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

13 July 2018

Problematic worship music.

The stuff I listen to. And don’t.

We sang a song in my church last Sunday, “Set a Fire” by Will Reagan & United Pursuit. It’s hardly the first time; we’ve worshiped with it dozens of times before. It was a popular song on the radio for a while, ’cause it’s catchy. We like the “I want more of you God” bit, and how there’s no place we’d rather be than in God’s love and presence.

But, to paraphrase Jesus, Rv 2.4 I have this against it. Here’s the relevant portion:

(So) set a fire down in my soul
That I can’t contain and I can’t control
I want more of you God
I want more of you God

What’s wrong with it? Well, that fire we can’t contain and can’t control.

The idea runs contrary to the Holy Spirit’s fruit of self-control. There should be nothing in our lives which we can’t take hold of. Yes, even things of the Spirit. For

1 Corinthians 14.32-33 KWL
32 Prophets’ spirits are in submission to the prophets,
33A for God doesn’t do disorder, but peace.

The prayer, “God, would you please just take me over and make me do [thing we lack the self-control to do],” is a really popular one. But it’s not one God wants to say yes to. He’s trying to develop self-control in us; he shouldn’t have to take such matters into his hands. (And y’might notice whenever he does, people really don’t like it as much as we imagined we would.)

So Christians might like the idea of more zeal. More “fire down in my soul” which we claim is beyond our ability to contain. Problem is, zealous Christians have consistently used that zeal as an excuse for unkind, unchristian, fruitless, godless behavior. An out-of-control Christian is always a harmful Christian. When have you ever seen someone who loves others (following the proper definition of love, of course) out of control? Well you don’t, ’cause love behaves itself.

Problem is, in many a church Christians are more familiar with the worship song than the bible. True of most worship songs. We quote them. We follow them. Less so Jesus.

I guarantee you this song’s fans, as soon as they hear this critique, will immediately swoop in to defend the song. “Oh that’s not what the songwriter meant to say.” Fair enough; it may not be what he meant. But it is what he said, and is how Christians are gonna interpret it. Good intentions don’t redeem a song. Better lyrics, better aligned with the scriptures, do.

But people don’t determine our favorite songs by the lyrics. We like the music.

06 July 2018

Reusing the bottle.

The perils of being a heavy drinker.

Whenever I buy a bottled drink—water, Gatorade, Powerade, iced tea, fizzy water, etc.—I nearly always reuse the bottle. I refill it with water and use it as my regular drinking bottle for about a month. Or until I buy another bottled drink; then I reuse that bottle. The other bottle goes into the recycling bin.

I’ve been warned by more than one person I shouldn’t do this. ’Cause bacteria. Supposedly it’ll build up somewhere within the bottle, infect me, and give me MRSA or something.

“So I take it you don’t wash your bottles,” I respond.

Wash a disposable plastic bottle? Sure. A little dish soap and water; sometimes I even run it through the sanitizer. ’Cause they’re right: If you don’t clean your bottle, you will get bacteria, mold, or some other icky thing growing in there. It’s just it never occurred to them to wash disposable bottles. After all, they’re disposable.

There is the worry that if I expose the bottle to heat, plastic molecules will come off, get into the drink, and who knows what that’ll do to me. Cancer, usually. This isn’t my worry; it’s more like paranoid friends who read some website somewhere and now they’re convinced all our plastic containers are killing us, so they’ve switched to glass. Until someone else figures out how glass will kill us. Then it’s back to waxed paper and earthenware, I guess. Or stainless steel. Or whatever the new fad will be.

29 June 2018

A religion without works.

It’s devilishly easy.

A friend recently expressed her great frustration about phony Christians. You know, the sort of people I call Christianists—they’re not necessarily unsaved, but they sure do act it, ’cause they’re immature, and have mixed up all sorts of other things with Christianity. They keep surprising this friend; I suppose she expects them to act like Jesus, and is regularly disappointed.

I know the feeling all too well. But it doesn’t surprise me, ’cause I grew up around so many of them. I was a hypocrite myself once, who got suckered into the fake stuff in lieu of the real thing. It’s a really easy trap, too.

If I were giving directions to a devil as to how to trick people into it… Yeah, like one of the Screwtape letters, except I don’t know devilish psychology; I just know how to be evil, which is likely close enough. It’d go a little something like this.

Oh hi devil.

So you’re familiar with how our evangelists like to present Christianity as if there are no strings attached?—that if you come to Jesus, he won’t just wash away all our sins, but he’ll make our lives all better, and fix all our problems?

You should find this material really useful. It sets people up for so many disappointments with God, ’cause he won’t do any of the things these evangelists promised he would. Deprive them of anything, and their faith will shrivel up like a seed that fell on pavement instead of soil. Mk 4.5-6 You get to watch their hearts break in despair. Awww.

This no-strings-attached crap is also a great way to get Christians to do nothing. All you gotta do is overemphasize how good deeds are no part of the salvation process. At all. Good deeds are “like filthy rags.” Is 64.6 NIV Tell them God doesn’t appreciate good deeds, doesn’t want ’em; they even piss him off.

If they object, “But didn’t God command them?” go sic one of our dispensationalists on them. Have the Dispy explain how God did away with all that good-deeds crap; that’s why he doesn’t do any good deeds, and he’s a good Christian. (He’s not, but you’re not gonna tell anyone.)

I know; you’re thinking, “Wouldn’t it more fun for us to make ’em spin their wheels and try really, really hard to earn salvation, and never feel like they’re getting anywhere?” Obviously some devils do this already. But it’s risky behavior: There’s a good chance these people will do actual good works. That, or observers won’t realize how defective their “good deeds” truly are, and it’ll inspire them to do good deeds, if not become Christians themselves. Pretty sure you don’t want that. So, better they do nothing.

22 June 2018

Being a member of the jerk club.

Which, as a follower of Jesus, I’m not allowed to do.

One of the neighbors, out on a power walk, decided to pause for a moment and strike up a conversation with me as I was doing some yardwork. Once he found out how old I am, he realized I was the same age as his son. “Do you know Cloelius?” he asked.

No, Cloelius isn’t his son’s actual name. I don’t care to give his name, and you’ll see why. It took me a few seconds to recall him. “Yes,” I told him, “I know of him. We weren’t in the same circles.”

There’s actually a bigger story behind this. One I didn’t care to tell Colelius’s dad, ’cause I don’t think he’d have been happy to hear it. But to be fair, we were kids then.

The summer before my freshman year of high school, my family moved into a new neighborhood. Across the street lived a boy whom I’ll call Azad. And for no reason I could figure, Azad decided I was his sworn enemy.

No, I still don’t know why. Knowing myself, it’s possibly for the very same reason I irritated frat boys in college: I was mouthy and opinionated. I probably said something which rubbed Azad the wrong way. It’s also possible Azad was just looking for someone to bully. Either way he declared eternal hostility against me.

There were about a dozen kids in the neighborhood who went to my high school at the time. Mostly boys. Azad knew them all, having lived in the neighborhood way longer than I had. As we waited for the school bus in the mornings, most of the boys waited in a garage across the street, Azad among them. Because I didn’t care to interact with Azad, I’d just stand at the bus stop. Azad would get bored every so often, so he’d try to provoke me, and try to get the other boys in his clique to join in. I wouldn’t take the bait, so I wasn’t much fun.

Cloelius was a year behind me in school. When he started high school, he joined Azad’s bus-stop clique. So that’s how we knew one another.

15 June 2018

On tipping and overtipping.

On those who are constantly wary of unseen dangers.

One of my hobbies is restaurants. I like to go to places I’ve never been to before, and eat their food. It’s obviously not an inexpensive hobby, which is why I do it maybe twice a month. But now I know a lot of great places to eat.

And when I go to restaurants, I prefer to overtip. And by overtip, I mean go above the customary 15 percent gratuity. I want my waiters to be glad they served me, not think, “Next time he visits I’m definitely sneezing in his food.” And if that idea horrifies you, maybe you’ll think twice about undertipping.

Because whenever I go to restaurants with other people, most of them don’t share my views about tipping. Usually the opposite. A lot of people hate the American custom of tipping.

Part of it is because people look at the menu, order their food, get the bill, find it’s slightly higher than they expected to pay (what’s with all the restaurants that won’t put on the menu how much the beverages cost?—and it’s always more than you’d expect), and are a little annoyed. Then they see the line on the bill for the waiter’s gratuity, and frequently get a little more annoyed. “Pay the waiter for doing the job she’s supposed to do anyway? Her boss is supposed to do that. Why do I have to do that?”

Because waiters aren’t paid squat. Most of ’em make minimum wage. Ever tried to live on minimum wage? You might… if you work full time and have no dependents. That’s not true of most people, waiters included.

In a really busy restaurant waiters can make really good tip money. But not every restaurant gets that kind of business. In order to pay their waiters a decent living wage, most restaurants would probably have to raise their prices… oh, about 15 percent or more, I should think. In the long run it might be cheaper for customers to just tip them.

But instead, for no good reason, a lot of annoyed customers take it out on their undeserving waiters, and shaft ’em when it comes to tips.

So part of the reason I overtip, is to make up for all the Christian jerks who undertip. Don’t think the waiters don’t know you’re Christian; they heard you praying. If you came in after church, they see the church clothes and hairstyles. And inside, their hearts died just a little, ’cause they know y’all undertip.

08 June 2018

Paranoia will destroy ya.

On those who are constantly wary of unseen dangers.

Today I put Equal in my coffee. As I usually do.

I know: Equal consists of aspartame, plus inert additives to bulk it up. And if some of my friends’ favorite websites are to believed, aspartame will give me cancer. Or (contrary to popular expectation) cause obesity, ’cause my taste buds led my body to expect sugar, and now I’m gonna crave sugar all the more. Or something’ll happen and it’ll shut down my liver or kidneys, or monkey with my metabolism somehow.

Next to the Equal packets, the coffeehouse posts an acrylamide warning—’cause it’s in just about every cooked food, including the stuff you make at home; ’cause businesses are supposed to warn about toxic chemicals thanks to California’s Proposition 65 in 1986; and ’cause lawsuit-happy individuals are going after the restaurants who don’t. So acrylamide is gonna give me cancer too.

As will everything else I eat. Meat and dairy products are filled with hormones, so those are killing me. Vegetables and grains are genetically modified, so that’s killing me. Fats are clogging my arteries; sugars are wrecking my pancreas; artificial fats and sugars are unnatural and therefore toxic. The coffee, despite how much decaf I drink: Killing me. Tap water is full of chemicals; bottled water is full of phthalates. I could try to only eat food from my victory garden and drink rainwater… except pollutants have got into both, and are gonna kill me too. Can’t win.

So I decided years ago I’m no longer playing.

No, this doesn’t mean I’m gonna spend the rest of my days with a cheeseburger in either fist. I’m still gonna practice moderation and all that. But this constant nagging worry that everything I eat is slowly killing me? Everybody dies; life is slowly killing me. And I’m not convinced the worry isn’t gonna speed the process considerably. All those ailments my health-nut friends are blaming on toxins, real and imagined: I wonder how many of ’em are really caused by their immoderate obsessions with wellness.

No, I’m not burying my head in the sand either. Years ago I found out how trans fats clog arteries, so I cut ’em out of my diet. More recently my doctor warned me I was overdoing it on the sugar, so I cut it way back. I do take advice from health professionals. Health amateurs, especially people who wanna sell me unregulated supplements, are another thing altogether. I learned how to do proper research in journalism school; I have zero respect for what they’ve “researched” and “discovered.”

I also point you to people much older than me, who eat far worse than I do. They haven’t been dying, or coming down with debilitating illnesses, any more than usual. If there were suddenly a plague of people dying in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, I might be inclined to pay attention. Instead people are living into their 90s, 100s, and 110s. On a diet of fried foods, salted meats, tap water, way bigger portions than I would think to eat, and way less exercise.

And conversely, people younger than me die of cancer. Because you can eat right, exercise, and die anyway. It sucks, but the world is meaningless like that. And Jesus instructs us to not worry about such things.

Matthew 7.25-30 KWL
25 “This is why I tell you: Stop worrying!
Stop worrying about what your soul would eat or drink, or what your body would wear.
Isn’t your soul more than food? your body more than clothes?
26 Look at the birds of heaven: They neither sow, reap, nor gather into barns.
Your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you far better than they?
27 Who among you worriers can add one cubit to their height?
28 Why worry about clothing? Study lilies in the field: How do they grow?
They don’t work, nor spin thread, 29 and I tell you what:
Even Solomon in all his splendor wasn’t clothed like them.
30 If God clothes grass of the field—here today, thrown in the oven tomorrow—
won’t he much more you, despite your little faith?”

Well, these worriers aren’t so sure. So rather than prioritize God’s kingdom and the good news of its arrival, they choose to prioritize their problems, their “solutions,” and their fears.

01 June 2018

The “recovering atheist”?

Kirk Cameron, and how he describes his Christian experience.


Kirk Cameron, not keeping his eyes on the road in his new movie Connect.

A friend invited me to watch Kirk Cameron’s documentary Connect, which is about how he was naïvely gonna get his kids smartphones until he found out there are predators on the internet. Duh; but I guess Cameron had no idea this was going on. So he made a film about it.

This sort of documentary is basically what a lot of Christians watch instead of horror movies. It’s a bit like true-crime documentaries, except they get the thrill of being afraid of boogeymen. (Real boogeymen. Or at least they’re told they’re real boogeymen.) And unlike horror movies, the fear never, ever goes away. Isn’t meant to.

I passed. ’Cause these documentaries invariably annoy me. And ’cause I’m not a Kirk Cameron fan.

I’m not talking about his acting. I think it’s okay. Not award-winning good… but bear in mind he tends to take what he can get, or what he himself has produced. Which means he’s been hobbled by mediocre-to-terrible writers and directors. You realize Leonardo DiCaprio was his costar on his ’80s sitcom Growing Pains? Thanks to that steaming turd of a show, nobody could tell DiCaprio had better-than-average talent. For all we know Cameron could be an amazing talent. But he’s never gonna work with Martin Scorsese or Stephen Spielberg; best he can hope for is the one Christian assistant director on Sharknado. So we’re never gonna see his true potential.

What I object to is how Cameron leveraged his celebrity to promote lousy evangelism tactics, and now culture-war movies and documentaries. Dude seems to have wandered into the most mindless circles of Evangelicalism, and that’s where he’ll stay until the Holy Spirit pries him loose. Which is hard to do when you won’t engage your mind.

No, that “won’t engage your mind” comment isn’t just an idle insult. Cameron actually promoted turning off your brain when he works with Ray Comfort’s “Way of the Master” apologetics ministry.

09 October 2017

Guns, and why we Americans don’t control them.

It’s a power thing.

I have friends outside the United States who look at our rampant gun violence, who notice how our mass shootings happen on a daily basis, and who wonder why on earth we do nothing about it.

Two reasons. The first is Americans consider gun ownership a right. Not an option, not a privilege, a right. We even put it into our Constitution.

Y’see, in the 1760s and ’70s, the British occupying forces tried to take Americans’ guns away lest we start a revolution. (A well-founded concern, but anyway.) Once we Americans got our independence, we became fearful lest the Brits, or any other government, try to take us over, or go too far to curtail our liberties. So we made gun ownership the fourth article of the Bill of Rights, which became our Constitution’s second amendment.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Guns aren’t an obvious and inherent right, which is why the Congress had to spell out their justification for guns: If we’re gonna remain secure in our freedoms, we need militia, armed civilians who can help our armed forces defend our homeland. Some folks assume our National Guard fulfills the role of a militia, but nope; guardsmen aren’t civilians. (As demonstrated whenever guardsmen are called in to stop civilian unrest.) The way we keep civilians at the ready, is we let ’em keep their guns, and make sure they know how to properly use ’em. So once people hear the British are coming—or the Soviets, the terrorists, or whoever’s the boogeyman today—they can grab their rifles and fall in.

Thing is, we Americans tend to describe our rights as sacred and God-given. In other words holy. With all the other baggage which comes with civic idolatry.

Proper religion involves self-control, but civic idolatry means when we Americans get it into our heads that something’s a right, we treat it as an unlimited right. Zero control. No limits. Absolute.

Fr’instance freedom of speech. We treat it like we can say absolutely anything, no matter how offensive, profane, or seditious, and do so without any repercussions from our neighbors or employers. That’s why we’re often stunned when we lose jobs or status over the things we say. But what’d people expect would happen? Freedom of speech only means government can’t censor or censure us. Everybody else can.

So, that’s the very same way many an American gun nut looks at guns: The right to bear arms means we can own any gun we like, decked out with any accessories or ammunition we like, take it anywhere, and shoot anyone we perceive a threat. ’Cause it’s a right. Constitution says so, which makes it sacred.

Now read the second amendment again. It describes this militia as well regulated. And folks, this is where the United States goes horribly wrong. If the amendment actually were holy, we’ve still been taking it out of context. Our militia is very, very badly regulated. Any attempt to try it, and the gun nuts scream tyranny; and they’ve bought so many Congressmen, nothing gets done.

02 October 2017

Relevance, and blogging on current events.

Why Christ Almighty! doesn’t dogpile on current events.

Earlier this year something happened in the Christian blogosphere. I won’t say what; you’ll see why in a moment. I’ll simply say I have a few readers who were looking forward to me writing one of these Rants about it, but instead I didn’t write any Rants for three weeks. (Had other things I wanted to cover.) When I finally returned to Ranting, the issue had passed, the Christian blogosphere had moved on, and for the most part so had they.

Well, until recently. At church yesterday—

She. “I remember when [that issue] happened. I waited to see what you were gonna write about it.”
Me. “I wrote nothing.”
She. “You have no opinion?”
Me. “I have an opinion, but it didn’t provoke me enough to write a whole blog post about it. I don’t think I even Tweeted about it.”
She. “You gotta feel it before you post it.”
Me. “I don’t gotta feel anything. It’s not about whether it makes me happy or mad. It’s about whether it draws people to Jesus, or drives people away.”
She. “Well, but you gotta comment on current events in order to stay relevant.”

Yeah, that last comment provoked this Rant.

A few years back, on one of my previous blogs, I started to post some of my old newspaper columns. Didn’t take me long before I stopped doing it. The main reason was these columns aren’t relevant. They were, back when I originally wrote ’em. But time passed, and their relevance faded, then vanished.

News is relevant because it’s new. It’s stuff we haven’t heard yet, or stuff we only just heard about and are processing. But once we’ve processed it, it’s not news anymore. Doesn’t matter if the story’s continuing; doesn’t matter if there’s new data coming in: Once the news audience has collectively decided it’s done with the story, it’s old news. It’s time for the news media to move on.

This is a fact which really irritates reporters. Particularly when they’re trying to tell the story—and they’re not done yet! Like reporters who covered the Afghanistan War, who couldn’t get their stories aired or published because the news media was too busy with the Iraq War. Or even when they weren’t busy with the Iraq War, but to them the Afghanistan War was old news, even though it’s still going on.

Wait, did you forget the Afghanistan War is still going on? That’s right, it’s still going on. But you don’t care about that; you want me to get back to my point. So I’ll move on. Even though it’s still going on.

See, the short attention span of the news-watching public means that nothing in the news is gonna remain relevant for long. It’s gonna be really, really relevant when it first happens. It’ll remain relevant for maybe a week or two; often a month at the most. And then the public will move on. The media will follow. ’Cause contrary to conspiracy-theorist belief, the media goes where the audience wants ’em to. Not the other way round.

So if I decided the way to make TXAB relevant was to keep up with, and blog on, current events, it’d certainly work. Plenty of Christian bloggers do it.

But it’d also mean that everything I write is quickly disposable. It’ll be relevant, but only for a week or two. That’s its lifespan. Then it’ll sit in the archive, where nobody’ll read it, ’cause nobody’ll need to.

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.

28 August 2017

Same-gender marriage in the United States.

And why it freaks certain Christians out to no end.

Depending on your politics, same-gender marriage is either a done deal or a huge issue.

I think we can figure out which camp you’re in, based on what you call it. I’m gonna describe it as same-gender marriage, ’cause that’s what it is. Conservatives seem to prefer “same-sex marriage” and “gay marriage,” and of course cruder terms. Progressives frequently use the term “marriage equality,” ’cause they’re trying to emphasize how, as they see it, it’s no more nor less than marriage—so why add adjectives?

Me, I know a lot of conservatives. To their minds, same-gender marriage is gonna be the ruin of the United States.

Mostly that’s because their beliefs consist of a combination of replacement theology and civic idolatry. Replacement theology presumes Christianity has taken the place of ancient Israel, and all the LORD’s promises to Moses and the Hebrews in the wilderness, now apply to us present-day Christians and our nations. Civic idolatry presumes this is especially true of the United States; that because of our Christian forebears, and indicated by God’s blessings of abundant wealth and military supremacy, America is God’s primary Christian nation. Americans will grudgingly accept some other nations are sorta Christian… but nobody’s as Christian as we are. (Now cue the chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”)

The catch: If the United States has superseded Israel, and likewise has a special covenant with the LORD, when Americans violate his will, the cycle’s gonna kick in and God’ll let our enemies smite us. Or he’ll personally smite us himself with hurricanes. Either way.

I should point out if replacement theology were in any way not rubbish, God would’ve started smiting Americans long before we declared our independence. ’Cause slavery. True, there’s slavery in the bible, and God even had commands about how the Hebrews were to make and treat slaves. But by those commands’ metric, American slavery was a ghastly abomination. It wasn’t a penitentiary system. It was kidnapping, dehumanization, and torture. If the Civil War was, as Abraham Lincoln believed, God’s judgment upon American slavery, we got off so lightly.

Need I mention all the other violations of God’s covenant with the Hebrews which Americans—including “good Christians”—violate hourly? We’d be here a while.

Same-gender marriage zeroes in on only one command of the 613: The command prohibiting male-on-male sexual activity. Lv 18.22 It’s not one of the 10 commandments, nor one of Jesus’s top two, but conservative Christians have elevated it to maybe number 13. To them, it offends God like no other.

The real problem? It offends them like no other. They personally find homosexuality distasteful. That’s why they can’t “live and let live,” like they do with all the other commands they ignore. Or even themselves commit, like coveting and Sabbath-breaking. This one captures their attention because it creeps ’em out. Hence their quickness to condemn it, and everything relating to it… as they look the other way at snobbery, lying, injustice, evil schemes, and all the stuff God’s truly outraged by. Pr 6.16-19 Their priorities take precedence.

23 August 2017

How to annoy people. Or not.

And how their bad attitutes infuse what I write.

When I first got into the newspaper business, I regularly wrote opinion pieces. Got my own column in a few different papers. I would, on occasion, deliberately try to bug people.

My justification for it was:

  • Really good writing pushes people’s buttons.
  • So they get angry. At least they’re reading.
  • I have every right to express my opinions.
  • Those who get outraged by this stuff? Cranks.
  • It’s all in good fun.

Yeah, I was a real jerk about it. I’d write really obnoxious stuff sometimes.

At the same time—more of my youthful and spiritual immaturity coming out—I was also under the misbelief that opinion pieces actually could change people’s minds over to my way of thinking. They don‘t work that way. Only fools read the op/ed pages to learn what to think. Most of ’em read to learn what others think, but for the most part they already have their minds made up. They’d either discover I agreed with them, and feel vindicated; or discover I believed otherwise, and feel annoyed. And if I annoyed them often enough, most would quit reading.

So when I tried to a rise out of people, I wasn’t as successful as I expected. I’d try to be super annoying, and my fans would cheer me on, and everyone else would dismiss me. (And rightly so.)

The outraged responses always came from the stuff I never expected.

Fr’instance, I once used the word “crap” in a newspaper column. As profanities go, that one’s really tame, so I used it and thought nothing more of it.

But we had this one regular nut-mail contributor. Some old guy who contributed to every local newspaper. Frequently he’d mix up his newspapers, and write to one paper to comment about something he read in another. And every time he found a word he considered inappropriate, he’d demand the paper fire the writer. That was his only solution to any problem: Fire people. He suggested I be fired many times. Naturally nobody took him seriously.

So, “crap” drew his ire. But none of my deliberate attempts at outrage got people to respond. It’s like I was waving red flags to the color-blind.

Eventually the Holy Spirit convinced me this was rotten Christian behavior. If I found it fun, it was evil fun. There’s no good excuse for it; it doesn’t promote God’s kingdom whatsoever; it had to go. So I repented and cut it out.

Still occasionally, unintentionally, offended people, though. Still do.

Again, it’s all for the stuff I never expect. I get misunderstood. Or somebody’s looking for offenses, and take me out of context. Or a story’s going round that bends my words till they’re unrecognizable; gossip’s evil like that.

14 August 2017

The subtler type of racism.

We’ll catch, and oppose, the more obvious forms of racism. The subtle sort tends to slide.

Once again I bumped into an odd phenomenon; one I briefly mentioned in my article on white Jesus. In short, it’s racism; the type people tend to get away with because it’s subtle.

But first, a big long bit of backstory.


Robert E. Lee, 1863. Wikipedia

Robert Edward Lee was the commanding general of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the United States Civil War. (The army started burying soldiers on Lee’s front lawn during the war, as a way to stick it to him; it’s now Arlington National Cemetery.) He was one of the better generals in the war… and arguably it’s because he was such an effective general that the war lasted way longer, and killed more, than it ever should have.

Y’might be developing the idea I don’t think much of Lee, nor the reputation the American south has granted him in the 150 years since the Civil War. You’d be absolutely right.

When Lee joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the man swore to defend the Constitution of the United States. Yet he participated in armed rebellion, supporting a separatist nation whose primary reason for existence, as stated in their new state constitutions, was to perpetuate slavery. Southerners imagine Lee was a noble man, conflicted because he didn’t want to shatter the union his own wife’s grandfather had created. (Her grandfather? George Washington. Yes, that George Washington.) Even so, Lee couldn’t bring himself to fight his fellow Virginians. Or at least that’s how he justified his treason to himself, and plenty of southerners have perpetuated this myth.

Sound harsh? I’ve been accused of that. But even by standards of the day, Lee’s behavior is inexcusable. Washington had recognized the immorality of slavery and freed his own slaves. His adoptive son had freed some slaves, and his slaves also expected to be freed at his death, but that didn’t happen. Hence Lee held these hundreds of people in captivity, kept them in shacks on his land, worked them without pay, and had ’em flogged when they displeased him. As general, he permitted his troops to enslave any free blacks they encountered. And of course they killed American soldiers so they could continue these offensive practices. He never spent an hour in jail for it; he was graciously given amnesty. If anything I’m being generous too.

Southerners are slowly starting to come around to the fact Lee is an embarrassing part of their history, and not someone to be celebrated. The reason it’s so slow? The white supremacist movement.

From the end of the war till 1877, white supremacists were suppressed by the army. That ended after the Republicans stole the 1876 presidential election. Seriously. Back then the Republicans were liberal and the Democrats conservative; the Republicans were the equal-rights party and the Democrats were super racist. (From the 1930s to ’70s, they gradually traded worldviews. Still a lot of non-racists among the Republicans, but after Democrats passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, many of the “Dixiecrats” joined the Republicans and brought their toxic views with them.) Democrat Samuel J. Tilden had unexpectedly won both the electoral and the popular vote, and Republicans were horrified. So they struck a deal: If the Democrats conceded the election to Rutherford Hayes, the Republicans would pull the army out of the south, and whatever happened thereafter, happened. What happened was a useless one-term president, and southern Democrats creating racist “Jim Crow” laws which made life hell for southern blacks for a century. White supremacists repainted the Civil War as a noble but failed cause. That’s when all the pro-Confederacy idols cropped up. Yes of course it’s civic idolatry… Confederate style.


Idol of Lee on his horse Traveller, erected in Charlottesville in 1925. Wikipedia

Including the idol of Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was commissioned in 1917, built in 1925, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. Back in April the city council decided to sell it, and rename Lee Park as Emancipation Park. White supremacists have been fighting this plan ever since. Including a big rally this past weekend at the University of Virginia campus, where one of the white supremacists ran a car into counter-protesters. Some of ’em were waving Nazi flags right alongside their Confederate flags. Nazis are another group white supremacists are trying to repaint as a noble but failed cause.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee had tweeted,

I don’t care for everything Huckabee tweets (I don’t share his sense of humor at all), but I liked this one so I shared it.

Didn’t take long before I got these two responses:

  • “[It’s wrong] for ANY race to think they are superior to another. There are racists on both sides.”
  • “No worse than black racism. Racism is racism. There no runner-up prize.”

And someone who tried to pivot to a discussion of black people’s sins. See, when you can’t defend your own behavior, deflect as best you can.

07 August 2017

Swiping my words.

Christians play really fast and loose with plagiarism.

Years ago I taught junior high. Various subjects: History, literature, grammar, science, bible, algebra. Sometimes ’cause the other teachers weren’t up to teaching those subjects; sometimes despite the fact they really wanted to teach those subjects, but I’m more qualified. (That’s a story for another time.) Anyway, I made the kids write. A lot.

Often in class: I’d give ’em an assignment which needed to be completed during classtime. I had an ulterior motive, which they didn’t always suspect: I wanted to learn how they wrote. Partly to work on improving it… and partly to catch ’em when they plagiarized.

’Cause time would come when they had to write reports. And when they did, I’d seen enough of their writing to immediately detect whether they wrote it personally, or not. I mean, it’s fairly obvious when they lift entire paragraphs from the encyclopedia; suddenly they were writing at a collegiate level, with vocabulary words I knew they didn’t know. But the internet has all sorts of writing styles.

Some of the dimmer bulbs in my classroom didn’t really try all that hard to disguise their plagiarism. They’d cut and paste directly from the website. Wouldn’t bother to change the font. Wouldn’t even bother to get rid of the hyperlinks. I kid you not: They’d turn in papers with blue underlined links to other webpages.

When I was in junior high, the teachers went a little too easy on you: Plagiarism would get you knocked down a grade or two. In high school you’d automatically get an F. I figured my kids oughta learn this lesson early, before it ruined their high school grade point averages: I also adopted a zero-tolerance policy. Plagiarism meant an F. I’d let kids redo their papers for better grades, but once you plagiarized, you were stuck with that F. No exceptions.

Now when I handed the graded papers back to the kids, I’d usually put ’em on their desks myself, and face-down. ’Cause it’s nobody else’s business what grade they got. Unless of course they made it everyone’s business… as one of ’em once did in one of my science classes. Loud enough for all to hear: “Hey, what’d I get an F for? I worked hard on that paper! Why’d you give me an F?”

Oh so we’re gonna have this discussion in front of everybody? Very well then.

Me. “You got it for plagiarism. You didn’t work hard on that paper. You cut and pasted from the internet.”
She. “I did not.”
Me. “Oh come on. You didn’t even get rid of the blue underlined links. It says on your paper, ‘Click on the link to see the animation.’ What am I supposed to click on?”
Rest of classroom. [hilarity]
Me. [miming trying to click on a sheet of paper] “Doesn’t work.”
She. [getting redder and redder]
Rest of classroom. [more laughter]
Me. “Don’t tell me it wasn’t cut and pasted.”

And I dropped it and changed the subject.

Yeah, I’d have fun with the kids when they tried to pull a fast one. Well, it was no fun for them. But they had no idea I’d done worse when I was their age. Kids rarely recognize teachers were once their age, and tried the same stunts they had. Or that years of previous students had tried such things too. I knew exactly how to catch the kids who never thought they’d get caught. I know I didn’t catch all of them—I let a few of ’em slide, ’cause you gotta pick your battles.

But plagiarism was definitely a battle. ’Cause it’s such an easy thing to avoid: Credit your source! Put the statement in quotes, and say who said it.

Back in high school I once wrote a science paper which was almost entirely quotes. I went to the library, wrote a few dozen quotes from three different astronomy books onto index cards, sorted them into a fairly coherent order, and the few parts I personally wrote were only there to link the quotes together. I barely wrote anything. But I followed the rules: I didn’t plagiarize, and named my sources. Got an A. I told kids all the time: The rules are easy. But kids’d break ’em anyway.

Years later, in grad school, I was working on a paper (or blogging; don’t remember; either way writing was going on). One of my hallmates, an undergrad, angrily slammed his door and stormed down the hallway.

Me. “What’s wrong?”
He. “Got an F on my [incestuous participle] history paper. The [same word] professor says I [his vocabulary wasn’t diverse] cheated.”
Me. “Did you?”
He. “No. I wrote the whole thing myself. I just quoted someone and didn’t give them credit.”
Me. “So, plagiarism.”
He. [look of “You’re on THEIR side”]

He disappeared from the school after that semester. I’m guessing he flunked out.

But here’s the problem: That’s just school. Once you graduate from high school, university, and graduate school, and go off into the “real world,” unless you’re in academics, journalism, politics, or publishing, nobody cares.

Yep. People plagiarize to their hearts’ content, and nobody calls ’em on it. That is, till they publish something which makes them rightly liable for a lawsuit. Then they might get sued or fired. But most of the time they totally get away with it.

Happens all the time among Christians, in the church. That’s who rips me off, anyway.

28 July 2017

The king’s English.

How to properly speak in Elizabethan English.

A lot of Christians—myself included—are big fans of the King James Version of the bible. A lot of ’em even worship the KJV, but let’s not go there today.

When I was a kid I memorized a lot of verses in this particular translation. As I got older my churches and AWANA preferred the New International Version, so I’ve got a hodgepodge of translations in my brain. But I like the KJV, and still quote it regularly. Often because I prefer the way they translated a verse; often because I like the old-timey English. To a lot of people it sounds formal and authoritative. I just think it sounds cool.

The KJV was first published in 1611, but the language it uses was old-timey even then. It’s English as it was spoken in the 1500s; arguably even the 1400s. Some verses are no different from the way William Tyndale originally translated the New Testament in 1525. They weren’t striving for English as it was spoken—unlike modern translators like me. They were striving for formal, historical, classical English. Problem is, language evolves. English especially. In the four centuries since the KJV was published, some of those words significantly changed meaning. That’s part of the reason we need to retranslate the bible on a regular basis: The scriptures never need updating, but the English definitely does.

Still, many Christians love the Elizabethan-era English—the stuff I call “the king’s English”—in the King James. And sometimes try to use it themselves. Like in prayers: They love to pray King James style. Makes it sound formal. So whenever they address God, it’s all “thee” and “thou.”

Three problems with the way they do this:

  • They barely know the current rules of grammar, so of course they Darn straight they mangle the Elizabethan rules. They get the pronouns and verbs wrong all the time.
  • They think “thou” is the formal way of saying the familiar “you.” It’s actually the other way round. “Thou” was how you addressed friends and family; “you” was how you addressed nobles and superiors. Just like French’s tu and vous, or Spanish’s tu and usted. Regardless, it’s entirely proper to address God with the familiar “thou.” He’s our Father, remember?
  • Speaking of tu in Spanish and French: That’s actually the proper way people in 1611 pronounced “thou.” It rhymes with “you.”

I should point out the KJV doesn’t actually do formal address. Read it again: Everybody gets addressed as “thou.” Slaves and kings, employees and bosses, prophets and pagans, God and the devil: Everybody gets the same pronoun. “You” is only used for plurals. The KJV never bothered to use formal pronouns, because there’s no such thing as a formal pronoun in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.

Technically, English ditched the informal pronoun and addresses everyone formally. Kinda as a compliment; like how “ladies and gentlemen” addresses everybody, not just nobles. “Thee,” “thou,” and “thy” faded out of use; even Quakers (who used to address everybody with familiar pronouns, because we’re all equal in God’s eyes—which used to really bug nobles) don’t bother to use “thee” and “thou” anymore. The formal pronoun became our only pronoun.

But since old-timey prayers and psalms address God as “thou,” Christians leapt to the conclusion that’s special language for how to address God, and thus the formal and informal pronouns swapped places.

If you wanna still use “thou” to address God, of course he doesn’t mind. And if you wanna speak the rest of your king’s English properly… well, you’ve come to the right place.

24 July 2017

TXAB’s spoiler policy.

In case you’re annoyed ’cause I spoiled something.

When you’re introducing your kids to the Star Wars movies, do try not to show ’em Episode III before Empire Strikes Back.

Not that a lot of parents in my circle do, ’cause Episode III is rated PG-13, and a lot of ’em take that rating very seriously. ’Cause—and here the spoilers begin—horrific third-degree burns, y’know. But if parents do show their kids Episode III before Episode VI, it means the children are gonna find out Vader’s the father of two protagonists of the ’70s films, Episodes IV through IV. And it’s gonna kill any surprised reaction they might have when Vader finally declares, “No, I am your father.”

It’s also gonna make the kids say Ewwwww! every time Luke and Leia kiss. And not just for the usual reasons kids are grossed out by public displays of affection: For the very same reasons I say Ewwwww when they make out. Yeah right George Lucas knew their backstory all along.

Star Wars nerds tend to recommend watching ’em in the order of the original Star Wars movie first (which later got renamed Episode IV: A New Hope), then Empire, then I to III (and some of ’em point out you can easily skip the kinda-slow Episode I: The Phantom Midichlorians), then Return of the Jedi. This way the kids build up a smidgen of sympathy for Annakin/Vader before Return, because if all they see are the ’70s movies, they’re gonna think, “Why on earth does Luke think he can reform him?”

And then expose ’em to The Force Awakens, and all its sequels. And the stand-alones, the TV shows, and the Holiday Special.

The bonkers thing is when I mention the whole “Who’s your daddy?” deal to people, and they immediately respond, “Dude, don’t spoil Star Wars for me.”

Um… these are 40-year-old movies. If you’re over the age of 13 and haven’t seen ’em yet, that’s on you.

I admit I myself don’t worry much about spoilers. If somebody lets slip how a movie ends, oh well. I don’t like surprises, so sometimes I’ll actually go find out a movie’s ending before I see it. Fr’instance when Batman v. Superman: Dawn of the Marthas came out, I heard some people complain it wasn’t very good; at least not in comparison with previous Superman and Batman movies. I wanted to know why, so I popped over to its Wikipedia page and read the plot. And Wikipedia gives away endings. True, there were a few surprises the director and producers wanted me to see in the theater, but tough: I wanted to know about ’em now.

Does doing this ruin the movie for me? Nah. People re-watch good movies all the time. Despite knowing the endings, because they’re good movies. If Batman v. Superman sounded any good, regardless of my knowing the ending in advance, I’d go see it anyway. But after the Wikipedia summary, I decided to skip the theater and watch it on home video. Wound up seeing the “extended edition,” which was 3 hours 2 minutes instead of the theatrical 2:21. It was okay. Still not happy Batman kills people in it: Trying to avoid guns and killing is kinda the one thing Batman’s known for. But the producers decided “Meh,” so now the Batmobile has machine guns. Meh.

Not that I blog about movies all that often. But I figure I may as well preemptively spell out my spoiler policy. So if you bellyache about my spoiling anything in future, I’ll refer you to this rant.

17 July 2017

Eugene Peterson’s rough week.

On the “yes” heard round the blogosphere.

Most Christians know Presbyterian pastor Eugene Peterson from The Message, his popular bible translation that’s looser than a boot on a pegleg.
Everybody’s favorite Wikipedia image of Eugene Peterson, as seen on various news sites lately.
(So loose, people gripe it’s more of a paraphrase.) Others are more familiar with his writings on pastors and church leadership. But thanks to The Message, loads of American Christians have at least that work of his on their bookshelves.

It’s because of this fame Religion News Service columnist Jonathan Merritt interviewed Peterson on a number of topics relevant to Evangelical Christianity. Plus, Peterson’s sorta retiring. He’s 84, promoting what he figures is his last book, As Kingfishers Catch Fire; he’s kinda saying farewell to his public.

But Merritt’s brief interview with Peterson, posted last Wednesday, 12 July, probably got a lot more attention than Peterson ever bargained for. The headline: “Eugene Peterson on changing his mind about same-sex issues and marriage.”

Here’s the relevant bit:

Merritt. “A follow-up: If you were pastoring today and a gay couple in your church who were Christians of good faith asked you to perform their same-sex wedding ceremony, is that something you would do?”

Peterson. “Yes.”

Now. Back in October, Merritt got popular Christian blogger Jen Hatmaker to say much the same thing, as I already ranted about. As a result LifeWay Christian Resources removed Hatmaker’s books from their stores.

It’s kind of a big deal. LifeWay’s the biggest Christian bookstore chain in the United States. It’s owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, the second-largest denomination in the United States. They’d be a primary route of Hatmaker’s sales. But LifeWay feels they have a duty to police the Christian orthodoxy—as they define orthodoxy—of the authors they carry. Not that any of Hatmaker’s previous books contained any endorsement of same-sex marriage in them: LifeWay figures if you’re heretic—again, as they define heresy—they don’t want their customers getting the idea you’re a safe author. Easier to just ban your works in entirety.

Given the Hatmaker situation, Christianity Today followed up Merritt’s interview that same Wednesday by asking LifeWay whether they’d likewise yank Peterson’s books off their shelves. No surprise coming: LifeWay responded of course they would.

So on Thursday the 13th, Peterson took it all back.

When put on the spot by this particular interviewer, I said yes in the moment. But on further reflection and prayer, I would like to retract that. That’s not something I would do out of respect to the congregation, the larger church body, and the historic biblical Christian view and teaching on marriage. That said, I would still love such a couple as their pastor. They’d be welcome at my table, along with everybody else.

Thereafter, Peterson states he’s not doing any more interviews. He’s done. Doesn’t want the controversy.

I don’t blame him. Just about every time I’ve been ensnared in controversy, it’s never been about something I intended to fight over. Or even wanted to. Or care about. It’s always the minor stuff which I don’t consider dealbreakers. Problem is, everybody else insists they’re dealbreakers. To some Fundamentalists, darn near everything’s a dealbreaker.

Same-sex marriage is definitely a dealbreaker to many Evangelicals. If you’re gay, Christian, and wanna get married, it’s not negotiable. And if you’re anti-gay, figure it’s not even remotely possible to be both Christian and gay, and consider same-sex marriage to be a state-legitimized abomination, that’s not negotiable. This isn’t a minor debate in Evangelical Christianity right now. It’s one of the bigger deals.

Eugene Peterson stepped right into this wet pile of dooky, right up to his knees.

10 July 2017

Getting baptized.

Then getting baptized again.

My nieces got baptized last month. Part of their church’s vacation bible school (if you’re not familiar with the phenomenon, it’s a weeklong church program meant to evangelize kids) to of course to get kids to choose Jesus. And of course after such decisions naturally comes baptism.

The girls had chosen to follow Jesus some time before. But one of the things about the Evangelical subculture—kind of a peeve of mine—is how it can sometimes takes years before new Christians finally bother to get baptized. We’re meant to do one right after the other, ’cause we’re supposed to make a solid mental connection between the two. Get saved, get baptized, ’cause baptism represents salvation. But many Evangelicals turn the sinner’s prayer into that thing we’re meant to mentally connect to salvation: “Did you ask Jesus into your heart? Okay, you’re saved.” Hence baptism becomes way less of a priority. Once you’ve confessed Christ, evangelists tell you to get plugged into a church, to read your bible, maybe attend a bible study; it’s not so often “Let’s get you baptized.” They do want you to get around to it someday, as a nice way to publicly declare your faith. But Evangelicals often figure it can wait. And the wait can turn into a long time.

For me there was a three-year gap between when I became Christian in 1975, and when I finally got baptized in 1978. Partly ’cause I had been baptized already.

See, my mom’s parents were Roman Catholic. Mom was lapsed and Dad was atheist, but the grandparents insisted I be baptized. Otherwise if I died unexpectedly, I’d go to limbo.

No, this has nothing to do with the under-the-bar dance, which is named for how limber you have to be to participate. Supposedly limbo is a state which is neither heaven nor hell; it’s on the limbus/“border,” hence the name. It’s a popular myth in Catholicism; few other Christians believe in it.

And not even all Catholics. The official teaching of Catholicism is grace: When unbaptized babies die, all things being equal, God graciously takes ’em to heaven. But limbo’s the unofficial teaching, and old-timey Catholics grew up hearing horror stories of parents who never baptized their babies, and now the kids are in limbo, if not burning in hell.

I should mention: I read Dante’s Inferno. According to him, limbo’s the first circle of hell. The nice part of hell, if any part of hell can be said to be nice. In it are all the pagans you kinda thought should go to heaven, but since they didn’t care for Jesus (or didn’t know about him; Dante was kinda unforgiving that way), they didn’t. So they spend eternity not in heaven, kinda bummed about their bad fortune. And apparently they get squalling unbaptized babies dumped on them on the regular. Maybe that’s what makes it hell.

Regardless, the grandparents wanted me baptized. So Mom shrugged and let ’em get me baptized.

This is why I’ve joked ever since that I’m Catholic. But a really lousy Catholic, ’cause I keep going to Protestant churches. Still, I’m just as Catholic as my so-called “Catholic” friends and acquaintances who never got confirmed, never go to Mass, and figure baptism means God’s gotta grant ’em heaven. Not wise to take God’s grace for granted like that, but they do.

26 June 2017

Why friends and family don’t read my blog.

Or just plain won’t.

They don’t, y’know. I can tell.

My views aren’t mainstream. Though I think they’re fairly predictable, other people follow other trains of thought, so my viewpoint often catches them off guard: They’ve never thought of it that way. Or they’ve just plain never thought of it. Anyway, the surprised reaction makes it fairly obvious they never read it… back when I previously wrote on it.

No, I’m not offended by this. It’d be really arrogant of me to be offended. I can’t require people to keep up with what I write. I write a lot. Always have.

I’ve known people like that. Man are they a pain. I don’t wanna be the guy who’s regularly telling people, “Well you should’ve read my blog. Why aren’t you reading my blog? I’ll send you a link. You’ve never read my starfish poem? I’ll recite it: ‘A thousand starfish on the shore…’ ” I’d have no friends left. Deservedly so.

I used to expect people to read everything I wrote… back in first grade. See, I had a free weekend, so I finished my entire grammar workbook. Since Mrs. Stinson now didn’t know what to do with me, she had me sit in the back of the room and write stories. She made the mistake of putting one of ’em in the school newsletter (something about Martin Luther King Jr. where I added a few lines to the day’s lesson), and from that point onward, everything I wrote was annotated, “For the school newsletter!” I got the writing bug super early.

Did the school paper in high school. At first, my family’s response was, “Look, he’s got something in the paper!” In very little time it became, “Meh, he’s got something in the paper.” I’d write 15 articles a week; they’d print ten. I’m prolific. Their usual complaint is I don’t write a paragraph or two, like your typical blogger; I write “a book,” which gives you an idea of how little they read, but still. Fifty-one paragraphs on simony is way more than they care about the topic.

Doesn’t help when they’re not Christian. I write about Jesus a lot, y’notice. Any pagan and not-all-that-Christian friends ’n family don’t care: To them I’m just babbling about irrelevancies.

Doesn’t help when they’re Christian either. Some of ’em are in the Fundamentalist camp, so they’re pretty sure I’m a false teacher and steer clear. Others aren’t, but they have their own opinions about Christianity, and don’t care to hear anything which might challenge ’em too hard.

And some of ’em honestly don’t read: They have tiny attention spans and busy lives. There are a million things to do, and they can’t be expected to keep up with the thousand words a day I regularly spit up.

I do appreciate the regular TXAB readers who do, though. Thanks.

12 June 2017

Christians, Islamophobia, and “Who Is Allah?”

Yep, I’m taking apart a Chick tract again.

Recently an interesting yet annoying discussion came up in a discussion group about the difference between devout Muslims, and the nutjobs who call themselves Muslim, then murder people and blow stuff up. Watch certain news channels and you’ll never hear there’s any difference. As a result many Americans think there is no difference. They assume the fakes are actual Muslims and call ’em “radical Islam.”

I’ve pointed out this is like saying a white supremacist is a “radical Christian.” Scary thing is, there are some people who actually respond, “Yeah, that’s exactly what it’s like.” To their minds if you call yourself Christian or Muslim, even if you’re not at all like Jesus or Muhammad taught, it’s still what you are. Funny; transgendered people have been trying to get them to believe that about them… but I’m gonna get in hot water over that comparison, so I’ll stop now.

If you wanna know how Fundamentalists and conservative Evangelicals think, I find it really convenient to turn to fearmongering tract-maker Jack T. Chick.

Chick’s deal wasn’t to introduce people to Christ Jesus, so much as try to convert ’em to his particular narrow brand of Fundamentalism. First he scared his readers by showing them their existing belief system is devilish, and that God intends to toss everyone connected with it into fiery hell. In between the lines, you’re expected to figure out God nonetheless loves you and wants you to turn to Jesus. What’s far more likely is you’re gonna respond, “What is wrong with this guy?” and assume all of us Christians—not merely the Fundamentalists—hate your pagan soul, and think you’re wicked and evil.


No, this guy isn’t pointing to himself to imply he’s Allah. Pretty sure that’s blasphemy. Allah 1 (Reference numbers to this tract refer to images on the website; the cover is 1, the next page is 2, etc.)

And, as I pointed out with my bit on his tract “The Attack,” Chick was totally willing to make up history and misquote bible to get his points across. He’ll likewise do that in today’s tract, “Who is Allah?” You can read it in its entirety on his website, along with a version for white people called “Allah Has No Son.” Both tracts aren’t just inaccurate: They include blatant lies.

I’m gonna quote the Quran in this article, and since I don’t know Arabic I’m gonna go with the well-known Yusuf Ali translation, which is likely the same one Chick used. Unlike the bible, the Quran is one book, with 114 suwar/“chapters.” So I refer to ’em as Quran, chapter and verse. (Chick’s footnotes go like “Sura 5:33,” which just means “chapter 5.33.”)

The white-person tract title “Allah Has No Son” actually comes from Quranic teachings:

111 Say, “Praise be to God, who begets no son, and has no partner in (his) dominion: Nor (needs) he any to protect him from humiliation: Yea, magnify him for his greatness and glory!” Quran 17.111

Muslims are really big on saying that, ’cause they want to make it crystal clear that while they believe in Jesus, they don’t believe he’s God’s son. Nor that God has any sons.

As one of God’s adopted sons, I could explain the whole adoption idea… but this piece isn’t about rebutting Islam, but Islamophobes.