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

14 February 2019

Valentine’s Day acrostics.

Like I’ve said before: If I grow tired of it, I start mocking it.

Probably the first time I saw one of those John 3.16 Valentine acrostics was back in 2012. It’s where somebody took all the letters in “Valentine,” found ’em within an English translation of the verse, and arranged it so we can “see” John 3.16 is God’s valentine to the world. Like so.
The gospel according to graphic designers. Pinterest

Aww. Now I don’t need syrup for my waffles.

21 January 2019

Happy Martin Luther King Jr.® day!

When a saint gets commercialized by his family.


One of the few photos of Dr. King® in the public domain. Wikimedia

In the United States, the third Monday of January is Martin Luther King Jr.® Day. Due to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, it doesn’t fall on his birthday (he was born 15 January 1929) but it’s close enough. It’s a day to honor the life and acts of civil rights leader and Christian martyr, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.® He was one of the principal leaders in the 1950s civil rights movement, and a pastor in the Progressive National Baptist Convention. (One of that denomination’s founders… after the National Baptist Convention, USA, ousted King® and other activists for being too activist.)

So… what’s with all the little registered-trademark symbols (®) next to his name throughout this article? It’s because Martin Luther King Jr.,® his likeness, words, speeches, books, writings, and so forth, are owned by the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc., which is wholly owned by King’s® children Martin III, Dexter, and Bernice. (Eldest daughter Yolanda died in 2007.) Use any of these things without the Estate’s permission, and when the Estate finds out they’ll sue you for infringement. I’m not kidding.

The Estate got serious about defending their copyrights in the 1990s. On 28 August 1993, USA Today honored the 30th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, by publishing King’s® 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in its entirety. Sounds nice… but the Estate quickly sued the newspaper, which settled in 1994 for $10,000 in attorney’s fees and court costs, plus the standard $1,700 licensing fee. Yep, that’s how much it cost to publish the speech in the ’90s.

The Estate also sued CBS for including video of “I Have a Dream” in their 1994 documentary series 20th Century with Mike Wallace. They also sued producer Henry Hampton for including it in his 1987 PBS civil rights series Eyes on the Prize. Hampton paid $100,000, and PBS didn’t broadcast the series again till 2006; it first had to purchase the rights to include the King® footage. Whereas CBS fought the Estate in court till 1999, arguing this was a newsworthy public speech. A lower court agreed, but the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned it: Giving the speech in public doesn’t count as giving it away to the public.

King’s® children routinely claim they’re not trying to profit off their father’s legacy: They’re only trying to keep opportunists from sullying his image. Which is a valid concern.

Problem is, everyone knows this argument is utter rubbish.

28 December 2018

Give to the truly needy. Not the greedy.

The comfortable don‘t need your charity. The hurting do.

I read a number of blogs. Some because I like the writers; some because I like the subjects the writers bring up.

In one of those blogs, for the past two weeks, the authors temporarily quit writing articles about Christ Jesus and how to argue with others about how to view him follow him better. Instead they’ve been writing ’bout why their ministry is so meaningful.

They do this every December. That’s because they’ve set up a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, and can take donations. Since it’s the end of the year, and maybe you’ve not given as much tax-deductible charity as you might’ve liked, perhaps you could donate to them. Plus someone’s offered them a matching grant: For every dollar you donate, the grant throws in another. They’d love to get their mitts on as big a pile of cash as they can. So they’re a-begging.

Plus—I kid you not—they’d love to install an espresso machine in their coffee bar. It’d be so valuable! ’Cause whenever people stop by their offices, and wanna talk theology with them, they can now make ’em an espresso. So now their loud debates can be fueled by even more caffeine.

Out of curiosity I took a peek at their offices through Google Street View. They’re not in any visible location. They’ve got an office in a strip-mall church. (Not knocking such churches; I’ve been a member of a few. Worship wherever you can.) No doubt the church is subsidizing their activities—hopefully not instead of evangelism or community good works. In any event it doesn’t look like they’d get any foot traffic. Looks like their espresso machine is gonna be far more valuable to staffers and buddies who hang out at their offices. Got my doubts about the visitors.

But still.

Is their ministry meaningful? Sure; it’s why I read their blog. But aren’t there thousands of Christian blogs and ministries on the internet which do precisely the same thing? And don’t spend half December begging for matching-fund espresso machine money? And if their new espresso machine accidentally blew up and killed them, wouldn’t those thousands of blogs and ministries make up for their absence just fine?

Now on the other hand: Which ministries don’t have anyone to immediately step in if they were to disappear? Which ministries serve a real, dire need in God’s kingdom?

You see where I’m going with this. There are charities out there which support the truly needy. Their blog ain’t one of them. My blog ain’t one of them. Arguably no blog is one of them. Don’t give to us!

30 November 2018

Happy holidays!

’Cause there’s more than just your favorite one.

In the United States it’s the holiday season.

Don’t plug your ears and shout at the top of your lungs in angry denial like that. It is so the holiday season. As soon as Halloween is over, out come the Christmas sales, and people start putting mint in everything. You know what we’re ramping up towards.

Javascript isn’t working this Christmas!

Some elf overdid it on the sugar.

I get why the holidays bug people. It’s the commercialism. The merchandising. The obligatory traditions which hold no more meaning for you. The mandatory functions which aren’t any fun, like the Christmas pageants where you gotta watch kids and earnest church members, who have no business singing in public, charitably permitted to nonetheless sing in public. Or the naked, unadulterated greed which sucks the soul out of this time of year.

It’s why I advise Christians to redirect our attention to Advent, the four weeks before Jesus’s nativity. Eastern churches start it even earlier, 40 days before Christmas, and make a fast of it, like Lent. Which you could do, if you’re into fasting; I’m not. But Advent’s purpose isn’t to deprive ourselves so Christmas seems way better by comparison. Nor is it to ramp up the pressure to make ready for a super-blowout Christmas Day. Properly it’s the time to set our eyes on Jesus. He came once before… and he’s coming back again.

02 November 2018

“The most important election of your life,” it’s not.

And not just because people say this every election.

Election Day in the United States is this coming Tuesday. I confess: I still haven’t yet read my state’s propositions. I’m gonna, ’cause they’re the most important thing on the ballot. Not the candidates, and that includes the people running for governor and mayor. The stuff in the propositions directly affect citizens’ lives in a significant way on a consistent basis.

Our elected officials? Yeah, they can affect us in a similar way. Like when they wanna radically change things, and that’s the platform they’re running on. Or when they have no such agenda, but they’re fools who lack self-control. It doesn’t like we have any such people in the current crop of candidates, other than the third-party folks who seldom poll well and rarely win. True, partisans are claiming the opposition party’s candidate is one of those radicals or fools, but that’s an old political tactic meant to put fear in the voters and rile up the base.

But once again, this election is being touted as “the most important election of your life.” Because we have to get out there and vote. If you’re Republican, it’s because it’s vital to keep control of the Congress. If you’re Democrat, it’s because it’s vital to kick out the Republicans and finally make the Congress a real check and balance against the president. And if you’re independent… we all know you’re fully in support of one party or the other, but like to depict yourself as above it all or smarter than partisans—and you’re not fooling anyone.

Me, I’ve spent the last 30 years hearing partisans insist no, this is the most important election ever. I mean, the previous one was a big deal, but this one is for all the marbles. So vote!

Meh. I’m not saying don’t vote; by all means do. (Especially if some of your elected officials are suppressing your neighbor’s votes; go vote on your neighbors’ behalf.) But the most important election? Even one of the most important elections? We don’t know that.

Because history determines which elections were the most important. Which elections had the biggest impact on the United States, and the world outside it. Which candidates changed America the most for the better, or worse. Which laws helped or ruined the most people. We don’t know any of this stuff till after the fact. We can guess, but we’ve no idea.

26 October 2018

False witness and fake news.

What makes certain Christians so immune to facts?

It should go without saying that Christians shouldn’t bear false witness. It’s one of the Ten Commandments, after all: Don’t claim anything knowingly untrue about your neighbor. Don’t spread gossip, which is nearly always half-true, if not entirely untrue.

And in this present day, we have to bear in mind a lot of “news” sites are really gossip sites. Their writers didn’t bother to go to journalism school, and their publishers don’t care about journalistic standards of truthfulness and accuracy; all that crap just gets in the way of being able to publish sensational clickbait. So when they hear of something, or even just assume something’s true, they don’t bother to confirm or fact-check it. Especially when it suits their biases. Fr’instance if they don‘t like the president, they’ll publish anything which makes him look like an idiot; if they love the president, they’ll publish anything which makes him look like a saint.

So since the websites don’t practice any form of discernment, it’s kinda left up to the readers to judge whether it’s true or not. Trouble is, the readers didn’t go to journalism school either. And likewise are willing to believe anything which suits their biases.

This is why I have friends, progressives and conservatives alike, who post all sorts of stuff on social media which is objectively not true. Rumors, half-truths, gossip, lies. All of it false witness.

And they feel I’m the bad guy for saying so.

See, for some people, their worldview isn’t based on truth. It’s the other way round: The truth is based on their worldview. If a fact doesn’t suit their worldview, it can’t be a fact. If science doesn’t confirm their unsubstantiated conviction that God made the world 6,022 years ago (or even that the earth is flat!) they’re gonna refuse to believe in science. If the news reports the president did something evil, but they’re sure the president is the next best thing to the second coming, the news must be “fake news”—even when the president totally confesses to the evil he’s accused of, ’cause he doesn’t think it’s evil. Not even their favorite people can penetrate the thick wall they’ve built between their worldview and reality. Not even Jesus.

So yeah, I got no chance of getting through to them. I’ll try anyway, for a while. Some of them I gotta give up as lost causes. Pearls before swine and all that. Hopefully the Holy Spirit can crack that nut eventually.

The rest, who are receptive to correction, I gotta remind, and keep reminding: Stop bearing false witness! Check your facts.

12 October 2018

What Pelagius did or didn’t teach.

Not that people aren’t gonna try to debate the idea.

Last week I wrote about Pelagianism, the belief humans are inherently good. It’s a common and popular idea, but it’s heresy. The ancient Christians condemned it at the Council of Ephesus in the year 431.

For good reason. If humans are fundamentally good—not profoundly corrupted by selfishness and sin—in theory it’s possible for one of us to live an uncorrupted life. Without sin. And in so doing, merit heaven all on one’s own. Without Jesus. After all, what might Jesus add to one’s inherent goodness? Nothing but a rubber stamp.

Well. Once the article went live, it annoyed various Pelagians. Some of whom had no idea they were actually Pelagian! They always presumed humans are basically good, and hate the idea we’re not. Likewise they hate the idea they’re heretic, ’cause too many Christians wrongly think “heretic” means “going to hell.” So them’s fighting words.

I didn’t write the article to pick a fight with Pelagians. I wrote it to inform. Most TXAB readers aren’t wholly up to speed on theological ideas like Pelagianism, so I figured I’d write about what it is and why it’s a problem. If any of you were leaning that direction, my hope was you’d pause and say, “Oh so that’s why Christians teach what we do,” and correct yourselves. We’re all wrong in one way or another, and could always stand to make mid-course corrections like that.

But what do people usually do? Exclaim, “No you’re wrong,” then take potshots at the messenger. If we bother to do any homework on the issue, it’s only to marshal arguments so we can take better potshots. I confess; I’ve done this too. It’s jerk-like behavior so I try not to. After all, I might be wrong! But old habits die hard, y’know.

Anyway. The Pelagians mustered the usual arguments, the ones I brought up in the article: They don’t believe humanity is totally broken. All have sinned, Ro 3.23 and they’re willing to admit they’ve sinned too: They’re hardly worthy of heaven on their own merits. But they can’t stomach the idea of humanity gone totally wrong. After all, they know good pagans! Nobody but the most hardcore pessimists and cynics are gonna say good pagans don’t exist.

True. But have any of these pagans achieved heaven-level goodness? Well no; nobody can imagine ’em being that good. Because nobody but Jesus is that good. Because total depravity: Not one human but Jesus, in our every last action, has acted wholly selflessly and sinlessly. Sin is like the sand on a beach: It gets everywhere, and you’re still finding it in your stuff and your cracks weeks after you visited the beach. Sin’s totally corrupted everything. It’s total.

Pelagians’ other hangup is that word depravity. It’s the right word; it means “moral corruption.” But I think most of ’em have it in their heads it means something dirtier, more perverted, more nasty. It doesn’t really. If they wanna quibble about vocabulary and use different words, that’s fine; depravity has synonyms. Still, we’re talking about moral corruption: Every single human but Jesus compromises what “goodness” means in order to defend ourselves, feel better about ourselves, and justify ourselves. But we’ve all fallen short of God’s glory. Ro 3.23 We’re all morally corrupt. Or depraved.

All that aside, one odd argument I heard in defense of Pelagianism is that Pelagius of Britain never actually taught what we call “Pelagianism.” It’s all slander. Against a perfectly good and upstanding Christian.

My big ol’ introduction aside, that’s actually what I’m gonna rant about today.

28 September 2018

I am not the baseline. (Neither are you.)

Which, as a follower of Jesus, I’m not allowed to presume. He should be our baseline.

Whenever I have God-experiences, ranging from when he tells me stuff during prayer time, to watching him cure the sick, my usual response is humility. ’Cause it’s God, you know. Even though Christians who live a life of faith oughta see miracles on a regular basis, and oughta have the Holy Spirit empower us to do all sorts of supernatural things, I can’t imagine growing indifferent or jaded to the fact God’s doing stuff. He’s still awesome, and it’s incredibly gracious of him to include and involve us in everything he’s doing.

Fells this way to me, anyway.

To others… well yeah, their bad behavior and bad fruit kinda indicate they do take God’s presence and power for granted. I’m thinking in certain pastors and Christian ministers in particular; some I know personally. They tend to be unkind, judgmental, fearful, and ungracious. Their financial practices are suspect at best, conniving at worst. I needn’t get into the awful ways they mutilate the scriptures to suit themselves. I’ll just say their response to God is far from humble: If anything, they act as if why wouldn’t God endorse them. They remind me of the spoiled kids of rich people; trust fund babies who were born on third base and act as if they hit a triple. In this case their father is God, whom they totally take for granted. Humility never occurs to them.

I very seldom dwell on these guys; I have better things to do. But I know they exist.

Maybe it’s because I seldom dwell on these guys that I found myself very nearly saying in a bible study, “When we experience God like that, our usual response is humility…” I had to back up and correct myself: My usual response is humility. Plenty of other Christians I know, likewise have a good sense of our relationship with God, and likewise respond with humility. But yeah, there are Christian jerks out there who won’t respond with humility, who figure God had better come through for them. I can’t relate, but I can’t go around talking about my experience as if it’s the norm. I have no proof of that.

And this, folks, is how we’re supposed to do theology: Don’t go round declaring our experiences, our norms, our preferences, are true for everyone. Unless we’ve done a scientific study or have a properly-interpreted passage of scripture to back us up, we’ve no leg to stand on. We’re claiming a subjective experience is universal. And this is precisely the reason so many people automatically doubt “absolute truths”: Far too often, it turns out they’re not absolute. They’re just the old prejudices of lazy lecturers.

But there are a lot of lazy lecturers out there. Because people like to imagine they’re normal. They don’t wanna be unusual; they fear being weird; they don’t wanna stand out from the crowd. What they think and like is what everybody thinks and likes. Or what everybody oughta think and like. Their worldview oughta be everyone’s worldview. They are normal; anyone who thinks differently is not normal.

14 September 2018

Christianity is under attack!

Well duh. But in its defense, let’s not abandon every principle Jesus teaches, shall we?

An acquaintance pointed me to a pro-Christianity group on Facebook. Four hundred members strong, ready to fight to the teeth for Jesus.

…Well, more accurately, they intend to fight for Calvinism. Jesus is in there somewhere. Though you’d never know it from their cage-stage rage, which is pretty far from Christlike. But don’t get the wrong idea; I’m not trying to single out Calvinists. Lots of Christians get this way. Doesn’t matter which -ism they’re promoting.

As I regularly gotta remind Christian apologists, one of the common pitfalls of kicking ass for Jesus, is it’s way more about ass than Jesus. It’s about fighting. Jesus is the excuse. We want a “righteous” justification for anger, for tearing people a new sphincter (metaphorically, I hope!), and what could be more righteous and noble a cause than Jesus?

Plus Jesus is under attack! Christianity is under attack! People wanna get rid of Christians, ban religion, drive us out of the workplace and government and everywhere. Push us underground so our moralizing and sermonizing never, ever comes up. (Particularly anything which condemns their favorite activities.) They want us gone.

So we’re in the fight of our spiritual lives. And you know how desperate, cornered animals get?—willing to fight with everything they have, rather than give up and die? Humans share that very same instinct. We’re willing to do anything it takes to defend Jesus. Anything.

Even if it dips into the human depravity we’re supposed to resist ever since we first started following Jesus. That is, assuming we ever bothered to resist it; assuming we haven’t put new Christianese labels on all our fleshly behavior, which is way easier than repenting and following the Holy Spirit. But because defending Jesus is so important, supposedly we gotta suspend all our efforts towards becoming more like him: Somebody has to get their hands dirty, and defending Jesus and his kingdom is far more important than obeying Jesus and living in his kingdom.

This is precisely why so many Christians go dark—or stay as dark as they were when pagan, and even get a little darker. Why so many Christians are so unlike Christ. It’s a neat little trick which permits us to be evil “for good reason,” because the ends justifies the means.

To these culture warriors, our battle is entirely against flesh and blood. (Scripture to the contrary. Ep 6.12) That’s why they take the fight everywhere they go. To the internet, the street corners, the coffeehouses, the office break rooms, the state legislatures, everywhere. Fight for Jesus. Meanwhile start stocking our End Times bunkers with jerky and rifles. Yeah rifles; in defending the Prince of Peace, certain dark Christians claim we might even need to shoot a few cops in the head.

Inconsistent? Problematic? Downright devilish? Of course.

07 September 2018

Homecoming 2008.

About my anticlimactic 10-year college reunion.

The year is 2018. Meaning it’s been 30 years since I graduated from high school, and 20 since graduating from Bethany College, later Bethany University.

Do I feel old? Sure. I’ve felt old for years. Being old is fun. Especially since I don’t look it, still have all my hair, and none of it gray. I regularly startle the people at work when they find I’m not just a little older than them, but old enough to be their dad. (It’s the genes; my parents look young too.) But I don’t have any hangups about being old. Just the opposite: Bring on the senior discounts!

So is it a big year for class reunions? Not in the slightest.

Ten years ago, in 2008, there was a huge push for the high school reunion, organized by two people from my high school; one from my class, and one from the year before. I had no interest in attending, ’cause I didn’t like high school and had very few friends there. (Most of my friends were from church, and went to other schools.) The organizers spent months pestering the rest of us about registration. Especially when the down payments became due, and they quickly realized their grandiose three-day festival was gonna have to be seriously downscaled—that, or they’d have to personally be on the hook for everything. So their banquet, dance, and follow-up brunch had to be downscaled to a barbecue. Man were they bitter about that. Followed it up with some of the most hostile, passive-aggressive invitations I’d ever read. It was moderately attended, largely by people I don’t care about, or really remember. Very glad I didn’t bother.

So that’s likely why I’ve heard nothing at all from them about the 30-year reunion. Nor the 25-year in 2013; the wounds would’ve still been too sore.

As for college, some plans are fomenting from my CSU Sacramento journalism school friends, and that might come to something. But nothing from the Bethany alumni. The school closed its doors in 2011. Now all that’s left of it is a giant debt left over from years of financial mismanagement, a hostile alumni page on Facebook where people are still bitter about the school closing, and a campus that’s been since bought by hippies and turned into 1440 Multiversity. Bethany class reunions were organized by the school and held during Homecoming, but with no more school, I don’t expect anybody to put together any 20-year reunion. My class president, whom I’m still in touch with, hasn’t brought it up that I know of. She has a life, y’see.

I attended the 10-year reunion during Homecoming 2008. It was kinda pathetic. I was living in the area, and had Saturday free, so I went to it. Well, parts of it. May as well write about it.

31 August 2018

Hating the opposition.

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

Talking politics is a minefield. I’m gonna dance through it today anyway.

Half the folks I know are progressive, and the other half conservative. Half Democrat, half Republican. School and work friends lean progressive, family and church friends t’other.

(Yes, even my fellow seminarians lean progressive. Not because I went to a liberal seminary or anything; I certainly didn’t. But because when you wanna get into ministry and help people, you find the progressives tend to be more helpful, and the conservatives more Darwinian. But that’s a whole other discussion.)

I grew up conservative—conservative parents, conservative churches, conservative friends. So that’s what I used to be. I’m far more moderate now. I often refer to myself as a “recovering conservative,” as those in the 12-step programs tend to describe themselves: I used to hew to the party lines pretty tightly, ’cause I was raised to think all true Christians thought and voted that way. But now I follow Jesus, and let him determine my political views.

To the dismay of both my leftist and rightist friends, many of whom are entirely sure Jesus thinks like they do, and think I’m wrong to believe otherwise. Progressive friends insist a real Christian oughta be as progressive as they; conservative friends suspect I’ve gone completely wrong, abandoned Jesus, and forfeited my soul. They can’t fathom the idea they might be wrong. Whereas I know I’m wrong. If I ever adopt the delusion I have God all figured out, that’s when I’ve gone completely wrong.

Anyway. Part of the reason my various friends struggle with me is because they hate the opposition.

It’s not dislike. It’s not a respectful disagreement. It’s hatred. They’re entirely sure the other side is evil. And to be fair, the other side definitely has a lot of evil people mixed in there. There are self-centered, exploitative, irresponsible, destructive sinners on both sides. Hard to say which side has more of them.

I know; both sides will insist, “It’s obviously the other side.” Partly because they’re willing to extend a lot of grace to the sinners on their own side; just look at all the pastors who blindly support certain politicians, candidates, and office-holders solely because they share a party. Partly because they extend no such grace to the other side, and assume the worst of every last one of them. Or believe the worst rumors they’ve heard about them.

In the end they justify loving their political friends and hating their political enemies, and presume the following teaching of Jesus doesn’t apply to their situation:

Matthew 5.43-48 KWL
43 “You heard this said:‘You’ll love your neighbor.’ Lv 19.18 And you’ll hate your enemy.
44 And I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.
45 Thus you can become your heavenly Father’s children,
since he raises his sun over evil and good, and rains on moral and immoral.
46 When you love those who love you, why should you be rewarded?
Don’t taxmen also do so themselves?
47 When you greet only your family, what did you do that was so great?
Don’t the foreigners also do so themselves?
48 Therefore you will be egalitarian,
like your heavenly Father is egalitarian.”

And yeah, this instruction applies to politics too. Arguably it’s primarily about politics. Because whom did first-century Jews consider an enemy? The devil? The neighbor down the street who was awful to them? Or the occupying Roman forces, or the stifling Roman puppet governments like the Herods and the Judean senate? More often it was their political adversaries, whom they were hoping Messiah would come and overthrow. What they didn’t realize is Messiah wants us to overthrow our enemies by turning them into friends.

10 August 2018

On sexists. Sorry, “complementarians.”

But really sexists with a nicer-sounding label.

COMPLEMENTARIAN /kɑmp.lə.mən'tɛ.rɪ.ən/ adj. Sexist: Believes men and women are inherently unequal in authority (to lead, teach, or parent) and rights.
2. Believes men and women should adhere to [culturally defined] gender roles, and complement one another by fulfilling the unique duties of those roles.
EGALITARIAN /ɪ.ɡæl.ə'tɛ.ri.ən/ adj. Believes all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunity.

I really dislike the term “complementarian.” It’s what logicians call a weasel word: It’s one of those words people use instead of the proper word, ’cause they don’t care to tell you what they really mean. Or they’re in serious self-denial about what they really mean.

Bluntly, “complementarian” is Christianese for “sexist.” Because that’s exactly what they mean: Women and men aren’t equal; there are things men can do which women mustn’t; if women dare do them, they’re violating the social order which has kept men in power all this time God’s will. Because God supposedly wants his daughters to perpetually have a second-class status. That’s why he didn’t give ’em penises.

The foundation of this misbegotten belief largely comes from the story where God curses Eve, and women in general, for her sin. Because she violated his command, childbirth is gonna hurt, and her man is gonna boss her around. Ge 3.16 As for Adam, he was cursed with having to fight the ground to get food from it, and of course death. Ge 3.17-19 But Jesus came to undo these curses!

Whereas modern technology has made it a lot less wearisome to grow crops, and childbirth doesn’t have to hurt (or kill the mother) as often as it used to, and we usually fight off death for as long as possible, complementarians are still pretty darned insistent that men get to boss their women around. It’s one of the few curses in the bible which people demand be carried out.

What about Jesus’s stated intention that women are co-heirs of his kingdom? Oh, complementarians will accept the idea women can be saved; and how kind of them. But as far as ministry and responsibility in the kingdom is concerned, they get all the plum spots, cushy jobs, and positions of authority. ’Cause conveniently for them, that’s their place. And women have to joyfully submit to this truth.

Y’know, any belief which puts people down instead of raises them up, promotes dominance instead of humility, destroys instead of heals, is graceless instead of gracious, is entirely antithetical to what Jesus teaches. Doesn’t matter how fond dark Christians are of it; they don’t know Jesus as well as they imagine.

But sexism is everywhere in Christendom. And to be fair, it’s not necessarily because sexists hate women, or are anti-women, or wanna exclude them from ministry and leadership roles. Roman Catholics are kind of an obvious example of this: Most of ’em, including the pope, cardinals, and bishops, try to put women in leadership and ministry roles wherever they can. But according to their official church teachings, women can’t be priests, and that’s that. It’s not a glass ceiling; it’s made of solid stone. With Michelangelo’s pretty frescoes all over it, but still. And Evangelical sexists believe much the same thing: They’d love to include women, and do so wherever they can get away with it, but the bible only lets them go so far, and no further.

In my article on sexism I point out the bible does so let ’em go further, and accept women as equals in ministry, the church, and God’s kingdom. And if sexists honestly aren’t anti-women, they don’t take much convincing at all: They look at the scriptures, look at the historical context, realize they were wrong, repent of their sexism, and frequently do what they can to correct others.

The rest of them? They don’t wanna be wrong. They don’t really want women to be their equals. And frequently they double down on their sexism, just to make it clear they’re following their interpretation of the bible, zealously. Which has the unfortunate, but telling, side effect of being fruitless and graceless. And worse on their women.

03 August 2018

Outside and inside of the Bible Belt.

When everybody’s “Christian.” Or not.

Americans know this already, but I have foreign readers, so I figured I should explain: There’s a section of the United States called “the Bible Belt.” Pagans named it that, but the people who live there are perfectly happy with the term. It’s the American South, in which the population is so overtly Christian—specifically a conservative Evangelical form of Christianity—it’s simply taken for granted you’re Christian.

Those who live in the Bible Belt presume they’re Christian, even when they aren’t. Likewise they presume their neighbors are Christian, and are startled and even horrified to discover otherwise. To them of course the United States is a Christian nation. Certainly everyone they know is Christian.

It’s hypocrisy, of course. The residents of the Bible Belt are about as Christian as the people of my state, California. Seriously; polls and surveys bear this out. The difference is that when Californians aren’t Christian, we don’t pretend we are, and don’t try to disappear into the larger Christian population. We’ll just be pagan. ’Cause it’s allowed. ’Cause freedom of religion.

Hence what we have in California is the opposite assumption: Those who live here presume just about everyone is pagan. (Especially the person doing the assuming originated from the Bible Belt.) I grew up with preachers who had a bit of a bunker mentality: Outside the church walls, everybody else was an unbeliever. They either had some weird hippy religion, or were some kind of cult member, or were atheist. Since I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, the preachers probably weren’t far wrong; a lot of non-Christians moved to the Bay Area specifically so they could be non-Christian, let their freak flags fly, and raise up a new generation of non-Christians who believed in everything, believed in nothing, or believed in weirdness, same as they.

But when I started sharing Jesus with people, I quickly discovered most of the strangers I meet are Christian. Roughly two out of three of them. They aren’t necessarily good Christians; most of us suck. They’re still Christian though: Pray, read their bibles a little, sometimes go to church, believe all the basics, and most importantly trust Jesus to save ’em.

Of course I tell my Bible Belt friends this, and they can’t believe it. Because they’re sure California consists of nothing but pagans.

27 July 2018

My pacifism. Sorta.

In response to the responses about it.

Since I wrote that piece about how Christ Jesus expects us, his followers, to be peacemakers and practice nonviolence, naturally I got some pushback from my conservative friends.

Of course they pitched me all the usual objections. Some with compassion, some with scoffing; it all depends on whether these were knee-jerk reactions, or they were actually trying to understand where I’m coming from. If we reduce people to nothing more than their points of view, of course we’re more likely to fight ’em than love ’em. But that’s another discussion.

You might have some of these objections yourself:

  • What, d’you wanna open up all the jails and let the murderers and pedos run free?
  • Are you suggesting we abolish the military, and let America’s enemies have at us? [I live in an Air Force town, and have a number of Air Force and Army relatives, so this is a big deal.]
  • If some madman is about to harm your family and loved ones, would you just let him?

It’s not like these questions never crossed my mind. They certainly did when I was more political than Christian, and would argue against pacifism.

To be blunt, these arguments are meant to appeal to my, and everyone’s, fleshly nature. Our sense of outrage at wrongs being done to innocent people. Our tendency to demand vengeance. If someone threatens to grievously harm me and mine, shouldn’t I want them stopped by any means possible? And if I don’t—if I resist those natural impulses which every ordinary, “healthy” human being oughta have—what is wrong with me? There is, people worry, something sociopathic about anyone who swims against such a massive tide.

Especially since most folks would totally kill anyone who dared to harm them and theirs. Not only would they kill ’em, they’d sleep quite soundly about it afterwards. Or so they imagine. Perhaps they oughta have a chat with cops and soldiers who actually have killed people in the line of duty, and see how they dealt with it—assuming they have.

But—to continue to be blunt—these vengeance fantasies are as unlike Jesus as they come.

Yeah, it’s pragmatic to want to defend your family and friends and homeland. Actions oughta have consequences. Evil oughta be stopped. But you know Jesus—assuming you do know Jesus: He doesn’t want anybody to die. That’s why he came into the world, remember? Jn 3.16

Of course there are gonna be those who insist the “should not perish” part of John 3.16 has to do with eternal perishing in hell, not death. Usually these’d be the Christians who think the point of the gospel is heaven, not life; and who are trying to find a loophole which permits ’em a little death here and there.

And of course I may understand Jesus’s point of view, and totally agree with it… but when push comes to shove, and I’m faced with someone who’s threatening my family, I have a bad feeling I’m gonna fail Jesus and really mess the perpetrator up.

I’m not perfect, y’know. Working on it though.

20 July 2018

“He had some good bits.”

Sometimes that’s the best you can expect from certain preachers.

She came up to me after the sermon.

SHE. [referring to the speaker] “Wasn’t he great?
ME. “Yeah, he had some good bits.”
SHE. “Good bits? That was like good solid food!”
ME. “Meh.”

She left to go find someone who was as excited about the sermon as she was.

This didn’t take place at my church; I was visiting another church in town. And “she” is someone who used to go to my church. She stopped after we wouldn’t let her into leadership. For good reason; she’s spiritually immature. Regularly tossed to and fro by every charismatic fad, exactly like St. James described the unwise. Jm 1.5 So she went to find another church whose standards weren’t so high. Which is probably why she was visiting this other church.

I was visiting because of a special guest speaker. I won’t give his name, to protect the totally guilty. Many Pentecostals in northern California know who he is. Quite a few Pentecostals outside the area have heard of him. I hadn’t heard him preach before, so that’s why I was visiting.

Good public speaker. Entertaining, winsome, enthusiastic, clever. Had some really positive, uplifting, encouraging things to say. Quoted the bible out of context like the devil itself, though.

No I’m not calling him a devil. Nor an antichrist. Nor uninspired, nor a false teacher, false prophet, false anything. Just saying he’s really sloppy when it comes to interpreting bible. Lots of preachers are, because they don’t do their homework. They repeat what popular Christian culture claims the bible means, rather than double-check anything for themselves. They figure if their conclusion sounds all right, it doesn’t matter what route they took to get there. And obviously they didn’t pay attention in science class… or math, forensics, logic, hermeneutics… Let’s just say they spent their college years, if they had any, having fun instead of studying.

From what I know, this preacher earnestly tries to follow Jesus. Loves him, loves his church, wants to do right by God. But for every time he interpreted bible properly, he likewise interpreted the bible questionably, or downright wrong. And because it was stuff the audience had never, ever heard before—which stands to reason; he was making it up—they were gasping and oohing and declaring “Amen” like he was reading golden plates fresh from heaven.

So they were impressed. The flighty woman from my church was impressed. Me, I know more bible than that. I make absolutely no claims of infallibility, but the preacher kept quoting verses that I’ve either researched, or at least know fairly well. And spun ’em in all sorts of directions with no respect at all for literary or historical context. I don’t know where this guy went to school, but wherever it was, he had a lot of fun.

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.