed tried to justify itself with the Bible.

In response to this and the absolutely infernal acts the administration is propagating, some others have pointed out that a good reading of the Bible will lead one to find condemnations of categories of things that include treating immigrants and refugees horribly.

In response to this response, some have stepped back and tried to deny any authority to the Bible either way:

hereweare

In some sense, yes, this is right. Though the second paragraph makes a subtle shift. Most people who are talking about the application of Jesus’s words to tearing kids from their parents are not trying to make a legal argument. I would be very surprised to find someone saying that tearing kids from their parents is illegal. Plenty of people are saying that it’s wrong, or that people should not tear kids from their parents, but that’s not the same as saying it’s illegal.

There are Constitutional provisions in the US restricting how laws can interact with religion. Though there’s an under-appreciated distinction between policies and the reasons behind policies. This comes up when people talk about the political compass too. Someone could be, say, authoritarian-left for a variety of different, even contrary reasons. But if you’re just trying to measure the concrete policies people support, then the motivations are abstracted away.

Likewise, people have all sorts of motivations for voting the way that they do. Many people, citizens and legislators, look to religion for guidance on which ways to vote. And if it’s something like what to set the income tax rates at or whether usury ought to be legal, then that’s a thing people can do. (There is some slippery room with legislators openly voting based on religious beliefs for policies without religious content, but even then, most people will let their values or morality tell them how to vote, and many people get those values from religion. You’re just one step removed.)

So in the sense of whether the Bible is the document that the agents of the state are supposed to consult in governing the country, no, of course not. You look to the laws and the will of the people. However, most of the people behind the laws and will are Christians. You might not like that. I’m not arguing whether that’s a thing worth trying to change, but for now, it is the case, and it will almost certainly be the case for at least several more years. So even if you think a long-term strategy of diminishing Christianity or religion in general is good, short-term solutions to urgent problems are also needed.

Public opinion and outcry does seem to have some effect on what the US government does. (Just yesterday Trump signed an order to keep families together. This may have been the Republican plan all along, but nonetheless, the plan at least had to incorporate public reactions.) So, to get good outcomes, we should include persuading the public to support the right policies. To do this requires appealing to the values people have. (We should also try to instill better values, but, again, that’s a long-term move.) In this case, adherence to the values of Christianity is a value a lot of people already have, and Jesus is pretty clear on this topic. So even if you or I think the Bible is not the document to look at for guidance in organizing society, plenty of people do, and they’re going to act as such. So we may as well point out that Jesus said to be good to people, as well as other things condemning pretty much everything ICE and company do.

Now, one might argue that if the majority religion were some other religion that supported these atrocities, then we would want people to steer away from what it says. Sure. We rarely appeal to every value anyway. In that case we would not look to adherence to religious teachings as a value and pick other values to appeal to. We can see this here, anyway. Most people probably take the obtaining of wealth as a value. Taking in refugees does not clearly serve that end. But for our purposes, that just means we don’t appeal to the value of money on this topic.

Some media is better than other media

This article is excellent. I don’t agree with everything in it, but I think it has two very good and important points:
 
1. If you give up on things like value judgements and expertise, you lose almost all ground you have to say much with oomph. Some things are better than some other things. Aesthetically as well as politically. Media created with nuance and skill is better than kitsch and propaganda. People who spend a lot of time studying a thing do tend to know better than most about that thing. “Elitism” has become such a bad word that we’ve forgotten that it is better to be better.
 
2. Texts (and other works, but usually texts) that are difficult and slow, but rewarding, to work through have benefits over fast and easy media. Simple messages are easy to use as rallying cries. For good or bad causes. If something takes no thought to consume, then it usually won’t get much thought in its consumption. This isn’t to say that writing in such a way that is needlessly difficult to understand is a good thing, but works that reward reading slowly and rereading and analysizing are better.
 
 

Dragging people down instead of trying to make things better

Perhaps I’ve blogged about this before. The tendency has existed long before social media, but social media makes it even easier to broadcast one’s ressentiment. Today this one popped up in my newsfeed, edited because Facebook and Twitter will use it as the image for this post:

Epipen Ressentiment

See what I did there? The original post suggests that because children’s parents are being charged nefarious costs, drug users should also be charged nefarious costs. That’s, of course, either idiotic (in most cases) or evil (if you’re selling epipens). By crossing out the second sentence, I changed the message. That people are being gouged of their limited resources because they or their children need epinephrine to not die is screwed up.

One might object that they think children are blameless and that drug users deserve worse. Even thinking that, to try to drag the conditions of drug users down instead of to raise the conditions of children up is at best an expression of bitter ressentiment.

And this is, of course, just one form. This shoddy rhetoric also comes up with the minimum wage. Some people will say that, for example, nurses only make $13 an hour, so clearly people working cash registers should make less than $13 an hour. Thinking and speaking that way only drags everyone down. If you want to hold onto that nurses should make more than cashiers, then instead reason that since everyone working should make at least, say, $15 an hour, nurses should make at least $20 an hour. And instead of saying we should make drug users pay up or die, instead say nobody should be forced into such a bad situation.

Moderation in online threads is nice

Brian Leiter, who only opens comments on his blog occasionally and moderates them well, posted a funny list of descriptive laws that mostly speak to this point. Public Facebook pages, Youtube comments, and so on are generally unmoderated or close enough to unmoderated that they turn into complete trash. At most people spamming advertisements, obscenities, and other obvious trash are removed. Forums that also enforce things like staying on topic and actually making a point (if the thread is about arguing) or otherwise contributing a net positive to the conversation are generally better. (Which is why when I have moderation powers over a thread, I’ll cut off post chains that look like they’re going nowhere good, even if to the dismay of the poster.)