Tag Archives: Benjamin Corey

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.

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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.”

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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…

 

 

Breaking Up With the Church

Sitting in the circle, I listened to each person introduce themselves and give a brief version of the story that led up to them being there that day.  There were a lot of tears, some anger and bitterness, and a lot of brokenness.   When it came time for me, I managed to get out my introduction alright, but when I started recounting why I was there, I only got a couple sentences out before I started choking up.  I had to cut my story short as it was hard to talk through the sobbing.  I was embarrassed for having broken down in front of total strangers, yet I was also relieved.  I knew these people understood my situation and would not judge me.  This was my first night at D.W.S; a support group for those who had been divorced, widowed, or separated.

According to the Holmes & Rahe Stress Scale, divorce is the second most stressful life event one can experience.  About eight years ago I went through a painful and ugly divorce and can safely say it was the most traumatic experience of my life.  After a year of trying to deal with the pain and emotions on my own, I finally had to be honest  with myself and face the fact that I wasn’t getting any better.  It was that admittance of  helplessness that led me to D.W.S.  I spent the next 30 weeks going through the programs and working through the stages of grief.  Without this group and their support, I have no idea how long it would have taken me to work through all the pain, anger, guilt, and depression I faced from having had the most important things in my life taken from me.

It has been nearly a year now since I quit going to church.  Walking away from something that you are actively involved in and is such a big part of your life can be difficult.  In a lot of ways, it’s very much like the ending of a relationship.  Many of the emotions I’ve felt since leaving the church echo those I felt when my marriage fell apart.

One of the stages that was toughest for me to work through after my divorce was anger and resentment.  Having been betrayed, hurt, and disrespected by the action and words of my ex, anger was the quickest emotion to present itself, and the slowest to let go of.  I am also finding it difficult to hide the anger and resentment I feel towards the Church.  Anger from all the times I asked questions or shared views that were dismissed, ridiculed, or even laughed at.  Anger from all of the injustices done to others in the name of the Bible.  Anger from the church’s refusal to acknowledge its own shortcomings and wrongdoings.  Anger for their anti-intellectual and frankly, ignorant, view of the world and of culture, that is hurting itself and others.

When you are married, your family is the reason you get up in the morning, the nucleus of your existence.  Waking up alone in an empty house makes it difficult to face the day.  The Church is good at providing people with a sense of purpose, and giving them something to be involved in, both individually and collectively.  It gives people a sense that they are a part of something bigger then themselves.   When one leaves that community, it can be difficult to find things that give you the same sense of purpose.

Divorce is one of those life experiences that unless you’ve been through one yourself, it can be nearly impossible to fully relate.  People will often sympathize with you by using their own stories of past breakups, or lost friendships.  As difficult as these things may be, they pale in comparison to devastation of divorce.  Until I found D.W.S., I had an overwhelming sense of isolation, that I was totally alone in my experiences and feelings.  When struggling through the process of unpacking my faith and critically analyzing it, I felt that I had to keep this integral part of myself a secret.  I knew that if I shared my thoughts with others, they would be met with looks of shock, fear, and disappointment, and would inevitably lead to conversations aimed at addressing my “backsliding” and “liberal theology”.  Church is not conducive to new ideas or free expressions, it is an institution that exists on the ideal of conformity.  Living with secrets, in isolation, eats away at you from the inside.  You wish there was someone who understood, you wish there was someone you could talk to who “got it,” who understood what you are going through and who won’t cast judgment or pretend to sympathize.

One critical difference between my divorce and my departure from the Church/Christianity is that no one ever pulled me aside and told me how wrong I was to separate from my wife.  Due to the circumstances surrounding our breakup, most everyone was on my side and supportive.  Some even wondered why I held on as long as I did.  Yet, when you leave your formal faith, there is no shortage of people wanting to email, message, or meet you and tell you just how wrong you are.  The tribalistic mentality of Christianity dictates that people must do all they can to keep fellow believers from “back-sliding”.  While I can somewhat appreciate their concern (though I often doubt their sincerity), telling someone they are wrong and trying to push them back into the system that caused so much distress is not a “loving” thing to do, no matter how nice about you are.  And when trying to coerce  you back into the fold doesn’t work, they do what seems to be all too natural for them to do; they cut you out of their lives.

After my divorce, most of the friendships that we had formed through the years faded away.  I don’t believe anyone’s intentions were malicious.  Couples we once knew most likely didn’t want to take sides or get caught in the middle.  Some people didn’t know what to say, so they kept their distance.  Still others grew tired of seeing me so bitter and lonely, saying things like, “It’s been a year, shouldn’t you be over this by now?”  After word gets around that you no longer go to church, and with it the cliches of “back-sliding” and “losing faith,” you will notice people distancing themselves from you.  While I know that some people simply don’t know what to say or how to relate, there is an ugly trend among many Christians of punishing people by withholding relationships.  As Benjamin Corey observes, “Today’s Evangelicalism does this to folks who think outside Evangelical lines– it strips them of relationships, cuts them off, and severs ties. I can’t count the number of emails I get with folks sharing their stories in this regard– it is sadly all too commonplace.”  Neil Carter had a similar experience when he left his faith.  The bottom line is; it hurts to lose friendships and it feels like a betrayal to find out that many of your friendships were based on the condition of belonging to the right tribe.

In the early stages after my wife had left, I would lay awake at night analyzing everything that went wrong, racking my brain to figure out all the things I might have done differently, and looking for any possible way of making the marriage work.  I learned in D.W.S. that this stage is known as “bargaining”.  I thought long and hard about decision to walk away from my faith and the church I had been a part of for so many years.  It was not a decision that came easily, and I was constantly second-guessing myself.

Some would look at me and say, “The fact that you are going through all of this is a sign that you’ve made the wrong decision.”  No.  I made the right decision.  Just as I can look back at my failed marriage and say with certainty that I realize now that it was not meant to be, so too can I now look back even after a year, and know that I made the right decision.  I was not kicked out or asked to leave the church.  I did it on my own accord, but it had to be done. My relationship with the church was not a healthy one, mainly because the Church itself is not healthy.

There were times after my divorce, during the earliest stages of grief when I wondered if I could ever love and trust someone again.  It took a lot of time and effort to get to the point where I was able to, but now here I am; having been married to an incredible women now for almost six years.  Our marriage is everything my first one was not.   Will there come a day when I get involved in a church again and call it home?  Maybe.  I haven’t completely written it off.  When I hear about churches like Nadia Bolz-Weber’s House for All Saints and Sinners and Jay Bakker’s Revolution, it gives me hope that I might someday find a community I can belong to.

I know there are a lot of others out there like myself; people who were either outed from their churches, or left on their own accord.  People who still love Jesus and want to have a faith-based community, but found the church lacking.  If that’s you, I feel your pain; I know what you are going through.  I know it hurts, I know you’re angry, and I know it can be confusing and lonely sometimes.  Hang in there, it does get better, I promise.

If you are a leader in a church who wants to dismiss me, and the rest of us, as ones who simply didn’t try hard enough, didn’t read the Bible or pray enough, didn’t have enough faith, didn’t believe the right things, want to start their own religion, or who wants to live “rebellious” lives…

Wake up.

My story is not an isolated one.  Every week, more and more people leave the church and never return.  Every week more churches close their doors.  While some church leaders try to do damage control, play down the numbers, or pretend it’s not happening, still others want to point the fingers at everyone but themselves and cast the blame.

It’s not us, Church- it’s you.

As much as it hurts to leave, it had to be done.  For our emotional and spiritual well-being, we had to walk away.  If you truly care about people, then start listening to them and stop casting judgment.  Listen to why people leave and make an honest attempt to do something about it. At least make an attempt to understand.  Start with John Pavlovitz’s excellent article,  Dear Church, Here’s Why People Are Leaving You.  Then read Benjamin Corey’s article that accurately summarizes my own reasons for leaving the church, 5 Reasons Why Evangelicalism Completely Lost Me.

I hope there’s a brighter future for the Church.  The Church of American is not known for it’s love like it should be.  It’s known for it’s ignorance, intolerance, and exclusivity.

That needs to change.

I hope that one day the church can be a place of refuge and safety for all those who feel beaten down and broken, a place where all can feel welcomed and loved, a place that overcomes the tribalistic lines that society draws around us.  A community that encourages questions,  and doesn’t pretend that it has all the right answers.

Until that day, I fear there are going to be many more people left in the wake of the Church.  So common are stories like mine (and even worse), that psychologists and mental health professions now have a term for it: Religious Trauma Syndrome, also known as Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome.  Maybe it’s time we start offering support groups for these people, a place like D.W.S but for people have have broken up with the church.  I can tell you from my own experience and others I’ve come in contact with that it is certainly needed.