Identity

Various points have been made in the mozilla.governance discussion about a possible Mozilla Code of Conduct and policy on Planet Mozilla, relating to what restrictions might be placed on appropriate topics of discussion within Mozilla. It has been suggested that “politics” or “religion” might be examples of topics which would be so restricted in some or all forums.

Graydon Hoare has also raised the question about what acts being a Christian does, or does not, ‘imply’.

This post is intended to be an explanation of where I’m coming from when approaching such questions.

Being a child of God is my identity. It’s not something I do, but something I am – or, more accurately, have been irrevocably made, by the undeserved kindness of God. It’s not an aspect of my personality and actions which I can expose or suppress at will. It can’t be laid aside. It’s not a tribal membership or a political affiliation. It’s a total transformation, and an all-encompassing worldview.

This is because the claims of Jesus Christ over the world are total. Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch politician and theologian, wrote: “There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘Mine!'” This includes me (and, for that matter, you, whether you recognize it or not).

It’s not something that I do, but it does affect everything that I do. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God“. My involvement in Mozilla is to the glory of God. (That’s where the name of my blog, Hacking for Christ, comes from.) There is no separation between “the things I do because I am a Christian, or for Christian reasons” and “other things”.

So I love my neighbour because I am a Christian. I work on Mozilla because I am a Christian. I enjoy a sunset because I am a Christian. All of these “because”s are equal. In evaluating what I do, the lordship of Jesus is never “not relevant”.

The following analogy is in no way meant to be inflammatory; I pick it because I think there’s a genuine parallel in thinking, in an attempt to help others understand my position. If I’m wrong, please be assured no offence is intended.

I am sure that many transgender people feel that their gender identity is core to who they are, in what I would suggest is a very similar way. So what would happen if we were to say to a trans person: “Being trans is a bit controversial. There aren’t many people here who are like that, and some people don’t agree with it. We’d rather you kept it to yourself. Sure, you can be trans outside the community, but please don’t discuss it or related issues here, or indicate that you are trans e.g. by your choice of gendered clothing[0], or take actions which are based on your gender-constructionalist worldview, or even show you have such a worldview”?

Such a suggestion would, I would have thought, be met with a polite explanation of how what was being requested was not only practically impossible but deeply hurtful. And perhaps some stronger words too!

My point for the discussion is: whatever we end up deciding, don’t ask me to do the equivalent.

[0] It could be that here, or elsewhere in this para, I’ve not used the right phrase; please be charitable, and focus on the overall point.

10 thoughts on “Identity

  1. I have no idea about the organization that publishes these videos.
    Just keep the links around when I need a “feel good” message.
    http://www.youtube.com/v/4xjPODksI08?version=3
    “Ain’t no hiding place from the Father of creation.”
    The “Stand by me” selection might be appropriate as well.
    Enjoy Gerv
    Jesus loves you.

  2. I wrote this mostly to get it off my chest and wasn’t planning to post it anywhere, but I think it belongs here.

    As a matter of general principle:

    I do not personally believe that Jesus was the son of God, but for purpose of this discussion I am willing to stipulate that it might have been so.
    I am of the tribe of Abraham, and since the days of the patriarch himself, we have argued with God.
    Those who do believe that Jesus was the son of God say that by his sacrifice, Abraham and Moses’s covenants with God are extended to all of humanity.
    Therefore, all may claim the privilege of arguing with God.
    Therefore, Jesus’ own teachings are entitled to no special status even if he was the son of God. We must consider them no more and no less than we consider the words of other philosophers. If we conclude that in a particular instance, Jesus’ teachings are incorrect, or offer no guidance, so be it: the Law is not in Heaven.

    On the topic of homosexuality, I ask that you consider the scholarship and the preaching of Gordon Atkinson. Anything that I might have said, he has said better than I could have.

    • Those who do believe that Jesus was the son of God say that by his sacrifice, Abraham and Moses’s covenants with God are extended to all of humanity.

      Are you referring to Christians here? If so, it’s important to note (although it may not be directly relevant to your point) that, although there are various views on exactly how it works and how much continuity and discontinuity there is, Christians do not believe in the continuation of the Mosaic covenant unchanged through to today.

      Therefore, Jesus’ own teachings are entitled to no special status even if he was the son of God.

      I don’t follow the logic which leads from the previous line of reasoning to this one. Do you think that you understand what Christians mean when they say that Jesus was the Son of God? It is also part of the Christian belief that Jesus is God – which makes it hard to reason that his teachings have no special status!

      I read the pieces by Gordon Atkinson. He writes well, and I would echo his condemnation of hypocrisy. Churches which preach against homosexual practice should also preach against other forms of sex outside marriage, against unbiblical divorce, and other things. No argument there. But two wrongs don’t make a right; “the church ignores lots of other scriptures; why can’t we ignore these ones too?” is not a valid exegetical point.

      • …it’s important to note (although it may not be directly relevant to your point) that, although there are various views on exactly how it works and how much continuity and discontinuity there is, Christians do not believe in the continuation of the Mosaic covenant unchanged through to today.

        I am aware of that, but I don’t think it undermines my point. It suffices for the modern covenant to (a) apply to all humanity and (b) have historical continuity with the original covenant with Abraham.

        Do you think that you understand what Christians mean when they say that Jesus was the Son of God? It is also part of the Christian belief that Jesus is God – which makes it hard to reason that his teachings have no special status!

        Intellectually if not spiritually, I do think I understand the doctrine. I meant to include the possibility that Jesus is God in my initial stipulation; perhaps I should have capitalized “Son”? But it makes no difference to my argument. No teaching, not even in the form of a direct supernatural revelation from what I would call Ein Sof and you would probably call the Father, trumps human reason: this is what we mean when we say “the law is not in Heaven.” If you read the story I linked to with those words, God takes a side in a dispute among rabbis, and is eventually forced to acknowledge defeat.

        We must of course be mindful that human reason is necessarily finite and imperfect (even those who actively deny the existence of any god(s) would agree, I think) and so, in Judaism, divine teachings are taken very seriously — but they are not considered unquestionable, and they are always read in their historical context. And those direct supernatural revelations just don’t happen often anymore (for which let us be thankful).

        Churches which preach against homosexual practice should also preach against other forms of sex outside marriage, against unbiblical divorce, and other things.

        I think Atkinson’s point is that many of those “other things”–feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc–are far more important to core Christian doctrine than any of the items you listed explicitly, and yet (in the American evangelical context to which he was writing, anyway — I don’t know about the UK) we hear nothing of them. See also “The Devil and Pat Buchanan.”

  3. Being a Buddhist is a core part of who I am too but I also make a point of not discussing Buddhism with coworkers unless they ask about it or events around it (“What did you do this weekend?” “Oh, I ran a meditation retreat.”). I certainly don’t post to Mozilla forums on Buddhist topics or about how my Buddhism wants me to have people sign this petition related to a minority group and its rights.

    It is just considered poor form, at least in California, to walk up to coworkers or peers who have no expressed interest and talk to them about your religion or politics unless you know that you share a specific common ground. Even then, if you’re in the workplace, it often isn’t appropriate unless it is a social event. Certainly no one wants to hear about your voting choices during bug triage, for example.

    Why is it necessary to share, unasked, your religious opinions with others ESPECIALLY when you’ve already had people, over and over, make it clear that they DON’T want to hear about it in a Mozilla context? I know this comes up a few times a year on your blog in regards to various Christmas and Easter messages (unless my memory is failing). (I, for example, don’t post nice messages to planet on the day of the Buddha’s enlightenment, a common Buddhist holiday.)

    This isn’t about your personal identity or motivations. This is about your interactions with a community and (especially) your coworkers, who have no choice about interacting with you in a work context.

    I have no real opinions, when it comes down to it, about your spirituality. My own immediate family is composed of at least two Methodist ministers and a Dianic Wiccan priestess (the latter being my mother). I have no issues with anyone’s spirituality until it interferes with me or people I care about in some direct fashion. This isn’t a religious issue to me but one of behavior, custom, and untroubled interactions.

    • Al: this isn’t about a right or desire to say any particular thing in any particular place. As I have said elsewhere, I have no desire to do things which cause significant disruption to the work of the Mozilla project (although I’m sad that posting about some things I think falls into such a category). This post is a comment upon certain possible plans for how discourse and discussion is to be restricted in certain or all Mozilla contexts, in the hope of heading towards an end result which does not require me to do the impossible.

      Having said that, a thought:

      It is just considered poor form, at least in California, to walk up to coworkers or peers who have no expressed interest and talk to them about your religion or politics unless you know that you share a specific common ground.

      So it’s good form to only talk to people about opinions you share together? Do you ever wonder why US politics is becoming more and more polarized?

      • Gerv, you’re conflating work and personal life.

        At work, yes, it is poor form to walk up to people and to just start talking about your politics or religion. Either they don’t care, they disagree, or they agree. In any case, since you’re there for *work*, it is immaterial. Work is only secondarily a social environment and given the divisiveness of politics and religion, historically, it is best to avoid discussing it (unless interest is otherwise shown) with coworkers because you have to be able to work with them, despite any views they have that you might consider wrong-headed, dumb, or misinformed.

        It just isn’t workplace relevant.

      • To be doubly clear, if a coworker walks up to me, out of the blue, and starts witnessing about Jesus, I’m going to tell them to stop and never do it again (politely). If they persist, I’ll file a complaint. In any case, I’m probably going to avoid that person outside of required interactions, from then on, due to their clear lack of good judgment in bothering me.

        This is to be expected. Non-Christians consider such behavior offensive (and possibly aggressive or attacking). The same is applied to other religions or even many political ideologies.

        Work is not where I want an unsolicited soliloquy about the virtues of marxism, Mao, Ronald Reagan, or whathaveyou. I’m there, paid in fact, to do a job. It is not a salon or a debate club.

  4. As a former evangelical Christian (now an agnostic, rationalist, and humanist), I understand the all-encompassing nature of the claims of Christianity. I also think I understand Gerv’s conviction that to be a true Christian, he must take those claims seriously. So I will do my best to be considerate and constructive in my criticism of this post.

    I don’t think the transgender analogy works. To the best of my knowledge, transgender people aren’t acting on a moral law that they believe is binding on all people, except to the extent that they advocate for inclusiveness. Christians, particularly those of a fundamentalist or strong evangelical persuasion, do believe that their God has revealed the one true moral law in the Bible, and that this law is binding on all people. Christians believe this with a certainty that now troubles me, given the inconclusiveness of the proposed evidence for the existence of a God. I don’t mean to get into a debate on whether or not Christianity is true; my point is that when Christians try to impose Christian-specific values on the rest of society, they shouldn’t be surprised when this is met with resistance.

    I support freedom of speech, so I wouldn’t dare suggest that Gerv shouldn’t express his views, informed by his Christian faith, on his own blog. The question is whether such things belong on Planet Mozilla. It would be out of place for me to suggest an answer to that, since I’m observing the Mozilla community from the outside.

    But perhaps I can suggest a thought experiment that would help. Suppose that I was active in the Mozilla community, and that I often blogged about Mozilla-related things, thus getting my blog added to Planet Mozilla. Now, suppose that I blogged about why I reject Christianity and am concerned about its implications for this world (as I indeed have, here: http://ur1.ca/88mkk). Would a post like that be acceptable on Planet Mozilla? If so, what makes it different from Gerv’s post about the marriage petition? I don’t mean to draw attention to myself; I just figured a concerete example would be better than a purely hypothetical one.

    • Hi Matt: I need to read your comments on the transgender analogy more closely, but the last bit is easy to respond to: under the current Planet policy, and in my personal opinion, yes, such a post would be perfectly welcome.