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“40 Questions For Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags”

1/07/2015

The Gospel Coalition website has posted the following questionnaire and commentary from Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan:

“[P]erhaps what’s been most difficult is seeing some of our friends, some of our family members, and some of the folks we’ve sat next to in church giving their hearty ‘Amen’ to a practice we still think is a sin and a decision we think is bad for our country. It’s one thing for the whole nation to throw a party we can’t in good conscience attend. It’s quite another to look around for friendly faces to remind us we’re not alone and then find that they are out there jamming on the dance floor…

“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. These questions aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical. They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying.”

Fair enough, Kevin. After the jump I will take you at your word that you are sincere in your desire to understand why we believe what we believe.

For the rest of you, here are the Beatles going to work…

animated abbey lane

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Are You A Monster? Take This Simple Test!

29/06/2015

Cof Frankie edit a

No individual action in and of itself is either moral or immoral, ethical or unethical.  They are moral and ethical only in context.

In the latter part of the twentieth century, a woman was pinned down in the rubble of her home following a devastating earthquake.  A fire started, and not only was there no water flowing in the broken water mains, but the fire departments and paramedics were all swamped with horrendous casualties in their immediate vicinity.

Though neighbors were able to rescue the woman’s husband and children from the rubble, they could not save her.  As the fire grew closer and closer it became obvious the woman would die a slow and horribly agonizing death.

The husband stayed with her as long as he could, comforting her as best as possible, reassuring her that he loved her and would take care of the children…

…then as the flames grew too intense
for him to stay he shot her in the head.

If you do not see that as a kind and just and moral and ethical and loving act, you are a monster incapable of differentiating between good and evil.

A woman who willingly submits to invading soldiers to spare her child from being raped has committed no sin, has done nothing dishonorable, has not betrayed her husband, has not committed adultery.  She sacrificed herself to save an innocent:  She did a just and moral and ethical act; if you cannot see that, you are a monster incapable of differentiating between good and evil.

While millions were being marched off to gas chambers during WWII, some were saved by the khassidey umot ha-olam who looked the Nazis in the face and flat out lied, “No, no Jewish people here” while hiding them in their own homes.

Had their lie been discovered, they would have suffered for protecting Jews, up to and including going to the gas chambers with them.

If you think they committed a sin by lying to murderous anti-Semites in order to save innocent lives, you are a monster incapable of differentiating between good and evil.

Earlier this year I paid one last visit to a friend dying from cancer.

He was heavily sedated; I’m not at all certain he was even aware we were there.

But his wife was by his side, and though she was wracked with anguish she was determined to be as uplifting as possible for her husband even as he lay dying.

She tended to him and talked cheerfully to him and made sure his breathing tube was clear and did everything she could to look after him as he slowly slipped away.

She loved him, and if there is one joy any of us could take away from his passing, it’s that he went with his good and loving mate by his side, staying with him and supporting him as best she could under the most adverse conditions.

Do you think God smiles on their relationship
while condemning another of
equal strength and integrity and compassion
just because it’s between
two members of the same gender?

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Okay, Lemme ‘Splain It To Ya…

29/06/2015

DagwoodSandwich

Imagine if you will, that you are an observant Jewish-American citizen living in a predominantly observant Jewish-American neighborhood. (If you already are an observant Jewish-American citizen living in a predominantly observant Jewish-American neighborhood, you may skip this part.)

Any non-observant non-Jewish-American neighbors are a small minority in your community. As a result, all of the grocery stores, butcher shops, restaurants, delis, and sandwich shops in your community are kosher.

Especially the sandwich shops.

All your life you have been raised with the familiar concept of sandwiches = kosher food: Corned beef, hamburger, chicken, turkey, liverwurst, egg salad, tuna salad, each and every one kosher no matter where it was purchased.

Then one day one of your non-Jewish-American neighbors opens up a sandwich shop that sells ham sandwiches.

You rage, you sputter, you fume. How can this be? you demand. How dare they call that a sandwich?!?!?

Well, it is a sandwich, you’re told. It’s a piece of meat between two slices of bread, mustard and Swiss cheese extra, if you so desire. If you don’t desire, why, every other restaurant, deli, and sandwich shop in your community sells kosher sandwiches; every grocery store and butcher shop sells kosher sandwich meat.

Nobody is depriving you of your right to enjoy a sandwich made of kosher meat.

But you’re calling it a sandwich! You can’t call it a sandwich! You have no right to call it a sandwich!

Actually, we have just as much right as you to call it a sandwich, because like it or not, that’s what it is. What we aren’t doing is claiming it’s a kosher sandwich, and if you want to call your sandwiches kosher sandwiches in order to distinguish them from our sandwiches, you go right ahead.

You’re depriving me of my religious freedom! If I can’t stop you from making ham sandwiches, if at the very least I can’t stop you from calling them sandwiches, you are persecuting me as a patron of kosher meat products!

Do what you want, pal. As per our constitutional right, we are going to make and enjoy ham sandwiches and offer them to anybody who wants one. We won’t try to force them on you, we won’t make your sandwich shops sell them, we won’t make your grocery stores carry ham.

It would be wrong if we tried to keep you
from eating the type of sandwich you enjoy.

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They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love

28/06/2015

love is Gods orientation

Not by the way we judge and condemn others, but by the way we love.

  • We are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
  • We are to treat others the way we wish to be treated.
  • We are not to judge others, because when we do we will be judged the same way in return.
  • We are to feed the hungry.
  • Give drink to the thirsty.
  • Tend to the sick.
  • Shelter the poor.
  • Comfort the dying.
  • Visit those in prison.
  • We are to go the extra mile.
  • We are to turn the other cheek.
  • We are not to return evil for evil.
  • We are to forgive seventy times seven.
  • We are not to put stumbling blocks before others.

If God never mentioned it, and if Jesus never mentioned it, and if Christ’s death fulfilled the Old Testament covenant and brought an end to Moses’ holiness laws, then maybe we shouldn’t get our knickers in a twist over it, either.

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Which in Jesus’ era literally meant carrying the armor of an oppressive pagan enemy twice as far as they demanded.

Which, contrary to human misunderstanding, if not a set of orders issued unilaterally from above with a threat of punishment if they aren’t obey, but a mutually consented agreement:  If you want Me to be your God, you need to do the following…

As God told Peter in the dream about the clean and unclean animals.

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Uncle Festus

25/06/2015

John de Yongh - fat guy Uncle Festus

at the family gatherings
Uncle Festus would always
crowd to the end of the table
and shove food in his great big ugly jowls
while ranting and raving about “them”
“them” being anybody “not me”
and he was gross and ugly
but at times he could be kind and funny
so we ignored his attitude
and his angry words
and just let him eat
with the rest of us

eventually
some of the younger cousins
more distant cousins
began wondering why we put up with
Uncle Festus’ bullshit
and we said well
he’s been thru some hard times
(hard times)
and he needs to vent
(needs to vent)
and he’s not doing nobody no harm
when he talks like that here
because we’re family
and family looks after their own
so the younger cousins
more distant cousins
didn’t say anything
but we noticed after that
when it came time to have
tea and ice cream
they’d move off
and have it

somewhere else
somewhere away
from Uncle Festus

after a while
we started moving
Uncle Festus down the table
away from the grown ups
(the real grown ups)
down towards the peripheries
with the elderly and decrepit relatives
the crazy old aunts
the cat ladies of our family
Uncle Festus did not like this
but he channeled his bile
into more talk about “them”

one day a young cousin showed up
married to one of “them”
and Uncle Festus was unfailingly polite
greeting her warmly and cheerfully
but soon enough he began railing about “them”
and we all blanched in horror
but she closed her eyes (painfully)
and said
that’s okay
I understand
that’s the way he is
he’s not really going to change

and we relaxed
because she understood
and she wasn’t going to make a big deal about it
no matter how painful it was

and this went on
for a couple of years
with her patiently enduring
because she had to
he was family
then one year
she showed up
with a baby
and Uncle Festus
began railing
against “them” again
and this time we were horrified

this time we said
Jesus Christ, Uncle Festus,
there’s a baby here!

yeah? so?
she’s still one of “them” ain’t she?

and that’s when we realized
if the price
of having Uncle Festus
in our family
was putting up
with his bullshit
in front of a little baby
who had done nothing to deserve it
then we
weren’t willing
to pay
that price
anymore

Uncle Festus did not take kindly to this
he grew bitter ugly resentful
claimed we were depriving him of his liberty
his freedom of speech
punishing him for
that little baby being one of “them”
and we began listening to his crap
really listening
not just letting us wash over us
the way we had in the past
and we realized
how wrong he was
and how wrong we had been
and how it wasn’t going to get any better
until he was no longer there

so pass another plate of bacon down to Uncle Festus
give him a big pile of biscuits and gravy
plenty of ice cream
loads of sugar
in his sweet tea
and afterwards
go out back
encourage him to
smoke his cigarettes
by the carton

we don’t “hate” you Uncle Festus
but for the peace of the family
we just need you to die
and the sooner
the better

art by John de Yongh
text © Buzz Dixon

 

 

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We Are Walking Contradictions, Partly Truth And Partly Fiction

21/06/2015

If further evidence was needed of the complexity of the human psyche, if more proof was needed that we are all full of contradictions, today Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, cropped up twice in my newsfeed.

Russell Moore

First with this:

A measured and intelligent look at the continued use of the Confederate battle flag in the South and a realization it should go, if for no other reason than it’s continued use appears to demonstrate open antipathy to huge segments of the American population.

Then with this:

The clickbait headline does not convey the full nuance of what Russell Moore said (which in his own words is closer to “we will eventually persuade” than “we will win the fight”), and leaves out his admission that the SBC & other socially conservative groups’ approach to the issue of LGBT rights was badly handled and somewhat presumptive.

One can still disagree with Moore on his goal while acknowledging he admits his group couched their opposition to LGBT rights in general and same sex marriage in particular in divisive terms. And one can certainly argue with no disagreement from me that opposing equal rights for anyone is divisive under any circumstances; what is remarkable is that for the first time we have even a hint of, “Yeah, we may have had some responsibility in that…” from his side.

And I even feel a bit of sympathy for Moore’s twin statements: All the kudos he receives for saying the Confederate flag should be permanently retired are tsk-tsked by allusions to his anti-LGBT rights stance, while on the opposite side he’s doubtlessly being hammered for attacking the Confederate flag while getting no credit for staying the course re the SBC’s stance on same-sex marriage.

But…baby steps, baby steps. For an SBC leader to say maybe it’s time we start listening to the African-American community and start addressing their concerns is a significant step in the correct direction, and to acknowledge even in passing that they contributed to stirring up the stink re LGBT rights is remarkable.

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The White Man’s Burden

20/06/2015

norman rockwell - the_problem_we_all_live_with

The Problem We All Live With
painted by Norman Rockwell

I’m going to pull back and look at the large systemic problem we have in this country, observe what its components are, then zoom in on one part to suggest a solution for it. This is not to isolate that one component as the only / most important component, or say that others shouldn’t address the problem in the other components, but this area is one where I have special interest and insight, and as such the one I can best address.

First, my bona fides: I was raised in a strongly religious-bordering-devout Southern Baptist family.[1] I went thru my crisis of faith, did a lot of research and examining of every major religious belief system and numerous Christian denominations, have moved from SBC to Presbyterian to non-denomination / leaning Quaker.[2]

My faith informs my outlook on all other things, but it does not confine or define it. By nature I’m somewhat conservative and am one of those people who say they didn’t leave the GOP, the GOP left them.

We have a particularly toxic stew in this country that can be traced by to a few key ingredients: Anglo-European colonists laid claim to a continent they had no right to, and used their culture (which included their political make-up plus rationalism via the Enlightenment and strict dogmatic religious beliefs) to justify persecuting / killing / enslaving / exploiting anyone the least bit different from them.

And, yes, that same Anglo-European culture laid the groundwork for our constitution, did wonderful educational and charity works, greatly increased productivity and wealth and on a level of improved goods and health care left many of the exploited better off than they had been before being exploited.

Occasionally we read about burglars
who fix themselves a sandwich and
carefully wash the dishes in the sink
before departing with the silverware.

They still used biological markers of skin color / gender / sexual orientation / ability as a scientific (read: “objective”) reason to justify excluding as many others from full participation in their culture as possible.[3] They cited religious teachings — specifically Judeo-Christian teachings — as a moral justification for this exclusion.

Science, however, considers new evidence and changes its opinion based on the validity of that new evidence. Most religious denominations are loathe to engage in the same kind of self-examination unless absolutely forced to (i.e., their membership rolls are imploding).

(History gets stuck in the middle with objective historians willing to consider and evaluate new evidence and new interpretations, and hagiographers of varying stripes refusing to change from an interpretation they find comfortable and reassuring, no matter how dubious or false.)

In this country, the issue of race relations remains the most complex problem to resolve if we aspire to a better, more just union (something which both Christians and humanists claim to want).

Slave-owners were extremely wealthy people, and they defended that wealth with every tool at their disposal. They encouraged racism among poor whites so as to deflect examinations of class oppression (“I may be poor but at least I ain’t black!”). They misquoted Darwin to claim African-Americans and others were biologically inferior. They encouraged literalistic interpretations of the Bible (literalism being long since discarded by mainstream European and Eastern Orthodox theologians) to justify the institution of slavery with a few cherry picked verses.[4]

The Southern Baptist Convention was formed specifically to help the slave-owners do the latter. The SBC was founded on a theology of exclusion: If slaves were good and obedient and went to the churches their masters told them to attend, then they’d get to go to heaven and obey to their masters in the afterlife as well; if they rebelled and demanded freedom and justice, well, they were instruments of Satan who were doubly damned because they were also little more than monkeys to begin with.

part 2 / part 3 / part 4

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[1/1]  I count at least 5 professional pastors + pastoral spouses in my generation of siblings and cousins.

[1/2]  I’d probably join a Quaker church if I could find one anywhere near where I live.

[1/3]  In fact, until the suffragette movement, one could argue they consciously excluded the majority of human beings occupying this country from full participation.

[4/1]  That whole “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” bit getting shunted aside.

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The Unholy Alliance

20/06/2015

part 1

After the Civil War, as large numbers of non-Anglo / non-Protestant / non-Christian European immigrants began arriving in the country[1], the conservative elements of this country grew alarmed that “their” country was being taken away from them.[2]

Asian immigrants and their descendants born in the U.S. were denied citizenship for decades and in many cases had their citizenship rights retroactively revoked.

reply0620 anti-immigrant-cartoon

The unholy alliance of wealth + politics + religion (which in truth is always present in all societies to some shape or fashion) became increasingly focused on conservative white male Protestant / Christian values.[3]

Each segment became a circle in an overlapping Venn diagram of prejudice and bigotry. Christians of all stripes were aligned against non-Christians (which included a number of progressives and free thinkers). White Christians were aligned against non-white Christians, Protestants against Catholics. Rural families were aligned against urban families.

Poor people…well, those in charge took care not to let them get aligned against the rich by siding too much with the progressives and free thinkers who made up labor unions; poor people were separated into poor whites and poor blacks and aligned against one another even though they had more in common with each other than with the oligarchs who ran the country.

All vicious circles in one big ugly Venn diagram,
and where they overlapped they didn’t merely
add on their toxicity, they multiplied it.

And chained together,
these vicious circles fed off of each other,
reinforced each other, validated each other…

In the post-Civil War era this required a great narrowing of religious attitudes among the dominant white culture. Literalism was brought back to deny scientific evidence that there were no significant differences among people regardless of race / ethnicity / gender / orientation and once immediate handicaps were accounted for, no significant difference between the able and the disabled in terms of their humanity. Moralists decried the use of alcohol and drugs by non-whites and non-Protestants, “negro jungle music”, and Hollywood movies (i.e., made by Jews).

It was then and now an attempt to shout down other voices with other histories and experiences. So long as only the dominant culture could present its version of events, they never had to seriously face the consequences of their actions and their ancestors’ actions. Whatever problems occurred in society were caused by them not us.

part 3 / part 4

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[2/1]  Many of them fleeing the same kind of exclusionary practices in Europe that Anglo-Americans were directing against non-whites in America.  

[2/2]  And, oh, the irony; had they but asked the Native Americans and the Mexican-Americans who had been living on the land since before the first Anglo-European colonists arrived…

[2/3]  Many Protestants then and now exclude Catholics from their ranks, but those that do try to gloss over all the significant differences between Roman Catholicism / Eastern orthodox / European Protestantism in order to further their own personal goals.

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Denying Reality

20/06/2015

part 1 / part 2

This came to a head in the years leading up to WWII and then the immediate follow-up of the Cold War.  The wealthy opposed any attempt to pry their money loose from them even when they were clearly violating both the constitution and common decency to enrich themselves at the expense of others.  Poor whites began to grasp the idea of class warfare, and labor unions began growing.

Seeing communist and socialist governments taking root in Europe and Asia, the wealthy allied with conservative religious leaders to create a propaganda parody of Marxism / communism / socialism:  Their fantasy version included taking everybody’s homes and guns and Bibles and forcing them to treat Negroes as equals while encouraging their children to have sex and use drugs.  It was a winning sales pitch and it found a lot of support among white and conservative and Christian audiences, especially where two or more of those audiences overlapped.

Anti-Communist_Poster_from_Birmingham_KKK_ca_1934

Following WWII, with the rise of Billy Graham and other evangelicals-cum-politicians, we saw the most flamboyant of the evangelical movement become aligned with politicians and companies that either deliberately hindered American social progress or got the country involved in disastrous foreign entanglements.

The religious right has always strongly supported every war we have marched off to fight, even long past the point where it became obvious to everyone we had fought the wrong war for the wrong reasons and had lost.[1]  The religious right fought against desegregation and civil rights because it removed the fig leaf that let them justify their unjust attitudes towards non-whites.

They still fight against women’s rights and against LGBT rights.[2]  Jerry Falwell famously conjured up “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” to justify his anti-gay bigotry, but long before that he was fighting against busing and school integration and interracial marriage, and to help lily white Christians escape the big bad black man, he established so-called “Christian” academies and Liberty College.

There is the rotten, cancerous, gangrenous, pus-spewing source of the infection:  The religious aspect of the dominant white male culture, a culture that fears the day they are no longer in charge and fights tooth and nail to keep it at a distance.[3]

  • As long as we Christians allow Pat Robertson to babble on incoherently in a manner that is offensive to all sane, just-minded people…we are endorsing him.
  • As long as we Christians allow Franklin Graham to openly espouse hate in the name of God against people who have done him no harm…we are endorsing him.
  • As long as the Duggars are celebrated for fucking without birth control and condemning an entire class of people by falsely claiming they are child molesters while hiding a child molester in their midst…we are endorsing them.

And I can go on and on and on.

part 4

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[3/1]  Look how many people claim to this day that we lost Vietnam because liberals prevented gallant American soldiers from effectively fighting the enemy.

[3/2]  The SBC, whom we can only refer to as the ultimate slow learners of Christianity, have just announced they are going to ignore any Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage that is contrary to their beliefs which is exactly the same attitude they took to slavery in the run up to the Civil War.

[3/3]  Often by denying they — the dominant white male culture — even exists, thus enabling them to paint themselves as the victims of aggression and prejudice from the very people objecting to being oppressed by them.

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Responsibility

20/06/2015

part 1 / part 2 / part 3

reply0620 Omelas

I keep coming back to Ursula K. LeGuin’s classic story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”.

In it there is a wonderful, happy utopia that requires just one single tiny injustice in order for everyone to enjoy the glorious benefits of their society.  And most of the citizens either put the thought of that injustice from their mind, or else they rationalize it as being for the common good.

But a few cannot live with it, no matter how much they benefit from it.

And in the end, they have to walk away.

The people leaving the Christian church today
are the ones walking away from Omelas.

I am a Christian.  I believe in what Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount.  I try — with varying degrees of success, and often falling short of my best possible effort — to live by those teachings.

As long as we let the bigots and the con-men and the slickee boiz have access to the TV cameras and microphones, we will drive people away from the Christian church.

And when we drive away people who have been raised in the faith — or rather, raised in the most toxic sub-sets of the faith — we cannot feign surprise when they finally see the truth, realized they have been lied to all their lives, and then turn with a vengeance on those who did the lying.

That’s where the most militant anti-Christians are coming from.

Those who enjoy privilege are afraid they will enjoy it no longer. They are not afraid of mistreatment, they are afraid they will be held responsible for hurtful things they say and do to others whom they can safely ignore now. The outliers like the racist thug who shot up Charleston will commit worse and worse outrages.

According to current demographics, in 2048 the non-Hispanic white population in the US will be 49%. They are already below the crucial tipping point where either party can get elected just by appealing to white votes only; to achieve victory in the future a political party has to either cultivate non-white voters or suppress non-white voters.[1]

That’s the bottom line, white Christian America (especially we males):
We may have not caused the problem, but if we refuse to take steps to correct it, if we deny it even exists, then we assume full responsibility for it and all the guilt that goes with it.

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[4/1]  I’ll leave it to the astute reader to decide which party does which.

 

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