Monday, December 05, 2016

If you ignore your Nazi history, you may repeat it.

image source
People don't like it when I compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. They think I am claiming he plans on committing genocide. I do not think that. However, his strident white nationalist supporters do compare him to Hitler, so I am agreement with them on at least one topic. Trump is a master at propaganda and uses disinformation techniques, something useful to any demagogue in the making. He also routinely scapegoats entire groups of people as the source of the problems his supporters endure. He also encourages the majority to feel like a persecuted minority. White christian men like being told that consideration of others and laws that facilitate economic equity for women and minorities are just "political correctness" or "anti-white racism" or "feminazism." Allowing for the full constitutional rights of gay and transgendered citizens is "social depravity engineering" which will turn white children into flaming queers. Diminishing white male superiority is terrifying for the self-centered who have been enjoying that privilege for hundreds of years but exciting for everyone else, 3/4 of the planet.

The Nationalist Socialism Party of 1920-30's Germany felt similarly. When they came to power politically, they made similar assertions toTrump's white supremacist supporters today.

"We are a master race, which must remember that the lowliest German worker is racially and biologically a thousand times more valuable than the population here."  — Erich Koch, 5 March 1943, (Wikipedia)

White workers are horribly upset that they are being out competed for jobs by Mexicans and Chinese. It has nothing to do with racism, but with the lower cost of business outside of the United States for unskilled labor. This has been happening for decades, but the black president is somehow to blame, even though the white president before him did not fix it either. And they forget the black president has replaced most of the jobs the white president before him lost. I don't think it's due to short memory but to racism.

The Nazis implemented Aryan laws to "preserve" it's culture, which, in their eyes, was being diluted by the success of Jews. They wrote a booklet Why the Aryan Law. It open with lines like these.
The Jewish people, once only tolerated, knew how to raise a hue and cry about discrimination and persecution, winning the sympathy of the world for the “poor Jews.” They increasingly infiltrated deep within our national organism, growing to have power over every single area of our national life. The old saga, the “Edda,” observes that one blocks a river at its source. The failure to do that was the great mistake of the German people. Thank God, it is not too late. Our F├╝hrer Adolf Hitler recognized the importance of the problem for Germany’s rebirth, and outlined its solution in his program.
Now I can replace the word "Jewry" in this paragraph and replace it with "Muslim" or "homosexual" or "black-lives-matter" and hear similar sentiments from some of our nation's governors, legislators, and president elect. The blind racist/xenophobe/sexist/homophobe believes any successful person who does not match their identity is out to destroy their country, even if the non-majority person is successful precisely because of the culture and it's laws. White Christians have told me that the Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros wants to destroy this country. White Christians have told me the influx of Syrian refugees is diminishing European culture. White Christians have told me compassion for Syrian refugees and letting them into the U.S. will result in terrorist sleeper cells which will eventually turn on us.

The U.S. has always been a stew of nationalities. Yet it has always been xenophobic as well. Jews fleeing Hitler were denied entry to the U.S. because the nation did not want to expand it's quota of immigration, not even for 500 refugee children. Before World War 2 the U.S., like the rest of the world, was recovering from the Great Depression. Millions were out of work. Sound familiar? Jobs were limited. Prosperity was concentrated. Competition from cheap labor was not acceptable. As explained in this article on the St. Louis a ship full of Jewish refugees turned away by the U.S., compassion had reached its limit for most Americans.
Quotas established in the US Immigration and Nationality Act of 1924 strictly limited the number of immigrants who could be admitted to the United States each year. In 1939, the annual combined German-Austrian immigration quota was 27,370 and was quickly filled. In fact, there was a waiting list of at least several years. US officials could only have granted visas to the St. Louis passengers by denying them to the thousands of German Jews placed further up on the waiting list. Public opinion in the United States, although ostensibly sympathetic to the plight of refugees and critical of Hitler's policies, continued to favor immigration restrictions. The Great Depression had left millions of people in the United States unemployed and fearful of competition for the scarce few jobs available. It also fueled antisemitism, xenophobia, nativism, and isolationism. A Fortune Magazine poll at the time indicated that 83 percent of Americans opposed relaxing restrictions on immigration. President Roosevelt could have issued an executive order to admit the St. Louis refugees, but this general hostility to immigrants, the gains of isolationist Republicans in the Congressional elections of 1938, and Roosevelt's consideration of running for an unprecedented third term as president were among the political considerations that militated against taking this extraordinary step in an unpopular cause.
People wanted laws, not feelings, not compassion, not hope for all. Letting in more Jews was impractical. These people were not vetted. Who knew how many were communists or anarchists? Even children could not find room in America's heart.
Roosevelt was not alone in his reluctance to challenge the mood of the nation on the immigration issue. Three months before the St. Louis sailed, Congressional leaders in both US houses allowed to die in committee a bill sponsored by Senator Robert Wagner (D-N.Y.) and Representative Edith Rogers (R-Mass.). This bill would have admitted 20,000 Jewish children from Germany above the existing quota.
Even children could not be trusted. Every time a Somali immigrant commits a crime, xenophobes wag their fingers and claim, "We told you so," as if anyone could guarantee children will grow up to never choose poorly or to never hate those who mistreat them. Additionally, the refusal of non-white immigrants to immediately forsake their own culture and embrace (white) american culture uncritically is viewed as a danger to white americans. Yet white Americans living overseas gather together as ex-pat communities. White Americans also tolerate Polish-american clubs or German-American clubs or Greek churches or black churches, but not Syrian neighborhoods or mosques.

He's afraid of the foreigner, the definition of xenophobia. Yet he's from a state represented in Washington by a black Muslim man. Like Germany in the 1920's and 30's facts are replaced with racist tropes to assuage xenophobic citizens, who choose disinformation over true information.
It's riddled with conspiracy theories about how Muslims who come to the US are spreading jihad and Sharia law. Back to Trump and Hitler, a Trump apologist, Scottie Nell Hughes insists, “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.”

For this American, if there are no facts for our democracy, then can we function without our founding political document's assertion "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."?

Segregation never works because segregationists keep sub-dividing. West Viriginia seceded from Virginia during the Civil War. Jones County tried to secede from Mississippi. Those segregationists in Mississippi were able to keep the other segregationists from their goal, unlike Virginia. Culture is not to be preserved. It is to be enjoyed. Even isolated cultures change over time. The only static cultures are dead cultures. This country was founded on a political philosophy of hypocritical egalitarianism. This country has improved by acknowledging the hypocrisy of the founding fathers who owned slaves, who would not let women vote, On the other hand today's culture warriors tend to forget the presence of Muslims in our country since before the revolution, mostly as slaves. But the country's founders sought to ensure freedom of religion included more than christian denominations.

In his autobiography, Jefferson recounted with satisfaction that in the struggle to pass his landmark Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786), the Virginia legislature "rejected by a great majority" an effort to limit the bill's scope "in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan." George Washington suggested a way for Muslims to "obtain proper relief" from a proposed Virginia bill, laying taxes to support Christian worship. On another occasion, the first president declared that he would welcome "Mohometans" to Mount Vernon if they were "good workmen" (see page 96). Officials in Massachusetts were equally insistent that their influential Constitution of 1780 afforded "the most ample liberty of conscience … to Deists, Mahometans, Jews and Christians," a point that Chief Justice Theophilus Parsons resoundingly affirmed in 1810.

But now, we have a President elect who campaigned on the idea of the immigration of those who are Islamic. The Nazi propaganda booklet I quoted from at the beginning of this post warns about jews destroying their culture, In their view it was "The Jews" had caused the Bolshevik revolution; it was "The Jews" who put Germany into crippling debt because it lost the war it had started in 1914. This is scapegoating, boiling down very complex situations to a simple people group. It is no different from the American nazis today who warn about the muslims in our midst. Muslims crashed planes into our buildings, Muslims blow themselves up around the world. Therefore, all muslims are terrorists. Muslims have more children then Christians so therefore msulims want to destroy christian societies.


One billion human beings follow Islam. Some are white, most are brown. They are as complex as any white christian family. Some are more devout than others. Some are hypocrites. Some are terrorists (most terrorists in American history are white christians). Some are peace makers. Some are artists. Some are freeloaders. Some are hard workers. Most just want a home, a job, and time to be with their family, like the Jews of Nazi Germany, like gay Americans, like black-lives-matter activists, like anyone else who is outside the mainstream.

Our culture does need to change. It needs to change toward even more compassion and away from exploitation and fear mongering based on racist tropes and scapegoating. The world is our neighbor and our collective survival depends on generosity towards each other. Love will save the world.

image source

Thursday, December 01, 2016

The God who compromises

Last year I wrote a number of posts about the plain fact that not everything Biblical is Christian. (You can use the 21st entry to find all the previous ones). One of the aspects of this rejection of biblicism is Jesus' overruling of Mosaic laws in favor of merciful, compassionate and even graceful responses; instead of Mosaic "eye for an eye" view of justice, a way of non-violent turning of the cheek, instead of execution of adulteresses caught in the act, a refocus on self-judgment, instead of his intended mission, an enlarged one. It's this latter example of compromise with compassion I've been thinking about today.

Matthew the tax collector, a despised profession among his fellow Jewish citizens living in occupied Palestine, who followed the merciful Jesus tells a curious anecdote.

Matthew 15:21-28 The Voice
Jesus left that place and withdrew to Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman—a non-Jew—came to Him. 
Canaanite Woman (wailing): Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is possessed by a demon. Have mercy, Lord! 
Jesus said nothing. And the woman continued to wail. His disciples came to Him. 
Disciples: Do something—she keeps crying after us! 
Jesus:  I was sent here only to gather up the lost sheep of Israel. 
The woman came up to Jesus and knelt before Him. 
Canaanite Woman: Lord, help me! 
Jesus: It is not right to waste the children’s bread by feeding dogs. 
Canaanite Woman: But, Lord, even dogs eat the crumbs that fall by the table as their master is eating.
Jesus—whose ancestors included Ruth and Rahab—spoke with kindness and insight.  
Jesus: Woman, you have great faith. And your request is done. 
And her daughter was healed, right then and from then on. 

There are so many topics to cover here, but I want to focus on one. Jesus will compromise when it comes to mercy. This scene hearkens back to Abraham's negotiation with God on his way down to judge Sodom and Gomorrah.

It seems to me compromise is a mark of holiness; not compromise in general, but compromise in particular when more mercy and compassion are available. Within the early church a compromise was found to fully include Gentiles who did not follow Mosaic traditions. Like the Canaanite woman in this story, they had great faith and exhibited the radical lifestyle of love. Instead of walling them out completely or forcing them to humiliate themselves physically to conform to Jewish cultural norms, the church exhibited its own radical lifestyle of love and chose to compromise with inclusiveness. The church did not compromise with those who were pretenders or money grubbers or exploiters of the poor and ignorant.

I live in a country that has a difficult time with compromise. It's seen as a weakness. When judges exhibited mercy in their courtrooms, legislators took away the freedom to compromise by making laws imposing minimum sentences or three crimes and a life sentence laws. The perceived weakness of the judges was met with "no compromises" laws which have resulted in great abuses and miscarriages of justice. For six years the national legislature has refused to compromise with a president it despises, even when compromises will help so many citizens, because compromise is viewed as weakness by the electorate.

My country's inability to compromise once resulted in a Civil War that cost a million lives. I see my country in a similar position 150 years later. "All or nothing" is the mindset.

But Jesus, supposedly the model for my Christian nation, compromised. He was also considered weak and a threat to society. When violent people perceive weakness, they attack. People like to assert their dominance when they feel insecure. Jesus felt secure in his humility. Does the church today?

After the election an exasperated co-worker asked a friend of mine, "What do you evangelicals want?" The implied question is "How much dominance do you guys want? Since you can't humbly persuade people to your theology do you need laws outlawing other religions or the freedoms of other religious adherents? How can you say out of one side of your mouth you are about love and out of the other choose a political leader who has a record of lying, cheating, exploiting, and money grubbing?"

The church that compromises to the benefit of the marginalized is the church that looks Christlike, and deserves the moniker "Christ-ian". The church that practices "true religion" as Jesus' brother James writes, James 1:27- 2:7
Real, true religion from God the Father’s perspective is about caring for the orphans and widows who suffer needlessly and resisting the evil influence of the world.
My brothers and sisters, I know you’ve heard this before, but stop playing favorites! Do not try to blend the genuine faith of our glorious Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, with your silly pretentiousness. 2 If an affluent gentleman enters your gathering wearing the finest clothes and priceless jewelry, don’t trip over each other trying to welcome him. And if a penniless bum crawls in with his shabby clothes and a stench fills the room, don’t look away or pretend you didn’t notice—offer him a seat up front, next to you. 3-4 If you tell the wealthy man, “Come sit by me; there’s plenty of room,” but tell the vagrant, “Oh, these seats are saved. Go over there,” then you’ll be judging God’s children out of evil motives.
5 My dear brothers and sisters, listen: God has picked the poor of this world to become unfathomably rich in faith and ultimately to inherit the Kingdom, which He has pledged to those who love Him. 6 By favoring the rich, you have mocked the poor. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it the rich who step on you while climbing the ladder of success? And isn’t it the rich who take advantage of you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones mocking the noble name of our God, the One calling us?
 I don't even know how to begin to provide commentary on James. It is such succinct writing. A philosophy that believes, contrary to evidence, that enabling the rich to get richer will eventually trickle down some pennies to the poor, is not a philosophy James agrees with. If America was great in the 1950's, the rich paid up to 3/4 of their income in taxes. With all that money in the government's coffers services were plentiful, infrastructure was great, wages were sufficient, and the middle class swelled. But it takes legislators willing to compromise to restore this historical aspect of America. An uncompromising legislature and citizenry may revisit the historical aspect of American of 150 years ago.

May we all follow the example of the God who compromises.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

compassionate christianity

I do not find the liberal-conservative antonyms of Christianity useful. Usually the labels are applied to how one approaches the Bible not how they live out the teaching of Jesus existentially. Liberals are just as likely to be hard hearted as conservatives are to be full of mercy of grace. Fundamentalists can make space for gay people while retaining their fidelity to those seven biblical passages that seem to condemn it. I encountered this recently in an article by the current head pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Cali. Pastor Brian Broderson believes a Christian is free to attend a sinner's wedding but not a backslidden believer's wedding. I call that progress.

It seems strange to someone outside of the more conservative branches of the faith that this is even a topic worth debating. But when I was deep into this branch, I worried a great deal about this choice if presented to me. As I think back, my head said no but my heart said yes. If I were to go to such a wedding and face censure in my faith community for such an action my heart would no longer belong to such a community even if my head kept me there. The head is the home of pride, not wanting to admit error. The heart is the home of humility, wounded, tender, tentative, and sensitive.

Children live from the heart. They are impulsive and not well thought. Their heads have to be trained. But Jesus taught that his followers not to keep the kids away from him because the kingdom of heaven is made up of children and their like.

When I was 7 years old, during recess on the playground, I saw some bigger kids bullying a boy in my grade, making fun of his afro. I ran over to defend him. I knew nothing about race relations. But my heart had compassion for another child being bullied.

Theology can be found justifying racial segregation, slavery, xenophobia, and misogyny. All of these theologies threaten God's wrath if we disagree with these visions of God as filtered from the Bible. Will God be mad at me if I link arms with a black kid who is being raised Muslim? Will God be mad at me if I go to my gay friend's wedding? It's a self-protective stance towards my neighbors. Jesus, however, compares God to a good shepherd who looks for lost sheep (even ones who do not belong to his flock) or a single woman who searches all over her house for a missing coin. Jesus celebrates radical generosity, something he pointed out in the action of a poor widow, but can also be seen in children. Children can be scandalously selfish one moment and even more scandalously generous the next. As a parent, I tried to discourage the first and encourage the latter.

I want to do the same with my fellow believers today. I want to encourage Pastor Broderson to enlarge his generosity towards his gay neighbors. Perhaps he will continue to reason within his Biblical lens and think of what Paul instructs regarding backslidden believers: treat them like Rome's tax collectors. Jesus was so compassionate to those tax collectors many became his followers, one even wrote one of the gospels. In short, when a believer backslides love them as much as you love an unbeliever, which means he can go to any gay wedding.

This is not a liberal or conservative debate. It's not a progressive or regressive debate. It's a life of love and generosity and compassion. The Bible can be understood differently, even wrongly, but, as Jesus said, the measure we use against others will be used against us. The more generous we are with others, the more generosity we allow for our own mistakes and failures. The more we seek out the lost and the hurting, like Jesus did, the more we stand alongside the downtrodden and scapegoated, like Jesus did, the more we resemble the God who is love.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

book report - The Divine Dance by Rohr and Morrell 2016

This book is not one you want to blast through in a few weeks like I did. I really like Franciscan friar Richard Rohr and have been receiving his daily emails for about a year now. I have only read one of his books before this one, Simplicity: The art of living. Simplicity captures a series of lectures by Rohr from the 1990's. His new book, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, has a similar origin. As described in one of the afterwords co-author Mike Morrell took material from two of Rohr's conferences, The Divine Dance and The Shape of God, wrote down, arranged, condensed, expanded, and subdivided them into this amazing book.

The chapters are short, usually two or three pages, which lends itself to more of a devotional read. In fact, I'm planning to re-read this as a spiritual supplement this next Lenten season. The Christian theology of the triune God distinguishes it from the other Abrahamic faiths, Islam and Judaism, and has been and continues to be a source of division within the Christian church. One of the metaphors the early church leaders used to describe the one God who is three persons is a dance, a divine dance. Rohr admits this is a mystery. He writes,
“Remember, mystery isn’t something that you cannot understand—it is something that you can endlessly understand! There is no point at which you can say, “I’ve got it.” Always and forever, mystery gets you! “Circling around” is all we can do. Our speaking of God is a search for similes, analogies, and metaphors. All theological language is an approximation, offered tentatively in holy awe. ” Page 42 
This celebration of the God who is a trinity is not akin to the blind describing parts of the elephant, but more like the ants discussing the works of Mozart. It will always be inadequate, but never insufficient for delight to the degree one can apprehend with Rohr his adoration of the Happy Trinity. As a kind and generous Catholic follower of the way of St. Francis, Rohr is an inclusivist. He sees where God has revealed himself to cultures before and apart from Christianity. An orthodox Roman Catholic will say, "Grace perfects nature." What other cultures see in threes spiritually, Rohr can affirm those things and point to the revelation of Jesus as the culmination of those hints hidden in plain sight in nature. This book is also about the victory of God's love, which flows centripetally out from the dance into all of creation. The fallen creation is not greater than the love of God. He writes, “I think penal substitution is a very risky theory, primarily because of what it implies about the Father’s lack of freedom to love or to forgive his own creation.” p. 282 (That's some inside baseball talk for modern Christianity.) He is hopeful because his understanding of the trinity makes him exude with hope. The ugly parts of the Bible do not drag him down, because Jesus settles all the craziness that seems unloving in the Bible.
“We get the promise of free love (grace) now and then, but it is always too much for the mind and heart to believe.
The biblical text mirrors both the growth and the resistance of the soul.
It falls into the mystery, and then it says, “That just can’t be true.” Scripture is a polyphonic symphony, a conversation with itself, where it plays melodies and dissonance—three steps forward, two steps back. The three steps gradually and finally win out; you see the momentum of our Holy Book and where it is leading history. And the text moves inexorably toward inclusivity, mercy, unconditional love, and forgiveness. I call it the “Jesus hermeneutic.” Just interpret Scripture the way that Jesus did! He ignores, denies, or openly opposes his own Scriptures whenever they are imperialistic, punitive, exclusionary, or tribal.” p. 294
He has so succinctly summarized where I myself have struggled to attain after finding the Christian fundamentalist hermeneutic inadequate for the complex realities of life. Rohr's "Jesus hermeneutic" can also be called a love hermeneutic. Whatever does not reflect trinitarian love is not of God. What does that trinitarian love look like? I encourage you to buy this book and begin the dance.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

I love Donald Trump...

...because Jesus loves Donald Trump.

However, I do not think he is presidential material.

  • I believe a president should desire the uplift of everyone in society and not by scapegoating some. He has scapegoated Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and African-Americans. 
  • I believe a president would make a good neighbor, not someone who brags about sexual assaults, seduction of married women, engagement in multiple affairs, lewd comments about his own daughter, and repetition of white supremacist conspiracy theories. 
  • I believe a president should have a track record of public service. He has none. 
  • I believe a president should have experience in negotiating the labyrinth of political bureaucracy with its intentional and constitutional checks and balances, not only decisions by fiat. The executive branch is not superior to the legislative or judicial branches. 
  • I believe a president needs a thick skin who will hearken to a rebuke without responding by attacking the messengers. on the contrary, Trump has believed it productive, despite all evidence to the contrary, that attacking parents whose child died in combat, or women who gained weight, or name-calling politicians, and bullying his opponents is more appropriate.

The nation's founders, for all their flaws had high aspirations for the republic. Their words are worth heeding.

GEORGE WASHINGTON (1732-1799) "Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder."

What is the character of this candidate?

ABIGAIL VAN BUREN ("Dear Abby") advice columnist "The best index to a person's character is (a) how he treats people who can't do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can't fight back."

WOODROW WILSON (1856-1924) "If you will think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself. Character is a by-product, and any man who devotes himself to its cultivation in his own case will become a selfish prig."

CALVIN COOLIDGE (1872-1933) "Character is the only secure foundation of the state."

DWIGHT EISENHOWER (1890-1969) The qualities of a great man are "vision, integrity, courage, understanding, the power of articulation, and profundity of character."

Source of quotes.

Jesus says, "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45
"But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a person." Matthew 15:18-20

James 3:11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Despite all his obvious faults, Jesus loves Donald Trump. Jesus wants Donald Trump to know his complete love for him. Jesus wants to show him perfect love through neighbors like me. I completely disagree with Donald Trump. I think he would be a despot if president. He does not love his neighbors nearly as much as he loves himself. Yet, I am called to love him. This is my challenge, but one I am willing to accept.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Why are people so angry at IV-USA?

Time magazine broke a story by Elizabeth Dias yesterday with quite the headline, Top Evangelical College Group to Dismiss Employees Who Support Gay Marriage. Ed Stetzer wrote an article in reply for Christianity Today with the headline, Evangelical Campus Ministry (InterVarsityUSA) Decides Employees Should Hold Evangelical Beliefs on Marriage (Updated with InterVarsity Statement). Ed does not engage at all with the personal story of an IVCF campus staffer with a transgender child who was let go by IVCF for not agreeing to their statement. Even Jesus could agree with the gentile woman who had a sick child that the dogs can at least eat the crumbs from the table. The lack of compassion for the church's sexual minorities is what sets people off.

IVCF has made strides to not be a white fundamentalist sect as it engages college culture that encourages multiculturalism and minority empowerment. Women and non-white staffers are placed in positions of leadership. IVCF has reinterpreted passages seen by more conservative "plain readers" of the Bible that forbids women in leadership. IVCF let students of color proclaim from the stage at their missions conference that Black Lives Matter. However, they also backpedaled and released a statement for critics that all lives matter.

In short, IVCF has demonstrated a progressive, non-literal reading of the Bible and continually expanded the tent. LGBTQI students and their allies have seen this progressive stance on these issues as a potential opening into the IVCF tent for them and their spiritual journeys. But IVCF has closed the tent flaps. They write,
Regrettably, many Christians have not loved same-sex-attracted people as we ought. Too often, we have responded with exclusion and caused them shame or remained silent when hatred has been expressed toward them. We humbly own our past failures and offer genuine love.
At the same time, Scripture is very clear that God’s intention for sexual expression is to be between a husband and wife in marriage. Every other sexual practice is outside of God’s plan and therefore is a distortion of God’s loving design for humanity.
As I read this, from an ally perspective, I hear, "we are sorry we've been jerks, but God is a jerk about this, so it's not really our fault." They love you in the same way their jerk god does, who will send you to hell unless you keep your genitals out of the wrong places. Jerk god does not have compassion on his LGBTQI creations. He will only accept them if they choose celibacy or sham marriages that produce children.

IVCF's compassionate and intentional inclusiveness reached a breaking point. But Jesus will not break a bruised reed or snuff out a smoldering wick. His compassion is greater. He does not have to worry about losing donor money from an uncomfortable majority who has a hard enough time with the affirmation that Black lives matter. Christian conservatives have a lot of money to give, but not to gay tolerant organizations, as World Vision learned. The financial base needs to be placated. Conservatives place straight monogamous marriage into the orthodoxy category even as the affirmation hurts their neighbors and does not treat them as they wish to be treated. It is truly unfortunate that IVCF does not list any affirming resources in their reading list at the end of their document.

Who has the courage to welcome and affirm the outcasts of the church who harm no one as they live out an essential aspect of their identity? Jesus says how we treat the least of these is how we treat him. New wine requires new wine skins.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

love and pastoral affairs

The New Testament epistle of 1st Timothy has a frequently neglected expectation of church leaders,
1 Timothy 3: 1-7 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
I said "frequently neglected" but it may only be to my limited perspective. What should the church do if a leader is not above reproach, disgrace? Elsewhere Peter's letter states, Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 Should disgraceful acts by a church leader be covered up? This seems to be the approach repeatedly across many church groups, whether it be Catholic priests, Anabaptist theologians, missionary boarding school staff, civil rights leaders who were also Baptist preachers, and a revivalist preacher to California hippies among many examples and those are just of the sexual nature. When Christian leaders flaunt their wealth with expensive self-serving things, they have disgraced themselves and none of their followers care. Well, they care if their leader is called out for being reproachful.

Jesus had little tolerance for religious leaders who honored their god with words but not actions. He called them actors, hypocrites in Greek, and whitewashed tombs, pretty on the outside and corrupt on the inside. If the "noble task" cannot be done with honesty and integrity by someone, and if God truly can sustain his church such that the gates of hell will not prevail against it, then why conceal what God is revealing? In each of the synoptic gospels Jesus tells his followers that what is hidden will be revealed. Light is a good thing when it uncovers evil. The scandals of the Catholic church, for example, show what happens when the first evil revelation is covered up. It only festers and spreads, making lives much worse when it is finally exposed.

It is loving for me to forgive a sin. But when I am aware of a church leader's hidden sin, which fails to meet up to it's noble task undertaken for the church, then my forgiveness is not enough. The leader needs to step aside and return to being a follower again. If the scandal comes to light after their death, telling the truth about their clay feet does not diminish what God is able to do with such weak instruments.

Later in the first letter to Timothy, Paul writes,
19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. 1 Timothy 5

A public reproof is an embodied sermon. And a favored teacher should not be given a pass, "favorited", when it comes to their stumbling. It keeps pedestals very low to the ground. Paul starts his letter with plenty of pedestal chopping.

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1

The way of love is to keep the follower's focus on Jesus, and not a facade, a white washed tomb.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

But we preach Christ crucified

Paul, the former anti-Christian oppressor, had an vision of Jesus Christ that completely changed him. He became a pro-Christ evangelist. He wrote half of the Christian scripture. He applied his deep studies in the Jewish scriptures before his conversion to the surprise ending of those scriptures after his conversion.

In his first letter to the church in Corinth he tells them, 1 Cor. 1
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

He was a highly educated Jew, and no argument from Christians changed him. He was not opposed to oratory, he engaged in it, but he knew, by itself, reason was powerless. For Paul, Jesus was the completely unexpected ending that only made sense post-conversion. The execution of Christ was not what was supposed to happen to the anticipated Jewish Messiah, even though several other pretenders had come and gone promising Davidic deliverance.

Metaphorically, Paul's previous glasses which he read the Jewish Scriptures broke and were replaced with the Jesus spectacles, allowing him to read everything as if for the first time. No longer was Abraham the epitome, nor Moses, nor Elijah, nor David; they all stood in contrast to Jesus (also none of them rose from the dead). In his second letter to Corinth he explains this transition from veiled to clarity. 2 Cor. 3
14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Verse 17 is a hint at his approach to those scriptures. God is found in the passages that bring liberation, not those that burden the readers. I think when Paul writes he preaches Christ crucified, he is talking about pulling back the veil. The veil makes contrast difficult. The bright light of the the life and teachings of Jesus enhance the contrast. Jesus overrules Moses, eye for an eye is out, adulteress executions are out. Jesus overrules Joshua, we are to love our enemies. Jesus negates Elisha, he doesn't feed his opponents to bears. Jesus is greater than David, winning by dying, not by killing.

Paul describes what he preaches, not prescribes it. However, in my life time in fundagelical churches, I've heard a lot of unveiled scripture teaching without revealing the concealed Jesus or not about Jesus at all but something spiritual, or political or ethical. Every part contributes to the story, whose main character is Jesus. It's like a great mystery novel. Some parts are misdirections. Some parts are important clues. The minor characters are complex, partly right and partly wrong. It's the bright light of Jesus that reveals all these things. I think everyone should hear how the story and how each part contributes to it. It's the greatest story ever told, according to some.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

You are a royal priesthood

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

In the Jewish scriptures the Levite tribe, which Moses belonged to, were designated a landless priesthood by blood to serve the rest of the Israelite tribes. In the same way, the church serves the same purpose today as the priesthood for the world.

One expectation on this priesthood is to praise God with our stories, what was done for us by Him, from darkness to light, from disunity to unity, from condemnation to mercy. It's more than talk though it's a walk: a walk in love, a walk in unity, a walk of mercy.

This has some important obligations for the Christian church. Peter continues,
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Part of this testimony of praise is a life of love physically manifested by good deeds.
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
This royal priesthood of love is one of deference to the leaders who oversee the lands we live in, whether it be a malevolent godless dictator or a kind Christian african american. We do not pray for their destruction but for their conversion, to have a similar transit from darkness to light. We do not testify by our judgment but by our good deeds, our love, and the honor we give to others.

Jesus is the prototype of this priesthood.
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
This priesthood does not retaliate or threaten, but suffers, believing that even death cannot destroy the victory of God. In chapter 4 he writes, 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Love is the priority of our ministry, without it, we are just making noise.

The story no longer stops here for me, because I realized the priests were not the only ones chosen by God. They were a subset of a larger group of chosen ones.

Everyone is loved by God (For god so loved the world...) and will know his love for all eternity. A Jew did not have to be a Levite to be one of God's chosen people, nor does the non-Christian world. In Peter's 2nd letter he writes, 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. What is repentance? a change in thinking, a change from a self focus to a neighbor focus, from selfishness to generosity, from hate to love. In the meantime, those of us who have joined the priesthood pray daily for Christ's kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as in heaven, then live it out - where he is the object of our desire, where those who are in need are fed and clothed, where reconciliation happens - offenses are forgiven and offenders ask for forgiveness, where mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).

All God's children are called to his kingdom of love. His patience is eternal. Everyone recognizes love eventually, even if not in this life, Matthew 5:26, I Corinthians 3:11-15. The royal priesthood is the love advance team hollering about the good news that love is better than we can imagine that love has been embodied and died at our hands yet still forgives. Love always wins in the end.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Gays and the New Jerusalem

Disgustingly, some Christian pastors publicly celebrated the massacre at the Orlando gay nightclub in their sermons, on Youtube, and on their blogs. I will not provide links. Other conservative evangelical pastors were actually shaken enough to reconsider their approach to the Bible and the LGBTQ community.

The disgusting pastors love this verse. (Image from here.) So their understanding of god is good with  the slaughter of gay people and their friends who were not gay, because their god is totally offended with these versions of his creation. Even though their holy book says their god made humanity in his image, they think verses like these contradict other verses that say their god's creation of humanity was "very good." There is another verse in Leviticus that says God considers men having gay sex an abomination. Hence the follow up death penalty. The previous verse only said these guys needed to be kicked out of their community but two chapters later god doubles down and decides they should be kicked out by killing them. I've been informed on Facebook that God is disgusted with the gays because the Bible says so. Apparently, God also loves them, if they stop being gay. Otherwise, they are going to burn forever in hell. But my conservative friends do not think gays should be killed anymore, just deprived of their rights.

Why shouldn't Christians kill gays anymore? My answer used to be because that was part of the theocracy in ancient Israel.

My question now is, were those the good old days when those Levitical laws were in place? Then the other question is do you realize this book was not even composed until just before the exile or during the Persian exile? Do you realize this law may not have even existed in those old days? But if it did, was that really God's best idea? Killing people in violation of sexual mores?

How did God react to a similar situation?

John's gospel contains the wandering pericope of the woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees, a conservative religious sect in Israel, dragged a woman caught en flagrant adultery. Her partner however was not brought to trial. The religious dudes reminded Jesus that the law of Moses, e.g. Leviticus, condemns adulterers to death by stoning. Jesus told them to go ahead, that is anyone who has not sinned. They got the message, dropped their stones and left her and Jesus alone. Jesus tells her he does not condemn her and to not sin anymore. (I cannot imagine that worked out well for her though). Since I'm a trinitarian Christian, I consider Jesus fully God and fully human in some mysterious way. And Jesus did not condemn her. He overruled the law of Moses with love. The apostle Paul wrote something about that, 2 Corinthians 3:6 "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." As I've written many times here, not everything biblical is Christian.

Adultery is a death penalty offense in the Bible, but it is not for Christians. The same is true for homosexuality. That massacre in Orlando was not approved by Jesus. The church, who is supposed to be Christ's representation on the earth, is supposed to stand between the oppressors and the oppressed, the judges and the judged, the violators and the violated, not cheer on the violent mob.

Nor does Jesus say to the woman "I do not support your lifestyle." If he did then he would be condemning her. He doesn't self-contradict. He loves and protects. He preserves her life, because that is what the Spirit of God does, brings life. That is how you know which parts of the Bible are Christian, which parts are, indeed, inspired/God-breathed and which parts are not. Without the living Spirit of God, dead letters kill. When doctrine is more important than relationship, death wins, not love.

So what will the new Jerusalem be like for the literalists who read John's Revelation the same way they read Leviticus?

Revelation 21:22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Image of the New Jerusalem from the wikipedia.

It will be a theocracy again, just like the good old days of Israel. Will the stoning of gays and adulteresses be re-instituted? The nations will still be there, verse 24. There will be shameful people to keep out, verse 27. Will the New Jerusalem be like an Orlando slaughter at a gay nightclub or a place for the weak to find refuge?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Healthcare needs more than Jesus

In the last month, a Canadian family who let their son die of diabetes because they believed Jesus was enough to cure him were condemned in court for murder. Children's death by believers in the christian tradition of faith healing happen every year in the United States and Canada. It is obvious to those outside of their sects that they have read the Bible too literally.Yes, in the gospels Jesus does heal many people of illnesses. In the Acts of the Apostles, his disciples heal some people as well. There are indeed promises that some afflictions just need more prayer and that anything good asked of God will be granted. But experience has proven to be a regulator on how literally some promises should be taken. (Evidence photo found here.) Jesus is not always enough to keep people alive. Sometimes insulin is needed as well.

Most devout christians do not follow Paul's advice to Timothy when they have an upset stomach and drink a little wine to treat it. We understand Paul's advice was appropriate to the time he wrote and level of medical understanding in his time. We do not believe his instructions are for all generations of Christians. In fact, some teetotaling Christians in the early 20th century United States deliberately ignored such holy instructions.

If we are honest, Jesus and the Bible are not enough to treat our medical conditions. Medicine, surgery, and long term treatment are often required. The times have changes. Humanity has progressed. We have a better understanding of the cause of ulcers and their treatment. Smallpox has been exterminated. Polio is almost gone. Leprosy is now treatable. Heart disease does not kill so many so early as it used to; the same is true of cancer. People with diabetes can live long lives. A stronger faith in Jesus, or a deeper prayer life, or a more intense devotional life did not cure or prevent these diseases. None of that discredits the miracles that do happen in people's lives who are cured from these things by prayer and devotion. But they would not be miracles if they were routine. By definition, a miracle is an exception. Certainly Jesus can do it, but usually he doesn't.

Jesus tells his disciple what you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. We get to adjust as the occasion calls for it. As medicine improves we let it's proven track record step in where prayer has failed.

The early Jewish dominated church wanted to impose 4 rules on the Gentile churches that were springing up all over the Mediterranean because of the efforts of people like Paul. They were don't eat blood, or meat from strangled animals, or meat sacrificed to idols, and don't screw around. Paul was like "cool, cool. i'll tell everyone." He kept forgetting to ever again mention the blood or strangled animal issue. Those were very Jewish concerns and the church neglected those commands soon after. Paul goes back and forth about the meat sacrificed to idols issue. He seems to settle on, don't do it if it's going to freak a Jewish person out; basically, "keep it on the down low." However, his expansive definition of sexual immorality might be shrinking. Even the Catholic church under Pope Francis is recognizing the great harm it has caused by denying community to remarried divorcees.  It used to be a big deal in some Protestant churches as well. Didn't Jesus say remarriage is adultery unless the divorce was for an affair? But now people have allowed their compassion to even overrule Jesus and support divorces from abusive spouses, and abusive has a wide definition. But before this loosening, people remained trapped in terrible marriages for fear of the church's condemnation. Many protestant churches even allow divorced and remarried people to pastor churches, even though they do not meet Paul's requirement to be a person of one spouse.

The church has loosened in response to the terrible experiences of places where the church convinced societies to outlaw divorce. The church has loosened in compassion by choosing to not add extra pain of community rejection to the wreckage of a divorce. The church has loosened in compassion for the innocent children who were cast out of church because their parent's divorced.

The church matures when it lets charity guide what it loosens and what it binds. When love is it's guide, and God is love, and it acknowledges the advancement in understanding that comes from study, both of it's own scriptures and the world we inhabit, the church grows. When it denies medical science, people die too early. When it denies emotional care, people die spiritually.

The church is learning on medicine. The church is learning on minority experiences. The church is learning on science, from astronomical to genetic to evolution to psychological. The church does not need to have all the answers, but it can always be a sanctuary for those in need of love and a sanctuary for the vulnerable. Broken people want to be part of church but are often barred from it because they are not good enough. But all that's required is that Jesus loves them. The sexual minority community has been rejected by the church for centuries. It's time for the church to be the sanctuary of love and recognize that most gay people are not "healed" by Jesus. The church may not understand the LGBTQ experience, but their testimonies are remarkably similar. Like most of us, they seek love in companionship. Their lifestyle is a life like any other, in search of love. They are not sexually immoral when they marry someone of the same gender, or when they transition to their true gender. They are not the norm, which is why they are minorities. Jesus is not enough, unless Jesus includes his church embracing them and loving them as they are.

Some blogs worth reading.
Registered Runaway - Some thoughts on Orlando.
Samantha Field - yes, you hate me...
Eliel Cruz - My Pride Is Bulletproof: A Queer Puerto Rican on Life After Orlando
Kevin Garcia - Why “Welcoming, but Not Affirming” is Not Welcoming at All
Broderick Greer - Gay nightclubs and black churches are sanctuaries. Here's how to make them safer

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

a life of charity

Bible translation is not simply replacing a hebrew, aramaic, or greek word for an equivalent in the receiver language.

Take for example the greek New Testament word, "agape". In modern English translations it is translated to the word "love." In Jacobian England, the translators of the King James Bible chose "charity." I think we Americans might need to go back to the KJV word. As many evangelicals know, ancient Greek has at least 4 words  that could be translated into "love". Agape is the word given special emphasis by the New Testament writers. But when we Americans think "love" we water it down. But when we hear "charity" we are forced to think about personal expense, compassion for one in need, generosity, withheld judgment, as well as love. Charity can also remind us of being lied to, of turning the other cheek when slapped, of blessing those who are our enemies, and of taking risks that sometimes turn out poorly. The thing about charity is we more quickly disassociate it from a single feeling, whereas we generally associate love with good feelings.

I am not so optimistic as to think using the word "charity" will make the church more charitable. Plenty of white American christians, including clergy, have perpetuated horrific atrocities and slaughters - for example of native Americans, even though they used King James' Bible. They just used the part about Joshua's invasion to justify their slaughter of Pequot women and children in Mystic, Connecticut and Sand Creek, Colorado among many other places. For the cause of slavery, the devout general Stonewall Jackson ordered the defeat and death of thousands of fellow Americans. For the cause of peace, white pastors urged Martin Luther King Jr. to cease his protests in Birmingham because the christian whites were not yet ready to recognize the equality of black Americans.

When I plead for my fellow followers of Jesus to love their LGBTQ neighbors, some seem to think that means telling them they are sinful and dooming themselves to hell. But how does that change if I plead for my fellow followers of Jesus to be more charitable to their LGBTQ neighbors? Can they suffer long with them? Can they not look down on them? Can they seek the benefit of them? Can they think no evil of them? Can they rejoice in the truth of their identity with them? Can they bear all things with them? Can they hope with them? Can they endure with them? Can we mature?

Can we follow this wise man's idea?
“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.”  Billy Graham

Can we hear our black neighbors who want us to recognize that black lives matter without callously replying "all lives matter"? Can we hear the parents of children murdered by men with assault weapons when they ask for those guns to be banned without demanding unrestricted 2nd amendment rights?

Charity hurts. That's how we know we are doing it right. Who is ready to follow Jesus in the way of agape?

1 Corinthians 13 (KJV) 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

America needs more than Jesus

In the wake of another mass shooting in the United States of America, some of us declare our country's need for Jesus. Yet, as this picture shows, Jesus is not enough.

Because people can be faithful born again church goers who are also racists or misogynists or rapists or murderers. Certainly Jesus can work on those issues in our hearts, but in the meantime, laws are useful in diminishing those abusive tendencies in all of us. In 1918 a law was proposed to oppose lynching. This law was passed because Jesus was not enough for the most Christian nation in the world. (A federal anti-lynching law has never been passed though.) The Supreme Court had to affirm the right of an inter-racial couple to be married contrary to state laws forbidding it, because Jesus was not enough. The Supreme Court told states that separate but equal was always separate but never equal and thus unconstitutional because Jesus' teaching on loving our neighbors and the least of these was not enough. The courts had to punish churches financially, and not just the Roman Catholic church, for covering up sexual abuse because Jesus was not enough. The courts have to overrule parental rights when they deprive their children of healthcare because Jesus is not enough to heal them. The Supreme Court told the states and the Congress that they cannot deprive gay citizens of the legal privileges of the marriage contract because Jesus was not enough. Some of Jesus' followers are publicly celebrating the slaughter of 50 "sodomites" as god's justice, because Jesus' teaching on loving their neighbors and blessing their enemies is not enough.  Some of Jesus' followers find Jesus' teaching on love is overruled by ancient rules from god about stoning homosexuals.

In my previous post I listed several examples of American christians doing awful things because it was not a problem in their current cultural milieu. Jesus was not enough for them to change their approach to their neighbors.

So what does America need? In addition to better laws, I think it needs love. Jimi Hendrix is not the first to express this idea, but he has summed it up pithily, "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace."

The love of power expresses itself in the manipulation of laws to privilege one group over another. The power of love forsakes privilege so all can have equal rights. The love of power expresses itself in protecting the predators and ignoring the assaulted to maintain the aura of righteousness. The power of love cares for victims at the expense of reputation. The love of power expresses itself in the declaration that everyone should buy firearms for personal protection. The power of love lays down arms and turns the other cheek and removes deadly accidents and opportunities from the reach of the immature, the deranged, and the clueless. The love of power esteems one religion over others. The power of love sees all as family, all as neighbors, all as fellow children of God who bear his image and all on a path back to their Lover. The love of power is paranoid because it suspects all of wickedness, especially those who are different. The power of love recognizes the spark of love in everyone and seeks to fan it into a burning flame. The love of power is doctrinaire and unmoved by appeals to compassion. The power of love always chooses mercy. The love of power votes for more power even if it's racist, misogynist, and hateful. The power of love votes on behalf of those who would suffer the most.

We cannot all agree on Jesus. But we can certainly all agree on love. There is a favored metaphor among revivalist preachers that the biggest obstacle between us and Jesus is only 12 inches between our skull and our hearts. As Jesus said, we will be known for our love (heart) not for our doctrine (skull).

Friday, June 03, 2016

History is not hate speech

As the Guardian reports,
Turkey has recalled its ambassador from Berlin after German MPs approved a motion describing the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a century ago as genocide – a decision that the Turkish president said would “seriously affect” relations between the two countries. 
Those whose families were traumatized by Turkey's actions are grateful for the acknowledgment of their suffering. Turkey's offense over this acknowledgment is so notorious there are even several wiki articles about it. Here is one.

Armenian embassy members hold posters reading ‘Recognition now – thank you’ during the meeting in Berlin. Photograph: Michael Sohn/AP

It's not like Germany doesn't know anything about committing and apologizing for genocide.

Atrocities are not unknown in the United States either. I have 87 posts here on the treatment of native Americans by the white government. The ongoing treatment of African Americans is no longer as bad as slavery but the current penal system is an ongoing human rights crime against the AA community. Please read Bryan Stevenson's book, Just Mercy: A story of justice and redemption or look at the success stories of the Innocence Project. Telling these stories indicts those who committed the wrongs. But hiding the stories out of some twisted version of Christian charity is to perpetuate the crime by denying the just expression of the oppressed.

However, this week is also the anniversary of the Tulsa race riot when white Oklahomans attacked a highly successful and thriving black community in Tulsa and burned it to the ground in 1921.
The younger Franklin says Tulsa has been in denial over the fact that people were cruel enough to bomb the black community from the air, in private planes, and that black people were machine-gunned down in the streets. The issue was economics. Franklin explains that Native Americans and African-Americans became wealthy thanks to the discovery of oil in the early 1900s on what had previously been seen as worthless land. 
This shameful history was often ignored in Tulsa's american history classes. In 2012 the Oklahoma Senate passed a law to ensure it was taught. As one of the sponsoring Senators said, "It teaches us about how far hatred can go." Author, attorney and historian Hannibal B. Johnson unpacks this brief statement in the opening to his essay, Curriculum counts.
We need to teach and learn about the Riot. We need to know what happened and why. We need to hold people accountable; assign moral responsibility for the gross depredations and injustices perpetrated on Tulsa soil. If, and only if, we teach and learn about the Riot will we begin the process of reconciliation in earnest, recapture a lost sense of shared humanity, and create for posterity a community more open, inclusive and loving than the one in which we live today. We must incorporate this potent, painful, poignant legacy into the classroom in deliberate, systematic ways.

When we sanitize our past, we stifle our ability to analyze it intensively and critically
See a photo of a page from his book on Twitter.

Just this year is the local paper celebrating the teaching of this taboo subject in Tulsa's schools. But the subject is touchy and embarrassing, as it should be. As the first commenter on this article says, "Enough about the race riot. Start back reporting the current news."

History can and should make us uncomfortable when it reveals how people have treated people. But the causing of discomfort is not hate speech, it's an opportunity to heal, reconcile and grow. Those are not the goals of hate speech, which seeks to demean, divide, and diminish. For example a KKK meeting in Tulsa can talk about the Tulsa race riot in celebration, same history, different intent. Books and verse, whether historical or fictional, about this riot recalling the terror and the damage, retelling the stories and the losses, to generate sympathy for the victims by humanizing them is not hate speech. It's history with an intent to warn us about the wickedness that lurks in all of us.

Yesterday, I shared a poem on Facebook by the poet, Emily Joy. She also has a theology degree from the conservative Chicago Bible college, Moody. However, the poem I shared is critical of the conservative mantra, Love the Sinner and Hate the sin, in particular towards the LGBTQ community. I was told by an old friend that this poem was hateful and as bad as the hate speech she was critiquing. Yet she is telling true anecdotes of many interactions queer people have with conservative christians and parents. She is sharing the pain so that christians might realize the pain they are causing.

Parents of gay children who do the things Emily Joy writes about sometimes have deep regrets. These two Christian parents learned from their son he was gay and told him all the things Emily refers too. They loved him but gave him unloving doctrine in response. He died of an overdose a few years later. They want parents to know that the response to a child who comes out is to love them. Not love them the sinner, but love them "Just because he breathes." Both Emily Joy and these parents are sharing their pain and the pain of others. They want the unnecessary infliction of pain because of doctrine to stop. That is not hate speech. "When you do this it hurts" is important communication, not hate speech. It is not a violation of the golden rule of Jesus. In fact it is the fulfillment of it.

Jesus loves sinners. Jesus loves Turks and Armenians, Germans and Jews, whites and blacks and amerindians, straights and gays, pharisees and sinners. But he does have a problem with bullies and seeks to defend the bullied and brutalized. Using words to defend the bullied and marginalized is not hate speech. It's an act of love.

Monday, May 30, 2016

I am a conservative, white, American Christian

I am a conservative white christian and I fled Europe for religious freedom.

In 1635 I banished Roger Williams from Plymouth because he exercised religious freedom and thought differently. As St. Paul says, if anyone preaches a different gospel, let him be accursed.

In 1692-93 I supported the execution of 20 people, most of them women, for the crime of witchcraft.

I continually applied rules of property exchange to the indigenous tribes who did not operate in the same way. When they realized we were taking advantage of them, and subsequently lashed out at us, we killed their women, children, and old in places like Mystic Connecticut.

I converted the indigenous people to my Christian faith which necessarily included a culture that looked and acted like mine. But my fellow white American christians did not like living near them, so we gathered them into "praying towns." As we encroached on their homelands, we forced them farther away. When they didn't convert, we would enslave them and sell them to sugar plantations in the Caribbean.

I led revivals among fellow whites, who didn't know they were sinners in the hands of an angry God, holding them by a thread over a white hot fire, because that's what the Bible said. Meanwhile, I owned African men, women and children, because the Bible does not condemn slavery.

Religious liberals condemned slavery. They were deists, Quakers, unitarians, and even atheists. They had no Bible verses. In response to these liberals I made laws banning the unilateral freeing of slaves. I also made laws requiring escaped slaves to be returned. I fought a war of rebellion to protect my right to own fellow human beings. I joined in fasts and prayer vigils, asking God to deliver us from an oppressive federal government.

Communists and religious liberals argued for the right of employees to have rights to living wages, limited hours, days off, and age limits. The Bible does not support these things, especially when communists demand them. They are godless and anything they ask cannot be from God.

As slaves were freed and workers were allowed to make demands on employers, we started down a slippery slope. Soon everyone would want the same rights I as a conservative white American christian had. Unexpectedly, women demanded the right to vote. As St. Paul writes, women are easily deceived and cannot be trusted in such matters.

I refused to become political when black Americans also demanded to be treated equally. They did not like substandard schools, bus seats, voting restrictions, wages or criminal justice. I refused to march with them. As St. Paul says, God has placed our governments over us to keep order. They were disturbing the order. I would not get involved with them. Communists and Jews did. They are all Christ haters.

Women again wanted more rights. We let them vote and work with us, they did not want to stay home and raise children. They wanted equal pay for equal work. They wanted the right to make medical decisions about their own bodies. They wanted the right to divorce abusive spouses. God hates divorce. Feminists hate God.

Next on the slippery slope to godless communism, homosexuals demanded civil rights. It's clear from the writings of St. Paul that God hates fags. They are all going to hell for rejecting the ancient faith. If they are given equal rights God will judge our nation. We will become communist.

Then those gays wanted to have access to marriage contract rights. Well I wrote a constitutional amendment to defend heterosexual marriage. If I did not, God would judge the nation.

I told gay kids in my church they could not be gay. They had to repent. God would help them un-gay themselves.

Now trans kids would like to be accepted. I do not understand their thinking. It does not fit into my Biblical categories or favorite texts. So I will defer to my conservative approach. If it's new, it's wrong. I don't pay attention to those verses about making all things new or forgiveness for the whole world or their is neither male nor female, slave or free or the greatest of these is love. New things terrify a conservative christian male like myself. I prefer to drive in the passing lane, instead of meander on the margins of the road, looking for the wounded and injured.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Parable of the Fig Tree

I live in Connecticut where we have plenty of pick-your-own apple orchards to visit in the autumn. I love the crazy looking old trees like this one. They look like a lost cause, but the only reason they are around is because they can still pop out the fruit in season. These warped trees are especially fun when you can still put your kids on your shoulders to "help" you pick the fruit. However, these trees can also be fragile. This is not a tree I would let my helpers play on. The deformity does not prevent it from producing fruit, but the deformity does make it susceptible to damage. In other words, there is plenty of fruit to be had if we protect the tree from stresses that other trees could endure. Additionally, much of this tree's productivity would be limited if it were brought into conformity with how a tree should look like. To judge the tree and take a saw to it before it has an opportunity to demonstrate its fruit production would be foolish.

In Luke's gospel, chapter 13 Jesus tells a brief story about a fruit tree and patience.

Luke 13:6-9 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ 8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

My previous on treating our transgendered neighbors as equal human beings in need of some public accommodation generated a heated discussion on my Facebook account. It seemed to me that those who disagreed with my idea were those who saw their neighbors unacceptable to God as long as they lived out their transgender identities. Transgendered neighbors are expected to conform to their equipment and expected to repent of their sin of transgenderism and choose to not be transgender anymore by the grace of God (even though there is no proof text condemning transgenderism in the Bible that I know of). However, as @XianJaneway shared on Twitter, the church has an extremely high tolerance and patience for child molesters who look fine externally but bear mealy, wormy, poisonous and harmful fruit in their lives. The examples are practically new every day...the Catholic church moving rapist priests around, rapist missionary boarding school teachers, rapist pastors, pastors who defend predatory parishioners. All of them claim God's grace. And congregations will even give that grace, foolishly. The offenders know all the right words, dress all the right ways, help all the right people, but are socially dangerous people. Transgendered people are not dangerous. Even when they can say the right things, even when they can exhibit the good Christ like fruit of love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control, so many can't make time to wait and see.

I don't know about fig trees, but an apple tree around here can take up to five years before it starts to produce fruit. The church that demands branches sawn off to conform to what a tree should look like in their group, may miss out on an extremely abundant production of good fruit. "Ugly," non-nonconforming trees might be the most productive in the orchard if left to the Caretaker instead of the criticism of all the other trees.