17 April 2013

A Lie in their Right Hand

by Frank Turk

Before we get to the main festivities, I have two bits of internet housekeeping.
Michael Carpenter is the Church Planter/Pastor of a new work here in Little Rock called The Church at Argenta, which is the plant of a couple of local SBC churches.  I met Michael through Ed Stetzer, and he is both not like me and just like me.

Michael is bi-vocational, and his other vocation is MUGS CAFE.  It's Michael's way of living in the community he is evangelizing.  And: like any new business, it needs the right starting push.

You can give it that push by clicking through the above tweet (or right here) and voting for Mugs Cafe -- one a day, every day, until May 6th when voting closes.  It costs you nothing, and could win Michael the commercial refrigeration case he needs for the sandwich bar.

The other piece of housekeeping is to one-up Ed Stetzer by linking you to the new album by @EmmanuelMN
The buzz is that it's "pretty sick," which I think is how the kids these days say it's enjoyable and satisfying.  Kids these days ...

Lastly, it takes me about 15-20 minutes to drive to work everyday, and the same to come home.  Occasionally I use that time to catch an especially compelling podcast, like the new one from The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals called "the Mortification of Spin."  It's criminal that this podcast only comes out once every other week, but as a free service of the proprietors of Reformation21.org, it's worth every second and always worth the wait.

However: None of that is what I'm blogging about.

What I'm blogging about is how I spend the other 9 days going to and from work -- which is to listen to secular talk radio, specifically the News, and then on the way home NPR's "All Things Considered."  The sharper implements in the utensil drawer will have noticed the distinction I have made there, because there's bias, there's MSM bias, and then there's NPR -- which is, on most days, the most self-involved demonstration in any medium of how the secular cultural forces in the US view themselves and the world around them.  Sometimes I wonder if these people ever leave the studios they broadcast from -- because the lack of interaction with actual people who do things for a living during these two hours is staggering.

For me, it's an education regarding the unadulterated secularism and unvarnished idolatry of the world.  I can hear things on NPR no one else would ever dream of saying out loud, so when it comes to talking to a person in fact about any of these subjects, I have already heard the worst and most offensive interpretation of the issue via NPR.  The odds of being shocked by someone's secularism, then, is greatly reduced.

All that to come to the point, which today is about religious practice and freedom.  Before you read on, please take the 2 minutes it will take to read this transcript of a story from last wednesday.

If you don't have 2 minutes, the Hopi Indians are apparently a great example of Is 44:12-20.  Their religion includes a kind of mask-making, and the masks are called "katsina" masks.  Apparently if you wear one, you become a katsina spirit.

Now, bear with me, because that's not really the part worth fretting over.  Of course the Hopi believe that.  I think you can't be Hopi unless you believe that -- they actually distinguish themselves as the civilized ones, and all other people as uncivilized.  So this religious devotion to the Katsina spirits, the iquatzi beings embodied by the masks, is essentially Hopi.

This is also not the part worth fretting over, but it is the main conflict here: they want the artifacts housed at the Neret-Minet Auction House, which include some of these masks, to be shipped back to them immediately, and for the auction house to abandon an upcoming auction of the items, er, um, friends and spirits because, undoubtedly, they are stolen.

When were they stolen?  That's omitted from this story.

Now look: what is actually the troubling part of this story is this here:
BREUNIG: Where a Westerner would see it as an artwork, the Hopis see it as something much more and something that cannot, cannot be sold in this way. It is incredibly painful for them. 
MORALES: And that's why the Hopi Tribal Council recently talked to reporters. They wanted to put public pressure on the auction house. Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa says taking these items off Hopi land is against tribal law. In essence, they're stolen. 
LEROY SHINGOITEWA: Today, if I was to go downtown of Flagstaff and go into any one of the churches and take a figure of Christ or a cross or whatever and go outside and use it for a fence post, in this country, I would be prosecuted immediately. Our dilemma is that now, we're working in international waters.
Now, let's at least understand the good Chief Shingoitewa's point here: he wants other people to respect his religion.  For my part, I think I don't have to believe his religion in order to say, "well, if you want to believe that, I can't stop you."

But: I do have to object to his hypothetical claim.  First of all: crosses are bought and sold every day all over the world.    Whether that's a great idea, a neutral fact, or a violation of the 2nd commandment [thx Bev] I'll leave for another day.  My point in mentioning it is only to say that nobody is violating my conscience toward the Cross and its image by buying one or selling one -- and to say otherwise is, at best, hyperbole.

And having said all that, that is still not the biggest tall tale in this complaint.  Let's be honest: the images of those things considered sacred by the group broadly-considered as "Christian" are not hardly never desecrated or mocked.  Jesus winds up on South Park often enough to put this claim to bed forever -- and to mention all the far-worse desecrations of Christian iconography and statuary which can easily be found in a quick internet search causes the claim by Chief Shingoitewa to be lacking only a laugh track to indicate it is a cheap punchline and not a real plea for civilized people to come to their senses.

It's actually a little terrifying to me that somewhere they are going to spend time in an international court asking the question, "are these artifacts property or gods?"  They are most certainly not gods, however earnest the Hopi may be.  And to take those claims seriously ...

... look: for the sake of this discussion, what the people at NPR want us to suppose is that every religious claim is of equal sociological value, and of equal truth value.  And ironically: they want those claims in this case to be worthy of international intervention in order to validate those claims in preserving the traditions and culture of an otherwise-minor nation of spiritists.

My suggestion is this: when NPR takes the claims of any Christian, or any Jew, or any inherently-Western person this seriously and soberly, I'll be willing to give the Hopi and his friend the mask a fair hearing.  Until then, let's please not pretend that the secularists at NPR give a second thought to the lie in their right hand. Their only purpose is to pretend to be multicultural and informed when in fact they have simply denigrated every religious claim to utter tomfoolery by elevating this one to artificial seriousness.


Peter said...

In fairness to the Chief, he did talk about taking the crosses "out of churches in Falstaff" - that seems to be an entirely different proposition to trading crosses as works of art. Could you be comparing apples with oranges to make your point?

Tom Chantry said...


His point was that a cross could not be taken from a church and used for a mundane purpose. He was trying to come up with an analogy for something as offensive as using his tribal god as artwork. He said that if someone did this he would be prosecuted. Perhaps the chief is merely ignorant.

The host, on the other hand, has probably argued - at least in private if not on the air - that to turn a crucifix into art by submerging it in human urine is the very essence of free expression. NPR has certainly taken that position often enough to make it rank hypocrisy on their part to allow this story to air without comment or correction.

NPR's position is that if anyone wants to literally pee on a representation of the Christian God, Western law must defend the right of any individual to make that sacrilege a public spectacle, but if anyone else wants to put the Hopi religious masks on display in a respectful, culturally enlightened exhibit, that same law ought to seriously consider whether Hopi piety is offended.

The best part is, you could probably spell this out for the pinheads at NPR, and they wouldn't be capable of seeing the inconsistency. They would smirk knowingly at your ignorance if you were to suggest that they harbored any anti-Christian bias.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how the other applicants for that grant, and the organization providing it, feel about a site that ranks in the top 100K in the US campaigning for the Christian guy.

This kind of thing can trash his reputation in the community for years to come.

It would be better to start a campaign to raise the funds for our brother, rather than campaign to skew the competition he's entered. The other competitors do not have a Pyromaniacs to support them.

Pretty hard to find any Biblical precedent for this kind of thing.

Peter said...


Thanks for explaining that and I appreciate the point about inconsistencies in the commentary offered by public broadcasters.

I do however have sympathy for the Chief and for Indigenous peoples everywhere who have had their religious/cultural artefacts plundered by colonial powers. (Though, as Frank pointed out, we don't know how the seller came into possession of the Hopi artefacts.)

FX Turk said...

God forbid, anonymous drive by commenter, that your frail conscience do anything it doesn't understand or agree with. Including reading this blog.

The rest of you: all of the other participants in this contest are promoting their entry. You could vote for a Christian missionary, which seems to me to be kindness and goodness.

Anonymous said...

"every religious claim is of equal sociological value, and of equal truth value."

But our Hope in Jesus is Faith. If we have probable-cause to believe in the Resurrection, we don't need Faith. In fact for just about every belief we have, we can't prove it, but merely have probable-cause. So, we aren't Thomas. We haven't "seen". In fact, this even makes us "Blessed". It's not something we should be ashamed of.

From a secular, non-believing perspective, every religious claim is false and silly. It's partially true for us as well. Do you believe that Muhammad ascending into the sky is less silly than these Mask guys?

Nash Equilibrium said...

I read the NPR story last week (I also listen to NPR on the drive to/from work). My reaction to the Hopi story was, "let them prove the items were stolen, as anyone else would have to do." Or, they could buy them at the auction, "gods" or not.

There is no hope for the people at NPR (or anywhere else) for seeing their inconsistencies, outside of being rebirthed via the Gospel.

Robert said...

Frank, great post. I started reading "How Shall We Then Live?" to my boys last night and was explaining to them that Christians were killed in Rome because 1) they wouldn't worship the emperor and Christ and 2) they had a higher authority and absolute standard separate from the government. That is what truly separates us Christians from the Hopi tribe and people of other belief systems that are accepted by the elitist humanistic secularists...and this type of treatment should be expected.

I remember when I first starting working as an engineer I worked with my father. We'd listen to NPR during our 15 to 20 minute commute and would catch "All Things Considered" as well. I remember my dad always getting worked up over how liberal the reporters were and how incosistent they were. Now some 10+ years later and things have really only gotten worse. What is really funny is how many fallacies there are in NPR's reporting. I should listen with the boys and see how many they can identify to keep them on their toes.

Also, regarding the promotion of MUGS...they only have 200+ votes, which is well behind many with over 1,500 votes. So I'm thinking that the competition has a lot more promotion going on. At first I laughed at the whole back and forth between you and Ed Stetzer on twitter...then I kind of cringed and wondered why anybody would be so concerned about all of the feedback they'd receive about promoting this guy. Aren't we supposed to be sharing burdens and joys with our fellow Christians? And putting others before ourselves? And to whom much is given, much is required. That includes being given an audience and means to help others. Just sayin'.

James Scott Bell said...

NPR is a religious network. Their religion is Leftism (the secular Left really has to be seen that way, as pointed out in, e.g., Dennis Prager's latest book). But it is a religion based on emotion, which is why it is not subject to reason or seeing its own hypocrisy.

Old Paths Pilgrim said...

Do you mean the 2nd commandment which deals with graven images or do you mean the 3rd commandment which deals with taking our Lord's name in vain? And if you do mean the 3rd commandment I'm not sure I get that reference.

Bev Carpenter

FX Turk said...

A point of correction this morning:

Jon Gleason runs "mindrenewers.com," and when I clicked through earlier today I didn't see any attributions to the posts there -- and I missed Jon's "about me" page. I could blame the tiny print on my Nexus for the oversight, but it was simply my fault for not looking closely.

For that, I apologize to Jon for claiming he is an anonymous blogger. He is not, and I was mistaken for saying so. I ask his forgiveness for the false remark.

FX Turk said...

Bev --

Correction noted. Somehow I got my presbyterian controversies mixed up there, and I thank you for reminding me to trust Exodus 20 and not my memory for stuff like this.

Brian Roden said...

As a resident of LR who grew up in NLR, I'm glad to vote to support MUGS.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Frank, your first comment at 4:42 in general could be a sidebar comment for every post here, every day.

And your post at 6:08 is part of what I respect about you as a brother in Christ: your humility and willingness to repent of your remarks and seek forgiveness when it is needed.(And that you're a fact-checker.)

This is how it's done, folks.

I'm not sure how you'll be able to braid the 3-4 topics in today's post into a cohesive comment section rather than a carnival, but I trust you are capable.

It seems NPR wants the public to weep a little for the Hopi because of their poor "friends" who are being bought and sold like mere artsy objects. But really, we should weep for the NP of NPR, who

"..pretend to be multicultural and informed when in fact they have simply denigrated every religious claim to utter tomfoolery by elevating this one to artificial seriousness."

The problem is not just the messengers, but those who let their ears be itched by them.

threegirldad said...

"[insert teaser]. That's later today on All Things Distorted. You're listening to NPR: National People's Radio."

Anonymous said...

On this this story highlights is, at least in this instance, our tendency to (rightly) consider golf and baseball and work and just about anything as a potential idol, but to then consider that real idols (like these masks) are no longer an issue except maybe in deepest darkest Africa or Papua New Guinea or some such place.

Not so apparently.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

And I also voted.
And I'm listening to the music via spotify, saving the podcast for when I'm in the kitchen.
All I need to do now is
buy a T-shirt!

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

And the big takeaway for today's post is that Merrilee is an over-achiever.

Rational νεόφυτος said...

I gave up on listening to NPR ages ago when I determined that listening to a reporter drone on in an interview with a bird-house maker in New England was a hazard when driving, as it was lulling me to sleep. As rocker Gene Simmons said during his infamous NPR interview, you "can count the dust particles falling..."

Be concerned about the desanctifying effect of sources like NPR. That, and narcolepsy...

Anonymous said...

Frank, brother, of course you are forgiven. And please forgive me if my comment came across as hostile or "drive-by."

In Him,

FX Turk said...

Jon - Thanks and no problem. Well done.

Rachael Starke said...

These random stream of gospelly consciousness posts, and the comment thread they inevitably produce, are some of my favorites.

I have voting on my daily to do list, and the album selected for purchase as soon as I can find that last iTunes card leftover from Christmas - the samples sound terrific.

And for a gospelly alternative to NPR, you can't go wrong with Mars Hill Audio. (Unless your'e on a very long, late roadtrip and trying to stay awake. Ken Myers is a former producer of NPR, and his soporific voice is the only thing they have in common.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Webster Hunt: sad but true. And based on Rachael's comment, I'm in good company.

(Now I'm off to read some CS Lewis to expand my little gray cells.)

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

That podcast with Carl Trueman on the real cost of addressing a "necessary cruelty" was humbling. I'm a hot head and often see the necessity of controversy without balancing the cost of said controversy. And I definitely don't want to fall off the other side of the horse and conflate "love" with "niceness" which he also warned against.

So now I understand why Dan often calls on the "elites" in our Christian culture to say something on greater public controversies because they're supposed to use their great responsibilities and platforms when great matters occur. It's not that they have any greater say, but that their platform affords them a greater chance of being heard and changing the tide, right?

FX Turk said...

Public Error deserves (and requires) public refutation. That some people find that to be bad manners is, frankly, their public error.

trogdor said...

The attack on the gospel in the Hopi reporting is very similar to the recent attacks on marriage. Sometimes they come in for a full frontal assault, but sometimes their more effective attack is equivocation. If you can't tear down the one, pretend all others are just as good, and you may succeed by default.

FX Turk said...

You're awfully smart to be wearing a onesy, Trogdor.

Jeff said...

You'd think gods in command of rain, healing, etc. could get themselves out of a bind in an auction house without international intervention. Oh wait...

Daniel said...

The surprise here is not that an idolatrous tribe is concerned the handling of its idols. The surprise isn't even the NPR's uncharacteristically charitable handling of the story, since a group of folks believing that they turn into spirits when they don sacred masks, in no way suggests that there is a righteous God who will judge sinners for their rebellion against His rightful rule.

Sinner are, be definition, slaves to their own rebellion against God. In other words, it isn't in them to even want to be free from their rebellion - the pursue this rebellion thinking that they are only pursuing their own desires. They hate God all the more, then because if there is a God, and if He is the God of the scriptures, that means that they will be judged by God for pursuing their own desires when they ought to have been submitting themselves to the rule of God.

No rational person feels comfortable pursueing his own damnation. That is why it is necessary for sinners to suppress the truth of God, that is, to allow themselves to be deceived about the reality of God - it is done in order tha the sinner may continue to pursue the spiritual death his sin has already earned for him. He sets his heart upon rebellion - upon his own damnation.

The secular mind therefore is self-deceived. It is convinced contrary to all evidence, that it is rejecting all religions equally, but this deception is shown to be a deception in that the secular mind does not rage against all religions, it rages against God alone.

What surprises me is not that the NPR is so charitable to the worshippers of false gods, it is that they fail to see in their own inconsistency, that they are not really secular; they are just anti-Christians in denial.