Category Archives: Christians Gone Wild

Trump and the End of Evangelicals’ Moral High Ground

With the election now thankfully behind us, we can hopefully move forward, let the dust settle, and be thankful elections only come once every four years.  We can also reflect on the lessons learned from this presidential race.  And one of the biggest lessons that we’ve all learned is where Evangelical’s, Fundamentalist’s, and really most Christian’s loyalty really lies.  As Bill Maher so eloquently put it:

“Before leaving this election behind, we must all thank Donald Trump for the one good thing he did – he exposed Evangelicals, who are big Trump supporters, as the shameless hypocrites they’re always been.” 

That’s right.  Watching Christians in America throw themselves before the alter of the most vile, immoral, and bigoted presidential candidate this country has ever seen, exposed the world to the ugly underbelly American Christianity.  Those of us who were once part of the Evangelical ranks are all too familiar with what’s behind the “Jesus is Love!” facade found in most churches, but even we were a bit surprised at just how low they stooped this time.  Making decisions based on fear, ignorance, and tribal rules has always been the Religious Rights MO, but with Trump; they’ve taken it to a whole new level.

trump

 

I kept waiting for the shoe to drop.  I kept waiting for Trump to say something or do something that was so outlandish, so immoral, that Christians would finally wake up, see that this emperor has no clothes, and withdraw their support.  But, no.  A full 81% of white Evangelicals backed Trump this election, with other Christian denominations not faring much better.  Even the infamous “pussy grabbing” tapes weren’t enough to turn most Christians.

This election will certainly go down in history for a number of reasons, but there’s one in particular I want to talk about today.  After this election, Christians in America can no longer pretend to have a monopoly on morality.  They can no longer claim to be morally superior than those outside their tribe.  They no longer get to attempt to be societies “designated adults”.  Christians have lost any perceived higher ground they once had to judge how other people live out there lives.  This election has proven, once and for all, that when it comes to morals, most Christians don’t have a fucking clue what that word really means.

“This year much of the Church has been fully complicit in elevating to the highest levels of the political process, a man completely devoid of anything remotely representing Jesus, and passed him off as sufficiently Christian. Celebrity pastors and name-brand Evangelists have sold him as “a man after God’s own heart”, or at the very least a decidedly imperfect tool of Divine retribution in the style of the Old Testament—and they’ve repeatedly bastardized the Scriptures, insulted the intelligence of the faithful, and given the middle finger to the Gospel in order to do it.

And millions of Christians have held their noses and washed their hands while still trying to make their beds and cast their lots with the most openly vile, profane, hateful Presidential nominee in history. The desperate theological gymnastics and excuse making professed Bible-believing churchgoers have engaged in to try and justify it all has been the height of tragic comedy, with all the laughs coming at the expense of the Good News.” – John Pavlovit

And spare me the excuses – I don’t want to hear them.  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone trying to make excuses for Christians selling-out to Trump…

“They don’t really support Trump, they just think he’s the lesser of to evils.”  First of all, you don’t get to claim “two evils” when there where four fucking candidates on the ballet!  Secondly, I don’t care by what standard you measure “evil”; Trump wins by a landslide.  This goes especially for those who claim that they “live their lives according to Jesus”.  Can people honestly convince themselves that Trump in any way, shape, or form, is anything that even remotely resembles the life and teachings of Jesus?

Jesus healed the blind, Trump mocks the handicapped.

Jesus taught to turn the other cheek, Trump threatens to sue anyone who speaks badly of him.

Jesus loved his enemies, Trump wants to bomb their families.

Jesus taught not to look at a women with lust, Trump sexually assaults them.

Jesus taught to “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’”, Trump is a compulsive liar.

Jesus taught not to take up treasures on Earth, Trump is a greedy, corrupt billionaire.

Jesus cared for the poor and needy, Trump wants to kick them out of this country.

Jesus taught peace, Trump insights violence.

Another common excuse I hear is that people are voting for Trump because they believe he is “pro-life”.  Please.  Just because he has made baseless claims of appointing a SCOTUS judge who will overturn Roe vs Wade to pander to his gullible voting base, in no way makes him pro-life.  (Never mind the fact that it was a Republican SCOTUS that legalized abortion, and a Republican SCOTUS that upheld it in Planned Parenthood v. Casey)  “At the heart and core of what it means to be pro-life is a deep, unshakable belief, that all life has infinite worth and value,” writes Benjamin Corey, “and that this innate worth should be something we as a culture honor and value.”  Corey continues:

“Nothing about saying, “I like to just grab women by the pussy” reflects a view that all people have sacred value and that they should be honored.

Nothing about mocking people with physical disabilities says that a person holds a foundational belief that all life has worth and value.

Nothing about grabbing a woman and kissing her without consent, telling an employee that she’d “look really good down on her knees,” or saying that it’s hard for women with small breasts to be beautiful, tells us this is a man who believes that the image of God in others must be honored and protected.

Nothing about deporting the undocumented parents of U.S. born children, destroying family units and creating orphans, speaks to a foundational belief about the value of human life.

Nothing about advocating that we kill the entire families of suspected terrorists tells us that he believes that all life is sacred.

To claim that Donald Trump is pro-life is to say that one can belong to a movement without *actually* believing the foundational beliefs that a given movement is based upon.”

Christians are without excuse when it comes to their unwavering support of Donald Trump.  They can claim “lesser of two evils” and “pro-life” all they want, but the real reason Christians support Trump is pretty clear – they’re towing the party line.  The Evangelical church got into bed with the Political Right decades ago and it has been their primary source of “truth” ever since.   Having sold their souls to the Republican party, seemingly intelligent, well meaning Christians all over America voted for a man that is the polar opposite of everything they claim their religion to be about.

So, from now on, whenever a Christian chimes into a discussion regarding social and political issues and wants to claim that they have the all answer, or the “TRUTH”,  because they read the Bible, follow Jesus, go to church, whatever; you can politely remind them that if they supported Trump, they no longer get to claim they have a superior moral standing than anyone else.

Pavlovitz writes in his article 7 Things Christians Are Giving Up By Supporting Donald Trump:  Christian no longer get to talk about “family values” or the “sanctity of marriage” “after supporting a candidate currently on marriage number three, one with a documented history of infidelity. Their continued efforts to deny LGBT people a single marriage on the basis of protecting supposed God’s ordained one man-one woman standard, ring noticeably hollow as they tolerate Trump’s trinity of ever-younger spouses.”

Christians no longer get to claim to be “pro-life” after supporting a candidate who, with his open racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and his contempt for immigrants and the working poor, Donald Trump has shown contempt for a great swath of Humanity. Advocating for him to preside over all the laws of our country and all of its people, is not a gesture that honors life beyond the most narrow definition of it. It becomes more about politics and semantics than defending the living.”

No longer do they get to police people’s “sinful behavior” as societies designated adults.  One of Evangelicals favorite pastimes is evaluating the conduct of other people and measuring their moral worth accordingly. Celebrity preachers and ordinary pew-sitters like to pull-quote Jesus and demand to see “the fruit” in the lives of others as conformation that they are people of Jesus, that they have sufficiently repented, that they indeed have been born again: the proof is in the pudding. To then rationalize away the orchards of rotten fruit in Donald Trump’s personal and business history by saying ‘God looks at the heart’ and warning those who bring these things up by chastising them ‘not to judge’, puts them on really shaky ground and gives them zero credibility to ever critique anyone else again.”  

And finally, no longer do Christians get to ask atheist, agnostics, and “nones” where we get our morals from.  No longer do they get to claim, “No God, no morality!”.  We have all seen what the Evangelical standards for morality are and just how far they are willing to go to excuse one of their own’s behavior, no matter how deplorable it is.  You don’t get to question where my morals come from while supporting a man like Donald Trump.

This election is yet another reminder of why this country needs to become one based on secular principles, not religious.  Secular countries surpass the US in just about every category that matters.  The Religious Right has been the sole obstacle to social progress for far too long.  Let’s hope that this election marks the turning point, where religion starts to loose its power and influence over society and politics.  Want to “Make America Great Again”?  Start by getting religion out of politics.

Thanks for reading.

 

Evangelicals’ Reaction to Orlando: Too Little, Too Late

Like everyone else, I was shocked and appalled at what has become the largest mass shooting in recent US history.  A single gunman carrying an assault rifle opened fire in a crowded Orlando night club, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others.  The night club, Pulse, was known as one of the largest LGBT-friendly bars in the area, and all evidence points towards this being a hate crime against LGBTs.

As news spread about the incident, a public outpouring of sympathy came from across the globe.  People were desperate for answers, and when news came out that the shooter was an ISIS sympathizer, it was quickly labeled as an “act of terror” and dismissed by many as yet another sign of the growing problem of Islam in America.

Most shocking to me and many others was the outpouring of grief from Evangelical Christians.  Social media was filled with the same useless platitudes of “thoughts and prayers” being offered for the victims of Orlando.  (Some couldn’t even bring themselves to do that, so entranced in their homophobia, they instead prayed for the doctors of the Orlando hospitals instead.)  The same group of people who have been solely responsible for the horrible treatment of LGBTs in the US for the last several decades are now, of all times, suddenly shocked over the persecution of LGBTs.

Well, I have a few things to say about that.

Evangelicals have spent the last several decades doing everything in their power to marginalize and oppress LGBTs.

Christians spent millions opposing same-sex marriage.

In 2015, more than 115 anti-LGBT bills were introduced in at least 31 states.

This year has seen a wave of anti-trans “bathroom bills” sweeping across the country.

American Evangelicals initiated and spent millions of dollars trying to pass Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” bill that would have made homosexuality punishable by death.

Evangelicals and other Christians continue to send kids to “pray the gay away” camps which are not only ineffective (and illegal in many states), but often leave permanent psychological damage.

So, when Evangelicals try to feign innocence in what has become one of the most tragic examples of persecution against LGBTs, you can see why I’m throwing the bullshit flag.  Every major Christian media site is trying to play this of as a problem of “radical Islam” and completely ignoring their own history of “radical Christian” discrimination against LGBTs.  Evangelicals don’t get to sweep this incident under the rug as a “Muslim problem” – this is a hate problem; and Evangelicals are just as culpable as anyone else for spreading hatred and intolerance towards LGBTs.   I have no doubt that if the shooter had been a Christian, it wouldn’t have made any difference; Evangelicals would simply claim that “he wasn’t a TRUE CHRISTIAN!”.  This crime is a result of hatred for a minority group that has long been victimized by Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, yet suddenly they want to pretend that this incident has nothing to do with them and claim innocence.  Like an abusive husband being concerned when his wife gets in an accident, they want to suddenly pretend that have a heart for the LGBT community.

Well, I’m not buying it.

The only reason we are suddenly seeing an outpouring of sympathy and prayers is because of how public and brutal this attack was.  LGBTs have been dying for decades as a result of hate and discrimination, but it’s only now that people are paying attention.

I didn’t hear Evangelicals lamenting over the 1,500 LGBTs that commit suicide last year.

I don’t hear them lamenting over the all the hate crimes committed against LGBTs every year here in America.

I don’t hear them lamenting over the thousands of LGBTs killed in Africa as a result of the hate brought there by American pastors and missionaries.

Many people have deluded themselves into pretending that their level of discrimination is somehow better than what happened in Orlando, because “at least we’re not going around shooting gay people!”  That’s because Evangelicals don’t have to go on shooting rampages – they just make life so fucking miserable for LGBTs that they take their own lives.  Evangelicals don’t get to denounce the Koran/Islam and its teachings while pretending their views are any less deplorable.  As Benjamin Corey puts it: “Yes, they are correct to denounce the evil that led to such a horrific massacre. But no, they don’t have a moral or ideological alternative that gives them a moral high ground that’s perched high enough to pretend their religious views are all that better.”

gunman

Coming from an unlikely source, Jen Hatmaker sums it up perfectly (emphasis mine):

It is very difficult to accept the Christian lament for LGBTQ folks in their deaths when we’ve done such a brutal job of honoring them in their lives. It kind of feels like:

“We don’t like you, we don’t support you, we think you are a mess, we don’t agree with you, we don’t welcome you, we don’t approve of you, we don’t listen to you, we don’t affirm you. But please accept our comfort and kind words this week.”

Anti-LGBTQ sentiment has paved a long runway to hate crimes. When the gay community is denied civil liberties and respect and dignity, when we make gay jokes, when we say ‘that’s so gay’, when we turn our noses up or down, when we qualify every solitary statement of love with a caveat of disapproval, when we consistently disavow everything about the LGBTQ community, we create a culture ripe for hate. We are complicit.

We cannot with any integrity honor in death those we failed to honor in life.

Can you see why the Christian outpouring of compassion toward Orlando feels so disingenuous? It seems like the only harm toward the LGBTQ community that will overcome Christian disapproval is a mass murder. We grieve not publicly for your dehumanization, suicide rates (individual deaths have failed to move us), excommunications, denial of liberties, hate crimes against you, religious exclusion, constant shame beatdown.

Christian love has yet to outpace Christian disdain.

Perhaps instead of saying “we’re sad” this week, we should begin with “we’re sorry.”

Not: We’re sorry but…
Not: We’re sorry if…
Not: We’re sorry as long as…

Just: We’re sorry. Full stop.

Someone on Facebook was upset that I was “dragging Christians” into this.  Here’s the thing: I wouldn’t be needing to write any of this if Christians, by and large, had had actually shown some genuine care and concern for the LGBT population.  If they hadn’t spent years doing everything short of gunning down gays in a club to show how much they hate and revile anyone whose sexual orientation isn’t 100% straight.  If they had actually been allies; in their corner, as they fought for equal rights instead of being the ones they had to fight against.

If Christians truly care, and are horrified by what happened in Orlando, then STOP with all this bullshit about homosexuality being a “sin.” Stop treating LGBTs as people who are “broken” and need to be made straight.  Stop supporting “religious freedom” bills.  Stop standing in the way of anti-discrimination laws.  Stop pretending you are innocent in all this, and just admit that you were wrong. 

And then start treating LGBTs as normal human beings.

I truly hope that this will be a wake up call to this country that all of this anti-LGBT bullshit needs to stop – that beliefs lead to actions, often with disastrous results.  I hope that “Remember Orlando!” becomes a rally cry anytime some Bigot-for-Jesus takes to the media to de-humanize LGBTs, or some Republican tries passing yet another anti-LGBT bill.

Yeah, you’re damn right I’m pissed off…

 

 

False Hope on the Streets

Coming back from the Farmer’s Market this past weekend, I drove through downtown Sioux Falls and noticed something unusual going on outside the brewery I work at.  There were people setting up chairs and a PA system on the sidewalk.  The chairs were set up facing the street and spaced about three feet apart, as if they were intended for someone watching a parade.  Later that day, when I went into work, I found out what the chairs were for:

This is a group known as Healing On The Streets (HOTS).  You can read about HOTS on their website, but the main thing you need to know is that they believe they can heal people through prayer and put on events like this one on a regular bases.  From the local chapter’s website:

“It’s simple really.  We invite people to sit on chairs so we can pray for them.  We believe God LOVES YOU and CAN HEAL you… from back or neck pain, arthritis, depression, chronic pain, sleeping problems, allergies, headaches, smoking, addictions, walking difficulties, lung problems, anxiety, digestive problems, chest pain, or any other physical or emotional condition.”

HOTS is an international group, with franchises mostly in the US and in Europe.  The franchises are formed from members of various local churches.  They pick a time and a date for their event and advertise for it.  On the selected date they meet in the morning for training and then hit the streets and start praying.

So here’s my issue – HOTS is offering false hope to people who may likely have serious medical issues.  They are making claims regarding medical issues that they are not qualified to address.  They are offering a one-size-fits-all cure for a myriad of medical conditions that require a specific, medical treatment.  HOTS is nothing more then the modern-day version of a snake-oil salesman.

Now, I don’t believe the people who volunteer for HOTS are being intentionally deceptive or trying to con anyone.  They state in their advertisements that the events are free, make no guarantees, and I’m sure they genuinely believe that what they are doing is making a difference.  But the sincerity of a belief does not have any bearing on the validity of that belief.

There is no empirical evidence that prayer or “faith healing” actually works.  People have been studying the effects of intercessory prayer since the 1800’s.  To date, these studies have shown that prayer has no profound effect on the people being prayed for. In some cases, prayer has been shown to actually have a negative effect when people know they are being prayed for.

Beside not asking for money, I’m not seeing how HOTS programs are any less deceptive then the “faith healers” movement; a movement that has been thoroughly exposed as fraudulent, yet still continues to this day.  In fact, a little digging shows HOTS founder Mark Marx using one of the oldest tricks in the book for faith healers:

At the 4:30 mark in this video, illusionist Darren Brown demonstrates how this “miracle” is performed and shows that it is nothing more then a common side-show trick:

I’m not the first one to notice Marx’s deceptive tactics.  A fellow blogger has pointed out the inconsistencies (here and here) in these “miracles”.  Unlike the noted blogger, however, I make no reservations about calling Marx a fraud who is attempting to capitalize on people’s desperation and gullibility to make a lucrative business.   

Concerns have also been raised regarding HOTS in Europe.  In 2012, the group was banned from claiming it can heal people in the UK, after concerns were expressed that their claims could give scores of terminally-ill people false hope.  NHS Tayside, a healthcare provider in Scotland, warned the public about HOTS when they hit the streets in 2013, urging people with medical conditions to go directly to their GP for diagnosis and treatment.

So what’s the harm, you say?  What’s the harm in people coming out and being prayed over with the expectation that it will cure what ails them?  What’s wrong with a little hope?  The harm is that despite HOTS warnings*, many people do ignore medical treatment in favor of prayer, often with disastrous consequences.  Like the case of Zachery Swezey; a 17 year-old high school student who got appendicitis, but his parents believed in the power of prayer over the wisdom of medical experts. So, instead of going to the hospital, his parents stood over and watched him die.  Or the case of Alex Jacobsen; a mentally-ill man who attempted suicide after a faith-based treatment center replaced his medication with prayers and Bible study.  Or the case of Mariah Walton, a 20-year-old who suffers from pulmonary hypertension, a condition that doctors could have prevented if her parents had chosen to take her to a doctor.  Instead they chose to pray over her and rub olive oil over her body.  Walton is now mostly bedridden and has to carry an oxygen tank everywhere she goes.  Cases like this are unfortunately all too frequent, with examples popping up almost weekly.

So what is one to make, then, of the stories you hear of people being miraculously cured by prayer?  Simple.  It’s known as the placebo effect – a fake treatment that can sometimes improve a patient’s condition simply because the person has the expectation that it will be helpful.  There’s nothing mysterious or supernatural going on here; the placebo effect is a well-documented natural occurrence, and has even been well documented in cases of “faith healing”.  This can become problematic, because while a placebo effect may give temporary relief to certain symptoms of a medical condition (such as relieving pain), there’s no strong evidence that it can cure the underlying issue.  If the issues go untreated, it can lead to severe problems, as the examples above demonstrate.

I realize that prayer is one of the foundations of most religions and is not going away anytime soon.  However, I wish people would quit allowing themselves to be duped by frauds offering snake-oil cures for serious conditions.  I wish people would quit believing prayer is a reasonable solution to real problems.  And I really wish these well meaning, but delusional folks would stop giving false hope to those who have already suffered enough.  Thanks for reading.

 

*At the bottom of the cards that HOTS hands out, there is a warning in small print which reads, “We encourage everyone so seek treatment for conditions for which medical advice should be sought.  If you are on any medications, STAY on it.  Under NO circumstances should you stop doing anything a medical professional or counselor has advised.”  I can’t say whether this same warning is verbalized during gatherings.

 

 

 

 

 

Things Christians Say (that are nowhere in the Bible)

Anyone who has ever engaged with Christians either in-person or on social media will know that there are certain catch-phrases that often get thrown around as a way of trying to win a debate.  These statements are usually meant to be conversation stoppers – a way of “dropping the mic” and acknowledging that they are no longer interested in anything else the other person has to say.  Having been taught that there is “power in the Word”, many Christians believe that these little one-liners have the power to actually change people’s hearts and minds.  Like magical spells, many believers honestly think that simply quoting Bible references will have some supernatural impact on others around them.

I’ll set aside just how absurd this notion is for now.  Today I want to focus on whether or not some of these saying are truly “Biblical”.  Are these concepts that can be found in the Bible or are they merely a product of modern Evangelical culture?  We’re going to examine a few of the more common statements that one hears in Christian culture and the validity of these statements as it pertains to the Bible.

“God helps those who help themselves”

While sounding like something one would find in Proverbs, this little gem can be found exactly zero times in the Bible.  Some have tried to argue that 2 Thes 3:10 and James 4:8 support this saying, but those are both a bit of a stretch.  In fact, this saying originated in ancient Greece, but is most commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

I see this verse most often used as an excuse not to help someone in need.  It usually looks something like this:  Tony is down on his luck and needs some assistance, so he asks Becky for help.  Becky doesn’t think that Tony is doing everything he can to better his situation; therefore she isn’t obligated to help.  Because if God isn’t going to help those who help themselves, why should she?

I also see this excuse used on a larger scale when dealing with social welfare issues.  It’s simply a more “Christian” way of saying, “Just go get a job, you lazy bum!”  Ironically, in the Bible God seems to show up and help those who can’t help themselves, but must turn to Him for help.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin”

This saying is a favorite among Christians and can be used in a multitude of situations, but is most often used in reference to homosexuality, or really any issue regarding sexuality or gender.  The basic idea is that you can still love a person, but disprove of what they do.  Sounds OK in theory, but in reality, it’s nothing more then an excuse to judge other people, which we’ll get to in a minute.  First, let’s state what shouldn’t need stating:  this “verse” appears nowhere in the Bible.

When the Bible doesn’t contain the verses necessary to back their worldview, apologists’ favorite trick is to simply cut-and-paste different verses together to come up with Frankenstein-esque “verses” like “love the sinner, hate the sin.”  This sort of word-smithing allows Christians to claim that their favorite excuse to judge people is taught in principle in the Bible.

As I’ve already stated, LTSHTS is nothing more then a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for Christians wanting to look down their noses at others and judge them for any actions, behaviors or lifestyles they don’t agree with.  They can try to disguise their contempt under the banner of “love” all they want, but you can’t fully love someone while simultaneously looking down on them.  John Pavlovitz wrote a great article on this topic, calling this saying an “abomination”, stating that; Rarely in history has there been a greater mischaracterization of the heart of Jesus or a more egregious bastardization of the Bible than these six words.  The damage that LTSHTS has done in the lives of billions of people and to the public perception of Christians can never be fully calculated, but one thing is certainly true: it’s an embarrassment and a sin and a total abomination.”  

 “The Bible is the inerrant Word of God”

I was at a Christmas pageant recently where the kids were telling the Christmas story we’re all familiar with.  I was a little surprised to see one kid playing the “skeptic”.  Every so often, after another child relayed a part of the story, the “skeptic” would chime in and say, “But how do you know that’s true?”  To which the other kids would reply, “The B-I-B-L-E!”  I wanted to go up to the kid afterwards and ask him, “But how do you know the B-I-B-L-E is true?”

It’s inevitable that any discussion with a Christian about any subject is going to come down to them quoting Scripture, yet when asked how someone knows that what Bible says is true, or inerrant, the answer is almost always, “Because it says so in the Bible”.

First of all, this is a circular argument, and completely illogical.  But, does the Bible, in fact, claim that the contents contained within it are completely factual and accurate in every way?

The answer is no – it doesn’t make this claim anywhere in the Bible.  The verse I most often hear cited as evidence is 2 Tim 3:16,

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

There are a few problems here.  First, the word “Scripture” does not refer to the Bible, as we know it today, it is most likely referring to the Torah.  The Bible would not become compiled and canonized for another three centuries.  Second, saying that something is “breathed out by God” (some translations say “inspired”) is not the same thing as the literal Word of God.  Lastly, in no way does “profitable” (or useful) mean the same thing as inerrant.

The idea of the Bible being inerrant is purely human fabrication, and it doesn’t take a Bible scholar to notice the thousands of errors, inconsistencies, contradictions, and scientific errors found in its pages.  It’s unclear when this idea was first introduced, but it didn’t become popular until the late 19th century with the rise of Christian Fundamentalism.  It still remains dominant in Fundamental and Evangelical circles, and has been used to propagate and justify all manner of deplorable behaviors by Christians.

“The Earth is only 6,000 years old”

Creationists love to claim that they derive their belief in a young-earth from the Bible.  Next time someone tells you that the Earth is only 6,000 years old “because the Bible says”, ask him or her to cite the chapter and verse and see what he or she says.

The age of the earth is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible.  Even if one where to take a literal view of the seven-day creation story, that tells us nothing about how long ago that happened.  The young-earth view, in fact, comes not from the any specific Bible reference (and certainly not from science), but from an analysis by 17th century scholars of the Biblical genealogies found in Genesis, Exodus, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles.  Basically, they used the genealogy in the Bible to create a timeline of the Earth.  There are several problems with this methodology.  First, it assumes that the people recorded in the Bible were the only humans in existence, not accounting for any other civilizations, or civilizations that came before.  Second, different translation of the Bible cite different ages and dates than others.  And most importantly, humans have never lived for hundreds of years as the Bible claims.  Life expectancy during Biblical times was shorter, not longer, then what it is today.

This isn’t time or space to get into all the reasons why young-earth Creationism is harmful, but there are many articles out there discussing the dangers of Creationism on children, educationsociety as a whole, and even its own religion.   I’ve also written before about why science-denialism hurts everyone.

“Marriage is between one man, and one woman”

Everyone has heard this one.  It’s the battle-cry for those who believe that it’s not only acceptable, but mandated by God, to deny LGBTs the same civil liberties that everyone else has.  The Bible says many things about marriage, but it being solely between one man and one woman is not one of them.

If we were to base the institution of marriage on “Biblical values”, then it would be permissible to have multiple wives, to have wives and concubines (i.e. sex slaves and breeding stock), to have sex with your wife’s servant, to marry the women you rape, and to take virgin women as spoils of war.  But, just make sure whatever women you marry is a virgin, or else she needs to be put to death.

Really, the only verse in the Bible that hints at a so-called “traditional marriage” is found in Titus 1:6, where the qualifications for elders, or overseers, of the church are laid out: “If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination…”

This may seem like an odd requirement to modern readers, but in the 1st century Middle East, it was quite common for both Jews and Gentiles to have multiple wives.  Regardless, this verse only addresses “elders” and says nothing of lay people, and certainly nothing of society as a whole.

“Abortion is a sin/murder/against God’s will”

I thought about making this its own post, but will include it here and try to make it short.  I have no doubt that this is going to spark the strongest reaction.  Abortion is undoubtedly one of the hot-button topics in society today, and Christians have spent millions of dollars trying to make it illegal.  Undoubtedly, those who find abortion morally wrong will cite their religious convictions and/or the Bible as the reason for opposing it.  But, what does the Bible actually say about abortion?

It won’t take long for most to realize that the word “abortion” doesn’t appear anywhere in the Bible, nor does it give any specific commandment one way or another on the issue.  The first objection (and usually only) argument most will give is that “abortion in murder, and murder is clearly wrong according to the Bible!”  This argument is almost entirely based on the notion that an zygotes and embryos are the same as humans, therefore to terminate one is the same as terminating an actual human.  This argument stems from a lack of understanding of biology and personal bias.  But what of the claim of abortion being murder?

If one were to try and find a clear outline as to what defines “murder”, the Bible would be the last place to look.  In the Bible, especially the OT, we see a complete disregard for life, with the murder killing of countless people, including children.  Abraham is asked by God to kill his only son to test him (Gen 22), the Israelite are commanded to commit genocide of whole races, including children (Deut 2:34, Deut 7:2, Deut 20:16-17, Deut 32:23-26, Numbers 31:17-18), God had 42 children killed by a bear for mocking Elisha (2 Kings 2:23-24), Israel was told to sacrifice their first-born, both animal and human to God, (Exodus 13:1-2), Jephthah sacrifices his only daughter to God after winning a battle (Judges 11:29-40), and God has thousand of his own people killed for such petty things as complaining about the food (Numbers 11:1-35, Numbers 21:4-9), wanting to go back to Egypt, not liking the boss (Numbers 16:27-32), those who followed those not liking the boss (Numbers 16:35), complaining about God killing those who didn’t like the boss and their followers(Numbers 16:49), and looking at the Arc of the Covenant (1 Sam 6:19).  And let’s not forget how “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” (Psalm 137:9)

The above passages clearly demonstrate that our modern definition of murder is considerably different (and more civilized and humane) than in biblical times.  A reading of the OT laws shows that killing another human was only considered “murder” if that other human was an Israelite (or “sojourner” living on their land).  But what about children?

It’s important to note, that under Jewish law, life does not begin until birth.  In Exodus 21:22, the law states that if a pregnant women is hurt in an altercation between two men and looses her baby, the man who struck her will be punished in whatever way is seen fit by the husband and the judge.  The man, however, is not put to death, as would be the case if the woman was killed (Exodus 21:23).  Just to reiterate – if the unborn child died it was not considered murder.

Children under a month old appear to not have any worth in ancient Israel.  They were not included in censuses (Numbers 3:15) and were not given any monetary value (Lev 27:6).   There is also the horrific fact of parents being commanded to kill their own children for things like being disobedient (Deut 21:18-21), cursing their parents (Lev 20:9) or suggesting worshiping a different god (Deut 13:6-11).  In the book of Hosea, we read that God will cause women to miscarry (9:14) and kill any children that are born (9:16) if Israel does not repent.  Samaria, too, will feel God’s wrath as “their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.” (13:16)

The other popular argument against abortion are the verses in the Bible which describe a child being made in a womb (Job 31:15, Psalm 139:13, Jer. 1:5, etc.)  The argument goes that because God “knit” humans together in the womb, this suggests that the life in that womb is sacred.  All these verses demonstrate is that the authors had a very basis understanding of human development.  Ancient cultures understood that if a seed was placed in ground, the ground would nurture it, and a plant would come forth.  A similar understanding was assigned to humans – a man places his “seed” into a women, the women carries and nurtures the seed, and a child comes out.  None of these verses say anything of the intrinsic value placed on the “seed” in the womb.  The verses I shared above  however, do give us an understanding of when it was thought life began, and it wasn’t in the womb.  Reading the “womb verses” as evidence against abortion is an example of people extracting their own meaning and understand from the Bible and failing to place it in the context of the larger narrative. 

If abortion being murder is a Biblical concept, then it was only very recently that anyone became aware of it.  In fact, this “Biblical” view is younger than the Happy Meal.  The truth is, Christians were largely indifferent about abortion until the 70’s, when right-wing politics got in bed with Evangelicals and made it an issue.  Many denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention, supported it.  And far from being an issue of morality, abortion was used by right-wing politicians as a means to an end for what they considered a much bigger issue – protecting segregated schools.

One of the important aspects of critical thinking is the careful evaluation of truth-claims.  It is important for people to realize where their knowledge comes from and what the roots are of long-held beliefs.  Hopefully I have demonstrated how easily it can be for someone to claim something that has the illusion of bearing weight, when in reality it rings hollow.  We all have our favorite bag of tricks that we like to employ in an argument, but we, both believers and non-believers, must always be mindful of the validity our own “tricks” or truth claims, and scrupulously evaluate them for accuracy.  There’s a lot of bullshit out there – let’s make sure we’re not contributing to the stench.  Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

 A team of physicists announced on Thursday that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prophecy of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

The faint rising tone, physicists say, is the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago.  And it is confirmation of the nature of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits from which not even light can escape, which were the most foreboding (and unwelcome) part of his theory.  More generally, it means that scientists have finally tapped into the deepest register of physical reality, where the weirdest and wildest implications of Einstein’s universe become manifest.  The observation signals the opening of a new window on to the universe.

“This is transformational,” said Prof Alberto Vecchio, of the University of Birmingham, and one of the researchers at Ligo. “We have observed the universe through light so far. But we can only see part of what happens in the universe. Gravitational waves carry completely different information about phenomena in the universe. So we have opened a new way of listening to a broadcasting channel which will allow us to discover phenomena we have never seen before,” he said.

Prof Neil Turok, director the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics at Waterloo in Canada, and a former research colleague of Prof Stephen Hawking, called the discovery “the real deal, one of those breakthrough moments in science”.

“For me the most exciting thing is we will literally be able to see the big bang. Using electromagnetic waves we cannot see further back than 400,000 years after the big bang. The early universe was opaque to light. It is not opaque to gravitational waves. It is completely transparent.  So literally, by gathering gravitational waves we will be able to see exactly what happened at the initial singularity. The most weird and wonderful prediction of Einstein’s theory was that everything came out of a single event: the big bang singularity. And we will be able to see what happened.”

This is truly a remarkable discovery and a real win for humanity.  Science has once again made a huge advance in out understanding of the world and universe that we live in.   With the possibility of  being able to learn more about the beginning of the universe itself, or even the possible existence of other universes, Feb 11, 2016 may very well go down in history as a day to remember.

Meanwhile, in my home state of South Dakota…

House of Representatives advanced a measure that would allow people or organizations to discriminate against same-sex couples, unmarried pregnant women, or transgender people without jeopardizing state contracts or employment.

The measure would prohibit the state from retaliating against people who voice beliefs that marriage should be exclusively between one man and one woman, that sexual intercourse should only occur between married couples and that gender is determined by biological sex at birth.  People who express such beliefs would be protected from termination of employment or enrollment, loss of funding, accreditation or tax exemption in some cases, or termination of state contracts.

The bill’s sponsor is Rep. Scott Craig, a fundamentalist pastor,”The real victims of intolerance and discrimination in our day are those who conduct their lives according to a belief regarding marriage and human sexuality,” Craig said.  “Our founding fathers never intended erotic freedom to trump religious freedom.”


 

While science was busy attempting to detect a signal that required them to be able to measure a periodic difference in the length between two 2.5 mile long tunnels by a distance of less than one ten-thousandth the size of a single proton (The equivalent to measuring the distance between the earth and the nearest star with an accuracy of the width of a human hair), radical Christians were busy obtaining the legal right to discriminate against other people.

Unbelievable…

Toxic religion continues to be the anchor that slows down the ship of social progress.  This past week was an apt demonstration of just how far apart (and incompatible) science and fundamentalist religions are.

What would happen if people spend as much effort and money on science as they do trying to legislate bigotry?

Can you image the breakthroughs we could achieve?

Thanks for reading.

 

American Evangelical’s Real Source of “Truth”

“Sure, we used the prayer breakfasts and church services and all that for political ends.  One of my jobs in the White House was to romance religious leaders.  We would bring them into the White House and they would be dazzled by the aura of the Oval Office, and I found them to be about the most pliable of any of the special interest groups  that we worked with.”

The above quote is from Richard Nixon’s “hatchet man”, Charles Colson, discussing how the Sunday services at the White House were set up during the Nixon’s term as President.  Billy Graham and other faith leaders had helped get Nixon elected, and his administration was all too happy to exploit the Church for it’s own political purposes.

I’ve spoken at length before about the many reasons why I de-converted from Christianity.  As I’ve attested, there was no “ah-ha!” moment for me that started the ball rolling down the hill, but there were certainly tremors that kept getting stronger the more I learned and experienced.  One of the biggest such tremors for me was the stark realization that Evangelical Christians in America today are far more influenced by politics than by the teachings of Jesus.

From big business leaders enlisting clergymen in their war against Roosevelt’s New Deal, to the Bush administration using it’s “play-to-the-base” plan to exploit the concerns of the religious right for electoral gain, the Church of America has a long history of being odd bedfellows with big business and politics, using each other for their own gain.

The line between politics and religion have become so blurred over the last eight decades, that it is nearly impossible to discern what came from where.

And the vast majority of Christians can’t make the distinction.

They will adamantly insist that their views comes from the Bible, and that it’s merely a coincidence that their favorite political party and/or politician happens to espouse the same views.  Yet, they seem to completely illiterate to the teaching of the man they claim to follow, who stood against many of the positions they so boldly stand on.

Books like Greg Boyd’s The Myth of the Christian Nation, Jim Wallis’s God’s Politics, Shane Claiborne’s Jesus for President, and Kevin M. Kruse’s One Nation Under God all paint an accurate picture of the influence right-wing politics have had on the Church – and the negative repercussions of this merger.

Zack Hunt wrote an article that I thought articulated this point well.  The subject of the article is on John Piper and his hypocritical stance on socialism, but my focus is on what Zack has to say in regards to Christians and politics:

What I do know is Piper is not alone in his ability to ignore the obvious when it comes to contradictions between his faith and politics. If anything, his inconsistency is emblematic of American Christianity and American evangelism in particular.

From immigration and gun control to healthcare and caring for the poor, American Christianity has become synonymous with its ability or willingness or even zeal for turning a blind eye to the egregious ways in which our political convictions contradict the faith we confess.

Like Piper, we go to astonishing lengths to twist and contort and ignore scripture until it becomes a sanctified prooftext for American capitalism. So much so, that simply raising questions about the negative effects capitalism can and does have on the poor (to say nothing of a whole host of other political issues) is akin to the worst sort of heresy.

Our faith has been baptized in the waters of capitalism, refined in the fire of American patriotism, and somehow we either don’t realize it or simply don’t care.

God help us all.

Zack perfectly outlines one of the many reasons I believe American Evangelicalism is, by and large, a hypocritical and toxic institution – it claims to base its views solely on the Bible while parroting right-wing ideology and conservative soundbites.  It continues to use the Bible as justification for war, violence, discrimination, intolerance, and fear-mongering while ignoring the central tenets of Jesus’s message.   

Rather then take ownership of their ignorance, dualism, and bigotry, many Evangelicals will throw their hands up in the air and loudly proclaim, “Hey, these aren’t my opinions, these are GOD’S OPINIONS – I’m just abiding by them!”

And the politicians are laughing all the way to the White House.

I’m happy to see more progressive and enlightened people of faith like Zack speaking out against the double-speak preached from the pulpit and media alike.  Sadly thought, they seem to be in the minority.  I’m sure there are many other Christians who have similar feelings, but because of the tribalistic nature of their religion, are too afraid to speak out.  But, there is reason to hopeful.

The younger generation has taken a notice to this disconnect as well.  Both non-believers and Christians alike have cited the Church’s heavy insolvent in politics as an unfavorable quality.  Phil Zuckerman, in his book Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion, cited “the use of religion as a tool of political power” as one of the most common reasons people left their religion.

Whether it’s people of faith realizing the hypocrisy of a religion thathas been baptized in the waters of capitalism”, or people walking away from faith all together, I’m hopeful that there will come a time when Christians in America loose their power, privilege, and influence in politics, and society as a whole.  This country will be all the better for it.

Thanks for reading.

BLC

 

When Stupid Goes Mainstream

On Jan 26, the Texas Grand Jury cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrong doing after a two month long investigation that was spurred by secretly-recorded videos that came to light last year.  Surprisingly, the men responsible for the videos, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, were indicted on numerous charges.  These videos, released by a then unknown company Center for Medical Progress, purportedly proved Planned Parenthood was in the business of selling baby parts for profit.

When the first of several videos was released last year, all hell broke loose amongst Christians, right-wing politicians, and anti-abortion groups.  Finally, the smoking gun they had all been looking for!  Yet, all was not as it seemed.  The videos seemed a little too good to be true.

In the weeks that followed it was confirmed that the videos were heavily doctored and edited propaganda pieces.   The Center for Medical Progress was found to have ties to radical anti-abortion groups that were hellbent on smearing Planned Parenthood by any means necessary.  Nearly a dozen states had launched formal investigations to see if there was any wrong doing on Planned Parenthood’s part.  They were cleared in every instance.

Yet, none of these facts were enough to stop or even slow down the shit-storm conservatives had brewed up over the issue.  Social media was filled with outrage over the videos, with each new one sparking more fervor.  Evidence of doctoring and CMPs corruption were dismissed outright.  Prominent figures were also caught up in the whirlwind of self-righteous anger.  Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina uses the videos as talking points in her speeches and Ted Cruz is still vowing to defund Planned Parenthood on his website.  Just last month, everyone’s favorite Bigot for Jesus, Franklin Graham was still spreading the lie that Planned Parenthood was selling body parts.

Despite the decision of the Texas Supreme Court, which is almost certainly the final nail in the coffin over the issue, GOP candidates are still doubling-down on their opposition of Planned Parenthood.  A petition was being posted online to urging that charges be dropped against Daleiden and investigations of Planned Parenthood continue.  The petition garnered more than 40,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.  People in both religious and political camps are livid over what they consider an “injustice”, despite the fact that the videos were proven to be fraudulent, the makers of the videos being charged, and Planned Parenthood having never broken any laws.

The Planned Parenthood fiasco is a prime example of what happens when critical thinking goes out the window in favor of emotional outrage and confirmation bias.  It’s what happens when ignorance is treated as a virtue, and when one’s opinions and “strongly held beliefs” are elevated above facts and evidence.   One can understand the emotional reactions to the first video that was released – people candidly talking about things that some may find off-putting (despite that it did not depict anything illegal).  But what followed was simply inexcusable.  As Zack Hunt stated in his recent post on the subject,

“…gullibility and ignorance may have been passable excuses in the beginning and if the news from Texas was the first report we had revealing that the Center for Medical Progress videos were bogus, then this would simply be an embarrassing case of being wrong. But month after month as investigation after investigation cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing, the continual denouncement of Planned Parenthood as traffickers of baby parts stopped being misguided and became willful participation in a wholesale lie.” 

For whatever reason, critical thinking has become a rare thing in our society.  People being able to make choices or form opinions that are well informed, evidence based, and free of personal bias are like unicorns these days.  We’ve all been guilty of falling for some sensationalized news story, but most people have at least some form of a bullshit-detector that keeps them for falling for the really outlandish stories.

Once upon a time, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and paranormal claims were largely dismissed by society, given only a passing glance for entertainment purposes.  People who believed in things like government conspiracies and alien abduction were stereotyped as tinfoil-hat-wearing weirdos who lived in their parents basements, spending their days playing W.O.W and reading about the latest UFO sightings on the internet.

Not anymore.

Now, conspiracy theories have gone mainstream.  Fear sells – and politicians, media voices, religious leaders, and prominent social figures are capitalizing on it like never before.  This past year saw an alarming amount of farcical stories being swallowed hook, line, and sinker by people who should know better – people who are supposed to be leaders, people who you one would think would have to have some level of intelligence and education to be in the positions they occupy.  But apparently not.  Let’s take a look at a few more examples.

Obama Invading Texas

After a handful of instructions for a routine U.S. military exercise (set for July 15 and dubbed “Jade Helm 15”)were leaked, conspiracy theory nut Alex Jones began spreading the rumor that the government was preparing for a hostile takeover concocted by the White House to keep President Obama in the office for a third term.  It was also thought that the exercise was a covert operation to invade Texas and take away citizens guns.  Martial law was then going to go in effects and citizens were going to be rounded up and imprisoned in closed down Wal-Marts.

While most rational people dismissed this as the rantings of some right-wing, anti-government nuts (which is exactly what it was), others were convinced that this was the long awaited government-taking-over-it’s-own-country-that-it-already-controls conspiracy that they had been prophesying would happen.  Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas State Guard to take action and monitor the military’s activities wherever possible.  Texas representative Louie Gohmert said that because of the Obama administration’s hostility to the Constitution and its defenders, “patriotic Americans have reason to be concerned.”  Ted Cruz made it a point to contact the Pentagon to inquire on the matter stating that, “I understand the reason for concern and uncertainty, because when the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration.” 

Jade Helm went off without a hitch, and absolutely none of the crazy conspiracies came true.

ISIS In Mexico

Last September, Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican from Arizona, said his state faced an imminent threat in a phone conference with conservative nonprofit Staying True to America’s National Destiny, “It is true, that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez or they were within the last few weeks… So there’s no question that they have designs on trying to come into Arizona. The comment that I’ve made is that if unaccompanied minors can cross the border then certainly trained terrorists probably can, too. It is something that is real.”

Conservative online media, like the, Daily Caller, Breitbart News and pundits Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck quickly fanned the flames of paranoia, despite the fact that the federal government asserted that there was no credible threat that ISIS was planning an attack on United States soil or was even in Mexico.  It wasn’t long before other politicians, swept up in the hysteria, started making similar claims, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Lou Barletta, and Sen. Marco Rubio.

It turns out that ever piece of “evidence” produced by the far-right media was completely fallacious.  But that hasn’t kept vigilantes from patrolling the US-Mexico border to keep ISIS out of America.

SCOTUS Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

In June of last year, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to marry nationwide, establishing a new civil right and handing gay rights advocates a historic victory.  Not everyone was happy, however.

Within hours of the decision, people took to the media to air their bitter grievances.  Expectantly, the Christian persecution complex reared its ugly head once again.  Many people felt that because gays and lesbians were not granted the same rights and freedoms as the rest of us, it was somehow a slight on them.  But the worst of it was the dire “THE SKY IS FALLING!” rhetoric of those who honestly believed that same-sex marriage marked the beginning of rampant persecution of Christians in America.

Much like when conservatives claimed that the 2009 Hate Crimes Act would ban all expressions of anti-gay political opinions and criminalize religious beliefs (it didn’t), Religious Right activists were predicting that the Supreme Court decision would bring about the end of free speech and would criminalize pastors who refused to marry same sex couples.  And elected officials wasted no time in fanning the flames.

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee warned, “When you elevate a lifestyle to the status of a civil right, I don’t think a lot of believers fully understand or comprehend that once it’s risen to that level and our government accepts it, then anyone who disagrees with it could be at least civilly liable, but more than likely would be criminally liable,”  Huckabee also stated that the gay rights movement “won’t stop until there are no more churches, until there are no more people who are spreading the Gospel.According to Huckabee, gay marriage will lead to “the criminalization of Christianity” and “criminal charges” against pastors who preach against it or refuse to officiate the wedding of a gay couple.  Mike Huckabee has also warned that gay marriage will unleash divine punishment on America.

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, said in a lengthy statement that the decision “will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision.”

GOP presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, also predicted that “Christian pastors who decline to perform gay marriages” or “speak out and preach biblical truths on marriage” will be punished for committing “hate speech.”

Religious Right leaders like Sandy Rios of the American Family Association and David Lane of the American Renewal Project have warned of impending “martyrdom,” while Rick Scarborough, a Religious Right activist and leading proponent of the “hate speech” myth, has insisted that gay marriage will make it “illegal” to “share the Gospel” and predicted that jails will soon fill up with pastors. He has even told conservatives that they should be prepared to “burn” if the court backs marriage equality.

It has now been seven months since the SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage, and the current number of pastors who have faced legal proceedings for refusing to marry a same-sex couple is ZERO.  The number of Christians who have bean penalized for speaking out against same-sex marriage is exactly ZERO.  The number of churches that the government has closed down because of the their stance on homosexuality is hovering around ZERO.  You get my point…

Look, this isn’t about people’s personal stance on abortion, Obama, or politics.  It’s about people choosing to remain ignorant and letting their emotions dictate their thoughts and actions.  This is unacceptable behavior in a society where any information is readily available to any and all.  Fear-mongering is an epidemic in our society and the only way to cure it is by being informed.

The above examples are just a handful of the many reasons I’ve been devoting more and more time on this blog to the subject of critical thinking.  My hope is that regardless of religious of political leanings, there are some who are wanting to be better informed and educated and have the tools necessary to sift through the bullshit to get to the facts and the evidence.  If I can help with that in some way; all the better.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Franklin Graham (and Christians like him)

(I’ve had this draft sitting around for a while and just never got around to finishing it up.  In light of Frank Graham’s recent open letter to the LGBT community, I thought now would be a good time to polish it up and post it.)

Dear Mr. Graham

I’ve been following you now for a couple of years now on Facebook and have made a point of reading any news article I come across that has your name in it.  Having read enough of your own words and those written about you, I feel comfortable surmising who you really are as a person, your character, and your moral standing.  You encapsulate the heart of what I consider to be a true American Evangelical Christian.  You are not afraid to make your opinions known, you don’t shy away from controversy, and you hold up the Bible as the authority on all matters.  

Your loud proclamations of what you consider to be TRUTH bring a smile to my face every time I read one of your many posts.  It is because of this that I sincerely say – THANK YOU.  Thank you for causing so many people to abandon their faith and walk away from Christianity.

You see, Mr Graham, you have really become the poster child for everything that people, both believers and none-believers alike, have come to despise about Evangelical Christianity in America: 

You posses an immature, dualistic view of the word, in which everything is “either/or”, black & white.  Your tribalistic understanding of faith divides the world into “us” vs “them”, “saved” vs “unsaved”, “conservative” vs “liberal”.  There is no middle ground to you – it’s your way, or the highway. 

You have a deep-seated hatred, or belief about the “wrongness” of  gay, lesbians, and transgender humans.  This hatred has caused you to dehumanize them whenever possible as means of ensuring that they are not given equal rights in this country.

You despise any religion that is not your own, particularity Islam.  Like LGBT’s, you dehumanize anyone who worships God differently then you do.  Your intolerance for other religions even extends to fellow Christians who believe a different theology then you.

Your views on science and evolution stand in stark contrast to everything we know about the natural word.  You continue to remain ignorant about the most simple of scientific truths that are accepted as facts in the scientific community, and demonize anyone who believes in evolution.  With natural disasters becoming more frequent and more severe, you continue to deny climate change and encourage others to do likewise, claiming that it’s just another “lie from the liberal media”.  You tell fellow believers that that they must choose between science and God, despite the fact that many have explained how you can have both.

Despite all your wealth, power, and influence you suffer from a sever persecution complex.  This delusion is based on nothing more than the fact that you don’t get your way all the time, and that you, along with your fellow Christians, are quickly losing the power you once held over America.  Just a little bit of advice Mr. Graham – being denied the right to persecute others, is not persecution, it’s social justice.  

You have written incessant tirades against Obama, democrats, and liberals.  You feel the need to label anything that you don’t agree with as “secular”, “liberal”, or “leftist” so that you can easily dismiss anything they have to offer.

Your religion is based entirely on fear.  Fear of the “others” like I’ve mentioned above – those you consider less then yourself.  You use this fear as a means of controlling people.

But, you are not alone in your viewpoints, Mr Graham.  Far from it.  MANY church leaders and lay people preach the same message that you do.  The message is clear – “You are either for us, or against us.  You either tow the party line, follow the status quo, or you’re not a TRUE CHRISTIAN!”.  With this false dichotomy set before them, MILLIONS are choosing to leave religion.  

They are choosing to leave a religion that has become known more for what they are against, rather then what they are for.  They are choosing not to live in fear anymore.  They are leaving what has become a toxic and hostile environment.  Many have themselves been hurt by your religion’s judgment, intolerance and lust for control.  Others simply can’t stand by in good conscience as you do everything in your power to tare down, dehumanize, and persecute everyone around you.

Some will choose more healthy and enriching forms of spirituality, such as mysticism or Buddhism.  Others will leave religion all together, become agnostics, atheists, humanists, or simply “nones”.  

 Oh, I know what you’re thinking – “I had nothing to do with people walking away from their faith.  They are simply running away from God because they don’t want to hear the TRUTH of His Word!”  Yes, I’ve heard that a lot from faith leaders like yourself.  It’s a common tactic of those in positions of power who fail to get the results they wanted – blame the victim.  You smugly assume that if people are walking away from your religion that THEY are ones with the problem.  It probably never occurred to you that YOU and your beliefs system were the problem.  

You see Mr Graham, far from running away from God, many of us were running towards Him.  We diligently sought to get to know and understand Him better.  We started reading books and articles by other Christians, both modern and through out history.  We found a very different view of religion then the one you prescribe to and consider the only TRUE way.  These authors were smart, educated, and even (GASP!) used scripture to back up their points of views.  We also studied the life and teaching of Jesus, and discovered a very different version of him then the one that you presented.  We found a Jesus who loved and spent the majority of his time time with the very people that you feel so much contempt for.  We found a Jesus you saved his harshest words for religious leaders like yourself who were self-righteous, hypocritical, and thought that they alone possessed the TRUTH. 

This revelation made us realize that what we had long suspected  – the Christianity that you endorse is nothing more then a farce, a phony, an impostor.  It is the bastard child of 1950’s ideology and right-wing politics.  Oh, I know you think your beliefs come straight from the Bible – that’s how you justify your deplorable behavior.  We’ve come to realize that you can twist and manipulate the Bible to justify nearly anything.  But a religion based on the values Jesus taught and demonstrated, would look nothing like the privileged, tribalistic, bigoted, supremacy-seeking monster that it has become.  Any religion that causes harm to fellow humans is a toxic religion, and we want nothing to do with it.

So, why would I be thanking you for all of this?  Why would I be so glad that you are driving so many away from organized religion?

Contrary to what you may think, it’s not that I have a problem with religion.  I firmly believe that people should have the right to believe in and worship whomever or whatever they please – as long as they do not try to force those beliefs on others.  And that’s the rub.

You see, Mr Graham, some of us have grown tired of you and your kind trying to force everyone to conform to your particular form of religion.  As mush as you may like to pretend that you believe in the constitution of the United States, we all know that you would like nothing more than to burn the Constitution and turn this country into a theocracy.  

I’m thankful that people are leaving Christianity because that means that eventually you and those like you are going to lose the long held privilege that you have had in this country.  Eventually you are going to lose your power and influence over our government and society as a whole.  The more your numbers shrink, the less you will continue to be a cog in the wheels of social progress in this country, and we can move forward rather than the backwards direction you are pulling us.  And as long as you keep shouting your message of hatred and intolerance, we’ll be sure to get there soon.  It is my sincere hope that my grandchildren will grow up in a country devoid of Bigots-for-Jesus like yourself, Mr Graham.  

So once again, Mr Graham – thank you.  Thank you for being instrumental in driving so many away from American Christianity.  This future of this country is no doubt brighter because of it.  Richard Dawkins could never dream of having the kind of influence that you have had on people of faith!  Keep up the good work!

Sincerely,

A Former Christian

 

 

  

 

What We Learned About Conservative Christians Last Week

On June 26, the Supreme Court made history by handing down the decision that it was unconstitutional for same-sex couples to be denied the right to marry.  The decision, which was the culmination of decades of litigation and activism, set off a wave of jubilation from not only the LGBT community, but also from its allies and those who believe in justice and equality.  Predictably though, it also set off a tsunami off bitterness, anger, paranoia, and fear-mongering from conservatives.  To say that conservatives were sore losers would be the understatement of the year.  With the spotlight on America and its reaction to the decision, there are several things that we’ve  learned about conservative Christians in the week following.

They Don’t Really Trust Their God

With all the lip-service Christians give to God being in control, for all the platitudes of Christ being their solid rock, for all the hype about just needing to “trust in God” – all that goes right out the window when things don’t go their way.  The amount of petrifying fear displayed by some Christians was astounding enough, but the fear-mongering and propaganda by leaders and news sights was truly over the top.  While the rest of us were celebrating a great victory for social justice, conservatives were wringing their hands, and loudly proclaiming that the proverbial sky was falling .  “Pastors  will be forced to perform gay marriages!”, “Businesses will be forced to shut down!”, “Pedophile marriages is the next step”, “Christians are going to be put in jail”, “Gays are going to feed Christians to the lions!”, “Gays are going to force Christians to like anal sex!”(no, I didn’t make that last one up) – there was seemingly no bottom to the depths some were willing to stoop to whip fellow believers into a frenzy.

What all this says to the outside world is simple – Christians don’t really trust their God.  Fear ≠ Trust.  What this really shows is that they don’t put their trust in God, but rather in the government, in Republicans, and in their own position of privilege that they’ve held for so long.

And when these idols let them down, when things don’t go their way, when their security at the top was shifted – they panicked.   As John Pavlovitz put it “With all the fatalistic sky is falling rhetoric and raw-throated ‘The End is Near’ prognostications, what so many Christians did for the watching world was inadvertently paint the image of a God who is hopelessly on the ropes; not all-powerful, not all-knowing, not at all able to withstand the slightest changes in our world. We completely neutered God by horribly overstating the circumstances and crying wolf yet again.”

It’s ironic that the most common command in the Bible is “fear not”.  In fact, it’s used over a hundred times in scripture.  Perhaps some some people were too busy proof-texting a few verses about homosexuality to notice them.

They Really Don’t Want to Serve the Gay Community

Jesus taught his followers –

“If anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” – Matt 5:40-42

Paul echoed this statement by telling the Church –

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…”  Rom 12:20, also found in Prov 25:21

These verses are some of the many verses certain “Bible-believing” Christians choose to ignore in favor of their own world-view.  Throughout last week, one of the most common concerns I heard from Christians was that now they might be forced to serve a same-sex marriage in some way – bake a cake, take photographs, make a dress, officiate the service, whatever.  Putting aside the legal improbability of that happening (more on this later), is serving two people wanting to get married really too much to ask?  Is that really the hill you want to die on?  I can’t find a single exception to either Jesus or Paul’s commands listed above.  It would appear that “religious freedom” trumps anything the Bible has to say on the matter.  I can’t think of a more explicit sign of someone’s bigotry towards another human being than their refusal to take someone’s money in a commercial exchange for goods or services.

They Don’t Love LGBT’s – At All

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” has long been the go-to stance for many Christians whenever the issue of homosexuality was brought up.  But, like politicians, Christians have become notorious for talking out both sides of their mouth.  For years now, some Christians have been claiming that homosexuality is a grievous sin against God, treated LGBTs as social pariahs,  have denied same-sex couples the right to marry, have fought against anti-discrimination laws, have been champions of “conversion therapy” and “pray the gay away” counseling, and have considered homosexuality to be one of the biggest threat to this country.

Yet, they claim to love gay people.

But, all this talk of “love” has fooled no one but themselves.  Good intentions and fake Jesus-smiles can only hide one’s disdain and contempt for another for so long.  Every now and then the curtain gets pulled away, and we get a glimpse of ugliness on the other side.   Like the World Vision controversy of last year, Evangelicals’ true colors were shown this past week with the scathing response to the SCOTUS decision.  The amounts of vile, de-humanizing remarks towards LGBTs from their camp seemed to know no bounds.  

They Have a Major Persecution Complex

This has long been known by those outside of the Christian ranks, but it’s as if the dial was turned up to full power this past week.  Mark Cabbo put it quite well –

The problem with being privileged your whole life is that [after] you have had that privilege for so long, equality starts to look like oppression.

And that’s precisely what many Christians think is happening  – they are being oppressed.  What they fail to understand is that not getting to discriminate against someone does not mean that you’re being discriminated against.  Many states legalized same-sex marriage years ago, and other countries, like Canada have had marriage equality for over a decade.  And, none of them have seen any increase in discrimination or legal actions of any kind towards pastors or churches.   In fact, there is not a shred of evidence to support claims that this decisions will have any legal ramifications on religious institutions.  Yet,  what I keep hearing from both leaders and lay people alike is that it’s coming – Christian persecution is going to come any day now!

What we’re seeing here is a classic case of psychological projection a defense mechanism involving the projecting of undesirable feelings or emotions onto someone else, rather than admitting to or dealing with the unwanted feelings.  Conservatives are quick to assume that they will be persecuted for their beliefs- because that is the very thing they have been doing towards LGBTs for years, but will never admit to it.

I have no doubt that public perception towards anti-gay churches and individuals will change, but that is far from persecution – that’s social progress.

(For more on Christian’s persecution complex, check out RHE excellent article

They Have No Idea How the Judicial System Works

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to explain to people how the Supreme Court works or the what the differences between for-profit and religious institutions are…

Starting with the Supreme Court of America (SCOTUS), one complaint that I heard extensively was something along lines of, “It’s not right that decisions affecting our country can be made by 5 un-elected individuals!”  First off, SCOTUS is comprised of 9 people, not 5.  Secondly, that’s precisely what SCOTUS does – make decisions involving federal laws.  And it has been has been doing this for quite sometime now, in fact, since our country was founded.   For those who weren’t paying attention in US Govt class back in high school, you can read up on the role of SCOTUS here.    And, contrary to what some ignorant presidential candidates would like to think, the SCOTUS ruling must be upheld by all states, as much as some would like to think they can ignore it.

By far the most common argument I heard in wake of the decision was that now pastors and churches were going to be forced to perform same-sex marriage.  This comes in wake of the now famous incident involving the bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa,  that refused to bake a cake for a same sex-couple, and was ordered to pay $135k in damages.  These Bigots for Jesus, Aaron and Melissa Klein, are now being held up as a martyrs by conservatives, and are prominent activists in the anti-gay movement .  For them, this indecent is a shining example of the “rampant persecution of Christians in America.”  What most fail to realize, is that the Kleins were not facing legal trouble for their ‘strongly-held religious beliefs’, but because they broke the law, in this case, an Oregon anti-discrimination law.  A law that she agreed to abide by when they opened a for profit business.  You see, there is a big difference between a for-profit business and a religious institution.

Religious institutions have long been protected by the First Amendment and are exempt from many state and federal laws, including anti-discrimination laws.  So, how will this change now that the SCOTUS ruling has been handed down?

It won’t.  At all.

Neil Carter sums it up as follows:

“Thanks to the same First Amendment that keeps your religion from taking over everyone else’s lives, those churches which do not approve of this move will remain free to disapprove of it—and to speak publicly about their disapproval—for as long as you still care about this issue.  What’s more, that constitutional protection has enabled churches to refuse to marry anyone they choose despite every new national advance in the fight for civil rights.  You don’t want to marry an interracial couple?  That’s actually your right.  Always has been, always will be.  Your churches will remain free to reject as many kinds of people and relationships as you please.  This is a well-established protection that will not budge no matter what those who disagree with you wish were the case. Even if somebody tries to take you to court over it in the future, they will fail because your constitutional protections overrule their personal views.  That’s how this works.”

In other words – pastors, churches, religious schools, and non-profit businesses will still be able to discriminate freely and legally.

The SCOTUS decision will inevitably mark a major turning point for religion in America.   Conservatives have effectively lost this long, drawn-out, and doomed-from-the-beginning culture war that they themselves created.  No longer will conservative churches be able to hide behind a veil of fake love and well-polished religious jargon.  The curtain has now been torn down for good.

Many denominations and religious-based colleges are already revisiting their stances on same-sex marriage and making changes.  More then ever, churches are going to be judged on their stance of same-sex marriages and homosexuality.  Those who continue to oppose it will be increasingly seen in a negative light.  Even Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist seminary seems to understand this:

“The real danger is we’re going to pay an enormous social, cultural price for not doing a same-sex ceremony. We’re going to be considered morally deficient. Let’s admit it. We’re much more accustomed to being accused of being morally superior. They’ve said we’ve been “stand-offish” meaning better than them, now a large part of this culture thinks we are morally deficient. And we’re going to find that’s a very different way to do ministry.” 

In closing, I’d just like to say, on a personal note –  the reactions to the SCOTUS decision, by many who call themselves followers of Christ, a decision which will go down in history as a major win for justice, equality, and human rights, was absolutely appalling to me!  There was nothing “Christ-like” about their reactions.  What I witnessed was ignorance, hatred, contempt, and pathetic, childish shrieks from a group that has for far too long considered themselves exceptional, privileged, and morally superior to everyone else.

This past week solidified for me, once again, that Christianity has nothing to offer me.  I can’t abide by an institution where religious dogma trumps basic human rights.  It has also shown me just how important it is for people to fight for social justice and human equality.  This was a great victory, not doubt, but we haven’t won the war, we’ve only won the battle.  More needs to be done.  My hope is that the tides have turned and that more people will take a public stand against toxic religions that continue to be a monkey wrench in the wheels of social progress.