Put your Deity where your mouth is

In a bizarre twist of political opportunism, both the Republican Party and Obama joined forces recently to file briefs with the Supreme Court in support of the city of Greece, New York in their Supreme Court appeal over a federal ruling that their council meeting prayers endorsed the Cristian religion. Both feel the lower court overstepped its bounds and that Christian prayer hardly constitutes an endorsement.

Essentially, according to Obama's Solicitor Gen. Donald Verrilli, having Christian prayers isn't an endorsement simply because most of the speakers are Christian and the prayers are sectarians. Otherwise, he argues, the government would have to police all prayers. But, even to my Christian ears, the arguments seem lame. More than lame. They sound like something dumped into a final essay by a college kid pre-occupied with other matters and, forced to take the final or finding his funding cut off, knew he had to write something.

Nor does the Greece council's argument that they occasionally invite a speaker from another denomination hold water. Throwing a scrap to the other dog doesn't mean you don't favor yours.

Think of it like this. In a movie, when you see the hero drinking Coke all the time, or finding the bad guy using a Mac Book Pro, this is considered a product endorsement. It doesn't matter if one of the extras can be seen with a Pepsi and a Dell in the back of the food court during the chase scene. Comedian Mike Meyers made this point very clear in his Wayne's World movies.

In the same way, a news organization's endorsement goes to the candidate blessed with the most positive coverage. In fact, Republicans harp on this constantly when they claim the media, which covers them constantly, has a liberal bias. It doesn't matter if Ron Paul gets a story here or there. When Mitt Romney is featured front and center in the news, he has the media's endorsement as the favorite to win, if not necessarily as the best choice.

So why does it matter who opens prayer? Because, like it or not, opening prayer is a compulsory exercise. People in attendance don't get to opt out. The people who schedule prayer can deny it all they want, but they deceive only themselves.

One person praying in public is not compulsory. It would not be compulsory for someone to approach the podium and say to an audience, “Would you give us a moment of silence?” But to say, “Please take a moment while we pray,” forces everyone to join in the exercise. And Jesus never made anyone do anything. Jesus was about free will.

To compel people to pray, and then set the agenda by endorsing one faith, albeit a broad faith like Christianity, violates the establishment clause of the Constitution and it violates the spirit of Christianity which leaves each of us free to follow Jesus or choose a different path.

So if Greece, or any city council, insists on prayer, how can they avoid endorsement without Verilli's government police at their shoulder? Open their prayers to all. Every week invite someone from a different faith entirely. This week invite a Rabbi, next week an Imam. Don't forget a Shaman, and your Universalist/Unitarian. I'm sure there are some Pagans out there glad to lead solstice prayers. And I know a few atheists who would lead prayers on principle. Once every six weeks, just have every one in the audience throw their name in a hat and draw. Have an entire meeting of open mike prayers once every six months.

You can even follow the example from the Friends. Sit in silence for a minute. Or conduct the entire meeting in silence. You might even get something useful done.

 

Not just tax shelters, but tithe shelters too

A Wisconsin Federal Judge recently ruled that it was perfectly legal for churches to shield church funds from laws suits. In this particular cast, the funds were more than 50 million dollars transferred to shield a Catholic diocese from victims of sex abuse lawsuits and resulting bankruptcy.

The case is complicated, but as I understand it, former Archbishop Timothy Dolan, facing millions in legal settlements, transferred the money to a trust for maintaining cemeteries. He has since been promoted to Cardinal and elected President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which means the other bishops like his thinking (although not necessarily on the money dump).

Dolan now denies that he made the transfer to shield the money from lawsuits, but he wrote a letter to the Vatican in 2007 explaing that he transferred the money for precisely that purpose. Federal Judge Rudolph Randa has now ruled that churches' Constitutional rights shield them from bankruptcy laws to such an extent that the money is also shielded.

His reasoning? What would happen to those poor cemeteries if the money was removed from trust and given to the victims who won the suits? There won't be enough money left. He seems to forget that there was plenty of money there before the transfer was made and the Catholics will no doubt continue to use cemeteries to drum up money in future fundraisers.

Randa, a papa Bush appointee, has been overturned so many times that few experts expect this decision to stand. I'm more concerned that a member of the clergy would feel God's call to shield money from victims of their moral indifference and ineptitude.

I have no doubt that Dolan (sorry if I find myself unable to rise to acknowledging his status as Cardinal) felt he was being a steward of God's money, as did his superiors. I'm not sure Jesus would see it that way, nor would many of the faith. This is yet one more example of the symbolic wedge of wealth the Catholic and many evangelical churches have driven between God and the perceptions of many who might otherwise embrace the faith.

In Matthew, Jesus is quite emphatic about the responsibility of the faithful in a court of law. If anyone (Christian or not) sues you, give him more than he asks in damages. (5:40) Jesus doesn't even bother to distinguish whether the claim is legitimate. If someone perceives you wronged them, give them more than they ask.

In the case of victims of sexual abuse, many of the claims are legitimate even if some may not be. For the church to try to shield the money under a bogus excuse such as a cemetery trust is not only the worst kind of sophistry, it is outright hypocrisy. To then ask the US courts to protect them with a Constitutional argument as well is shameless.

Cardinal Dolan, if you want the church to shine its line upon the world, don't try to hide your sins, or your money, behind the Constitution. Christians confess their sins before God and man and then move ahead to set the example they failed to set in the past. But when the church behaves like lawyers and politicians, don't be surprised when so many lose their faith.

 

What if Jesus wore a hoodie?

Several weeks have passed since the Zimmerman verdict and the world has passed on to other matters. Pundits have discussed the political dimensions of the acquittal endlessly, but Christian questions fell by the wayside. Were we to ask what would Jesus have done, an entirely different picture of the evening, and the verdict, would emerge.

Nor is the question whether or not Christians should forgive George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, however the jury decided, Forgiveness is a decision for Trayvon’s parents, not me. Nor should I, as a white progressive Christian, suggest what scripture dictates should be in the hearts of Black Christians who have suffered centuries of indignities in this country.

Christians should ask what Jesus would have done had he encountered Trayvon Martin in his neighborhood. And, by his example, what should we have done. Would Jesus have patrolled his neighborhood, with a gun, looking for suspicious characters? Would he have followed Trayvon and, had Trayvon attacked him as Zimmerman claims, would he have shot him?

From behind, this might pass as a hoodie.

Quite simply, no. Even had Trayvon attacked, Jesus would have turned the other cheek (a prospect that carries a great deal of irony in a Bible Belt state that proclaims its Stand Your Ground law proudly).

What would Jesus have done? Jesus would have welcomed him. It wouldn’t have mattered if Trayvon was a young Black man with a hoodie, a hooker with visible track marks, a neo-nazi ranting anti-Jewish epithets or a homeless woman reeking of alcohol and covered with open sores.

He would have invited Trayvon home for dinner, and, had he seen Zimmerman stalking them, Jesus would have invited him as well. We can picture Jesus saying, “George, put away your gun. Come dine with us.”

Imagine their dinner discussion. Instead of dwelling on the fears of home invasions and strangers in the neighborhood, Jesus could show them how much they have in common. Or remind George how little it matters when people clutch tightly to their worldly goods only to lose their eternal souls.

Jesus could share with both that the love of little children is more precious to God than the posturing of adults. He could suggest that rather than organizing a neighborhood watch, they could organize a donation drive. To spin the sermon on the mount, if a thief would take your coat, why not give him your wardrobe as well?

This may be asking too much of American Christians. At the very least, however, he would have expected us to welcome Trayvon that night with respect, courtesy and dignity, rather than suspicion, hostility and a gun.

Had we, or George, followed Jesus’ example, Trayvon would be alive today. Many on the Far Right, including the religious right, would scoff, and suggest that we would likely end up dead at Trayvon’s hand for our efforts.

Jesus would answer, “You of little faith.”/When I hear people rattle off the words, “What would Jesus do?” or, as I more often hear it, “WWJD?” I find it mildly irritating. Primarily because it seems Christians say it with little thought or reflection—more as a catch phrase with little more insight than “just say no” or “denial is a river in Egypt.”

When confronted with a moment of national pathos, a moment when a meaningless death occurs with no apparent willingness to address the circumstances, this would be the appropriate time to ask what Jesus would do. His example could lead us away from stereotypes and distrust. Those paths have racked up gun sales and littered our sidewalks with the bodies of too many young people to count.

 

Jesus said, “Give Me a Break”

The Christian Right has once again brought a new level of love and acceptance to shine their light upon the world. Homosexuals are no longer lumped with fornicators and adulterers as the axis of sexual evil in God's eyes. They now stand on a pedestal all their own; homosexuals have now been upgraded to a new genus, Aberrosexuals. We can thank this new categorization to the scholarly publication of world renowned scholar Judy Meissner.

The eye of the beholder

Her article, which is a rant against lesbian economic columnist Suze Orman, has been quoted around the internet, although, for the life of me I have been unable to track down the original publication other than a shout out by Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH), on the AFTAH website. Or maybe the shout out was his introduction to article itself.

Her academic credentials are staggering. She lives in LA and contributes to AFTAH, although I couldn’t find anything else she contributed on the web.

But it sure sounds bad, doesn't it? Aberrosexuals. I sure wouldn't want to be caught around one of them.

Here's what I don't get about the aberrophobia of the Christian Right. How do gays get set aside as the most horrific of sexual deviants? I find this categorization baffling considering that Meissner came up with the label just as Ariel Castro was going on trial for the serial abduction and rape of three women in Cleveland. On the scale of sexual aberration, I would have to link that above being gay.

At least gay couples are trying to promote the kinds of family values the Christian Right claims to venerate—marriage, home life, families. They want to settle down when Christians are filing for divorce in record numbers.

I'm not clear why Meissner is upset about homosexuals and not dominance sexuality. I can’t imagine clean cut Christians not going nuts over men and women in leather and chains whipping each other to a frenzy.

Why doesn’t Meissner target the producers of movies like Hostel, which promote the kidnapping, torture and sexual brutalization of women? For that matter, why doesn’t Meissner target the men who kidnap, torture and sexually brutalize women?

Personally, I think they miss the point, as always. Jesus actually enjoyed the company of the very people Meissner and LaBarbera hate with such a passion. Whenever Christians rush to label I find myself remembering, not the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery, but of Jesus partyIng with the publicans (not Republicans):

And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5: 29-32)

What the verse probably doesn't mention is that Levi hired several gay decorators and caterers because they do such fabulous jobs with with food and decor. You can't tell me that a party that fabulous didn't have at least one brightly dressed aberrosexual to entertain the audience and liven up the conversation. And, at least by Meissner and LaBarbera's standards, no one needed a call to repentance more than Levi's gay friends.

In short, Jesus told those self-righteous posers, “Give me a break. I came for those who want my help.” And who needs his help? Those who aren't so arrogant, so self-righteous, so convinced they're already good enough to pass judgment on others, that they might actually recognize they need his help.

 

Yes, Virginia, there is an adoption clause

Or, there could be if Senator Lucio has his way.

During a recent special session in our Sovereign State of Texas, which those of us down here know if the rest of you don't determines God's will for the world, one of our Democratic Senators upped the ante in Jesus' campaign to save the unborn by proposing a bill to require adoption training before granting abortions.

For pro-choice advocates, Lucio's new requirements would make getting an abortion even more cumbersome than that last sentence. The proposal is even more alarming having come from a Democrat, the only Democrat who voted for the onerous Republican plan that was railroaded through the legislature after two special sessions. The good news is, it has no chance of being passed.

I don't think it's all that bad an idea, however. It just needs some tweaking. Some Jesus tweaking. You see the Lucio's idea is still about forcing women to do things whether they want to or not, and forcing people was never Jesus' way, something pro-lifers never seem to get.

In my version of Lucio's bill, instead of forcing women who want an abortion to take an adoption seminar, I say we force legislators who force women to give birth to find adopters for those babies. And that means they have to sit through training on how to find suitable parents, how to train those parents to be responsible financially and how to plan for their adopted children's education, how to monitor those families unobtrusively to make sure the children are being cared for and loved.

This law will have to include an amendment that mandates Episcopalians can be loving Christian families too and that Jewish, Buddhist, agnostic and atheist mothers can have their children placed in homes of their faiths. Yes, I am a Christian, but Jesus would have been deeply offended had his disciples forced their children or spouses to follow him.

Of course, we don't want to raise taxes, so the law would have to mandate that legislators who stop women from having abortions pay for this out of their own pockets. But, hey, if it's important enough, you can make room for it in your budget.

So hats off to you, Senator Lucio. Jesus salutes you and I salute you. You had the right idea, you just needed to refine it a little. Remember who needs the real education. And while you're at it, you might be thinking about how to find adopters for those little babies yourself since you helped cut back access to care.

And help find more doctors for women and their children as well since their becoming fewer and further between in Texas. Unless you plan to pay for their health care out of your own pocket.

Or you plan to heal them all with your prayers.

Slap the other cheek, too

Hand it to the Republicans, they know how to turn Christian values on their head. This week the self-proclaimed party of Jesus, the party that intends to restore Christian values to America (even to those Americans who chose not to embrace them) celebrated those values with the Slap Face Hillary web site.

That's right. After making it clear that Republicans would not share the airwaves on CNN with Hillary Clinton by threatening to withhold debates from coverage if they aired a docudrama of Clinton's life, they have given us a web site inviting viewers to log in and slap Hillary Clinton in the face. You can slap Hillary as many times as you want.

Hillary's other cheek.

This site falls in the category of “If you don't get what's wrong, there's no way to explain it to you.” It would be like explaining the irony of beating up a beggar saying, “God's peace be with you,” to keep the streets safe for decent Christians.

This Republican mentality would laugh at Jesus' injunction to turn the other cheek because they would simply strike that cheek too. In fact, they would call you stupid for doing so. That's one of the reasons the site encourages visitors to slap Hillary as often as possible.

They could never comprehend that Jesus fully grasped the reality of that mentality and the cruelty that lay behind it. To them he was a naive liberal who never had a clue what would happen until they drove the nails in, and then it was too damn late to get down. But Jesus understood the act of turning a cheek was not intended to transform the heart of the striker, so much as those who watched the transaction.

When others saw the cruelty of the Romans and the generosity of the Christians, hearts would be transformed. And, over the centuries, that happened. Unfortunately, those in power simply disguised themselves as Christians as they continue to do today, and people lost faith.

When Republicans whine that Americans have lost faith in Christian and family values, a complaint they utter over and over again, maybe they should log onto their own site, sites like Slap Hillary. It shouldn't be too hard to figure out why.

 

Tweeting out of purgatory

Martin Luther would be rolling over in his grave if he wasn't already in heaven laughing with St. Peter about all those Catholics who missed the boat. At least that's what I was raised to believe as a Baptist Preacher's Kid (BPK). See BPKs, and all Baptists in general were taught that God passed Catholics over when he anointed ML to nail his 95 points on the door and declare God's wrath on the evil Catholic empire.

One of the practices that cut the Catholics out of heaven? Indulgences. Indulgences are a release from punishment for sin, which could be purchased by the right payment (read greasing someone's palm). Usually it meant time out from purgatory. Nothing pissed Martin off more than buying your way out of time in purgatory. Or God, for that matter, because all of us Baptists knew indulgences got the Catholics cut off from Jesus' gravy train.

Until Roe v. Wade.

Once Roe v. Wade was passed, God forgave the Catholics all their sins and now they're back on board with Jesus. But they better watch out, because Pope Francis, who I thought was a pretty cool guy, may be about to rock the gravy boat. A couple of weeks ago he announced he will be swapping indulgences for tweets.

A very congenial Pope Francis (image courtesy of guardian.co.uk)

That's a pretty gutsy move. After all, it's only been about thirty years since the Catholics have been allowed to cuddle up with Baptists again. He's taking a big chance. Or maybe not. In the grand scheme of things it sounds like Baptists are probably willing to give up purgatory for unborn babies.

And his heart's in the right place. Pope Francis seems to be looking for ways to make the church more attractive to former Catholics. The church has gotten a pretty bad rap what with birth control and priests with wandering hands. And Baptists have to admit they've wandered off the reservation themselves. Starbucks and HDTV in the sanctuary? Rock and roll revivals without the rock and roll? I could live with Jesus meets the Stones, but their version sounds like really loud renditions of the Carpenters.

So as long as we're looking for creative indulgences, I have a few suggestions for the Pope. The How about indulgences for:

  • Forward the Pope's tweets for double indulgence points
  • Poke the Pope on Facebook
  • Post pics of you and your favorite Pope on Instagram (Photoshopping acceptable)
  • Pin your favorite Pope quotes
  • Have a hangout party with your friends to watch videos of Pope Frances online
  • Propagate Pope videos on YouTube

I'm sure you noticed, the medium seems to be the message. In this case social media is the Jesus message and the Pope wants you to spread it. God with God. Indulgently.

 

God hates sex

This week the University of Saint Mary on the Lake concluded its annual Courage Conference. The conference is a gathering of the saints to discuss the foremost topic facing Christians: sex.

In and of itself, a conference about Christian sexuality is hardly something to criticize, much less subject to my usual level of mockery. But the conference opens itself up to parody, if not outright satire, with its opening prayer which is posted above the fold on its web site. The prayer opens innocently: “Lord Jesus, I consecrate my sexuality to you.”

How can any sincere Christian argue with that? Any reading of scripture indicates that Christians want to bring all of our desires into subjugation to God, our appetites, our health, our quest for knowledge, our ambition, our pursuit of fortune for the benefit of our families. But the next lines are nothing less than a punchline: “cleanse my mind, my memory, my imagination and my dreams of all erotic content.”

Clear my mind of all erotic content? Wow, that's pretty harsh. So if Carol bends over I'm supposed to ask Jesus to keep me from getting a little bit aroused? That kind of kills the point of marriage, doesn't it? Why bother to be fruitful and multiply? It's kind of hard to multiply if you've purged your mind of the erotic thoughts that make multiplication possible.

That would kill dating too, wouldn't it? Isn't that why kids date? Because they see other kids and they get those urges? Why get married if you've put all erotic thought out of your head? You could just be friends. Of course, that would kill Christian Mingle, not to mention all those weddings which are a major source of income for churches and companies tied to churches.

I read through the panel presentations and a couple caught my eye. My favorite was “Interior Purity: Tricky Temptation and Jumbo Chastity.” I got the “tricky temptation” metaphor, but what is “jumbo chastity?” I'm trying to picture the seminar and the speaker trying to stretch that metaphor to fit, kind of like a jumbo gum ball or jumbo condom.

The other one involved sacred imagery in art. Why would a program on sacred imagery be included in a sexuality conference? Oh wait, are they trying to hide a discussion on erotic imagery in art? Is it really a panel on replacing naked babes in painting with the Virgin mother? I wouldn't be surprised. Once Christians get an itch in their pants, they're likely to do anything.

Song of Songs: Sacred art or Erotica? This is the sacred Disney version (religion.lilithezine.com)

The conference will launch with training seminars for clergy and mental health care providers on how to pray the gay away by National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) therapists. It doesn’t matter that their methods have been discredited by just about every legitimate therapist and medical organization (including Christian groups), if it's anti-Gay it's the Courage way.

The sessions are only the lead up to the opening mass conducted by Chicago's Archbishop Cardinal Francis George. His scheduled appearance only fueled the fires of dissent with protesting groups, even though the church consistently swore it didn't constitute an official endorsement. Unfortunately, when one of the key figures in the church presides, an endorsement inevitably follows.

Nor can we ignore the fact that the church's ardent anti-abortion stance, at least in part, stems from the belief that women should not be allowed to have sex and get off scott free. Yes, every life is sacred, but if women engage in promiscuous sex they should at least be saddled with a child to remind them of their transgressions.

Somehow during the process by which the church managed to build an institutional structure, sex got a bad rap. A very bad rap. I read the Bible and I’m not sure that was ever supposed to happen, but happen it did, and it’s one of the indications of how our drive to institutionalize absolute ways of thinking took us on a detour with the real scripture in the rearview window.

Being raised Baptist Preacher's Kid (BPK), I was told from the beginning that sex would warp my mind and my relationships with women. Masturbation was the sin of Onan, and fornication, or sex out of marriage, was equated with homosexuality among the worst sins in Paul's accounting of sins in Romans. The only problem was, the more I read my own Bible the more I had doubts.

Onan didn't masturbate. He refused to father kids in his brother's place. There is no reference to masturbation in the Bible (or abortion for that matter). The early Old Testament saints were having sex out of wedlock all the time. They would even meet women on the road and sleep with them. And it wasn't that big a deal. And once I read the book of Romans I realized that as far as Paul was concerned, homosexuality and fornication were held to be as evil in God's eyes as gossip and jealousy. In short, all sin is pretty much the same.

So the prayer for the Courage Conference perhaps should read, “cleanse my mind, my memory, my imagination and my dreams of all erotic, malicious, jealous, spiteful, gossipy and even narcissistic content.”

As for fornication, or sex out of wedlock? After hearing a sermon on how words from the New Testament such as “baptism” were frequently mistranslated, I decided to look fornication up. It turns out no concordance I referenced would really tackle the word's etymology. It really seems to be a transliteration rather than a real translation. The real word is “pornea.” As best I could tell from reading, the early Christians were very concerned about a practice involving temple prostitutes.

It seems pilgrims visited temple prostitutes as part of pagan worship (and no doubt to enrich the temples, not to mention keep up membership). Now I ask you, which practice do you think would upset practicing Jews and early Christians more, sex out of wedlock or sex with foreign gods and goddesses? I've got to think fornication more likely referred to temple prostitution than kids fumbling around in the courtyard when their parents weren't looking. Especially since those two rascals would probably end up married in a month or two anyway.

Yes, the Bible acknowledges that we can be driven by lustful thoughts and impulses. But we can also be driven by greed, pride and hatred. Nor am I suggesting that Christians seek out meaningless sexual encounters with multiple partners, or drop into bed just because the body moves them. The question is whether or not the enjoyment of sex, or even eroticism itself bad.

Any good BPK knows where I'm going with this. The great white elephant of the Bible. The Song of Solomon. That poem puts DH Lawrence to shame and yet it has been twisted and lied about and interpreted in every possible way to brainwash us into thinking it's not about sex.

It's about sex. It relishes sex. It is the most erotic poem in the history of Western Civilization.

I know, I know. As a BPK I was told it's an allegory, it's symbolic of our love for Christ written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, it's about anything but sex. Unfortunately, we're Baptists. Every word of the Bible is literal. And that means it's good to think about breasts and kissing and exploring what's between a woman's legs and her exploring what's between mine. Literally.

Which brings us back to the Courage prayer: “cleanse my mind, my memory, my imagination and my dreams of all erotic content, and please take the Song of Songs out of the Bible because if I stumble across it in my daily devotions, I have to clean my mind all over again.”

 

Rick Perry: Guns not kids

This post was originally written a couple of months ago, but more immediate issues intervened. In light of recent announcements, this week seemed like the week to pull it from the closet.

You know how some people can read something and miss the meaning altogether?

Like, going into a restaurant. The sign says: “Pull to open.” Only you push and can't open the door. And neither can the people inside trying to push to exit because you're pushing it closed.

I used to work in a multimedia lab and for weeks we would post large signs saying, “The lab will be closed for maintenance on….” On the date posted people would bang on the door demanding to be let in. And then, if we were kind enough to open the door and point to the sign saying “The lab will be closed for maintenance,” they would say, “So can I use the computers?”

Then there are those people who read the Gospels time and time again, profess to believe every word, promise to do what Jesus would do, and then behave as though they read Machiavelli or a white supremacy manifesto.

Like, say, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who not only professes to listen to God and to do what Jesus would do, he even holds quasi annual rallies to bring the state back to Christ. But, even though the Gospels enjoin us to care for the poor and needy, when he had an opportunity to provide health care to poor women and children, he killed the program.

He wouldn't even have had to pay for it himself, nor would Texas taxpayers. These were federal dollars. But because they made services available to the poor he didn't think they should have access to, he refused the money and shut the programs down.

Granted, the clinics were funded by taxes Texans paid to the Federal government, but this also meant he took out tax dollars and sent them to another state, without asking. Which is stealing.

Governor Rick demonstrating his grasp of the Gospels.

He is a big believer in the second commandment, however. “Thou shalt bear arms.” He's even gone one better. This week he announced his initiative to bring gun manufacturers to Texas with an appearance at the NRA convention and a video showing him shooting semi-automatic rifles.

You can check it out on YouTube.

He even gave a speech at the convention claiming that gun control advocates outraged over the murder of children at Sandy Hook were little more than opportunists. He said that we can set our watches by the response time between mass murder and the outcry for gun control. The entire theme of the convention was that gun owners are freedom fighters.

I'm sorry, I can't picture Jesus making a public display of brandishing weapons and calling for his followers to pick up arms and fight for freedom. In fact, Jesus called for his followers to do the opposite of what was expected. If someone strikes us on the cheek, offer the other one. If someone takes our coat, offer our shoes. If someone threatens us with a weapon, surrender ours.

Except, Christians don't carry weapons. We are commanded to only carry a staff for walking and sandals. (Mark 6).

Nor are we allowed to turn away those in need. Even those in need of health care. Especially when the care is on someone else's dime.

Epilogue

Fortunately, we are now in a good news/bad news situation. The good news is Perry announced he has served his last term as Governor of Texas. He will be stepping down at the end of this term. The bad news is that there is a lot more bad news. First, retirement means nothing these days. Perry could be back to run in 2018 when God reveals that he laid his retirement on the altar, like Isaac, and his sacrifice was acceptable so now he can return. Or, second, God could reveal in 2016 that he really meant for Perry to run for President and Texas (not to mention Jesus and Christians in general) will once again be held up to ridicule internationally, at least until he washes out of the first three primaries.

Finally, for Texans the worst news is that Gregg Abbott is his heir apparent, and he makes Perry look like a cuddly Care Bear. The only question is how much of the blame will he lay off on Jesus. Perry was awfully good at it.

 

Fools for Christ or just plain fools?

This week the Texas Senate struck the ultimate blow for Jesus. They banned tampons.

You can’t get more Christian than that. Except in my opinion, they didn't take it far enough.

For those of you who don't follow the defense of faith in Texas, you may need a little explanation. Texas wants to step to the forefront of the pro-life movement. As we all know, the newest commandment in the Bible is: “Thou shalt not have, or facilitate a woman's ability to have an abortion.” It is now at the top of the Eleven Commandments.1 With our governor Perry at the helm, Texas is declaring that all life is sacred, at least until it emerges from the womb. (In our defense, we have to execute someone.)

As a result, Texas has foregone federal health care funding to make sure women don't have access to family planning since that includes Planned Parenthood, an organization that supports abortion. But that wasn't enough. The Texas Legislature was so determined to ram through some of the most restrictive abortion legislation that they kicked aside their own legislative rules and even scheduled a second special session.

Jesus was the first issue on the agenda. They had to protect the unborn, and they railroaded through the legislation, squashing amendments and suppressing even the precious Republican filibuster. But somehow they feared one thing, protest. Not just protest, but protest by tampon. And so the senate banned the tampon.

As of Friday the tampon is banned in the Texas Senate.

That's right. Visitors can carry guns into the capitol, but not tampons. Women will be strip searched for tampons. I suppose they will erect tampon detectors at the entrances. They will have to remove tampon machines from the bathrooms. What next? Sanitary napkins? Will women will be allowed to bring their own rags?

Of course, if they really want to honor the scripture, the Senate didn't go far enough. The Law doesn't ban tampons, it doesn't even permit them. Women are supposed to quarantine themselves for seven days for the purposes of purification.

So I think the Senate should set up purification quarantines at the edge of town for menstruating women. Including legislators. They could call them cramp camps. I mean, who knows what a woman is likely to do when she gets it into her head to protest and she's menstruating. Do we really think relieving her of her tampon is enough? I'm trying to think like a fundamentalist Republican for Jesus here.

Oh, that's right. We wouldn't have women in the legislature because they should stay at home and obey their husbands. If they did, we wouldn't have these problems, like crazed pro-choice women running around throwing tampons in the Senate chambers. We wouldn't need to worry about abortions because all women would be at home and pregnant like they're supposed to be.

The issue may be moot. The Senate passed the abortion bill late Friday night, although I don't have news as to whether or not they repealed the tampon ban with the passage of the bill. I don't know why they should tie the ban to this one bill. I wouldn't be surprised if it remains in place, and if it doesn't, I'm sure someone will decide to reinstate it, It's just too good to lose.

Being raised Baptist Preacher's Kid (BPK), I know there's always at least one verse in scripture to justify ignoring the broad strokes of the Bible. It didn’t matter how dubious their point, my relatives could drag out one isolated dependent clause and slam it on the dinner table to prove their point only to be countered by a contrary dangling participle to prove the opposite.

And I can imagine even now the pro-life legislators defending their behavior with the verse in Corinthians about being “made a spectacle unto the world,” and “fools for Christ’s sake.” Of course Paul is referring to apostles and he juxtaposes the paradox of wisdom in Christ as well. I'm not sure even scripture gives a pass to making a total embarrassment of the faith. And this week, the Texas Senate came pretty close to doing just that.


1There had been an attempt to remove “Thou shalt not covet” from the list since the advertising industry depends on people coveting, including Christian advertisers such as Christian Mingle and all those religious music producers. The fact that eleven was more difficult to manage than ten made the covet removal lobby even stronger. But the fundamentalists toed the line and covet remained.back