Saturday, January 5, 2019

Open Letter to the Editor Re: Confederate Statue on Georgetown Courthouse Lawn

It's 2019, and a fresh new year full of promise for the future and what is my town doing?  Holding a forum to argue, once again, over whether we should remove that stupid monument honoring Confederate soldiers from our historic downtown square.

Back on August 30, 2017, I wrote a letter to the local newspaper, The Williamson County Sun, responding to their rather...meritless...editorial dismissing the entire perspective of those who would like to move that atrocity where it is less of an eyesore.  And since it's too big for the trashbins around town, they could at least take it to one of those out-of-the-way Confederate graveyards we have throughout the county.  It makes sense.  Graveyards are where you bury the dead and this statue is akin to propping up a rotting corpse of our long deceased past on the front porch for everyone to admire—if they don't throw up first.

Well, the local paper chose not to run my letter. (No surprise.)  So I published it online as an "Open Letter" on the topic.

What follows below is the letter as I wrote it in 2017.  Just mentally substitute 2019, or whatever future year you want.  The points do not waiver.  If anything, with each passing year they only grow more substantive.



 August 30, 2017

The Williamson County Sun
Georgetown, TX

An Open Letter to the Editor in Reply to the editorial “Fight symbols—or problems?” 

Dear Editor:

The August 30, 2017 editorial “Fight symbols—or problems?” indicated a cloudy editorial attitude regarding the growing issue facing Williamson County and the city of Georgetown over the United Daughters of the Confederacy statue that defaces the lawn of our historic courthouse and downtown.  I will address each major point made in the editorial, and I apologize in advance for the length.  Hopefully, the length will not be a deterrent to reading with a mind open to hearing a more nuanced point of view on the topic.

If the fight continues, it will give white supremacists a local cause and publicity they did not have before and will result in growing their numbers.

You are using a non sequitur here (something that does not follow) to attempt to play on people’s fears.  The issue here revolves around a desire by some to move a statue that venerates soldiers who were insurrectionists against our own country, seceded from our own country, and fought (and killed) men from our country.  These men were fighting for one singular issue:  To assert their own supremacy as white men and continue the debased practice of enslaving people with brown skin.  As evidence, simply look at the Declaration of Causes of Texas secession from February 2, 1861:

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States.
[Emphasis Mine]

No matter how much the post-Reconstruction propagandists have worked to reframe the conflict as some sort of divinely patriotic fight against an over-reaching government, the bottom-line is that the moral underpinning of their argument always goes back to the indisputably immoral practice of slavery—a problem our country had been struggling with since before the Constitution was even written.  The tide of history had finally turned and the southern states formed their own government and then waged war on the United States of America.  Those who participated were anything but patriots to our country. 

If we’re being charitable, perhaps they could be called patriots of the Confederate States of America, but it stretches all concepts of patriotism and love of our country to exalt enemies of the United States of America even in light of Lincoln and his successors magnanimously pursuing a sort-of surgical reattachment of the severed limb known as the CSA .  Whether Reconstruction was the best way to accomplish this is a separate debate.  We really can only speak to where we are now in terms of the issue at hand – whether it continues to be appropriate in 2017 to maintain memorials in the public arena that glorify the Confederacy.

TWCS EDITORIAL POINT 2:  Fighting for removal of the statue will bring in outsiders who just want to cause trouble.

This is a commonly used argument that holds no merit.  In fact, when local residents showed up to address the issue with the city council, the knee-jerk response by those on social media and in formal media was to make assertions, without evidence, that these concerned citizens were “plants” or “transplants” or even “bussed here from Austin.”  This is another useless argument that does nothing other than prop up some imaginary outsider “boogeyman” as a villain to feed emotionality rather than rationality.  Pushing the implication that anyone local would be intrinsically opposed to positive change is not only false but absurd.  And yet, it seems entrenched in the commentary culture of Georgetown.

TWCS EDITORIAL POINT 3:  Posing the removal as a two-value question—for or against racism—turns the issue into a litmus-test of goodness and creates a fake fight to polarize people.

Yes.  Posing the removal as a “for or against racism” certainly is a polarizing way to approach it.  However, the people I speak with about this topic do not frame it in those ways.  I mostly only hear that argument from the side that wants to keep the statue as they attempt to dubiously reframe the issue as a way of buttressing their own shaky position.  It is similar to the pattern of reframing the issue as one about weak sensitive types being indefinably “offended” as a way of devaluing and dismissing the other side without actually hearing their concerns.

Those of us arguing to move the statue to a more appropriate location—such as a local museum or cemetery—are not framing the issue as a two-value question for or against racism.  We are framing it as an issue about societal growth and cultural appropriateness.  The racism that undergirded the war between the USA and the CSA is not actually the issue, although it is not irrelevant to the issue either.  There is a profound inappropriateness to the idea of maintaining a monument venerating those who fought against our country with imagery of (1) an armed Confederate soldier, (2) a branding image of “CSA” which was a country formed in rebellion against the USA, (3) the battle flag of the Confederacy which has evolved to become a symbol of hate flown as a mark of intimidation towards other Americans and to elevate the insurrectionist Confederacy as some sort of divinely right cause, and (4) “No Braver Patriots Ever Fought. No Braver Deeds Were Ever Wrought.” engraved prominently.  This is not only offensive to everyone who fought for the Union and were killed by the insurrectionists but also with the hindsight of a hundred years it has become increasingly offensive as the only downtown marker we have honoring our soldiers.  It leaves the Georgetown historic downtown looking as if the only soldiers this community values are those who fought against our country rather than those who fought for it. 

And as a sidebar, it occurs to me after doing some research, that it is extremely odd that  we in Georgetown and Williamson Country have chosen to allow and maintain this blight on our historic courthouse lawn in light of the fact that Williamson County was one of the few counties who actually voted against secession.  That is historic and well worth erecting a monument in recognition of our forebearers for being on the right side of history at that important moment.  Rather than glorifying those who fought against our country for the right to keep owning slaves, perhaps we might want to consider lifting up those in our county who did not agree with that decision.

Just a thought.

TWCS EDITORIAL POINT 4:  Fighting over the courthouse statue is just attacking symbols and hardening opinions and will lead to less calm and less respectful discussion.

I disagree.  A hundred years of having that statue standing there and people like me walking by and just rolling our eyes or tsk-tsk-ing about it have done nothing to encourage respectful debate or bring any change.  Avoiding the topic does not make it go away—it just keeps the cover on a silently simmering pot until one day the pot starts boiling over and then it is too late.

The key point here is that I have noticed and muttered about that statue.  And so have many others.  The events in Charlottesville brought our attention back to that simmering pot and we are not content to just ignore it anymore and wait for the boil.  It’s an embarrassment to have the “most beautiful downtown in America” where the single most prominent marker is one that lifts up and glorifies the Confederacy. That should prompt action at this point in our country’s history to stop the southern whitewashing of our history and be clear and honest about our shared past.

I know how difficult it is to change.  Change is not easy.  We have a built-in safety valve as human beings to resist change.  For example, the Supreme Court uses stare decisis to hold onto past decisions even when they seem out of step with the times.  But even the Supreme Court has made profound reversals in their thinking when the issue is substantively important.  One of the important factors considered by the Court is whether the current state of the country and our perceptions of facts have changed (ending segregated schools, for example). To believe that we, in 2017, have the same prejudicial mindset as the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1916 is absurd to the point of being joke-worthy.  But the fact that so many stubbornly choose to keep two fingers in their ears and their eyes closed so as to avoid having to admit that perhaps they’ve been thinking about this issue wrongly for most of their life should bother anyone who is open to self-growth and community growth.

TWCS EDITORIAL POINT 5:  Those who push for removal of the statue are elevating the moral authority of the supremacist by placing them into defensive mode.

Were this argument valid, then any attempt to aggressively right a wrong or fight a war for a right cause would be defeated by this same sort of illogical proposition.  Pushing white supremacists so that they are figuratively “on the ropes” in no way elevates them morally.  In truth, the fact that there even is a fight over this issue is the result of obstinate people unwilling to even consider the reality that cultural standards have changed and what was, at best, arguably appropriate in 1916 is not necessarily appropriate in 2017.  This “fight” you speak of is only a “fight” because those who want to keep the statue find it easier to force a fight than have the difficult conversation.  And the only reason someone forces a fight to avoid a conversation is because deep-down they know their position is rooted in questionable nostalgia rather than a foundation of rational reason.

TWCS EDITORIAL POINT 6:  Fighting over symbols is a distraction from the more important work of healing.

This is not ultimately a fight over symbols.  And this issue is also not a distraction from the important work of healing.  In fact, the courageous conversation being pushed right now is of the height of importance to the substantive work of healing. 

When secession happened, it was as if someone severed a limb from our collective body.  The Reconstruction Era was an attempt to graft that limb back on and begin healing.  But a few decades later, with the rise of the new Ku Klux Klan and other segregationist organizations that glorified the cause of the Confederacy, that healing process was stunted as the Jim Crow era began and these generic pro-Confederacy monuments were erected en masse across the South.  Every time a citizen of our country saw a “Whites” and “Colored” sign distinction; every time a citizen of our country watched fellow citizens forced to the back of the bus; and every time a citizen of our country has had to walk around town squares seeing Confederate soldiers and flags raised up in pseudo-worship it has picked at the scabs and kept that surgical wound raw and infected.  This is where we are now.  To keep these types of monuments in place is to accept cultural gangrene rather than remove the infection and allow the wound to finally heal.

TWCS EDITORIAL POINT 7:  Speaking up about this is political and is an example of the Democrats falling into a Republican trap.

This is overly simplistic and wrong because this is not actually a political issue—this is a cultural and moral issue.  It does not matter if the president frames it as “taking away our history.”  He is objectively wrong on this topic.  Aside from the anarchists (who are not actually on either side of the issue) who are just feeding the flames of chaos that they need to exist, this is not about Democrats or Republicans.  Those who push that dichotomy are using it as a way to avoid thinking about the issue.   As soon as someone starts hurling the Democrat or Republican label around with this issue it becomes an epithet and is a way of halting the conversation and I am unwilling to allow that.  Politicizing this issue is simply a way of avoiding it.  Media claims of political bandwagoning actually distract from the substance of the issue and impede the healing.

TWCS EDITORIAL POINT 8:  Fighting over symbols prevents us from tackling substance and will set back race relations.

Symbols are substantive.  If you do not believe me then take an American flag to a Veterans Memorial celebration on Memorial Day and stand up in front of everyone and start burning it.  The reaction would be swift and strong. Why?  Because symbols mean things and they are substantive.  And more importantly, symbols can change.  As I mentioned earlier, a symbol that might arguably be appropriate at one time in history does not guarantee it is appropriate forever. 

The courageous conversation is not about symbols in the abstract.  It is about the substance behind the symbols.  And the only way that symbols override that substance is if we allow the conversation to stop and devolve into chants and riots.  When I listen to the voices raised in support of moving the statue, I do not hear support for illegal actions or vandalism.  That sort of behavior is the purview of anarchists who have no moral high ground to stand on.  I see and hear people in our community who are desperately seeking a real conversation and opportunities to be heard on this issue without being shut down by closed-off thinking and propagandist slogans.  And it is particularly disturbing when the journalistic voice for the area becomes tone-deaf to the situation and misses the point entirely.

What will “set back race relations” is to continue pretending  there is a moral equivalency between the Union and the Confederacy.  We all know that the issues that led to the War Between the States were more complicated than just slavery.  However, by the time  secession occurred, as evidenced above by Texas’ language in their Declaration of Causes of Secession, the explicit reason for the War was to assert the supremacy of the “White Race” and the inferiority of the “Black Race.”  And that should be universally abhorrent to any thinking American as should flying  the Confederate battle flag and especially to erecting monuments lionizing that despicable cause.


Keith Howell

Georgetown Resident

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


My current reading includes an interesting book from 2015 by author Michael Shermer entitled The Moral Arc: How Science Leads Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom.  In light of the current political and social trends since the current president took office in January, I thought it might be beneficial to distill and share a chunk of information from the tail end of Chapter 2 regarding terrorism in light of the ongoing attempts by government representatives to foment fear as a method of distraction and control of the citizenry.

Let me start by first dealing with what terrorism actually is.  According to Shermer, "[t]errorism is a form of asymmetrical warfare by nonstate actors against innocent, noncombatant civilians. As its name suggests, it does so by evoking terror.  This exercises our alarmist emotions, which in turn confound our reasoning, making clear thinking about terrorism well nigh impossible."  However..."[d]espite the seemingly constant barrage of media stories of suicide bombers blowing themselves up, the long-term trends in social change over the past half century are in the direction of less violence and more moral action, even with terrorism."

So, Shermer then presents 7 myths about terrorism and explains briefly why they are myths and not truths.


Actually, "[i]n a study of fifty-two cases of Islamic extremists who have targeted the United States, for instance...terrorist motives include instrumental violence and revenge" stemming from the United States interventionist foreign policy.  Religious ideology "was a part of the consideration for most" but it was not because they were attempting to spread Sharia law but rather generated by a protectionist fear of what is seen as a war against them by the United States government.  The other motivation was "dominance and honor," that is the desire by mostly young students and immigrants to establish a heightened status for them and their families.


As much as we speak of the Taliban and ISIS/ISIL, the reality is that this idea of a "vast global network of top-down, centrally controlled conspiracies against the West" are not true.  Terrorism is decentralized and tends to be a "constantly evolving complext of social networks."


Actually, if we look here to the US, aside from the most obvious event of the 9/11 attack, which itself was pretty clearly more successful than the terrorists themselves even expected, terrorists are more often caught quickly and successfully or wind up doing more harm to themselves than those around them.


Studies show that terrorists "instead of being drawn from the ranks of the poor...[they] tend to be drawn from well-educated, middle-class or high-income families.


"In comparison to homicides in America, deaths from terrorism are in the statistical noise, barely a blip on a graph compared to the 13,700 homicides a year.  By comparison, after the 3,000 deaths on 9/11, the total number of people killed by terrorists in the 38 years before totals 340, and the number killed after 9/11 and including the Boston boming is 33, and that includes the 13 soldiers killed in the Fort Hood 2009.  That's a total of 373 killed, or 7.8 per year.  Even if we include the 3,000 people who perished on 9/11, that brings the average annual total to 70.3 compared to that of the annual homicide rate of 13,700."


Regardless of the scare language of politicians seeking votes and money, "most experts agree that acquiring the necessary materials and knowledge for building either weapon is far beyond the reach of most (if not all) terrorists."  In case you didn't know it, there's still never been a single case of a successful casualty-inducing detonation of a dirty bomb by a terrorist group. Also chemical and nuclear weapons attempts by terrorists have demonstrated them to be incompetent in this area as well.  "In short, the chances of terrorists successfully building and launching a nuclear device of any sort are so low that we would be better off investing our limited resources in diffusing the problem of terrorism in other areas."

If you're wondering just how difficult it is to make an atomic bomb, here's an excerpt from an old Analog article entitled "Build Your Own A-Bomb and Wake Up the Neighborhood":

As a terrorist one of the best methods for your purposes is the gaseous diffusion approach.  This was the one used for the earliest A-bombs, and in many respects it is the most reliable and requires the least sophisticated technology.  It is, however, a bit expensive and does require certain chemicals apt to raise a few eyebrows.  You have to start with something on the order of a dozen miles of special glass-lined steel tubing and about sixty tons of hydrofluoric acid which can be employed to create the compound uranium-hexafluoride.  Once your uranium has been converted into hexafluoride it can be blown up against a number of special low-porosity membranes.  The molecules of uranium hexafluoride which contain an atom of U-238 are somewhat heavier than those containing an atom of U-235.  As the gas is blown across the membranes more of the heavier molecules are trapped than the light ones.  The area on the other side of the membrane is thus further enriched with the U-235 containing material; possibly by as much as 1/2% per pass.  Repeat this enough times and you wind up with uranium hexafluoride containing virtually 100% core atoms of U-235.  You then separate the fluorine from the uranium and arrive at a nice little pile of domesticated U-235.  From there it's all downhill.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Modest Response to Matt Walsh's Attack on Jen Hatmaker; or When Christians Attack!

A Modest Response 
to Matt Walsh's Attack on Jen Hatmaker; or When Christians Attack!

In this corner....Matt Walsh
I mostly just keep my trap shut about things, outside of an occasional Facebook post or review of a movie or a graphic novel here and there.  This blog is what I reserve for those times when I feel like I need to open my big mouth about something serious.  In this case, I'm about to open it about one of these public Christian-On-Christian "heresy" fights.  And I'm particularly going to focus on Matt Walsh's loathsome recent column in The Blaze where he blasted a fellow Christian, Jen Hatmaker, for simply answering some questions, posed to her by Religion News, in a way that reflected reason, love, and compassion rather than arrogant, hateful, judgement.  In Matt's particular worldview, the latter 3 are what reflects the mind of Jesus rather than the former.

This is a warning/disclaimer that this blogpost is going to be long as I'm essentially going to be copying nearly the entire column because almost every line is deserving of a response.
Annnnd in this corner....Jen Hatmaker

For context's sake, here's the link to Jen's original comments where she made such horrifying statements as "I want the very best for my gay friends. I want love and happiness and faithfulness and commitment and community," "For me, pro-life includes the life of the struggling single mom who decides to have that kid and they’re poor. It means being pro-refugee. It means being pro-Muslim," and even (HORROR) concedes that she would be "open" to voting for Hillary Clinton:  The politics of Jen Hatmaker: Trump, Black Lives Matter, gay marriage and more

Matt's reponse to the Jen Hatmaker interview will be in red and my responses to his will be in black.

Right off the bat, I need to take issue with his own headline:
Dear Christians, it doesn’t matter how you feel. It matters what the Bible says.  Actually, Matt, from an intellectually honest standpoint as a Christian it matters a great deal how you feel and while it does "matter what the Bible says," getting any two people to actually agree on what the Bible "says" is near impossible.  The evidence is the literally thousands of split-off denominations, dead denominations and sects, hundreds (if not thousands) of translations and variations of the text, the hundreds of thousands of people put to death over it, and the fact that the Bible itself actually "says" nothing.  It is a collection of disparate works, none of which were written with the expectation or knowledge that at some point after the author's death someone else would come along and collect them into a singular book collection and then attempt to pretend and convince everyone else that they are somehow magically a single work of mystical writing.   When someone like you says the "Bible says," what you actually mean is that "this is what I think the Bible means when it says such and such."  And then you go beyond that and expect your interpretation of what it means to be a universal absolute that applies to everyone else.  Which is fine for you but not so much for everyone else.

Jen Hatmaker is a prominent Christian author and speaker. My wife tells me she had a show on HGTV for a while. These days, she’s apparently moved away from renovating homes to renovating Scripture.

I accept that you may not have been aware of who Jen is.  I was not aware of her until I was shown her interview by someone else.  Although, I suspect that you are feigning unawareness for the sake of a lousy attempt at diminishing her influence right off the bat.  Your attempt at being clever with the "moved away from renovating homes to renovating Scripture" would only be clever if there were anything in that interview that came even CLOSE to "renovating Scripture."  All she did was answer questions honestly from her own flawed and human perspective.  Which, in my view of God, is actually a lot more close to the Divine truth than regurgitating dogma and doctrine from others as if it is how I actually feel.  She answered how she feels about things but NOT as any kind of statement about scripture or the church.  She makes it very clear that this is how she sees it.  Just because her worldview doesn't line up with mine or your worldview precisely  is irrelevant.  Whether it lines up with scripture has all to do with what her beliefs are about the authority of the Bible and how her own relationship to God is defined by it, not Matt Walsh's.

I just reread the interview with Jen.  She never once quotes a Bible verse or twists a verse out of context.  So how exactly is she "renovating Scripture?"  You do realize that Christians can have opinions apart from the 27 letters and other writings collectively known as the current Protestant New Testament?  If you do not realize this, then I would suggest you are either brainwashed or brain dead.

That’s a problem, because unlike an old ranch-style house with ugly carpets and 1970’s wallpaper, God’s Holy Word doesn’t need any updates. It’s eternal, unchanging, and always right, no matter how we happen to feel about it.

Ad hominem dig at Jen for being a home renovator followed by a declaration of your view on the Bible and your declarative statement that it is "always right, no matter how we happen to feel about it."  So, who decides which interpretation is "right"?  And what do we do with portions of the Bible that even the most conservative of scholars admit were not even written by the author who the church has given credit to?  How does this sustain the idea that it is "eternal, unchanging, and always right?"  I believe that claiming authorship of something, or assigning authorship of something after the fact, to someone who the church authorities knew quite well could not have been the author is what I would consider duplicitous at best and outright deception at worst.  Either way, couple that with the fact that we have found enough early scraps and completed texts to have a pretty good handle on what sorts of insertions, deletions, and wholesale additions have happened to these writings over the centuries leading up to the printing press (which made the book into a widely distributed and accessible volume), the concept of "unchanging" requires checking one's brain at the door.  And as for the title of "God's Holy Word," none of the works in the collection itself has ever made that claim -- at least for the whole because none of the works were ever written with the knowledge that it would be collected with other works later.  Within what we call the Protestant New Testament the scriptures referenced by the writers are references to the Jewish scriptures at that time, which included most of what we call the Old Testament but also other known and lost writings.  And mystically, Jesus himself is the only thing actually referred to within the New Testament as the "Word" -- which is something to really take some time to ruminate about, Matt.  Meditate on this: Jesus is the Word.  Not the Bible.  Elevating the Bible to the level of God's Word is a way for the Church to effectively deify it so as to make it above criticism and assume a role as final authority on how to interpret and apply it.

Christians like Jen Hatmaker would do well to remember this. Especially if they’ve been given, or have claimed for themselves, a position of leadership in the faith. It’s a grave responsibility to be a Christian with an audience. As someone with an audience of my own, I know this well. If we contradict Christian teaching, if we misrepresent Christ’s commandments, if we lead people away from the truth and into the darkness, we have not only put their souls in jeopardy but our own. Christ says it would be better for us to drown in the sea with a stone tied around our necks than to cause someone else to stumble into sin. I believe He meant that quite literally.

And herein lies the major stumbling block to your understanding, Matt.  The word "literally."  You need to climb out of that dank, dark cave of literal thinking and remember that we are talking about mystical writings, by their very nature.  The writings that make up the Bible are what we call "inspired" which does not mean they are infallible or the literal "word of God."  It means to "arouse, animate, or imbue with the spirit of a supernatural or divine influence."  Being inspired by God does not make you God nor does it make your writing infallible or the actual literal word of God.  If God has the power to control our writing in such a way, I am also positive that he would have the power to make sure that all translations are perfectly accurate, that there are no typos or mistakes, and most of all that there are no misunderstandings or differences of opinion on what the words mean or how to apply them.

Jesus is metaphorically the "word of God."  This need to construct a literal "word of God" says more about our own carnal inability to comprehend the Divine and the metaphysical world than it does about God or how to live a right and good life.

When asked about gay “marriage,” Hatmaker declared that homosexuals have the “right” to marry members of the same sex. She said our churches should offer support and instruction to those in gay “marriages.” In other words, she believes that churches should not only accept the abomination of gay “marriage,” but actively facilitate it. When asked if she would attend a gay “wedding,” she said she’d be there with “gladness,” ready to pop the champagne and celebrate their sin with them. She said that if her own child turned out to be gay, she would want him to enter a “faithful, committed marriage” with another man. And, in final act of heresy, she announced that gay sexual relationships are “holy.”
This is the Gospel according to Jen Hatmaker. Many supposed Christians in our culture have a similar Gospel. But it may be useful to pause here and reflect on what the Actual Gospel has to say on the subject. Indeed, we either believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God or we don’t. If we don’t, then we shouldn’t be writing books and giving interviews and going on TV and speaking in front of crowds while waving the “Christian” banner. We should renounce the faith, declare ourselves agnostic or atheist or whatever, and then we’ll be free to promote moral relativism and hedonism all we want. We’ll still be wrong, but at least we’ll no longer be heretics. But if we do actually accept the Bible as the unalterable and eternal truth, then we must make sure that we aren’t publicly contradicting it.

As is so often the case, Matt, you immediately zero in on the "gay" comments and blow them way out of proportion, which indicates profound homophobic tendencies within you.  But I am particularly disturbed by the dismissive manner in which you call anyone who might not share your viewpoint as "supposed Christians."  Why are you so tight-assed that the mere concept that someone may believe in the very same Gospel you do but not interpret it exactly the same way as you must be a fake or a poser?  Why are you so threatened by a different point of view?  As a mature adult you should be able to recognize that even within the umbrella of Christianity there are a myriad of varying beliefs. Or maybe you've never really done any historical or archaeological reading or studying about the early years of Christianity and especially about how the gospels and the other writings of the New Testament came to be collected in the first place.  I recommend you read a couple of books by Bart Ehrman.  He's a great place to start on this.  Maybe expanding your severely limited view of the Bible itself and the higher principles of love as espoused by Jesus of Nazareth would lead you to embrace this larger community of believers who love God and love their neighbors to the degree they love themselves, which I think is a rule of thumb you might be familiar with.

Remember, she's not "publicly contradicting" the "unalterable and eternal truth" of the Bible in this interview.  She is giving her personal beliefs on current social topics.  Now, implicit in this, as she is a Christian, is that Jen obviously does not find her beliefs to be "contradicting" the "eternal truth."  She must somehow find them compatible.  Why do you think she would find them compatible when you do not?  She finds them compatible, I believe, because the views she espouses in the interview are consistent with Jesus's teachings about love and acceptance as he demonstrated through both his words and his deeds.  I fully believe that the Jesus that I read in scripture would say almost identically what Jen said, only he would have the Divine imprimatur on his words that would give them authority.  But, as far as I know, nobody actually asked Jesus to give an opinion on what we call "Same-Sex Marriage" because this was not a topic du jour in those days.  So, all we can do is take the higher principles of love and respect and apply them.  And having a different approach or an expanded understanding of the Bible does not mean she is contradicting anything, and especially not contradicting God.

So, for the benefit of those Christians who think Scripture was silent on the issues of marriage and sexuality, here are a few relevant passages:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9
“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” – Romans 1:26
“Now we know that the law is good, if any one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, immoral persons, sodomites, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” – 1 Timothy 1:8
“Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” – Jude 7

I think Justin Lee, author of the book TORN, addresses all of these much better than I could but the bottom line is that those verses are not quite so clear as they may seem once a fuller understanding of each verse is brought to light.  And for those who are not up for reading an entire book on the subject, the always-excellent Rachel Held Evans published a series of blogs discussing Lee's book.  The one pertinent to this chunk of Bible-verse-bludgeoning would be this blog from 2013:  Torn, Chapters 12-13: Back to the Bible.

Hatmaker called gay relationships “holy,” which means divine, while the Apostle Paul called them degrading and unnatural, and promised that anyone who practices homosexuality and does not repent will be barred from the Kingdom of God. As Christians, we are left to ponder who is a greater authority here: The Apostle Paul or the lady from HGTV.

Again, Matt, you need to go reread Romans 1:18-32 in its full context.  I'll wait here while you do that.  Here's the link.

You done?  Okay, now that you've read it you will surely notice that it is not a selection focused on same-sex marriage.  This is a section in which Paul (or whoever may have actually written this part) lists off the sorts of people who are going to be inhabiting Hell and it consists of gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful people, as well as lust-filled hedonists (gay and straight).  If all you see in this is a statement about gay people then you are once again missing the higher point. The higher point is selfishness. It is about people abandoning their innate love and respect for others and sociopathically indulging themselves in whatever way they want to, including abandoning their "natural" desires for those that are "unnatural."  Technically, the same syllogism would work for someone who was gay but got inflamed with "unnatural" lust for someone of the opposite sex.  In other words, using these verses to somehow extrapolate as a directive by Paul (who was not married) concerning marriage is absurd and makes the scripture speak to something that it is not addressing at all.

And, by the way, I would sure like to see how you take that scripture-stretching muscle of your's and somehow ignore away the fact that "disobedient children" are also in that list of people burning in your literal Hell.  How many blogs have you written condemning those Christians who raise children who are disobedient?

Now, you may struggle with the Biblical teaching on homosexuality, just as you may struggle with any other teaching. You may not understand it. You may find it harsh and difficult and emotionally distressing. But before we even get into explaining why the Bible says what it says, all we really need to establish is that it does say it. Period. We are commanded by God to accept this teaching or risk losing our souls. It’s not an option. We are not required to follow Christ only in the areas where we can find mutual agreement with Him. Our consent and agreement does not matter. At all. Not one tiny bit. We are called to follow regardless. That’s what it means to love God.

I think the only one struggling here is you, Matt.  You are struggling to make scripture mean what you want it to mean because your eisegetical bias makes you literally incapable of reading the Bible outside of the prism of your own dysfunctional fears and prejudices.  Following God does not mean checking our individualism at the door.  That is not what it means to love God.  To love God means to be who you are -- who God created you to be -- and to be a light to the world by loving others as he has loved us.

If Mrs. Hatmaker finds herself grappling with doubt and uncertainty about this teaching or any other, she should pray about it, consult her pastor, read Scripture, read Christian apologetics on the topic, pray some more and then pray again. She should do all of this in private, speaking only with close Christian friends and mentors who may be able to help her sort through it. But what she should not do — what she absolutely cannot do — is stand in front of the world and declare these teachings moot just because she finds them distasteful. How she feels about them personally is of no consequence. She is not God. Her thoughts and feelings don’t become reality just because they entered into her head.
Just because someone holds a different Biblical perspective than you, Matt, does not mean that person is "grappling with doubt and uncertainty."  Sometimes I feel like people who arrogantly present their own personal view of Biblical interpretation as the "right" one are the people are grappling with their faith and certainty.  It's often a truism that those who yell the loudest about what's "right" tend to privately be the ones who are struggling the most because the cognitive dissonance between what they think they are supposed to believe is not compatible with what they know.

And no, I do not agree with your advice that she deal with this privately.  I think it is perfectly right and reasonable for believers to process through our growth and understanding publicly.  God may not change, but we do.  And our understanding of what God wants can and should change.  I personally don't find the Bible passages distasteful on these topics.  I do, however, find your judgmental interpretation of them to be.  You are not God either.  Your beliefs and feelings are just as valid and potentially flawed as Jen's.  In other words, if you want people to respect your feelings on these matters then you should extend the same respect to others.  Her thoughts and feelings don't become reality just because they enter her head and neither do your's just because you wrote them down in a snide column attacking a fellow sister in Christ.

Obedience is not emphasized in churches very often these days, but it should be. Obedience to God means following Him, standing by Him, affirming His teachings at all times, even when we struggle to understand them. We are commanded to submit to God. Submit. That means give in to His Word and His Law, no matter how it makes us feel.
So, why is gay marriage wrong? Well, first of all, because He said so. I know that reason will not be enough to convince unbelievers outside of the church, but for Christians, if we intend to continue being Christian, it is reason enough. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding,” Proverbs reminds us. If you don’t understand why God condemns the homosexual act, that’s because you lack wisdom and insight. It’s not because God is wrong. Don’t rely on your own understanding. Trust God. That’s the fundamental problem with Christians who try to “update” the sexual morality of the Bible: They don’t trust God. They don’t believe Him. And if they don’t believe Him, it’s hard to see how they could really believe in Him.
Obedience is not emphasized in churches very often these days for a very good reason:  obedience robs believers of their identity, of their individual personality, of the ability to think for oneself, and it puts them in a position of subservience to flawed authority claiming a Divine imprimatur.  Following God does not mean blind obedience.  Even the story of Abraham and his near sacrifice of Isaac is a metaphor for saving faith not a literal teaching on obedience.  No, I do not believe the God that Jesus described is the type to demand blind obedience.  And because of that, the key is what Paul further explained.  We all know what is right.  It is written on our hearts.  We know it even apart from scripture and we glean it from our conscience, which is where we feel God.  As the writer of the first letter to Timothy wrote:  "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,"  In other words, it is "inspired" and it is "useful."  It does not say it is absolute.  It is "useful."  And in that, I will agree. I will also remind you that at the time of the writing of the letter to Timothy there was no New Testament scripture, so this was a reference to whatever Old Testament writings and other writings they may have been using as teaching material, including such extra-Biblical sources as The Book of Enoch, which was quoted authoritatively by Jesus himself.

A reminder:  Jen is not trying to "update" the sexual morality of the Bible.  Saying something over and over like that does not make it true.  You are extending her comments to mean things that she did not say.

But if we do want to understand why God has declared the homosexual act a sin — even if the why of God doesn’t matter nearly as much as the what — I would recommend that we do three things:
First, read the first chapter of Genesis. God looked at Adam alone on Earth and decided that he needed a partner. It is not good for man to be alone, He said, so he made Eve.  This tells us that men and women were, in a very intimate and profound way, made for each other.

According to you. There are plenty of valid interpretations of that text that are not the same and none of those different interpretations mean that you are the only one who is correct.  I understand Genesis to be a metaphorical poem of myth.  There is a great truth about the relationship of God to humanity but I don't force a literal interpretation onto it any more than I would onto one of William Blake's great didactic mythological poems.  I would say the more likely point is not one of sexuality but of the equality and intertwining of the human species as fits more appropriately with Paul's admonition that in Christ there is no slave, nor master, nor female or male, etc.

Second, read the early passages in the Gospels. Christ was born of a woman and raised by His mother and His earthly father. We call Jesus, Mary, and Joseph the “Holy Family,” but you might also call them the “correct” or “true” family. If we want to know what a family is supposed to look like — and if all of the Biblical words and commands and teachings on the subject are somehow not enough — then we need only observe the physical, literal demonstration God provided for us. He said, “Here is a family, THE family. Make your families like this one.” How much clearer could He be?
This is a prime example of the worst possible hermeneutical approach to Biblical interpretation.  Telling the story (or monomyth) of Jesus's birth has absolutely nothing to do with presenting an image for future generations of what a family is "supposed to look like" unless you mean an adult male making a baby with a 13 year-old virgin out of wedlock and then roaming the countryside looking for a place to stay. <-- See?  This is me illustrating bad hermenutics with bad hermeneutics.

Third, read Matthew 19. Jesus, casting away any lingering doubts, describes a lawful marriage in detail: “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’  and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 
According to the Son of God, a marriage occurs when a man is united to his wife and the two become one flesh. There you go. There it is. There’s the truth. What part of “man united to his wife” is difficult to understand? 
These three passages are especially important because they tell us something about the nature of things. Marriage has a certain nature. It serves a certain function. It does certain things and exists for certain reasons, and those things and those reasons and those functions are all made clear by God and His prophets and Apostles. If we read the Bible, we come to understand that gay “marriage” is not simply immoral, but intrinsically impossible. It doesn’t just defy God’s commandments, it defies logic. Speaking of gay “marriage” is like speaking of “dry water” or “rectangular triangles.” It’s simply incoherent.

Again, you're making the Bible say what  you want it to say rather than taking the clear meaning within a proper context.  The context for Jesus's words was that the Pharisees were attempting to "catch" him with a question about the propriety of divorce within that culture.  It's not a question inquiring about the state of love between man and woman or man and man or woman and woman.  It is a statement about the joining of two souls into a matrimonial state with a divine compact between the two.  In first century Palestine, the idea that the Pharisees would be asking about same-sex marriage is absurd.  So there is no commentary being made here by Jesus about same-sex love.  But there IS a higher principle about two adults making a marital commitment to each other.  And this is a principle that can be applied to all marital relationships regardless of sex, gender, or plurality.

This is not an oxymoron or incoherent.  It is actually using the same method of interpretation that Jesus regularly used himself when trying to teach the people.  He would point out some concrete belief they were accustomed to claiming a scriptural foundation for and when they all agreed he would then confound them by challenging their presuppositions and forcing them to expand their perceptions and try to see the higher principle behind the rule or the law.  And he also expressed his frustration that sometimes even the Disciples were not getting it.

Now, there are many aspects of the faith that I find challenging and mysterious. Personally, for me, this isn’t one of them. It all seems quite sensible and utterly consistent with the innate moral intuition that all human beings possess. But even if I couldn’t see the logic in Biblical marriage and even if I couldn’t intuit it based on natural law, it would still be just as true, and I would be called to affirm it and profess it all the same. There are many concepts that my puny little brain can’t seem to wrap itself around, but that’s why I must lean on God’s understanding. Not mine. And certainly not Jen Hatmaker’s.

Good. I'm glad to see you growing her in your point of view to recognize that this is a personal belief on your part and not some incontrovertible Divine truth.   You have spent an inordinate amount of typeface explaining to the world why Jen Hatmaker's "feelings" do not matter and yet now you are referencing your own (and humanity's) "innate moral intuition."  Intuition sounds remarkably similar to feelings.  I would suggest that you lean a little more on God's understanding because your own understanding is remarkably unhinged, even setting aside your own attempt at faux self-deprecation.  But let me encourage you with this, if you find something in your faith that is "challenging and mysterious"?  Stop looking to apologetics to try and understand it.  That's just letting someone else do the thinking for you.  I would encourage you to look not for a set of concrete rules to tell you what to think but instead seek to view the Bible from above rather than within.  This way you can see the whole picture first perhaps and glean the higher principles for proper context for the individual verses.  And then break outside of that comfort-zone box and encounter God in his fullest and infinite potential.  This is freeing.  And it fits the picture of the God that Jesus shared.  A God who is not so petty as to fixate on behavior but rather on growing the heart, like the Grinch, because when the heart grows two-sizes in one day, it's going to hurt but the love that flows after it is worth celebrating.  This is the heart of the Christian and it is the heart of one of who loves without condemnation.

So I would ask Mrs. Hatmaker what she believes has happened in the last few years that all of a sudden changes the fundamental nature of marriage? What exactly have we learned, in our modern and enlightened state, that even Jesus Christ did not know? What is the truth that we’ve discovered that debunks the truth given to us by God Almighty? Yes, a lot of us have icky feelings about Biblical sexual morality, but feelings aren’t truth.
Of course I’m being a bit flippant. Nothing has happened or can ever happen to debunk or disprove God’s truth. All that can happen is that we, in our weakness and stupidity, become blinded to it. And if we are blind then we should pray to have our eyes opened. But until that happens, all we can do is follow God’s voice in the darkness, wherever it leads. That, we should always remember, is the very essence of faith.

I would suggest that nothing has changed Jen's view on the fundamental nature of marriage.  What has changed, if anything, has been her understanding of how God loves unconditionally.   Instead of attacking her, maybe you should examine the principles of unconditional love and think beyond this limited box you've comfortably settled yourself into.  Your God-Box appears to be extremely small, in my opinion.

The essence of faith, to me, is the confidence that we know there is something more than what we can see, that we should be a light of love to the world, and that no matter how much I believe something there is always a chance that I could be wrong.  And that's okay.

God knows it and he's okay with it too.

Love.  Just love.

Friday, May 22, 2015



Know thyself.”

In the 2014 film “I Origins”, there is a short but profound scene with the protagonist, an agnostic scientist, who is experimenting with the DNA of a specific type of earthworm that is born completely blind; in fact, with no genetic capability of sight at all. He is attempting to manipulate the DNA so that he can force the earthworms to pass on the genetic traits for an eye to their offspring and thus demonstrate how the “eye” as we know it may have evolved. His fiance, who is deeply spiritual and in tune with her individual concept of God, challenges him. Since the earthworm does not have the sense of sight, he is limited in his perceptions, she asks how an earthworm suddenly gaining sight would explain “light” to the other earthworms.
As she presses further, she begs him to consider whether it might be possible for some humans to have a rudimentary “sixth sense” that might actually enable them to capture a glimpse of reality outside our normal five senses. And if that is possible, how would they explain their perceptions to the rest of the world?

He is confused by what he obviously thinks is a childishly simplistic question but is incapable of delivering a competent answer precisely because altho simplistic, the question just pushed him to think outside of his own perceptual box. With that simple question, she upsets his paradigm with the implication that all that is knowable is not necessarily perceivable by his own limited five senses. He is suddenly challenged with the idea that there might be aspects of reality that exist but we simply are unaware and incapable of conceiving of them because we have no sensory starting point.

This was a cinematic moment that perfectly illustrated my own spiritual journey of understanding. It is fiction but it is grounded in a deeply philosophical rock that I have been climbing for a number of years. We humans are limited in our perceptions in so many ways, some of them by our basic DNA but also by our choices (both conscious and unconscious). It's like being given a closed and opaque box. We know there's something inside there but we can't touch, taste, smell, hear, or see it.

Do you remember the thrill as a child of being given a beautifully wrapped gift box? In a lot of ways, it rarely matters what is actually inside the box because it can never match the feelings of excited expectation and curiosity. But also, no matter what the gift actually is, it is utterly meaningless until the box is opened. Only then do you begin to appreciate the gift for what it truly is rather than the blind anticipation. Both are true and real feelings but only one is allowed to be fully actualized. If you never unwrap your gift and open the box, allowing the real gift to be experienced, you will stay in blissful ignorance, distracted by the beautiful trappings others have wrapped it up within, but you will also be missing out on the real and untarnished gift.

Now imagine that you have an image of God trapped inside that box and you feel the security of knowing that you have Him inside that box, but the longer you put off opening the box the more comfortable you become just letting it stay wrapped and unopened. Now what if I told you that until you open that box and allow your perception of God to expand outside of that comfortable box you will never touch the face of God or ever reach within to understand who you are in this infinite universe.

I believe this imaginary God-box is humanity's trap supplied by the institutionalized church (including Temples, Mosques, and Synagogues as well) and keeps us mired in the muck of confusion and conflict rooted in our battle to stay spiritually stagnant – even though our individual spirits are always craving more even if we choose not to listen.

I visualize the God-box like this:

A Venn diagram of three interlocking spheres (of influence). One sphere is labeled “Traditions, Rituals, Rules.” One is labeled “Culture, Media, Politics.” The last is labeled “Family, Friends, Peers.” Where the spheres intersect with each other is labeled “God (perception of).” The entire Venn diagram fits tightly within a square that I call the “God-box.” And this is where those within institutionalized churches are comfortable existing. However, if we would just take that small step to look outside that box we would see an infinite space in which God actually exists, but we cannot perceive Him because we have locked ourselves inside our God-box. Unlike The Doctor's T.A.R.D.I.S., the God-Box is actually smaller on the inside and infinite on the outside. Most people never even glimpse God because they are terrified of ever even looking outside that box, for to go outside the God-box means the very difficult (and sometimes painful) task of introspection and going within. Introspection is not a trait commonly encouraged by the institutions of power that control the flow of information in this world. Growth should be uncomfortable. If you're comfortable where you are then you are not growing and you are probably stagnating.

The real Truth in terms of an actual spiritual journey is that it can only come from within us individually for that is ultimately the only place we really can know God's heart – not from printed ink on thin paper and bound by faux leather with our names embossed in gold. I part company with institutionalized church dogma (those beliefs I am supposed to agree to as “sound” and “correct” as defined by other flawed humans) in my view of the Bible because they are circular and self-serving. Institutional churches, by necessity, require some sort of authoritative control over thoughts and behaviors. To accomplish this they must deify the Bible and arbitrarily declare it to be infallible and inerrant. I do not blindly accept the truth expressed by any individual or any institution that asserts such a thing. Perfect knowledge of the spiritual cannot be perfectly produced or understood by imperfect beings and most especially within the context of a hive-minded institution. The Bible is not God's "word". This is a term concocted to end debate with a “God said it. I believe it. And that's that.” type of thinking. What we call the Bible is not “God-breathed” nor is it “God-authored.” By its own terms, Jesus himself is the “Word,” not this disparate collection of writings and letters that range from the metaphysical to the historical to the mythological to the poetic to the prophetic to the didactic. It was not constructed by a magical hand appearing and writing it down. It was not written on golden plates and transcribed by a human. There is most likely some Divine inspiration within the text but Divine inspiration is not inerrant because for it to be expressed it must be filtered through the limited human prism of understanding and the personal biases of the one delivering the inspired thought. Divine inspiration can, and does, happen throughout history and throughout humanity and oftentimes in the most unexpected ways and requires us to seek it out intuitively to glean that inspiration. To believe that God can be captured inside a single antiquated collection or an institutional box of any kind, in fact, possibly borders on the blasphemous from my personal perspective.

That being said, I do not discount the importance of the collection as our best preserved source of the oral teachings passed down from Jesus of Nazareth. I accept the Bible as authoritative only in that sense and only so much as I believe the text translations are mostly reliable and accurate (unicorns in the King James Version notwithstanding). I do not believe it has been, or is, properly interpreted or applied by the institutional churches worldwide. My method of interpretation is very simple: I look to the words and the actions of Jesus as an example for my life and the prism through which I read and interpret the rest of the Bible (and other texts as well). What I see in Jesus is a very simple call to authenticity -- to know myself and be true to myself. To seek ever deeper understanding of the world we live in, the way people think and feel, and the spiritual realm. In so doing, I develop empathy and understanding of those around me and as I grow in my understanding of God and myself I can exhibit ever increasing love and grace to those I encounter. This inevitably allows God to shine through me and spread the good news that Jesus has bridged the gap between us (the physical) and God (the spiritual). He is the open door to the Divine. He brought the Kingdom of God to us in the here and now. The good news (gospel) is not really about the future, or eternity but the here and now. What happens in eternity will happen or not, that is beyond our ability to really understand on a human level. But we can understand the world we live in. We can see the suffering. We can see the horrors and the beauty. Jesus did not come to build an institution; all structured churches are entirely man-made -- the modern pharisees. There is value to the gathering of fellow believers to show God's love to each other and to the world. However, as soon as “Roberts Rules of Order” is invoked at a business meeting and task-forces start forming, then a political institution has been created and not the church that Jesus referred to.

The institutional church lives on but it's on life support as it attempts to sustain itself as the only source for proper validation of spiritual experience and beliefs. But we all can take comfort that there is no need to have this validated by someone else, even if you adhere to an authoritative view of the Bible from a personal perspective. As Paul explained in his letter to the first-century church in Rome, God's law is written on all of our hearts and our consciences bear witness to it. So, stop looking for external validation. Your own conscience will validate your experience with God and your understanding of Him. My rule of thumb is considering whether the philosophical destinations I arrive at are grounded in increasing humility based in love and understanding of humanity and the world at large or in self-aggrandizing judgment and condemnation of people and people-groups outside my comfort zones. I hold on to the former and work to discard the latter.

Jesus came to start a movement based on the two-part highest principle. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul; and Love your neighbor as yourself. Every single other rule, law, prescription, or restriction should be able to fall under this without jumping through the horrific and contradictory hurdles erected by Christian apologetics. In fact, if you need someone else to provide for you books and classes to memorize arguments for your “faith” and “beliefs” then I would question whether you really have a faith or are just trodding the path of the familiar because the unfamiliar is scary.

It may sound trite to say "What Would Jesus Do?" But it is the easiest way to suss out what is truly "authoritative" and not just what we want to be authoritative for whatever reason. If you drop your institutional, denominational, and doctrinal walls and simply step back and examine things moment by moment through the highest principle prism -- you will find out just how much we call "Christianity" is nothing more than prejudice, politics, and tribalism draped in the bloody cloak of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to tell us to set ourselves apart and above everyone else. If he did then he failed in his example to us. His recorded words and actions are those of someone who expected his followers to be a part of the world around them and not to sit in self-righteous judgment of others who are different. Jesus embraced everyone except the religious hypocrites. Why? Because they were using the religious institutions of the day as a means for greedily enriching themselves as well as a weapon to bully those around them to conform to their own arbitrary interpretations and applications of the accepted holy scriptures of that time (which included some, but not all, of what the modern Christian churches accept as authoritative today). The example of Jesus is one who lived with a culture of religious systems of the time but never conformed to them and instead challenged them to think outside their closed box and embrace the higher principle that this God of love always intended. The community of believers who caught the wave of Jesus' "Good News" were just that, a community, and how did he say the world would know them (us)? "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35. Now do some research of the world outside your local church and ask yourself "How does the world know me(us)?"

With this view comes great humility and a willingness to be wrong so long as I am true to who I am and true to God as I know him through Jesus. What also comes is a great love for people and cultures that are very different from mine and it is a great equalizer in terms of beliefs and practices. So long as someone is earnest, authentic, and true to their beliefs without causing harm to others then I will embrace a fellow sojourner. As soon as your belief system starts requiring you to harm others or be an ass towards someone else (or a group) then as far as I'm concerned you have left the path that Jesus set forth for us all and are stomping your way through the overgrowth making your way down your own path of self-destruction. Good luck with that and ever attaining any real peace or understanding in this life or the next. You see, the beauty of finally shedding yourself of this God-Box defined by others is that for the first time in your life you will be able to experience the presence of God in a real and meaningful way without any need to paste on your Sunday church smile or drop another meaningless “God bless you.”

If God is love, then God is not political; God is not institutional; God is not cultural. If God is love, then God is transcendent and that means unknowable by our physical senses. God requires us to meet him inside.

It is only within that we can ever find the key to unlock that box and enter the infinite space God inhabits.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Duck Commander Singled out and Crucified? Let's Get Some Perspective

Phil Robertson of DUCK DYNASTY was punished by his employer A&E for some rather crude and insulting comments that are going to be published next month in a lengthy interview in GQ Magazine.  Besides the graphically crude descriptions of sex and his rather tilted tunnel-vision view of Christianity, he also expressed some severely ignorant opinions about his understanding of the experience of black Americans before and during the Civil Rights era.

Normally I really wouldn't care because the Robertson clan and their nauseating brand of Hillbilly homilies and self-righteous bumper-sticker talk do not appeal to me at all.  And honestly, I can't really even put myself into the mindset of those who do care for it.  I can understand chain-smoking and shooting up heroin before I can understand why someone would subject themelves to squatting in front of their television for that nonsense covered in gross rat's nest homeless men beards.

I'm just going to link to another article for anyone who wants to focus in on the details of what he actually said but to me, the issue boils down to him speaking publicly in a gross and inappropriate way under the guise of just "speakin' the trooth" and demonstrated himself to be drastically ignorant of the life experience of gay people and black people in America while posturing himself under a self-righteous mask of Christian love.

Now it seems to me that people are going utterly and ridiculously insane over this without using reason or rationality at all.  On the left side of the spectrum, A&E is being cheered on and even being encouraged to go further and actually fire Phil from the show (which makes no logical sense as there will not be a DUCK DYNASTY without him).  Those on the right side of the spectrum want to attach themselves to him as their personal representative who is being unfairly punished for speaking forth the truth of their Christian beliefs.

The bottom line is simply that this guy is a celebrity and he works for A&E.  When he spoke up publicly like that in the way that he did and without the benefit of the DUCK DYNASTY editors around to cut and bleep his words, then he reflected back on his employer in an embarrassing (and potentially harmful to the ratings and marketing) way.  So, they punished him. 

This is not a free speech issue. The government is not constraining his speech here and A&E is not discriminating against him because of his beliefs.  He is being punished for publicly embarrassing his employer, who depends on the public consumption of their broadcast, with politically incorrect and plain stupid comments.  And this is not something that is unique to conservative Christians speaking their mind.  This is all about idiots speaking out publicly in such a way that embarrasses their employers.  It happens to Christians and non-Christians.  Without even hitting the Internet I could rattle off 10 similar instances of some media personality who mouthed off publicly and got in trouble or fired by his employer and none of them were for being Christian and all of them were for being inappropriate and stupid.


In 2007, radio/tv personality Don Imus was fired by CBS for an off-the-cuff racially insensitive remark.


Earlier in 2013, author Orson Scott Card was fired by DC Comics from a SUPERMAN comic he was scheduled to write.  The reason was because of his outspoken anti-Gay statements and efforts in opposition to Gay Marriage.


Earlier this month, broadcaster Martin Bashir "resigned" from MSNBC after embarrassing the company by saying on-air that "Someone should shit in Sarah Palin's mouth."


In 2010, broadcaster Juan Williams was fired from National Public Radio because of comments about Muslims he made on the O'REILLY FACTOR that were deemed by NPR to be inappropriate.


In 2012, commentator Pat Buchanan was fired from MSNBC for statements he made in a book that they believed were bigoted in racial, ethnic, and gender-related ways.


In 2012, Washington Bureau Chief David Chalian, was fired by Yahoo News over a hot-mic moment capturing him uttering a racially offensive remark.


In 1988, broadcaster Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder was fired by CBS for some racially insensitive and ignorant statements he made in an interview on a local station.


In 2003, singer Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks made some politically charged anti-Pres. George Bush statements during a concert in England. The negative backlash resulted in their tour sponsor Lipton pulling their sponsorship.


In 2011, actor Charlie Sheen was fired from the TWO AND A HALF MEN tv show because of his self-destructive public behavior and belligerent statements about his employer.


In 2003, MSNBC fired broadcaster Michael Savage after he made hateful anti-Gay statements on his show in an angry response to a caller.

So, yeah, I'm sure there's more if I wanted to start digging.  The point is, this is a business decision that has absolutely nothing to do with persecuting Christians and everything to do with punishing an employee who said stupid and insensitive things that embarrassed his employer.  Don't turn it into something it is not.