White God, the Immature President

Understanding why Trump is highly favored among White Evangelicals despite his obvious moral failures (at least by their Victorian era standards) one needs to understand that first, it is a tradition and movement based on words. Iterations, preaching, testimony, prayer, singing. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Additionally, faith comes by hearing and by hearing the Word of God. The Word of God is a double-edged sword, able to discern

Repeating the words of the faith in a convincing manner is the central sacrament of Evangelicalism.

The primary thing that Illegitimate POTUS needs to do is sound like a Christian. Just a few words sprinkled here and there, little dog-whistles like George W. But it’s interesting that not only is Trump not fluent in Evangelicalism, but neither is his speechwriter and Reich-Hand Nazi. He’s a white supremacist writer who speaks very broadly about God, but in a newspeak manner. So there’s obviously something else going on here.

Another aspect of contemporary Evangelicalism (and this aspect is recent and a result of its being mobilized for conservative issues starting in the 70s) are its heterodox creeds. There are the classic creeds of Evangelicalism: Preach Jesus Christ dead, buried and resurrected; believe and confess the Lord Jesus Christ; have a personal relationship with God. The personal relationship aspect is central to the classic definition of what makes one an evangelical.*

But in the politicized White Evangelicalism of the Religious Right era now there are a few more to honor. In some ways these new creeds are more integral and important than the ancient beliefs, particularly the negative dogma of opposing abortion. This dogma is negative and oppositional, notice, where the older ones are positive and creative. White Evangelicals have a prayer: “Abortion is murder! Forever and ever amen.”

There are other tenets of White Evangelicalism which aren’t as universal but may help understand their support of Trump:

  • Israel is God’s chosen nation. But not Jewish people (cf End Times)
  • America is God’s new chosen
  • Disposability is good as the earth is disposable (cf End Times)
  • Women are subservient and never fully human.

So Trump’s politics or political promises certainly help White Evangelicals to adore their president no matter his grasp of the rest of Christian tradition. But there’s something more, still.

That is that Trump reminds them of their God.

The underlying but unspoken (yet never to be transgressed) rule of White Evangelicalism is that God is a White Male Capitalist. And not capitalist as in: Upholds the tenets of capitalism (which He does), but: He belongs to the class. This God represents the Capitalist class, the firstborn among peers, the Bourgeoisie of the Bourgeoisie.

President Baby with his impetuous, genocidal behavior is White God incarnate.


*As I argue in my upcoming book, Free Market Jesus, this individualism is both a central element to the flourishing and now the death-knells of White Evangelicalism. Sign up to the newsletter for some updates including excerpts from the book.

 

The Heresy of a White Supremacist Capitalist God in the heart of White Evangelicalism

Franklin Graham is a heretic.

I’m in the middle of writing a book on the connections between Evangelicalism and economic politics – whether that be Neoliberalism or more recently neofascism – and as such, I’m getting even more familiar with the central characters who loom large in the scope. Guys like D.L. Moody, Bill Bright and of course Billy Graham. As I’ve argued before, I don’t think that Billy’s son/apple Franklin falls far from the tree. If anything, Franklin is a grotesque caricature of his father; maybe the Id to Billy’s Ego. Where Billy cared about respectability and closeness to power, Franklin sees himself as the personification of power and thus dumps all pretext to respectability. He amasses power through politicizing his charities and evangelist stage – both of which he received through the work of being his father’s son (notice the gender. Not daughter).

This may come as a shock to many who follow the second-generation celebrity evangelist on Facebook. He is the figurehead of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, one of the largest and most respected Evangelical organizations in the world, as well as the charity Samaritan’s Purse, after all – two organizations with deep pasts, deeper connections, and even deeper pocketbooks in American Christianity. His father led many souls, as they say, to Christ through his campaigns (crudely called “Crusades” in the early years). And his Facebook feed, while often controversial, is full of seemingly innocuous statements pressing his readers into choosing heaven today while they still have a chance – as if they weren’t already converts. Even such seemingly easy political targets such as the Jill Stein-led voter recount and the death of Fidel Castro are often used for such pretext.

For wit:

Chinese President Xi Jinping made a statement that caught my eye. He said, “Comrade Castro will live forever.” That is true. All of us have a soul that is going to live forever in one of two places—Heaven or Hell. What we do here on earth determines where we will spend eternity. The only way to Heaven is by accepting God’s plan for our salvation—believing in His Son Jesus Christ and following Him as Lord. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). Do you know where you will spend eternity?

This incredibly awkward transition was his father’s special formula: Look for relevant news articles having to do with life and death, redirect and turn it into a soul-winning question. This would be awkward in less capable hands than Billy’s. Make no mistake, Franklin is tremendously less capable than Billy. What’s almost remarkable here is that Graham doesn’t seem to use this opportunity to further his Partisan Hyper-Capitalist White Supremacy Churchianity Yawn.

This time.

Except that he had already talked extensively about the Evils of Castro in ways that seemingly celebrated his death, that exaggerated the hatred of Castro and erase the material positive he’s done, and that incompetently confuse Castro’s policies with those of liberal American politicians—not just self-described “socialist” Bernie Sanders, but also Keith Ellison, Elizabeth Warren, and most surprisingly, Hillary Clinton. None of these choices have ever called for radical redistribution of wealth or for workers to seize the means of production, but truth doesn’t stop Franky anyway.

Fidel Castro has died at age 90. Loved by few, hated by millions, his communist revolution deposed a dictator, but ushered in a socialist police state that drove the entire Cuban nation into complete poverty and oppression. And to think that Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Representative Keith Ellison and others wanted socialism as a model for our country today! And why didn’t they win? God—that’s why. The church prayed and came out by the millions and voted. Praise God! And may we all as free Americans give Him glory, great things He has done! This is why it is so important to vote. There’s another election in just two years—Christians need to stay involved and run for office at every level. The socialists are regrouping in great number right now, and they will come back strong, organized, and more determined than ever. This battle isn’t over.

Graham thanks God, the power of prayer, and most importantly White Evangelicals for delivering a White Supremacist White House.

Notice the pattern, though. First Graham has an emotional and irrational outburst about a group of people (Muslims, Black Lives Matter protesters) or policy (socialism, liberalism, American military exceptionalism) or even defending himself from charges (ie, xenophobia). Then he alternates with blanket calls to heavenly matters, such as prayers or altar calls reminding people about eternity.

For the Religious Right, talking about heaven and hell and the goodness of God is more than a distraction. It is a totem for all that is good. To talk about heaven and how to get there distinguishes a person as Good, and thus his political and social tastes as Good. Franklin Graham should be trusted because he talks so much about heaven and God; how could he be devious or deceptive?

Additionally, this disembodied heavenly talk is also a placemat for justice. If and when there is injustice for the racial/sexual/gender/economic minority[i], it is nothing compared to the glories of heaven and the tortures of hell. Here, heaven is robbed of embodied meaning and replaced with a hollow hope, specifically vocalized in order to maintain status and stability.

This is how they are heretical. Jesus was explicit about earthly matters of justice in an age and region of imperial and military oppression, colonization, and exploitation. Jesus followed the prophets’ lead in calling on the government to apply justice, to feed, to care for the widows and the fatherless, to welcome the stranger.

The literal products, progenies, and beneficiaries of White Evangelicalism – Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr. – are men who believe that God is not only a white American  capitalist, but the Most Capitalist of Capitalists. The most American of Americans. The Most Xenophobe of Xenophobes. The Most White of Whites.

God is a neo-nazi, a fascist, a white supremacist who values property over people and runs a charity collecting worthless trinkets to entice poor people into his version of an unjust, decrepit heaven.

Franklin Graham is the incarnational image of his own God. Franklin sees capitalism, whiteness, and American Christian culture as intrinsically good and worthy to be praised and spread. He uses his charity and pulpit to extol his praises upon it. Praise Whiteness now, for when you die, you will come face to face with Whiteness and what will you have said about it and its son, White Jesus, Capitalist of Heaven and Earth?

Graham’s gospel is bad news for the outcasts Jesus surrounded himself with.

I cannot see the Jesus of the Gospels being enthralled or even making sense of Franklin Graham’s picture of him. Of course, all Christians somewhat make Jesus in their own image—but any image of Jesus that doesn’t start with him hanging out with misfits and oddballs and ends with him criminalized and literally hanging with the wretched of the earth and the rebellious (before a bodily resurrection) is missing key elements.

If Jesus assembled his disciples today in America, I imagine he’d include a black trans teenager, an undocumented Latinx mother, and a repentant financier or credit agent who gave away his ill-gotten wealth. Trump would refuse to give away all that he owned and be turned away. I see Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr, and their colleagues colluding with the state to retain and expand their power by planting evidence on Jesus and betraying him to Death Row.

How did the Son of Humans die? He was too beautiful and brave for the political religious order.

 

 

[i] Not numerically, but in terms of power differentials

Martin Luther King and King Falwell

As I’ve said several times and will say many times to come, Martin Luther King, Jr. is known by most for one line in one speech and wearing suits when he protested*. It’s this sheer veneer of a hagiography of King that allows Liberty University to welcome #DonaldNaziTrump to give the MLK address. Which is weird because presidential candidate Donald Trump is basically running as a national Sheriff Bull Connor. But the higher-ups at the conservative Evangelical Liberty U, despite having many students of color, feel the xenophobic, misogynistic, racist, jingoistic Trump is an appropriate speaker for a retrospective on Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We chose that day so that Mr. Trump would have the opportunity to recognize and honor Dr. King on MLK day,” Liberty University President (and son of founder) Jerry Falwell, Jr. told The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

[Falwell] pointed to King’s principle that people should be judged, as King put it ‘not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’
“Liberty stands for that principle and I believe that Mr. Trump does as well,” he said.

Liberty’s Falwell Jr. swears that a crude, racist, violence-loving capitalist class fascist lives by Martin Luther King’s standards. Let’s think about the abundantly evident patterns being made here for a moment.

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Jerry Falwell, Jr. giving a speech at Liberty University

The first being that there is little critical analysis of King’s legacy in the public eye. Just like Jesus, we remake him in personal images because we don’t want to scrutinize the text – and even when we do, we are rarely honest about the presuppositions we carry with us in our readings.

Take this consideration in combination with the fact that Jerry Falwell, Jr. is a crude, racist, violence-loving capitalist theocrat, like his father Jerry Falwell, Sr. before him. And that he interprets others in binary models in this framework. If they are good, they think like him and are like him. If they are bad  they may or may not think like him, but are on the receiving end of his actions – for example, those Muslims that he told Liberty students to “end” and should be “taught a lesson”.

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Justin Sullivan – Getty Images North America

Contrary to King’s most famous mode of organizing, Falwell, Jr. told his Christian students that they should arm themselves. In their school. Never mind the implications of intimate violence in an environment rife with hyper-masculine theology and ecclesiology. While King advocated nonviolence as a means of organizing protest, it was as a critique of violence located within White Supremacist democracy. We can’t talk about nonviolent agitation without acknowledging that it is an organized resistance to the locus of violence: White Supremacist Empire.

King, it should be noted, was not strictly opposed to gun ownership for black families in terms of protecting their homes from direct white violence (cf Taylor Branch’s At Canaan’s Edge). Malcolm and the Panthers preached that this personal method of protection should be extended to organizational efforts against the threat of White violence. In the end, Dr. King and the Black Panthers fell to White violence and intentional disruption (and Malcolm would have likely have done so too if his life wasn’t cut short by an internal power play).

If Falwell, Jr. is to be believed and White Christians are under violent siege from Muslims, then and only then can his call to arms be taken seriously.

But

we

aren’t.

Muslims in the US and abroad are exponentially more likely to be harmed and killed by White American Christian violence than white Christians are by Extremist Muslim violence. In this scenario, Falwell represents the Klan, mob violence, and lynchings that King and his contemporaries were under threat from and (sometimes) armed themselves against.

This centering and outpouring of White violence coupled with the economic terror known as capitalism is central to how Jr. envisions Jesus and Martin Luther King. So of course Trump – another crude White Supremacist capitalist – speaking at an event honoring the pacifist, anti-racist, class-consciousness King is perfectly acceptable.

Trump, Falwell Jr. tells us, reminds him of his father.

President Ronald Reagan and Rev. Jerry Falwell

Jerry Falwell, Sr., by the way conspired with FBI Director J Edgar Hoover to spread propaganda about King and elevated American capitalism over and above the health of Black Americans. In the 1960’s, he preached that racial segregation was ordained by God. And…

In a 1964 sermon, “Ministers and Marchers,” Falwell attacked King as a Communist subversive. After questioning “the sincerity and intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations,” Falwell declared, “It is very obvious that the Communists, as they do in all parts of the world, are taking advantage of a tense situation in our land, and are exploiting every incident to bring about violence and bloodshed.”

Falwell concluded, “Preachers are not called to be politicians, but soul winners.”

Then, for a time, Falwell appeared to follow his own advice. He retreated from massive resistance and founded the Lynchburg Christian Academy, an institution described by the Lynchburg News in 1966 as “a private school for white students.”

Note: Many progressives tend to overplay Falwell’s post-Brown V. Board explicit racism as the genesis and centrality of Liberty University and his Moral Majority. Falwell Sr would later repudiate and even destroy remaining copies of sermons such as “Ministers and Marchers” and “Segregation or Integration: Which?” – arguably for political and numerical reasons, to further his reach and base among those who did not care for such explicit racism. The concern here is this false thinking that racism, like misogyny, is only real and harmful when it’s explicit rather than structural. The Moral Majority and Falwell both endorsed policies and practices which were functionally racist and sexist, but not out of a desire to be racist or sexist.

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For God and the Empire – via Wiki

In the contemporary West, the White Supremacist Empire is located in the relation that the state and its arms (the police and the military) have with corporations and banks. This was true during King’s era as seen in Jim Crow and Vietnam, and it is true in its current manifestations of the War on Crime and the War on Terror. On the rare, exaggerated, and misattributed occasion that peaceful protests get out hand and start burning or looting, White media and masses tend to focus on that rather than the White violence that is the we fail to recognize actual violence.

The actual violence is that people, and especially black and brown people, are commodified and perceived as property in the first place. We see how this happens in both practice (privatization of black and brown schools; overpolicing) and in memory (King as nice-&-eloquent black man who asked whites to free his people).

———————

*For more, check out Austin Channing Brown’s “What Would MLK Do?

 

Do Black Lives Matter to Evangelicals? Show It.

There’s something oddly familiar about the way that Larycia Hawkins is being treated by White Evangelicals. An intelligent black, political person with a Liberation Theology backgrond and a funny (by Anglo standards) name makes statements in solidarity with Muslims. The result is that conservative White Evangelicals question her loyalty and fidelity to America and to Christianity.

The obvious counterpart is President Obama, the “Secret Muslim” and “Terrorist Sympathizer”. In Obama’s case, fortunately, his job did not rest fully on the whims of White Evangelicals – though they have made things harder for him, and for the rest of us. The major difference of course is that Hawkins actually promotes peaceful solidarity and has not sent in drone strikes that kill hundreds of Muslim children each year (Which means she automatically gets my vote).

thumbrns-hawkins-wheaton010615

Dr Hawkins addresses media at her church over Wheaton College’s actions against her

Despite Evangelical rancor, Wheaton College is not firing Hawkins because she has said or done anything opposing or outside of Wheaton’s Statement of Faith. The statement of faith is important to Evangelical concerns because it plays into the identity politics at its core – that what we believe about things is more important than what we do, who we are, how we can get along, how we treat each other. And so this document is central to Wheaton’s identity. And by way of measure, what was said in the document should be how Hawkins could understand herself to operate as a fully-engaged faculty member within the parameters of Wheaton. Within this framework, even if nudging just a bit, Larycia Hawkins and any other faculty member should be safe* from such scrutiny within the bounds of the established parameters. From the Chicago Tribune:

Hawkins has been asked to affirm the college’s statement of faith four times since she started teaching at Wheaton nearly nine years ago. She was first admonished for writing an academic paper about what Christians could learn from black liberation theology, which relates the Bible with the often-troubled history of race relations in America. Jones said Hawkins’ article seemed to endorse a kind of Marxism.

She was called in a year later to defend a photograph someone posted on Facebook showing her at a party inside a home on Halsted Street the same day as Chicago’s Pride Parade. Last spring she was asked to affirm the statement again after suggesting that diversifying the college curriculum should include diplomatic vocabulary for conversations around sexuality.

None of this is outside the parameters of the college’s SoF. But therein lies the problem. White Evangelicalism’s parameters are not just what is said, but what is implied and implicated as well particularly by its well-heeled backers.

  • Violence is God’s means to redemption.
  • Capitalism is God-ordained.
  • God blesses America.
  • Heteronormativity is God-ordained and LGBTQ people are under God’s attack.
  • European theology is superior to Black and Latin theology.
  • Abortion is the primary sin of America.

Liberation theology – which Hawkins espouses and which she was previously censured by the school for – is viewed as particularly suspect because it violates at least two, if not most or all, of the aforementioned rules. Hawkins was also previously under fire for desiring and even personally having friendly, non-antagonistic relations with LGBTQ people.

But for the most part, these are the orthodox concerns of those who fund, not those who teach and inhabit, who are actually at the frontline of Wheaton. The same can be said with concern to the Black Lives Matter staging and unqualified support that happened at Urbana this past month as well, which the collegiate missions ministry InterVarsity Fellowship followed-up with a clarification/apology statement that muddied the waters of what solidarity should look like. The event itself was a major step forward for a White-headed Evangelical organization, in its declarative proclamation that Black Lives do Matter to God and thus should to all Christians.

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Black Lives Matter t-shirts worn by worship team members at the Evangelical Urbana Conference

But this declaration scared its donor base and so IVF had to reify its commitments to the Implied Statement of Belief. In doing so, IVF leaders had to clarify that they support black lives and the pre-born. But the most important message, the one that the donors needed to hear, is that the anti-abortion message is clear and without wavering. That the lives of (cis, straight) Black men and women are important to Evangelical institutions but do not trump the current Evangelical orthodoxy cause of fighting against abortion.

To answer John Inazu’s question in the Washington Post this last week, black lives will not matter to Evangelical institutions as long as they are captive to funding by anti-black, queerphobic capitalists. Black lives will not matter to them as long as they prioritize the police over their victims. Black lives will not matter to them as long as they are in an antagonistic posture against LGBTQ people of color. Black lives will not matter to them as long as Black Thought and Black Theology is seen as inferior and outside of orthodoxy.

 

——

*I know this is all very unfamiliar with those of us from state and non-fundamentalist university backgrounds. However, this form of boundary-policing has been an essential aspect of fundamentalist praxis since The Fundamentals were released.

Evangelicals and EcoJustice

Mega Pastor Mark Driscoll gets a lot of un-love from my corner of the progressive faith blogosphere. Where others may rally around disgust at Westboro Baptist Church*, he is our rallying rail. Among people who often disagree about a lot, I think we agree that the reason he is such a necessary punching bag is not only that he asks for it with such flair – like the would-be bully who runs to his bigger brother when he finds himself being called out – but that he perfectly encapsulates almost everything we find wrong about contemporary evangelical culture.

  • He touts himself as relevant.
  • He’s unabashedly masculine.
  • His main motivational points are fear and guilt.
  • He’s self-centered and arrogant.
  • He focuses on male leadership and female submission.
  • He’s obsessed with sex and money.
  • He says some pretty stupid, ignorant sheeeeet.
  • He’s a control freak.
  • He preaches from the gut (ie, In Spirit and in Truthiness)
  • He’s homophobic.

When he doesn’t preach from his white, male, middle class privileged perspective, he belittles those who aren’t.*

And all of this sausage encased in one bully of a pastor.

This week, we get another nugget of White evangelical culture captured by Driscoll– this sentence, delivered at the Catalyst Conference:

I know who made the environment and he’s coming back soon and going to burn it all up. So, yeah, I drive an SUV.

This statement could be just a joke that is taken entirely out of context. He could be saying that, even though I know Jesus is coming back, even though I drive an SUV, I know I need to take better care of the world. But that, coming from him, may be a bit of a stretch.

This is the same guy who said recently that wives are horrible to live with when they whine or complain, calling them dripping faucets – on top of the fact that his entire demeanor towards women in general and wives in specific is dismissive. Women exist for men’s sexual pleasure, and not for much else.

This is the guy whoses Facebook status a couple years ago asked his fans who the most “effeminate, biologically male” worship leader they know is. This targeting both managed to demean those outside of both heteronormative experiences (meaning, most dudes who ), and anyone with a queer, trans* identity – as well as males who don’t always want to strut with their stuff out.

This is the same guy who “joked” in the same seminar that males who drive minivans are mini-men.

Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight

Note. This isn’t a real minivan.

For Driscoll, “joking” is a way of asserting his aggressive controlling behaviors while protecting himself from criticism. The point is made – and men who don’t live up to his “standards” are summarily condemned and ostracized for not being “manly” enough. Women for not being submissive and quiet enough. And Christians for the slightest questioning of his dominionist, escapist, illiterate, triumphalist, and irresponsible theology.

This statement is troubling – and its retweeting without annotation or judgment by several attendees especially – because not only is it theologically wrong, immature, and shows a lack of concern for the near and remote future – it demonstrates a lack of concern for current conditions for the global and domestic poor and people of color who disproportionately suffer the effects of pollution and environmental disaster. Because those who live on the margins (right, Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans?) are most at risk and suffer the most by breathing the worst air; drinking the dirtiest water; not having access to clean or running water; having oil, tar sands, fracking in their lands, making farming and clean living impossible; developing and inflaming asthma and lung diseases; and acquiring cancer (lung and other types).

pollution!

This isn’t a laughing matter, Driscoll. And it’s not something the Evangelical culture can ignore and football off – often using some form of the Left Behind eschatological belief system to justify consumerist destruction that physically harms the marginalized. Injustice is the opposite of love, and we show our love of God by loving God’s creation and those made in God’s image. We love God by loving and taking care of the marginalized.

That means questioning our dependence on oil products – gas guzzlers, plastics, centralized retailers, manufactured products. To marginalize from the pulpit those who care about such matters and the people affected by such matters sends a contradictory message: A man of God who doesn’t care about the people of God.

—————————————————

All of these factors I’ve talked about several times and places before – as well as have – just to pick samples that are easier to find – Sarah Moon, GraceIsHuman, andRachel Held Evans (you’d have to type in his name and hit enter. Sorry for the extra work and #FirstWorldProblems. But this may be the most comprehensive post on him and his position within the conservative Christian location).

Sunday Billy Sunday

It was kinda odd to read about this trendy little cocktail spot in (one of) my neighborhood(s) named after Billy Sunday, the famous prohibitionist/fire-and-brimstone evangelist/baseball player from the turn of the 20th Century.

Of course, like the neighborhood itself – Logan  Square – the name has a way-too-big hipster/ironic quotient. A place that sells liquor going by a character name-checked in Frank Sinatra’s “My Kinda Town” as the guy who couldn’t shut down the nightlife during Prohibition.

Prohibition for Sunday, the converted ex-alcoholic-turned-evangelist, may have been his only social work – and it wasn’t necessarily a bad one. Not well-thought out, of course, in that it was coercive and treated the addictive object, but not the addicts themselves. But then again, the effects of unchecked alcoholism are coercive on societies and on the more vulnerable, so I can’t blame people for having decided that the best way to fight the effects of alcoholism is by making alcohol illegal.

To suggest Billy Sunday was a bully and used his stage and acclaim in Chicago as a bully pulpit is to miss a much wider picture of him. It may be true of the effects, but it misses why he thought such things were necessary. And that is because Billy was much like contemporary Evangelicalism: very, very gnostic. And proud of it.

This is the Billy Sunday who would lead spiritual revivals by calling men and women to repent of their sins, come to the altar and ask Jesus to forgive them. With this action, he would proclaim:

“Now you can go out into the street and walk in front of a bus. And that would be the best thing to ever happen to you because you would die perfect and live forever with Jesus!”

The purpose of gnostic Christianity is to die and go to heaven. There is no heaven on earth. There is no hell on earth. Earth – and the body and everything physical – is a mere ladder, a resting place, a waiting room, an station where we expectantly twiddle out thumbs anticipating the Glory Train. The rest of the world can burn, and will. Just try to save as many people by bludgeoning them with scary words about their eternal damnation while you can.

That’s gnostic Christianity in a nutshell. And it prioritizes individual over social, the powers-that-be over the oppressed, the here-and-now over sustainability. It expects heaven. It doesn’t participate in bringing heaven to earth. For heaven is for the Christians only, according to gnostic Christianity. And if we brought it here, what’s the purpose of an afterlife?

To read more about the gnosticism that has infected Conservative Christianity in the US – and therefore the world – read my book: Shout It from the Rooftops. $5.50 for print. $2.99 for Kindle.

Do it for heaven. Because getting hit by a bus just isn’t worth it.

And I Had Such High Aspirations

Timothy Dalrymple, Evangelical Gatekeeper, asks, Is the Defense of Traditional Marriage Like the Defense of Slavery?:

While [sic] I believe (and I would encourage all Christians to believe) that every homosexual individual deserves all of the same rights and protections that heterosexual individuals enjoy — and preventing gays from suffering bullying, for instance, is absolutely a civil rights issue.  

Well, not exactly a civil rights issue. More a human dignity issue. But in the case of protection in the law, yes. In terms of hate crimes and such, yes!

I believe all humans are, essentially and in themselves, equal in the eyes of God and ought to be treated as equal before the law. 

Wow. That was just… I’m amazed! I’m floored, really; I can’t believe such a prominent member of the religious right is making such a bold declarative statement on behalf of the rights of LGBTQI.

But…

Ah, daggannit. Spoke too soon, didn’t I? I shouldn’t be surprised, of course. Just, I…

…just as it does not follow that every human action is equal in the sight of the law (the state has every right to treat people differently on the basis of their actions), so it does not follow that every human relationship need be equal in the sight of the law.

SMDH.. One can assume just from this that Dalrymple isn’t arguing that homosexuals are equal before God. Certainly I’d expect him to say that same sex/queer relationships aren’t “God’s plan for our best” or some such argument that the Christian church should continue to shun, alienate, and perhaps belittle non-heterosexual relationships. But this goes the extra step to say that such relationships should also not be recognized as on equal level with heterosexual relationships.

not equal
I can see why gay rights advocates make the comparisons in their plight to the struggles of Black slaves and unwilling-participants of Jim Crow, and I can also see why such incomplete comparisons are troubling to African Americans (in that making such comparisons is belittling to both struggles with their unique identities). But Dalrymple here brings up a very familiar argument I hear in studying Black US history: Of course they are equal before God and before the law. Except in practical terms. And they’re not really human, too.

Also.

Oh, and the short answer to Timothy’s question? The same biblical exegesis used to promote freedom for slaves is the same used to liberate Christianity from homophobia. The same exegesis used to promote slavery is the same used to entrap Christianity within homophobia – and thus teach that White, heterosexual Christianity serves a God who can’t see outside White, heterosexual Christianity, and is afraid and hateful of those outside the gates.

Oh yeah. Gatekeeping.

Come on, Timothy. Surely you can do better. I believe in you.

EDIT:
There is much more to say about this. I know that many would argue that Timothy – who is a Facebook friend of mine, though we never interact – is a good guy and that others would argue that there isn’t a homophobic bone in his body, etc., etc. The truth is, whether or not he, personally, is a bigot is not the point. I don’t blog just to point out the errors and the prejudices of specific people – that would take too long and that’s what HuffPo is for. I’m also not interested in whether or not this person has a good heart and is kind to homosexuals/kittens/undocumented/little old ladies. I mean, it’d suck if he wasn’t and be nice if he was. I’m taking issue with his stated words which have power. I’m interested moreso in patterns and particularly the patterns of Evangelicals that are used to silence, shame, sequester, ostracize and, yes, oppress those who are different than they. And Mr. Dalrymple is but one of many, many, many within that movement – that I myself am a native son of and still love and want to identify myself with – that make such alarming and disastrous mind-bends. It is a very, very, very unloving and unChrist-like and bigoted position and posture to publish to take against people while at the same time say that you’re NOT taking such a position against people. This is not to mention how the guest post was all sorts of wrong, using a tradition that has not been kind to women, the poor, slaves, and people of other faiths and ethnicities as a rubric for how we should now treat gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and trans* people.

Not cool. Not cool for Dalrymple. And not cool for Evangelicals who read and agree with his positions and further along marginalization and oppression in the name of a man who affirmed, invited and welcomed all outcasts and outsiders.

Not. Cool.

Thin, Ephemeral, Light, Profoundly Unsatisfying

For a decade I worked at and became contextualized in a conservative Bible college. We understood ourselves to be true to the Bible (that was in the name of the school and the church I centered my life around. And my Bible was dog-eared, so it must have been true) and thus to God. And we understood that other types of Christians were classified under a few different labels, but they were all like hell-bound heretics. Not necessarily – for God could save anyone. Just most likely. I, quite honestly, didn’t understand why they even bothered with the name “Christian.” That was OUR name.

First were the old orders: Catholics and Orthodox. Then were the liberals. After that, and less on the heretical slide, were the weirder denominations (y’know, like Charismatics) and then the liberal Evangelicals (those who, like some from Wheaton, thought the world to be more than 6,000 years old!).

And I was pretty good at this safeguarding. I couldn’t tell you that you were going to hell for your sins, but you were probably on not-safe ground traveling around in your Liberal Hippy Christianity Bug. On the way to hell, of course.

'Hippie VW 3' photo (c) 2006, Marshall Astor - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Weeeee! Jesus may or not be the Son of God, but I’d be on my way to hell if I believed in such an ontological destination!

This is fundamentalist Christianity 101. We take the Bible seriously and we know and are sure of what the Bible teaches! The Bible is the Word of God and it teaches what is true and if you don’t believe what we believe about God through our understanding of the Bible, you don’t take the Bible’s revelations seriously! And if you don’t take the Bible seriously, you don’t take God seriously! You have no faith and your non-faith will send you to hell!

But I wasn’t a strict fundamentalist. I was a conservative Evangelical. So that meant I was nicer in my fundamentalism. You’re not necessarily going to hell… Just more likely to.

Roger Olson, post-fundy Evangelical New Testament professor, reminded me of those uncharitable descriptions in his post, Why I Am Not a “Liberal Christian.” He gives several rubrics to identify if a person or church is a liberal Christian by what she, he or they believe. And that, in itself, is instructive. The first, for example:

How do they approach knowing God? Do they begin with and recognize the authority of special revelation? Or do they begin with and give norming authority to human experience, culture, science, philosophy, “the best of contemporary thought?”

As Tony Jones says, this is bunk. Neither I nor you nor Pastor Jack nor Roger Olson can “recognize the authority of special revelation” without having begun with (and giving “norming authority” to) experience, culture and other contextualizations.

But there’s the awareness. The awareness of context and how that enables and helps and stifles and gives us room to build or not build – but mostly to be. And with the awareness comes the acknowledgementaccording to a traditional theological view, if not a correct one that we are adversarial to faith. Knowledge is forbidden in many corners of Christianity because knowledge diverts from this traditional view of faith. Knowledge could cause us to see that maybe things aren’t the way we’re led to believe they are.

The rest of Olson’s checklist also sets up these dichotomies, though not quite as contradictory. Although the age of the earth and whether or not one accepts evolution isn’t on Olson’s list, the virgin birth and literal resurrection of Jesus are. In such a list, one must be sure of either the veracity or the nonsense of such claims – one can only be sure that it did happen or that it did not happen. Such a list based on what one is sure of in doctrinal terms fails to make sense to me anymore. Since in many of these positions, I find myself in between one point or another. And I sense very much the same position that I myself limited myself and other Christians to just a scant few years ago.

But then there’s this definition, which struck a chord:

Historical theologian Claude Welch… boiled it (viz., “liberal Christianity”) down to a phrase: “maximal acknowledgment of the claims of modernity” in theology.

But of course my approach to viewing the bible and theology and Christianity and acts of faith is informed by modernism. Of course it is. How could it not be?

So is yours. So is Roger’s. So is the pastor of the local Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church. And the Church of Christ across the tracks from it. As well as any atheist. That’s because that is where we live and how we are contextualized: In modernism. My postmodernism is contextualized in modernism. Fundamentalism is a rejection of modernity – but it’s contextualized and fully a product of modernism.

So a liberal Christian, then, is aware and accepts the fact that we live and breathe and think in a landscape thoroughly influenced by modernism. However, I – and most progressive Christians I know – would deny many of the claims of modernism: that we can become better people simply through knowledge, that the world evolves towards a more enlightened sense, that knowledge is fundamentally moral. But I won’t deny that living in a post- modern world shapes my reality fundamentally. It shaped everything.

So I guess by this standard, I am a liberal Christian. Scare quotes optional.

But in case one would think that this is a neutral or positive label to the Evangelical Gatekeepers:

If I ever wake up and find that I think like a true theological liberal, I hope I will be honest enough to stop calling myself “Christian.”

This conviction – one I shared just a scant decade ago – is based on some idea that a liberal Christianity is weak and lacking distinctive features. Which is odd to me, at least on this edge of “liberal Christianity” (or whatever it is I am).

I and those like me follow a religious practice that is, in Roger’s words, “[T]hin, ephemeral, light, profoundly unsatisfying.” We lack prophetic voice and identity, apparently. (Post-Evangelical Eastern Orthodox Frank Schaeffer apparently argues the opposite, claiming that all Protestants, and at the height of that, Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, lack Christian identity because they don’t hold to liturgy. None of this surprises me, I suppose. In building and maintaining our own tribes often we tear down others that are less recognizable). My actualization of my faith has been called many things, but lacking in prophetic utterances has hardly been one of them.

But here I stand. Thin. Ephemeral. Light. Profoundly unsatisfying.

COMMUNION WAFER P28

We are Eucharist wafers, apparently.

The fundamental problem I have with all of this is that Roger defines us all by what we “believe” – ie, what we profess to or acquiesce to as being real or true. And when I say “all”, I mean “all.” We all, according to this theology, this perspective, will enter or be denied entry to heaven and the presence of God by whether or not we agree with and can check off certain beliefs that are, frankly, not consequential to our current reality. Does it – in the grand scheme of things – matter whether one can agree with the Nicene Creed? Is that what Jesus required to enter his Kingdom? Did he ever mention those as prerequisites, as keys to the gates, as the entrance points into which one comes into the sheep fold?

No. But Jesus wasn’t a very good gatekeeper, I guess.

Bad Scholarship, Bad Theology

Let’s be perfectly clear here: Eric Metaxas is nothing but a political hack. Nothing. But.

A writer for Culture Warrior Chuck Colson’s Breaking Point and a current hack author and talking head for evil political network Fox News and hack news network CNN, Metaxas read some stuff on the complex German theologian and Nazi-resister Dietrich Bonhoeffer and wrote a book about how Bonhoeffer would have written for Breaking Point and commented at Fox News if he were alive now. Or something like that.

Metaxas, like much of White Evangelicalism, takes an iconic and rebellious figure like Bonhoeffer and whitewashes him. White Evangelicalism – particularly the more conservative wings, but not solely – consistently does the same with other radical movements and figures.
White Evangelicals claim the abolitionist movement as their own*, and the Civil Rights movement as their own. And Martin Luther King, Jr. as their own.

And if Dr. King were alive today, he would be against Affirmative Action and pro-color blind. Because restorative justice is racist, apparently. 

Jesus would want us to buy guns and shoot bad people.

And the same guy who wrote the radically egalitarian anti-hierarchical statement, “In Christ, there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free-born,” would want women to be subservient, want the rich to control the earth, and Americans to control everything else.

Not only do they defang these leaders, re-haloing them for their purposes, they completely co-opt them for a double-negative impact – both taking away from their messages of radical inclusion and justice and re-purposing them towards an agenda that is exclusionary and privileged for a small minority of people – particularly those who can afford privileges. And so Metaxas compares Bonhoeffer and his Barmen Declaration with conservative Evangelicalism and its Manhattan Declaration (this, by the way, is old hat for this group. They’ve already compared the MD, which is a religious-cloaked cultural assault against homosexuals and the poor, to “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”).

[W]ere he alive today and living in America, costly grace for [Bonhoeffer] would likely mean preaching what the Word of God teaches about human sexuality**–even when activists and their allies in government try to suppress his work and attack his church***. Costly grace would mean standing against churches that mix radical new doctrines about marriage with Christian truth. Costly grace would mean standing up to a government attempting to force him to buy health insurance that violates his beliefs—even if it led to his arrest.
And costly grace would, I believe, lead him to sign the Manhattan Declaration in defense of human life, marriage, and religious liberty, just as he signed the Barmen Declaration, which I quote at length in my book.
Now I must say that Chuck Colson had the Barmen Declaration in mind when he co-authored the Manhattan Declaration. Chuck saw many parallels between what the church faced in Nazi Germany in the thirties and what faithful Christians are facing today in America.

Nazi cat forces you health care and gay marry.

Such views are based on bad scholarship, as Victoria J. Barnett, the editor for the English edition of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, and the Director of Church Relations for the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum explains. She speaks of Metaxas’ book on Bonhoeffer as “badly flawed.”

There are two central problems [with the subtly-named Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy: A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich]. The first is that he has a very shaky grasp of the political, theological, and ecumenical history of the period. Hence he has pieced together the historical and theological backdrop for the Bonhoeffer story using examples from various works, sometimes completely out of context and often without understanding their meaning. He focuses too much on minor details and overlooks some of the major ones (such as the role of the Lutheran bishops and the “intact” churches). The second is that theologically, the book is a polemic, written to make the case that Bonhoeffer was in reality an evangelical Christian whose battle was not just against the Nazis but all the liberal Christians who enabled them.

But Metaxas also misunderstands the type of teaching that he promotes here:

All of this, however, leads to a selective misreading of Bonhoeffer’s theological development and a profound misunderstanding of what happened to the German churches between 1933 and 1945. The failure of the German Evangelical Church under Nazism was not that it was filled with formalistic, legalistic Lutherans who just needed to form a personal relationship to Jesus, but that it was filled with Christians whose understanding of their faith had so converged with German national culture that it tainted both their politics and their theology. (As an interesting aside, when I first interviewed Eberhard Bethge in 1985 he explicitly compared this kind of Protestantism to what he had seen of the American religious right. A thoughtful evangelical reading of the development of Bonhoeffer’s extensive writings on the church-state relationship and the public role of religion would be a major contribution to the field, but Metaxas doesn’t even mention that aspect of Bonhoeffer’s thought). What Metaxas fails to grasp is that there were many devout, well-educated, Bible-reading Christians in Germany who read their Losung each morning and fully supported National Socialism.

You can read the whole review (and these critiques are just the tip of the Nazi iceberg) here. And then read Clifford Green’s critical review here. Green, by the by, is the executive director of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works.

Descending to insult, even insulting the subject of his own book, is a sure sign that an author is in trouble. Why does he do this? Ostensibly because the death-of-God theologians, those “liberals,” have “hijacked” Bonhoeffer. But why whip a few writers who made a brief splash 40 years ago and who have had little or no influence on theology or the church? Because they function as straw men in his polarizing narrative about “orthodox Christians” and “liberals.” His real target is liberals, and not just theological liberals, but political liberals too.

Metaxas insults Bonhoeffer throughout his book by misrepresenting him. And he continues the insults on every given opportunity with bad scholarship, bad analysis, bad politics.

Such bad scholarship is based itself on bad theology – a theology that teaches its adherents to displace and de-contextualize whatever it is studying to fit our own prejudices. The bible, according to such theology, wasn’t written by men and women who live in a specific time and addressing specific issues for specific audiences and specific times – it was written, they believe, in a placeless heaven and has the same impact for White Conservative Evangelical Republicans as everybody else at all times. Which then means that other readings of the bible are incorrect because they are not understood through the particular lens of White Conservative Evangelicals. 

Metaxas’ “scholarship” leads conservative Evangelicalism to deny poor and marginalized people common rights and access under the guise of the “true” “Confessing church” – which he misrepresents.

But the true Confessing Church will not deny access. It will swing wide open the Kingdom of Heaven for all to enter. It will seek healing. It will feed. It will clothe. It will forgive debts.

That’s what the Kingdom of Heaven is about. Not White, Middle Class Christian Hetero privilege.

———————————————–
*Yesterday, on a shared link from the Left Cheek page, I saw a woman argue that white Christian women were the ones most responsible for protesting slavery and freeing slaves in America. No shit. Guess all the black slaves were too busy enjoying their slavery to protest it.
Also, you know who the second largest proponents of American slavery was? White Christian women. Right behind White Christian men.
**ie, Gays can’t marry other gays! That’s gross and ungodly somehow or another!
***ie, Allowing gays to marry gays is persecution!!

Blessed Christian Patriarchy and Blessed Pennies on the Dollar

A lot of the arguments used in Hobby Lobby’s defense can be brokered down to an overwhelming sense that Hobby Lobby is actually a good, caring employer and takes care of its employees. The government – and especially the OBAMA government – is just forcing them to buy baby-killing pills against their good, Christian conscience.

None of which is actually true, of course. These are statements – on abortion, on religious rights, on employment – that belie a fundamental concern of Conservative Christianity – one that undermines Jesus’ own commandments: patriarchy.

In other words, the conservative Christian defense is one supporting Christian Patriarchy. Christian Patriarchy being an oxymoron. In Aristotle, Greeks were above non-Greeks, males above females, free-borns above slaves. There is order and dominance; dominating and ordering. “In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor freeborn.” “You are not to lord over others,” Jesus demands of his followers. We Christians are to serve. Not force. Not rape. Not act as the parents of our employees. Not force them to go along with our religious convictions. Not gloat about paying certain ones a near-living wage while forcing others – in another country who look different from most of Hobby Lobby’s state-side employees and customers – to make pennies on the dollar for their work.

The pennies on the dollar phrase comes from a glowing Forbes profile on David Green, Hobby Lobby’s founder, CEO, and patriarch. Here, Green is valued as a pious hero of capitalism who claims that it’s religious devotion and God’s favor that has raised his capital worth to well over $3 billion. Forbes, being the capitalist cheerleaders they are, could smell Green’s veiled business plan a few thousand miles away. In China, for instance.

It doesn’t take more than a few minutes with the founder, walking through a local Hobby Lobby store, to see the reason he has been able to expand his company into a well-oiled, moneymaking machine without bringing in any outside investors.
Stopping at a display marked 30% off, Green explains how a kitschy rooster ornament is produced overseas for pennies on the dollar, then sold as part of an in-house brand of home accents.

Father David Green / had many employees /
Many employees had Father David Green…

Hobby Lobby doesn’t usually like to divulge such reasons, so Forbes had quite the scoop here. Usually, David Green answers questions about Hobby Lobby’s success with religious pablum along the lines of “God has been faithful,” or, “I was full of pride and God heard me when I humbled myself.” Neither of which I buy – not that they are not true. But lots of good Christians are faithful and humble and decent and don’t exploit overseas workers for pennies on the dollar. And they end up with miscarriages and early deaths and sick kids and behind bars. Most of them – contrary to what conservative, mostly white, mostly suburban churches imply – are living in sub-poverty and hand-to-mouth conditions. Many, many lack clean, running, potable water. Most lack adequate food. Very few are comfortably middle class. And only, out of over a billion, probably fewer than I have fingers for, are billionaires.

This intensely unique blessing, of course, entitles Hobby Lobby to be relatively generous to its full-time employees. They pay a starting minimum wage of $13 for FT workers (closer to state minimum wages for most part-timers, though) and even offer them health care insurance. Where, we have been told, they cover contraceptives. But just not the Morning After Pill. Because that would be killing babies.

Even though that’s not what it is.

Of course, lots of companies and organizations offer selective coverage. And I suppose they are entitled to that. Of course, if we truly had universal health care, this would not be an issue. And that is an underlying issue here – no mistake about it. But then it was the Evangelical culture of which Green is a part of that fought universal health care tooth and nail – under, again, the misguided notion that their opposition was saving babies’ lives, rather than killing more lives. Truthfully, the “pro-life” movement is responsible for more abortions by not supporting universal health care and for risking the lives of women everywhere by both not supporting universal health care and trying to forcibly block abortions, rather than try to persuade people that they’re serious about life*. But I repeat myself again

Another point here is the fact that Hobby Lobby is not providing health care for all eligible workers – which is why it is supposed to comply with the Affordable Care Act in the first place.

Yet, his position as Blessed Employer/Billionaire entitles Green to know what God wants. And Green’s version of God doesn’t want him to participate in a health care plan that would give working class women options over their own bodies or health and which Green finds religiously offensive – despite the fact that the science isn’t there to support his claims to the contrary and his employees don’t have to share his religious obligations over their own bodies. The Morning After Pill is abortion, Christian Patriarchy logic says, because every spermed egg is sacred. (Not sacred enough to keep the human body from flushing from 1/2 to three-fourths of them, but sacred enough that the idea of a pill that negates it is boogey-monstering them up all hours of the night).

Keep on swimming, swimming… Must not fail daddy…

More to the point, his position as Blessed Employer/Billionaire endows Green with the green light to tell his employees how to live.

There is a notice to vendors on the wall at Hobby Lobby headquarters prohibiting “gifts of any value” to employees, who must “pay their share of lunches” and shouldn’t be expected to accept dinner invitations no matter who’s paying, “as they will be with their families during the evening.” 

It’s business ethics to have employees turn down gifts from vendors, of course. It’s unethical, to say the least, to tell either vendors or employees what employees will or should do in the privacy of their homes.

That includes, I argue, cases of rape, health, domestic violence or whatever other reason that a woman may need to take a Morning After pill. Even against what Father David Green argues.

———————–
The rate of abortion doesn’t go down when abortion becomes legally restrictive. It comes down when there is less of a need for it due to poverty and domestic violence. There are other reasons, but those are two of the biggest – and ones I think the pro-life movement, if it really wants to be considered Pro-Life imho, should concentrate on limiting.

Repentance and the Rich

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
– Mark 10:20-25 (NIV)

The story of the Rich Young Ruler is one of the premiere examples of repentance for Evangelicals. We stress a change in lifestyle as a requisite for truly following Jesus, for truly loving God, for truly being welcome into the Kingdom of God.

But they’ll usually put an asterisk around this story.

Evangelical preachers tend to say, “Jesus didn’t mean that you should really give up all your wealth.” “There’s nothing wrong with being rich.” “Wealth can be a false god, but only if…”

Money Money Money

This is a means of ignoring much of the rest of the text, as well as the socio-cultural context. Jesus and most of his people were poor. They did not own land. They lived on it. They worked on it. But for others, always owing them. Always in danger of debtor’s prison. That’s the socio-cultural-economic situation that Jesus and much of his crowd found themselves in. But others lived among the better off, and they wanted to be have their cake and eat it too – in a sort of Marie Antoinette way. Pharisees, scribes, tax collectors, they wanted to either follow Jesus or have some of what he had. Some of them, like Levi/Matthew, gave it all away and made good on their promises to follow God rather than follow money. Wealth, they understand, isn’t just a possible god, it is a god.

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.

I’m noticing a few things here.

One) Typically when this passage, the parable of the harsh landowner, is preached, the emphasis is on the talents as being gifts or money that doesn’t belong to the person possessing it, but ultimately belongs to God. While this has an element of theological truth to it, it puts the handling of the property as a private affair between the property holder and God. But Jesus says to use it to “gain friends”. And he says here – like he did to the Rich Young Ruler, give it away so you may be welcomed into the Kingdom. Not manage it. Give it away to earn friends.

Two) “True riches” is distinct here from “worldly wealth”. Why is that? I propose that he’s talking about the Coming Age, the Kingdom that his hearers were expecting, the eschalon. To the landed, those who thought that their property belonged to them, he says it doesn’t – it belongs to someone else, they won’t receive actual riches until the Next Age, if they do at all.

Three) That someone else are the neighbors. The poor, those with disabilities, the outcasts, the working man, the hungry child, the nursing mother, the woman forced into prostitution. The property doesn’t really belong to the rich young ruler. It belongs to the community, via God. You’re just watching over it.

Four) We must choose between two gods. Jesus’ God and the god of wealth are at odds with each other. If, Jesus makes clear here, you love wealth/mammon/riches, then you hate God. It’s that simple. There is very little room for capitalism in God’s Kingdom, according to Jesus. He, in fact, doesn’t seem to think very highly of the systems that concentrate wealth. Especially at the expense of the poor.

Five) This wasn’t the first or only time the gospels show Jesus contrasting God with wealth. Meditate on what the darkness and evil is in this passage in Matthew 6.

Six) Notice who was tsk-tsking Jesus here? “Oh, that’s not really what you mean, is it? That’s so simple. You’re being a communist, Jesus. How can you reward laziness and punish success?” Yeah, the Pharisees. But at least they were honest about their disdain for Jesus. Now, they proclaim the Name of Jesus, but they don’t care for his message. But they are similar in that they both justify their evil in the sight of others.

Seven) This wealth hoarding is detestable to God. Why? Because it’s stealing from God by stealing from the community – from the poor, which Jesus was, and from the outcasts, whom Jesus actively worked to include into full community participation (which, oddly, many Christians still seem to actively oppose).

With all that, and with so much more biblical evidence (for example) against greed and envy (it’s not what you think), you’d think that Evangelicals would be the first in line to protest tax cuts for the rich at the cost of food for poor children.

House Republicans recently proposed cuts to nutrition assistance that will kick 280,000 low-income children off automatic enrollment in the Free School Lunch and Breakfast Program. Those same kids and 1.5 million other people will also lose their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamp benefits) that help them afford food at home.
Ten years’ worth of these nutrition cuts could be prevented for the price of one year of tax cuts on 3,340 multimillion dollar estates that House Republicans are protecting in their budget.

Yeah, so Christians have to decide which god they’re going to follow. And then repent.

That Term Does Not Mean What You Think It Does (pt.1)

First in a series on abortion and Evangelicals

In this time of national confusion, I’d like to clarify something. The term “pro-life” – like the term “Christian” – has been co-opted and carried away by the violent.

To be pro-life originally meant to be actively pursuing for the protection and good of all of human life. When we hear that term today, it is used to self-describe those who are merely against abortion – usually in almost all cases. Often they are against euthanasia, but not necessarily. And usually against all forms of that as well.

Most of those that proudly carry the label “pro-life“, however, are pro-expansionism. The Evangelical Christian Neo-Con mouthpiece WORLD Magazine, for example, was cheer-leading the War Upon Iraq (I’d be surprised if they weren’t currently pushing for war at Iran as well) before and throughout the attack. So was honorary Evangelical Rick Santorum. And the vast majority of staunchly Contemporary Pro-Life Evangelical churches, including the one I was heavily active in at the time. With few regrets towards that war or, really, any other war enacted upon by the United States. They are all “Just Wars” because the United States is a “Just Nation.”

Pro-life.

Although they are often active in impoverished communities throughout the world through such charitable agencies as Compassion, Int’l and Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse, they rarely ever accept a call for global justice (as Compassion tries to nudge them towards) as that would mean giving up their relative comforts.

So, while millions die yearly from preventive causes, these Contemporary Pro-Lifers actually advocate against broader justice concerns that would save those lives.

Pro-life.

They also overwhelmingly defend the death penalty. This is another area where the original pro-life constituents fundamentally, overwhelmingly disagreed. They understood that pursuit of vindictive punishments lead to trials not pursuant to justice but to guilt and appeasement of the lust for blood. They know that not only are there many innocent people on death row, but that the capital punishment does nothing but perpetuate the cycle of lethal violence. The current crop of “pro-life” individuals and institutions has cheered on the multiple dozens of executions that Texas Gov Rick Perry oversaw.

Pro-life.

The currently co-opted pro-life movement tends to be also be pro-guns rights. They advocate for looser gun control laws. Guns, by the way, not used for survival or even gaming. Guns used to kill or maim another human being. One “pro-life” commenter at a pastor friend of mine’s Facebook page said that it’s practically a moral obligation to shoot off the head of someone who breaks into his house. I’d hate to see the gun rack he’s put under his bed, or think about the very real danger he’s putting his family in. Which is much more real than the dangers of a night-time raid on his house by a bandit. Does it matter, though, as long as he labels himself…

Pro-life?

It seems that, to the majority of those that label themselves pro-life, it is okay for the US government to be involved in taking lives, but not in sustaining them.

This is the bastardized current version of Pro-life.

I can’t even say it’s Orwellian. Newspeak would corrupt a term by implying the its intended end results – so the department overseeing war would be the Dept of Peace, and the department overseeing brainwashing would be the Dept of Love.  If that method were used here, the contemporary pro-life movement would be described as pro-death.

And that would sadly but actually be a more accurate descriptor.