On ending the discussion about feral blacks and the image of God

A reader in England writes:

Subject: OH VFR READERS CAN THIS REALLY BE THE END? (of controversial intelligent discussion at VFR)

That you were “forced” to end the feral blacks and image of God discussion reflects not only the intellectual limitations of the liberal world (yes they probably would see it as a racist discussion) but the limitations of certain segments of the conservative VFR readership (Matt in this case at the forefront). It was an extremely intelligent discussion but I understand why you had to end it. [LA replies: I was not forced to end the discussion. As you may have noticed, I had rejected Matt’s previous demands that the discussion be ended. But then he made an argument that persuaded me, that the discussion would be reasonably seen by some as a discussion about whether “a segment of the black population is subhuman.” And Matt was correct that that was not a discussion that I wished to have or to be seen as having. The problem was, the thread was a bit of a mixed bag, as it had started off on the subject of feral blacks but then became a discussion about the Bible, the Book of Revelations, and so on having nothing to do with blacks or race. As I said, I am open (notiwithstanding Lydia McGrew’s statement that such a discussion should NEVER, EVER BE ALLOWED) to having further discussions on the question whether it is possible for a human being to lose the image of God, so long as the discussion does not seem to be about whether blacks are subhuman, which is not a discussion I want to have.]

Matt simply lost the “image of VFR” from his sight. Mentions of Nietzsche and Nazism etc. were simply ridiculous. He just missed the boat on this one, misunderstanding the nature of the discussion. [LA replies: Clever about Matt losing the “image of VFR.” I agree that his warnings about Nazism and Nietzsche, as well as some of his other warnings, were ridiculous and overheated, and that was why I rejected them. But then he made a point that I found persuasive. Persuasion is what rational discourse is about. Neither he nor anyone forced me to do anything.]

I’ve taken you up for the occasional nasty or over the top statements by you or others at VFR but this had nothing to do with that. This was a “decent” discussion. This was an intelligent discussion. And an intellectually interesting one.

In addition, you have made it clear that not all (young or old) blacks are feral let alone inherently feral (created by God to be feral). And that many are decent people.

You (and other readers) also never said other individuals from other groups of people were not susceptible to lose sight of the image of God. The Hitler/Stalin reference at the end by one commenter was a good example.

To show how race was not the only factor in town in the context of this discussion (and I am not playing the equivalence game here), I would have brought up the white Irish travellers’ culture as being more broadly “feral” than the black culture. While there are many young “ferals” within the black culture, especially the American black culture, there are huge amounts of very decent black and mixed race people, often seriously religious. While from my experience with the Irish tinkers/travellers, EVERY single young person from that subculture without exception could be described as feral and as significantly losing sight of and being significantly blinded to the image of God. The Irish travellers/tinkers are the lowest culture I have ever encountered. The Romanian gypsies are a close second. Blacks would be up there but only some blacks (still a significant amount).

Of course even the ferals from the black community and white travellers could be said to have some “godly” qualities. For example most would probably say they loved their mother or grandmother or aunt (note they are all female figures). Stalin loved his daughter. Hitler loved his dogs. Most black ferals and travellers’ ferals would probably say they care about their fellow ferals.

So maybe there is no such thing as a 100 percent feral and no such phenomenon as completely losing sight of the image of God. The Aurora killer probably loved his family.

I wonder if any individual in human history could be said to have completely lost sight of the image of God. Someone who did not care about anyone and treated every human being and every animal with complete contempt.

Anyway, thanks for a stimulating discussion while it lasted.

Ben M. writes:

People object to human beings being called “animals.” They resent if human beings are classified as “sub-human.” Yet paradoxically they will accept Darwinism that sees human roots in the animal kingdom. They will accept “sub-human” origins to the human race in things like the Hoggs Bison. How dare anyone reduce people to animals or objectify (or reify) human essence. Yet they will accept reductionist science that defines human beings as pure mass or energy. [LA replies: They don’t just say that humanity has roots in the animal kingdom, they say right out that human beings are animals.]

Conservatives, no less than liberals, are spooked by the Nazi Holocaust and factor this into their “image of God” discussions, fearing a Nazi replay if some humans are defined as bestial (non-human). Ironically “the image of God” becomes a kind of the lowest common denominator applicable to man in spite of man’s morals. It’s as if the essence of God can reside in an immoral or amoral vessel when the whole of Scripture is against the reduction of God to the lowest common denominator. The image of God is supposed to be the highest common denominator. As the Gospel of John puts it, to them that believed he gave them power to become the sons of God (chapter 1).

Being a son of God is not an a priori essentialist view of Scripture nor is the “image of God” a universal. Genesis said that God made man in the image of God and thereafter that line ceases to operate as Adam’s sons draw their descent as men from Adam, not God. From chapter two onward in the Old Testament, there is no further mention of “the image of God” as operative in man’s biological descent. This is what enables Jesus to say to others, “You are of the devil.” Jesus in an non-liberal moment actually “demonizes” some people and does not acknolwedge any divine family tree in their being. What do liberals and conservatives do with this “demonization” (a word people fear) coming from their “humane” and humanistic Christ?

As I indicated in a previous comment, the Book of Revelation shows the progressive inclusion of humanity into the amalgamated image of the beast. The human race does not grow into the full sonship and image of God but continues to rail against and blaspheme God in the Book of Revelation. Beastliness becomes the lowest human common denominator, not the image of God.

And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. (16:9.)

Ben M. continues:

An added thought. From chapter three onward in the Book of Genesis, man’s descent is described as a biological chain from Adam. Each succeeding generation bears a man’s name—a man “begot” so and so and the family is named after a patriarch. There is no mention of the image of God or the name of God in this line of descent thereafter. In fact Genesis mentions that only after a number of generations, did men begin to call on the name of God which apparently had been forgotten or avoided after Cain.

Terry Morris writes:

An interesting and lively discussion I was able to learn from. Too bad it ended on a sour note. :(

Matt writes:

I am unimpressed by the fact that various people are quoting the Bible to support their Nietzschean/Nazi deontology of the superman. Quoting the Bible as support can’t change the nature of an idea from something that it is, into something it is not.

I can see why antiessentialists would think that way though. The idea of the superman is just what they say it is: nothing more, nothing less.

LA replies:

Matt, I have to say, or repeat, that this is ridiculous. The Nietzschean/Nazi deontology of the superman that you find in this discussion exists only in your mind.

LA continues:

Also, I note that Matt’s e-mail has the subject line: “On ending the discussion that hasn’t ended…”

He is misstating what has happened here. I ended the earlier thread because I realized that it would be seen as about whether segment of the black population is subhuman, which, as I said, was a subject I did not want to discuss. At the same time, I specifically stated that I continued to regard the larger topic, on whether a human being can lose the image of God, as a legitimate topic for discussion. Evidently it was not enough for Matt to win the argument and persuade me to end the earlier discussion on the grounds I stated. He wants to shut the discussion down on all grounds. He wants to prohibit any debate on whether it’s possible for human beings to become so degraded that they lose the image of God. Sorry, Matt, that’s not going to happen, notwithstanding your scare tactics of accusing VFR readers of promoting a Nazi/Nietschean ideology of the superman.

Julien B. writes:

I’m puzzled by the discussion about humanity and sub-humanity. Obviously it’s very un-PC to suggest that anyone is “sub-human,” but what exactly is so troubling about the idea? Since the original idea was that some might lose their humanity (or their full humanity) through extreme moral depravity, the relevant notion of humanity must be moral: it is the concept of some morally significant trait that confers a special status on you and I that crocodiles lack. (It isn’t the biological concept of a being belonging to our species.) But if this is what we’re talking about, I don’t see how it can be just obvious that all members of our biological species have that special trait—especially given that some appear to have no morally significant traits that would distinguish them from crocodiles. Likewise, I don’t see how it can be obviously beyond the pale of civilized discussion to explore this question when the answer is unobvious. At VFR liberals are often criticized for refusing to think about facts or evidence contrary to their political outlook.

Is Matt’s position that VFR types should likewise refuse to consider this topic because it threatens certain conservative or Christian moral convictions? Or does he think, perhaps, that mere biological humanity—membership in our species—just obviously does confer the special moral status that distinguishes you and I from crocodiles? In that case we should ask what it is about that biological trait that all by itself suffices for that kind of moral status, even in the absence—as far as we can tell, at least—of the most basic decency or empathy or moral understanding. To appeal to Christianity, and say that God created all biologically human beings with this special status, seems to beg the question. Your original point was that based on what we can observe it is hard to believe that some biologically human beings do have the morally significant traits typical of our kind. I suppose one could simply assert that Christianity is true, and therefore our observations must be misleading.

LA replies:

To paraphrase the title of an entry posted last night, “Nationwide pushback against the homosexualist tyranny,” this thread looks like a VFR-wide pushback against Christianist tyranny.

I hope Matt takes that as the joke that it is. He knows that I respect him very much. But I do believe that he is using bullying tactics in this discussion, and when people do that, naturally there is a pushback.

Ian M. writes:

While I agree fully with Matt and Lydia that man cannot lose the image of God, I’m not sure I agree with them in thinking that this is not an appropriate topic for debate. There is obviously a lot of confusion and disagreement on the issue, so I think it may have been worthwhile for those who do not believe one cannot lose the image of God to explain more fully why one cannot lose the image of God. How otherwise to convince those who disagree?

I think that Matt’s analogy to pedophilia was inapt: if we lived in a society where pedophilia were widely accepted, then we would have to explain to people exactly what was wrong with it. For example, in the modern West we must explain why homosexuality is wrong because so many people are confused on the issue. We don’t simply tell those who disagree, “You’re wrong and this is a topic that is not up for debate,” even though in a more traditional society, that response may have been appropriate.

A few other points:

I thought the discussion was very interesting, but one thing I found frustrating is that a lot of commenters focused on their own private interpretations of the Bible. But Biblical interpretation should not be done in a vacuum. What about the Church’s interpretation? Surely, the historic Church has had something to say about this topic, and I would trust her accumulated wisdom over a modern layman’s interpretation that’s been given all of five minutes’ thought. I for one would have loved to see more references to what some orthodox theologians had to say on the topic (there was some of this, e.g. Joseph A.’s comment). My strong suspicion is that the Church settled this question long ago.

To me, the Bible is not exactly clear on this question. But a lot of commenters seem to think that the answer must come directly from the Bible for us to have any certainty about it (I’m not sure if anyone explicitly stated that, so perhaps I am being too critical, but that’s the sense I got). But I don’t believe that’s true. For example, the doctrine of the Trinity is not explicitly stated in Scripture, yet Christians are certain of it. The question of whether man can lose the divine image seems to me more a question within philosophy’s domain. Here is philosopher Edward Feser on what the human soul is from a traditional Christian and classical philosophy point of view. I think it is relevant to the question at hand.

I thought Kristor’s response was excellent (and also very well-written—poetic, even).

Thank you.

Matt writes:

I don’t know why people continue to misconstrue what I said. I thought I was pretty clear.

I’m pretty sure that most VFR commenters would agree that it is morally wrong to have an “open” discussion in which all positions on pedophilia are treated as equally respectable. An “open” discussion on whether certain classes of people are subhuman is morally in the same category as an “open” discussion of pedophilia. [LA replies: Not only does Matt continue to employ his wildly inappropriate analogy to pedophilia (see Ian M.’s comment above), but he misstates what the discussion is about. I discontinued the previous thread because there was mixed in it the possible misperception that we were talking about the possibility that entire classes of persons, particularly racial classes of persons, could be less than human. The rest of the discussion, the part of the discussion I said was legitimate and worthwhile, the part of the discussion that I am allowing to continue in this new thread, concerns not classes of persons who might be considered less than human simply because of their membership in a class, but rather … (drumroll) … individual human persons who by their own degradation of themselves might cease to be considered as fully human. In short, I am allowing discussion about whether a human being might cease to be human as a result of extreme sin or evil, I am not allowing a discussion about whether people might not be human because of their membership in a race or in a subgroup of a race. We will continue to discuss the black problem, including blacks’ collective lack of capacity for civilization, but we will not conduct that discussion in terms of whether blacks are human. In this connection, see my 2003 comment where I referenced Albert Schweitzer’s remark that blacks are our younger brothers.]

I am making a meta-point about the morality of discussions, and following that with a particular judgment about a particular discussion which treats the proposition that some class of people are subhuman as a respectable proposition.

There is a sense in which it is true that it is “question begging” to propose that it is wrong to hold a discussion in which all views on pedophilia are treated with equal respect. I suppose there is also a sense in which it is “bullying” to refuse to discuss pedophilia on those terms. I don’t apologize for question begging and bullying in that sense.

Mark L. writes,

I’ve been reading the thread and while there were so many interesting points brought out, what stood out to me was the elephant in the room: evolution. While not mentioned by you or your commenters, it seems to be the unstated reason why Christians would be troubled by the very mention of words or concepts like sub-human, especially when applied more to one race than to others.

I believe that for some people, the very existence of this underclass of apparently un-reformable feral blacks seems incompatible with the biblical teaching that God created mankind in his image and likeness. Furthermore, it would seem to lend support to the Darwinian idea that mankind has evolved from apes, and due to the forces of environment and heredity, some (Asians, whites) more than others (blacks).

Clearly, most of your Christian readers would agree that the biblical doctrine of the Fall can account sufficiently for the Hitlers, Stalins, Pol Pots and Jeffrey Dahmers of the world. When man allows himself to be corrupted, and ultimately yields to the evil that is resident in every human heart, there is no telling the depths to which he can plunge.

But when one brings an entire people group into the discussion, as you did with blacks in the previous discussion, there is something in us that finds it difficult to believe that God would so exercise his sovereignty as to create such a large concentration of feral beings among this one group.

When the Bible speaks of people as animals (dogs, bulls, swine, beasts of the field, etc.), the problem is MORAL or SPIRITUAL, and as such is something that can be changed. A person/culture does not have to remain dog-like, swinish or bestial. But when the problem is linked with GENETICS (e.g. low IQ, low impulse control)—as you often link it—that troubles many Christians, because (a) it sounds like something a Darwinian would say, (b) the problems appear to be intractable, and (c) the Bible sees good and evil as matters of the heart, not as something that stems from genetics. Many Christians are highly uncomfortable with the notion that our underclass is made up of people whose plight is determined by genetics, rather than by the free-will choices of individuals.

(For my part, I believe the underclass CAN be changed, but primarily through the efforts of other blacks who have such a burden for their own people that they are willing to sacrifice everything to bring them the gospel, and all that goes with it.)

Matt writes:

OK, let’s stipulate that the discussion is about a class of people who have become members of that class by their own actions, as opposed to “accident of birth” or whatever.

That doesn’t make “open” discussion of whether or not that class of people is subhuman untermensch, with theories pro as well as con treated as equally respectable, into an acceptable discussion for civilized men.

LA replies:

It is unfortunate that Matt, not being content with having persuaded me on one point, keeps insisting on my complete agreement with him on all points. The discussion we’ve been having has been a perfectly acceptable discussion for civilized men. Matt’s continued reference to “untermenschen,” summoning up images of Nazi mass murder, is ludicrous. What is he afraid we will do to individuals whom we determine, as a consequence of their own evil actions, to have lost the image of God? Execute them en masse? But traditional society (of which America is the only partial remnant in the Western world) already executes certain types of criminals. And since we are talking about individuals, not classes, nothing worse would happen to murderers who are believed to have lost the image of God than already happens to murderers who are believed to have the image of God. So Matt’s passionate indignation is much ado about nothing.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 02, 2012 09:14 AM | Send

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