Evangelical Christians | Evangelicals | Religion

The Evacuation Of The Titanic: Model Of Christian Charity?

Titanic-lifeboats-onlook-sinkingThe homophobes at Truth In Action are really, really into the RMS Titanic's sinking centennial. In The Truth That Transforms, the film, Truth In Action likened America to the doomed boat and gays to the iceberg that sank it. On Truth That Transforms, the website, the ministry has resurrected a clip of deceased minister Dr. D. James Kennedy likening the whole world to the Titanic and Christians to the lucky folk who escaped on lifeboats. And on Truth That Transforms, the radio show, the ministry press-ganged the Titanic tragedy into an advertisement for traditional Christian morality. RightWingWatch transcribed the relevant quotes:

People that were on board the deck of the Titanic at that time were individuals that grew up in a culture which was distinctively Christian in its perspective of the role of men and women and there’s an interesting contrast because in the year 1898 a French vessel called La Bourgogne sunk and when it sunk the sailors and the officers literally threw women and children into the water, beat them over the head, and the men lived and the women died. It sent shockwaves throughout the entire world, people said, ‘how could such a thing happen?’ And in trying to understand why that happened, the commentary was, they grew up in a culture that embraced evolution, it was the struggle of the survival of the fittest, they grew up in the culture of the French Revolution which had rejected biblical Christianity and embraced paganism and the consequences were that men treat women horrifically.

Now we flash forward to the year 2012 and this year our president has finally taken us over the abyss and we have full-fledged commitment to women in the frontlines of combat in overseas battles, we need to understand that that’s the first time in the history of the West that any nation has formally endorsed such a thing and it represents a radical departure from the values that were on board the ship in 1912.

… Evolution says the struggle of the survival of the fittest, there are no differences between men and women, there is no charity, there is no deference, and in an evolutionary world feminism reaches its height and we see no distinctions. The result is babies are killed en masse, women are treated like chattel and men no longer take on their masculine role as defenders.

... all of which warrants a brief corrective. Darwinian natural selection isn't opposed to altruism, since altruistic populations will tend to be more successful and leave more offspring. Anyway, if some unnaturally cerebral person was thinking about Darwinian reproductive strategies onboard a fast-sinking ship with too few life boats in the middle of an icy ocean, that individual would probably want to save as many women as possible. (One man and 1,000 women could conceivably have 1,000 children in a year; one woman and 1,000 men could probably have only one.)

But Truth In Action's point is ridiculous for more obvious reasons than those -- most notably, that the evacuation of the Titanic is a terrible advertisement for a Christian model of charity, or for any model at all. Despite the vessel's astounding shortage of lifeboats, what lifeboats there were mostly departed the ship at far less than full capacity. Some were only half full. And those who survived were mostly wealthy first- and second-class passengers, while those in steerage tended to drown. It's hard to imagine Jesus approving.

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  1. It's true. This is the perfect model of christianity.

    Posted by: Marc C | Apr 14, 2012 10:03:42 AM

  2. "When it SANK". Not "when it SUNK"! But why quibble over grammar when the whole article is so stupid?

    Posted by: russ | Apr 14, 2012 10:15:45 AM

  3. Thank you for the insight, Brandon. Very good points and I enjoyed the way you refuted the evolutionary points.

    Your penultimate sentence had me thinking of a much more obvious situation for which the Titanic serves as metaphor - the economy: "those who survived were mostly wealthy first and second-class passengers, while those in steerage tended to drown"

    Posted by: Greg | Apr 14, 2012 10:22:35 AM

  4. "we have full-fledged commitment to women in the frontlines of combat in overseas battles, we need to understand that that’s the first time in the history of the West that any nation has formally endorsed such a thing"

    Um, don't other western countries allow women to fight on the frontline? I think they do

    Posted by: Joe | Apr 14, 2012 10:39:19 AM

  5. So when the rapture comes, only those of high class and impeccable breeding are to be taken? With an occasional Molly Brown thrown in for good measure?

    That sounds somewhat "eugenic."

    Posted by: Acronym Jim | Apr 14, 2012 10:42:37 AM

  6. Notably, when the Titanic was sinking, only the captain was committed to the idea of saving the women and children. He threatened to shoot any man who boarded a lifeboat.

    Posted by: Chadd | Apr 14, 2012 10:47:48 AM

  7. ha, if the Titanic sank in 30 mins instead of several hours, I think the panic would have made the survivor stats quite different

    Posted by: Mark | Apr 14, 2012 10:50:21 AM

  8. Better analogy... the Titanic is the U.S. economy, and the life boats are full of those top one percenters who are surviving it.

    Posted by: topdawg | Apr 14, 2012 10:56:25 AM

  9. Some basic stats: The Titanic took two-and-a-half hours to sink so there was time to organise evacuation. The Lusitania went down in less than 20 minutes so there was mass panic:


    Posted by: John C | Apr 14, 2012 11:00:03 AM

  10. Fuss, you would be correct if the sentence were "when it had sunk, rather than when it sank." Sunk is passive and most correctly used in the past perfect.

    I love that Truth in Action would acknowledge that France was enormously Catholic in the early twentieth century. But, Evangelical Christians, by long failing to admit their status as a denomination, have decided that they are the soul representatives of Christianity.

    Posted by: PTBoat | Apr 14, 2012 11:15:05 AM

  11. http://fablog.ehrensteinland.com/2012/04/14/the-titanic-is-just-so-gay/

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Apr 14, 2012 11:21:15 AM

  12. The sinking of the Titanic is not a good example of anything resembling values. Sure there were heroic deeds, but also cowardice and selfishness run rampant. The steerage passengers were locked below decks so the more important, wealthy passengers could escape. Not to mention the few that survived were virtually ignored in the hearings held about the sinking. Leave the Titanic alone, Christians. It's offensive and completely misguided to try and use it as some sort of metaphor for your supposed virtues.

    Posted by: AJ | Apr 14, 2012 11:35:17 AM

  13. This is a gratuitous anti-Christian cometary. And I'm Agnostic and despise organized religions and their dogma.

    The Titanic sinking occurred in a world where rigid class structure existed [still exists in many parts of the world outside Europe, N. America, Australia/NZ], and the behavior of the Officers, crew, and passengers [of all 'classes'] must be judged in this light. What really caused problems for the lifeboats was the fact they were launched too late, the ship had developed a serious list, and it became very dangerous just to launch the boats. Boats filled to capacity were in great danger at this point in capsizing. The captain waited too long to safely launch them.

    BTW: I must say the men [males] by and large acted admirably. MANY men sacrificed themselves through their women and children first mentality. I wonder how many women would have voluntarily given up their chance to not die on that ship so a man could save his life? Even today, in our 'we're all equal' society, how many would? And how many men would still sacrifice themselves for women and children?

    Posted by: ratbastard | Apr 14, 2012 11:51:42 AM

  14. Again, taking into account all things symbolic/metaphoric, I'd like to point out that the ship itself is man-made and ran into the iceberg. The iceberg, according to the TIA people, represents the gay agenda/gay marriage. Their analogy falls apart when you realize the ship was misguided and ran into the iceberg which was floating along all by itself...it's not as if the iceberg lunged after the boat.

    These dimwits cannot even get their metaphors and symbolism untwisted, let alone their own logic.

    Posted by: benjamin | Apr 14, 2012 12:07:53 PM

  15. Wouldn't it be very "anti Christian" to have 1 men for a 1000 women in order to procreate? What happens to the sacrate intititution of marriage in that case?

    Posted by: Justathought | Apr 14, 2012 12:13:58 PM

  16. They may not realize it, but the analogy is more apt than they realize, though not in a way they'd like. Icebergs (like gays) are perfectly natural phenomenon and the iceberg didn't really sink the Titanic. The iceberg was just floating around minding it's own business. The Titanic, a crass and unwieldy man-made edifice (like religion) SANK ITSELF by slamming into it, partly due to the arrogant and hubristic assumption that an invention of Man superseded and could triumph over nature. But it didn't work out that way, now did it?

    So they might want to rethink this.

    Posted by: Caliban | Apr 14, 2012 12:39:02 PM

  17. Some basic stats: The Titanic took two-and-a-half hours to sink so there was time to organise evacuation. The Lusitania went down in less than 20 minutes so there was mass panic

    And, if you look at the history of shipwrecks during the steamship era, which began in 1840 with the first Cunard liners, the Lusitania is a much more common scenario. Ships typically foundered because of storms or fires, with little time to evacuate or a chance of surviving in a lifeboat. In fact, many ships simply disappeared with all aboard and their fates are still unknown. One of the really unique features of the Titanic sinking was the length of time the ship stayed afloat and the calmness of the seas that night. That was part of the reason ships were not equipped with lifeboats for all - it was a rare wreck that even provided the opportunity to save all aboard.

    Posted by: CPT_Doom | Apr 14, 2012 12:44:27 PM

  18. I like the idea of being a gay iceberg.

    Posted by: kodiak | Apr 14, 2012 12:48:24 PM

  19. One of the Onion's most famous pieces:

    The Onion, April 16, 1912: "World's Largest Metaphor Hits Ice-Berg"


    Posted by: bobbyjoe | Apr 14, 2012 12:53:55 PM

  20. Oh yes, of course, God made the Titanic collide with an iceberg because there were homos on board.

    Oops, wrong article...

    Posted by: jim | Apr 14, 2012 12:57:49 PM

  21. Is there something constructive that I as a gay man can do with this info? All it does is depress me that other people are so mis-informed and hateful. Why do we keep posting these haters comments on our websites? If there is action to take, fine. If not, I suggest there be less of this kind of posting.

    Posted by: Andy Panda | Apr 14, 2012 1:22:07 PM

  22. The Titanic is fraught with too many analogies, but helps to symbolize the fracturing of Christian Europe that began with the death of Queen Victoria and ended with the end of WWI and the Russian Revolution.

    The real irony of the press release is that while making clear use of metaphor, the evangelicals are missing the whole point of biblical metaphor, something that their theology goes to great lengths to avoid and disavow. They apparently know what a metaphor is, but can't see recognize it in their own doctrinal background.

    Posted by: anon | Apr 14, 2012 1:26:16 PM

  23. I remember the main Onion headline, but I completely forgot about the additional subject lines:


    My two favourites are "Stewards kindly ask third-class passengers to drown" and "Did Jazz Sink The Great Ship?"

    Posted by: Nat | Apr 14, 2012 1:33:37 PM

  24. An aside:

    From boyhood on I have been fascinated by the Titanic story, often asking elders if they remembered the sinking. Finally I was in an elevator one night in the New York's Spencer Arms Hotel when a small and very elderly lady stepped in and in moments, right out of the blue, vigorously announced, to me and another man, "I'm 96 today, and you know what's made me live so long?" Not waiting for an answer, she said, "It's love."

    I was flabbergasted and immediately wanted to ask my favorite question. But before I could she went on saying that she had had breast cancer. "But the doctor fixed it" she said and smacking herself on the chest with both hands added "these are falsies."

    The elevator stopped, the door opened and I still wanted to ask my question but could not manage anything close to an appropriate segway. She stepped out and holding the door open I burst out clumsily: "have you ever done anything"? "Hmp" she said sharply opening her purse and handing me a card. It said "Survivor". She commanded, "Turn it over, turn it over" and there I read the words "Titanic Club of the United States of America." I stepped out of the evevator and we went to her room where we talked until 3 am. Her name was Rene Harris, she lost her husband that night but would speak no further about it saying "It is not for me a Night To Rmember" which was the title of a famous book about the event at the time.

    And so my fascination was far more than fulfilled, it was given the gift of experience.

    The next day I went to the library and found her name on the passenger list. Some time later I wrote to her from my home in Portland, Oregon. The letter was returned, stamped "Deceased."

    She was one of New York's many great characters I found. You can look her up on line for a good many stories.

    Posted by: uffda | Apr 14, 2012 1:41:15 PM

  25. correction:

    You can reference her on line as Renee Harris Titanic, and she was 92 when I met her, having passed away at the age of 93.

    Posted by: uffda | Apr 14, 2012 2:05:16 PM

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