Category Archives: The Gospel

No Homosexual Lifestyle???

In August of last year, the darling of the progressive Christian world, John Pavlovitz, wrote a post titled Repeat After Me: “There is No Such Thing as a “Homosexual Lifestyle.”  What?!? No homosexual lifestyle? I find that hard to believe. I mean, if there’s no “homosexual lifestyle”, that means I’ve been an asshole for absolutely no reason whatsoever. That is a turn of events I just cannot accept.

Look, there are numerous places where the Bible plainly states homosexuality is a sin. Here are a few of those places:

  • In Leviticus 18:22, God told Moses that men shouldn’t lie with men as they do with women because that is an abomination. Of course, a few chapters earlier, God also told Moses that the people shouldn’t eat pork and shrimp. But, I love pork and shrimp, so I ignore that part. Thank you, God, for the miracle of proof-texting!
  • In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul said that “homosexuals” won’t “inherit the kingdom of God”. Yes, I know the word “homosexual” doesn’t appear in the Bible until the middle of the 20th century. But, the words that have been rendered as “homosexual” are slang terms and we really don’t know what they mean. But, hey, if we don’t know what Paul meant, what’s wrong with interpreting it in a way that benefits us “normal”, straight folks?
  • In Romans 1:26-28, Paul tells us that men and women gave up natural, God-ordained relations and defiled themselves with icky, same-sex shenanigans and were promptly punished for it. Sure, in the very next chapter, Paul tells us that God condemns the kind of judgement he just threw out, but that doesn’t help my case, so I’m ignoring it.

Seriously, is this man, this “pastor”, trying to tell me that my deeply held religious belief about the homosexuals, based on a Bible verses that have been few proof-texted and cherry-picked within an inch of their life, is wrong? Really?

According to Pavlovitz, “We all have a gender identity and a sexual orientation and these things all fall along a vast and complicated continuum. It is this specific combination of both how we see ourselves and who we are drawn to that form this essential part of who we are.” Oh, come on, “gender identity” and “sexual orientation”? Everyone knows God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. And, Eve was always Eve, not Steve who decided he was Eve. No less an authority than the Southern Baptist Convention backs this up in their resolution “On Transgender Identity”. How could that many Baptists be wrong about something like this?

He also says that the Christians are holding onto “the prejudices and fears our faith inherited 3500 years ago when we didn’t know what we know now” and is “deliberately choosing to not know now; preferring religion to reality”. Well, of course we are. Otherwise we might have to change. And, if there’s one thing we don’t do very well, it’s change.

Look, the bottom line is that accepting homosexuality as innate and not a “lifestyle” is just another step onto the slippery slope that will ultimately lead Christians to live by the teachings of Jesus and start loving our neighbor and turning the other cheek. God only knows where that could lead.

The Real Christian Candidate?

Vote Jesus Christ

In country whose founding fathers swore wasn’t based on any religion, Christianity plays a humongous role in American political life. To get any traction in a political campaign, it’s pretty much a given that a candidate has to lay out their faith credentials for all to see. And, it’s also pretty much a given that those credentials had better be of the Christian variety if said candidate wants to get elected to anything, down to and including dog catcher (or whatever the lowest possible elected office is these days). There are, of course, exceptions like Keith Ellison, who’s a Muslim, or Pete Stark and Barney Frank, both atheists. Interestingly, Frank didn’t mention his non-believer status until after he retired, but had no problem coming out as gay while still in office, 25 years ago. If that doesn’t speak to America’s obsession with Christianity, I don’t know what does.

This religious fetish is…, let’s say problematic, for most progressives (not to mention infuriating for atheists), but it does exist. However, since this is the way things are, why don’t we see who the real Christian candidate is in the race for president? Now, don’t get bent out of shape when I say “the real Christian candidate”; I’m not talking about who adheres to the twisted evangelical/fundamentalist version that prevails in this country today. I mean which candidate’s policies most closely follow the words and teachings of Jesus. You know, the guy we Christians claim to follow? Since we have to have a way to determine this, I’ll use following scriptures: Luke 4:18-19, Matthew 5-7, Mark 10:17-27,  Matthew 25:31-42 and John 13:34, as they capture what I believe is the essence of Jesus’ message.

So, weighed against these passages, who is the most Christian of all the candidates running for the highest office in the land? Strangely enough, it’s a non-religious Jewish guy named Bernie Sanders. Even a cursory look at his campaign’s website shows that Sanders’ policies (especially those concerning economic and justice issues) hit more of the points addressed in these scriptures than anyone else in the race, Republican or Democrat. Oh sure, there are places where other candidates may come closer, but taken as a whole, Sanders is most Christian of all the people running for president this time out. Well, except for that whole “not being a Christian” thing.

But wait, you say, Bernie’s a socialist! How can a socialist be a Christian? While we can’t say that Jesus was actually a socialist (mostly because that label didn’t exist in the 1st century), I’d have to say he was closer to that than a capitalist. And, the early church (as described in Acts 2:42-47) was the quintessential commune. And, that’s “commune” in the communist sense, not just a bunch of people living together. The truth is, the actual Kingdom of Heaven as described by Jesus sounds a lot more like a Israeli kibbutz than anything you’ll find in Atlas Shrugged (a book that holds at least as much sway in conservative circles as the Bible these days). I know that’s hard on the American ear, what with our mania for individualism, but it’s the truth.

Now, some of you might accuse me of stumping for Bernie and maybe I am. But, the fact is, I won’t be voting for any candidate until the general election because I’m an independent (North Carolina doesn’t allow us indies to vote in primaries).That means I’m about as close to a disinterested party as you’re going to find these days. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that if i could vote, I’d probably pull the lever for Bernie (at least in part because I really don’t like Hillary). So, what was the point of all this? Basically, I find it interesting that a) the candidate whose platform most closely follows Christian tenets isn’t even a member of that religion and b) that man’s platform is considered by most Christians as “socialist”, as if that’s a bad thing. Only in America, my friends. Only in America.

40 Freaking Questions?!?

Right now, the conservative response to the SCOTUS ruling on marriage has me feeling a bit like Michael Corleone in “The Godfather III”:

I mean, seriously, this marriage thing is settled and I’m more than ready to move on. But, every time I think I can, some holier-than-thou dickweed crops up and I cannot keep from responding. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because they’re shitting on people I care about. Maybe it’s because I am pathologically unable to pass up an opportunity to be a snarky, sarcastic asshole. I honestly do not know. And, at this point, I’ve given up trying to understand and just go with it.

This time, it’s the fine folks over at The Gospel Coalition and their recent article, “40 questions for Christians now waving rainbow flags” by Kevin DeYoung. 40 fucking questions?!? My God, who has time to wade through that much bullshit? Okay, since I’m retired, I probably do. But, still, that’s a lot of questions. Seriously, Kevin, you could’ve made your point with less than half that many. What are you, some kind of overachiever or something? Fuck.

Before we go any further, let me put your mind at rest and assure that I’m not going to go through and answer all 40 questions. There are two reasons for that: 1) Others have already done so (R. L. Stoller and Buzz Dixon, for example) and 2) concentrating long enough to read and answer all those stupid-ass queries is completely beyond me because of my ADD. However, due that aforementioned inability to let an opportunity to be an ass slip by, I knew I had to find a way to write about this slice of…, shit, I don’t know what to call it. After dedicating literally minutes of thinking to the problem, I decided to go with my default setting: mockery. I mean, you gotta play to your strengths, right?

On the surface, DeYoung’s piece looks like a pretty well-thought out and grace-filled article. But, it’s not. If you dig a little deeper, you begin to notice a different tone; one that says “All you heathens are going to hell for this”. That’s really not surprising when you consider the source; after all, most of the folks at TGC are Calvinistas and thinly veiled contempt is about the best you can expect from them.

That contempt shines through most brightly in this sentence: “If you consider yourself a Bible-believing Christian, a follower of Jesus whose chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, there are important questions I hope you will consider before picking up your flag and cheering on the sexual revolution.” You don’t have to have made too many trips around the block to know that a statement containing the phrase “Bible-believing Christian” isn’t going to consist of anything good. Basically, it’s Christian code for “If you don’t agree with me, you don’t believe th Bible. Ergo, you are not a Christian.” I’m sure Jesus used the term himself on many occasions. (You can’t see it, but I rolled my eyes when I said that)

And, let me say that if your chief aim as a Christian is “enjoy” anything, you’re probably doing it wrong. Christianity isn’t about you or your enjoyment, it’s about making the world a better place. Until everyone has enough to eat, clothes on their back, a roof over their heads and all the other stuff mentioned in Matthew 25, your personal gratification shouldn’t be a consideration. And, even though it doesn’t specifically say so, I’m pretty sure treating people as equal human beings is included in that.

As for the questions, a lot of them could be answered with “John 13:34“, “Mark 12:31” or “Because I’m not a douche.” Seriously, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or, in this case, a biblical scholar) to understand that denying people who are LGBT+ the right to marry the person they love goes against a Gospel preached by a man whose radical inclusiveness was legendary. And, that means it’s just plain wrong. Why is it so hard for some people to get this? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. I know the answer.

DeYoung ends the article with this little dollop of “wisdom”: “Food for thought, I hope. At the very least, something to chew on before swallowing everything the world and Facebook put on our plate.” Food for thought, indeed. One thing DeYoung made think about is how fucking sad it is that “the world” and Facebook seem to have a better grasp of the Gospel than a man who’s a pastor. Understand that I use that title in the loosest possible sense, because there’s not a god-damned thing that’s pastoral about this article.

Franklin Graham Is A Knob

I hate to say it and I know it’s not very nice, but what else can you call someone whose organization is running a campaign to raise funds for maternal and child healthcare, but simultaneously gets his nose out of joint because a Wells Fargo commercial featuring two lesbian moms who want to adopt a deaf child? According to Graham, the commercial is an example of “the tide of moral decay that is being crammed down our throats by big business, the media, and the gay & lesbian community.” Okay, then.

So, what is the “biggest moral threat to the very moral fiber of our immoral society“? Take a look and see what you think:

Right, two people who love each other enough to spend their lives together and want to adopt a child that others ignore (because disablities. Duh) is a sign of “moral decay”. I guess all the racism, income inequality and poor shaming going on in this country is exactly what God wants of us.

As I said in the first paragraph, Samaritan’s Purse is raising money for maternal and children’s healthcare and the headline on the campaign’s page says “Celebrate Moms”. Maybe it’s just me, but if your organization has a web page saying that, does it make a whole lot of sense to get pissed off about a commercial that…, oh, I don’t know, celebrates moms?!? On their website, Samaritan’s Purse says they’re “sharing the message of unconditional love through the Gospel.” If that kind of two-faced bullshit is the Gospel, count me the fuck out.

On the lighter side, it’s getting so that I don’t need to come up with punch lines when I write about Graham; his own words are better than anything I could dream up. Seriously, all I have to do is repeat what he said. Like this time: the man is on Facebook, calling for a boycott on LGBTQ-friendly businesses. And, he pulled BGEA and Samaritan’s purse money out of Wells Fargo and moved it to BB&T. Why is that interesting? Because both organizations are pretty gay-friendly. Facebook, along with a lot of other organizations, has urged the Supreme Court to overturn state bans on same-sex marriage and BB&T has sponsored a Miami Beach Gay Pride fundraiser and hosted a wedding ceremony for a gay couple in their South Beach branch.

In a rather lame attempt to explain moving from one LGBT-friendly bank to another, Graham said that Wells Fargo “went beyond being gay-friendly to being a public advocate – through a national TV advertising campaign – for a lifestyle we, as a Christian organization, believe to be biblically wrong.” BB&T, on the other hand, “did not promote the program through a national advertising campaign or we would still be looking for another bank.” Uh huh. That’s a bit of an equivocation from a fellow who said just a couple of days earlier, “Let’s just stop doing business with those who promote sin and stand against Almighty God’s laws and His standards.” I’m guessing that finding a bank big enough to handle his money and wasn’t LGBT-friendly turned out to be a little harder than he expected.

If there’s a silver lining to this hate-filled dark cloud, it’s that last sentence. The idea that Graham couldn’t find another bank that measured up to his homophobic ideals and had to settle for one that “did not promote” its embrace of the homosexual lifestyle people being true to who they are is another sign that we might just be turning a corner on LGBTQ issues in this country. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s some pretty good news.

The Poor Will Always Be With Us

Franks poorThe meme to your left has been making the rounds on the internet, lately. Quite a few progressive people, myself included, were quick to share it. As memes go, it’s not bad. Well, except for one thing: Franks never actually said that. It  comes from the Facebook group Stop The World, The Teabaggers Want Off, whose stock in trade is publishing made-up quotes attributed to conservative politicians. Now, if this fabricated quote from Franks was the only thing on this subject making the progressive rounds, I’d just publish a retraction on Facebook and be done with it. But, it’s not. And, some of those things are real live quotes from real live people.

In the last few months (coinciding with the opening of the 2016 presidential campaign season, oddly enough), Republicans have finally started talking about income inequality. And, as you might expect, they are getting it wrong. Like Rick Perry, who said back in Decemeber that “Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion.” Now, you may be thinking “But, the Bible does say that!” Yes, it does, but it doesn’t mean what Perry and his pals think it does. These yahoos are using it to justify their own greed by saying that poverty is just the way things are and we should learn to live with it. Personally, I think Jesus was making a dig at greedy-ass religious people when he said, “You always have the poor with you…” and that there was an unspoken trailer that went something like, “because you’re a bunch of selfish assholes.”

As blogger extraordinaire Fred Clark points out, much of what Jesus said references the Torah and needs to be understood in the proper context. This particular passage was based on Deuteronomy 15:11, which says:

Poor persons will never disappear from the earth. That’s why I’m giving you this command: you must open your hand generously to your fellow Israelites, to the needy among you, and to the poor who live with you in your land.”

My, that’s a bit inconvenient, isn’t it?

So, what’s a good conservative Christian to do when they read Jesus’ uncomfortable statements about “the least of these” or “the poor”? How are they supposed to maintain the status quo (which, incidentally, consists of judging, ostracizing and marginalizing certain people while keeping as much of their money as possible) when the man they claim to follow said they shouldn’t do that? Luckily, Denny Burk has come to their rescue.

Burk, professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, recently published an article which uses some very impressive mental gymnastics to say that the “least of these” Jesus referred to aren’t people in poverty, it’s “Christian” bakers, photographers and florists. On what does he base this claim? I’ll let him explain it in his own words: “… contrary to popular belief, “the least of these” in Matthew 25:40 is not talking generically about our obligation to care for the poor and needy. We know this because the terms “least of these” and “my brothers” appear elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel, and in each case the terms specifically refer to Jesus’ disciples who have been sent out into the world to preach the gospel.” Yes, beloved, Burk ignores the previous 9 verses where Jesus specifically refers to the poor, the hungry, the stranger, etc. to back up his contention that the real people we should be helping are Jesus’ “disciples”.  Isn’t it interesting when biblical literalists start interpreting scripture that doesn’t fit their chosen narrative?

Look, if you want to shit on poor people, that’s your business. But, I really don’t think you should use the Bible to justify such a despicable action. And, I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t claim you’re serving Christ while you do it. But, mammon? That’s a different story.

We’re Not Popeye, Y’all

violence isn't the answer
The real American Way?

I wish I could say we all agree that violence is bad no matter where it comes from, but everyone knows that’s not true. For many people, violence is not only acceptable, it’s the preferred option. And, I’m not talking about Muslims, either: I’m talking about us. Our foreign policy, our obsession with guns and the prevalence of violent acts in entertainment media all point to the fact that Americans love violence. Well, it’s more accurate to say we love violence that we control. Violence from other quarters? Not so much. That violence is evil and, along with the people who perpetrate it, must be met with derision, disdain and, most importantly, a superior violence of our own. Where has that gotten us? A strategically important region (the Middle East) that is critically destabilized, two wars that helped crash our economy and a reputation as a world bully. If Dr. Phil were to ask us, “How’s that working out for you?” the answer wouldn’t good.

American’s are in love with the idea of “redemptive violence”, of which Rob Bell says, “The myth of redemptive violence – Caesar, peace, and victory – is in people’s bones so deeply, we aren’t even aware of it. You crush the opposition; that’s how we bring peace.” I think this is right on the money except for one thing: the idea that “we aren’t even aware of it.” I believe the only thing we’re not of aware of is the “myth” aspect.

Why is that? Why do people who consistently swear and affirm that they are Christians and the United States is a Christian nation think/act/behave in such an unChrist-like manner? Because, when it comes to violence, we learned our lessons from fucking Popeye cartoons instead of Jesus.

In his essay, “The Myth of Redemptive Violence“, Walter Wink wrote

“Few cartoons have run longer or been more influential than Popeye and Bluto. In a typical segment, Bluto abducts a screaming and kicking Olive Oyl, Popeye’s girlfriend. When Popeye attempts to rescue her, the massive Bluto beats his diminutive opponent to a pulp, while Olive Oyl helplessly wrings her hands. At the last moment, as our hero oozes to the floor, and Bluto is trying, in effect, to rape Olive Oyl, a can of spinach pops from Popeye’s pocket and spills into his mouth. Transformed by this gracious infusion of power, he easily demolishes the villain and rescues his beloved. The format never varies. Neither party ever gains any insight or learns from these encounters. They never sit down and discuss their differences. Repeated defeats do not teach Bluto to honour Olive Oyl’s humanity, and repeated pummelings do not teach Popeye to swallow his spinach before the fight.”

Makes things a lot clearer, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Popeye. As a child of the 60’s, I love cartoons and still watch them every chance I get. But, I don’t think Popeye (which isn’t the most well made or thought out cartoon) should form the basis of our approach to violence. Popeye works because it appeals to our love of the triumphant underdog and seeing the bad guy get what’s coming to him. But, as Wink points out, no one ever learns anything from the violence. Not even Popeye; who you’d think, in addition to learning to eat the god-damned spinach before the fight, would figure out that jumping on someone who’s so much bigger will probably lead to an ass-kicking.

Unfortunately, Americans are just as clueless as any character in a Popeye cartoon. We continue to meet other’s violence with our own, thinking that either it will somehow “fix” things or it’s “the only thing those bastards understand”. Sometimes, both. But, here’s something no one in this country seems to get: in this scenario, we’re not Popeye, we’re Bluto.

I know that might be a little hard to take, especially for people of my generation who’ve had this myth pouned into them from birth.  But, think about it for a minute: Popeye is the smaller, weaker underdog while Bluto is the bigger stronger favorite who takes whatever he wants. A quick look at history will show that we haven’t been the smaller, weaker party in a fight since The War of 1812. And, since the end of World War II, we’ve pretty much been taking whatever we wanted. If the Popeye scenario holds true, one of these days, some little guy we’ve been pushing around is going to eat his spinach and kick the shit out of us.

So, how do we prevent this (admittedly deserved) nightmare from happening? Maybe we could start acting like that Christian nation some people like to claim we are, turning the other cheek and loving our enemies instead of grinding them into the dust. I know that’s a lot to ask, but it’s not like what we’re doing is working all that well.

The Gay Agenda

***Satire Alert***
This post contains material of a satirical nature and should be read accordingly. The thoughts shared below in no way reflect the author’s true feelings and were rendered in this fashion because he is a complete smart-ass who isn’t intelligent enough to make this point in a more appropriate manner. 

Homosexual_Agenda_450_answer_2_xlargeI’ve made no secret of the fact that I like the gays. Hell, some of my best friends are gay. Not only that, I have a gay child and  attend a church that’s open and affirming. I’ve shared meals with gay people, opened my home to gay people, been to the movies with gay people, sat around a campfire swapping stories with gay people((okay, so there wasn’t a fire, but there was a fire pit at the campsite, so it counts)) and done all sorts of other things with gay people. And, frankly, it’s got me worried. I’ve spent so much time around the homosexuals, I’m afraid I might be catching “the gay”. I can hear you now, saying “That’s ridiculous. One doesn’t ‘catch the gay’; one simply is gay.” Oh, really? If you’re so smart, riddle me this: if it’s not contagious, why am doing things that gays do?

This is no joke, people. I am a confirmed straight dude who really, really loves women((I would say I have the notches on my bedpost to prove it, but I’m also an introverted nerd so that’s really not a great argument)) and I find myself doing all sorts of things that gays do. The more I’ve learned about my gay friend’s lives, the more this nagging feeling has grown that I might be going gay. I mean, my gay friends and I both have jobs, kids, households to maintain and lives to live. And, we do it in eerily similar ways.

The idea that I’m turning gay moved from a nagging thought to full-blown fear when I read Kimberly Knight’s post, My Homosexual Agenda For 2015where she details all the ways she intends to make the world a more fabulous place. As I read this list, my only thought was “My god, I want to do these very same things. Does that mean I’m becoming gay?” I’m not sure I’ve had a good night’s sleep since. Of course, some people might blame that on too much time on-line and the sinus infection I’ve been fighting for the last couple of weeks, but who are we kidding?

What if I really am becoming a gay man (not that there’s anything wrong with that)? How will I cope with the fact that I don’t fit the profile? I like to think of myself as a guy’s guy, which means I’m not exactly in touch with my feminine side. And, the thought of riding a float in a gay pride parade in my skivvies fills me with horror (none of us want to see that, believe me).  Plus, I have the fashion sense of a Benedictine monk and I’m a dreadful housekeeper. And, to top it all off, I hate to dance and I don’t care for show tunes or Cher. On the plus side, since I’m kind of big and hairy, the “bear” thing works in my favor and I am somewhat obsessed with sex; although that last point probably isn’t confined to gay men. I’m working myself into a tizzy over this((Well, that doesn’t sound gay at all, does it?)).

Of course, in my more lucid and logical moments, I tell myself to calm down and that I’m not “catching the gay”. In my head, I hear the voice of reason pointing out that maybe my gay friends  and I do a lot of the same things because we’re really not all that different and we’re all just trying get through this life the best way we know how. Is that even possible, I wonder? Could it be that all gay men aren’t promiscuous, bitchy queens and all gay women aren’t flannel-wearing, mullet-coiffed butches who hate men? Is it possible they are wonderful, diverse, multi-faceted children of God like straight people? I guess I never thought about it that way.

What Kind Of Christian Am I?

Yeah, I kinda like this. But, at least I'm mixing thing up with a different picture.
Yeah, I kinda like this. But, at least I’m mixing things up with a different picture.

I’m a sucker for an online quiz. It really doesn’t matter what it’s about, if I see one, I’m taking it. So, Wednesday morning, I stumbled onto Beliefnet’s “What Kind Of Christian Are You?” I immediately went there. I mean, how could I not? It was quiz about Christianity! Talk about a perfect of wasted time. But, really, it turned out to be pretty useful because I got a blog post out of it. Not to shabby, huh?

As I was taking it, one question jumped out at me: “I became a Christian when…” As I perused the answers, I realized that, for me, there was a huge difference between getting “saved” and becoming a Christian. I got saved because I believed I was a sinner bound for Hell and I became a Christian because the Jesus Way resonated with me at level nothing else ever has. I know that sounds provocative, like I’m saying that evangelicals and fundamentalists aren’t really Christians. Not so, I’m saying that people who’ve gone through the motions and claim the name of “Christian” but don’t follow the way of Christ aren’t Christians.

That’s still kind of controversial, isnt’t it? Some people are going to accuse me of heresy and claim that I’m a false teacher. Others will say I’m not calling a spade a spade, that I’m hedging so as not to offend some folks. And, a few of you might actually agree with me. To be perfectly honest, the last response bothers a lot more than the first two. While I’m used to people disagreeing with me, calling me names and saying I’m full of shit, I’m distinctly uncomfortable when folks start agreeing with me. At the risk of a case of agreement heebie-jeebies, let me try to explain what I meant at the end of the last paragraph.

When I talk about “people who’ve gone through the motions and claim the name of “Christian” but don’t follow the way of Christ”, I’m referring to individuals whose willful misuse of scripture lead young men and women to take their own life. When I say that, I mean the prosperity gospel charlatans who are, my opinion, the modern-day equivalent of the money changers turning God’s house into “a den of thieves”. I’m talking about people who call themselves “Christian”, but refuse to speak up while young men of color are subjected to terrible violence by the powers and principalities of this world. Really, I’m talking about anyone who says they love God but doesn’t truly love their neighbor. As the author of 1 John said: “…those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

As I’ve told you before, I got saved when I was 10 years old in my mom and dad’s bedroom. In the years that followed, I’m sad to say that I did not love all my neighbors. I hated communists, despised liberals, looked down atheists and refused to acknowledge that I benefitted from the system at the expense of others. While getting “saved” was a concrete act with a definable moment, becoming a Christian wasn’t. That change occurred over a period of years (detailed here). And, it’s really ongoing if I’m being honest.

For the record, the quiz says that I am “Bishop John Shelby Spong Christian”, which the quiz described with the following;

“A.k.a. a Marcus Borg, Karen Armstrong Christian. Your Christian history begins with the Gospel of Thomas, or at least you’d like to include any and all ancient reports on Jesus in your understanding of the Christian savior. Some people call you a “mainline” Christian, which is an odd moniker since “mainline” is simply shorthand for historic denominational Christianity in America. But for several decades, mainliners like you have not identified with evangelical Christianity and have incorporated liberal theological concepts into the practice of the faith.”

That’s a decent, if limited, description of my faith. As for my answer to the question that spawned this post? I chose “I identified with Jesus’ message about the kingdom of God.” Big surprise, huh?

Broken? Part II

At best, this has a nodding acquaintance with today's subject. But, it's funny  and isn't that what's important?
At best, this has a nodding acquaintance with today’s subject. But, it’s funny and isn’t that what’s important?

The whole broken people/original sin thing is kind of big deal to Christians, conservative and progressive alike. They tend to look at in different ways, though.  For those of a more conservative bent, original sin and the brokenness of humanity is a given. It’s one of those absolute truths some folks like to talk about: it just is and that’s pretty much that. For progressives, it seems to be just the opposite. More than once, I’ve seen the subject broached in progressive discussion groups and it is always soundly rejected. But, for all my progressive leanings, this is one place I tend to agree with conservatives.

I realize that statement may be a little surprising and it does require a little qualification; on the original sin question, if nothing else. For the record, I do not believe that we are all bound to sin because some dumb ass ate a piece of fruit that was expressly forbidden to him. But, the phrase, “original sin” can be a useful metaphor when explaining how things in this world got so fucked up. Hugh Hollowell defines it this way: God created a perfect world and we screwed things up by not following God’s plan. Not only is that easier to say/write than the longer explanation, it has the added appeal of being understood by a large swath of the population.

My uncharacteristic agreement with conservatives centers more on the “broken” part of the equation. I used to believe that we are not “broken”, but that we live broken world and that causes us to do broken things. Not anymore; these days, I subscribe to the Will Campbell school of thought. Campbell, when asked to describe the Gospel in 10 words or less, said “We’re all bastards but God loves us anyway”. While I wonder on a regular basis why God loves us, I have no problem believing that we’re all bastards. Why? Because I am faced with incontrovertible evidence that people are miserable mother-fuckers, that’s why.

You don’t have to look far to this evidence. The past year provides a litany of people’s shitty behavior towards each other. And, this year isn’t shaping up to be much better, what with the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Boko Haram massacre, the attempted fire bombing of Colorado Springs NAACP offices, etc. There’s further proof of humanity’s shittiness in the fact that we’ve been inundated with news coverage of the murder of a few European (i.e. white) cartoonists while the deaths of Africans and mayhem against the NAACP (i.e. not white) have been practically ignored. Nice, huh?

As much as we might hate to admit it, I think we have to face up to the fact that we are broken. If we weren’t, people who, when faced with the hard situation of doing the right thing, consistently say “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, wouldn’t be so goddamned rare. Sadly, you can count these individuals on one hand: Jesus, Gandhi, MLK and a couple of others.

But, it’s not all bad because, and this is going to sound odd, I also believe that people have the capacity for immense good. That there is a little piece of the divine floating around in each of us and somehow, someway it fights its way through all the shit in our beings and occassionally shows us just how good we can actually be. Sort of a cross between the Quaker’s inner light and the concept  of prevenient grace. If only it would fight its way to the surface a little more often. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Nothing To Do With Islam?

Drancy imamEver notice how, whenever Westborough Baptist Church comes out to spew their bullshit or some anti-gay nut kills a person who is LGBTQ, Christian leaders come out of the woodwork to say “This has nothing to do with Christianity” and explain that the Christian faith is based on love, not hate? No? That’s because they don’t have to. So, why do Muslims have to do that?

I’m referring, of course, to  the statement of Muslim leaders and activists in the wake of Wednesday’s attack at the offices of Charlie Hedbo, a French satirical newspaper, that left 12 dead and 11 wounded. The assault was carried out by two brothers, French nationals of Algerian descent, with ties to Al Qaeda. During the attack, they were heard saying “Allahu Akbar” and “The prophet is revenged”, the latter because Charlie Hedbo has skewered Muhammad, a central figure in Islam, more than once. So, yeah, it’s pretty well established that these guys were Muslim radicals. But, does that mean that all Muslims bear responsibility for this attack?

Of course they don’t. Muslims around the world are no more responsible for these heinous acts than American (or western) Christians are for acts committed by radicals who claim the same faith we do. But, for some reason, white people Christians westerners seem to think they do. And, if they don’t “speak out against the violence”? Then, they are complicit and should be dealt with accordingly. Let’s get one thing straight: the Muslim guy you work with or who lives down the street from you is no more responsible for the Charlie Hedbo murders than you are for Eric Rudolph setting off bombs all over the place.

While we’re on this subject, I’ve heard some people reference the celebrations of people in Palestine other countries after incidents like the 9-11 attacks as if that somehow shows that all Muslims everywhere are murderous radicals who want to “take away our freedom”. Right. If that’s true, then all Christians believe the murder of doctors and the bombing of abortions clinics are justified because some Christians made statements to justify Rudolph’s actions, saying he did what he did to “save those babies” (I actually saw a woman say that on national television). Or, that all Christians believe LGBTQ people should be herded into concentration camps because Christian leaders didn’t automatically issue a statement distancing themselves from this guy.

The truth is, there are multiple reasons we Christians shouldn’t be pointing fingers when it comes to violence. Like the fact that Jesus said “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged”((and, let’s be honest, this all about judging Muslims)). Or, as I have already pointed out, the fact that our hands aren’t exactly clean on this score. Our history of violence is long and storied; it spans centuries and was not only condoned, but encouraged, by church leaders((see Crusades, European religious wars, English Civil War, Ireland)). To paraphrase a certain old saying, people who live in glass houses ought not be chunkin’ rocks.

I’m going to throw out a crazy idea, here: when religious whack jobs do something terrible, maybe the responsibility is theirs and theirs alone. Blame does not automatically accrue to every person of that religion/creed/belief, especially if they had zero involvement with the act. You might do well to remember this is a two-way street. So, if we’re going to make Muslims apologize for every shitty act their radical elements carry out, Christians should be just as busy doing the same. And, we all have more important things on our plates than this bullshit.