Scott Hardie | January 25, 2004
A pastor in Texas has been photographing each car that visits an adult video store in his neighborhood. He then runs the license plate and sends a postcard (of the car at the store) to the owner, with an invitation to come to church. Here's the story.

Opinions on this?

As an atheist and as a pornography enthusiast, I say, stop rubbing your fucking nose in other people's business. This guy says he's within the law, then brags about pressuring people not to go to the store; is that not harassment and intimidation?

Anna Gregoline | January 26, 2004
Yes, and people visiting the store are within the law too - that's pretty wrong. If that had happened to me, that guy would be slapped with some kind of lawsuit right quick.

Jackie Mason | January 26, 2004
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Steve West | January 26, 2004
Without sounding overly defensive of this man's tactics, I feel the need to clear up one miscopnception. This pastor's ultimate desire is not just to bring people to church but to win their souls for Jesus Christ. Is there anything better for a man of Christ to do? I, myself am an unapologetic Christian, but I personally deplore his methodology.

Scott Hardie | January 26, 2004
True, and I do appreciate his desire to get such a business out of his neighborhood. I'd try to take whatever reasonable actions I could to drive away a local business that similarly offended me. But I don't know, there's something really vexing about the pleasure he takes in this work. He relishes the thought of embarrassing the customers to their wives and girlfriends, and asks why they're shopping there if it embarrasses them - and yet they wouldn't be embarrassed at all if he hadn't made a point of it. Something as harmless as a crass t-shirt can be embarrassing when the church is looking down its nose at you.

Kris Weberg | January 26, 2004
If I understand the philosophical underpinnings of Christianity correctly, its doctrine (broadly, and across denominations) is that human beings are both innately possessed of and tend to compound moral error, or in religious terms, sin. Christ, through a unique ontological status, called in religion divinity, was able to assume the burden of moral error and provide absolution for it via the supererogatory fulfillment of the ritual of sacrifice -- Jesus sacrificed himself, and was able to thereby take on the epistemological consequences of sin (and remove the ontological consequence of damnation). At least part of divinity, and in some theological circles all of it, relies on the notion that God and the divine are morally perfect on an ontological level -- divinity means that one will not and arguably cannot fall into moral error,

Moral agents who are not divine -- you and me and everyone -- are then able to choose absolution by choosing to believe in Christ and Christ's divinity. What qualifies "true belief" can vary from denomination to denomination, but at the basic level, it means accepting that Christ is the Savior and that the Crucifixion was the mechanism of salvation.

Now, as a creature who, by Christianity's very own underpinnings -- the ones that made Christ's death on the cross and subsequent resurrection morally necessary and the moral character of that act globally effective for human agents -- will sin no matter what, and is only redeemed from death and damnation by belief in Christ and Christianity , whether I commit specific sins of lust really doesn't enter into it. If I accept Christ as Savior and try not to rebel, though I will still inevitably fall into moral error as an inherently sinful being, my soul is safe.

Yet this pastor's actions seem to indicate that he is singling out a specific type of sin, assuming that the sinners involved are not believers because of it, and in general privileging carnality as a specially corrupting or rebeliious type of moral error. In the face of God's moral perfection as supposed by Christianity, any moral error is grounds for damnation -- again, this is why Christ dies for everyone in Christian theology, rather than just the particularly unvirtuous. Meaning that on aultimate ontological level, all sins are bad, bad, things. (Yes, I know that Catholic theology distinguishes moral and venal sins, but their doctrine also poses that failing to seek even limited absolution from either sort damns the soul. All sin can potentially damn you. Or, if you've sought limited absolution, sends you to Purgatory. Tangent over.) This pastor's actions seem to belie a distinct lack of knowledge, or at least consideration, of the nature of Christianity's moral and philosophical structure.

In shorter terms, maybe he should take a refresher at seminary.

p.s. -- I don't quite understand, by the way, why this absolution is conditional on belief in God. Wouldn't that seem to undercut the free moral choice involved in faith by providing an inducement; not to mention sullying the notion that the Christ died to absolve all humans by turning and claiming that Jesus' sacrifice is not in itself sufficient to save, but that the saving quality of Christ's act must be accepted, usually along with a set of selfimposed qualifiers on one's own moral freedom to act, in order for the sacrifice to be effective? If it is a fact that Jesus' death cleansed the sins of all humans, throughout time, my belief or disbelief in Christ, Christ's divinity, or Christ's sacrifice can't alter this absolution -- it's simply true. Even if I don't believe that Jesus died for all mankind to be saved, that doesn't mean Christ didn't and that I'm not saved by the supposedly universal character of the sacrifice Jesus made.

I've heard the metaphor of "rejecting Jesus' gift" by choosing not to believe in Christianity, but the notion that Christ freely and deliberately chose to die, and that Christ is God incarnate and thus affects all of God's created, seem to contradict this on several levels. It's not a gift if it's given with a conditiont hat has nothing to do with the basic morality involved -- all who sin are rejecting God, and rejecting God's law, yet none can avoid sin and thus must rely on recourse to Christ's sacrifice. Why is one type of sin -- disbelief, -- granted a special and absolute moral character that takes on the same, if oppositely oriented, ontologically and ethically transcendant character as the death of God in human flesh?

But then, as God is the Creator of all things that are not in themselves God, God is thus the source of the very conditions of moral choice and morality itself -- and thus not only the possibility but the definition of what constitutes sin are determined by God. God sets up the rules, God sets up the situation, and inexplicably allows the possibility of moral error to begin with in a Christian philosophical system.

Which again, seems to make little sense -- how can a competely morally perfect being be even indirectly responsible for moral error, if only by producing a non-transcendental stage (or ontological and epistemological condition, for the geeks among ye) in which sin becomes possible to define and commit? Seems God could have saved Himself a lot of time, trouble, and prolonged agonized dying if He'd skipped this whole "Creation" notion, or at least the sentient and free willed parts of it.

Erik Bates | January 27, 2004
[hidden by request]

Scott Hardie | January 27, 2004
As for myself, Kris: You're preaching to the choir.

Steve West | January 27, 2004
As most of your responses are Kris, they demonstrate well connected thought and reasonable clarity. I suspect that your SAT scores not only grind my own into dust but sweep off the spot where they stood. I promised myself that I would not use this forum to proselytize - and I won't. But searching for the truth of Christ as merely an intellectual exercise is foolhardy at best.

I carry a short passage around with me in my wallet that I printed from the web years ago. For me (not necessarily anyone else), it reminds me that Christ's message of truth is not as complex as some may represent.

And Jesus said unto them, "And whom do you say that I am?" They replied, "You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the ontological foundation of the context of our very selfhood revealed."
And Jesus replied, "What?"

Jesus' nurturing message of love is diluted by those self-acclaimed Christians who act on their own agendas in the name of Christ. The church (and organized religion as a whole) has a deserved reputation, oftentimes poor, based on what Scott phrased as looking down their noses at supposed offenses. Don't blame Christ for the shortcomings of his well-intentioned but off-track servants and never accept these ridiculous actions from people who should know better as being condoned by Christ.

Scott Hardie | January 27, 2004
Well put. And I like that quote. Any idea who wrote it?

I doubt this really needs to be explained, but I want to get something off my chest. I don't say many positive things about Christian churches or Christians in general, on account of 99.9% of them living their lives like normal, respectable people. It's the occasional pest like Pastor Norwood who gets on my nerves and inspires comment. But I never want it to seem like I hold the church in contempt because of this imbalance of recognition on my part; that's not true at all. Sometimes I feel like there's no point in my praising the church - it can get by just fine without me - while the aforementioned pests are more than deserving of criticism, from me or anyone else. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I don't blame anyone for Norwood except Norwood.

Anna Gregoline | January 27, 2004
"This pastor's ultimate desire is not just to bring people to church but to win their souls for Jesus Christ."

What I want to know is, how does the pastor know these people aren't already saved? It seems it's more to embarrass and shame them than anything else.


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