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.

 

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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.

 

Jesus Loves Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

(like it or not)

Jesus also loves Osama Bin Laden and George W. Bush. And Barack Obama.

I find it disturbing that so much air time is being given to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the Boston bombings. He seems to be getting more air time, and more prime time shows cancelled than Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Christopher Dorner, 911, or even Anna Nichole Smith.

His arrest has led to endless discussions on circumventing Massachusetts' lack of death penalty and whether or not he was read his Miranda rights too soon. Several talk shows discussing the bombings were pre-empted by networks to air the same discussions. Every prime time show was cancelled last Friday to cover news that had already been covered earlier in the day.

What he did was terrible, but I fear that this much air play will encourage other attention seeking terrorists to seek out their two weeks of fame. The threshold has been lowered significantly.

More importantly, Christians need to remember that the government has the right to prosecute and even execute him. Christians have the responsibility to forgive and even embrace him.

We can't excuse our condemnation because he was a terrorist. Early Christians were terrorized every day, as were Jews by the Romans when Jesus told his followers to turn the other cheek. Jews were crucified routinely as a practice of state sanctioned terrorism and some of Jesus' followers came from a violent resistance movement (the Iscari, hence the title Judas Iscariot).

Jesus made no terrorist exception. He told his followers to love and forgive without exception. It's painful and uncomfortable and counterintuitive. But it's what he demands of us.

 

Jesus loves a thrifty tipper

One of the great stories of the internet a few weeks ago involved a preacher, a waitress and a meal receipt.

A St. Louis minister dined at an Applebee's restaurant with 19 parishioners and when presented with his check refused to to honor the mandatory 18 percent tip. He wrote that he gives God ten percent so why should he give her 18? Then, instead of giving ten percent, he gave her nothing. She posted a copy of the slip to the Internet, the post got thousands of hits and she was fired for her efforts. Finally, the pastor apologized.

There is a lesson here on Christian charity. Not just because Jesus admonished his followers to “Give to every man that asketh of thee.” (Luke 6:30) There seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding of generosity and service.

When I was in college and working at the Morningstar Coffeehouse in San Marcos, my fellow worshippers and I would often go out in large groups and at the end of the meal they would tip the waitress with Bible tracts. Their rationale? The waitress needed Jesus more than she needed money. It never dawned on them that Jesus may have sent us to meet the waitress' financial needs.

Nor should we forget that Jesus holds those who serve in higher esteem than those who are served.

There are other realities that we overlook should we refused to tip our severs. When we tip, we don't just tip the server. She has to share with the host, bartender and bus staff. The server isn't provided by the restaurant as a courtesy. We are his employers. When we place an order we are contracting with the service staff. They are not serving us for free because they have nothing else to do. This is how they earn their keep, and to fail to tip is to steal from them. We are now entering into the territory of Old Testament, ten commandment transgressions.

To refuse to tip is to be more than simply ungrateful. It is to be a thief. We are robbing them of time and money they could have earned serving someone that would have tipped them.

The ten percent rationale is also faulty math. Wait staff used to get ten percent too. But tips have been adjusted for the cost of inflation. First to 15 percent and now to 20 percent. And servers do more than serve the food we pay for. They lay down plates and utensils, clean up our messes and even continually offer free bread, condiments, water and drink refills. So it is far from unreasonable to give a waitress 18 percent when God only demands a tithe.

We should count ourselves fortunate. If God adjusted our tithes for the cost of inflation over the three thousand years since the Torah was passed down, we would be giving 600 percent or more of what we earned. Compared to that, 18 percent is a pittance.

 

The Gospel according to the NRA

For my 2013 return I thought it would be appropriate to include some passages from the newly discovered Gospel of the NRA. I was tempted to comment, but since the Bible is literal, it should need no explication:

From the Sermon on the Mount

And ye did Jesus say unto them, “Blessed are the owners of guns for they can take matters into their own hands.” And he spoke unto them a parable: “A poor man had a home, a wife, a small measure of land and a semi-automatic rifle. One day a black man came to his house and said, 'Give aid to the homeless.'

And that poor man, having nothing but his house and semi-automatic did shoot that black man immediately because of threat of the homeless overtaking his home. The next day, therein, the law came to his house and said 'Thou arest justified in this righteous shooting because the homeless could have made thy home their home and what right does a man have in this world but his right to worship as he chooses and to bear arms.'

Later that day the banker came to foreclose on his home because he was one day late on his mortgage for the first time in the twenty-nine years of his thirty year mortgage. The poor man shot the banker in the defense of his home. The law came the next day and imprisoned him. Wherein do you think it is just that the poor man could defend his home from the black man and not from the banker?

And his disciples said, “How can it not be just that he defend his home against one and not the other, for it is his second amendment right to bear arms?”

And Jesus said, “See you not the difference? He shot the black man in defense of his home, but the banker was truly the homeowner until the mortgage was paid. Wherefore the banker, being the true owner of the home, should have taken his concealed weapon and killed the man and his entire family but for the laws of his district which forbid concealed weapons even though it was his second amendment right.

Had the banker chosen to exercise his right he would have been forgiven for defending his home as true owner and the courts would have been allowed to overturn the concealed weapons ban. But because the true owner failed to exercise his rights, the poor man was convicted of murder only and the courts were never given the opportunity to repeal the true injustice, the infringement upon the banker's second amendment rights, and, verily the poor man's as well. So the poor man was condemned to die justly, but with an infringement upon his legal rights intact.”

And the disciples were amazed by the wisdom of his words.

The Last Supper:

While the disciples were arguing who among them was the greatest marksman, Jesus took up Peter's AR-17 and said. “This is my semi-automatic. Take, share and use responsibly for my sake. For unless thou art prepared for the great day with training and target practice you may be found wanting.

Then he said, “These are my bullets. Take load and use them in defense of your homes. For the meek are takers and you create rights for all.” And the disciples did finish their dinner in silence and awe.

The Garden of Gethsemane

And Jesus prayed, “Lord pass the cup and the gun to me for I fear no man when I am armed with thy righteousness and my second amendment rights. And my HK sp89.” And when he was finished praying the temple guards came to arrest him.

When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he grabbed his sp89 and shot the high priest in the forehead as was his right to self defense spelled out in the second amendment. Seeing that all the disciples were armed, the temple guard fled in dismay.

And Jesus was not crucified on the passover for yea the second amendment implies that with an armed militia there need be no other redemption. The liberals did flee the temple and peace was restored to Israel. Nor did they fear the Palestinians because they were able to stockpile weapons for two millennia before the United Nations sold the Israelites down the river.

The subversion of Christmas

Why is it that no one wants to talk about the subversion of Christmas? We're so focused on the war that we forget the real danger is the Fifth Column, a subtle and insidious element at work to erode the foundations of our faith.

What is that Fifth Column? We are. Every time we drop a dime on a Christmas gift. Nor do I mean Santa Socks, Angry Bird Ring Toss, Star Wars 7 Pre-release Action Figures with Working Prototype Weapons, or the Ultimate iPad Christmas App and its Android knock-off. Or shopping at Wal-Mart where your dollars are recycled to China and Union-busting anti-labor initiatives instead of paying the workers a living wage.

I'm talking about buying things from Christian vendors as well, many of well-meaning, and others out to make nothing but a buck and all geared for the cash crop that is Fifth Column Christmas. I browsed the lists of recommended Christian gifts and most of them boiled down to Bibles (you can never have too many of those, even though you need only one and early Christians managed to get along without one at all), CDs, DVDs and Christian books, most of which have more to do with promoting agendas (even agendas I approve of) than Jesus.

Here are a couple of suggested Christian gifts:

Perhaps my favorite recommended gift would be the Christian Weekend Retreatfor $150.

It doesn't matter where you turn, Christmas is about spending money. As much and as often as possible. Christians can fool themselves into believing that a genuine leather Scofield Reference Bible with Concordance, Maps and authentic photographs of the crucifixion and resurrection is a Christian act and not an act of consumerism, or that a red and green sweater with wreaths and Christian cross patterns is a gift Jesus would give, but the Gospels suggest differently.

To Jesus, the act of giving requires a sacrifice. And it was something you do year-round. The Christmas holiday we celebrate was actually campaigned for by businesses to boost sales, much like Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentines Day and parent days. This may sound cynical, but you can't imagine any of those holidays without their connections to commerce. Each, in fact, has its own commercial symbol whether it be bunnies, cupids, turkeys or men in red suits.

This doesn't mean that charity isn't associated with Christmas. It's just that charity is an afterthought. For Jesus charity was first and foremost.

There are charitable gifts available. Oxfam allows you to give sustainable gifts to people in developing countries in the names of your friends and family members.

Redefining Christmas allows you to donate to friends' and family's favorite charities.

There's no guarantee the money will be spent completely as you want. For instance, giving to Samaritan's Purse for their sustainable as well as evangelical projects. But they also donate monies raised to undermining gay marriage rights. Would I give a present to my evangelical family through them even though I wouldn't even buy a chocolate peppermint Christmas shake from Chic-Fil-A? In a heartbeat. They still do good work. I can give an equal amount in support of same-sex marriage to another organization, and my evangelical family members would appreciate it far more than they would a gift through Oxfam.

Unfortunately, even special charitable gifts miss the point. Spending money you would have spent anyway requires no sacrifice, even if it is to a good cause.

I would like to be positive about this. The real truth, however, is that the Fifth Column forces of consumerism, sponsored in part by the Corporate Christian Complex, have too strong a grip. Our kids don't understand the gift of sacrifice. If they haven't received every disposable, breakable junk item on their list, they feel they were sacrificed to a higher principle. And too many friends do as well.

I would never tell you what you should do at Christmas. It is your holiday to celebrate as you choose. Even if you choose not to celebrate at all. But before we continue to escalate the war on Christmas, perhaps we should ask ourselves if the holiday has anything to do with Jesus at all.

So the real question, I suppose, is WWJD? And the surprising answer is probably that he wouldn't celebrate Christmas. His birthday, after all, was most likely in the spring and, as far as I can tell from the Gospels, he never celebrated when he was with us.