Category Archives: Gospel

The Biblical And Moral Case For Trump?

This is the man that evangelical Christians are lining up behind. Take a minute to get your head around that thought.
Is there a moral or biblical imperative to vote for this man?

Like a lot of folks this election season, evangelicals are struggling with the “lesser of two evils” argument. Interestingly, many of them are reacting the same way as progressives: contemplating either a third-party vote or not voting at all. Today, I want to address a couple of  articles advising evangelical and fundamentalist Christians on how they should vote by laying out a biblical or moral case for Donald Trump.

The first is from Wayne Grudem, titled “Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice“. The second is “To The “Never Trumper”- A Biblical Case For Trump” (no author credited). Perhaps the most interesting thing about these two articles is that neither present anything particularly biblical or moral about Trump. I wondered why that might be and began comparing some of Trump’s actions and words with scripture and found that much of what The Donald has said, done or proposed flies in the face of almost everything Chirstians stand for. Here are a few examples:

  • “I love the old days, you know? You know what I hate? There’s a guy totally disruptive, throwing punches, we’re not allowed punch back anymore. … I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell ya.”_  “But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well.” Matthew 5:39
  • “It’s a horrible thing. They’re using them as shields. But we’re fighting a very politically correct war. And the other thing is with the terrorists, you have to take out their families.” _ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you, so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:44-45
  • “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,”_ “I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:36 (Not a direct quote, but a policy position)
  • “(Cruz’s) father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being, you know, shot. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right, prior to his being shot? And nobody even brings it up…, What was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.” _ “The Lord detests false lips; he favors those who do what is true.” Proverbs 12:22 (So many Trump statements have been proven false, it is not feasible to list them all here. I chose this one as a representative sample because it’s one of the most outrageous.)
  • “I think apologizing’s a great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I’m ever wrong.” _ “Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
  • “My entire life, I’ve watched politicians bragging about how poor they are, how they came from nothing, how poor their parents and grandparents were. And I said to myself, if they can stay so poor for so many generations, maybe this isn’t the kind of person we want to be electing to higher office. How smart can they be? They’re morons.” _ “But if a person has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care—how can the love of God remain in him?” 1 John 3:17

These are just a few of the things that I found and I believe that they, along with the scripture references provided, conclusively debunk the idea that there is a biblical or moral context to vote for Donald Trump. You can vote for the man if you want, but you probably shouldn’t use the Bible to justify it. Because it just doesn’t hold up.

Christians For Trump Pt…, Oh, Who Cares

This is the man that evangelical Christians are lining up behind. Take a minute to get your head around that thought.
Evangelical Christians are enthusiastically supporting this man. Take a minute to get your head around that thought.

Since the beginning of the year, I have written several pieces about the tangerine-hued hairball the Republican Party has hacked up on our political rug, aka Donald Trump. Most of them have focused on my bewilderment at evangelical Christians support of Trump and the fact that, no matter what he says or does, the man’s popularity continues to grow.

According to a report from the Pew Research Center, Seventy-eight percent of evangelical Christians support a thrice-divorced casino owner who has committed adultery on numerous occasions, made multiple semi-incestuous comments about his daughter and appeared on the cover Playboy. Wait, what? Isn’t this stuff on their laundry list of mortal sins? I am so confused.

In part, this groundswell of support may be due to the fact that evangelical leaders absolutely love them some Trump. (Is it just me or that sound vaguely sexual?) From Jerry Falwell Jr. to Pat Robertson to James Dobson and more, the big names on the Religious Right are falling all over themselves to endorse this baby-handed fucktrumpet. You have no idea how much I wish I was making this up, but I…Am…Not.

First up there’s Liberty University president and first-born son of Jerry Falwell, religious right icon and founder of the Moral Majority. Falwell has endorsed Trump offered up his university as a forum for this unhinged Oompa Loompa. Trump may have appeared on a Playboy cover, but he was never in a gay cartoon. And, isn’t that what really matters?

Then there’s James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, who has personally vouched for Trump’s evangelical bona fides. Recently, at a meeting with Trump and evangelical leaders, Dobson said that Donald had “found” Jesus. (He was hiding behind the couch the whole time.) Obviously, Dobson and I have very different ideas about what it means to be a Christian.

Finally, there’s Pat Robertson, the televangelist’s televangelist. Pat is famous for his gaffes and crazy talk and his interview with The Donald was no exception. At one point, he tells Trump “You inspire us all”. Inspire us all? To do what? Shit on immigrants? Dump on veterans? Relentlessly attack anyone who is remotely critical of anything you say or do? If you’re a Christian and Donald Trump inspires you to do anything other than vomit, I’m pretty sure you’re doing Christianity wrong.

This love is filtering down to the masses, too. Check out this report from Full Frontal with Samantha Bee:

Did you get that? If not, starting at the 1:17 mark, an evangelical Trump supporter says, “I believe, truly, that Trump is appointed by God to lead this nation back in the direction it needs to go.” Another states that “Donald Trump is the answer to our prayers.” But, perhaps most chillingly, is this remark from a young (possibly pre-teen) man: “We know that he is a godly man.” Holy Shitballs, you guys!

Someone, somewhere, may read this and think, “Yeah, but what about Hillary? She’s no paragon of Christian virtue.” Yes, you are correct. Clinton’s embrace of Wall Street and support of the use of force overseas should cause any Christian worth their salt no small amount of distress. But, there are two “yooge” differences: 1) Clinton hasn’t attempted to make her faith part of her brand the way Trump has and 2) she isn’t receiving the same, hypocritical praise that is falling on the Donald.

In a recent Facebook discussion with some of my friends who support Trump, one said that “we do not have a true Christian option for president.” I responded that, given all the compromises one has to make to even run for President, I’m not sure a true Christian option is possible and he agreed. So, why don’t we drop all the bullshit about a candidate’s faith and judge this solely on the basis of who will do the best job? Yeah, don’t bother responding; I already know the answer.

Am I Still A Christian?

Doubt TillichOver the years, I’ve had people ask me, “How can you call yourself a Christian with some of the things you believe?” It’s a fair question, seeing as I don’t put much stock in a lot of orthodox beliefs anymore. The short (smartass) answer comes in two parts: 1) I’m a progressive Christian, which means I’m not hung up on a lot the stuff Christians have traditionally worried about: sex, drugs, rock and roll, etc. 2) I’m not really that good of a Christian.

But, a better question is “Why do I still call myself a Christian?” I think the answer to that will make more sense if I tell what I do and don’t believe these days.

  • The Biblical creation story _ I don’t believe the story told in Genesis is a historical, factual account of the world’s creation. The evidence presented by science about the Big Bang and evolution is overwhelming and to believe otherwise is to be willfully ignorant. That is not to say that I think the Genesis story should be tossed out. For me, it exists as myth or allegory and has to do with why we’re here, not how we got here.
  • That the Bible is the literal, inerrant Word of God _ I gave this one up a long time ago, if I ever really believed in the first place. That was only reinforced by the fact that, for me, learning the history of the Bible was a lot like watching sausage being made: it wasn’t pretty. The Bible has a place in my life, to be sure. But, it’s not the be all, end all of things.
  • The Virgin Birth _  I no longer believe that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived. That’s just not how biology works. Besides, the whole thing is based on a mistranslation of one word. In my opinion, the virgin birth story was a literary device that, like several other historically questionable events in the birth narratives, was meant to show that Jesus was special. Personally, I prefer to spend my time working on living the way he taught than how he was conceived.
  • An actual physical resurrection _ A few years ago, there was a bit of a dust-up between Tony Jones and Marcus Borg about whether the resurrection was physical or spiritual, with Jones arguing for physical. As I followed this discussion (between Jones and his detractors. Marcus was smart enough not to get down in the mud with them), I began to realize I had trouble accepting that Jesus’ body was reanimated and he walked around in it. The best I can do with this one is to believe that something happened in that tomb that inspired his followers to carry on, even in the face of persecution, oppression and death at the hands of the state.
  • The Trinity _ Actually, saying I don’t believe in the Trinity isn’t accurate. A better way to put it would be that I don’t really give a shit. Like the preceding items on this list, I don’t see how spending any time on it makes me a better follower of Jesus, so why bother?
  • Whether God even exists _ I suppose this makes me more of agnostic than anything else. I say this because I’ve never had that moment that some people talk about where God knocked me to my knees. In fact, I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt the presence of God at any point in my life. At least, not in the way others have spoken of.

So, in light of all this, why do I still call myself a Christian? Because the way Jesus taught us to live is a pretty damn decent one. It  definitely makes makes me a better person. And, understand when I say “the way Jesus taught us to live”, I’m not talking about the perversion that is American Christianity, I mean what he actually said: love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, forgive those who treat you badly, don’t hoard your wealth, share with those who have less…, you get the picture.

Christians for Trump 2016!

 

Christians for TrumpI don’t know about anyone else, but I have been so underwhelmed by the choices in the upcoming presidential election. Until recently, I floundered around, looking for the true, evangelical Christian candidate, all to no avail. Ben Carson was looking good for a while, but then I realized he’s a Seventh-Day Adventist, and I just can’t hang with a such weird, semi-magical faith. Jeb Bush is a Catholic and, as we all know, the Pope is the Anti-Christ. So, he’s out. I had all but settled on Ted Cruz as the one, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I thought all was lost until, just a few days ago, the clouds parted, the trumpets sounded and the answer I was looking for was revealed.

You see, that’s when Jerry Falwell, Jr, president of Liberty University and son of Rev. Jerry Falwell, endorsed Donald J. Trump for President of the United States, calling Trump “a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again.” Yes! Coming on the heels of Sister Sarah Palin’s declaration of support , it is clear that God wants Donald Trump to lead this country back to greatness.

We’ve had hints that Brother JJ might come out for the Donald. Since Trump, aka “the last great hope for this hell hole of a country”, stepped onto the pages of history by declaring his intent to run for president, Falwell has put some time into building a rapport with the man. In recent weeks, he has compared Trump to Falwell, Sr and stated, “In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the Great Commandment.”

And, the country is ready for this, beloved. As this sign at an Alabama rally for Trump back in August shows:

trump4

Of course, some wag is going to point to the Donald’s less-than-stellar knowledgee of the Bible or the fact that he can’t remember ever asking God’s forgiveness, questioning his evangelical bonfides. But, honestly, none of that really matters. What does matter? That Trump is the only person who can save us from the dreadful mismanagement that has characterized the Obama administration. I mean, seriously, how much more employment, peace and economic prosperity can this country take?

Mr. Trump is also the strong man we need to lead us against the forces that threaten to destroy the very fabric of our nation. Who else but Trump can go toe-to-toe with ISIS, Vladimir Putin and China? Sure, he backed out of the debate last night rather than face Megyn Kelly. But, after the way she went after him last time, who could blame him? Intelligent women who won’t put up with your crap are scary.

Does it matter that he’s greedy, privileged, willing to use all the resources at his disposal to stroke his own ego while others suffer (often on account of what he’s said), and cares nothing for the consequences of his words and actions so long as they don’t affect him personally? Of course not! All good Christians should aspire to be like Mr. Trump; rich as Croesus and unashamedly politically incorrect. Because, really, isn’t that what the Gospel is all about?

God Is Still Speaking. But Kenneth Copeland And Jesse Duplantis Aren’t Listening

In the past, I’ve said that every now and then, the internet gives you a gift. And, often, that gift is amazing. Generally, those gifts come in the form of some celebrity Christian saying or doing something unintentionally funny. A lot of the time, it’s a comment that accidentally ironic and reveals things they really don’t want out in the open. Today’s offering is of the latter variety. But, even after watching it several times, I’m still not sure I believe it’s real.

Last month, Kenneth Copeland and his partner in crime pal, Jesse Duplantis, were chatting on The Believer’s Voice of Victory (Copeland’s television show) and a rather startling bit of information came out. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you what they said, so watch it for yourself:

That’s right, beloved, these two glorified carnival barkers claim God gave them and their pals private jets because you can’t talk to the Almighty on a commercial airline. Damn.

But, wait, it gets worse. You see, not only do these multi-million dollar private jets allow these “men of God” (and, I use that term with all the sarcasm I can muster) to commune with God, they offer sanctuary. Copeland, in attempting to justify what may the most blatant reward from his years of bilking folks out of their hard-earned dollars, said that people in his position really can’t fly commercial anymore, as they’re so famous that people want meet them and pray with them. Copeland described flying commercial thusly: “… you get in a looong tube, with a bunch of demons. It’s deadly!”

In another incredibly clueless statement, Copeland claims that “We’re in the soul business, here. We got a dyin’ world around us, Jesse. We got a dyin’ nation around us. And, we can’t even get there on no airline!” Now, it’s been awhile since I’ve flown. Hell, it’s been awhile since I’ve even thought about flying, but I’m pretty sure that there aren’t many places in the United States that you can’t get to on a commercial flight. At the very least, you can get to within decent driving distance of ones that don’t have an airport. So, yeah.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Copeland and his prosperity gospel pals (here and here, for example), but this story brings up a question that is troubling.  On viewing this video, a friend of mine (who happens to be an atheist) asked: “How can progressive Christians dispute this when they boldly proclaim ‘God is still speaking’?” My answer was “Easy, when we say ‘God is still speaking’, we don’t mean a disembodied voice that tells us what we want to hear. We believe that God speaks through people like Martin Luther King, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas Merton and others who give voice to the true nature of the Gospel: love”.

Yes, the message of these religious snake oil salesmen can drown out those alternative voices. But, much like the Doctor chipping away at the Azbantium wall in the “Heaven Sent” episode, we keep working to be God’s voice in the hope that, eventually, people will see the message of people like Copeland for what it is: a perversion of the Gospel. I just hope it doesn’t take 4 billion years to get there.

Americans Becoming Less Religious

Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Recently, a friend posted a link to a Pew Research Center report titled “U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious” and asked “How do we reach people where they are at, without driving them away?” Not long before that, I heard a commercial for a church in Chapel Hill NC advertising an event to pack 20,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now. These two seemingly disconnected things are, in my opinion, inextricably joined: one is the problem we’re faced with and the other is a ham-fisted, utterly clueless attempt to confront that problem: i.e. the church’s growing irrelevance in modern society.

To put a finer point on things, the church has a massive credibility problem right now, especially among millenials. Why? Because we have a history of being assholes, that’s why. From the Crusades to the modern-day church’s marginalization of people who are LGBTQ, the bill of particulars against us is long, varied and, all too often, bloody and violent. It also showcases our hypocrisy. Our faith is based on a man who told his followers to love their neighbor, love their enemy; hell, love everyone. That’s about as inclusive as it gets, but what has the church done? Turned it into an exclusive club with a long list of requirements that must be met to qualify for membership. Is it any wonder that millenials, with their yearning for authenticity, are rejecting us in droves?

So, how do we reach people where they’re at without driving them away? Well, we could follow the example of certain mainline churches and immerse ourselves in the liturgical aspects of worship. But, unless there’s a sea change in our attitude, that’s just window dressing and it will wear as thin as the rock concert atmosphere of an evangelical mega church. The church should be more concerned with what happens in the community its a part of than what goes on inside its walls.

To fully answer this question, I have to tell you a short story, first. Every Thursday night, a coffeehouse near me has a trivia contest and many of my friends from church attend regularly; including my pastor, Michael Usey. The one time I’ve made it out there, we trying to come up with a name for our team and Michael  said “How about The Non-Shitty Christians?” We all laughed and answered “Hell yeah”. Our scores in the contest were dismal, but the name was a hit, drawing laughs every time the emcee said it. My friends, that name is my recommendation for how we reach people without driving them away. We need to become “non-shitty Christians”.

So, how does one be a “non-shitty Christian”? For one, you can stop obsessing over lady bits and sin and start doing the things Jesus told us to do (loving our neighbors, caring for the poor, not hording shit, etc.). If you do, it’s entirely possible that people will notice and say “Hey, I like what these folks are doing”. If you’re lucky, they might  even come join you. For another, you can open your doors to everyone. And, when I say “everyone”, I mean “everyone”: Lesbians, gay men, bisexual folks, people in polyamorous relationships, people of color, even (maybe especially) trans men and women. And, when I say “open your doors”, I mean “open them all the way”, none of this half-measure bullshit we get from some denominations that supposedly welcome folks who are LGBTQ but won’t ordain, marry or even allow them to join the church.

Now, there is a bit of a Catch 22 here: you can’t advertise the things you’re doing because that will kill any credibility/authenticity you might gain from it. This where that church commercial I mentioned earlier comes in. Working to ensure hungry folks get a decent meal is always good and it is one of main the things Christians are called to do. But, taking out a radio ad touting what you’re doing? That goes against scripture and it makes it appear that you have ulterior motives. Strangely, millenials (and other people) are big on that whole “do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do” deal. Following Jesus’ commandments in order to fill the membership roles (and, by extension, the collection plate) or go to heaven doesn’t really fly with them.

The bottom line is that we should stop trying to “attract millenials”, “reach the unchurched” or whatever face we decide to put on our worry over the miniscule reduction of the church’s primacy in the world and start being the damned church. Give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty. Visit the prisoner and care for the sick. Clothe the naked. Open our doors and welcome everyone. Maybe if we start living the way Jesus meant for us to, we could actualy be relevant in a good way…, for once.

 

Pope Francis and The GOP: Where Is The Love?

Both the media and the GOP think Francis is a "progressive". At least one of them thinks that's a bad thing.
Both the media and the GOP think Francis is a “progressive”. At least one of them thinks that’s a bad thing.

Unless you live under a rock, you know the Pope is visiting the U. S. this week. What you might not have known is that Frankie is a “progressive”. At least, that’s what the media (and the Republican party) keeps telling us. Only in the America of the 21st century could a man who’s pro-life, anti-LGBT and against the ordination of women be called a “progressive”. While the media is having a field day with Francis’ visit, saying that the GOP isn’t exactly happy about the whole thing is a bit like referring to the Hindenburg disaster as a “fire”: true, but an understatement of massive proportions.

Take Marco Rubio, for instance. This good Catholic boy recently said, “As a Catholic, the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, the successor of Peter and the head of the Church…And in theological matters, as a Catholic, I believe when he pronounces himself from the chair of Peter, which is actually very rare, he is infallible in those decisions, in those issues. That does not extend to political issues like the economy”. He added, “On economic issues, the pope is a person.” Fellow Catholic Chris Christie agrees. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “I just think the Pope is wrong. The fact is that his infallibility is on religious matters, not on political ones.” Isn’t it funny how the Pope’s infallibility evaporates as soon as he starts contradicting conservatives about money or the environment?

Two other cradle Catholics, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Rick Santorum (who, thanks to Dan Savage, needs no introduction) get a little more specific in their criticism of Pope Francis. Both take issue with Francis’ comments on climate change, with Gosar claiming the Pope is promoting “questionable science” and Santorum declaring, “The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours.” Rick went on to say, “I think we [Catholics] are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re good at, which is theology and morality.” Couple of things here: 1) I love how any science that doesn’t allow the GOP’s corporate pals to continue raping the planet in their quest for riches is “questionable” and 2) Francis is scientist, having graduated as a chemical technician and working in that capacity for the Hickethier-Bachmann Laboratory before entering the priesthood. Sounds like someone didn’t do their homework.

You would think the GOP’s very own propaganda channel media outlet, FoxNews, would back them up on all this asshattery. But check out this commentary from the network’s own Shepard Smith:

“I think that we are in a weird place in the world when the following things are considered political. Five things, I’m going to tick them off. These are the five things that were on [the pope] and our president’s agenda. Caring for the marginalized and the poor. That’s now political. Advancing economic opportunity for all. Political? Serving as good stewards of the environment. Protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom globally. Welcoming [and] integrating immigrants and refugees globally. And that’s political?

I mean, I don’t know what we expect to hear from an organization’s leader like the pope of the Catholic Church other than protect those who need help, bring in refugees who have no place because of war and violence and terrorism. These seem like universal truths that we should be good to others who have less than we do, that we should give shelter to those who don’t have it. I think these were the teachings in the Bible of Jesus. They’re the words of the pope, they’re the feelings of the president. And people who find themselves on the other side of that message should consult a mirror, it seems like. Because I think that’s what we’re supposed to do as a people, whatever your religion. I mean, it seems to me — and I think to probably, as Bill O’Reilly would put it, most clear-thinking Americans — that that’s how we’re supposed to roll.”

A FoxNews anchor taking Republicans to task on the air? Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more weird.

Taken by itself, Smith’s comments could be written off as a cynical attempt to make Fox look like it’s living up to its tagline, “Fair and Balanced”. But, lately, the network has been giving Trump hell and Chris Wallace called Carly Fiorina out on her Planned Parenthood BS, both of which gives some credence that “change of heart” theory. Holy crap on a cracker. Is there a rip in the space-time continuum that I didn’t know about? Or, maybe, the Apocalypse is upon us; I don’t know. Either way, this is uncharted territory and it’s a little scary.

Drive-by Evangelism

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If you live in Greensboro, there is a distinct possibility that you’ve seen this car. Lest you think this is a crazy, one-off occurrence,  let me assure that it’s not. I took this photo at a certain home improvement center on S. Elm Street in Greensboro last fall. Then, just a few months ago, I was sitting in the drive-through at fine fried chicken emporium on the north side of town and a car pulled in and parked. It, too, was covered in “turn or burn” graffiti and when the occupants got out, they were wearing matching t-shirts with similar messages. Isn’t that nice? Nothing says “God is love” quite like “Believe in me or I’ll torture you for all eternity!”

These cars are rolling religious tracts; you know, those lovely little pamphlets that say “If you died tonight, do you know where you would go?” My friend, Jinx Barber, said his answer to that question is “I know exactly where I’m going. First to the medical examiners office, so my wife can see what drugs I wasn’t sharing with her. Then over to the mortuary where they will tan my Baphomet tattoo (which is a full back panel, thank you very much) into a giant canvas. Then they will quarter and cremate me so that I do not have to endure bodily resurrection and have to put up with a bunch of goody two shoes jerks for the rest of eternity.” Did I mention Jinx is a pastor? Yep, a youth pastor too.

All these lovely activities fall into the category of something called “drive-by evangelism”, which Thom Rainer says is “A derogatory term for evangelistic encounters that are brief and abrupt and are considered to be ineffective for convincing people to convert to Christianity.” I especially like that last bit, “considered to be ineffective for convincing people to convert to Christianity”. And, that is true…, just like walking up to complete strangers and smacking them in the face is an ineffective way to make friends.

Most people who engage in this sort of thing usually claim it’s biblical, citing such verses as Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 5:42 and 20:20. Sure, because Jesus was the original tract bomber (that’s a real thing, y’all) and Paul traveled around the Gentile world with a sandwich sign that said “Get saved or you will burn in hell for all eternity!”

I suppose I should take moment to point out that, yes, Jesus did say that we should spread the good news. And, that Paul spent the last years of his life doing this very thing. Of course, they did so by taking the time to build relationships with people, not shoving scary-ass little booklets into their hands or waving ridiculous signs telling them what vile disgusting sinners they are.  But, hey, we’re Americans and finding quicker, “better” ways to do stuff is what we do. So what if we’ve applied our assembly line ethos to Jesus’ message of hope for the downtrodden and, in the process, turned it into a glorified “get out of jail free” card?  We’ve got to get this shit done so we can kick back on a cloud with a halo and a harp and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Because, really, isn’t it all about us?

I’m A Christian, But, I’m Not…

Mollie Hemingway recently wrote an article for “The Federalist” titled “5 Most Cringeworthy Problems With Buzzfeed’s Viral ‘I’m a Christian, But I’m Not’, Video” (shown at the top of this page) and she wasn’t exactly what you’d call “complementary”. Now, If I’m being honest, I have to agree that the clip is a little douchey. Not in the evangelical/fundamentalist “I’m saved, but you’re all going to hell” way; more like the NALT project, which is just a little reminiscent of Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector. According to Hemingway, the video “was easily the most unintentionally hilarious, if shockingly bigoted, BuzzFeed video ever produced.” After watching it, I’m left wondering if Hemingway actually understands what “bigoted” really means. Or, “shockingly” either, for that matter.

I say that because the statement in question follows an extremely condescending dismissal of everything the people in the clip say. Displaying the (possibly) unwitting arrogance that seems to permeate conservative Christianity, she attempts to minimize the participants words with quotation marks, a strikeout and, that particulraly odious tool of rejection, ridiculing a person’s spelling/choice of words. Then, she lists the 5 most egregious things in the video. So, let’s take a look at what Ms. Hemingway considers cringeworthy:

  1. No Mention of Jesus
    Hemingway claims, after referencing its text, that the video contains “Not a single mention of Jesus, the author and finisher of the Christian faith.” That’s not exactly true. Sure, no one mentions Jesus by name, but the J-man is all over this thing. Most notably in the statement, “love is the most important thing.” If I could talk to Hemingway (and the young woman who shared this and was a member of the youth group I worked with in the past), I’d tell her that Jesus isn’t constantly smacking us on the ass, yelling “Say my name, bitch!”
  2. No Diversity
    Now, you may be wondering how a video about Christians that features people of color, people who are LGBT+ or who depart from the Church’s view on sex isn’t diverse (I know I was). But, here’s Hemingway’s problem: there are no “conservatives” in the cast. She even breaks it down by percentage, saying “At least 33 percent of those interviewed are LGBT (roughly 10 times the national average) and at least 50 percent are feminist (only 18 percent of Americans actually identify as feminist).” In other words, she’s arguing that the video isn’t “politically correct”; a concept she has a history of criticizing. Talk about “unintentionally hilarious”!
  3. Wow, Was It Bigoted 
    As I said earlier, I’m not sure if Hemingway knows what “bigoted” actually means. According to Merriam-Webster, it is an adjective for “bigot”, which is defined as ” a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.” Does the video display some condescension? Absolutely. Does that condescension rise to the level of hate or intolerance? No, it doesn’t. Not once in this video does anyone claim that their belief is the right one, that everyone else is wrong, or show that they are “intolerantly devoted” to anything. They didn’t, as Hemingway infers, say that people who disagree with them are “homophobic, holier-than-thou, close-minded, unaccepting, uneducated, judgmental, conservative ignoramuses.” But, you know what they say; “A hit dog always howls.”
  4. Christianity Offends 
    Yes, it does. Hell, I’m a Christian and it offends me. Okay, to be more accurate, what currently passes for orthodox Christianity offends me. Why? Because it took a way of life based on unconditional love and turned it into a belief system incorporating a set of arbitrary rules designed to separate and control people. The real problem with the video is that it talks about a Christianity that’s radical and countercultural. And, that scares the shit out of people like Hemingway, a middle class white woman who is heavily invested in maintaining the status quo.
  5. It’s a Pharisee Prayer
    In this item, we finally get to down Hemingway’s real issue with the video: sex. Yes, beloved, after all that other bullshit, it boils down when and with whom you choose to knock boots. I say that because, of all the issues she lists in her article, she uses sex to make her point, saying “The media wrongly think that any time you articulate Christian doctrine on sexuality—which is exacting and more or less completely contradictory to the way of the world—you’re putting yourself on a pedestal. That’s a childish reading of such articulation. And it completely ignores the point of Christianity, which is that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Two problems here: 1) Why do conservatives have such an obsession with sex? 2) The point of Christianity is “that while we were still sinners Christ died for us“? Shit, all this time,  I thought it was “Love one another.” Boy, is my face red.

In her closing paragraph, Hemingway says “Let us all beware of smug complacency and measuring ourselves against others.” That may be the most clueless sentence in human history, because she writes it after spending over 1,800 words doing just that. If there’s any doubt, the last two sentences should clear things up: “Let’s join the tax collector and cry out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner! And forgive BuzzFeed while you’re at it—particularly when it comes to religious content, they could use your prayers.” I guess, as a “real” (i.e. conservative) Christian, Hemingway is in possession of the Truth and we should all listen to her. Especially those heathens at BuzzFeed.

Christian Persecution?

religious_persecutionEver since the issue of marriage equality popped up on the national radar, conservative Christians have been worried about being “persecuted for their beliefs” (and by “persecuted for their beliefs”, I mean “not allowed to shit on gay people anymore”). We’ve heard about bakers getting in trouble for refusing to make cakes for “gay” weddings, fears that pastors will be prosecuted for preaching against same-sex marriage, clerks of court being ordered to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, etc. That last example brings us to Casey Davis, clerk of Casey County, Kentucky.

Like his associate, Kim Davis of Rowan County, Casey has refused to issue marriage certificates to couples who are LGBT. However, unlike Ms. Davis, Casey has not just refused to issue marriage licenses, he’s taking his protest of the Supreme Court’s decision to a new level: martyrdom. That’s right, beloved; Casey Davis says he is willing to stand by his belief that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman even if it kills him. In his words: “Our law says ‘one man and one woman,’ and that is what I held my hand up and took an oath to and that is what I expected. If it takes my life, I will die … because I believe I owe that to the people that fought so I can have the freedom that I have, I owe that to them today, and you do, we all do.” He also said that there is a “war on Christianity” and that the Court’s action was “completely unconstitutional.” Well, okay then.

There are a couple of things wrong with Davis’ statement. First, the law that said “one man and one woman” was overturned by the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision. That means it isn’t the “law” anymore and, as a government official, he has to respect that. If he can’t, then he should resign, as Governor Beshear told him. Second, it’s awful easy to say you’re willing to be martyred over a belief that no one actually wants to kill you for holding. Lastly, I may be wrong about this, but as the Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of what is or isn’t constitutional in this country, a decision from them can’t be unconstitutional.

But, let’s be clear: not being allowed to discriminate against others is not persecution. I can’t believe we have to keep talking about this, but since we do, can we talk about why some Christians need a freakin’ law to get to them behave the way the man they claim to follow asked?

When Jesus encountered someone who had been marginalized by the dominant culture, what did he do? Did he tell them they had straighten up and conform (i.e repent of their sin) before he’d have anything to do with them or did he welcome them with open arms and love them unconditionally? It’s the second option, in case you’re wondering; the first was the Pharisees’ gig. Now, just in case I’ve put too fine a point on things, let me say this: Going out of your way to deny historically marginalized people their God-given, lawfully accorded rights because you think your Christian faith requires that means you have no fucking idea of what it means to be a Christian.