Monday, September 21, 2009

the fightin' side of me

"I wonder just how long the rest of us can count on bein' free." - Merle Haggard

I just don't see how the US can be called a "Christian" nation. Can anyone help me understand that? I was raised with all the "one nation under God" stuff and the religious right and Peter Marshall and Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition. I heard it non-stop at church. I even remember when Carman's "America Again" was performed at our 10,000 member church on July 4 to thunderous applause. Now this stuff just eats at me.

Someone tell me what to do with slavery. Explain to me how getting rich off the blood and sweat of Africans can be identified with a gospel cause. Why do African-American evangelical Christians tend to distance themselves from the Christian right? And why were we singing racist hymns in our churches?

What about how we took England to war over taxes, slaughtering thousands of image-bearers? Did that reflect the love of Christ on the cross? Or did it fit the selfish ambitions of a minority (the war was opposed by an estimated 2/3 of the colonists)?

What can we say about manifest destiny and the Native Americans? What a joke. We stole. We murdered. That's what there is to say.

All this for a godly purpose? I'm less than convinced. The crusaders said the same things. I can't understand how Christianity's place as the unofficial civic religion negates all the bad.

There is little distinctly Biblical language in the founding documents of this country. Why is that if it was supposed to be an overtly Christian nation? Does it really make a difference to Christians? Where does Scripture say we should fight to be made comfortable in our culture? Where does it say that restoring Christianity as the civic religion of our country is a part of the great commission? This kingdom will fail. It's of the world, you know.

I mean this seriously. Can anyone help me reconcile all the bad things with the cross of Christ?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

the gospel of Tim LaHaye

Recently heard in a sermon: In my opinion, the rapture could happen at any moment. But I think there's one reason he hasn't come back yet. I think he looks down on Creation and says, "Oh, it can't be today. Today's the day that "Shirley" or "Maynard" or "Gloria" is going to get saved." One day, he'll look down on us and realize that there's not going to be anyone getting saved anymore, and then the rest of us will be out of here.


The church I grew up in is consumed with end-times stuff. At least they were. As a little kid, it really freaked me out. I mean, majorly. I really wanted to grow up a bit first. Looking back, those sermons that really harped on it were really traumatic for me.

I've recently been reminded of all this stuff, and even though I've grown up a bit, I'm still a little freaked out by this. Everywhere there are silly people looking at all kinds of things and desperately trying to see how they fit with all the Bible prophecy. They might be well-meaning, but they're silly. I've read at least most of the Bible and I don't think Obama or healthcare or the part in Ted Kennedy's hair or what Kim Jong-Il ate for breakfast is mentioned once. A couple of these silly people are on TV. Hal Lindsay, seen here with his fourth wife, might be the most resilient man in the world. Been wrong a hundred times, but he keeps on truckin.' Plus, he and his "Tom Selleck ain't got nothin' on this" mustache don't look a day over 65. Amazing.

There was another guy who used to freak me out when I was a kid. See, I had this 5-inch black and white TV in my room. Late at night, when I was supposed to be asleep, I would get it out and turn on some of the filth I was never supposed to see, like "News Radio" or "Unhappily Ever After." Occasionally, I would watch this guy...forget his name...Jack Van Impe talk about how he was constantly shocked that he was here on Earth to see another day. I think he was talking about Christ's return, not his bout with cancer.

All this stuff, the sermons and TV shows, did little to foster my faith and help it grow. I'm really sick of it, actually. I think it's like this for most people, even if they don't realize it. All I know is, if you're always looking at the sky, you're going to have no friends and a stiff neck.

A little faith would go a long way here.

For the record, I long ago left dispensationalism...really, you can do that...and I'm 58% sure a post-trib, pre-mil position is safe, but I'm not particularly worried about it. I'm not saying it isn't important. I'm not saying we should avoid the issue, either. It's going to happen someday and I'm cool with that. I'm just thinking maybe we should kinda, you know, chill out about it a bit. There are three main reasons:

1) Nobody knows when it's going to happen.
2) It's not going to help me show Christ to anyone.
3) There are better things to do with our time.

So next time you feel a little anxious because folks around you are consumed with all this stuff, just relax and enjoy your afternoon. Be faithful image-bearers. Oh, and "Left Behind" paperbacks burn nicely when it's cool outside.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

this little kingdom went to market, this one stayed home

Recently heard in a sermon: God's people need to be working on turning America back to God.

I've talked a lot recently about the idea of the United States being a Christian nation. I guess that's because it's been on my mind. That idea is one of the supreme teachings of my childhood, both at church and in my homeschooling circles. It really amounted to brainwashing. Moving to the Chicago area was a breath of fresh air for me. Nobody up there knows about this idea. Actually, they probably do, but nobody ever really talks about it. It was really nice. I managed to forget about all the founding fathers and John Locke disguised as gospel stuff. Then I moved back to Texas.

Most Christians here in this part of the country are really preoccupied with it. I think they believe that the toughest thing facing Christianity today is that it is losing its place as the unofficial civic religion in the U.S. They know this because they go to Wal-Mart a lot, and it's not pretty. They hear people using some cuss words and occasionally find women with children but without wedding rings. Focus on the Family tells them about all the bad things movies and working moms are causing us to do. They've read "The Light and the Glory," so they know that sin was not introduced in America until Maurice Chevalier first came over from Paris.

Some of them are buying something called "The Patriot Bible." Yeah, I'm not kidding. As one Amazon reviewer says: "The Bible itself is not altered," but is augmented by "colored illustrations and facts about how our country was founded upon the Word of God." One person named Wilma A. Keel loves all the Americanecdotes side by side with Scripture. "Honestly it makes me WANT to read the Bible," she says.

This is where it really gets bad. Christian faith and nationalistic zeal united in holy matrimony.

Since I haven't looked at the entire thing and since my wife would object to my spending thirty bucks to pad the "heretics section" of my book collection (complete with Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, James Dobson and a few others), I've got to base my opinion on....

...a quick reading made possible by an impromptu trip to Barnes and Noble just now. Okay, they had this thing. It was one of those featured items that gets turned on the shelf so it's cover is completely visible. I could see the flag from the other end of the aisle, so I didn't even need to hunt for it.

This book features the NKJV text which gets frequently interrupted by patriotic quotes and editorial musings on the lives of famous people who 1) were well-known for doing something American and 2) at least once talked about God or the Bible. It also contains other illuminating commentary. What a great idea to include the "Fireman's Prayer" after the whole fiery furnace account. Too bad those guys had never read it.

The focus of the Patriot Bible is that many instrumental people in U.S. history claimed God's blessing. Also, the editor seems pretty sure that the great commission is to restore Christianity as the unofficial civil religion of the U.S.

In other words, scripture is hijacked for nationalistic purposes.

What about some of the other parts of our past? How about the way we got rich off of slavery? What about manifest destiny? Remember the revolutionary war where we killed lots of image-bearers over unfair taxes? (Maybe Christians should organize an army and attack Washington in 2009.) What about all the people who have had to die for our ideals? We've done some horrible things in the name of Christ. We're not the try this. I almost vomited when I discovered that TPB stops in the middle of Genesis 4 to quote the text of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

This is just disgusting and sad. God forgive us for making a mockery of your Kingdom.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

If it walks like a duck

They’ll Know We Are Christians By . . .

· … Our Absence from Movie Theaters

· … Our Disney Boycotts

· … Our Fish Decals

· … Our Tracts

· … the Absence of Alcoholic Beverages in Our Fridges

· Our Courtship

· the Clever Pop Culture Parodies on Our T-Shirts

· … Our Skepticism of Catholics

· Our Modest Swimwear

· Our Natural Family Planning

· … Our Nondescript Clothing

· … Our Street Preaching

· … Our True Love Waits Rings

· … Our Fight to Keep the Ten Commandments on the Courthouse Wall

· Our Condemnation of Those Who Disagree With Us

· Our Worship CDs

· ...Our Republican Bumper Stickers

· Our Love of Biblical Names

· Our Living Our Best Life Now

· Our Christian skate night

· Our Clever Church Signs

· Our Heroes

· Our Biblical Patriarchy

· Our Megachurches

· … Our 170-foot Crosses

· … Our Creationism Museums

· … Our Well-behaved, Repressed, Depressed, Perfectionist Children

· … Our Affinity for Discreet Gossiping

· … Our Phobia of Homosexuality

· Our Corporal Punishment

· … Our Denominational Splits

· … Our Belief in Manifest Destiny

· Our Hijacking Hit Songs and Making Them Ambiguously Christian

· … Our Single-Income Households

· … Our Bachelor of Arts In Humanities With a Concentration in Homemaking That Is Only Open to Women

· … Our Sunday Cafeteria Patronage

· … Our Strategic Muting and Fast-Forwarding While Watching Hollywood Movies

· Our “Jesus Is My Girl/Boyfriend” Music

· … Our Ignorance of Our Own Church’s History

· … Our Support of the Death Penalty

· Our Cabbage Patch Bonfires

· Our Unaccredited Institutions of Higher Learning

· Our Non-sexual Crush on James Dobson

All sung to the tune of the antiquated, vapid song “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love.” (What a novel idea.)

We all need a little humor.

Got any other good ones?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

home from the office

I've been thinking a lot recently about these kinds of issues. It's something that I've wrestled with for a long time and have just in the past few years found a resting place. It also reminds me of some horrible, nearly unspeakable things I encountered in the homeschooling community.

I found a few sites encouraging this lifestyle called "Biblical patriarchy." Now, these aren't just your garden variety complimentarians, whose ranks I left for good during grad school. The "patriarchal" folks are really hard core about it. I guess I encountered some of this stuff when I was growing up, but reading it now, and seeing how many people actually subscribe to it, is shocking. Just to give you a good idea of what we're dealing with, here are some of the best quotes from Biblical patriarchy I could find on the web.

Here is the particular issue that is disturbing me today. Some guy named Philip Lancaster has written a book called Family Man, Family Leader in which he claims husband/fathers are to fulfill the offices of prophet, priest and king in their families. The reasoning for this appears to be the Biblical metaphor of the husband being the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church. Since Christ's work (offices) is as Prophet, Priest and King over the universe, it is paralleled in the family by fathers. As prophet, a father acts as "teacher and enforcer" over his children (and wife), as priest, a father has the duty of "worship leader and intercessor" over his children (and wife) and as king, he must be the "lord and master" of his home. Seriously - lord and master.

This is damaging theology, primarily since all of humanity was created to fulfill these roles on Earth. It's damaging because it suggests there is something funny, something not quite human about woman. It puts them in a place somewhere above children but not quite men. It says "hey, ladies, you don't qualify for plan A, but plan B is still pretty good."

Because of Jesus, men and women (and even children) can be prophets/prophetesses), priests/priestesses and kings/queens. If it does apply to parenting, surely it applies to both fathers and mothers.

I know these folks are only trying to do the right thing. I get that. They just don't seem to follow their ideas to their logical conclusions: that they are against the character of God and what we know about God from the Bible.

Yes, there are examples of patriarchy in the Bible. Lots of them. I believe God allowed this imperfect state to exist for the greater good of the Kingdom. This is where lots of study and prayer have taken me.

It's fine if you disagree. Really. Just make sure you're holding this with an open hand, along with all other divisive issues. There is a lot of Scripture we can be sure about. A lot of other things are not so easy, because we're fallen and we're so far from the original language and context of the Bible.

It is a lot easier when you don't feel like you need to have all the answers. Faith more than makes up the difference.

Friday, September 4, 2009

change you can believe in...or something

After one of my recent posts my new friend Dan made this comment:

As a recovering jerk myself (I almost used a different two-syllable anatomic reference, but I don't know where you draw language lines), I can identify. Looking back, I don't like the guy I was in early college, so I wonder why any of my friends did...

For me, it was serving in Africa for a couple years that opened my eyes to a bigger world and a smaller me in it. What situation(s) or event(s) helped you to see and change this?

First of all, Dan, you're free to express yourself here. Christians don't always need to be so polite. Sometimes strong language is necessary.

I really identify with your experience. I don't think I would have gone out of my way to be friends with me back then.

On the other hand, I hope I would be a real manifestation of grace and love in that person's life. That person I was back then was really tortured and depressed. I may not have been willing to listen to a graceful voice at the time, but it may have sunk in with me at some point in the future.

The change you're asking about really began in me during my senior year of college at a certain Baptist school in Texas that begins with a "Bay" and ends with a "lor." I got to the point where I couldn't live that way anymore. Much like your experience, getting away from my cramped little corner of Judgmentalhomeschooledbaptisttexanville, USA was what finally let me breathe. Of course, I didn't go to the other end of the world. I just went north about a thousand miles. But that was about all I was up to at that point. I just needed to get away.

That was the first stage of growth for me and in a lot of ways was the most difficult. Getting into graduate theological studies in a non-fundamentalist evangelical setting forced me to confront the person I was and all the guilt that lay underneath the hardened exterior. It was freeing experience, but was so very difficult at the same time. It was freeing in the sense that I could finally breathe and begin the healing process, but difficult in that I had to both come face to face with myself (cue Michael Jackson) and reject a lot of the false gospels of moralism and legalism I desperately held on to.

Struggling with my past and my inability to live up to my own code of conduct brought me into a deep depression. It had been coming for quite some time...sure wish I had seen it. I remember feeling it settling in like a winter snowstorm at dusk. I can almost point to the exact hour. My faith was growing stronger, but the toxicity of my own introspection held me down for the better part of two years.

Enter stage right: Kelsey. A wonderful, bold, beautiful woman came into the picture at just the right time. As bad as things got and as difficult it was on her, I'm sure they would have been even worse without her love and faith by my side. What an amazing grace she has been. Then there are the 400 or so 5-10 year old kids I have taught that won't let me escape, even for a second, from reality back into my own head. I'm so grateful for that.

So here I am. I'm not perfect and the judgmental instincts are still being tamed, but I feel more free in grace than ever before in my life.

Thanks for asking, Dan.