Give me a J

Thank The Lord for elected judges in Texas, one of whom recently held that Christian cheerleaders can display Bible verses at school games because such displays don't violate the establishment clause of the US Constitution. It is especially comforting to know that state elected officials can rule on the US Constitution, otherwise our freedoms could be in jeopardy.

The school didn't ask for the right to display the banners. The Kountze High School cheerleaders did, thanks to the help of the Liberty Institute, who sues any institution who dares suggest that some Americans have the right to avoid Jesus' message of love and tolerance by not attending church. After all, just because you don't believe, it doesn't mean you don't have to listen. That's what free speech is about.

Judge Thomas agreed, buying the Liberty lawyer's argument that since the cheerleaders paid for their own equipment and signs, they didn't represent the school. It's not as though they were appearing at a school sponsored event, transported there by school financed buses driven by school employees. Free speech is free speech, and we can never ignore Jesus' injunction to do to others what we would want them to do to us. And we would certainly want others to spread the good news.

Technically, the cheerleaders claimed they weren't actually spreading the good news, they were just expressing their beliefs. This is, of course, an important distinction. Like asking people to bow their heads in silence while we pray isn't asking them to pray with us, even when we say, “Join us in prayer.”

Surely no Christian would object to Cheerleaders displaying a passage from the Bhagavad Gita

Nor can I imagine the cheerleaders, or any of the school's supporters, would be upset if one of the cheerleaders, or a football player, or even a fan displayed banners with passages from the Koran, Bhagavad Gita or Communist Manifesto. Just because someone says it doesn't mean we have to listen. That's what free speech is all about.

And if we want to do unto others as we would have them do, then doesn't asking others to listen to verses from the Bible mean we want to listen to passages from their scriptures as well?

 

Jesus in the classroom

A recent Texas Freedom Network report indicated that Texas public school Bible courses frequently ignore state standards for rigor and objectivity. The classes least in compliance tend to promote the views of the Christian Right. Even instructional materials are often taken from the teacher's churches and not academic publishers.

This should hardly be surprising. In Texas, teachers answer to a higher call than the Legislature. Far be it from a few laws to stand in the way of truth. Our children could be corrupted by false ideologies. Like evolution.

Ironically for Catholics who have thrown their lot in with the Christian Right, the classes that are least in compliance promote a distinctly Protestant flavor of the Bible. Catholics aligning themselves with the Right probably don't care, but more traditional Catholics might.

The state guidelines were written to ensure the religious freedoms of all students, but the Christian Right and the Corporate Christian Complex (CCC) who backs them believe the only people who deserve religious freedom are themselves.

I will grant that the courses are elective, but I also want to stress that the courses are offered as English or Social Studies courses, not religion courses. The intent was to allow students to become familiar with or to understand the influence of the Bible on culture and society, not to convert them to the faith.

Ironically, it is the Christian Right that uses objectivity as the standard for including creationism in science classes. The truth is that the Christian Right only wants what serves their interests.

Texas colleges used to offer elective Bible courses at a college level. But these were a sop to Christian lobbyists. They were always taught by the Baptist Student Union or other campus Christian groups and promoted a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. Baptist kids like me took them for free credits, even though Catholics, Muslims, Jews and Atheists weren't allowed to take courses of their own. Other kids took them because they were easy to pass even when hungover.

For Jesus, his Jewish predecessors and the apostles who followed, teaching scripture was not the function of public institutions. Children were raised with the faith in their homes and synagogues. Children were expected to encounter a hostile and foreign world outside even in Jerusalem, for it was inhabited by foreign powers.

Children of the Christian Right are still taught the Bible in their churches and homes, so they don't need Bible classes. Nor should they get them for a free credit. But if they don't really need them, why do they want them?

Only one answer comes to mind. The Christian Right wants to use public school as a forum for evangelizing, and let the rest of us pay for their efforts. Of course, they would scream if the Legislature forced them to finance Episcopal, Catholic or even Koran study classes in their Sunday Schools.

Wasn't it Jesus who said the second commandment requires of the rest of us to do for them what they refuse to do for anyone else?

Uncle Santa needs you

The annual season for the war on Christmas opened this weekend. Technically, the skirmishes started a few weeks ago in Santa Monica and Alsip, Illinois. However, it's never official until Bill O'Reilly issues the declaration.

courtesy of examiner.com

The Christian Right believes they have an exclusive right to display their imagery during the upcoming season. After all, Christmas is a Christian holiday.

Unfortunately for Christians, other people celebrate their own holidays this time of year, and have been doing it far longer than Christians. The Christian Right forgets that their particular day is privileged only because the Federal Government, whom they believe conspires against them, recognizes only their celebration as the official holiday.

Christmas is the only religious holiday honored by the United States. Christians like to claim Thanksgiving as theirs too, but Thanksgiving is really a celebration of ecumenicalism, if it has any religious significance at all. Thanksgiving recognizes an event in which Native Americans, who revere the spirit world, came to the aid of Christians who might not have survived the winter in spite of our all-powerful God.

(I was always told that God sent the natives to help the Pilgrims, and I believe he did, but the irony of God sending pagans to rescue believers is lost on the story tellers.)

Of course, New Year's Day is the United States' official version of a purely Pagan holiday, but Christians and the failure of collective memory have managed to white wash any such religious connections today.

I was told when I was a child that Christmas was the umbrella for Chanuka. In fact, Christmas was supposed to be the time when people of all faiths set aside their differences to celebrate a day of peace. That day of peace is gone.

Christians should be grateful that theirs is the only religious celebration officially recognized by the United States. Instead, many of us seem to believe the very government they hate is punishing them by making room for all Americans to celebrate.


Speaking of the war on Christmas, I am finishing revisions this weekend on my Christmas (holiday) novella, The Worst Noel, a spin off of my novel Raising Hell, in which Pilgrim must save a town from its own outbreak of the Christmas wars. It will be on sale for Nook, Kindle and iBooks in time for the holidays (which you will find ironic given the topic of an upcoming post).

 

Vote conscience

In spite of the campaign rhetoric, this election is about everything but the economy. The economy has been little more than a smokescreen for a chance to press the same social agenda that Republicans have pressed for decades, an agenda that rewrites both Christianity and the Constitution.

A small sign of this, but telling nonetheless, was the uproar created when Kay Hill of Round Rock, Texas, was asked to cover up her shirt at her early voting polling station. The shirt said, “Vote the Bible.” While wearing such shirts isn't explicitly illegal in Texas, there are legal restrictions on campaigning in polling places.

She claimed her free speech rights were violated, as did the group Texas Values which now represents her. In her words, “Vote the Bible” doesn't endorse a political party or candidate, just her belief in the bible. Thirty years ago this might seem reasonable. In 2012, however, the position seems a little disingenuous.

The Republican Party has wrapped themselves not just in the flag, but between the pages of the Bible as well. For all her protestations to the contrary, no one doubts that “Vote the Bible” is an endorsement of Mitt Romney and his Party. In fact, the Christian Right has made it clear that the Democratic Party is not the party of the Bible.

In September, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki wrote in Catholic Times:

I am not telling you which party or which candidates to vote for or against, but I am saying that you need to think and pray very carefully about your vote, because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.

This is the same disingenuous language, since Paprocki spells out why the Republicans espouse Christian values and Democrats don't.

What are these Christian values? They all involve compelling others to conform to our beliefs:

  • We want the right to make others join us in public prayer to the Judeo-Christian god.
  • We want pledges to support the nation to be tied to an invocation of our God, forcing those who don't accept his existence to validate our belief.
  • We want to force women to practice our life values. It is not enough to to preserve life in our own bodies, we compel other women to do so as well even when they were raped or their health is in jeopardy.
  • We don't even want women to have the option to prevent pregnancy.
  • We want children to be indoctrinated into the tenets of our faith under the guise of science.
  • We want to deny health care to the most needy.

In every case, Christians would scream bloody murder were the tables turned. If we were asked to join in public prayers to Allah, or to public chants to Buddha, we would consider ourselves martyrs (although I can't imagine many American Christians actually willing to die over it). If the pledge contained the phrase “a nation that needs no God for sanction,” we would call it persecution. If women were forced to practice birth control, we would call it injustice. If children were taught “evolution proves there is no God” in social studies textbooks we would scream political indoctrination. If circumcision were made mandatory, we would proclaim ourselves victims of a war on faith.

Jesus never asked us to be the moral arbiters of those who don't follow him. In fact, when I read the Bible, the only one who answers to God for my sins is me, and I do not answer for the sins of others. If we pursue the agenda of the Christian Right, we risk becoming part of the evil ourselves.

I see a darker possibility on the horizon. There may well be a culture war, but it is not a war on Christians so much as a declaration of war by a a few Christian sects on people outside the faith, and even Christians whose faith they feel diverges from theirs. There seems to be a desire to impose their orthodoxy on the rest of us, and, as recent events have proved, the Christian Right feels they are above the law in ways the rest of us aren't.

As to the economy, let's face it. The Republicans' true constituency will do well with a good or bad economy. But if we look at the record of the Republican Congress, it becomes clear they blocked every measure proposed by the administration to create more jobs and improve the economy because those measures wouldn't do it their way.

Jesus is about choice. Your choice. Your choice to follow him. We can only lead the way for others. Faith is not compulsory and to believe otherwise is to be both unChristian and unAmerican.

The supreme irony is that twenty years ago the Christian Right would not have accepted Mitt Romney as one of them. At least they have become more tolerant of someone.

Yoga is “a goy” spelled backwards

Once again Christian parents are up in arms, this time in California. It seems their innocent children are being subjected to yoga classes, which is tantamount to forced Hinduism. Needless to say, the Christians want to sue.

I did the math, and it does seem that yoga is a perniciously anti-Christian practice. If you spell yoga backwards, you get “a goy.” Any one who knows Yiddish knows that “a goy” is the term for someone who is not one of God's chosen people. It doesn't get more insidious than that. We might as well be forcing our children to pray to Ganesh.

CNN asked a spokesman for the Christian Right why parents would object to yoga and he said exactly the same thing. Well, not the backward spelling thing, but that making kids practice yoga was forcing them to “take poses that honor Hindu Gods.”

Up until that moment I didn't know that “downward facing dog,” and “salute to the sun,” were Hindu gods, not to mention “corpse,” “tree,” and “mountain.” But, it seems, they are.

Oh, wait. Using the backward spelling trick, “downward facing dog” is really “downward facing God.” It all makes sense to me now.

Carol is Cherokee, and we made medicine bags at the Cherokee Township meeting this afternoon to appreciate the artifacts of their passing culture. It reminded me of school, when we made headdresses and other native artifacts. I realized that if we were to make medicine bags in school these days, the Christian Right would claim we were honoring Native American Gods and sue the school district.

As I recall, with school funding being slashed right and left because of No Child Left Behind, schools had to give up arts and PE just to keep their budgets afloat. Yoga seems to me to be a pretty cost effective way to provide physical fitness. The districts could even stiff the parents for the cost of the mat as a “school expense.”

If the suit is filed, and upheld, a small minority of Christians will have denied school children across the country another opportunity for fitness.

So I will conclude with a thought I have shared before:

Stop whining, Christians. You sound like babies who lost their pacifiers. You're supposed to be persecuted. It's in your Bible. People are supposed to hate you, revile you and even kill you. How can you bear the cross when you can't even bear to be in the same room with people who disagree with you?Listening to you, I would think the US Constitution is supposed to spin a comfy womb where you can suckle the milk of faith and never be exposed to doubt.

When you stand before God at judgement and he asks what you did for him, you should hope you have something more to offer than you voted Republican and stopped a yoga class.

Stop sex: Defending marriage for real

Gay marriage? Three weeks in a row?

I can hear the complaining now. But the Christian right has latched onto same sex marriage like a dog with a bone, so I might as well throw them another bone.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the verse in the Gospels most often used to justify banning same sex marriage is, in fact, a verse saying that God does not permit divorce. (Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. Mat 19:6). It has nothing to do with gay marriage except by extreme extrapolation.

(By my own extrapolation, however, since the verse talks about “man and wife” without specifically saying “female wife”—because females are only mentioned in an earlier verse—the verse accepts same sex male marriages but not same sex female marriages. If this seems bizarre, it’s only because that’s where extreme extrapolations lead you.)

But I was reading further and discovered that the Gospels go on to say: “It is better not to marry.” So there you have it. In a true defense of marriage act, no one would be allowed to get married.

Some might argue that Jesus doesn’t say this, the pharisees do. But that doesn’t matter if you believe every single word in the Bible is true. If the phrase makes it in the Bible we have to accept it. But, you know what? Jesus agrees with them. He says in response that some people can’t deal with that truth but it remains the truth.

In fact, he goes onto say that those who choose to be eunuchs for the sake of heaven are better off than people who marry. So double there you have it. In a true defense of marriage act, not only would marriage be banned, but we would all castrate ourselves.

But let’s back up. When questioned about divorce Jesus says laws permitting divorce are only a convenience for sinners (you know, gay people and liberals). But once people marry they are always married in heaven. So if you’re divorced and remarry, you commit adultery, which, in Paul’s book (and the OT), is just as bad as homosexuality.

But wait. Why does God consider a couple married forever? Because they cleaved to each other. Which means they had sex. So when you get right down to it, once you have sex, you’re married to that person for life. Even if your first sexual experience was with someone of the same sex and you later repented and became a Bible believing heterosexual Christian.

That’s right. If your first sexual experience is a same sex experience, according to the Bible, you are already married to your same sex partner. Male or female. So the defense of marriage act is actually calling the Bible a lie. Don’t take my word for it.

You can laugh, but I was raised Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK), and trust me, this was exactly what I heard every time a Baptist, Pentecostal or otherwise evangelical minister preached about marriage. And that would be up until 1972 when I decided to pass on the Baptist thing for good.

Jesus clearly sets out two different standards. Legal marriage and God’s marriage. As far as God is concerned, legal marriage is a technicality because it allows for divorce. So if legal marriage is a technicality for sinners like us, then defending legal marriage with a defense of marriage act is pointless because God doesn’t honor it.

In heaven, you’re either married or you aren’t, and you just get one shot at it. So the only marriage that matters is marriage in heaven, it doesn’t matter about marriage down here because it’s just a meaningless legal civil paperwork bone he threw us anyway. So let gays marry. It’s not God, it’s just the Constitution.

But if you’re still determined to have a defense of (US civil law) marriage act, here’s what it should say based on what we’ve learned over the last few weeks. Marriage is defined as a union between two people who:

  • Are virgins
  • Not divorced (i.e., virgins)
  • Not adulterers (i.e., virgins)
  • Not witches (and still virgins)
  • Never wished their parents were dead when they were children (and virgins)

This should come as no surprise. When I was raised BPK there were only two kinds of people God approved of, virgins and married people. And Paul, as you recall, preferred virgins.

So the real defense of marriage act should read: “In order to keep marriage sacrosanct, no one will marry and they won’t have sex either.”

With the resulting population decline we won’t even need a defense of marriage act.

Damned Democrats. Literally.

Growing up Baptist I heard a lot of crazy things. I didn’t even have to be a Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK), even though I was. All I had to do was listen. And I heard some doozies. I heard:

  • “Back in the USSR” was a secret homage to Soviet Communism.
  • The apostle Paul carried the King James Bible on his missionary journals.
  • Jesus turned water into grape juice but they didn’t have a name for it so they called it “wine.”
  • The Bible forbids boys and girls from swimming in the same pool.
  • Everything in the Bible is literal but the bit about communion being Jesus’ body and blood is only symbolic.
  • The Bible forbids negroes from marrying white people. 1

I never heard anything as weird as the one Carol sent me from Dennis Marcellino on conservativebyte.com. Get this: “The BIBLE SAYS if you vote for a democrat and were to die thereafter you would go to hell.” In fact, his message is so important, the entire sentence is the address of the post.

The “die thereafter” part is superfluous since it’s pretty much a given that anyone who votes Democratic or Republican or doesn’t vote at all will die thereafter. But it sure makes the warning even more dire. And he doesn’t warn about a lifetime of voting Democratic, we’re damned if we vote just once. Their is no scale for more acceptable Democratic candidates and the really evil Moslem Democrats who lied about their birth certificates. All Democrats are 11 on a scale of 10.

Marcellino is fairly apologetic about delivering the news. He says, “This is not meant to be emotional or inflammatory, it is simply stating a fact and to warn.” Too late for me, mind you. I was damned when I voted for McGovern in 1972 and have sealed my fate in every election since.

Even worse, I served as Democratic Precinct Chairman and was elected delegate to the state convention in 2000. To throw more fuel on the fire, I voted with La Raza Unida whenever they ran a candidate, volunteered for the Rainbow Coalition both times Jackson ran and I worked with ACORN for several years. I joined the Wobblies and if Eugene Debbs were still around, he would get my vote.

But Marcellino is simply stating facts and who am I to argue with facts, especially knowing that my fate is forever sealed? It’s too late for me, but perhaps I can help Marcellino reach my readers before they cast that fatal vote.

If only I had known in time to warn you for the primaries. But since the primaries don’t actually elect anyone, maybe there’s hope if you vote right in the fall.

You see, Marcellino qualifies his warning little. You can repent (and presumably vote the Tea Party line from here on). But here’s a little more to chew on:

  • “The Bible does say that if a person votes for a democrat (the promoters and supporters of sin) and were to die without repenting of that, he or she is going to hell.”
  • “I think this is an important message for blacks and hispanics who think they are Christians and who don’t want to offend God but who vote lock step for democrats.”
  • “2Thess. 2:12, says that if a pro-gay marriage person were to die today with that stance, they would not go to Heaven. ‘Then everyone who did not believe the truth, but was delighted with what God disapproves of, will be condemned.’ And one way that a person expresses that delight is: how they vote … especially if it’s for a candidate who supports gay marriage or any other sin.”

Or, perhaps, Marcellino misread the scriptures. The key phrase in this verse, at least so far as the English translation, is “delighted.” I don’t think “delight” describes the feeling Christians, or even liberals, feel when we take a political stance that the Constitution was intended to protect the rights of the disenfranchised. We don’t delight in homosexuality any more than we delight when an unborn child is terminated. We don’t dance in the street and shout giddily: “Hooray, another baby died and two more deviants tied the knot.” We don’t put on party music and silly hats or celebrate in any way

Unless, perhaps, we’re invited to the wedding. But the celebration would be for the happy couple, not the fact that we participated in an institution offensive to God.

In fact, I don’t know any woman who had an abortion who took delight in it. Women are usually emotionally devastated by the act. And the gays I know only delight in being gay as a challenge to those who hate them. It’s there way of saying, “If you’re going to get in my face, then I’m going to rub my gayness in yours.” I don’t know a single person who said, “I’m going to be gay and put up with crap from my co-workers, family and gay bashing Christians because it’s so delightful.”

Okay, maybe we take a little delight when certain folks write ignorant comments like, “The BIBLE SAYS if you vote for a democrat and were to die thereafter you would go to hell.” In fact, it’s really hard not to laugh out loud. But that delight quickly fades when we remember how crazy some Christians can be when they start torching abortion clinics and beating gays to death.

Let’s see what else Marcellino wrote. “Romans 1:32, ‘Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things* deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.’ And one way we approve is by how we vote. (* “such things” are in the rest of Romans 1:18-31 – e.g. homosexuality, lesbianism, strife, deceit, slander [political sound bites], gossips, idol worshippers, God-haters, atheists – all primarily attributes of liberals.)”

His conclusion? “Many who think they are Christian aren’t going to Heaven.”

How nice of him to let us know who made it into God’s Book of Life before it’s official.

There’s a problem with using that passage in Romans, however, because the Christian right gets caught in their own blowback. For instance, strife. Who causes the most strife in today’s Church? The Christian right, who is willing to accept homicide as a solution to abortion (not all of them, but some of the most outspoken). Liberal Christians tend to prefer pacifism, which is the opposite of strife. We don’t provoke or encourage others to decide as they do, we accept them regardless. As did Jesus, who thought hookers and drunks were a lot more fun to hang with than stuffy old rabbis and self-righteous.

Tea Party members have even been known to physically assault opponents and the Christian right has made it clear that they will not compromise otherness, nor will they accept them as believers. They even make provocative statements such as “unrepentant Democrats will go to hell.” Which would be unrepentant Democratic voters like me. 2

This is the opposite of the apostle Paul who made a practice of honoring the practice of the local churches he visited, even if he didn’t accept them himself. In the Jerusalem church he kept Kosher. He did not deride Peter and James for advocating circumcision even though he didn’t see it as God’s command (and even though he was under constant fire from the Jerusalem Church). Many Christians felt is was impossible for Christians who ate meat sacrificed to idols to be saved (including the author of Revelations). Even though Paul disagreed, he refused to eat sacrificed meat in the company of kosher believers.

How about gossip and slander, which includes (at least according to Marcellino) political sound bytes. I went to the web site that featured his column (which is ironically called conservativebyte.com) and found:

  • No mistake! Obama backs Muslim Brotherhood again
  • Obama Politicizes Memorial Day: No More Wars Unless ‘Absolutely Necessary’
  • Planned Parenthood Encourages Woman to Get Sex-Selection Abortion
  • Obama’s Secret ‘Kill List’
  • Obama Twice in 2 Days Mentions ‘My Sons’ — even with Teleprompter (!!! Now that’s a byte worthy scandal)
  • Obama Expanding His Enemies List
  • What Unemployment?: Obama To Attend 6 Fundraisers Today (next to a picture of Obama playing golf and ignoring the fact that Romney held a number of fundraisers too)
  • Muslim Brotherhood infiltrates U.S. public schools?
  • Obama Flies Special Barber To WH Every Two Weeks
  • It’s the Little Things: Obama Insults Poland, Awards Medal of Freedom to Socialist Icons
  • Reprehensible Holder Scares Black Voters
  • Businessman Faces Backlash After Appearing on Obama’s Enemies List
  • Obama Insults Poland with Crass and Ignorant ‘Polish Death Camp’ Remark
  • Somebody (Obama) Watched Too Many Episodes of ‘The West Wing’

Not only do all of these headlines qualify as political sound bytes, they sound like gossip and border on slander. I especially like the headline about Obama mentioning his sons. I heard gossip like this constantly as a BPK. “Did you hear what Jennifer said? She said there’s nothing better than drinking on a hot summer day.”

The real message of the passage in Romans is that God finds gossip as heinous as he finds adultery and gay cruising. No one gets to claim the high ground because no sin is worse than another. You can’t grade sin, it’s all 11 on a scale of 10.

So I would like to remind Marcellino of a couple of other scriptures:

  • Don’t judge lest you be judged.
  • Don’t resist evil people. In fact, help them on their way.
  • Don’t point out the speck in other’s eyes when you have a beam in yours.

In other words, worry about your own sins and not the sins of others. In the New Testament depictions of judgment, no one is called to answer for what other people did.

I think we can safely say that most Democrats, and Christians who support the party’s candidates aren’t pro-abortion, or promoting homosexuality. We simply think government should keep out of people’s lives the way Republicans want to keep government out of their gun cabinets.

I’ve generally found that Christians have one of two views of God’s realm. Some want it to be bigger and others want to keep it tiny and exclusive. Too often we say that’s God’s decision but we project our own desires onto the realm we envision. Jesus preached generosity of spirit above most other virtues. And part of that generosity is to stop volunteering to help with God’s plan for others. We have enough time following that plan ourselves.


1Sound familiar? Too bad they didn’t think of a defense of marriage act in the sixties.back
2Technically I’m independent because I will vote for third parties and even candidates I know will piss the party off. (For instance I voted for Al Sharpton in the 2004 primary.) But I will accept the label of Democrat because I have yet to meet a Republican who deserved my vote. Whenever the Democratic party dumped such colossal turds such as Dolph Brisco onto the ballet, the Republicans made sure to counter with a candidate that made him look good. So I voted for the La Raza candidate Ramsey Muñiz. In other elections I simply wrote in “none of the above,” which so pissed off one precinct chair that she posted a sign in later elections warning “No voting ‘none of the above.'” It didn’t stop me.back