28 Reasons This Christian Liberal Is Done Talking To Conservatives

Tiffany Willis’s insightful article saddens me.  In 2015, she laid out 28 reasons she is done talking to her conservative Christian friends and family.  I’m saddened that America is getting to where we can’t discuss our differences anymore without wanting to strangle each other, but I do, nonetheless, understand where Ms. Willis is coming from.

I respond only as myself.  I’m a devout Christian, very political, but I don’t identify with the religious “right” or “left”.  In an Episcopal Church with a very left of center parish on average, I’m the “token conservative”, but put me in a room full of southern Baptists, and I turn into the liberal faster than Jesus makes water into wine.  

So, that’s enough context.  Let me go through each of her points, and I’ll try not to Tu Quoque each of her points, though that will come up in many cases.  From here on I’ll be addressing Tiffany Willis directly.

  1. You support revisionist history.

Here’s my first Tu Quoque.  Yes, I’ve seen the revisionist history that comes from the right.  I’ll use Civil War history as an example.  I’ve grown up white in the south, and am very familiar with the neo-confederate narrative.  “It wasn’t about slavery, it was states’ rights.”  Yet right now, I see revisionism coming from the left.  Just because neoconfederates go above and beyond to deny the importance of slavery, doesn’t mean that the exact opposite must hold true.  I’m not interested in defending the Confederacy.  But a fine man on the wrong side of history is getting his name dragged through the mud lately.  I’m talking about Gen. Robert E. Lee.  He was a complicated man who didn’t want to secede from the Union, and wanted slavery to be phased out.  Yet he fought for the Confederacy.  I, now, here bold faced lies claiming that Lee was a “white supremacist” who supported slavery.  While neoconfederates should be held accountable for their historical cherry-picking and denial, the victors shouldn’t be free to tell bold faced lies about the side they defeated just because – social justice!   

This is just one example, and I want to move on to the other 27

2. You cite Jesus as your reasoning for rejecting marriage equality.

I’m with you on this one!  I’ll defend someone’s right to believe what they will, but that’s not the same as defending the belief.  Jesus never once mentioned same-sex marriage, I’ve talked about my own views on this in detail.  

On the theology I’m with you.  Though I wouldn’t stop talking to my fellow Christians who are die-hard “traditional marriage” advocates.  I would say to them, however, gay marriage hasn’t hurt the sanctity of my marriage, nor your’s.  

3. You use Biblical scripture to excuse yourself from feeding the hungry.

9. You assume that everyone who needs help are losers and parasites who refuse to work.

I’ve see this too, and honestly, it reminds me of Satan quoting scripture to Jesus in his efforts to tempt Him.  I share your position on this.  If you’re tired of talking to the Christian right about this, I understand.  But I usually point out to them, as you did somewhere in this article, that the majority of welfare recipients have a working head of household.  They do work.  It’s just hard to feed a family on 40 hours of minimum wage.

4. You lie when you say you value “freedom of religion.”

Tu Quoque number 2.  Yes, I know.  They say “freedom of religion” and then try to suppress Islam and justify by saying “Islam is an ideology, not a religion.”  Apparently one politician gets to decide what Islam is.

With that said, I don’t know if you, Ms. Willis, are like this.  But anyone who supports punishing a cake decorator for not wanting to provide a wedding cake for a gay wedding, or some grandma for not wanting to provide flowers; anyone who supports this is a bully, and has no respect for religious freedom.  And don’t give me all that “Jim Crow” stuff!  A gay couple having to go to 1 of the other 29 bakeries instead is not the equivalent of a black family sleeping in their cars because no hotel would give them a room.  

5. You claim God speaks to you and tells you to do things.

I always get uneasy about this.  I long ago made the mistake of thinking God had “a plan for me”.  Maybe He does, but if He does, it’s best that I not try to figure it out.  Yes, the religious right does this, and I think it’s dangerous.  If people think they’re doing God’s work, is there anything they won’t do?

6. You question my faith.

I can only think of once when I was talking to someone on the religious right, who questioned my faith, and it didn’t offend me.  He was your typical creationist type, and I was talking about science, and the universe, etc.  And admitted that scientifically, I can neither prove nor disprove God.  He said it sounds like I have a “weak faith”.  He was right.  

That is the only exception.  Otherwise, who is anyone to question my faith, or your’s?  I know exactly what you mean here.  It’s like if I don’t embrace their particular brand of Christianity, they speak to me like I’ve never heard the “good news” before.  I cannot stand supposed Christians trying to “convert me” or “save me”, when I’ve already there!  I don’t question their faith, though I may question their understanding of scripture.  

7. You care more about your guns than you do about children.

This is a tough one.  But you’re thinking – It shouldn’t be!  Choice between guns and children, children win – hands down!  But is it really that simple?  The problem runs much deeper.  Our society is hurting.  People have no sense of hope, they felt alone, unloved, unimportant.  They want to matter.  They don’t get the psychological treatment they need.  There are ticking time bombs walking around every day.  And one of them goes off.  Banning guns, or restricting guns, isn’t getting at the root of the problem.  

8. You get excited about people dying.

18 You love war, death, and destruction.

I won’t Tu Quoque, because at the time this was written, 2015, it wasn’t quite applicable, yet.  But in 2017, we’ve just seen the Democrats nominate the biggest warmonger they could find – Hillary Clinton.  I just watched my loving, compassionate Church full of the tolerant left, rent their clothes and gnash their teeth, all because they didn’t get their warmongering “first woman president”.  

Ms. Willis, on the issue of war, and Christianity, I’m with you.  But it seems that since 2015, the tables have turned.  I hope that you did not in 2016 engage the same kind of hypocrisy you’ve criticized the religious right for by supporting that warmonger-in-chief just because – “first woman president”.  

10. You weren’t concerned about uninsured people– including me.

I know what you mean.  Jesus healed the sick.  

I have different reasons for opposing Obamacare.  Obamacare is a mandate to buy private insurance from for profit companies, with no incentive to keep rates down.  Rates have nearly doubled since Obamacare was implemented, and more than doubled for some.  I’m all for affordable healthcare, but this is not affordable health care.  If you personally benefited from it, then good for you.  But many have not.  What we need is at least a limited form of single-payer.  I’m sure you’re familiar with what that is.  But I’ll point out that by entrenching the private sector insurance, we’re only making single payer that much more difficult to obtain.  So I support the intention behind Obamacare, but I don’t support Obamacare.  It’s not what was intended.

11. The Creation Museum — that is all.

Agreed.

12. You’re liberal in youth, yet grow conservative in age.

Interesting story there.  Hardly seems a reason to be angry at someone.  (Calling you a “baby killer” is certain reason to be angry)  But for becoming conservative, in and of itself – people change.  I don’t want to be entrenched in an ideology my whole life.  I change my positions in light of new evidence, and my views are still evolving.  I’d encourage others to do the same.

13. You don’t want people who disagree with you to vote.

I know what you mean.  A former student of mine was earning his US citizenship.  I congratulated him.  He was proud he’d be able to vote.  I again congratulated him, even knowing full well he was about to vote for the aforementioned “warmonger in chief”.  

I share your disdain for gerrymandering, and wish we’d do more to ensure that districts are geographically logical, rather than political.  

14. Some of your best friends are black. Or Mexican.

There’s a difference between “prejudice” and “racism”, and I think that’s what you’re seeing here.  I see it all the time.  The reason your conservative friends deny being racist is because they don’t have an ideology of racism.  They are, however, prejudiced.  They tend to prejudge people based on such characteristics as skin color.  But they don’t flat our refuse to associate with people who are different.  That’s how they manage to have their “black friend” and still have their negative attitude towards blacks more broadly.  It’s sad.  But I think you’ll get through to them better (if you’re interested in trying anymore) by knowing the difference and discussing their prejudices with them.  Make it clear you know they aren’t in the KKK, and go from there.  Just my advice.

15. You scream about undocumented immigrant children at the border, but you hire Mexicans to do your dirty work.

Definitely hypocritical, and disgusting behavior if they’re exploiting these people.

16. You insist on calling undocumented immigrants “illegals” and “aliens.”

This is a tough one for me, from a religious perspective.  I know we should “welcome the stranger to our land”.  I also know we’re a sovereign nation with laws, and “he who bears the sword bears it not in vain.”  If people cross the border illegally, then I’m sorry, but they are illegal immigrants.  I’m not calling them less than human, but it is criminal behavior.  There is a difference I realize between crossing the border illegally, and crossing legally but overstaying your visa.  But I have no problem calling illegal immigrants – illegal immigrants.  I don’t wish them any harm, but I do want the law enforced.  They should be deported.  I’ll welcome the stranger to our land who comes here LEGALLY.  

17. You don’t mind using force against “lesser” groups to get what you want.

Tu Quoque time!  Have you not seen all the suppression coming from the left lately?  As despicable as the Westboro Baptists are, they aren’t suppressing freedom of speech.  But what about people shouting down speakers at universities?  What about people blocking the Sec. of Education from doing her job and visiting a public school?  Obama calls them out!  Will you call them out?  I have no problem calling out anyone, left wing, right wing, chicken wing on a string; who suppresses freedom of speech.

19. Speaking of war, you think draft dodging is OK and military service is for the little people.

This is a better description of Republican elites than your conservative friends and family.  But I share your disdain for chicken-hawks.

 20. You claim to care about the Constitution, but in reality you don’t.

Tu Quoque number…4?  Who’s counting?

Yeah, speaking of “undocumented immigrants”, what’s your attitude toward “sanctuary cities”?  If you care about the Constitution, that includes the authority of Congress, not local governments, to make laws regarding immigration and naturalization (Article I, Sec. 8, clause 4).  If you don’t support enforcing our immigration laws, than you care no more for the Constitution than many authoritarian “conservatives” who strip our civil liberties in the name of “national security”.

21. It’s impossible for you to see your privilege.

I’ve no disagreement with this statement, in and of itself.  But I hope this isn’t a thinly veiled reference to “white privilege”.  

  1. You don’t care about children.

I know.  If we’re going to be pro-life, we should be pro-life all the way.  I’m with you!

23. You’re greedy and miserable.

Mixed opinions here.  I know what you mean about being thankful and all.  As we see the wealth gap between rich and poor widen, however, I don’t see why the declining middle class should just put up with it in silence just because there are others worse off.  A stronger middle class is good for the poor, also, as it means more opportunity, and therefore a better chance for them to escape from poverty.  I won’t “check my privilege” while some politicians send our jobs to China.

24. You think our religion is the only one.

Half Tu Quoque.  The right is much worse about this than the left.  But on the left, I see a different version of this.  I’ve encountered some on the Christian left who think THEY are the true Christians.  I might agree with them on welfare, aversion to war, gay marriage, etc. but the second I suggest that we should not encourage promiscuity, that Jesus spending time with the prostitutes was NOT an endorsement of that lifestyle, they shun me!  I actually got banned from a rather large Christian Left group on facebook just for adding some context to their cherry picked Bible verses.  I think they interpreted it as “slut shaming”.  

25. You are lazy and you refuse to read.

We should all listen to each other.  Your conservative friends are like this not because of laziness, but because they feel entrenched.  It’s FOX News vs. Every Other Mainstream Media Source In America.  That’s how they see the world.  I’m sure you’re not like this, but some of your liberal friends might be the types who get all smug and act like CNN is the “real news”.  We should take it all with a grain of salt.  But we should listen to each other.

26. Your misfortune is God’s blessing.

Like with number 5, I agree with your point, but maybe not for the same reason.  I prefer not to claim I know God’s plan.  It’s dangerous, and I won’t tempt the Lord.

27. “Everyone has their lot in life.”

28. You think you’re the only one working and paying taxes.

I’m with you on this, and I’ve even seen it with government programs.  I had this man, Southern Baptist, railing against welfare recipients who “won’t work”, so he says.  Yet this same man will fight to the death for Medicare Part D, which, much like Obamacare, is about the most expensive and inefficient way to make healthcare (prescription drugs in this case) affordable.  It’s just subsidizing private, for profit Big Pharma with no incentive for them to lower prices.  

So yes, I’m with you here, too.

 

In Conclusion

Tiffany Willis, this may have been an odd way to go about it.  My original purpose in writing this is to hopefully get you to change your mind, because I fear this breakdown of communication, both in our country, and in our faith, will only make hostilities fester into something that will make the next generation suffer.  

As you can see, we agree on some things, and not on others.  But even with those “on the right” with whom you disagree on nearly everything, like me with those “undocumented immigrants”, you may not agree with their behavior, but remember they are human.  You can reach them!  Just regroup!

Why was Jesus crucified, really?

DarknessSoul

This is not going to be a predictable Christian theology lesson about how Jesus was a sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Though I’m a Christian, that explanation rings hollow to me.  Why would a just God punish his innocent son so gruesomely, effectively unleashing his rage towards mankind for all of our sins?  Is God so full of rage, and unable to control it, that He must unleash it somewhere, so He chose His son, because He is so merciful?  I think God is greater than that, and does not NEED to punish anyone.

But this does make me better understand our Islamic cousins.  Like me, they too cannot believe this explanation, which defies all logic and our most basic sense of right and wrong.  In Islam, they teach that Jesus wasn’t actually crucified, but that he ascended into Heaven, and Judas the betrayer was turned into the image of Jesus, and crucified in His place.  That is certainly a more just narrative, that Judas would suffer the very tribulation that he was prepared to subject Jesus to.

Despite that, I don’t actually believe the Islamic narrative of the crucifixion.  When I hear the words, “Jesus died for our sins”, I think of something very different.

Suffering

About 4 years ago, an attractive Serbian performing artist named Marina Abramovic subjected herself to what could be 6 hours of torture.  For 6 hours, she let anyone do whatever they wanted to her, using anything in the room.  The items included:

A rose. A feather. Grapes. Honey. A condom. A whip. A scalpel. A gun. And a single bullet.

Marina  So, as a man, I can imagine many possibilities.  What would you do?  You can be a gentleman.  Hand her a rose, feed her some grapes.  Sit her down, make her comfortable.  You can be silly, put her on one leg, tickle her with a feather, see if she can keep standing.  You can give in to your baser instincts, and take all manner of sexual advantage of her to your own immediate pleasure, with no regard for Marina’s feelings whatsover.  Selfish, indeed, but it can get worse.  You can engage the darkest corners of your soul.  You can torture her, whip her, cut her, you can even kill her.

In our lives, most of us like to think we are good people.  Most of us are “nice” to others.  A few of us maybe even volunteer to help others from time to time, and then go out to lunch and pat ourselves on the back because we are such “good people”.  But what happens when we are really put to the test?

Abramovic was willing to risk 6 hours of pain, molestations, and possible death, to answer this question.  Not surprisingly, she was groped.  We all knew that was coming.  But that was just the beginning.  She was undressed, cut in many places, someone was very close to shooting her, and another nearly raped her!  Fortunately, when it came to rape and murder, some people had the decency to stop it from going that far.  But for hours, she stood there, or moved into any position they put her in, while she was sexually violated, while a scalpel cut into her flesh, while someone drank her blood, while she stared death in the face.

When the act was over, she walked towards the audience, naked, bleeding, with tears in her eyes.  They all ran away!  She was human again, and none could confront what they had done to her!  Not only could the would-be rapist not face her, but even those who stopped it from going that far.  To look at her, was to look into the darkest corners of their souls.

 

Jesus dying for our sins

I’m glad that during Holy Week, the week leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, that I came across this article about Marina Abramovic.  I was probably about 5 years old when I was first told this gruesome story, exposing the darkest depths of the human soul.  In Sunday school, a man told us every sadistic detail of the crucifixion story.  Jesus was flogged 50 times, His blood covering the ground around Him, hardly any flesh remaining on His back.  A crown of thorns was placed on His head, piercing his skin, the blood dripping down His face.  His beard was ripped from His face.  In all this pain, he was forced to carry the cross, the very instrument of His death.  He didn’t have the strength, and an innocent man was forced to carry it for Him.  One by one, the nails were driven into him, two for his wrists, and two for his ankles.  As He anguished on the cross and passed out from the pain, a rag soaked in vinegar brought Him back to consciousness, insuring that He would find no release from the pain until death, finally came mercifully to Him.

As I heard this story, I sat stunned in silence.  What would you have done?  Would you have begged them to stop?  Would you have been as the penitent thief, asking Christ to remember me in His kingdom?  Would you have done as Peter, and Pontius Pilate, and the many “good people” who ran from Marina Abramovic?  Pilate tried to avoid the crucifixion, but gave in to the masses.  He then washed his hands of it, and likely tried to forget.  Peter almost worked up the courage to join Him on the cross, but when confronted with what that meant, he backed down.  If that wasn’t enough, he then denied Christ three times.  He was probably afraid that he too would be crucified.  But he was also ashamed.  Here, Jesus was being humiliated, in addition to all of the excruciating pain.  Peter didn’t want to admit that he was associated with that seemingly pathetic man who can’t even carry His cross!

Would you be as the Pharisees and Sadducees, fearful of losing their power, disdaining the way this gentle man has outsmarted you in debate; would you turn Him over to such a horrible and unjust demise just to be rid of Him?

But what about the masses?  Would you be as they were?  Despite all of the kindness Jesus has shown, healing the sick, feeding the hungry; would you then cheer for His humiliating and needlessly torturous death?  What about the Roman soldiers, who went beyond merely “following order”, and took particular pleasure in torturing and taunting Him?  Given the opportunity, would you unleash the desires of the darkest depths of your soul, knowing that you could do so with no legal of social consequences?

A few came to Abramovic’s rescue when she faced rape and death, but none came to rescue Jesus.  This is why Jesus allowed this to happen.  Abramovic seemed weak, but she showed great strength.  She could have stopped it at any time, but she endured the full 6 hours.  But Jesus showed even greater strength.  He knew exactly what was about to happen, even begging His Father in Heaven to release Him from it.  But He still went through it, every lash, thorn, and nail.

The evil that men do

My Jewish friends are likely disturbed by my reference to the Pharisees and Sadducees above.  For them, this touches on something deeper.  There’s a long history of Jewish people being tortured and murdered in retribution for what was done to Jesus.  This, of course, is fundamentally and theologically flawed.  It rests on the assumption that it was the sin of the Jews.  Yet Jesus died for the sin of the world.  In our Palm Sunday liturgy, we do not say “The Jews did it”.  We ALL did it!  Even Peter.  Peter was as close as anyone to taking up the cross, but even Peter couldn’t.  Even Peter denied Jesus.  Jesus died for the sins of Peter too.

When certain Christian blame the Jews and persecute them, they are really punishing themselves.  They’ve decided to take what they know is the darkness deep inside them, the darkness that crucified Jesus, and place it onto the Jews.  They think in punishing the Jews, they are punishing what crucified Christ.  But in truth, they are the crucifiers.

This last Palm Sunday, while Coptic Christians were worshiping in Egypt, ISIS bombed two Coptic Churches, killing at least 49 people.  This they do in the name of Islam!  Islam!  That religion that is so horrified at the crucifixion that they can’t even accept that it happened!  ISIS does not do these things because they are Islamic, any more than Christians who have persecuted the Jews do so because they are Christians.  Christianity does not teach us that “the Jews” murdered Christ, and Islam certainly doesn’t teach that Christians who are peacefully worshiping deserve to die.  It actually goes directly against the teachings, and promises, of their prophet Muhammad, who promised that Christians living under Islamic rule would be protected.

These things have been done because of the darkness that exists in all of us.  Jesus didn’t come to deny the darkness.  He came to face it, and to suffer it.  The Pharisees tried to deny the darkness, and in so doing, in their cleanliness and “Godliness”, in their strict adherence to laws and traditions, they were just as guilty as the Roman soldiers.  But Mary Magdalene (See note), a prostitute, found forgiveness and a new life.  The tax collector, penitent and asking the Lord’s forgiveness, found it, while the Pharisee, not facing his darkness, which was likely far less dark than the tax collector, was not forgiven.  We can only find forgiveness and renewal in penitence, and we can only be penitent by first seeing the darkness.

That is why Jesus was crucified.

 

Note(s):

Since writing this, I’ve learned that the claim that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute is entirely based on assuming that the prostitute who washed the feet of Jesus was also Mary Magdalene.  There is actually no evidence of this, and it is highly unlikely that Mary Magdalene was the same woman.  But I would stand by my point that the prostitute did find forgiveness by confronting the darkness.

Best Kos article ever…but it still sucks!

I just got taken for a ride by a very clever article about discrimination in the Daily Kos.  While I have some conservative sentiments, I’ve never cared for the “take back America” mantra.  Last I checked, America was never taken from us, so I’m not sure from whom we’re supposed to take it back.

This Kos article, by someone named Steven D, initially addressed that mantra, which caught my eye.  The first half of it was an interesting account of young Steven’s life in N. Carolina towards the end of the “Jim Crow” era, as a white northerner.  It was very courteous of him to note that these kinds of segregationist norms were uncommon in S. Dakota “probably because there were so few black people living in the Northern Plains states.”  I’ve never appreciated how white northerners criticize the south for all of our history of racial strife, when they up north so rarely had to deal with it, so I’m glad Steven D notes that very important difference in circumstances.  Well, even though I’m about to rip into this article, I’d still encourage you to read it, because the first half really is an excellent primary history source of segregation in 1950s North Carolina.

Now for the ripping. 

While I agree with some of the points that followed, in particular that our criminal justice system continues to discriminate against blacks; in typical Kos fashion the article goes on to make ridiculous hasty generalizations against conservatives, and a series of other fallacious arguments I will explain.  For one thing, Steven D seems to be suggesting that conservatives who say “I want my country back” want to go back to Jim Crow.  I will admit that most such conservatives (who are more anachronistic than conservative by the way), most of them cherry pick the past.  They probably want the prosperity and patriotism of the 1950s, and chose not to remember the segregation, much less the very high tax rates of the era.  But while their memories may be selective, they are not racists, they are not closet racists, and furthermore, it is indeed possible to look to the past, maybe try to re-implement parts of the past you like while leaving behind the parts that you don’t.  I for example would love to make America a manufacturing power house again, like we were in the 1950s.  We don’t need segregated schools to have manufacturing jobs, and it would be absurd to tell me “you can’t cherry-pick, if you want to go back to the 50s, you have to have segregation too.”

What bothered me most about this article is that it engaged in the all too familiar leftist victim group umbrella tactic.  That is, after deeply discussing racial discrimination in the past and present, it jumped into LGBT issues, feminism, Latinos, and any other “victim group” that the monolithic left seeks to homogenize into their narrow-minded political movement.  The article made a clearly false claim about feminism – “Feminism as a movement did not exist until the late 60s and early 70s.”  What about the women’s suffrage movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries?  What about great classic feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft, who encouraged equality in education, reason and modesty?

Religious Freedom is a Problem?

The article then begins to attack religious freedom itself as a mere excuse for discrimination.  So, if a cake decorator is religiously opposed to same-sex marriage, and therefore refuses to make a wedding cake for a gay wedding, that is to be called “discrimination” and the cake decorator punished?  So, you’re entitled to your religious beliefs, but if they offend the left, you have to violate those very beliefs in public…because they’re offensive?  As so often with the cleverly bigoted left, this is compared to the 1950s when blacks were refused service at restaurants.

Here are three reasons why that comparison is absurd.  1.  In the 50s, the discrimination was widespread, and blacks were being denied very basic necessities such as hotels when they were on the road, food when they were hungry, etc.  This greatly diminished their quality of life.  One religious cake decorator refusing to make a cake will not diminish the quality of a gay couple’s life.  There are plenty of cake decorators who don’t care, and would make them a cake.  To compare one entitled gay couple who still had their wedding to a poor black family in the 50s who slept in their car because the hotel “doesn’t serve coloreds” – that is an insult!  2.  Gay is not black.  A black man walks in, you know he’s black.  When racial discrimination is allowed, it’s far too easy to do so and degrade blacks in every way.  The same would be true of any other skin color.  A gay man walks in, do you know he’s gay?  Some gay people don’t “act gay”.  Some straight people are “metrosexual” (I’ve been known to set off a few gaydars myself).  3.  There is a difference between refusing service simply because someone is gay, and refusing to be involved in a same sex wedding ceremony.  While I am not against same-sex marriage myself, as an American, I will defend the right of fellow Americans to practice their religion as they see fit.  This is not “discrimination”, it is freedom.  To punish a cake decorator who refuses to make a wedding cake for a gay wedding is not ANTI-discrimination, it IS discrimination.  This leftist tactic of comparing everything they hate to Jim Crow racism is a clear poisoning the well fallacy.  Well, I don’t want to be racist, so I guess I’ll have to make a cake of a same-sex wedding ceremony.

This next part isn’t even good enough to be absurd

Of course, this is the Kos, and if you think what I’ve discussed above is the worst in this article…just read on.  The article also made a beyond absurd argument that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana will somehow effectively discriminate against, well, any group the Kos wants to appeal to.  Here are Steven D’s words – “Their efforts encompass attempts to limit the rights of a far wider range of people, from the poor, young people and students, women, Latinos, immigrants, the disabled and, of course, blacks.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is frankly delusional.”  WHAT?!  I’m sorry, but due to my religious beliefs, I can’t serve poor people…that’s what Jesus would do.  HUH?!  Sorry, but I can’t serve coffee to you students who are cramming for an exam because, religion.  REALLY?!  Where did Steven D come up with this nonsense?

I found the ending to be the most offensive and insulting of all.  Again, Steven D’s words – “I certainly don’t want a country where anyone can discriminate against anyone else of whom they do disapprove and escape liability for that immoral and otherwise unlawful act under any pretext, be it freedom of religionracial superiority or traditional values.”  In the name of white supremacy, the Reverend Clementa Pickney and eight worshippers were murdered at an AME Church in Charleston S. Carolina – while exercising their freedom of religion!  There’s a long a tragic history of black worshippers being murdered by white supremacists, and their churches being burned down.  To equate white supremacy to freedom of religion is an insult to the memories of every black worshipper who was murdered.

Why this article still sucks

I’m not frustrated by this article because it comes “from the left”.  There’s plenty of respectable leftist sources, such as The Nation and….The Nation…. I’m not even frustrated by all the ridiculous points I’ve now refuted, as I expect nothing less from the Kos.  I’m frustrated because this article actually had potential.  I’m not saying Steven D couldn’t make these points effectively.  With some basic critical thinking skills he could have made a plausible argument for why gay is the new black, or that it is wrong to refuse service for a gay wedding.  I’d disagree, but I’d at least consider it a respectable article.  But instead, what starts out as a very interesting first hand history lesson quickly degenerates into the kind of left-winged bigotry for which the Kos is notorious.  It is the worst kind of bigotry, as it is often in the name of anti-discrimination.  But discrimination in the name of anti-discrimination, is still discrimination.  If I as a Christian call for religious freedom, then argue that, say, Muslims do not believe in religious freedom*; and therefore Muslims must not be allowed to practice their religion because they are a threat to religious freedom, I would be a hypocritical bigot – no better than the ones at the Daily Kos.

I, too, “want a better country”.  But part of that depends on maintaining those aspects of our country that do work well.  The first amendment, amongst other things guaranteeing freedom of religion, has always served us well.  I’m not prepared to sacrifice that freedom in the name of anti-discrimination.  I’d rather use my first amendment rights to persuade my fellow Americans, than deny their first amendment rights in order to force their actions, which will never change what is in their hearts.

Note(s)

*For the record, I acknowledge that Islam, like Christianity, could be cherry-picked to justify suppressing religious freedom.  But like Christians, the average Muslim especially in America simply wants to practice his/her faith and has no desire deprive others of the same freedom.  If anything Islam has a better history of religious freedom, considering that they at least acknowledge some other faiths as “people of the book” and that during the Crusading era of the Middle Ages, Christians and Jews did have religious freedom for the most part in the Islamic world while the same courtesy was clearly not extended in the Christian world.

My Piece on the Charleston Massacre

Stop Exploiting the Victims of the Charleston Shooting for Political Feuds!

Charleston Massacre Victims

Last Sunday I visited a friend’s Catholic Church, and I’m glad I did.  The Priest gave a much needed sermon that helped to put the recent tragedy in perspective.  He was deeply touched that the very family members of the slain were able to look at the murderer and say “I forgive you”.  I recently saw the footage, and heard the pain in their voices.  I don’t know if they forgive him in their hearts yet.  But they said so, because they know that they need to forgive.  This deranged young man was driven by pure hate, and that is exactly what he seeks to fuel.  If this tragedy leads to more racial division, regardless of which side “wins”, that murderer will have what he wants.  As the priest mentioned above was touched by the reaction of the family, he was also appalled by the reaction of so many others.  People who’ve never been to the Emanuel AME Church and knew nobody involved has jumped on this opportunity to push their political agenda.  I remember this boomer age priest denouncing the “left” and the “right” for their selfish efforts to exploit this tragedy, and he was absolutely right*.

Unfortunately, some are all too willing to let that murderer have his way.  There are two groups that come to mind: the anti-gun crowd, and the anti-Confederate flag crowd.  With the first, I can at least believe that they act in good faith.  They truly believe that if we had better gun control, these kinds of tragedies could be prevented.  Though they opportunistically jump on every tragedy to call for more gun control, at least they have a logical defense of a sort.  They can say that they are directly responding to the very cause of these tragedies.  Still, it’s a far more complex debate than they realize, and best decided by people thinking clearly rather than worked up into an emotional frenzy.

The second group, those attacking the Confederate flag, are no better than those who started harassing Muslims after the 9/11 attacks – actually, they are worse!  These are the worst kind of bigots, because they think they are so enlightened.  We can argue for years and decades over the history of the American Civil War, and what the Confederate battle flag historically represents.  But does anyone honestly believe that most who display it today are pining for the “good ol’ days of slavery”?  The average white southerner who displays the Confederate Battle Flag today has no problem with black Americans.  He/she likely embraces the symbol as an identity – “Look at me, I’m a redneck”.  Some of the more sophisticated will make a more eloquent argument for states’ rights and the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution.  Others just like Lynyrd Skynyrd.  And yes, some who display the Confederate Battle Flag are racists.

The comparisons to the Nazi Swastika are absurd, however.  Nobody in Germany says, “Well, I don’t support murdering 6 million Jews, but I did like the Nazi policies on reparations from WWI, so I display the Swastika because of that.  Not the whole genocide thing.”  The Nazi regime was built around racial hierarchy.  The Confederacy, however, was about as racist as most other nations of the time, including the Union.  Furthermore, as terrible as slavery was, it wasn’t genocide.  If anyone is guilty of that, it would be the Union, who then went fourth after the Civil War to slaughter the Sioux and Apache.  Many were put on “reservations” (much like concentration camps) and barely kept alive in appalling conditions.  But I don’t call the stars and stripes a symbol of Native American genocide.  Bigotry of every kind must be opposed, and bigotry usually has its roots under pretense of righteous indignation.  Just like I don’t hold my Islamic neighbors responsible for the 9/11 attacks, I don’t hold the average neo-confederate responsible for the Charleston massacre.

I’m not into the neo-confederate stuff myself, but if I were, I would at least for a few weeks refrain from displaying the Battle Flag out of respect.  Like it or not, the murderer did display that flag.  If you want to argue that he had no idea what that flag truly represents – fine.  But right now, there is a family in mourning and they do not need to see the symbol displayed by the murderer of their family members.  Likewise, they do not need a bunch of supercilious white liberals exploiting this tragedy to attack their political enemies.  Before they judge us, maybe they should clean up their own back yards.  States’ rights didn’t murder those people at the Emanuel AME Church.  Neither did Southern pride, nor did Lynyrd Skynyrd.  And they sure weren’t murdered by the 10th Amendment!  I was happy to see CNN host a discussion over the Battle Flag, where one man was defending it with the usual states’ rights argument; and another was wanted it removed from state buildings (I wish I could find the clip).  I think now more than ever we need to listen to each other, especially in the South.  Stop exploiting a tragedy to settle old political feuds, and instead let’s send our condolences to the family and friends of those slain in Charleston at the Emanuel AME Church.  Rather than allowing this tragedy to divide, as the murderer** wants, let it unite us.

Links and Notes:

Rod Dreher also wrote an excellent piece on the tragedy

Dreher also wrote a piece calling for the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag.  I don’t agree with him, but he makes the case effectively without the kind of liberal, pseudo-intellectual bigotry I mention above.

*I admit to being a Christian of often weak faith, bordering agnostic.  But moments like that (the boomer aged priest denouncing the “left” and “right” exploiting the tragedy) certainly restore my faith, because surely it’s easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a baby boomer to see beyond the left/right paradigm.

**I don’t call him by name because people who do these things want to be remembered.  I won’t give him that.

***I do not display the Confederate Battle Flag here because, as I stated, I think we should suspend use of it for a few weeks out of respect.  However, if we can cross the racial divide and have a civilized discussion about the Flag, and race in general, I think we effectively honor the victims by doing so.

Evangelicals rising in a seemingly “post-Christian” era – What does that mean for Catholics?

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 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” – Luke 9:24 NRSV

What do Evangelicals have that Catholics do not?  Why are they the only Christian group that is successful in growing via conversion?  As I read over the concerns raised by Leah Libresco (a Roman Catholic) and Rod Dreher (an Orthodox Christian), I think of where my own church (The Episcopal Church) has fallen short.  Like the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the Episcopal Church maintains the apostolic succession of Bishops (as the name suggests) and we keep all seven sacraments.  We do have a liturgy that when fully embraced includes beautiful chanting, candles, icons, incense, and all of it leads to the High Mass.  Unfortunately, for fear of remaining small (we make up about 2% of the US population), our leaders ranging from the Bishops all the way to vestry members, stubbornly insist on watering down our liturgy.  Our priests, when teaching confirmation classes that we often rename (“Seekers Class”) capitulate to the seemingly mainline protestant culture of the United States.

When I was first joining the Episcopal Church, I remember our priest telling us that “confirmation” was simply an act of claiming what was given to us during baptism.  It was the Bishop who confirmed me, the Right Reverend Alden Hathaway, who explained in his sermon that he, as a Bishop, once knelt before three Bishops when he was ordained, and the layed hands upon his head.  Those three Bishops experienced the same before him, and did the Bishops before.  Going back, the earliest Bishops, or Episcopos, where consecrated by the Apostles, and the Apostles by Christ himself (this is the Apostolic Succession).  So, when we came before the Bishop and he would lay his hands upon our heads, we would not only feel his hands, but the hands of every Bishop before him, and the hands of the Apostles, and most importantly, the hands of Christ.  This is who we are.

So let me get to the point

I know that I’m preaching to the choir right now if Ms. Libresco or Mr. Dreher read this, but I write this to address Mr. Dreher’s two main questions: “What are Catholics doing wrong?” and “What are Evangelicals doing right?”  Mr. Dreher is on to something with this statement, “If you are drawn to the Protestant form of Christianity, Evangelicals evidently do a far better job of it, of making it real and relevant to the lives of ordinary people.”  This is what Evangelicals are doing right.  If I may expand on that label “Catholic” to include all Churches that maintain the sacraments and the Apostolic Succession (Roman, Anglican, Orthodox, Coptic, etc.), Mr. Dreher also seems to understand what we’re doing wrong.  “Catholic and Orthodox intellectuals — I am guilty of this — have a strong tendency toward self-satisfaction, resting in the beauty and the intellectual depth of our respective ancient traditions, but notably lacking in missionary zeal.”  However, this could lead to the erroneous conclusion that we should do what they are doing.  We should stop all the pageantry, lighten up on the liturgy, stop emphasizing the importance of the Apostolic Succession; and play some electric guitars, shout “Amen”, sing and clap our hands, etc.  I hope I don’t sound condescending towards Protestant churches that enjoy this style of worship.  Jesus never gave us a particular style of worship and I don’t presume to have the style that is suited for all of Christendom.  The body of Christ has many parts, and a body made entirely of right arms wouldn’t be able to function.

Evangelicals function well because they embrace who they are.  For Christians who worship with their hearts, who enjoy immediately expressing what they feel God is doing for them, etc. these Evangelicals have it in the bag.  Whenever the Episcopal Church struggles against its nature, trying to be more like the Evangelicals, we end up with an uneasy compromise on mainline Protestant style worship.  As Ms. Libresco showed, mainline Protestants are the least successful at retaining membership.  Please do not take this as judgment, but I personally find mainline Protestant worship rather dull and unfulfilling.  Evangelical style worship makes me uncomfortable, and not in a good way.  It doesn’t challenge me to be a better Christian, or take a leap of faith.  It just makes me feel like I don’t belong, and that’s because I don’t – not there, anyway.

So what can Catholics do right?

What we can learn from the Evanglicals is that we will grow if we embrace who we are, and we make worship relevant to the everyday lives of the people who attend.  Those who criticize us most sharply for our ancient rituals, and claim we are out of touch with the modern era…these are the very people who will NEVER attend our churches, no matter what we do.  When the Episcopal Church seeks to save its life, it dies a little more inside.  When the Roman Catholic Church isn’t far behind, it does the same.  But I have seen life in the Orthodox Church.  I am back to embracing my Episcopal identity, but I did, many years ago, convert to Greek Orthodoxy.  There was no capitulation in the Orthodox Church.  The sacraments were held to the highest standards, and the liturgy was fully embraced.  Visitors were welcome to enjoy our style of worship, but it was our style of worship.  Those who wanted to embrace it, including myself when I first attended, were welcome to come to confirmation classes and then decide if they wanted to be Chrismated.  To this day I love the Orthodox Church, and only returned to the Episcopal Church as a compromise with my Methodist wife (Episopalianism seems somewhere in between Orthodoxy and Methodism).

There is a portion of Christians who yearn for high church liturgy.  There is another portion of the general population, Christian or otherwise, who could be won over.  But there are those who will never be won over, and they speak the loudest.  Of that group, those who are non-Christian only wish us harm, and we should ignore them.  Of Evangelicals or other Protestants who criticize us, we should remind them that in the end, we all have the same Lord and Savior, and a house divided against itself cannot stand.

What we, Catholics of every flavor, must do is embrace who we are.  For Orthodox Christians, Mr. Dreher already recognizes their hurdle – “Orthodoxy is so exotic in the American context that it’s hard for it to evangelize relative to other Christian churches.”  Those who yearn for liturgy, however, need only attend an Orthodox mass, and they will be hooked – I know I was.  Both Roman Catholics and Episcopalians face the same primary challenge, however.  Our own members chip away at who we are from within.  The capitulation must stop, and we must embrace the full liturgy, with all its smells and bells.  We’ll never out Protestant the Protestants, but we can sure out Catholic ourselves.  The Roman Catholic Church also must move past the notorious sexual abuse mass-scandal of that last several decades.  It’s important for them to clean up their act, which they are finally doing, but that alone would simply slow their decline.  For the Episcopal Church, we have no major scandals…we’re just boring.  For starters, we should scrap the word “Protestant” from the official title of our church in America.  Let it simply be “The Episcopal Church in the USA”.  Lose the “Presiding Bishop” label and embrace “Archbishop”.  From there, revive the use of icons, the chanting (especially during communion), and every bit of beautiful pageantry that makes us Episcopalian.  Let the Presbyterians be Presbyterians.  Lastly, never let anyone claim that we do not believe in the true presence of Christ when we take communion.  We do not embrace the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation because the miracle of communion is beyond our comprehension, but we do not see it as mere symbolism.  We do receive the body of Christ.  No, Richard Dawkins, not the literal flesh and blood of a 1st Century Jew named Jesus, but the heavenly body of Christ…I wouldn’t expect you (Dawkins) to understand.

Holding on to capitulation will only lead to a slow death.  Our Churches will become museums, as so many already are in Europe.  But worse, in America, some corporation or politician will want to tear them down for “progress”.  I love the Orthodox Church, but I’d hate for it to be the only remaining source of high church worship in America.  If we breathe new life into our places of worship, if the liturgy is born again, that portion of the population yearning for liturgy will return full measure.  Then, that next portion of lost souls – that portion that can be captivated by the liturgy – they will wonder in one Sunday morning.  When they do, welcome them!

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10 NRSV

For further reading:

An interesting article on the RCC in Germany and capitulation to “modernity”, I have mixed opinions of the particular issues addressed by the RCC in Germany, but overall worry about their lack of conviction:

http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/05/the-catholic-churchs-german-crisis

I don’t care if gays marry, and neither should the government

EllenPortiaMarraige

I’m not going to pretend to be a socially progressive gay right’s activist.  As a Christian, I was once a staunch opponent of same sex marriage because I felt that my religion compelled me.  I started supported the idea of gay civil partnerships when I concluded that such did not conflict with my religious beliefs (this was my position until around 2012).  After listening to several libertarians, including Julie Borowski, I came around to the libertarian position on marriage.  People should be free to marry whoever they wish and the government role in marriage should be severed.  This didn’t make sense to me the first time I heard it from Ron Paul.  When he said, “get the government out of marriage”, I just thought Oh Ron Paul, that’s your answer to everything.  Then I learned more about the history of government involvement in marriage, and learned that states started licensing marriage in the 19th Century in order to stop interracial marriage.  I remember a quote from Jesus,

16“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?17“So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18“A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.…” – St. Matthew 7:17-18

No good has come from government marriage, as it was originally designed to oppress black people.  I see no reason why government should remain in marriage.  If the left has their way on this, “Marriage Equality” will be their Trojan horse for their true agenda – further centralization and expansion of government at the expense of religious freedom.  If the state only grants civil partnerships, as a contract, and marriage is seen legally as a separate issue to be handled privately, then everyone wins (at least, all people of good will).  Gays a free to marry, straights are free to marry, and churches and businesses are free to participate or not participate in marriage ceremonies based on their conscience.  As we have already seen, as government pushes marriage equality, rather than merely getting out of the way, it punishes cake decorators and whoever else opposes the leftist agenda.

The authoritarian left knows that marriage equality is happening.  State by state, individual by individual, and eventually church by church, it is happening.  If the left stands back and lets it happen, they lose an opportunity, just like they would have in the 1960s at the height of the Civil Rights movement.  Like Civil Rights, the left will not let progress happen without jumping on the opportunity to pass new laws eroding states’ rights, eroding religious freedom, as well as pushing the US Supreme Court to engage in further judicial activism.  For the left, this is no more about marriage equality than it was about racial equality in the 1960s.  It’s about big government, identity politics, pseudo-intellectual bigotries, and judicial activism.  Furthermore, if they have their way, marriage equality will be a wedge issue for decades to come, and gay people will pay the price.  Consider the Civil Rights movement.  As controversial civil rights legislation was passed and the US Constitution eroded, black progress came to a screeching halt!  They came so far in the 1950s and 60s.  Schools were starting to integrate, blacks were starting to get elected, and others were starting successful businesses.  But then it stopped.  Whites were coming around to integration and equality in concept, but affirmative action caused deep resentment.  It also allowed the right to find new ways of race-bating, such as the references to “welfare queens” in order to convince low income whites to vote against their own interests.

This is why I would encourage marriage equality advocates to push for this state by state, preferably by referendum.  They won’t win every time, but there’s always another election cycle.  This should not be federally mandated, nor pushed by an unelected panel of 9 judges.  I’d especially encourage marriage equality activists to oppose punishments for private individuals, businesses, or religious groups who disagree.  You don’t legitimize your cause by engaging in the same kinds of bigotry you seek to end.

People are coming around to marriage equality, and more will be persuaded simply because it’s the right thing to do.  The arguments against gay marriage are actually rather weak.  As a Christian, I can tell you that I am not persuaded by Old Testament bans on homosexual sex.  That same Old Testament bans pork, and I had sausage with my breakfast.  Those Old Testament laws were given by Moses to the ancient Jews in the context of about 1500 BC.  Homosexuality was banned, along with all other kinds of sex that was not reproductive.  This is because in ancient times, it was absolutely crucial to the health of a nation for people to have as many children as possible.  This is also why they practiced polygamy.  We don’t practice polygamy now (well, most of us).  In an overpopulated world, who are homosexuals hurting?

Link(s):

Now what this man is doing is most commendable!

http://www.christianpost.com/news/gay-advocate-raises-money-to-help-christian-bakers-pay-150k-fine-for-refusing-to-bake-cake-for-lesbian-wedding-128479/

Hell on Earth – A self-fulfilling prophecy

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“Where do bad folks go when they die?  They go to a lake of fire and fry.” – Nirvana

Is this true?  From an early age, most of us in the Christian tradition are taught that if we are good little boys and girls, we’ll go to Heaven.  In Heaven, everything is beautiful and peaceful, there are no worries, and we will all be happy.  If we’re bad, however, we burn in hell and scream in agony forever and ever.  As we get a little older, many Christian denominations teach that we ALL deserve to roast in hell forever, because we have all sinned.  It is only by God’s mercy, through Jesus, that we are “saved”.  If we all deserve to burn in hell forever, than we should be grateful if any fate, other than that, is at all possible.  This belief has led to the view that anyone who isn’t a Christian, or more specifically, has not said a certain prayer to be saved (many protestant traditions), or has not received absolution from the priests, ordained by the bishops, who are successors of the apostles of Christ (Catholicism, Anglicanism), than they burn in hell.  It still remains in the Catholic and some Anglican liturgies the clause “we justly deserve thy temporal and eternal punishment”.

What most in the western tradition do not realize, however, is that they have blended scripture with literature.  That literature is Dante’s “Inferno”, a medieval masterpiece.  “Inferno” describes the 9 circles of hell, according to Dante’s great imagination, and the worst hell is reserved for Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ.  Why should Christians base their understanding of Hell on a piece of literature written over 1,000 years after the crucifixion?  Was Dante a prophet?  Was he speaking the word of God?  No.  He was writing fiction – that is all!

Despite this, Christians went on to believe that an eternity of torture awaits those who are not saved, and have even convinced themselves that they, too, deserve this eternity.  Thank Christ that we don’t get what we deserve!  However, it is written that the wages of sin is death.  Death is simply the end.  It is not an eternal, living pit of flames and agony.  Christ has conquered death, we say.  Christ never conquered the pit of flames, where people live forever in agony, because no such place exists.

However, for fear of hell, many have created hell on earth.  As Dante’s literature became accepted as though it were straight from the mouth of Christ, the Catholic Church started changing its policies, especially towards the Jews.  The Jews were largely tolerated by the Catholic Church throughout most of the Middle Ages, and most of the persecution you read about was done by angry peasants, unsanctioned by the Church.  However, during the Spanish Inquisition, all heretics were subject to torture until they confessed.  Why would Christians tie people down to boards, cut them open, or burn them with hot pokers, or any of the other cruel methods we’ve read about?  Well, it isn’t as bad as “hell” right?  The Catholic Church saw this torture as a lesser sin.  It’s better to torture them now, on Earth, if it leads to their salvation, than it is to send them to a much worse eternity.  Makes sense right?  If you believe this, then yes.

Today, the “Westborough Baptist Church” protests outside of funerals for soldiers, claiming that God hates their tears, that they are burning in Hell, etc.  Why would Christians do something so horrible?  Can anyone imagine Jesus doing any of these things?  Of course not!  Jesus offered forgiveness and renewal.  If there really is the place of eternal suffering, why didn’t Jesus devote most of his time to warning people about it?  That’s far more compassionate than giving sight to the blind, or feeding the hungry.  I can’t remember his name, but a gay man was once interviewed on NPR.  He had actually visited the “Westborough Baptist Church”.  He described them as warm and kind.  He said that they are compassionate because they believe that they are saving people from hell.  As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  The good intention of saving people from an afterlife of hell, has created hell right here.