Culture War

When We Lessen Our Christianity

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IMG_0243I am more than a little heart-sick at the lessening of faith and Christianity in our time and society, America in the 21st Century. We are so privileged in the West that it seems we often don’t know how to be Christians without manufacturing a war on something we enjoy or pretending to be persecuted. It lessens our witness, it lessens our joy and it lessens our faith.

Did you grow up singing the great old ditty I Have Decided to Follow Jesus? I did… and there’s that other verse, though none go with me, still I will follow.  But somewhere along the way that refrain has become though none go with me, geez will I tantrum!  We tantrum because we don’t get to tell others how to greet people in the holidays, we can’t always force people to listen to our praying in public, and in fact, some of our neighbors aren’t Christians at all! And we haven’t the maturity to deal with it.

When we cry our crocodile tears over Starbucks cups, we lessen our faith. When we deny others their civil liberties, like marriage, we lessen our faith. When we slander our Muslim neighbors for their religion, we lessen our faith. When we manufacture a war on our faith to bolster slipping or apathetic morale and make a political gain, we have lessened our faith and opted for a something completely other than faith.

Christians have begun the slow death of the meaning of Christmas by making it a season of self-centeredness and creating controversy where there should be joy and peace. We welcome the Prince of Peace by being contentious, angry and divisive. How have we so completely lost the message of humility in the birth narrative of our King? How have we so lost the grace with which he responded as he was both welcomed and rejected in his own life? How have we forgotten that Jesus didn’t forge a kingdom or legacy on any blood or suffering but his own?

“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Preach it, Peter. I’d like to advocate a season of love this year, when we rid ourselves of all the envy over other people’s headlines, when we rid ourselves of malice toward people who don’t think or live just like us, when we grow up a bit and bring some meaning back to the faith we profess to follow so that our behavior is admirable and points toward the grace of God.

Imagine it with me… we’re taking about a whole season of:
~ Christians simply drinking their coffee and enjoying it, 
~ Christians not posting slanderous meme’s and sharing
hateful stuff on social media that slanders and demeans
their neighbors,
~ Christians not manufacturing a war on a holiday that
is about to drive our national consumerism into the usual
frenzy of overindulgence and debt, and
~ Christians growing out of their spiritual baby years and
into at least a form of spiritual adolescence in which they
learn to serve the world and their neighbors with the love
and selflessness shown by their Christ.

We can do this! In fact, the very meaning of our Christianity depends on it. Our witness depends on it. Our growth depends on it. And yes… I believe our faith depends on it.

AMDG, Todd

Be Counter-Cultural Jesus Style

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No. No. No.

TACOMA, Wash. — A woman was choked and stabbed and had homophobic slurs written on her body with a marker in an attack early Sunday in Tacoma…

The 45-year-old woman was attacked while looking for her dog that had slipped out of her house about 3 a.m. She was followed into an alley by the man who made homophobic slurs during the assault…

The News Tribune of Tacoma reported that the man kept saying to her, “Are you a dyke? God hates fags.”

sighing jesusWhat God actually hates: the injustice and abuse of the attacker’s actions and hate. There is no room in our world for this kind of thing. And there is no excuse for hate engendering language which fuels this kind of an attack. Before spouting off more on the alleged culture war in our country and the problem of those people, please know that it’s not just a battle of words and many LGBTQ people suffer daily from the rhetoric.

Want to be on God’s side? Love more, love all, love stupidly until people think you’re a raving lunatic for your inexplicable tirades on justice, liberty, dignity and the value of ALL people. Be counter-cultural as Jesus taught us: Love those who may not love you or be like you at all, and serve them, and sacrifice for them, and do not fight with any weapon but love, turning “the other cheek” and giving more than you’re asked to give, and not only rejecting murder and violence but also rejecting hatred and disdain. That’s basic, fundamental Sermon-on-the-Mount Christianity 101 stuff!

Stop the rhetoric which fuels this mess. Stop the us vs. them talk. Stop the “God hates {people you don’t like}” talk. Stop the “that just makes me sick” talk. Stop labeling people with agendas, bad intentions and criminalizing assumptions. Stop making anyone the butt of your jokes. Speak up for people’s dignity, freedom and value. Serve those least like you. See people through the lens of God’s raging love and the servant heart of Christ.

Be a peacemaker. Be prayerful. Be holy.

AMDG, Todd

Chick-fil-A vs. Muppets… What A Bummer

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I have avoided writing or saying much on the Chick-fil-A vs. Muppets squabble. I like Chick-fil-A’s sandwiches and their slaw is awesome. And I like the Muppets, a lot. But since I didn’t even realize they were doing business together, it’s no heartache for me that they broke up. I suppose that I have been most afraid that saying something lends validity to the squabble, but it’s grown big enough to captivate a nation without any input from me (said tongue in cheek, since probably twelve people will read this blog), so here goes…

It’s been common knowledge my whole life that the Chick-fil-A tries to mix it’s owner’s values with the way they do business. They’ve always been closed on Sundays. I’m pretty sure they used to have Veggie Tales toys and prizes, and I am quite sure they have had other kids toys of that tied into Bible stories and characters. That’s who and what Chick-Fil-A has always been. I have to wonder what the Henson folks were thinking when they entered into a business relationship with the group if they weren’t aware of this.

Chick-Fil-A has given money to organizations that promote heterosexual marriage and oppose same-sex marriage. However, I’ve not found any articles or accusations that they have discriminated against people in their hiring/firing policies or broken the laws of our country. I’d be curious to know if they have had such accusations or problems.

Then, there’s the actual quote that this whole broo-ha-ha has grown out of… did you read it yet? Before presenting the quote, I’d like you to do something: Stop thinking about gay marriage! Gay marriage doesn’t seem to have been mentioned in the article, and Mr. Cathy wasn’t asked about it. Try for a moment to step back and let the quote be itself: “‘We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that,’ Cathy is quoted as saying.”

Ok, so this guy is all about the “family.” And he invokes the idea of a “biblical definition” of the family. We can all read different things into that depending on our theology and cultural experience/tradition. We can even safely assume he would include defining family as based on the marriage of a man and a woman. But he didn’t decide to go there. When he expanded on things he said this… “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives.” What? What?!

I understand that someone reporting on this story may not be up on all the conservative Christian vocabulary that gets thrown around, but I’ve not heard a single friend or Christian writer respond to “first wives.” Now, if Mr. Cathy were Mormon, then maybe he would mean that those men in his family aren’t polygamists. But he’s Baptist, and “first wives” means that they don’t practice the ultimate evil (at least it was before gay marriage supplanted it) of divorce. That quote is a direct slap at divorced people, not gay people, by it’s own explicit content. 

Of course, we can assume he would exclude gay marriage from his “biblical definition,” but he chooses to hang his hat on the absence of any “second wives” in his family. I know a lot of Christian friends who have been like “Whoo Hooo, let’s go support Chick-Fil-A!” who are also divorced, the spouses of second wives and even, dare I say it, “second husbands.” Why aren’t they aggravated at the lack of grace Mr. Cathy showed for divorced people? I think it’s because of the great law of media that once a story has been framed one way, it doesn’t get a second framing. A wise friend who spent years in news broadcast around the DC area let me in on that media law, and it’s so true. The story was framed around gay marriage, and there it has remained.

Plenty of people have written on the absurdity of this public debate over eating at Chick-Fil-A or not. I haven’t seen anyone actually pointing out that Mr. Cathy was blithely devaluing divorced people, not gay people. Why not? Because the story was framed about gay marriage, and that framework holds, it sells, it galvanizes, it’s fires people up on both sides of a silly culture war that no one will win. And that framework has no place to process the “first wives” vocabulary.

So, what do I do with the “first wives” thing? I would say to the divorced people out there, the second wives and second husbands, “You’re welcome in my church family!” I say that because my biblical definition of family is inclusive of biblical things like grace, love and humility. We don’t distribute labels in our church family like “divorced,” “first” or “second.” I personally thank God for my wife, not because she’s my first wife, but because I get to share life with an amazing woman. I’ve known many people who felt the same about their second spouses. I’ve spoken with and read things by gay friends who felt that way about their partners and spouses.

What do I do with the whole “gay” thing? I would say to gay people out there, married or not, divorced or not, “You’re welcome in my church family!” I say that because my biblical definition of family, whether we’re talking about my biological family or my faith family, is based on biblical things like grace, love and humility. We don’t distribute labels in our church family like “straight” or “gay.”

Grace, love and humility. God forbid I ever make a move or say a word to win an argument or achieve dominance in any cultural arena of thought, if I have to trade one single opportunity to show grace, love or humility to claim that win. So where’s the grace, love and humility in this whole Chick-Fil-A vs. Muppets carnival? I’ve not seen much on either side of the argument. So, it’s not my argument. I’ll let Chick-Fil-A and the Muppets handle their own fight, after all they’re the squabbling couple. I’ll just keep trying to find those moments when I get to live the grace, love and humility the Bible has taught me. And I’ll pray I’m better at it today than I was yesterday.