Facing up to Facebook Jesus

I can’t spend more than ten minutes on Facebook without running past a post challenging me to share my faith by also sharing a heartwarming message about Jesus. Usually the post comes from a friend who is also

  • a Tea Party member
  • posts messages about how they rode in the back of pickups or in cars without seatbelts as children with no damage, and
  • a registered gun-owner and member of the NRA

How can any good Christian
resist reposting this image?

Quite of the post implies that I will be blessed in a very special way by reposting this picture of Jesus, or, on the other hand, will incur God’s wrath or disappointment. And, in spite of the tug on my heartstrings, because the post inevitably invokes the Baptist guilt it was intended to invoke, I skip right past.

Readers might ask why a faithful Christian wouldn’t share these posts and the blessings of God, but my feelings are that faithful Christians should avoid the endless proliferation of these shallow digital samplers, and they are fairly shallow. In the image above we are asked to share if Jesus spoke the truth to the verse “I am the way, the truth and the life….” In essence, to repeat our declaration of faith.

But such a declaration is essentially meaningless, lost in the hundreds of Facebook posts that scroll by evey five minutes. They become little more than white noise. In fact, they have far less impact on other readers than the political screeds ranting about the rights of gun owners and how Obama has betrayed the middle class, or conversely how WalMart has betrayed their employees and the Tea Party is selling American down the river.

The question believers have to ask themselves is whether they need to rise to the challenge of the Facebook faithful or they need to rise to the challenge of Jesus himself, which is to show their faith by giving to the poor and needy, by doing his work in public and not behind a keyboard. Jesus told his followers their tests would not be simple, but difficult. Sometimes, Facebook followers should pay attention to the more subtle messages.

 

 

Pope or Anti-Pope?

How can I top Pope Francis, who this week stunned liberals and the religious right by claiming that the Catholic hierarchy had to sop being “locked up” in “small things, in small-minded rules?” Those small minded rules included abortion, homosexuality and contraception.

Being raised Baptist Preacher's Kid (BPK) I was always taught the pope was the anti-Christ, and I'm sure many Baptists have had their worst fears confirmed.

Mercy isn’t so bad after all.

Mind you, Francis wasn’t saying abortion, homosexuality and contraception have the Jesus seal of approval. Yesterday, he went out of his way to make that clear. But he stressed that these were but a small part of a larger gospel and needed to be tempered with mercy.

As for me, I’m going to shut up and give him a thumbs up. He’s going to come under a lot of heat now, and I’m sure the bishops will be looking for every little clause to repeal the Popehood or maybe rethink the Papacy for life. But for now, we’re stuck with him, so God bless Pope Francis and God bless us all.

 

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.

 

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

 

Good Samaritans in spite of outrage

In America, we've buried the bodies of mass murderers and serial killers without compunction. We've done so for centuries. We even buried the bodies of spies, such as the Rosenbergs (even though evidence now exists that Ethel may have been innocent) and even traitors like Benedict Arnold. We buried Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacey, Ed Gein, Albert de Salvo and Ted Bundy.

We buried Timothy McVeiigh, who was executed for the murder of eleven civilians and who leveled a federal building. We even buried the Haymarket bombers, without protest, even though their body count included seven policemen. We're even willing to bury radioactive nuclear waste. Suddenly, however, we can't bury Tamerlan Tsarnaev, whose crimes were heinous but who ranks at the bottom of the list for heinousness.

Except, perhaps, for the fact that he's Muslim. And Chechen. Murder is forgivable. Being foreign and Muslim is not.

Enter Martha Mullen, who volunteered to work with Moslem groups in Virginia to find a cemetery for the body. Her motivation? Jesus. She parallels her actions on the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Most people forget, of course, the irony of the parable. It wasn't the believer who was the good guy. The believers were assholes. They were perfectly willing to let a stranger die. The unbeliever was upheld as a model of (what would become) Christian virtues.

The response has not been Christian. The County Board of Supervisors is threatening to investigate any illegality and promising to undo the burial if they find it. My favorite was a local resident who was afraid people would come visit the grave and “you don't know what they'll do while they're here.” Why, they might even leave flowers.

I applaud her. As Jesus said, our love is demonstrated by how we treat our enemies. It is easy to love our friends.

 

Do unto others

It's hard to be Christian when discussing the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). I keep wanting to say something and I find myself being reminded of how much it pisses me off when I hear other Christians justify their judgmental behavior with “We hate the sin, not the sinner.”

Think about it. If we decry WBC's behavior, we are judging them, and Jesus said not to judge lest we be judged ourselves. And to suggest that picketing family funerals because they represent the governments who support same sex marriage is unChristian is to, in essence, call them unChristian. After all, when we make such comments, we are, in essence, equating the believer with the behavior.

Nor did Jesus refrain from publicly calling hypocrites out, as he did with the money changers in the temple, and intransigent religious zealots. What could be more intransigent, or hypocritical than serving in the military for a country that doesn't execute homosexuals, or running in a marathon in a state that allows same sex marriage.

After all (as WBC pointed out) God did punish Massachusetts by sending two Chechen Muslims to bomb runners. And there's nothing more comforting than knowing that God will send Muslims so that decent Christians won't have blood on their hands.

This was the tweet announcing God's wrath on Massachusetts sinners.

So I pondered how to respond to WBC's ongoing open protests as families grieve their loved ones, and it dawned on me that Jesus pointed the way. Didn't he say that we should do unto others as they would have them do to us? 1

So if WBC protestors are Christian, then clearly they are doing to grieving families as they want grieving families to do to them. After all, they insist they are doing the will of Jesus. So I would suggest they want us to protest what we believe to be ungodly behavior.

So the next time you're in Topeka with friends, check and see if any WBC family members are having a funeral. If they are, take as many friends as you can and protest their shameful practice of protesting people for others' policies. Be loud and vocal. Be obnoxious. This is what they would want you to do to them. This is what Jesus would want you to do.


1The question is purely rhetorical. He did.back