Search This Blog

TXAB’s index.

Showing posts with label #Age. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Age. Show all posts

04 September 2017

The Nashville Statement, and sexism.

Or, how to disguise prejudice as orthodoxy.

Last Tuesday, 29 August, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released a manifesto they titled the Nashville Statement. Likely they balked at calling it the Nashville Creed, ’cause even though the creeds predate Catholicism, there’s still a sizable number of anti-Catholic Protestants that figure everything which took place before 1510 is “Catholic” and therefore wrong. But I digress.

In short, the statement is a declaration against homosexuality and transsexuality. Supposedly it presents the “biblical” view on these subjects, although if you read it y’might notice it neither quotes, nor provides references to, the bible. Whatsoever.

Nor does it refer to the Holy Spirit. Whatsoever. Supposedly any repentance and transformation is gonna be achieved by “the grace of God in Christ,” i.e. the force of God’s loving attitude, as opposed to the person of the trinity who empowers change and applies grace. You’ll see in a bit why this significant lapse in trinitarian thinking oughta raise some eyebrows.

Obviously the Statement’s been getting pushback from pagans who wanna know where on earth these guys get off condemning them. And of course from theologically liberal Christians who feel it’s graceless to condemn people for an issue which they believe is not entirely settled. And of course from gay Christians.

I’m not theologically liberal. (Though people who consider me more liberal than they are, will certainly take issue with that statement.) Nor am I gay. Nonetheless I have two issues with the Statement which prevent me from signing off on it, much less signing it.

The most obvious, and the one that’s not gonna need a lot of commentary from me, is its divisive intent. Like I said, it’s an attempt at a creed: This is how they figure all true Christians should believe, and if you agree you’re orthodox, and if you don’t you’re heretic. The Statement draws a pretty obvious line in the sand, and expects people to choose a side. But divisiveness, need I remind you, is a work of the flesh. Ga 5.20 Instead of loving our neighbor as ourselves, this Statement is gonna make us bite and devour one another, Ga 5.14-15 and do nothing to further God’s kingdom.

Yeah, I know. Many a Christian will insist the kingdom’s gotta be pure. By which they mean as little sin in it as possible. I agree. How do we go about doing that? Discipleship. We encourage people to follow Jesus’s teachings and the Holy Spirit’s leading. It’s the Spirit’s job to sort all that stuff out. Jn 16.8 It’s not a manifesto’s job. It’s not our job either: Our job is to love our neighbors and lead them to Jesus.

The reason Christians swap the job of loving our neighbors, for the job of denouncing sin? Obviously they hate sin. Less obviously, they don’t so much care for their neighbors. The neighbors sin, and they hate sin. Their “good news,” which is no longer so good, becomes about how the neighbors are sinning, and the world is perishing. The only bright spot is how Jesus saves us from perishing, Jn 3.16 but the rest of the preaching? Death, hellfire, and damnation.

Well, enough about that. The other issue I have is how the Nashville Statement is a subtle declaration against egalitarianism, the belief that women are priests, teachers, and ministers in the church, same as men. And that’s the particular axe I’m gonna grind today.

05 June 2017

Evangelicals, climate change, and creation care.

Why American Evangelicals don’t believe in, nor care about, climate change.

Gotta admit: For the longest time I was skeptical about climate change.

Back then it was called “global warming”—the idea of pollution changing our planet’s atmosphere, creating a “greenhouse effect” which trapped heat and gradually upped the world’s average temperature. And even if it did exist, big deal. So the world’s temperature went up a degree or two. What kind of impact would that make? Hardly any, I expected.

’Cause naïvely I’d imagined “average temperature” meant everywhere only got warmer by a degree. The north and south poles, however, got warmer by more than that. Warm enough for a lot of ice to melt.


Between 1980 and 2003, the north polar ice cover shrunk 1.6 million square kilometers. It’s getting so ships can now travel the Arctic Ocean. NASA

The reason I hadn’t believed in climate change was because, at the time, it was speculation. Based on evidence, but still speculation. I’m old enough to remember when scientists were predicting global cooling: Back in the 1970s, some scientists claimed another ice age was on the way, and the United States would be covered in snow like that lousy 2004 movie The Day After Tomorrow. Global cooling, global warming; make up your mind, science guys.

But between the shrunken ice caps and sinking islands, I grew convinced. Obviously the poles are getting warmer; ergo the earth is getting warmer.

The “price of industrialization”—well, when Beijing can’t be bothered to filter their smokestacks. CNN

All right, if pollution is the problem, can we solve it? Of course we can. Some of you older folks remember when London, New York, and Los Angeles were covered in smog to the level Beijing currently is. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s, and despite the nearby ocean making it legitimately overcast in the mornings, it used to remain “overcast,” in the wrong shade of gray, most days. It’s not anymore. California passed laws capping emissions. There was some uproar at the time, ’cause adjustment costs money, and those who have to spend the most on it really don’t wanna. But now we can breathe our own air… something China’s bigger cities can’t yet do.

So can we fight pollution and win? Of course; we’ve done it before. Humans, as the LORD once pointed out, can do whatever we set our minds to. Ge 11.6 At the time it wasn’t a compliment; we were up to no good. But we can do good. Not always for righteous reasons, but still.

Problem is, a significant number of politically conservative Evangelical Christians in the United States don’t believe in climate change. Even after they’re presented the very same evidence I was.

22 July 2016

How your politics will kill your testimony.

If you can’t talk politics yet still produce good fruit, they’re in Christ’s way. And need to go.

Couple months ago I found one of my favorite theologians is on Twitter. I have a few of his books, and used to listen to his radio program—in podcast form, naturally; who listens to radio anymore? So I decided to “follow” him.

About two weeks later I simply had to stop following him.

Why? ’Cause everything he tweets is angry, partisan, hate-filled, deliberately provocative, overly zealous… and sometimes even the reverse of what Jesus teaches. You know, works of the flesh. The times he actually reflected Christ—the times he acted like the thoughtful theologian I originally became a fan of—were once in a blue moon. Now it’s nothing but bile.

What happened to the guy? He got political.

I know. If you’re the political sort, your dander’s probably up already. Might be from the title. “Politics kill my testimony? What, are you one of those [bums from the opposition party]?

Maybe. But no, I’m not saying politics is gonna turn every Christian, or even you, into a fruitless Christian jerk. It’s not the politics: It’s what the politics might turn you into. It’s whether your support of your party, your candidates, your political views, or your “Christian worldview,” ultimately make you unlike Christ. ’Cause it can happen. ’Cause it happened to me.

I don’t have an issue with politics per se. I have political friends. On both wings; I grew up in the midst of the American Christian Right, and I’ve since made lots of friends among the Christian Left. My own irritating politics pick and choose from both sides, based on whether I think they reflect Christ Jesus’s teachings best. The reason they irritate people is ’cause they don’t neatly fit into the popular categories. The reason my friends put up with it (and me) is ’cause a lot of times we do agree. And when we disagree, I’m not a dick about it. (I try not to be, anyway.)

Now, when I was younger, different deal. I was semi-solidly in the Christian Right. I say semi-solidly because while I fully agreed with their moral views, I had big problems with their economic ones—which don’t come from Jesus, but from the party. I had doubts, and rightly so. But I stuffed ’em, ’cause I wanted to be loyal. I zealously supported the party. Too zealously.

Problem is, I didn’t realize zílos/“zeal” is a work of the flesh. Ge 5.20 And why would I? My NIV translated it “jealousy,” and I wasn’t jealous; my KJV translated it “emulations,” and I didn’t know what emulations were. Plenty of Christians believe zeal’s a virtue, though it’s rarely used that way in the scriptures. We figure zeal’s what we should feel for the beliefs we hold, the causes we support, the Christ we worship. It justifies every unkind thing we do in their support.

21 November 2015

My irritating politics.

My worldview must be built on nothing less than Jesus’s blood and righteousness.

My politics annoy people.

I’m not as conservative as my friends assume I should be. To their minds, all Christians should be as conservative as they. If we’re not, they wonder just how Christian we really are. ’Cause in their minds, Christianity is conservatism; conservatism is Christianity; if you follow Jesus you’re naturally gonna think like they do. Thanks to the human self-preservation instinct, they assume because I don’t think like they do, I’m the one at fault. I’m wrong. (Doesn’t help that I’ll totally admit that.)

I’m not as progressive as my other friends assume I should be. To their minds, all Christians should buck the knee-jerk conservatism of popular Christian culture, ’cause it’s hypocrisy, corrupted by social Darwinists who’ve manipulated gullible social conservatives into adopting their worldview and voting their way. Because I still side with conservatives on many issues, they reckon I’m still stuck in my old knee-jerk ways; I’m not as “enlightened” as they. Not yet. I’ve come this far, so they’ve not given up hope. But they do wish I’d hurry up.

So whenever I express a view, I’m gonna annoy one camp or the other.

That’s the trouble with being a political moderate. Contrary to what Rush Limbaugh’s always taught, a moderate isn’t someone who wants to please everybody and can’t pick a side. Such people do exist, but they’re not moderates. They’re apolitical: They don’t have a side—and don’t care enough to choose one. A true moderate has totally chosen sides: We ally with conservatives on certain issues, progressives on others. Not for the same reasons—because our worldviews don’t match.

See, I’m trying to follow Jesus. No, I’m not saying my conservative and progressive friends aren’t trying to follow Jesus. Some of ’em are, and some not. Some of them think they are, and some aren’t even trying. It’s just that in my quest for Jesus, he points me in directions different Americans consider leftward or rightward. I’m trying to be consistent with his standard, not any one party’s.

I know; some of you totally understand Jesus transcends politics, so you can respect that. But plenty of people don’t believe any such thing: If Jesus could vote, he’d absolutely be in their party. No question. Have you seen the pagans in the opposition party? Great googly moogly.

14 November 2015

How CCLI shakes down your church.

Thanks to CCLI, copyright-exempt churches across the United States are paying a lot of unnecessary royalties.

One of my responsibilities at my church is multimedia. Yep, I’m the guy who makes sure the words to the worship songs are on the screen, so you can sing along to them.

When I was a kid we still had hymnals. Then we upgraded to overhead projectors; then PowerPoint; then specialized multimedia presentation software which was pretty much PowerPoint with a huge database of songs. Currently I’m using this app called ProPresenter. It’s not bad.

Whether you’re using one app or another, it pretty much works the same way: Our worship leader tells me which songs she intends to inflict on us Sunday morning. If I don’t already have slides for that song, I hop onto the CCLI database and get the lyrics. Then make slides for the verses, the chorus, the bridge, the “extemporaneous riffs” which are really just imitations of what the original musicians did on their YouTube video, and there y’go. Ready for Sunday.

What’s CCLI? It’s Christian Copyright Licensing International, a royalty collection agency. They charge each church an annual fee (anywhere from $49 to $4,260, depending on size), which grants permission to collect sheet music from their site. Chord, lead, or vocal sheets, and their site can transpose it into other keys for you. (That feature’s actually quite handy.) Once you inform them which songs you’ve used, they’ll send royalties to the artists.

And, they claim, you need them. If you do all sorts of things in your church—display or photocopy lyrics, distribute chord sheets, sing popular songs—you need CCLI. What’s implied is you need them lest you violate copyright laws. Point of fact, what you only get from them are sheet music and lyrics.

That’s not nothing. Other lyric websites might misspell words, mix up lyrics, forget to capitalize God’s pronouns, and get the chords wrong. Although years ago I heard Phil Keaggy complain CCLI didn’t get his chords right either, which is why his fans were having such trouble duplicating one of his songs. (To be fair, CCLI probably got the bad info from Keaggy’s publisher, who transcribed the song without any input from Keaggy.)

But copyright protection? Actually, CCLI doesn’t give you that. ’Cause your church doesn’t need it.

You read me right. Your church doesn’t need copyright protection. American copyright laws specifically exempt churches. I’ll quote you the law ’n everything.

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106 [the copyright holder’s rights], the following are not infringements of copyright: […]

(3) performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or of a dramatico-musical work of a religious nature, or display of a work, in the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly[.] 17 USC §110

Meaning, in other words, singing a song in church, whether as worship, or as “special music.” Meaning when you play a song over the loudspeakers.

If you do this in church, you’re fine. You’re legal. The music publishing companies won’t send a jackbooted tach team to interrupt your services and haul the pastors off to music jail. No matter how much the more paranoid folks in your church would love to see that scenario, as proof the world is out to get ’em.

24 October 2015

Happy Halloween. Bought your candy yet?

It’s Happy Halloween, not “Happy holidays.” Wait… wrong holiday.


A perfect opportunity to show Christlike generosity—and give the best candy ever. But too many of us make a serious point of being grouchy, fear-addled spoilsports.
(Image swiped from a mommy blog.)

For more than a decade I’ve ranted about the ridiculous Evangelical practice of shunning Halloween. I call it ridiculous ’cause it really is: It’s a fear-based, irrational, misinformed, slander-filled rejection of a holiday… which turns out to actually be a legitimate part of the Christian calendar.

No I’m not kidding. It’s our holiday. We invented Halloween. No it sure doesn’t look like Christians’ original intent, but that’s ’cause we let the pagans take it over and transform it from a fun time for children, to an inappropriate adult bacchanal, or a celebration of creepy horror movie themes.

Then there are the Pagans with a capital P—religious Pagans, as opposed to irreligious pagans. I call ’em neo-Pagans because their religions date from the 1960s. Yeah, that recently. They revived ancient religions, which is why that “neo-” bit goes before Pagan; but they greatly adapted those religions for present-day sensibilities. Ancient Pagans often had a lot of racial and sexual boundaries as part of their identity; modern Pagans decidedly got rid of the racism and sexism.

Anyway, neo-Pagans claim Halloween was originally Pagan, and Christians stole it from ’em in a futile attempt to Christianize it. This is utter rubbish. Yet because some of them call themselves “witches,” and because kids dress as totally unrelated witches on Halloween (whether the Harry Potter sort or the Macbeth sort), they insist it’s their holiday, not ours. And despite the total lack of historical evidence, a lot of gullible reporters swallow these claims whole, and repeat them every year. They’ve been doing it for so long, people actually try to debunk me, by quoting 10-year-old newsblog articles. Which were poorly researched and incorrect then, and just as wrong now.

Nature religions don’t even celebrate Halloween anyway. They celebrate autumn. The vernal equinox, the end of summer, the beginning of winter, the turn of the seasons—which took place a full month ago, back on 22 September. They celebrate the equinox-related harvest festivals, which in Irish would be Samhain /'saʊ.ən/, a contraction of sam fuin/“summer’s end.” Totally unrelated to Halloween. They just happen to exist within the same 45-day period.

16 October 2015

Why we gotta have freedom of expression.

And in this age, we have Blog Action Days.


I’m participating in the Blog Action Day thingy, an attempt to get bloggers and their readers to focus on a particular worthy issue. This year it’s #RaiseYourVoice, an attempt to speak up on behalf of journalists, photographers, bloggers, writers, and pretty much everyone who’s not allowed to speak up for themselves.

In the United States, freedom of expression is pretty much the content of our Constitution’s first amendment: A guaranteed freedom of religion, speech, the press, and to petition government.

Among us Christians, freedom of expression is a tricky thing. Because not every Christian is agreed we have freedom of expression. Or should have.

I know many a Christian who’s outraged, outraged, by some of the stuff on television. It’s just filthy. So, they tell anyone who’ll listen, they got rid of their TV. They threw it right out. They don’t watch it anymore.

…Well okay, they watch stuff on the Blu-ray player. And off Netflix. And sometimes they’ll reconnect the cable for sports. And they’ve downloaded every episode of Little House on the Prarie from Amazon, but watching old TV doesn’t count as “watching TV,” does it?…

Anyway. Some things, many of us Christians insist, shouldn’t be so freely expressed. “Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth” Ep 4.29 and “Touch not the unclean thing” 2Co 6.17 and all that. We practice self-control, or at least we fake it really well. So others should practice self-control. And if they can’t, maybe we oughta pass some laws. Or, if doing so bothers our sense of libertarianism, we can just do as we usually do: Boycott them, boycott their sponsors, boycott their business partners, shout ’em down, hack their websites, slander ’em widely, and otherwise try to ruin them. ’Cause it’s our duty as good citizens and devout Christians.

But when other people do all that stuff to us—why, we’re being persecuted.

It’s a blind spot. A big black hole of a blind spot, where the inconsistency falls in and gets squashed into a singularity: “Those are entirely different things. They’re promoting evil. We’re promoting Jesus. (And our politics, which are Jesus-approved, so they’re part of the package.) Evil needs to be fought. And it’s evil to fight us, ’cause we’re on God’s side.”

So when I talk to my fellow Christians about freedom of expression, they’re all for it—for us. Not so much for others.