Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sins of the Fathers

Most of the time I find fundys amusing, quaint, charming, even, in their obsessions. My general reaction to rants about climate change, Obama and gay marriage could be summed up with a very arch You think that? Really? How enchante! Tee-hee! (In this example, I'm having lunch with Bertie Wooster and speak with a delightful British accent, the only accent that allows one to properly render "tee-hee".)

This little rant, supposedly about the joys of grandparents, is not amusing, quaint or charming. Well, maybe quaint in the sense of didn't we get over this line of thinking at least one hundred years ago, if not longer? I mean really? Sins of the fathers?

The Word of God says nothing about the role of grandparents, but it boldly declares the power of their influence. Godly men and women leave a legacy of blessing for generations to come.

“How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed” - Psalm 112:1-2.

But, can't you choose to be the man who fears the lord? Are we venturing into some sort of hyperCalvinism, in which the chosen go to heaven and the rest go to hell, read the bible all you want, it was decided at the beginning of time? You have to pick one. You can't say "Choose Christ and be the righteous man, no matter what your past" and say "Oh, your daddy was unsaved, sucks to be you."

But they have proof!

Never has this been more graphically illustrated than in the life of Jonathon Edwards. Jonathon Edwards (born 1703) was a man wholly devoted to Jesus Christ. At age 17 he married 13 year old Sarah Pierpont. On their wedding night they committed their marriage to the Lord. Their descendants have included 300 clergymen (pastors, missionaries and theologians), 100 attorneys, 60 judges (one dean of a law school), 60 doctors (one dean of a medical school), 60 authors of fine classics, 100 professors and 14 presidents of universities, 3 mayors of large cities, 3 state governors, a controller of the US Treasury and a Vice-President of America.

At first, I thought they meant John Edwards, which would have been very amusing. I'm a little creeped out by the marriage of a 13 year old girl. Different times, but yuck. And then uberyuck to that description of their wedding night.

Assuming they aren't leaving out any of the family's black sheep, what does this list prove? Well, nothing. Clergymen have been pedophiles and cheats. I don't think I need to tell you about attorneys, and judges? The office is following the case of 3 local judges being tried for corruption with great interest. Doctors? Don't get me started. Professors, so what? Mayors? I wish I could tell you what I know about my mayor. And as for the Veep, two words: Dick Cheney.

The only thing the above listing proves is that money does indeed tend to beget money. Not exactly a shocker.

Max Dukes (born 1700) was an unbeliever who married an unsaved woman. They neither honoured God nor lived principled lives. Amongst their 1200 known descendants: 310 were professional vagrants, 440 wrecked their lives by wild living, 130 went to jail (7 for murder, average age 13 years), over 100 became alcoholics, 60 were habitual thieves, 190 prostitutes. Twenty became tradesmen, 10 of whom learned their trade in jail. The researcher who compiled these statistics estimated that Max Dukes’ descendants cost the state of New York $1.5 million.

Max Dukes is an awesome name! He should have been bitten by a radioactive spider or irradiated by a rogue comet. I can't imagine how the "researcher" (that's a word that needs sarcastiquotes if I ever saw one) knew that Max and Mrs. Max lived unprincipled lives.

What is a "professional vagrant"? A poor person? A homeless person? Does anyone really choose that as a profession? Is there a union? 440 "wrecked their lives by wild living"? What on earth does that mean? How many questions can I write in a row?

Does anyone else find these round numbers a little strange? 1200, 440, 310. You'd think an odd number would pop up somewhere.

130 went to jail (7 for murder, average age 13 years). Um, that's sad. I suppose if you consider 13 to be an appropriate age for marriage, then 13-year-old murderers are nothing to feel bad about, but still. over 100 became alcoholics. Really? Alcoholism and addiction in general have genetic components, but I find this odd in that we are talking about people who lived as much as 300 years ago. How did the "researcher" know they were alcoholics? Alcoholism and appropriate levels of drinking have been viewed in a variety of ways over the years which would make it difficult to ascertain precisely who was an alcoholic 300 years ago.

Twenty became tradesmen, 10 of whom learned their trade in jail. Every other number but the positive number is written using numerals. I suspect this was deliberate, in order to make the positive number fade into the background words. This "researcher" can't even allow the Dukes who made good to have their pride. So what if they learned their trade in jail. We don't know what they were jailed for, perhaps it was professional vagrancy. Either way, these Dukes picked themselves up and lived honest, productive lives. Eh, they're still Devil Dukes.

I feel bad for the slandering of the Dukes. 1200 descendants, there's probably still a few Dukes kicking around, and now we're left with the impression that they are irredeemable degenerates. Whatever, they're hellbound anyway, just like their ancestors.

For better or for worse, grandparents leave a legacy. For some, it’s a legacy of righteousness and blessing. For others, wickedness and brokenness. The figures above only take note of the natural legacies of Edwards and Dukes; they do not factor in their spiritual legacies. It seems obvious that the overwhelming majority of Max Dukes’ descendents did not know Jesus Christ. I strongly suspect that a high proportion of Jonathon Edwards’ descendents, even those who did not become pastors or missionaries, loved and served Jesus. Their respective legacies extend into eternity—eternal life or death.

"It seems obvious" and "I strongly suspect" are weasel words. The author, Kevin Smith (presumably not that Kevin Smith) is hedging his bets with a weasely No True Scotsman. Sure, prisons are overwhelmingly filled with Christians in the US, but they're not really Christians, or they wouldn't be there in the first place.

The rest of the article descends into a morass of random bible quotes and exhortations to pray which I feel no need to review, but wow, those poor Dukes, slandered to prove a fundy point.


  1. Shockingly, that page doesn't contain a single citation. Y'know, other than the Biblical citations.

    However, a quick search on teh Google yields some interesting information. For one thing, there was a study about a man born in 1700 that is often used to contrast with the Jonathan Edwards story. However, his name was apparently not Max Dukes, it was Max Juke. The book was written by one Richard Dugdale, who was a pioneering sociologist who noticed that a lot of people in prison were related somehow and wanted to know how. He wrote The Jukes: A Study in Crime, Pauperism, Disease and Heredity. And there should be no sarcastiquotes around the term "researcher."

    From the Wiki:

    Dugdale debated the relative contribution of environment and heredity and concluded that the family's poor environment was largely to blame for their behavior: "environment tends to produce habits which may become hereditary" (page 66). He noted that the Jukes were not a single family, but a composite of 42 families and that only 540 of his 709 subjects were apparently related by blood.

    He urged public welfare changes and improvements in the environment in order to prevent criminality, poverty and disease, writing: "public health and infant education... are the two legs upon which the general morality of the future must travel"

    In a way, Dugdale would probably not disagree with the writer of the original article. Good tends to beget good, bad tends to beget bad. The divergence, of course, is in how we decide to define the values of "good" and "bad."

  2. And, as a postscript, there was a postscript to the Dugdale study.

    The original book, published in 1877, was largely an attempt to create a framework to discuss ways to better society. In 1916 Arthur Estabrook published a follow-up for the Eugenics Record Office. So I'm guessing we can already guess the conclusions.

    From the Wiki:

    Estabrook's data suggested that the family had actually shown fewer problems over time, but he pronounced that the Jukes family were "unredeemed" and suffering from such as much "feeblemindedness, indolence, licentiousness and dishonesty" as they had been in the past. Strongly emphasizing heredity, Estabrook's conclusions reversed Dugdale's argument about the environment, proposing that such families be prevented from reproducing, since no amount of environmental changes could alter their genetic inheritance towards criminality.

    Ergo, the writer of the original article is a Social Darwinist.

    Godwin in 5...4...3...2...

  3. And a triple post for the win:

    This website offers a breakdown of the numbers in the commonly told Max Jukes story. It also points out that Dugdale did not give any real biography on the man, to the point where calling him an "atheist" is nothing but an invention of the apologist. Everyone will be shocked by that revelation I'm sure...

  4. On the one hand, I'm disappointed that the man's name wasn't "Max Duke", which is very Beyond the Thunderdome-ish, on the other hand I can't say I'm surprised they're misrepresenting 130 year old social research.

  5. i'm going to read everything Geds linked, but - i *HAVE* to say...

    presuming a generation of 20 years - in 300 years, there have been 15 generations. and, despite what SOME morons think, "big families" in history were NOT hugely common, and when they DID happen, they happened as a fucking counter to the HUGE infant mortality rates, and child mortality rates.

    first generation, how many lived to reproduce? they don't say! assume 5.
    who each had 5. [maybe?] which is 25 - 125 - 625 - 3125 - WTF we're at the 6th generation and WHAT?!?!

    it's freaking stupid because it DOES NOT work like that.
    sorry, that's what i needed to get out :) not that you didn't know that lol.


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