Written on stone tablets (made in China)

So we know that Obama is anti-life, anti-marriage and anti-Christian. The latest revelation is that Obama and his lead hit man Hillary Clinton have done an end run around the constitution and used the UN to ban guns in America.

I was puzzled about all this brouhaha until I realized God had revised the ten commandments. This may sound absurd to you, but I’ve already reported that the Christian right has decided to revisit the Bible and release the version God intended.

I got a peek at the Ten Commandments 2.0 and found them enlightening. Here’s the honest to God commandments the way God would have written them had America been there in time for the Bible to be written:

  1. America is God’s nation. Thou shalt elevate no other nations before it.
  2. Thou shalt defend the Lord with guns and keep the government from taking them away to prevent thy defense thereof. This is the second, and perhaps, greatest commandment. 1
  3. Though shalt display images of thy God, his ten commandments and even his commemorative tree on his birthday in every public office, school and mall, yea even in communities where secular humanists abound.
  4. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain, which is defined thereby as questioning the Lord or those who defend his name or swearing unless you are in the military or play football or doing guy stuff.
  5. Thou shalt remember the sabbath and keep it holy by observing Football, NASCAR and church if it doesn’t conflict with game time.
  6. Honor thy father and mother unless you are a character in a FOX sitcom.
  7. Thou shalt not kill unborn children, but after that they’re on their own.
  8. Thou shalt not commit adultery unless you can deflect accusations by pointing the finger at others.
  9. Thou shalt not allow the government to steal by levying taxes.
  10. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, which doesn’t count if they’re liberals, secular humanists or otherwise unworthy of God’s favor.

Obviously the original tenth commandment was bumped off the list, but it was too long to remember anyway and besides, even if you do know what coveting is, you can buy the stuff you covet on credit.

1I know this is a shift in the order of original commandments, but since the Constitution is the second highest authority for the American Jesus, the second amendment allows new Bible scholars to feel fairly sure that God originally intended this to be the second commandment as well. Since there were no guns at the time, God was holding this back for a later revelation. back

Rejoice in the Lord but don’t be gay

North Carolina joined the ranks of the states willing to secede (or resecede) from the union when it declared same sex marriage and civil unions to be unconstitutional. After all, nothing poses a greater threat to marriage than couples who can’t produce kids.

Cousins can still marry cousins and further narrow the gene pool. But that’s not a threat to marriage at all. Just society in general.

Jesus didn’t speak to me about that. That’s just my opinion. But opinion seems to carry the weight of Gospel these days, so I might as well add mine. Carol was listening to a pundit on CNN while I was in the bathroom this morning so I didn’t get his name (and I didn’t find it worth rewinding), but he argued that gay marriage is a threat to society because homosexuality is picked up from our environments.

His implicit conclusion? Having more gay couples accepted will make more kids gay. He didn’t come out and say this, most likely because the interview would have been posted to YouTube with a laugh track. Facts are facts. Kids grow up in the same communities with the same exposure to gay couples. Most turn out to be straight. So clearly environment isn’t an issue.

Personally, I think the all those Defense of Marriage Acts should be called the Defense of the Definition of Marriage Acts. After all, if we define marriage as “between two people” then same sex marriage isn’t an issue.

So one question we should ask is, does the Bible really define marriage as “between a man and a woman?” The traditional answer is Matthew 19:5 where Jesus said, “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.” But that verse doesn’t say a wife is a woman. So what’s all the fuss over men marrying men? Maybe we could twist the verse to mean that women can’t marry women. But clearly there’s no prohibition against men marrying men.

I can already anticipate the objection. But Jesus says in the previous verse that God created male and female. So clearly “wife” means “woman.” But I was raised Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK) and I know that it’s dangerous to make one verse’s meaning depend on previous verses. (It’s called “context.”) Otherwise we would be forced to acknowledge that homosexuality and gossip are equally distasteful to God (read Romans).

Besides, if we are going to insist on context, Jesus is talking about divorce, not same sex marriage. Based on that verse, the defense of marriage would prohibit marriage between previously married partners.

What amazes me is that the Christian right, who is all about religious freedom, wants government to dictate to churches who they can and cannot marry. Banning same sex marriage not only affects the legal status of gay and lesbian couples, it dictates whether or not churches can perform rites for their parishioners, should they choose.

Think about it. Your church accepts that same sex marriage is unlawful in the eyes of God. Even before the defense of marriage act, no government would force you to marry a gay couple. Nor would you need to. If a gay couple was even brave enough to admit their love to the congregation (assuming they were clueless enough to be members of your church) they would still have to get married in a state that accepted same sex marriage, and they could have a civil ceremony if they couldn’t find a liberal elitist secular church that would marry them.

But you would be furious if the government told your church it had to marry that couple. In fact, I can imagine that if the government included divorced partners in the defense of marriage act, your church would be up in arms.

This may seem inconceivable, but forty years ago many churches (including the Catholic Church) felt the same way about divorced couples that many Christians feel about same sex couples now. Some churches thought it was heresy for a church to sanctify a marriage involving a divorced spouse. I suspect those same churches would insist on first marriages between a man and woman only. This, in fact, was the point I was making about the original intent of Matthew 19:5.

The defense of marriage acts deny churches the right to marry same sex couples if they feel that is the Christian thing to do. This sets a dangerous precedent. By refusing to allow citizens their Constitutional rights, Christians are opening the door to government to curtail their own rights as well. This is not just hypocrisy, it’s stupid.

Jesus did not endorse or approve of this blog. At least not explicitly.

So far as I know.

The pope proves he has the right manly stuff

This evening Carol showed me one of those cyber posters with a painting of Adam and Eve and a punchline wondering why artists always paint them with navels. Actually, the punchline wondered why they always had belly buttons, but as long as we’re being picky (as that particular poster seemed to have been) bellies don’t have buttons. There is nothing on the belly we can fasten pants, shirts, vests or other bellies to. They have navels.

To be honest, I’m surprised Carol didn’t know this gag. It was a classic brain teaser when we were kids. “An archeologist walks into a cave and sees two dead bodies. He immediately knows they’re Adam and Eve. How?”

Please don’t tell me you don’t know the answer. If you intend to, then you need to put your phone down and reread the lede paragraph (and, although the spelling is pretentious, in this context it’s correct).

That being said, I’m not sold on this whole “no navel” business. Why do we assume that just because Adam and Eve weren’t born, but created from dust, mud and ribs, they wouldn’t have navels? Sure, a navel wouldn’t be necessary, but does that mean they wouldn’t have been there?

Don’t fundamentalists get upset with scientists for saying essentially the same thing? If the theory of evolution is correct, then God isn’t necessary to human life. But it doesn’t mean he isn’t out there. And the Bible does say God created Adam and Eve in his image. How do we know God doesn’t have a navel?

If I seem to be picking at gnats, I feel I’m in good company with Pope Benedict this week. He took control of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (read “nuns” in the common vernacular) and handed the reins to a male Bishop. And we all know that unmarried men who run around in robes are completely equipped to discern the spiritual needs of women in the twenty-first century.

Ostensibly the move was because of the conference’s professed stand on same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion, except that the conference has no official position on any of those issues. And that, it turns out, is the problem. The conference takes no official position. It seems they should have.

Here’s what I don’t get. The conference is an organized arm of the Catholic church. By default their official position is identical to the church’s unless they say otherwise. But that’s not good enough for women. They actually have to come out and say, “Whatever the men say, we’re for it.”

But that’s church teaching too. Men make the decisions, women go along. Because Christ is head of the church and men represent Christ in families.

Ironically, this follows almost by two weeks, my Easter blog on the need to give believers the space to find the truth. I guess the Pope doesn’t read my blog.

This kind of lock-step dictation of personal faith was exactly the kind of church policy that caused evangelicals and fundamentalists to hold the church in suspicion when I was a kid. I was raised Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK) and BPKs believed in free will. The church, any church, didn’t get to dictate our conscience.

After all, Jesus said Christians will be known by our love for one another. Not by our doctrinal purity. These days it seems that the religious right, encouraged by the Corporate Christian Complex (CCC) marches in lock step with the Pope. Only this Pope seems determined to roll back two centuries worth of Papal revelation.

As a BPK I learned that there was a deep divide between Catholic and Baptist practice. The church enforced one mind and one doctrine through theological inquisition. We embraced our right to free belief by breaking up into smaller and smaller congregations aligned around pure doctrine. Even if there was only one person in our congregation, at least it was pure. Same result, smaller assemblies.

Jesus would be so proud.

Santorum and the gospel of Rome

Isn’t it ironic that fifty years ago the Republican electorate feared John F. Kennedy because they thought he would owe more allegiance to Rome than the American people. Now a strong plurality is lining up to support Rick Santorum who, while he doesn’t come out and say it, makes it clear that his allegiance is clearly aligned with Rome.

Just today I heard a Santorum sound byte claiming that people who support the President’s health care plan have surrendered their health to the government. What an interesting concept, the suggestion that we would let the government control our health.

He forgot to mention that he wants the Pope to control our health. This is the reason he and other Republicans like Newt opposed Obama’s move to require religious organizations to offer birth control to their employees. They believe the church should have the power to control our health.

As you know, I was raised Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK). I was taught that the Mormons and Catholics were a source of heresy and a threat to true faith. Today those same Christians are lining up behind a Mormon and two Catholic candidates to defend their faith. It seems to me that, by the standards I was raised with, the Christian right have allowed themselves to be led astray.

In fact, they seem determined to seat the enemies of Christ in the halls of government.

What is their strategy? Accuse the President of heresy. For example, this week Rick Santorum called the President’s beliefs: “”phony theology. Not a theology based on the bible, a different theology.” He went on to claim that the President was “exercising his values and trumping the values of the church.”

In other words, the church of Rome should dictate the values of the American people. Santorum would claim that the Pope’s values are the values of all Americans, but this is clearly wrong. This was also the reason why the founding fathers wanted to avoid an established religion.

Another hint that Santorum (and Gingrich) want to establish Catholicism as the official religion of Americans is the declaration that the evangelical Christians like President Obama have “a different set of moral values that they are imposing upon people who have a constitutional right to have their own values within the church.” He called this “a new low in this country’s history of religious freedom that we have never seen before.”

Does he think Obama is less of a Christian? When asked, Santorum claimed that “no one is suggesting that.” But, in fact, this is exactly what he’s doing. He is suggesting that the President’s evangelical beliefs, which are rooted in the concept of free will and the right of everyone to choose to accept or reject the path to salvation, should be sacrificed for his own, which is that Americans should be forced to comply with the dictates of the Catholic hierarchy.

This is not the America I signed up for.

The is not the America Jesus signed up for.

This is definitely not the America our founders signed up for.

Judge not the judges

especially without the facts

Newt is fading so quickly at the polls that this post may seem like kicking the wounded dog. Nonetheless, Newt rebounds quickly, even when he shoots himself in a vital organ. Whether or not he’s finished, he keeps serving himself up as defender of the faith. With the economy improving and Obama’s fortunes rising, I suspect more and more Republicans will try to reframe the debate around Jesus.

Recently he declared once again that federal judges need to be put in their place because of their open hostility to Christians. His campaign web site declares: “The revolutionary idea contained in the Declaration of Independence is that certain fundamental human rights, including the right to life, are gifts from God and cannot be given nor taken away by government. Yet, secular radicals are trying to remove “our Creator” – the source of our rights – from public life.”

This is a profound misinterpretation and is fundamentally misleading. The “right to life” in the declaration has nothing to do with abortion, it has to do with what John Locke’s social contract. Until the rise of the Christian right, even conservative scholars would have agreed that the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” meant the government had no right to take the life of a citizen without just cause.

Since the “right to life” stands on equal footing with the “right to pursue happiness,” Newt’s more restrictive interpretation of right to life as a stand against abortion puts the right to life in direct conflict with a woman’s right to pursue happiness. I would even go further and suggest that arch conservatives were always quick to point out the phrase “all men were endowed by their creator with the right to…” excludes women. Since men couldn’t have abortions, obviously right to life meant something different altogether.1

On the other hand, Republicans in the past have always claimed that the Declaration of Independence is little more than a statement of intent; the Constitution is the edifice on which this nation was built. This is because too XXXXX many liberals and Democrats appeal to the Declaration. God and the “right to life” appear nowhere in the Constitution. Even more horrifying, the “Creator” who endowed us (men) with our inalienable rights was a remote and impersonal deity. Many of the founding fathers were deists.

In a recent speech, Gingrich referenced a case from Central Texas to prove that Federal judges were little more than “dictatorial religious bigots.” The case, which I’ve discussed before, resulted in an injunction by San Antonio Judge Biery ruling on a lawsuit against Medina Valley High school, who, according to Newt, declared that “not only could students not pray at their graduation, if they used the word ‘benediction,’ the word ‘invocation,’ the word ‘God,’ asked the audience to stand or asked for a moment of silence, he would put the Superintendent in jail.”

Wrong on all accounts. Biery ruled that school officials and students couldn’t ask audience members to pray with them, could, in fact, speak of their faith as long as it wasn’t presented in a way that could be considered coercive, and, in fact, could say just about anything. However, an official benediction or invocation couldn’t be included as part of the official graduation program. Nor was anyone likely to go to jail since fines were also included in the possible penalties.

I have referred to the situation before as coercive prayer, and the Book of Daniel praises Jewish martyrs who would rather to be burned to death than forced to pray to another God. An option I’m sure Newt would take in the same situation. But Jesus’ invocation “do unto others as you would have them do to you” also means Christians shouldn’t coerce others to pray either. Judge Biery simply decided that the Constitution agreed with Jesus.

For Newt this means that the Constitution needs to be rewritten to stop judges from making the wrong decision (i.e., force them to bow to the will of local citizens and politicians).

The most important fact left out of Newt’s account is that the next higher court of appeals overturned the decision almost immediately. In other words, the judicial system tries to be self-correcting by referring decisions up the line to more experienced judges with more distance from the case. This seems to me to be far better than putting judges on a chopping block whenever they decide the law disagrees with a plaintiff or defendant.

This also serves to stress a more important issue. Jesus doesn’t need the Christian right to enforce his will on anyone. Nor does he want us to. People have to come to him of their own free will. To demand that they pray, in public, to our God (or to demand they give up their beliefs) is to behave exactly like the Babylonians, Assyrians, Soviets and other enemies of true faith.

1Okay, I’m playing semantic sleight of hand here. In my defense, however, semantic wrangling is a key element of being raised Baptist. If you can’t twist the scriptures to your own end, you’re little more than a heathen.back


Keep the Chrazies out of Christmas

‘Tis no longer the season to be jolly, but to be bitter and derisive. Too many people have a stake in Christmas and that stake has nothing to do with peace on earth and goodwill toward others.1 Christmas has become a platform for political platitudes and posturing. To listen to the religious right and their secular opponents, the fate of America’s soul, and every Christian or free thinker’s soul, depends on the outcome of the war.
Two recent examples:
A post office manager raised the ire of Fox news when he allegedly evicted Christmas carolers from his branch. I say allegedly, not because they were asked to leave, but because differing accounts depict him as irate or conciliatory. He claims he simply asked them to move to the sidewalk outside; according to Fox News, he was irate.
Of course, if you managed a post office and had to answer to bureaucratic supervisors who held you responsible for running things smoothly and avoiding customer complaints, you might be irate if a group of costumed carolers started singing during the rush at Christmas without even asking your permission. To me, their would be no “might” about it. I would be pissed.
Nor does this excuse the carolers for overlooking the need to ask for permission. I understand the philosophy that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission, but if you practice that philosophy you should consider yourself lucky you don’t end up in jail. To protest their removal is disingenuous, if not dishonest. So I side with the post office manager on this one.
We would expect people to get upset if pro-life or pro-choice protestors tied up business in the post office. Or girl scouts selling cookies when we’re just trying to get to the counter. Or JW’s started passing out Watchtowers. Or even if a guitar player set up shop and let loose a riff from Jimi Hendrix on his Stratocaster.
In another culture clash, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), representing atheists in Pittman, New Jersey, protested the constitutionality of a sign “Keep Christ in Christmas” hung by the local Knights of Columbus. Maybe, they should have kept their mouths shut because the sign maker is now selling the sign as a bumper sticker at cost, so it should be popping up all over the country.
The constitutionality question borders on the placement of the flag. The mayor and town council claim that one side of the sign is anchored on private property and can only be removed by zoning restrictions. The FFRF says the other side is on public property and therefore impermissible.
My feeling is that members of the FFRF should just post their own banner, “Keep Christ out of Christmas,” and attach one side to their own private property. Then they could listen to the Christians howl.
To both the carolers and the FFRF, I say, get over it. We’re all Americans and we’re allowed to celebrate holidays as we choose. We’re also allowed to piss and moan about people we disagree with. In public. What we have is not a war on Christmas, but a war of words.
Speaking of wars of words, President Obama has evidently declared a war on faith itself. I didn’t know that, but Texas Governor Rick Perry says it’s true. According to the esteemed Texas Governor, Obama was responsible for banning prayer in schools, even though the Supreme Court ruled on the issue when Obama was in grade school. (Perry also thinks the Supreme Court is unelected and unaccountable and wants to stop this practice and restore the original intent of the Constitution.) Perry also believes Obama initiated “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and insists on stopping foreign aid to countries with policies of suppressing homosexuals.
Let’s be honest. Faith can not be reduced to gay rights, or even abortion. Not even the Christian faith. Even if we consider abortion to be murder, it still doesn’t make it into the top five commandments. In the Bowl Championship Series of commandments, it would never reach the title game. Being gay, or even marrying someone of the same sex doesn’t even rank until lying under oath or adultery become involved.
Nor can Christmas be reduced to the expression of personal faith or political opinion. Reggie McNeal, in his book The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church considers the modern church to be part “civil religion and in part a club where religious people can hang out with other people whose politics, worldview and lifestyle match theirs.”
Christians on both sides of the political spectrum would smugly smile on reading this and know, in their hearts, it applies to those “other Christians.” It applies to all Christians, including me. But, at Christmas, we need to recognize that the holiday Christmas no longer belongs to Christians.
Christmas has become a social festival to be enjoyed by all. We are supposed to celebrate the Joy of God in the world even if we don’t believe in him. Peace on earth, good will toward everyone. If Christmas isn’t for everyone, even those who choose to celebrate differently or not at all, then we should remove it as a Federal and national holiday.
But the Christian Right would never accept that. They want us all to celebrate Christmas on their own terms. In the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one! As long as we celebrate the way Jesus intended.” Bah, humbug, indeed.

1 Oops, I already did it (to twist the words of that great philosopher Britney Spears). I misquoted the Bible. It should be “good will toward men.” If God wanted good will toward women, he would have said it that way.2back

2Who, to be honest was merely parroting the words of song writers Max Martin and Rami. But what a great excuse to chain a footnote off a footnote. If it seems as though I’m treating the war on Christmas with too much levity, I would say that, to the contrary, levity is all the subject deserves.back

The real war on Christmas

Thanksgiving ended Thursday night, and at midnight the nation launched the official celebration of Jesus’ birthday with the most holy of holy events: Black Friday. That’s right, before the dinner table is cleared of the remaining leftovers, families began the Christmas holidays with their annual pilgrimage to the gilded cathedrals and the world’s largest houses of worship.I mean the malls, of course. Not to mention Walmart, K-Mart and Target who have announced the newest dispensation to worshippers in the form of layaway. You no longer have to use credit to buy things for Christmas. On the other hand, what do you think all those businesses expect to happen on Christmas eve when people discover they still can’t afford to remove those items from layaway in time for Christmas?Credit cards out, layaway redeemed.What better way to end a day devoted to thanking God for his blessings than by gorging on consumer crap? What better way to set aside a day to think about God and the gift of his son than by wading through seas of shoppers in aisle after aisle crammed with stuff we will most likely shelve or regift—or even toss—before the next Thanksgiving holiday?Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of the season of declaring yet another war on Christmas. The Christian right will begin to lament the fact that

  • We can’t make Arab, Hindu, Native American, Asian Black and Hispanic children celebrate the way Protestants do, and, at the same time
  • We can’t forbid children from other cultures exposing our own kids to their beliefs.

According to the Christmas warriors, even the phrases “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings” are subliminal secular propaganda designed to rob us of our faith. The rationale being, I assume, that true faith is far too fragile to risk exposure to the devil’s distractions.The real war on Christmas begins on Black Friday. At least, Black Friday may well be the equivalent of the season’s Normandy invasion. I can think of nothing so likely to tempt us away from a Gospel of salvation, service and love than the false gospels of greed and consumption.I spotted a book, “Christmas is Not Your Birthday” by Mike Slaughter advertised in the latest issue of Sojourners. The book challenges Christians to remember that we should recall that Christmas is not about going deeper into financial debt, but recalling that Jesus wrote all of our debts off the books. It’s hard to take a stand against rampant consumerism, because the main target in the war is our children. It’s tough to tell children that Christmas is about something greater than toys, because every television show, every Christmas special and every TV ad says, “Christmas means more stuff.” The Christmas classic Polar Express is little more than an exposition of the glory of toys.Nor is it enough to buy one or two presents, and help our children make presents or work hard to earn money to buy a few. As soon as they turn on the TV or rush over to see their friends, they will feel cheated and deprived. Stressing the spirituality of Christmas makes them feel robbed of something greater, something far more tangible (something which, in reality, is valueless).We can lay the blame directly at the feet of the culture warriors, who try to distract us from the real war on Christmas with accusations against a secular society, a society that cannot be expected to preserve Christian, Jewish, Amish, Mormon, Adventist, Moslem or Buddhist values except as cultural traditions which make our society richer as a whole.We can safely lay the blame at culture warriors, because they chose to climb into bed with the corporate interests who reap massive profits off of conspicuous Christmas overconsumption. Anyone contributing to a campaign to stop the wars on Christmas is building the political war chest of the very interests who undermine everything truly Christian in our society.I’ve recently labelled this the Corporate Christian Complex, but that’s another post altogether. I understand that the gift giving tradition at Christmas can be justified (very thinly) by the story of the Magi in the Gospel of Matthew. The Magi bought gifts to Christ on his birthday. But if we are to truly honor that scripture, shouldn’t we be giving gifts to Jesus by feeding and clothing those in need as he would have done? Jesus got the gifts, not his parents and siblings.1We should also remember that Jesus rarely became angry, except when commercial interests tried to profit off worship at the temple. I can think of no greater analogy to the merchants in the temple than the merchants who steal the sacredness of Christmas from our children. I don’t mean the shopkeepers who want to make children happy in order to feed their families. I mean the corporate, media and advertising executives who place children in the front line of battle.We can’t fix our family Christmas overnight any more than we can fix our economy. I do think we can start to make some changes. We can still give gifts, but limit the number of gifts. We might say one per family member. Period. We could insist that before they expect a present from Uncle Phillip and Aunt Carol the nieces and nephews should find or make a present for them. We can explain to our children that they may get only six gifts, unlike their friends, but other children get none.Limit stocking stuffer items to fruit and books (real books, not comic books). Trade one or two presents for events (or tickets to those events) our children enjoy so that they can appreciate an experience and not the disposable plastic.We could ask the children to select a gift for Blue or Brown Santa. We could ask our children to pick one of their unopened gifts to take with them to church to give to needier family members. We could encourage children to perform other family members’ household chores as Christmas gifts.Instead of a Christmas eve service, why not sponsor a soup line for the poor? After the soup line closes we could invite the servers and those we served to a service. We could end the service by washing feet instead of lighting candles. Church families could agree to ceilings on their Christmas budgets, and make sure to involve their children in the decision. Families with more to give could have their children bring an envelope to the Christmas service containing a check to help families too poor to reach those ceilings.If the Corporate Christian Complex intends to declare war on Christmas through our children, then we need to fight back by teaching our children that they should be giving at Christmas and not drowning in wrapping paper. One of the ways the can give is by expecting less.