Baby, Baby!: Humanity and Sexual Commerce in #PlanetCCM

Note: This is my first post on the synchroblog #PlanetCCM, in which we ponder how Contemporary Christian Music affected our lives. Since I have much and much to talk about, I’ll start with some musings that have been in the back of my mind for some twenty years. The synch is hosted by Dianna Anderson. Feel free to join in.

I think I was headed back on the 55 on the long, boring journey from the northeastern corner of Oklahoma to the northeastern corner of Illinois and I popped in Heart in Motion. This was the mid 90s and I know it’s a weird cop for a guy whose favorite music is the Clash, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Wonder. There’s more intricate and challenging pop music out there, and Amy Grant’s best stuff is like crackers.

But it makes me feel more human, and compared to most all the other Contemporary Christian Music I listened to at the time (almost all music I owned at the time was produced in CCM industry) outside of the alternative scene (Daniel Amos/DA/da, the 77s, the Choir, Adam Again), it was resoundingly human. Amy was a real person who had been through life and her music touched on that. It wasn’t a Sunday School lesson.

I just had no idea how true that was as of yet.

My driving partner looks at me now. Not much of a talker himself, I remember very much what he says next.

You know, she’s divorcing her husband and she’s in an affair with some country star.

That hits. My car neighbor is not much of a gossiper. But this was serious business – at least that’s how it struck me at that time. My driving partner knew people in Nashville. All of Nashville knew about this. But they were keeping the mums.

Yet, they weren’t keeping quiet to honor the Chapman/Grant family. Nor to protect the kids. No, I had learned long ago that CCM culture can be the most judgmental and hypocritical of all. Humans are not humans. Mistakes are unforgiveable, unless you make beaucoup money for them.

Amy Grant is money.

So the CCM industry tried to correct its ships. Tried to find a way to bury the secret for as long as possible until it could do no longer. Ms. Grant, it turned out, was not going to have it.

And when the secret came out, she was judged for not being Mrs. Perfect. She left, after many years, her drug abusing husband to be with someone she felt listened to her, someone who was also human and real. Someone outside of the machine of CCM.

Now, Amy was money. And money in the CCM industry will forgive a hell of a lot of sins. But it doesn’t cover being a woman. And so it was Ms. Grant who took hell for leaving a hellish relationship behind. CCM, like the God of Moses, hates divorce. But the God of Moses hated divorce partially because it hurts dependent women of a particularly patriarchal time and land. CCM hates divorce because it hurts its particular patriarchy. And money. 

Because she wasn’t able to just leave the relationship, she followed her heart. Whatever a decision that was should not be taken outside of its context: CCM – the exact geographical and cultural land where Amy Grant was raised and found herself, was beholden to the gods of commerce, patriarchy, youth group demographics, and White American Christian Purity Culture.

All these are more important than real lives of real people.

……..

Some years earlier, as Ms. Grant was just coming out of her adolescence, these same Guardians of the Virtue started looking for a worthwhile replacement for the teen set. The first of many was found in a young Leslie Phillips.

She recounts this experience in her second post-CCM record, Cruel Inventions  (which is available to stream on Spotify)* – her third one produced by a post-How Will the Wolf Survive/pre-everything Coen Brothers T-Bone Burnett, her then-husband and after changing her stage name to Sam Phillips.

The title track is – like much of her work – poetic and can take on more than one meaning. Yet,

Two men with empty pockets
Put lipstick on little girl
And another dream goes by

They make her ride the rockets
That fall into the sea of pearl
And another dream goes by..

Uninvent the wheel of endless greed
Let conscience run
Like a river like a dreamer

A world of elevators
Music like magazines
And another dream goes by

“Music like magazines” because CCM is the name of an entire cottage industry focused and centered around a magazine called, conveniently, CCM. But also, in that the music was meant to be consumed, read and trashed. In CCM, the music is about the money, about the culture of greed – and a young child will get dolled up, will go on tour, will be on promotions and touch the hand of a certain kind of fame, will crash for the sake of that wheel.

via No Depression. Can we also talk about her role as a terrorist along Jeremy Irons in a Die Hard movie?

via No Depression. Can we also talk about her role as a terrorist along Jeremy Irons in a Die Hard movie?

But Leslie, as she later revealed to CCM (both the magazine and industry) journalist/music critic Brian Q Newcomb, she was groomed to replace Amy Grant, but she didn’t fit in. Phillips thought she was in a good place to ask a lot of spiritual questions. But no. PlanetCCM exists for the marketing and selling of White Jesus and conservative White Evangelical Christianity.

It’s not for humans being human. To do that, you may have to leave the Christian world.

They found other artists

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*I want to note that this album came out roughly the same time as Grant’s mega album Heart in Motion, which I tried to listen to while writing this article. Phillip’s album stands up pretty well with acoustic textures and richness. HiM, though, is woefully dated in a way that would embarrass 80’s stations. The drum machine! The synths! NOOOOOO!!!
I propose Ms. Grant re-records. With that other Civil Wars producer and the songwriter for “Every Heartbeat,” Charlie Peacock.

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Towards A Cage Behind Theology

After mulling over the significance of the new Nic Cageful Left Behind movie (bound to be a seven film series. Because, completion of perfection!) for several months, I’ve realized that, like all good puzzles that transcend space, time, sense and good taste, I must learn to think outside bsurdity and allow absurdity to roam amok, with a mullet, and naked, and stuff. I’ve decided that the only way to solve the mystery of this supernova upon earth’s media empire set to implode upon our intellectual space and suck away at both our souls and our braenzes is to predict what this movie will look like. If, like much Western Theology, we can figure out what something is, God will save us from the wages of sin (aka, Nic Cage series).

So here’s my take:

The new Left Behind series will be a threequel to the National Treasure treasure of this nation – the Holy Third member of the Holy Trinity of NT. But here, the mystery being unlocked is what happened to all the nice, middle class white people and the cartoonish people of color and why is everybody else that’s left a vile flirt, drinker of spirits, and/or a pool-and-cards player? Why, Nic Cage’s character must ask in raspy and world-weary overhanded voice-over, are all the Left Behinders having so much obviously incomplete with such an obvious God-shaped hole in their hearts?

Image

What Cage shall find is that the answer is hidden in an ancient American treasure. Not the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, but that OTHER national treasure: Jefferson’s Bible. But not the one made up after-the -fact by by teh revisionist libruls where the pages about miracles were ripped out because libruls hate the bible and our founders, but the one that was really kept by Thomas Jefferson (who, also, we are reminded, really loved his slaves and even married one) and is filled with copious underlinings, notes in the margins, and colorful highlighted text – just like Eschatology Scholar Tim LaHaye’s bible!

Nic Cage – and some chick – must cross heaven and earth (as long as it’s in continental, continual United States) to find Thomas Jefferson’s Bible before we are all left behind.

Also, when they find it, only they’ll be saved…

Continue reading

Because Jesus Is a Megalomaniac?

After chastising what he calls “Liberal Theology” (whatever that means), Mr. Wilson here propagates the unbiblical (I say “unbiblical” because it’s not found in the bible) myth that disagreeing with a certain view of how Jesus presented himself is what got the Pharisees into such hot water (see the convo here for context). But that ignores the entire focus of Jesus’ ministry. It had little to do with himself and everything to do with showing a new way – a way that was actually contrary to dominant and oppressive religious, political, and economic pressures.

This statement brings us to another problem: Does God need us to understand something about God in order to be saved? Not agreeing with this view – whatever it may be according to whoever is defining the parameters – is a guarantee that we deserve hell. Agreeing with “the things he said about himself” is like winning the trivia contest, only with the extra bonus that you don’t burn forever in hell after you die. Heck, your name may be put in a special drawing and Jesus will personally come and get you before he burns up the rest of the world.

Or maybe Jesus is a short-tempered jerk who only wants to be around people who agree with him about who he is?

I just don’t think that any of this is consistent with the Jesus we see in the Gospels. Not even when he’s cursing out the Pharisees in Matthew 23.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
Bodhisattvas

Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.*

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.** (NIV)

I don’t think Jesus cares if you agree with him or not. He doesn’t have the fragile ego that I do. But he’s pretty ticked – at least here – about putting extra burdens on the people, about ignoring the hurt of the people while puffing ourselves up.

Can that Jesus be my Jesus? I like him better; he seems more divine.

——————————————–

*This section can be updated to talk about theological conclusions built on Sola Scriptura, which is built on a way of understanding God primarily through reading the Bible, sans much cultural context – a very dangerous way of viewing the Living God in any case. But in this, the Bible is elevated over the God that makes the Bible holy.

**I like to think that my questioning of my contexts, and particularly patriarchy and capitalism and their effects, as they have and continue to influence me is a way to clean the cups full of greed and self-indulgence. But that may be a bit generous to my self-indulgence…. 😉

God in the Gay

Facebook arguments are an odd turkey, aren’t they? For some unknown reason, I decided to get a bit dirty yesterday with some fine debating about the meaning of the term “marriage”, “marriage equality,” and “traditional marriage.” Opponents of marriage equality insist that widening the legal doors to homosexuals is drastically redefining the concept of marriage. Even if that were true (and I assert it isn’t), is that so bad? After all, if there is one commonality among *traditional* marriages, it’s that women are property.

But I got entangled nevertheless and aligned myself with homosexuals. When the reasoning was obviously going nowhere as the arguers kept trying to limit the definition of marriage to what it clearly is not in order to exclude same sex marriage, I used the dreaded “b” word. Because that’s what was happening.

There you go again. If bigotry is the reason persons oppose [Same Sex Marriage] then the entire human race was bigoted until just the other day. How fortunate we are to live in the age of [jasdye], who finally by virtue of his rationality discovered a great moral truth that eluded all of the World’s great philosophers, scientists, moral heroes, religious prophets, king’s, presidents, generals, and artists.

I have two answers for this.

First, as Martin Luther King, Jr, said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” So, yes, not too long ago, rape was largely accepted. Now, much less so. Not too long ago, slavery was a given for many cultures – now few would publicly defend it. Child labor? Apartheid and Jim Crow?

Racism is so 1964 with fb page

Not that we’ve in any sense arrived in any of those areas, after all, institutional and individual racism and rape culture and for-profit prisons and all that. Today I just learned that workers under 19 can make around $4/hour for up to 90 days while training. But there is tremendous progress within a short period of time that starts with a shifting of popular opinion and a changing of laws to protect the vulnerable and end the injustice. So, yeah, I have no problem being of an age where I recognize the arch of history.

My second answer is that I certainly didn’t figure this out – but I started listening in cooperation with millions of others to the voices of those on the margins. In this case, voices of homosexuals who wanted the same rights for marriage that everyone else has but who are denied that for a slew of reasons that, ultimately, lead back to opposition of homosexual people as fully human with attendant rights.

But that’s the thing with so much of Western Christianity, isn’t it? As I delved into a bit more fully in my book, Shout It from the Rooftops, much of Western Christianity is fully enraptured by ideas. We gather and relate around shared ideas. We argue and fight and quarrel and divide over disagreements.

And we do this because we worship and idolize ideas. We are under the mistaken notion that this pleases God. But it is idolatry.

We believe that God’s Word and God’s Truth are timeless entities, perfect and complete in every way and never-changing, static. We approach them as if we can obtain perfection through understanding these ideas and refining ourselves in the process. 

And maybe there’s some merit in that. But it’s a merit of Western Civilization, not one that Jesus had anything to say about. At all.

First, we must understand that the Word of God is not the Bible – it is Jesus himself. Second, we must understand that to understand God, we must understand Jesus – who associated Truth with Love. Furthermore, to love God is equal, according to Jesus, to loving our neighbors – and particularly the outcasts, the marginalized, the poor of society.

The first commandment is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, body. And the second one is equal to it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

In case we couldn’t figure out what Jesus meant by that, he demonstrated with actions and parables and teachings all having to do with people not commonly accepted by the religious order of Jerusalem. Not commonly accepted by the political order of Rome.

In case we didn’t get the picture, he draws up a picture about the Great Throne and the end of the age. In this, the King judges the people. But not by what they know – but by how they treat the poor and marginalized. And – this is important – he equates these marginalized people with himself.

Jesus equates how we treat God with how we treat outcasts. God is known through the suffering of those on the outskirts. There are millions of applications for this radical revelation. They have to do with how we treat migrants, how we treat single mothers, how we treat Third World peoples, how we treat the homeless, how we treat women, how we treat fast food workers.

And, yes, how we treat gay/lesbian/bi/trans*/queer/questioning folks. How we treat our gay or trans* neighbor is how we treat God.

This isn’t about ideas. It’s about how we treat people. And for the Christian, that means it’s about how we treat God.

The Trouble with Powerful Men and Political Hacks

A couple weeks ago I read an interview where a hospice worker made an observation that how we live our lives demonstrates how we end our lives. Some go out fighting every step of the way; some go out peacefully; some with reservations. But you can generally tell how they’re going to go out the way they’ve acted the last forty, sixty, eighty, hundred years.

I’m becoming convinced that Billy Graham’s greatest downfall is his semi-worship of powerful men. Often, those powerful figures were presidents, from Nixon to Clinton and most inbetween (save Carter. Odd, that). These men often benefited from the relationships with one of America’s most beloved and trusted public and religious figures. But now the most powerful man in his vicinity is his son, Franklin.

But Franklin doesn’t have the advantage of being an actual politician who can inspire roughly half the population of the United States. He did not rise through the fire of political discourse and meddling and the tribulation of trying to please most despite the impossible odds. He is a political hack who only needs to please a certain (and generally white, privileged, male-dominated) Evangelical base. But he is shrewd enough to recognize that his father’s legacy is stronger and wider than his will ever be. As long as he can ride those coattails, he will. As long as he can convince his locked-away father – who is losing breath and consciousness – that he is taking care of him and convince his followers that the words that are supposed to be representative of Billy Graham are actually Billy Graham’s – such as the recent two-page ad in the WSJ.- then, glory be! Franklin Graham the scam artist/political hack can get away with destroying a legacy and helping to steal an election at the same time.

I’m convinced that’s what’s going on here. The problem is that Billy Graham has had this moral character failure (trusting powerful men) threading through his life, and that his son – a moral failure himself – is exploiting that.

Not only is Franklin Graham purposefully and sloppily burning through the last vestiges of respect that his father earned through a scandal-free public life in order to establish his own credentials within the Fundamentalist/Evangelical Moral-less Majority (because, really, what else does he have?), but Billy is letting him do so because he fundamentally trusts powerful men. I recognize that draw, sadly, because I’m wired to think that way too. Yet, I’ve been on the other side of privilege and seen what those same men have done to my non-white/non-male cis/non-middle class friends and family and neighbors and students long enough to recognize that Navin Johnson’s father was right.

Especially if that whitey is a middle aged no-good-nic son taking advantage of his late-stage Parkinson’s nonagenarian father.

Edit:
I hasten to add that I do not believe that the elder Graham is cognizant enough to know what he is ascribing his name to. Nor that he believes nor certainly says that which is being applied to him. I’m confident that Franklin comes to him, asks him to sign or if he will agree with some document or photo and Billy, not being fully aware but trusting his son, nods in approval, or some such way shows approval. Not of the content, but of whatever it is that he thinks that Franklin is asking of him. He trusts him that much. To his detriment.

We Have Men-stealers for Ministers, Women-whippers for Missionaries, Cradle-plunderers for Church Members

Frederick Douglass, on the soul of the American Church. A long-standing legacy borne of blood and violence and continuing in such a way. In many ways, we have yet to truly repent.

[B]etween the [slave-holding religion of] Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other.

I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of “stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.” I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me.

We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity. He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me. He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollution.

The warm defender of the sacredness of the family relation is the same that scatters whole families, — sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers, — leaving the hut vacant, and the hearth desolate. We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against adultery. We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! all for the glory of God and the good of souls!

The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heartbroken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time.

The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other — devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise…

Dark and terrible as is this picture, I hold it to be strictly true of the overwhelming mass of professed Christians in America. They strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Could any thing be more true of our churches? They would be shocked at the proposition of fellowshipping a sheep-stealer; and at the same time they hug to their communion a man-stealer, and brand me with being an infidel, if I find fault with them for it. They attend with Pharisaical strictness to the outward forms of religion, and at the same time neglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. They are always ready to sacrifice, but seldom to show mercy. They are they who are represented as professing to love God whom they have not seen, whilst they hate their brother whom they have seen…

Such is, very briefly, my view of the religion of this land; and to avoid any misunderstanding, growing out of the use of general terms, I mean, by the religion of this land, that which is revealed in the words, deeds, and actions, of those bodies, north and south, calling themselves Christian churches, and yet in union with slave-holders. It is against religion, as presented by these bodies, that I have felt it my duty to testify…

When Your God Hates F*gs

This, this is why I sometimes consider leaving Christianity all together. (The points addressed here are from Jesus Needs New PR, aka Matthew Paul Turner. The responses are from JP Moreland. Both are in response to Chick-fil-A Day of Support organized by professional hater Mike Huckabee)

POINT #2
[Regarding the Chick-fil-A Day] People felt hate and we ignored that. At the end of the day, regardless of whether or not your Christian understanding of scripture harbors hate or not, a large group of people felt hated..  

RESPONSE
Regarding his point about people feeling hate, this is the other side’s issue, not ours, and to be quite honest, they may need to search more deeply within themselves if they, in fact, felt hated.  Very few went to CFA with hate; they were angry about the other side’s hate, but they were not hateful. Matthew confused hate with the hard virtues of confrontation of moral evil and standing for what is right, and he confuses real hate with the feeling of hate.  The feeling of hate was not the protester’s fault; it was a projection of the other side onto the protesters and probably reveals a need to be more discerning about those who disagree with you and not to react emotionally.  Such an emotional reaction is often narcissistic (I and my feelings of acceptance are all that matter; the issue, and people’s right to disagree with me are not the issue)….

Because, Moreland, when marginalized people feel hatred directed at them, there is often some validity to it – whether or not you feel that is the case. It is not the victim’s job to turn off their Abuse Meters just because you say you’re not directing abuse at them.

 How can you even know, love and care for people without truth and knowing “issues (alleged truths) about people and how they think?  One of the most loving things one can do to someone is to stand up against their harmful behavior.

It takes all sorts of mental gymnastics to think that standing against LGBTQ people isn’t standing against LGBTQ people.

We [prove we don’t hate gay people] by warmly inviting them to attend church, to receive love and healing and so forth.

It takes a sort of fortitude to conclude that LGBTQ people or their allies would ever want to step foot in a church that demeans and ridicules them. Or that those same people are supposed to feel loved when their request to be treated as equal human is scoffed at by those who claim to love them.

Or that anybody wants or would benefit from whatever kind of “healing” they’re offering.

My favorite version of this meme, as envisioned by a friend of mine,, Terry R.

I’ll close out the quotes with this right here:

[H]ow about loving the CFA people and all those on their side?  Don’t they need love, mercy and support?  Yes they do, and people chose to express that love and respect
Wednesday.  That was a very Christian thing to do.

Did he mean the employees at CfA? The hourly wage earners? The people who get by with fast-food wages and were constantly told, on that fateful Wednesday, “Thank God. I stand with your company against the gays!” The homosexual ones who were subjected to that kind of “support” all day long. Or the ones who are barely getting by while conservative American Evangelicals like Moreland politically fight any notion of fair wages and accessible health care for the working poor?

Or does he mean, by “CFA people,” the family owners of the company? Because that’s who the CfA Day people were supporting. With a few, outlying exceptions (the wad who started yelling at employees, or the people who spray painted a franchise were being ignorant and hurtful. But they were roundly denounced by most LGBTQ activists anyway…) the employees were not being targeted by protesters and boycotters – at least not directly. The family company was. Was it really “a very Christian thing to do” to support the corporation? Did they need to know that they were getting Christian love that day? Was that what Jesus meant by comforting those who mourn?

It makes sense that Moreland is a “distinguished” professor of philosophy in that he doesn’t have to make his profession relevant to the real world – just make up a system, a different world that makes sense within its own cloistered system, and apply it on top of this one. In his ontological world, God is a hateful monster, but He can be a monster and yet love those He’s being monstrous to. Those the Monster God hates can and should (must!) accept the fact that Monster God is a loving God because the Monster God is the true arbiter of love and truth.Therefore, what Monster God – as represented by Moreland and his co-priests – says is Real and True and Good.

And if you can’t accept that Monster God and his Monster Priests absolutely love you while they’re telling you what a horrible person you are for being different and wanting to be respected as a human being, well, that’s your problem.

All these accolades, however, don’t, in the least, mean that Moreland is a distinguished person, or even a distinguished scholar or teacher, really. Nor a distinguished follower of Christ. But the fact that he has so much pull and claims a mantle at Christian schools like Biola or Liberty and even a fellowship at something called the Wiberforce Forum* says that there is serious, fundamental problem with Christian scholarship.

That a man like this has any influence over today’s pastors, that he is part of their training process, that what he does in any sense passes for real-world scholarship is a fundamental problem and speaks to a fundamental disorder within the American Christian church. I can testify with story after story after story about how, exactly, pastors who follow the Monster God that Moreland speaks on behalf of are the real threat to the traditional family.

Or any other family.

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*William Wilberforce. Yes. THE William Wilberforce. While most American Evangelicals were busy arguing that slavery is a good force from God and that Africans were designed to be subservient to white male leadership, Wilberforce was a leader in a movement to shame the English into abolishing slavery in their territories. Contemporary conservative Evangelicals like to claim Wilberforce’s legacy, though he was every bit the radical that, say, Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison were for their times, but without the colorful language that could condemn much of what conservative Evangelicals like Moreland stand for…

Polyamorous Chikins and Families

I’ve never eaten at Chick-fil-A. I’m not a Southerner, so I don’t have that regional affiliation that makes others love Carl, Jr’s or Waffle House or Taco Mayo or whatever. I’m from Chicago. We do the far more dangerous deep dish pizza and thousands of versions of encased leftover meats. When/if I ever move, that’s what I’ll miss. I haven’t tried Chick-fil-A, so I don’t know what I’m missing. And CfA will not really miss me, either.  But that’s not what this is about. This isn’t about making a statement, because, at least individually, I don’t have much to make a statement with.

But, on International Eat Moar Chikin Day, tempers are flaring up. There is real injustice concerning the defense of marriage being solely between a male and a female partner. But maybe the bigger injustice is the inability to empathize and share in the sufferings of others that many, many Christians are having right now. As a result, I often feel victimized myself when some of my Christian friends ask, “What’s the big deal? He’s just expressing an opinion…”

Well, for starters, the opinion itself is hurtful. It’s kind of mean and exclusivist to say that a family is only defined how you define it. And that way is one man, one (usually subservient) woman, and a gaggle of babies. Those of us who do not fit into that stereotype (with extended family, with add-ons, with divorce, with infertility, with differing sexual preferences, different socio-cultural values, with children born out-of-wedlock, etc,) do not need for people to define for us what is and is not a “proper” family – or, for that matter, a “biblical” family.

Oregon chickens
All these hens. Where are their husbands?

Because, as we’re probably aware by now, families in the bible were never, ever exclusively one model or another. And the typical nuclear family wasn’t even an option (until privilege and luxury allowed young families to be independent of others – but even that is misleading).

But that’s not what this is about. The majority of Evangelicals tend to believe that the fracas over CfA is about a belief or an expression of that belief, but it’s about practice. CfA president Cathy and his supporters contend that they give sandwiches to anyone who comes in the door, regardless of their sexual affiliation or “lifestyle choice.”

I guess they want a cookie for this? This kind of stance is utterly dismissive as well. One, it’s supposed to be that way. We live in a country with civil rights laws. It’s the law. They’re supposed to welcome every paying customer into their business. So what? Do we celebrate every time a Waffle House decides to let an African American buy pancakes now? What year is this?

The same people also counter that CfA also doesn’t discriminate on hiring employees. Well, franchises may not discriminate so much locally (let’s thank the CRA and the Equal Employment Opportunity Standards for that), but the company does discriminate in hiring and promotion. And fairly openly.

Cathy… wants married workers, believing they are more industrious and productive. One in three company operators have attended Christian-based relationship-building retreats through WinShape at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga. The programs include classes on conflict resolution and communication. Family members of prospective operators–children, even–are frequently interviewed so Cathy and his family can learn more about job candidates and their relationships at home. “If a man can’t manage his own life, he can’t manage a business,” says Cathy, who says he would probably fire an employee or terminate an operator who “has been sinful or done something harmful to their family members.”
The parent company asks people who apply for an operator license to disclose marital status, number of dependents and involvement in “community, civic, social, church and/or professional organizations.”
But Danielle Alderson, 30, a Baltimore operator, says some fellow franchisees find that Chick-fil-A butts into its workers’ personal lives a bit much. She says she can’t hire a good manager who, say, moonlights at a strip club because it would irk the company. “We are watched very closely by Chick-fil-A.” (Forbes)

WinShape, btw, is CfA’s “pro-family” charitable branch. Which we’ll get into shortly.

But not only does CfA discriminate just by their definitions of family values or what-have-you, but also for more explicitly religious reasons:

Chick-fil-A, the corporate parent, has been sued at least 12 times since 1988 on charges of employment discrimination, according to records in U.S. District Courts. Aziz Latif, a former Chick-fil-A restaurant manager in Houston, sued the company in 2002 after Latif, a Muslim, says he was fired a day after he didn’t participate in a group prayer to Jesus Christ at a company training program in 2000. (Forbes)

This is in addition to the million-plus they give to anti-gay groups (explicit hate group and Kill-the-Gays sponsor Family Research Council, Alliance Defense Fund, and Georgia Family Council, for example) or funds set up specifically to go towards anti-gay groups such as the FRC, American Family Association or Focus on the Family, or the millions they invest in groups that are explicitly limited to straights only and condemning of “homosexual behavior” (Campus Crusade for Christ and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, both of whom try to and have a history of “fixing” and post-gay “recovery”) through WinShape. (Equality Matters)

And then there’s the former employee who is suing CfA on the grounds that she was fired in order to be a stay-at-home mother. (via)

Each of these, on their own, probably wouldn’t be enough to earn nation-wide scorn. But put them together and we have a pattern deeper than just “expressing a different opinion.” It’s a systemic pattern of discrimination for a certain way of being a “family.” Privileging male-dominated and bread-winning, multiple-children-having, nuclear, straight families far above and over others.

That is an explicit problem. A fundamental problem that I’ve noticed with Evangelical Christians is that we tend to go along with the rest of society – but generally a couple decades after society has. Rather than being on the vanguard of equity, we hold the line until society moves it and past when society moves it. So we are strong for capitalism long past its usefulness to society. We are struggling with “Earth Care”. We mock vegetarians. And we say we love homosexuals, but when we’re not ignoring them or talking down to them, we’re fighting their recognition every step of the way. (Also, we completely ignore – at best? – transgendered people. )

Now, is a boycott the best way to protest or change policy? I really DK. Remember when Disney was being actively boycotted by these same “Family” groups in the eighties and nineties for being pro-gay? For, actually, extending many of the same benefits to the partners of homosexuals that these “Family” groups still don’t want extended to non-straight families? Will it change perspectives? I know a lot of information is being passed through right now, and I hope seeds are being planted. But boycotts and counter-boycotts, are they effective? I guess it depends. Aims? Objectives? Procedures?

I’d be more interested in, say, dialog. Particularly, dialog where Evangelicals are willing to just. shut. up. and listen and try to understand why LGBTQI persons are upset instead of Evangelicals telling LGBTQI persons that they shouldn’t be so upset (Can you tell I’ve been triggered here myself?).

Maybe we can learn a lot from each other. I’d like to know why, for example, visitation rights are denied to same-sex couples. And I’d like to know why that’s okay for some, or if that’s really ok with Evangelical Christians. Are they aware that when they get the state to pass constitutions against homosexual marriages, this is what they’re doing? This and refusing to acknowledge the same rights that heterosexual couples have. According to the Human Rights Watch, “1,138 benefits, rights and protections[are] provided on the basis of marital status in Federal law,” which puts homosexual couples in a precarious position in doing taxes, raising children, sharing benefits, family leave, etc.

Additionally, this isn’t just limited to financial and visitation rights. It’s about who qualifies and doesn’t qualify to have basic dignity and participation in society as a full human being with full rights. Remember, just a few years ago, interracial marriages were outlawed and considered unbiblical by many of those fighting against full marriage equality.

But, let’s expand this a bit more, shall we? For it’s not just same-sex couples that are denied basic human equalities, rights, privileges. It’s also, in some cases, extended family members. And maybe that’s an issue that has to do with other types of privilege. Some instances have to do with ageism. For example, older best friends are closer than recognized family sometimes and sometimes would like to enter into agreements to watch each other, but are denied the privilege by unconcerned family members. The fact that distant, unconnected blood relatives can have more impact than life partners is kind of scary, really.

But, at least we can be comforted that KFC and Oreo love the gays. Call it consumerist appeal, but at least they’re recognized as people, even if just consuming people…

Here’s your cookie, Cathy.

Black wedding banned by Baptist church – And other discriminations

Black wedding banned by Baptist church – WLBT.com – Jackson, MS

WLBT.com – Jackson, MS

The day before black congregants were to marry in a majority-white church, the use of the church for that wedding is vetoed by the majority-white congregation.

First, the parts that are supposed to make us feel better about all this crap:

  • The dissenting people within the church were a tiny minority, according to the pastor.
  • “I didn’t want a controversy to affect the wedding of Charles and Te’ Andrea. I wanted to make sure their wedding day was a special day,” according to the pastor, Mr. Weatherford
  • So the couple is married by Weatherford at a nearby church.

But, then there’s this:

  • “I didn’t want to have a controversy within the church.”

Too bad. Too late. It’s not just a “controversy”, Pastor Weatherford. It’s obvious, direct evil. And the unity of some nice white people isn’t worth ignoring this obvious, dreadful sin.

That’s a problem, and bigger than just the sin of denying a couple a wedding at the last minute based on their race. It’s allowing that same crap to continue unabated and under the coverage of “difference of opinion” and “maintaining unity.”

Discipline your church, man… Before it gets media attention for being so anti-Christ.

And then think about how the same may discriminations may be occurring to lesbian, gay, interracial, transgendered, immigrants, people with disabilities or mental disorders, non-conformists and other oppressed groups within and around your church.

Dump That God Already!

You fathers–if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead?
Luke 11:11 (NLT)

John Piper, a prominent Calvinist pastor and author and one of the heads of the Neo-Reformed movement of Christians that includes luminous pastor-leaders as Mark Driscoll seems to believe in and speak for a misogynistic, bullying, monstrous God that if the Christian Church is his bride, as the bible says, we would need to divorce and put out a restraining order on. Being battered, bruised and subject to abuse is no way to live in a relationship. And it’s hardly a way to live at all...

I’ve already written about Piper’s excuses for a physically abusive spouse here, and plenty of prominent Christian scholar/writers (including Tony Jones, Rachel Held Evans, and Scot McKnight) have written about the problems of Piper’s all-controlling, male-dominant god/supervillain before. And then this morning I saw that Peter Enns delved head-first into the swarm. And I’m thankful for that. Because this is the sociopath that Piper describes as God based on his reading of the genocides of the book of Joshua:

God is taking life every day. He will take 50,000 lives today. Life is in God’s hand. God decides when your last heartbeat will be, and whether it ends through cancer or a bullet wound. God governs….
If I were to drop dead right now, or a suicide bomber downstairs were to blow this building up and I were blown into smithereens, God would have done me no wrong. He does no wrong to anybody when he takes their life, whether at 2 weeks or at age 92.
God is not beholden to us at all. He doesn’t owe us anything.

This, courtesy of Heath March at marchingonandon



This is what we’re supposed to believe about the Hebrew/Christian God. We are supposed to accept the image of (and cower before and accept the fate of) the God of Conquering, Genocidal Joshua over and above the God of Humble, Healing Jesus. I can’t. I refuse to. I’ve seen enough abuse in my clients, in my friends, in my co-congregants, in the churches I’ve attended and been around, in my community, in my own life. I refuse to bow before a God who demands I love Him*.

via

I used to sing songs like this, in church, to this destructive, manipulative, abusive God. I used to pray to Him and try to find some solace among all the destruction and death surrounding me that He supposedly allowed and even willed. I used to sing lyrics about how He is greater and stronger and able to beat your god into a pulp.

Why?

Is this the kind of God that Jesus presents?

  • The kind of God that has to force you to love Him?
  • The kind of person that wants us to accept how beautiful He is, but tells you you’re contemptible and ugly?
  • The kind of lover who treats you like garbage and will only accept you when you realize that you are worthless without Him?
  • The kind of husband who forces you to receive and accept His seed? (Does that sound like rape? Because, despite the counter-claims by the authors, it is)
  • The kind of man who believes that His emotional needs are supposed to be first and, if there is any left over, you must give that to your other leaders?
  • The kind of spouse who gives ultimatums and threats?
  • The kind of lover who can only accept you as worthy of His presence when He hides you behind someone else’s (His own?) image?

Is this the God of Jesus, or the God of our theology based on a man-centric, cold and cruel world? This kind of God/lover can’t be trusted. He is abusive.

Or is Jesus and his God known as a wooer? As the ultimate in Truth. As a healer? Loving all? Creating all? Asking that we love our neighbors AS we love ourselves, and our wives as Christ loved the Church?


What kind of God do we believe in?


Any father who gives His children snakes when they’re hungry needs to have His children removed, brought to a safe place far away from Him, and counseled and treasured.

————————————————————
*I normally do not use gender-specific pronouns to describe God. But this is a different God, a patriarchialistic God, and so needs to be identified as such.

Isaiah 58 – On Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Scratch the needle on the DJ’s table!
Shout aloud! Don’t be timid.
Tell my people America of their sins!
Yet they act so pious, so righteous, so deserving!

They come to the Church every Sunday and Wednesday,
and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God – they even make laws in my name.
They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.

ArtPrize

‘We have fasted before you! We have committed prayers,’ they whine.
‘Why aren’t you impressed? We sure are!
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’

“I will tell you why!” I respond.
It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in sadness
and cover yourselves with ashes. You cry during prayer gatherings. You bemoan presidents and policies.

Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?

Day laborers picking cotton, near Clarksdale, Miss. (LOC)

No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;


lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

 Prison Labor in Louisana on the Mississippi River 4a17926v



Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.


Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.


Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring, full of veggies and fluoride-free.
Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.

obama-afghanistan



Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Don’t pursue your own interests on that day,
but enjoy the Sabbath
and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day.
Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day,
and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.


Then the Lord will be your delight.
I will give you great honor
and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.
I, the Lord, have spoken!

(Slight edits to make it more contemporary. But really, shoot, what hasn’t changed here?)

The Strings Attached Are Attached to All of Us

We live in this big, intricate, messed up, imperfect world filled with imperfect humans. And it seems like most of us know that and take that for granted. Most American Evangelical Christians sure do. What many of them don’t seem to notice, or at least acknowledge, is that we also live in this interdependent, intricately connected, living, breathing society.

Society is not just a concept. It’s not an out-there thing disassociated from our everyday reality. It is very present and it is very real. We may not be able to touch it like the hard oak of this heavy but falling-apart table I like to rest my feet on occasionally, but it is every bit as real as the sweat gleaming off my forehead.

So it bothers me to no little effect when people complain about having to participate in society and act as if they owe it nothing – as were the basic arguments raised this last week over the healthcare ruling from the Supreme Court. It’s an argument that the poor are using the government to steal from the rich (rather than the truth that the rich are stealing from the poor), or that we’re being forced to buy something we don’t need. And for all the problems of the Affordable Care Act – and there are many, many – these reasons don’t come into play, but expose a deeper problem in contemporary American society and politics: we believe we do not benefit from the very systems that benefit us and we believe that our benefit is not the result of exploiting the very poor of our country and the world.

But first the good stuff. We benefit largely as a result of shared work. That’s how a society functions. Everybody puts in; everybody gets results.

The dreams we have, the work we do, the benefits we enjoy, the language we possess, the identities we carry, the food we eat (less that you hunt and grow), the health care we enjoy, the cars we drive, the streets we roll down, these are all effects of the shared work of society. One cannot decide to not participate. One cannot decide that they owe nothing to society nor that society has not given them and continues to give them what they need and often what they desire. If these people want to live like a hermit, fine. Let them fix their own water, electricity, food. Keep them off our roads. Allow them the privilege of developing their own language for their imaginary conversations with imaginary friends. They need to stop using ours for their fantasies.

Plank road in forest in Tillamook County, Oregon
Look, a socialist road!

Now, if you drive, you have to have insurance, right? Because you’re socially responsible for the economic burden that could happen due to any accident that may occur to or as a result of your car. It’s part of the price of participating in sharing the roads. Sometimes the cost is nearly unbearable, but when we run into a problem, we’re better off for it. That day may not happen for some of us – but it could happen to any of us no matter how safe and responsible we are (or believe we are) as drivers – and that is the point.

Everybody needs healthcare insurance. There is no getting around that. If you don’t have it, but something, anything, unexpected pops up (an unidentified lump, an accident, a heart murmur) everybody else pays for it. Everybody needs it. If you don’t want it, it doesn’t matter. You need it. That’s why it’s called “insurance.”

Everybody shares the load. That’s what makes a society. If you can’t handle that, never ask for a job, fix your own water, become a hermit. Because we don’t deserve to have to share the cost of society with selfish people who take without considering to help and then want to cut off food and survival functions for workers and mothers and children who do or will or want to give back through their sweat, who create wealth for the privileged classes.

Which brings us back to our second point.

American patriots constantly point out how generous the United States is, both in terms of government and private charity. But we don’t acknowledge the strings that come attached. We talk about how much we help Haiti and African people but ignore the fact that they are in such dire straights because of oppressive economic lending practices, because we deplete their resources, because we have installed leaders that were horrible for their countries but were good for us.

That’s how it’s always turned out, in Southeast Asia, in Latin America, in the Pacific… With our influence and money, we get to curry favors and effectually rob what we now deem “developing” countries so that they need to ask for more favors – wherein we or our surrogates come in to effectively own the country and its resources (be it water, energy, diamonds, gold). To add demonic joy, we love playing these countries against each other to distract other countries in the region while we keep them in check (cf, the Middle East).

These are the costs of society that we need to gather and figure how we can do without and how we can run off. We live in Orwellian times. “Freedom” means the freedom of rich white people to steal from most of the rest of the world and not give a sh*t about the rest of us.

We may be free to dream of a better world for us all, but we’re not allowed to speak it outloud, for fears that somehow a better world for all is somehow fascist. I believe conservatives should focus more on reducing the costs of healthcare rather than putting all their efforts in oppressing the poor and keeping them from receiving it.

So some things you don’t have a choice on. So what? A lot of people don’t get to decide whether or not they’ll sleep with one eye open or whether or not their home will be collateral damage for our War on Drugs or our War on Terror or our War on War or whatever other euphemism we can figure for Blowing People Up for Political Expediency and to Extend Our Imperialism and Corporate Interests.

Get over it. Get involved in society and help us find better ways to live and act as a civil social humane society.

Until we get to the point where all are protected and truly represented in an equitable system, though, I believe that the government’s obligation is to protect the most vulnerable.

I’m a socialist. But I’m one because Jesus and the prophets taught me to be one. If the Christian Right (and most every interaction with people who complain about having to help other people I have had in the last few years has been with a conservative Christian) does not believe in sharing and helping (and it’s pretty obvious they don’t), and they can’t see where the Bible tells us to bear one another’s burdens both as neighbors and as citizens through government, I’m not sure what Bible they’re reading. Tt’s not the Hebrew and Christian one. It’s not the one written by Commie Pinkos. Perhaps the Satanic Bible…