[ by Charles Cameron -- Tim Tebow and 666, Charlie Fuqua and stoning disobedient children -- addenda to two recent posts ]
First, the more lighthearted news. Yesterday I featured three footballers praying — Tim Tebow was one of them. Today: when prophecy fails on Twitter:
Just look at the retweets for Tebow: his tweet may have been half-tweet, half prediction, half-prayer, all in one forty characters, and his fans were behind it — yet the Jets lost.
At the time of writing, Tebow hasn’t tweeted for 24 hrs.
Permit me an aside, by way of clarification — as someone raised in the UK, I don’t know what “the Jets lost” means, to be honest. My Welsh ex once understood American Football while she was watching a game on hospital TV during a delivery — until the epidural wore off, at which point it went back to being incomprehensible. So that’s as close as I’ve come to understanding it myself — although I played both soccer and rugby in my schooldays.
Now onto more serious things. In a comment on another recent post, I mentioned Charlie Fuqua, a Republican candidate for the Arkansas House. I am beginning to think we should have a category to put after the names of such people, as in “candidate Charlie Fuqua (R-Ex)”, to indicate that many on their own team disavow their more extreme pronouncements.
In a post on his Running Chicken blog headed Today in inexplicable religious zealotry, Prof. Ari Kohen quotes the Arkansas Times on Charlie Fuqua, a Republican-side candidate for the Arkansas legislature:
Here’s the key passage from Fuqua’s 2012 book, “God’s Law: The Only Political Solution“:
The maintenance of civil order in society rests on the foundation of family discipline. Therefore, a child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents. The death penalty for rebellious children is not something to be taken lightly. The guidelines for administering the death penalty to rebellious children are given in Deut 21:18-21:
Deuteronomy 21.18-21 reads:
If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
The Arkansas Times continues:
Fuqua helpfully notes that “This passage does not give parents blanket authority to kill their children.” Rather, parents would have to “follow the proper procedure in order to have the death penalty executed against their children.” Fuqua assures the reader that, in his view, the procedure would “rarely be used.” The threat of death would, however, “be a tremendous incentive for children to give proper respect to their parents.”
Here’s where Prof. Kohen, Schlesinger Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, adds his own informed scholarly input:
The trouble for Fuqua — and anyone else who thinks the Hebrew Bible provides a good template to follow in cases like these — is that he doesn’t actually have any idea what Jewish scholars and religious authorities have been thinking and writing about this particular passage for centuries:
In defining the extent and limitations of the laws of the ben sorer u-moreh, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 71a) states that the child is not considered liable until he has stolen his father’s property in order to acquire a tartimar of meat to eat, and a log of Italian wine to drink. The Halakha places further restrictions upon the ben sorer u-moreh so as to make the application of the law extremely unlikely, if not impossible. The rules only apply with the first three months after the child has reached halakhic manhood; both parents must be living and willing to press charges; neither parent can be deaf, lame, nor missing a limb; they must speak with the same voice and have the same appearance; the boy must steal the meat and wine from his father’s house, yet consume them elsewhere in the company of worthless individuals, in order for him to be convicted. According to the Tosefta Negaim, this law is not in effect in Yerushalayim. (The Meshekh Chokhma suggests that this is due to the continuous eating of so many sacrifices and offerings, as well as ma’aser sheni – the second tithe – within Jerusalem; consumption within the city, since it is performed for mitzva purposes, cannot be considered gluttony.) These are only a few of the numerous restrictions and limitations that apply before a boy can be judged as a ben sorer u-moreh, ensuring that the actual application of the law was extremely rare.
Several Talmudic opinions (Sanhedrin 71), having studied the above limitations, conclude that the case of the ben sorer u-moreh “never occurred and never will occur.” According to them, the sole purpose of having this section in the Torah is to learn the laws and provide a reward for those who do so.
So, in brief, here is my plea to people like Charlie Fuqua:
Stop cherry-picking the Torah to justify all of the terrible things you want people to do to one another; Jews don’t believe that things like this are mandated by the Torah and it’s our book.
I very much appreciate Prof. Kohen’s comments, which open a lively window not only on Judaic scripture, interpretation and practice, but also on how scriptures, their literal interpretations by outsiders, and the more skillful and adaptive interpretations of scholars within the traditions can function in the actual shaping of human lives…
When considering the scriptures of any religious tradition, we should bear such examples strongly in mind.
Indeed, I have only one qualification to make regarding Prof. Kohen’s post, and offer it as a small gift of thanks.
The one thing I can say that Fuqua is very likely not doing is cherry picking.
It is far more likely that he is a follower of the late RJ Rushdoony, whose massive work The Institutes of Christian Law advocates for the application of what he terms Biblical Law – in its entirety — to American society, and whose Chalcedon Institute published an article in its January 1999 issue on precisely this topic: Rev. William Einwechter‘s Stoning Disobedient Children?:
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 contains what is, perhaps, the most vilified law of the Old Testament. It is widely believed that this law authorizes the stoning of children who disobey their parents. … When this case law, which applies the moral law of the Fifth Commandment to a specific circumstance, is understood it will prove to be “holy, just, and good,” a delight to the heart of God’s true people (Rom. 7:12, 22).
This piece created a bit of a stir, and it was followed shortly thereafter by another Einwechter piece: Stoning Disobedient Children? Revisited.
Both articles seem to have proven unpopular enough that they have been removed from their respective original sites, so I am grateful that the Archive still has them as linked above. I recommend an acquaintance with Rushdoony’s work, and with essays such as these, to anyone interested in the influence of “Biblical Law” on contemporary politics.
By way of comparison, the Qur’an, like the Torah, stresses the importance of honoring one’s parents in close conjunction with that of having no god but God. Thus Qur’an 17:23 in the Shakir translation reads:
And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him, and goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) “Ugh” nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word.
– compare Exodus 20.3-5, 12 — while the hadith reported in Sahih Bukhari, Bk 48, Witness, #822 tells us:
Narrated Abu Bakra:
The Prophet said thrice, “Should I inform you out the greatest of the great sins?” They said, “Yes, O Allah’s Apostle!” He said, “To join others in worship with Allah and to be undutiful to one’s parents.” The Prophet then sat up after he had been reclining (on a pillow) and said, “And I warn you against giving a false witness, and he kept on saying that warning till we thought he would not stop.
To my knowledge, no specific (hudud) punishment for disobedient children is prescribed in the Qur’an.