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Keep Your Eye On The Camel

26/08/2014

So I encountered someone who was Christsplaining “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” on the InterWebs and thot oh hell NO! it would be a good topic for a blog post.

someone is wrong on the internet cap

Their Christplanation was that Jesus wasn’t saying rich people couldn’t go to heaven, because a camel going through the eye of a needle is obviously an impossibility.[1]

Instead, what Jesus was referring to was a special little gate called “The Eye Of The Needle” because it was so narrow, and that for a camel to pass through, it would first need to be unburdened and then get down on its knees and shuffle in.

For some peculiar reason this interpretation is extremely
popular with people who desire s4!tloads of money.[2]

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” is a very complex metaphor.
Let me explain it to you:

“A camel” = a great big fracking animal

“the eye of a needle” = that leeeetle tiny hole at the end of the thin thin thin pointy metal thing you use to sew cloth together

“a rich man” = anybody who has two shirts when somebody else has none

“the kingdom of heaven” = to be in communion with God both here & now and the hereafter

Jesus was fond of using ridiculous hyperbole to prove his points. F’r instance, “why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” literally meant people were walking around with six foot long weaver’s beams in their eyes while criticizing their neighbors for having a speck of dust in theirs. Obviously a physical impossibility, but Christ wasn’t interested in telling something literally factual but rather spiritually true

Likewise “if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out” meaning literally gouge your eyes out rather than let them lead you into temptation. I don’t think Jesus expected anybody to take that as a serious command, but rather that we should remove from our lives anything that might cause us to harm another person or allow another to come to harm.

So the point he was getting across re camel / needle / rich man was this: If you are more interested in lining your own pocket than in seeing justice is done, you aren’t going to hell…

…you’re already there.

“The Christian life is not about pleasing God the finger-shaker and judge. It is not about believing now or being good now for the sake of heaven later. It is about entering a relationship in the present that begins to change everything now. Spirituality is about this process: the opening of the heart to the God who is already here.” — Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authentic Contemporary Faith

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[1] There is an alternate Christplanation where “camel” is a miscopying of the Aramic word for “rope” and there’s a certain appeal to that insofar as one can see a similarly between a thread and a rope. However, that Christplanation also misses the point that it’s fracking impossible.

[2] They don’t actually have to possess s4!tloads of money, just desire to possess s4!tloads of money. Check out Matthew 5:27-28.

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What Love Is

14/08/2014

Had an odd twinge of nostalgia / sadness today.  Saw / heard two things that I wished I could have shared with now deceased family members.

The thing that made me feel nostalgic / sad was not that I was missing them for what they had done for me, but because I was missing the chance to do something for them.

Even something as silly and as slight as relaying a cartoon or good news that they might particularly enjoy is a privilege that I’m now doing without.

That, ultimately, is what love is all about:
The desire to do something good for another person, no matter how small, with no thought of reciprocation other than the delight and satisfaction in knowing you helped another human being.

Human beings, being human of course, tend to form their closest bonds to their immediate families / mates.  That’s to be expected, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.  (Indeed, I feel sorry for those who are the products of dysfunctional families, who never learned to love and trust those physically closest to them; may they find peace and happiness and that missing love with others.)
But beyond our immediate familial / blood / mating ties there should be love that extends to others.  First it is those like us in age or interests or community, then it is to those who share our same general values even if they are not immediate neighbors, then our entire country / culture / religion.

But that’s still too narrow a band on love.

Love should extend to everyone everywhere all the time.  This most pointedly is NOT saying that all actions are equally benign, or that all behaviors should be tolerated under all circumstances.

But it does say we are to love our enemies, to love those who despitefully use us, to love those who hate us and do no reciprocate our gestures of mercy and forgiveness and tolerance.

Never return evil for evil,
neglect for neglect.

The writer Andrew Vachss summed it up succinctly:

“Children know the truth.
Love is not an emotion.
Love is a behavior.”

Bill Mauldin one for the enlisted men

“Beautiful view!  Is there one for the enlisted men?”
Bill Mauldin, circa WWII [this is how a military leader
expresses love for his troops; he sees that their needs
are taken care of first, and that he enjoys nothing
they
can not have as well.]

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Fictoid: So I Says To St. Pete…

10/08/2014

Hieronymus Bosch - garden of earthly delights1

Hieronymus Bosch – Garden Of Earthly Delights

So I says to St. Pete
says I to he
How come
there’s no
gate to heaven?

St. Pete says,
Oh we’ve got the gate
and it works very well.

Understand this life
and the previous life
are like elevators
in a skyscraper.  

Down in the lobby level,
anybody can walk
back and forth, back and forth
between the two sides.

One side is the love others side,
and the other is the love myself side.

Depending on which side
you’re on when you die,
that’s the elevator you take
to the penthouse.

Now, those of you on the love others side,
when you died you came straight up here
non-stop, like a utility elevator: 
Not exactly plush,
but it gets you there.

But if you were on the love myself side,
the fancy elevator takes you to a foyer
just outside the penthouse.  

We have a canned message playing, saying,
“Every thing you think you believed was true is false
and if you renounce it, you can come in.  
Take all the time you want in making your decision.”

Now here’s the thing:  
If you were on the love myself side,
you’re not caring about other people,
you’re wondering how you
are going to get into heaven.

You’re asking yourself,
“Is this a trick?  
Did I really believe
the wrong thing, or
are they just testing me?

“If I do renounce my belief,
and it was a test,
then I’m in hell for all eternity.

“But if they are telling the truth,
and I don’t renounce my belief,
then I’m damning myself to hell.”

You, and the others on this side,
worried less about getting to heaven
than you worried about loving your neighbors,
treating people fairly,
acting justly and
compassionately.  
You have no belief to renounce
because you were doing,
not believing.

The other side,
they’re stewing away,
sweating it out,
wondering which answer is correct.  

And they know they only get
one shot at answering it,
and that answer
will determine
where they spend eternity.

Wellwhat about
the ones to choose,

one way or another?  
What do you do
when they come
through the gate?  

What do you say
about their choice
either way?

Never had that problem.  
They’re so anxious for themselves,
they never get around to making the final choice.  
Every time they nearly convince themselves one way,
they turn around and argue themselves out of it the other.  
Lacking love, they possess only fear,
and fear is what keeps them from entering.

Seems mighty cruel.

St. Pete shrugs.  
Keeps the assholes out.

(c) Buzz Dixon

 

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Addendum to “Lauren’s Choice”

30/06/2014

I’ve been asked, “But what about adoption for unwanted children?”

To that I say:

Yes!
Yes!
Yes!
and even more
YES!!!
PLEASE!!!

That is the best, most humane solution to the problem of a woman’s unwanted pregnancy.  It’s a perfect example of “pony up”.  Give that child a stable, loving home.  Raise it to its full potential.  Personally assume that responsibility.

A blessing for the child
A blessing for the parent
A blessing for the society

GO FOR IT!

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Lauren’s Choice

30/06/2014

Cartoonist Lauren Weinstein was told that the child she was carrying had a high (1-in-4) chance of carrying the cystic fibrosis gene to such an extreme degree that it might require a lung transplant before age 5.  Weinstein tells the story of her nerve-wracking three week wait to find out if this would be the case in her story “Carriers” (parts one / two / three / four / five).

Major Spoiler:  
It has a happy ending and
her daughter was born
disease free.

laurenstroy

Many reading her story will rejoice, but say to themselves,
“If it had been me, I would have never even thought of terminating my pregnancy.”

Good for you.

Seriously.

I mean that.

I want you to have a choice.

Just like I want Lauren to have a choice.

Just like I want billions of other women to have a choice.

Because nobody knows what is best for a woman and the pregnancy she is carrying other than that woman herself.

She gets to make her own decisions.

Just as you get to make your own decisions.

She’s certainly entitled to seek medical advice and/or moral support from others, but in the end, she is the one who has to either see it through to a live birth or terminate it.

It is, quite simply and quite literally,

NOBODY
ELSE’S
FUCKING
BUSINESS

And I drop the f-bomb very deliberately & in its sexual context to get the point across:

Not your uterus,
not your problem,
not your responsibility,
most certainly not your business,
not now,
not ever.

If you’re serious about wanting to reduce the number of abortions in the world today, see to it that birth control is reliable, available, and inexpensive (free would be best; we can pay for it with the money we would otherwise spend incarcerating unwanted/abused/neglected children who grow up to be addicts and/or felons).

See to it that sex education is universal, pragmatic, sensible, and easy to understand.  Wishful thinking, no matter how devoutly inspired, does not trump science or the realities of human nature.  Be prepared for and compassionate to people who make messy mistakes; there but for the grace of God…

See to it that no mother ever has to worry about affording a safe place to raise her child, or how she will feed her child, or pay for her child’s health care, or her child’s education (you can slice a fraction off the defense budget for this; we can somehow squeak by with only 999 new jet fighters instead of 1,000).

Pony up…

…or shut up.

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thanx to
Tom Spurgeon,
The Comics Reporter,
for the tip off

 

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The Anti-Abortionist Credo

30/06/2014

anti-abortionist credo

I forbid you to have sex without MY permission.

I forbid you to know anything about birth control.

I certainly won’t pay for your sex education.

If you defy ME and have sex anyway,
then I want you to get pregnant / catch the clap (or better yet, AIDS!).

I forbid you to have an abortion.

I will judge you and call you a murderer if you do.

I demand you bring the pregnancy to full term.

I demand you bring the pregnancy to full term
even if the child will be born with a fatal condition.

I demand you bring the pregnancy to full term
even if you already have a house full of children and
you are stretched to the breaking point.

I demand you spend 18 years of
your life (minimum!) taking care of this child.

I will not help you.

I will not offer any financial subsistence.

I will not lift a finger or spend a dime of MY money to help you provide
food / lodging / medical care / education for the child.

I demand you suffer for your sins.

However, you may not judge ME.

Because just by saying I oppose abortion,
just by condemning you for your choices,
I am pure and holy.

(Did I miss anything?
Did I not summarize our
position accurately?)

 

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So What Does Jesus Have To Say About Sex?

11/06/2014

love is

…cuz nuthin’ sez
“Christian Sexual Ethics”
better than little people
porn on a shot glass…

Well, let’s start with the point he considered most important: 
Asexuals are lucky that their ability to love God and to love their fellow human beings selflessly and compassionately is not hindered or distracted by sexual urges or a need for romantic love.

If you weren’t born asexual, 
try to cultivate that lifestyle.[1]

If you can’t, get married so you’ll have a loving companion with whom you can mutually satisfy your needs and urges.

When you get married, stay married.  The only legitimate reason to end a marriage is if one’s spouse betrays one (though forgiving at least enough to continue the marriage is always an option).

Otherwise, only death will release you.
No widow or widower is obligated
to remain unmarried.

The betrayal of a spouse (adultery) is a big deal and not to be regarded lightly.
Mucking around with another person’s spouse (ditto adultery) is just as big a deal and not to be regarded lightly.

In fact, if you are married and look at another person and wonder how you can get them in the sack, or if you look at another person’s spouse and wonder how you can get them in the sack, you are committing adultery for all intents and purposes.[2]

That being said, it is not an automatic exclusion from the kingdom of God.  Jesus famously took a frequently divorced woman living with her boy friend and used her to successfully spread the gospel just the way she was, without requiring any atonement on her part first.

Jesus was compassionate and forgiving to persons with spotty personal histories.  He urged us not to judge lest we get clobbered by the same judgment we dish out, and to love one another as we love ourselves.

Oh, and don’t harm kids, which while ambiguous certainly includes a prohibition against pedophilia and statutory rape.

There, that pretty much covers it…

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[1]  Meaning Jesus recognized some people are indeed “born that way” whatever “that way” may be.

[2]  Jesus seems to think that doing a good thing for any reason is ultimately a good thing, but not doing a bad thing simply because the opportunity hasn’t presented itself yet is still a bad thing.

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Picking Unnecessary Fights, Dying On Indefensible Hills

7/06/2014

Christian Please Jesus-Facepalm

In a nutshell, the SBC’s key problem:

They act as if their initials
stand for Smug Bigot Confederation,
not Southern Baptist Convention

Caveat:
I know, respect, and love a great many individual Southern Baptists.  Southern Baptists, as unique human beings, are among the kindest, most loving, most generous, most tolerant, and most forgiving people I know.

Their convention, however, is led by a bunch of thundering asshats.

The most recent proof of this is located here:
A Resolution On Transgender For The SBC by Denny Burk

Denny…shut up.  Just…shut up.

You don’t know what you’re talking about.
Period.
End.  Of.  Dis.
Cussion.

I don’t know what I’m talking about either when it comes to transgender and transsexual issues.

I know the people going through such problems are torn by feelings and emotions that I can only vaguely empathize with.  I know they feel it on a level so deep and profound and visceral that I have no way of fully & equally accessing it.

So that right there marks it as territory I’m not competent to pass judgment on.  All I can do is listen to their stories, try to be as empathetic as possible, oppose efforts to deny them their civil rights, and not get in the way of their attempts to find means of coping with their situation.

And by “not get in the way of their attempts to find means of coping with their situation” I mean most pointedly to let them come to God in the manner He sees fit, not the manner that makes the vacuous squishbags of the SBC leadership feel comfortable and clean.

How can anyone look at this resolution and not see the incoherent hypocrisy of the SBC on the one hand claiming it wants parents to be able to raise their children as they see fit then on the other hand vehemently arguing against letting them do that very thing?

Denny, seriously:  Shut up.

You are on specious theological ground, anyway.  And, yeah, I know you’ve got a degree and a nice prestigious job:  You’re still as flat out wrong as flat out wrong can be on this issue.

  1. If matching biological configuration with mental gender identification is so flipping important to God, then why doesn’t He make absolutely sure we don’t have any people who are genetic chimeras, or who are born with external sexual features that fall betwixt & between common sexual dimorphism?
  2. If human sexuality could be expressed in one fashion and one fashion only (i.e., hetronormative) then why did Jesus teach us that some people are born asexual, some become asexual (strongly implying that castration & emasculation was an acceptable route to this end goal), and that those people had an advantage over straights because they weren’t distracted from their love of God by sexual urges?
  3. If God doesn’t want us fiddling with our physical forms in order to feel more comfortable in our own skins, then why did Jesus restore withered limbs, cleanse leprosy, restore sight, staunch gynecological problems, cure the sick, raise the dead?  Why not just put a mental whammy on them to make them feel comfortable with their twisted limbs, pustulent skin, deteriorating bodies?*

I’ll give you the benefit of a doubt, Denny, and presume you thought you were really coming up with a good idea to present to the SBC, one that would let them say they were loving the sinner while hating the sin.

But Denny, that ain’t how it’s gonna be read by the rest of the world.  The SBC has spent the last two centuries doing a really great job of convincing people that they like to feel smug and superior to n[egroe]s then — when it became socially unacceptable to play the racial bigotry card — of convincing people they like to feel smug and superior to gays & lesbians.

Now that gays & lesbians are on a roll, with marriage equality and other civil rights within sight, even the old hardline gay bashers realize their “Adam & Steve” schtick is only playing to the most backward (read least affluent and graying) segment of society.

Whatever the future is going to be,
it ain’t gonna be that.

So the SBC is in search of a new fight, for a new minority to pick on, to shut the gates on, to bar from the fields of the Lord, to feel smug, and superior, and holier-than-thou towards.

Shut up.  Just…shut up.

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*  Yeah, I know you wanna jump in and point out he drove unclean spirits from people.  He drove unclean spirits from people who either wanted the unclean spirits removed (if you read “unclean spirits” as schizophrenia and/or psychological/emotional problems) or were victims of invasion by demonic forces (if you read “unclean spirits” literally).  His exorcisms were of people who wanted their lives freed from forces they could not control nor understand.  As reparative therapy has proven to be an utter failure, useful only for teaching a few coping skills but not curing anyone, as prayer and laying on of hands has not “cured” or “fixed” anyone’s orientation or gender issues, then it’s perhaps fair to say sexual orientation and gender identity are no big deals to God (He of “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”); and if they’re no big deals to Him then maybe to be more Christ-like we should stop getting our pretty lace panties in a twist over them as well.

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Thinkage

25/05/2014

“This past week I found myself grieving. I learned that a former volunteer of a large church was convicted of sexually victimizing three boys under his supervision.

“I grieve that when the parents of one of the boys told a pastor about the abuse, he chose not to report the crime to the police and strongly discouraged the family from doing so. I grieve that the failure to report this dangerous sexual offender gave him two decades of freedom to find and victimize more little ones. I grieve that not even one pastor from the church came to court to support the brave victims who eventually came forward and testified. I grieve that many Christian leaders all around the country who don’t hesitate to express open condemnation for abortion, universal healthcare, and the firing of reality television stars who make derogatory statements about gays and African Americans are suddenly silent when it comes to open condemnation for other Christians who choose not to report child sexual abuse to the authorities.

“I grieve that there are individuals within certain Christian communities who deliberately choose to remain silent out of a fear of alienating those who have the power to cancel speaking engagements and turn down book contracts. I grieve that friends of those responsible for not reporting this crime would rather spend their days (and nights) vilifying and marginalizing those who have stepped forward to express outrage then grieve over such a horrific failure. I grieve that Christian communities that preach humility and love are often unteachable and too eager to be defensive and condemning when rebuked, regardless of the consequences to human souls. I grieve that many within the Church prefer the sounds of conference speakers, blog posts and tweets about theological nuances to the cries of the abused and marginalized.

“I grieve that much of the Church is asleep and doesn’t even realize it. I grieve that it is so hard to find Jesus in the midst of all this. For too many precious souls, inside the Church has become like Narnia – always winter, but never Christmas.”

– Boz Tchividjian is a former child abuse chief prosecutor and is the founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). Boz is also an Associate Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, and is a published author who speaks and writes extensively on issues related to abuse within the faith community.  He is the 3rd-eldest grandchild of the Rev. Billy Graham.

 

 

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Funny Book Faith

2/05/2014

I’ve got a lot on my plate, a large number of posts & mini-essays & short stories & longer works that I want to finish, but every now & then a big fat one just hangs in the strike zone so perfectly that I can’t help but smack that sucka right out of the ballpark.

In this case it was someone bringing to my attention last year’s “Men, Superheroes and Church” post by Don Murrow, which in turn was derived from “The Lure of Comic-Book Culture” by Stan Guthrie from a half year earlier.

Guthrie sneers looks down his nose pooh-poohs dismisses contemporary pop culture, in particular the popularity of the superhero genre, quoting David Gelernter’s “America-Lite”:

“In 1960, the whole country knew Robert Frost’s poetry; Leonard Bernstein was reaching large TV audiences for classical music with his Young People’s Concerts on CBS; theater and ballet were thriving, reaching larger audiences all the time; Hemingway was only the most famous of America’s serious novelists; and American avant-garde painting was a topic for Life magazine.”

He then posits these reasons for the rise in popularity of comic book culture, in particular superheroes[1]:

  1. Technology (computers, social media, enhanced graphics software) has made comics easier to produce and share.
  2. The phenomenon of extended adolescence has extended the attractiveness of comics as a pastime among many American adults.
  3. In an increasingly complex, morally confusing world, people are drawn to media that still promote the idea of good vs. evil—a common theme in comics.
  4. People want an escape from the grim and sometimes depressing news and events of the day.
  5. With the dumbing down of the population due to an increasingly ineffective public education system, people today have less ability and desire to read and to think deeply, making the relatively simple themes and plots of comic books that much more attractive.
  6. Despite (and perhaps because of) widespread cynicism in the culture, we still yearn for heroes.

Murrow agrees, claiming “Every one of Guthrie’s observations is true. But there’s a deeper reason men of this generation are so strongly drawn to superheroes:

Every man longs to be a hero himself – but today’s society offers men very few opportunities for heroic behavior.”

sam-jackson-retort-468x350

[brace yourselves; it gets brutal after the jump]

Read the rest of this article »

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