polemic, torture

Sean Hannity the Heretic

I know this is a bit late for a response, but I’ve been quite busy. See below the video of Sean Hannity saying that Christianity is compatible with torture (just over 2 minutes into the video). Yes, this is literally heresy. For multiple reasons.

To quote Jon Stewart: “F$#@ You.”

For more on torture, see here.

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32 thoughts on “Sean Hannity the Heretic

  1. dave says:

    During the whole Wright-fiasco, I remember seeing some clip of Hannity or something where he said that he went to seminary and had never heard of “liberation theology.”

    For the life of me, I cannot understand the FOX News + Christian contingent of Christendom. Seriously, WTF?

    • Catholics use the word seminary for highschools (i.e. minor seminary) and actual seminaries. It seems that Hannity went to the former, but still thought that was enough education to sufficiently understand what Rev. Wright was talking about. This came out in an interview sometime before the whole fiasco. Sigh.

  2. Davin says:

    And somehow saying “F$#@ You” at Sean Hannity IS compatible with Christianity? Just like using “WTF” (short for “what the ____”) is compatible with Christianity? As believers we need to be careful that we do not point the finger without looking at our own lives first.

    • Davin, are you aware of the language of the prophets? “F$#@ You” is rather tame in comparison. Would it have been more apt to call him the “whore of Babylon”? But something tells me that such a statement would be lost on too many.

      Also, see the post on Prophetic Denunciation (here: http://flyingfarther.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/prophetic-denunciation/ ) to understand what genre the statement comes from. Also notice that there is a fifty page scholarly/faithful work that grounds the “F$#@ You.”

      If the only problem you have is semantics, and seeing that as evidence of depravity, I think you’re missing the point of prophetic speech. However, I would like to say that I in no way claim to be a prophet, merely that the language/tradition that Christianity has for a response to such understandings of power can be rather harsh.

  3. Davin says:

    You are advocating that the use of profanity is acceptable. It is not (Eph. 4:29, Eph. 5:4, Col. 3:8). While the prophets and Jesus himself may have used harsh and biting language you cannot point to any reference in the Bible where profanity is used. There simply aren’t any. That is my point.

    • Theologically, it is profane only if sex is sacred.

      As for the verses and about contemporary parlance, I don’t believe that the latter two actually address the situation at hand. However, if you see the linked article on denunciation, such an act is rooted in compassion for the tortured and is actually grace (the reasoning behind the author’s statement in Eph. 4) to Hannity in the same way that a declaration of excommunication is. Is it rough to hear? Yes, but so is being called a “white washed sepulcher.”

  4. Davin says:

    You’re doing a nice theological dance around the issue, but missing the point completely. I’m not talking about rebuke or denunciation in any way shape or form. I agree that those are things that are necessary and good. But there is a great difference between and rebuke and profanity. I am not condemning your rebuke. Rebuke all you want, but do it in a manner worthy of Christ. If you honestly believe that Christ would walk up to someone and say “F__ you”, then I guess this discussion is pointless. You have obviously used your “theology” to twist scripture to meet your needs at the given moment. I guarantee that at least 90% of the church would not agree with you that cussing out Sean Hannity follows the footsteps of Christ.

    • I realize the distinction you are trying to make. However the definitions of words are important in making such a distinction. Definitionally, to make something profane is to devalue something that is sacred, so, if sex is sacred, then by definition, using that word outside of its sacred context is to do a profane act. That isn’t theological twisting. I’m actually being careful as I try to be clear as to what the problem really is.

      As for cussing out, it is not simply one word. This wasn’t a diatribe of four letter words. Nor are diatribes backed up by a masters thesis. Cussing out is something done in the heat of the moment, perhaps when one loses control of their anger, and lets expletives fly. This was not that. This was quite controlled actually. Hence the reason why I quote Stewart, who was quite controlled in his presentation of the phrase (after some rather serious proof) about CNBC recently.

      Now to your distinction between rebuke and colloquial profanity. Sure there is something of a distinction of this in scripture, I did not deny this. But I do question where you draw the categorical distinction. Whore of Babylon for instance is not simply harsh, it is condemning on a personal level in its description. It is also more than simply not nice. They’re at least fighting words. Simply, in theological language, to call someone Babylon is essentially a curse word. As far as I am concerned, there is plenty of uncomfortable language in the Bible (not to mention euphemisms, i.e. “exposing the feet” in Ruth is not just exposing the feet if you get my meaning). And, in point of fact, “F$#@ You” is a curse phrase, not course jesting because I very much mean it, and these are rampant in scripture from the good and bad alike. I suspect you may lump a curse phrase in with “harsh” since you acknowledged that Jesus could be harsh.

      I did not dance around the issue. At the very least I offered up a serious interpretation, even if brief. I did deal with the singular verses you put forward: two seemed irrelevant to this specific instance and one, in my estimation, still left room for what I did say within a specific theological tradition. I’ve also provided examples of phrases that are equally, if not more condemning in my estimation, than the curse phrase I used. I don’t see you investing nearly as much as you have required on of me. Rather, you’ve simply asserted your hermeneutic and epistemological assumptions as right. However, the weight of proof is not only on me. If someone is dancing around the issue, I think its you. I’ve laid out my cards and why I think so, only to have you call me dishonest (“twisting theology for my needs in the moment”).

    • What kind of Christianity are we creating in our own image when we allow a petty moralistic piety, which is more the construct of an individualist ethos of American cultural politeness and bourgeois nicety, to obscure the real issue of legitimated torture that David is trying to expose? In fact, such a concern over “cussing” seems to be the symptom of a form of Christianity that is in complicity with that Imperial civil religion that legitimates torture as “necessary” in order to protect the state above all else. For the state has a vested interest in making Christianity its “bitch” by sidelining it to a private household matter that has more to do with good manners and the development of petty behavioral virtues centered around self-image than with corrupt social formations – all so that the state can go on unchallenged in its use of force. And once Christianity accepts this domesticated role, where 90% of the church obsesses more over a self-absorbed piety (and its anxious and twisted proof-texting) than critically engaging the state project, Christianity not only becomes silenced in the face of the powers that be but actually unwittingly buys into the very state-craft of Babylon, allowing such a reality to define its own identity. And such a complicit Christianity is reminiscent of the depraved spirituality that Jesus condemned in those scribes and Pharisees as nothing more than the hypocritical practices of the “sons of hell” (a far more offensive invective than merely telling someone, “fuck you”).

      The problem with David’s “cussing out” of Sean is, then, that he did not curse enough, as he meagerly quoted Jon Stewart when he could have quoted more severe language from Scripture. But of course the real issue here is that once something as vile as torture and its heretical Christian legitimation is exposed and cursed, like David has done, we must then pursue critical discourse here on how to systematically root it out by continually bringing to the fore that affirmative love of Christ within whose light all such perverted practices will be burned away as chaff.

  5. David,

    I can’t believe you have used your “theology” to justify saying the f-bomb. Jesus did not die on the cross so you could use the whole vocabulary of the English language. You should listen to Mr. Hannity’s theology, which has a tamer tongue. Like Jesus. Remember, you can say it’s okay to torture, kill and oppress, but if you say “bullshit” you are in danger of the fires of hell.

    shame on you, David.

  6. Seriously, forget Jon Stewart. Sean Hannity, fuck you. What a serious douchebag.

    Davin, you are full of skubala (Philippians 3:8) if your primary concern is the word “fuck” being used. Why not just post an apology for Hannity and his little quip advocating torture and Christianity? You clearly do not understand profanity outside of a victorian obsession with certain naughty words.

  7. Davin says:

    Colin,
    Why the personal attack? I’ve not attacked anyone here? I merely asked two questions that sparked this debate. I haven’t resorted to personal attacks. You don’t even know me. Why do feel that you have the right to attack me?

    By the way the word skubalon is not a vulgar word in Greek It seems as if you are trying to make it sound like Paul is using vulgarity in Philippians, but he isn’t. To be exact he is trying to shock his audience, and what he says if offensive, but it is not a vulgarity that he is using.

    Finally, I don’t quite understand what you mean by “post an apology for Hannity”. If you are somehow thinking that I agree with Hannity’s view because I don’t think Christians should cuss each other out, then you’re way off target. In fact I have not stated my opinion on that subject at all in this exchange. I may or may not agree with him. That was not my point in making the post that I did. I was merely trying to point out what I believe to be an inconsistency in the message of this blog post, and an inconsistency with Christian life in general.

  8. This obsessive victorian policing, far form consistent with the Gospel, has done enough to distract us and obfuscate real discussion here. Only the bourgeois could have time for such pettiness and the luxury therein to dance around the real issues, meanwhile there are issues of grave concern, bare lives exposed to the state of exception that our media machine continually propagandizes. Can we move forward by maybe not focusing on Hannity as much as unearthing some of the deep assumptions around the discourse on torture that make it seem necessary?

  9. The point is that your diatribe on “vulgarity” and “profanity” has derailed the subject of this thread, Hannity’s misguided advocacy of torture in light of his Christian views. You should note my use of the conditional “if” in the first sentence – I said that you are full of shit if you are more concerned with “fuck you” than Hannity’s bit on torture. If you are more concerned with “fuck you” than torture, you might as well be posting post an apology for Hannity.

    Torture is one of the worst things one person can do to another. Saying “fuck you” to a person advocating one of the worst things is like saying “fuck you” to a person that argues in favor of rape, especially if they do so in light of their Christian faith. Why would you want to defend Hannity, a defender of torture, from harsh words?

  10. dave says:

    Ben,

    Good question. On my read, a couple of the deeper assumptions going on are:

    – Myth of redemptive violence (or more sharply, bloodlust): this is a biggie, obviously. It seems to come through most clearly in the “I don’t care, they _____ so why should I care, etc etc?” kind of reasoning that is often offered. When I hear this kind of talk, it seems like a bitter and vengeful violence is subterranean. I know it is this way when I talk pettily about certain things, such as how pissed I am at someone in soccer for beating us and/or slide tackling (what I seem to be suppressing is the itching desire to return violence for what I’ve perceived as violence to me). This kind of violent logic is very hard to avoid, and I think it is something we must try to consciously guard ourselves against when we become angry – even righteously angry, although Hannity obviously isn’t here (and that’s another issue!).

    – The other obvious one that I see is the question of allegiance. Quite simply, Hannity appealed to his Christianity after he had produced/encouraged a tirade of arguments from the state’s POV vis-a-vis why waterboarding is cool. At best, he’s starting in the exact wrong place.

    – Another interesting issue that is underground here, in my opinion, is the whole idea of retributive justice. I certainly don’t want to conflate this with redemptive violence, although it does seem that the two often come as a pair.

    Those are three things which I see underlying the violent appeal to other’s violence in this short clip.

  11. Halden says:

    Did a post about the moral seriousness of an alleged Christian advocating torture seriously become a cat fight about cussing?

    If anything it is “unedifying” here it is such a vivid example of how naughty language is a bigger deal to some Christians than the torture and dehumanization of other human beings.

    A boat has been missed somewhere.

  12. Davin says:

    Again, I am not advocating for Hannity. All I am trying to say is that one should not claim the moral high ground and in the same breath do something that is against Christ. Sin is sin people. We should not try to lesson our sin because another’s sin is so much more heinous.

    I am concerned about torture. In fact I think it is wrong. Now whether you consider water boarding torture is another thing (no, I am not saying I don’t consider it torture). But following Colin’s logic just because I consider torture to be a heinous thing does not mean that I can then ignore things that I would consider less heinous. Again, all I was trying to point out was what I considered to be an inconsistent view. Telling me that I am “full is ____” for that is just plain rude and unnecessary.

    I’m done here. Enjoy your “freedom (to sin) in Christ”.

    • The problem is in your understanding of scripture. It is not a sin to say culturally offensive words. It is a sin to curse someone. Cursing someone is like wishing they would be tortured. Of course this topic is about people actually being tortured, not on it being wished on someone.

  13. Halden says:

    Except, Davin that is it plain that, regardless of your claims to the contrary here, you DO find “vulgarity” more heinous than torture. It’s the only thing that gets a reaction out of you. When it comes to torture it’s all evasions and blase statements of “Maybe I agree with it, maybe I don’t” but one swear and the gloves come off and you’re God’s righteous crusader.

    The bottom line is that you’re more interested in Dave’s alleged “inconsistency” on the matter of vulgarity than you are in the fact that people are out there saying that Christianity and torture should be happy bedfellows.

    Color me unimpressed with your performance here.

  14. Just to pick up on one of Dave’s earlier observations: “Theologically, it [the F-word] is profane only if sex is sacred.”

    I think this is actually a very important point. In English, all of the most severe profanities are related to sex; whereas in French (for example), the worst profanities are related to God. I suspect the (Catholic) French have a good deal more insight here into the real nature of “profanity”.

    Insofar as torture is a defacement of the image of God, we should understand it as a “profanity” in the proper sense. And so Dave’s vulgar remark was precisely a denunciation of profanity. Sometimes it’s helpful to use vulgarity to expose profanity for what it really is. There are certain actions and ideas which cannot be discussed, only denounced (or ridiculed, depending on the circumstances).

    To discuss an idea is already to grant it a certain a priori validity, to entertain its status as part of the fabric of civil discourse. But some ideas should simply be excluded from civil discourse; sometimes the only correct response is ridicule or denunciation. Sometimes Christians should present this kind of considered response to a proposal or an argument: not an engagement with the argument on its own (profane) grounds, but simply “Fuck you”; or (if you want more theological precision) “Go to hell”.

    William Cavanaugh’s superb book _Torture and Eucharist_ is worth pondering here. It relates a particular situation where church leaders had the courage to tell state officials (who were practising torture) to “Go to hell”.

  15. I wonder if Hannity wants to cite the history of warfare here, seeing as I am pretty sure the US has never kidnapped suspects from other countries and held them outside of the US to avoid human rights laws. “Enemy combatants” should have been detained as POWs in their respective theaters.

    With respect to torture, I can’t say I am surprised. Hannity wants to dress it up in benevolence (“saving lives from an impending attack”), but we know he is just defending the prerogative of the state.

    I have used a semantic/lexical distinction to describe the conundrum of cussing in the Church. Many use the lexical definition of cursing, meaning that they can say anything they want, as long as those 7 words aren’t included. In other words, you can say “raca” against your brother as long as you don’t use the word “raca.” On the other hand you have the semantic definition, where you evaluate the appropriateness of speech by its meaning. So you can say “raca,” just not against your brother. =P

    • We do have cases of unlawful enemy combatants. This was in World War 2 with the Duquesne Spy Ring, Operation Elster and Operation Pastorius. Of course the previous and current administrations aren’t looking at past case history.

    • Aren’t you describing extraordinary rendition? (The name itself is almost humorous – I can just imagine leaving the opera and commenting to my fiance: “That was an extraordinary rendition of Tristan and Isolde”). Are there not also black sites run by the CIA off of US turf that would not be under human rights laws?

  16. In light of the above discussion, the following quote by Rev. Tony Compolo seems especially relevant:

    “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

  17. Pingback: A Theology of Curse « flying.farther

  18. “Theologically, it [the F-word] is profane only if sex is sacred.”

    Not to belabor the point too much, but while sex may not be sacred, people made in God’s image are, and to say that someone should “F” someone or someone should be “F’d” often seems to imply force or violent sex, which is dehumanizing. Kind of sounds like it could be understood as a method of torture, ironically. Ask someone who has been raped if they think the use of the “F” word has no connection to violent force of torture. Actually, ask most women, regardless of their past, what they think of the word.

    I doubt that David really intends to “rape Hannity” or wishes the actual act on him, but maybe a bit more prduence is in order.

  19. Pingback: Keepin’ on Movin’ « flying.farther

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