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Christians and Defamation

One who covers up hatred by lying,
And one who spreads defamation is stupid.
— Proverbs 10:18
(my translation, but try any version you like)

I’m often interested in the portions of the Bible that some Christians think they must follow, and what portions many Christians think they can avoid. For example, right now many conservative Christians seem to think they are more bound by Leviticus 18:22 (you shall not lie with a male as with a woman: it is an abomination) than they are by Leviticus 19:34 (The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you).

But when it gets down to lying, slander, and defamation of character, it seems that the Biblical mandate is pretty clear. Christians definitely should not be engaged in slander or defamation. But how far can one go in “misunderstanding,” shall we say, and still fall within the bounds of Christian behavior?

There is just such a defamation going on right now, defamation of the character of Dr. Erik Pianka. I’m not breaking this news. I’m going to provide you with some blog entries so you can research it for yourself. These blog entries contain both opinion on the topic, but also links to other sources of information so you can research this for yourself. I would simply note that the accusations made against Dr. Pianka are of such a nature that any reasonable person should question them, and should research very carefully before making such accusations or repeating them. This is a very clear case from the Christian biblical point of view of slander.

Let me just list some sources:

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  1. Did he or did he not suggest airborne Ebola as a good way to reduce the population by 90%? Did he or did he not say that the bird flu would work too? Did he or did he not say that he admired China for it’s forced abortion laws and forced sterilization? Did he or did he not say that we should sterilize everyone on earth? Is this or is this not the kind of thinking that goes against everything that we as Americans believe and are fighting for right now? Have you been to his bio page on his website? The man is a self-professed hermit living alone in the desert with a herd of bison! I can’t believe that there is no chance that this man could be dangerous. Maybe he’s not, but someone could definately take this idea and run with it. How is he any different than Radical Islamists who want to kill anyone who’s not muslim? That would certainly reduce the world’s population. I’m not even disagreeing with the idea that we have been poor to our environment, I have only a skimming of knowledge on the overpopulaton debate. But he sounds too much like Peter Singer, who suggests abortion, infanticide and non-voluntary euthanasia for the handicapped. If the Christians up in arms have lied about things he has said, then yes, they are wrong. But, even the things Pianka suggested that I listed above, which have been confirmed, are enough to question his integrity. And you make it sound like he reported some kind of information that was new and he would have been wrong not to share it. However, his beliefs are not new, and many people hold to the same beliefs as he. So who is wrong here? Those who are offended and worried by someone suggesting that they have their basic rights violated or the one who believes that they should have their rights taken away?

    Here are some fantastic passages from the book of Jude:

    Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand (the things of God); and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them.
    17But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

  2. Kimberly Loomis said:

    If the Christians up in arms have lied about things he has said, then yes, they are wrong. But, even the things Pianka suggested that I listed above, which have been confirmed, are enough to question his integrity. And you make it sound like he reported some kind of information that was new and he would have been wrong not to share it.

    1. Not all of the things you have suggested above are things he actually said, thus you join with others in posting false information.

    2. I will repeat that if he believes what he says, he should report it. Those who oppose it should oppose what he has said with facts, assuming they have them.

    3. Your scripture text is completely off point.

    I’m not even disagreeing with the idea that we have been poor to our environment, I have only a skimming of knowledge on the overpopulaton debate.

    I’d suggest you get more than a skimming knowledge of it.

  3. When did Peter Singer support “non-voluntary euthanasia”? Perhaps you could quote a passage, because I’ve never read anything by him where he does this.

  4. Well I had forgot about this thread until I did a search…and it popped up again!!

    My admission: I did jump the gun based on reporting done by several in the media at newspapers and magazine I thought to be of integrity. I think that the author of one, who was in the crowd based on his already established dislike for Pianka, had written to do exactly that. Again, I assumed (and made an ass of me…) that the people reporting could be trusted.

    So I went to his U of Texas website and read his speech and his What No One Wants to Hear but Every One Needs To Know.

    I have one quote for you that explains exactly why so many people freaked out so much.
    ” We still allow people to have more than 2 kids.” What a frightening sentance. Who is the ‘WE’? Pianka and who else? Who else is allowing me to reproduce as I wish? He quoted Ehrlic saying that if we don’t have the political will to control our own population microbes will do it for us.

    You tell me exactly what he is suggesting but doesn’t actually have the balls to come out and say?

    “Humans are no better than bacteria…we need to use our brains rather than merely breed our brains out.” Stupid humans…except for Pianka, of course…he’s the smart one.

    No, wait…”Educated people tend to have fewer children than non educated people. Garrett Hardin pointed this out and said that those who don’t have any conscience about the earth are going to inherit the planet because those who don’t care are leaving more progeny than those who do care. And so, human conscience is on the way out if we persist on our present course we are going to evolve into uncaring humanoids.” Okay, so if you have, what, your bachelors…or maybe your masters…or Phd, then you somehow get an ‘earth conscience’. But doesn’t he say also that MD’s aren’t required in many colleges to take biology anymore? So who are these caring, educated people anyway???

    So here I am, in my uneducated hovel, breeding my brains out and over populating the earth. That’s exactly what is going on.

    You see, the problem is that this man is spending his time with charts and graphs and books and experiments and mathematics. He doesn’t see individual humans. He sees numbers. This is because he has an engineer mindset. This is why so many are offended. They are relational, they see each individual human and have empathy and connection.

    Christians are especially offended for two reasons. One is that they forget that the Bible teaches that some will not believe and that it is not any person’s responsibility to convince someone of the existance of God. I say this because Christians get up in arms with people who are obviously athesistic or agnostic. Two is that they hold each human life as sacred and that ultimately God is in control.

    I can see how Pianka feels such a gigantic burden based on the scientific knowledge he has and the atheistic view he holds to. To believe that we alone are in charge of how it’s all going to work out is a sad, hard, terrible thing to have to carry with you, knowing how awful human beings are by nature. But true followers of Jesus Christ also know how sick and selfish we are by nature. We also know that there is a way to change that Ethical Sequence by Leopold and Nash so that self is no longer in the center. It is only through the change one endures through belief in Jesus Christ and true following of his teachings that we can ever hope to alter the way people live their lives. But, not everyone is chosen to believe. Many of these people will continue to live with self at the center of their universe. We cannot reach some perfect utopian place through control of procreation or control of anything else or conversion of everyone to Christianity. This is why you can feel the futility of Pianka’s message, because he cannot suggest that we turn into a communistic society that controls it’s citizens that way. With that kind of control comes control of everything else. And then, why live? So, the only answer is to convert people to Pianka’s way of thinking, living, breeding and acting. This won’t happen because it goes against the very fabric of our beings. We were made to be obligated to God. Not ourselves and not Biology or nature. But my words are as futile as a clanging gong to anyone who has not been chosen to believe. In the end, all I can say is that Christians such as those who made things up to tear Pianka down are giving a bad name to true followers of Christ. However, the message he sends is so much against the alignment of our hearts. That people who live in this country honestly believe that some sort of government should limit the number of children we can have is scary. Force me to recycle, force me to conserve water, force me to drive a certain kind of car. Just don’t force me to deny my religous beliefs for the sake of the earth. Teach me how to be a better steward of the earth. Just don’t teach me that I and my offspring are no better than bacteria. We didn’t choose to do all the crappy things our ancestors did. We are not responsible for their actions. Teach us where to go from here without having to forsake empathy, compassion and love.

  5. For info on Peter Singer, please go to http://www.utilitarian.net/singer. You will find many articles but please note his November 8th 2005 article Ethics and Disability. Here he talks in detail about how it is wrong to kill a human who has the capacity to know itself and make plans for the future among other things. He then uses that basis to make a point that newborn infants do not have that capacity and that although they have the capacity for this, capacity is not enough to make newborn infants (or anyone without that capacity, i.e. the severely disabled, those with dementia, etc) wrong to kill. (pg.2, last 2 paragraphs) Please read through all his articles to get a fuller view of his ideals.

  6. Kimberly,

    Thanks for the links. I think I already indicated that I disagreed with some of what Pianka said. I think he may be a bit over the top about some things, and I certainly don’t advocate forcible birth control, for example. But I’m not an environmental expert, so I would have some difficulty debating those issues with him.

    My problem was with some the Christian response. Instead of disagreeing with what he did say, some people disagreed with what they imagined him to have said. It was wrong on two levels: 1) It was wrong because it was a lie and 2) It was bad strategy. Note that I believe the lie would be wrong even if it was a successful strategy, but in this case it was also an unsuccessful lie. The story was about one exaggerated claim, rather than about an overall view of how to deal with the environment.

    And despite any disagreement I might have about alarmist statements, or about use of force to accomplish the goal of reduced population growth, I must say also that I do believe we are in a dangerous situation with the environment, that we are reckless in reproduction, and that we are destroying the environment. If reasonable solutions are not applied, more radical solutions could easily become the only apparently available options. Perhaps Christians would be better served by advocating reasonable and responsible policies now, while we have a little time.

  7. I agree with you, and the Proverb you quoted in your first posting is very appropriate.

    I believe with Pianka that we have taken the ‘replenish the earth’ out of the Genesis scripture. We are being irresponsbible and terrible stewards with the place God has given us to live. I have heard teachers preach about being good stewards of what God has given us, and usually they focus on money. (Go figure…) However, I do believe that we live in an environment that is just as affected by the fall as human being are. I believe the choices people made in the past that set us up for environmental failure were made for a reason. I will do what I personally can to make things better but I cannot simply hop on the save the earth bandwagon and commit my life to the cause. I will adopt unwanted children and help widows and single parents. And all the while I will attempt to grow my own vegetables and recycle and walk more and drive less. I’m not sure what else is expected of me to affect change. But if anyone thinks I’m stupid for not ‘caring’ enough, well…I guess I just don’t care.

    I can’t speak for Christians, but I can speak for me and the other followers of Christ in my life. We look to eternity, to what is far beyond now or even 500 years from now. We believe it is but a blink of the eye compared to where we will spend forever. So we are focused on helping others who have been chosen to believe to live with eternity in mind. You can’t commit your life to more than one big, giant thing. This is what we have commited to. So we leave the fate of the earth to God, attempt good stewardship of what He has given us and rest in the knowlege that what the Bible says is the Truth. We don’t believe that the fate of our planet rests in solely in our hands. We have free will to make our choices but the plan is already written into the future. It is a great mystery and we are content with that. Meanwhile we eat organic food when we can afford it and recycle, try not to use up too much gas and energy and make sound decisions regarding the environment. But if it is a choice between supporting the sanctity of the planet or the sanctity of human life, we choose human life. We are blessed to be able to make that choice ourselves and not have either made for us.

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