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The Invisible Man in the Chair

wheelchair

Let’s go to the Botanical Garden in Toledo, I tell my chauffeur. I want to photograph the spring flowers.

The sun is shining, the air is cool, a perfect day.

The car is loaded: camera, tripod, cane, and wheelchair. All the necessary tools of an aging crippled photographer.

Are you sure you want to push my fat ass around, I ask my chauffeur. And just like every other time I ask this question, she smiles and says yes.

The Toledo Botanical Garden is 50 miles or so from home. We arrive around 4 PM. Several hours of great lighting left, I tell myself. We pull into the parking lot, finding it full cars, limousines, and small buses. It’s prom night and hundreds of area high school student are at the Garden to get their photograph taken. They are dressed in ill-fitting dresses and tuxes, each trying to outdo the other on their special night.

We finally find a parking spot. Actually, we make a parking spot where there isn’t one.  I ask my chauffeur, are you sure you want to do this? Like always, she smiles and said yes.

The wheelchair is unloaded and I am soon being wheeled along the paved walkways. I made sure before we left home  that the walkways were wheelchair accessible. As we quickly find out, their idea of accessible is very different from ours. From potholes to broken cement to hoses stretching across the walkways, my chauffeur has great difficulty navigating. I hear her breathing become more labored. I turn to her and say, we can go if you want to. And just like every other time I ask this question, she smiles and says no. She knows, thanks to unrelenting pain, I rarely leave home. She wants me to have a good time.

Hundreds of high school students are gathered in groups throughout the Garden. Avoid obstructions, I tell myself. Go this way, avoid the crowd. But, no matter how we try to avoid the clustered students, we eventually are forced to stop and wait for them to move so we can pass.

The invisible man, that is what I am to these students. They stand towering above me and my slumping body. We wait, hoping they will notice we can’t get by them. Few pay attention to the man in the wheelchair. Don’t get upset, I tell myself. They will move.

As we come up one of the walkways, I notice a large group of students standing on the walkway. I say to my chauffeur, let’s go home. She replies, no, they will move. As we close in on the group many of the students move allowing the Moses in the wheelchair to part the Red Sea. One student refuses to move. His girl turns to him and says, hey let the guy go by. He looks at me with eyes I have encountered many times before and moves just enough to let me get by. His girl is none to happy with him. With anger in her eyes, she pushes her man and tells him MOVE! Put in his place, the towering student complies and moves so I can pass by.

Such is life in the chair. I think everyone, healthy or not, should spend some time in the chair. Believe me, the world looks completely different from the seat of the chair. Simple things like navigating the grocery store become an insurmountable task. Are people callous or indifferent to the handicapped? Sometimes, but most people have no frame of reference for understanding the challenges of having to use a wheelchair. (or a cane) They can walk and move at will. Any obstacle can be moved or navigated around. For the  person in the chair, obstacles that are nothing for a healthy person, become a source of frustration.

I do my best to avoid crowds when I must use my wheelchair. But even then, at three in the morning at the local Meijer, shelf stockers often make the aisles impassable. They have a job to do, but I’d sure like to buy some groceries. I’ve concluded that there is no good time to go shopping. I must mentally prepare myself for the indifference of others. I must grit my teeth and ignore the pain inflicted on me by thoughtless shoppers. I think, someday, they will be where I am and then they will understand.  For now, I am just the invisible man in the chair.

Church Dinners: I’ll Have a Side of Botulism with my Chicken

church potluck

The First Church of Poo Potluck Dinner

Having spent 50 years in the Christian church, it is safe to say that I have eaten at a lot of church dinners and potlucks. Hundreds of them, I suppose. Churches are notorious for poor food handling practices at church dinners. A recent botulism outbreak at Cross Pointe Freewill Baptist Church in Lancaster, Ohio provides a good example of this. According to WCPO: (link no longer active)

 Heath officials said Wednesday they are working to determine which food from a church potluck might have caused a suspected botulism outbreak that left one person dead and 23 others sick.

Doctors and officials said at a news conference Wednesday that health workers are interviewing those who attended the Sunday potluck at Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church in Lancaster to determine what might have caused the outbreak. Lancaster is about two hours east of Cincinnati.

Fairfield Medical Center announced Tuesday that one woman had died of the suspected illness and at least 18 were sickened. The number of ill rose to 23 Wednesday.

Dr. Mark Aebi with Fairfield County Health said health officials are collecting samples from the church’s trash bin for leads. They’re also going into homes to test samples of homemade canned items that were used for some of the dishes at the potluck…

…Doctors are also confident the illness is specific to those who attended the potluck, not a communitywide outbreak.

“Every person that we’ve seen was at this potluck,” Murry said.

About 50 to 60 people attended the potluck. Doctors said those who attended the event but have not displayed symptoms should be watched closely for the next 10 days…

One dead and twenty-three sick. Since God is the giver and taker of life, he must be upset over Sister Maybelle bringing a new casserole instead of God’s favorite green bean, mushroom soup, fake onion rings on top casserole. I am not making light of this tragedy, but its irony is not lost one me. A sovereign God kills a faithful, church going women, using poison as the means of death.

I learned early on, thanks to a background in restaurant management, to avoid most of the food at a church dinner. Since I visited in the homes of every church member, I knew how sanitary their home was. I’ve known some real pigs in my time. I wouldn’t eat food cooked by them even if I hadn’t eaten in a week.

One woman, by far the grossest church member I ever pastored, would bring dishes to church dinners that no one would eat. Finally, she started bring unopened processed goods like potato chips and cookies. One time, this woman gave a traveling Evangelist a 10# bag of potatoes. A few days later, the Evangelist spotted several cockroaches in their pristine travel trailer. When they told me who gave them the potatoes, I laughed, knowing exactly where the roaches came from. This particular family lived in squalor. The house was infested with roaches. You could literally see them crawling on the walls, furniture, and kitchen counter. From stem to stern, the house was littered with unwashed clothing and trash. The wringer washer, which they never used to wash clothing,  was filled with dirty dishes. When they needed something to wear, they would just grab something off the floor and put it on.

As a young, naïve pastor, I had a sincere desire to help this family improve their living standard. I talked a group of church women into cleaning up their home. I think seven women volunteered to help. In one day, they hauled dozens of large trash bags out of the home, stacking the bags in the back yard. After they were done for the day, they gave me a full report of what they had seen. As bad as I thought the house was, it was even worse. After the women were done for the day, I drove by the house. I was curious to see Mount TrashMore. As I slowly drove by the home, I noticed the couple was going through the bags and carrying stuff back into the house. When one church woman pleaded with me, please preacher, don’t make us go back to that house, I told her that no one had to go back. (not that I think I could have successfully made them go back)

In 2005, I was the guest speaker for a Valentines Banquet at a pastor friend’s church. Church members had made various dishes and desserts for the meal that followed my sermon. I noticed that the food had sat out for a long time, cooling well below a safe temperature. I carefully chose foods I knew wouldn’t make me sick. A few days later, this pastor called to let me know that many of people who attended the banquet came down with the flu. He wanted to know if I was was sick. Of course not. I have enough sense not to eat lukewarm food and rood temperatures dishes that should have been refrigerated.The flu they were experiencing was actually a visitation from the food poisoning God.

Our family, for a short time, attended a Southern Baptist church in Michigan. This church was quite dysfunctional. The aged pastor refused to make any decision that the church did not first vote to approve. When Polly and I offered to give the church a new refrigerator, the pastor refused to say YES until the church had voted on it. Fortunately, the church accepted our donation, replacing an antiquated, unsafe refrigerator with a newer one.

The church building had a horrific smell in the kitchen. No one seemed to care about the smell, so I decided I would track down the causel. I determined that the smell was emanating from the stove. Every time I turned on the stove the smell got worse. I tore the stove apart and found that a mouse had been electrocuted and was slowly decomposing. Every time someone turned on the stove they were re-cooking the mouse carcass. I scraped the mouse off the electrical connection and threw away some of the stove’s insulation. Bingo, no more smell.

This was the same church where I saw the pastor’s wife use her homemade grape juice for communion. The first time I took a sip, I realized that her home canned juice had fermented. I later threw out the grape juice and replaced it with the grape juice approved by Baptists everywhere, Welch’s grape juice. This church had a fellowship dinner once a month. I noticed that the pastor’s wife always brought a ham. She would use a particular knife to carve the ham and, I kid you not, wrap the knife in foil and put it in the fridge for later use. I am not talking later use as in an hour later. She used the same dirty knife month after month.

In one church, we had a women who loved to “bless” us with home canned goods. She’d bring us canned goods, including canned deer meat, that had been in her cellar for years. While we always graciously accepted the food, once she left our home we threw the food away. As avid canners, Polly and I know the importance of following strict food safety procedures. We also know that it is a bad idea to eat food that was canned five years ago. Often, when people gave us food from their cellar, it wasn’t so much  hey let’s help out the preacher and his big family  as it was getting rid of excess canned goods. I can’t begin to tell you how many times a church member gave our family food with an expired use by date. They wouldn’t eat it, but it should be good enough for the preacher’s kids, right?

I have a lot of stories I could tell, but these I have told should go a long way in helping readers understand my aversion to church dinners. I passed this aversion on to my children. Whether it is a church dinner, family dinner, or a community supper, unless the food is hot I won’t touch it. I’ve taken too many food safety classes, knowing that lukewarm food can be deadly. I also want to know who made the dish. If Polly, my mother in law, or one of my children made the dish, I am comfortable with eating it. Hundreds of church dinners and viewing poor food safety has turned me into a food snob. I don’t outwardly show my snobbery. Usually, I make an excuse for why I can’t eat this or that. This excuse making has served me well and kept me out the bathroom.

I am sure my children will laugh as they read this post. They fondly remember their father walking along the dinner line with their mother and me asking with a whispered voice, who made this? I have one son that will eat anything put in front of him. The rest of my children have, to some degree, their father’s food phobia. My next to oldest son is a great cook, often rivaling his mother’s gourmet cooking. Years ago, he worked for Burger King. Like me, he has taken food safety classes. He is very picky about what he will eat.

Food that is properly cooked to the correct temperature and served hot will rarely cause food poisoning. The same goes for refrigerated food. Both our freezer and refrigerator have thermometers. I make sure our food is kept at a safe temperature. My kids know that after a family dinner is over  Dad is the first one to the kitchen, quickly putting away the food. Call it a phobia or just being cautious, I will not eat food that has not been handled properly. More than once I have called the heath department and reported restaurants who were engaging in improper food safety practices.

I could write another post on the gross, sickening things I’ve seen in the restaurants I managed, but I will save that for another day. Well, let me give you one. Bruce asks, Hey Bob, how long has the chicken been sitting in an uncovered pan in the walk-in?  Bob replies, oh about three weeks. Yeah…this restaurant was so dirty that I quit the job after one day. Good paying job, but I told the area supervisor that the store would have to be closed down for several days so I could properly clean it. They weren’t going to do that…there’s money to be made, even if it puts the customer at risk.

Should a Christian Attend a Same-Sex Wedding?

same sex marriage 3

As the U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage looms on the horizon, Evangelicals have taken to asking and answering the question, should a Christian attend a same-sex marriage?   Here’s what  Bryan Fischer, chief shit-stirrer for the American Family Association (AFA), had to say:

Should Christians Go to a Gay Wedding?

The short answer is “No.”

…Why should a Christian politely decline to attend a homosexual wedding? For exactly the same reason a Christian baker should politely decline to bake a gay wedding cake. It sends a message of affirmation for something God has plainly condemned.

A wedding is a celebration. Guests are there to rejoice with and congratulate the couple. Their presence represents approval.

Approving of homosexual “marriage” in any way, shape or form is one thing no sincerely devoted follower of Christ can do. This is simply because a homosexual “marriage” is based on a sex act the Bible uniformly condemns from beginning to end as immoral, unnatural and unhealthy.

Homosexual “marriage” is a sham and a counterfeit. In reality, there is no such thing as a homosexual “marriage,” since God has defined marriage from the dawn of time as the union of one man and one woman. Jesus reaffirmed God’s definition of marriage with words that came from his own lips during his incarnation.

You can call a homosexual union a “marriage” if you choose, you can even write it into law, the Supreme Court can even tyrannically impose it on an entire nation, but calling it a “marriage” doesn’t make it one…

…The research done by the CDC – not a part of the vast, right-wing conspiracy – has plainly shown that homosexual behavior among men is a greater risk to human health even than intravenous drug abuse. (Roughly 65% of all males who have even been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS contracted it through having sex with other men, while 25% contracted through IV drug use.)

To use a stark but appropriate parallel, ask yourself this question: if a friend decided to open up a shooter’s shop, a drug den where folks could go and inject themselves in a warm, inviting atmosphere, could you attend the open house and celebrate the grand opening?

(One can understand that a parent might attend a same-sex ceremony in an effort to retain some relational connection with a much-loved but wayward child. But a parent should only do that after first communicating that attendance should not be read as approval.)

Is a refusal to attend a same-sex wedding of a friend or family member an act of hate? No, on the contrary it is an act of love. Genuine compassion says, “I love you too much to give my approval to behavior that will damage you in body, soul and spirit. It is because I love you that I cannot come.”

Sometimes love means we must say “No.” And saying “No” to attending a gay “wedding” is one of those times.

First it was wedding cake, now it is the ceremony. Evangelicals continue to find various ways to frame their objection to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, hiding the fact that the real issue is their hypocrisy, bigotry, and homophobia.

Consider that most of the heterosexual couples who walk down the aisle of an Evangelical church are not virgins. The Bible has a lot to say about fornication, yet I don’t see Evangelicals boycotting heterosexual marriage ceremonies. Divorced church members, having met a wonderful Christian person, have marriage ceremonies at the local Evangelical church, yet I don’t see Evangelicals boycotting these marriage ceremonies. Surely, they know what the Bible says about divorce? Many of these remarrying divorcees, according to the Bible anyway, are adulterers. Not only are they living in sin, the Bible says such people will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The truth is, there is one sin above all sins in the Evangelical church and that is the sin of homosexuality. In the eyes of people like Bryan Fischer, homosexuals are unsaved, vile sinners who, according to Romans 1, have been given over to a reprobate mind. There is, in their mind, no such thing as a Christian homosexual.

What is it that makes homosexuality a sin? Surely it can’t be same-sex attraction? I think the Bible is clear that God judges us on our actions not our desires and thoughts. If the homosexual is judged a sinner just because they admit they are attracted to the same-sex, wouldn’t any Evangelical who has a weakness for donuts be considered a glutton because they walk down the snack and pastry aisle and long to feast on pastries? Even though they refrain from actually giving in to their donut desire, are they a glutton just because they admit they have a love for pastries? I know, silly, but this is the logic being used by those Evangelicals who, because of a person’s admitted desire, determine the homosexual is a sinner.

What makes one a fornicator or an adulterer? Most Evangelicals would say, the illicit sex act. And I think that this is THE issue for many Evangelicals; the very thought of a same-sex couple having sex disgusts them. Generally, the disgust is greater for same-sex male couples than it is for same-sex female couples. Why is this?

Heterosexual Evangelical men have a hard time understanding two men having sex, whereas two or more women having sex is their secret fantasy. This reflects the hypocrisy of the Christian culture when it comes to sex in general. Let a male school teacher have sex with a sixteen year old student and the teacher is charged with statutory rape. Yet, when a 16-year-old boy has sex with a female school teacher, it is often considered every teenage boy’s dream.  I know it was mine years ago when I had a hot student teacher. When she taught, she had every boys attention.

Male homosexuals tend to have sex one of two ways: orally or anally. If the Evangelical says that it is the sex act that makes one a reprobate homosexual, then they have a real problem on their hands. Heterosexual couples also have oral and anal sex. Are they sinning against God? Some churches and pastors, seeing this as a glaring contradiction, consider anal and oral sex a sin. According to them, God gave man a penis and woman a vagina; one meant to be inserted in the other.

Bryan Fischer, like many of his ilk, argues that homosexual sex puts a person a greater risk health-wise. However, couldn’t that be said of most any human behavior? I don’t see Fischer decrying overeating at church picnics. Surely, he knows that overeating can result in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, right?  Far more Evangelicals die of these diseases than homosexuals with HIV. The same goes for sexually transmitted diseases. Far more Evangelicals get STD’s than do homosexuals or same-sex couples. Why no outrage about the Christian church’s STD crisis?

An Evangelicals refusal to attend a gay friend or family members same-sex marriage has nothing to do with standing firm on the Word of God. As I have shown in this post, Evangelicals routinely ignore sinful behaviors among their own. The are the textbook definition of a hypocrite. The only reason an Evangelical refuses to attend a same-sex marriage is because they are a hateful bigot. Going to the wedding is not going to cause God to strike the Evangelical dead. Western civilization will not collapse if they attend a same-sex wedding. The Evangelical doesn’t have to change their beliefs in order to attend. Outside of the ceremonial kiss, there is nothing in a same-sex marriage that is different from a heterosexual wedding.

The Evangelical church has a huge PR problem on its hands. Their opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and birth control have presented the American public with a picture of hate. Ask the non-Evangelical what they think of Evangelicalism and they will likely say that Evangelicals are judgmental and hateful. If the goal is to win people to Jesus and increase their numbers, Evangelicals are failing miserably. As our culture continues to evolve on issues like homosexuality, Evangelicals are relegated to the fringe, a place usually reserved for nut jobs and cults. Is this really how Evangelicals want to be perceived? If not, then quit with all the whining about same-sex marriage. Yes, the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, but Evangelicals are capable of looking past a variety of sins in order to show love and support to their non-Christian family and friends.

One Million Moms Offended Over Old Woman Flashing Her Husband in Taco Bell Commercial

taco bell

Have you seen the new Taco Bell commercial featuring an old couple sitting in a car eating Taco Bell’s newest addition to their menu, the Chipolte Chickstar? If not: (video no longer available)

As a man who has been married almost 37 years, I found the commercial to be quite funny. Unfortunately, sexually frustrated Monica Cole and her One Millon Moms (OMM) horde did not. In today’s OMM newsletter, Cole wrote:

Taco Bell is following a trend in crude commercials. While a few fast food restaurants are cleaning up their ads, Taco Bell decided to air a new ad named “Flash” to advertise Chickstars.

The ad shows an elderly couple eating Chickstars in their car when the woman lifts up her shirt, implying she is showing her bare chest to the man. Showing a female flashing a man during a television commercial is completely inappropriate. This act has nothing to do with the food product.

Even if the couple is supposed to be married, this ad is in poor taste. It would be something children would duplicate. Everyone knows children repeat what they see. This disgusting advertisement is airing during prime time when children are likely watching.

Ah yes, coming soon to a neighborhood near you, an outbreak of young girls flashing boys. Does Cole really think that a thirty-second Taco Bell commercial will cause young girls to lift up their shirt and expose themselves? I thought girls had to have a cellphone to do that?  Doesn’t she know that girls usually wait to Mardi Gras to do act in such a decadent, immoral way. Why, if this commercial isn’t immediately taken off the air, soon America will be flooded with Girls Gone Wild videos of young children running around half-naked. In my generation these were called home movies.

As always, Monica Cole and One Million Moms has provided free advertising for a major corporation. OMM members will dutifully express their outrage in letters to Taco Bell and in a few weeks there will be some other offense to wage war against. And the rest of us will continue to mock and ridicule their petty, puritanical look at the world.

As a normal heterosexual male, I’d love for my wife to flash me in a Taco Bell parking lot. Or a McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Jack in the Box, or Carl Jr, parking lot. As Jon Stewart would say, DAMN YOU Taco Bell. Thanks to your commercial, all I can think of is my wife flashing me.

Jesus Loves the Little Children, All the Children of the World

jesus loves the little children

Snark and humor ahead

For those of us who grew up in the Evangelical church, we likely sang Jesus Loves the Little Children in Sunday school or junior church. The song goes something like this:

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red & yellow,black & white
they’re precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

Jesus cares for all the children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus cares for the children of the world

Jesus came to save the children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus came to save the children of the world

Jesus came to save the children of the world

Did you start singing along?  Can’t get it out of your head? Sorry.

According to the Share Faith website, the original lyrics were somewhat different:

Refrain:
Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Alternate Refrain:
Jesus died for all the children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus died for all the children of the world.

Jesus calls the children dear,
Come to me and never fear,
For I love the little children of the world;
I will take you by the hand,
Lead you to the better land,
For I love the little children of the world.

Refrain

Jesus is the Shepherd true,
And He’ll always stand by you,
For He loves the little children of the world;
He’s a Savior great and strong,
And He’ll shield you from the wrong,
For He loves the little children of the world.

Refrain

I am coming, Lord, to Thee,
And Your soldier I will be,
For You love the little children of the world;
And Your cross I’ll always bear,
And for You I’ll do and dare,
For You love the little children of the world.

Refrain

Written in the late 1800’s by Christian pastor C Herbert Woolston and put to music by George F. Root, the song is one of the most popular songs in American Christianity. Conspicuously absent from the song is any mention of people with brown skin color. In the late 1800’s, the brown horde from the south had not yet invaded the United States and I suspect Woolston considered brown-skinned people a tan version of white. According to Wikipedia, Jesus Loves the Little Children is sung to Root’s 1864 Civil War tune Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! Here’s the original lyrics for Root’s tune:

First Verse:

In the prison cell I sit,
Thinking Mother dear, of you,
And our bright and happy home so far away,
And the tears they fill my eyes
Spite of all that I can do,
Tho’ I try to cheer my comrades and be gay.

Chorus:

Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching,
Cheer up comrades they will come,
And beneath the starry flag
We shall breathe the air again,
Of the freeland in our own beloved home

I suspect if this song was written today it would not include the last line of the verse ‘Tho’ I try to cheer my comrades and be gay.’ But then again, Evangelicals might want to leave the line as is. After all, since it says “be gay” it reinforces their belief that gays choose to be homosexuals.

I’ve heard a rendition of Jesus Loves the Little Children that includes brown in the race jingle, but I found that adding brown to the song made the lyrics clunky.

Calvinists can’t sing Jesus Loves the Little Children due to its heretical Arminian theology.  Perhaps they could change the song to:

Jesus died for all the elect children,
All the elect children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All the elect are precious in His sight,
Jesus died for all the elect children of the world.

To make the song more inclusive, some churches and songbooks replace the ‘Red and yellow, black and white line’ with ‘Ev’ry colour, ev’ry race, all are cover’d by His grace’. Another modern adaptation has a verse that goes like this:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Fat and skinny, short and tall,
Jesus loves them one and all,

When I was the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, the church and Pat Horner had actually gone through the Baptist Hymnal and corrected the words that were at odds with their Calvinistic theology.  ‘Rescue the perishing’ became “rescued when perishing’. We can’t have Calvinistic Christians rescuing sinners, that’s God’s job.

While Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World is sung regularly in thousands of American Evangelical and Independent Baptist churches, most of the people singing the song are white. Jesus might love red, yellow, black, brown, and white children, but Evangelicals prefer they go elsewhere to church. This is especially so in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement.

Originally, this post was meant to be about the whiteness of the Family Research Council (FRC). It morphed into something completely different, but let me finish this posts with a couple of screen shots from FRC’s staff/leadership/team page. These screenshots will visually show what the average Evangelical church looks like:

frc staff

frc leadership team

frc experts

frc team

frc team 2

Walk into the average Evangelical church and this is what you will see. If Evangelicals want to point the finger at one reason for their decline, they should point to the subtle and not so subtle racism that flourishes in its churches. While they pride themselves in being past the days of racist Bob Jones University, their churches still reflect that they are a whites-only club. Missionaries are sent overseas to evangelize the red, yellow, brown, and black, while the most segregated place in America is the local Jesus loving Evangelical, IFB, and Southern Baptist church.

Notes

The funniest music related thing that happened at Community Baptist is when a song leader who was raised on the eastern seaboard decided to sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Some church members refused to stand up and sing the song. Ah yes, the Confederacy lives on!

Yes, I am painting with broad strokes in this post. I am aware of Evangelicals attempts, in some corners of America, to become more racially inclusive. However, most churches and pastors find this hard to do since they know history clearly shows that Jesus was a white man.

Family Research Council Bulletin Insert Promoting Christian One man-One Woman Marriage

The Family Research Council (FRC), part of the hysteria wing of the Republican Party, has published a church bulletin insert (link no longer active) Evangelical churches can use this Sunday to promote Christian heterosexual, one man-one woman marriage. Tony Perkins is the president of FRC and Jerry Boykin is vice president. Need I say more?

family research council

family research council 2

 

What if Right Wingers Win the Same-Sex Marriage Battle?

 

american jesus

Evangelical, Mormon, and Catholic leaders and parachurch groups are in full-blown panic mode as the day the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage draws near. They rightly understand that if the Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage the culture war at the federal level is over. While there might be state and local battles to be won, on the federal level, the war is over.

Once gays are afforded the same civil rights and constitutional protections as the rest of us, Evangelicals will likely begin telling the faithful that we now live in a post-Christian world. Evangelicals, along with their fellow culture warriors in Catholicism and Mormonism, have lost their favored seat at the cultural table. No longer will appeals to God, the Christian Bible, the Law of God, etc. work. This is lost on those who are running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. From Ted Cruz to John Kasich to Rick Perry to Marco Rubio to well, whoever else is in the clown car, they seem oblivious to the fact that it is not 1950. Waving the U.S. flag and shouting I LOVE JESUS will not garner enough votes to put a Republican in the White House. The same white crackers, Tea Party lunatics, Patriots, and fundamentalist Christians will vote for the Republican nominee, but their ranks are literally dying, unable to attract young adults. Not only are they dying, but they remain a bastion of bigotry and racism. As the United States becomes browner,  the Republican party becomes less relevant. In time, there either will be a huge party split, with the rednecks and the Christian nation crowd starting there own party, or the current Republican Party will be forced to banish the wing nuts and broaden their tent.

Winning the same-sex battle at the federal level would be a big boon to the Republican Party. It will also embolden culture warriors, a reminder to them that God is still on their side. While it will certainly be a huge blow to liberals and supporters of same-sex marriage like myself if we lose, we will live on to fight another day. We know that we are in a generational battle for the future of the United States. Unlike the culture warrior with their five item menu, the liberal knows war must be waged on many fronts. Same-sex marriage is just one of those fronts. We must also work to:

  • Overturn Citizens-United
  • Reform voting and end gerrymandering
  • Turn back state abortion laws that are harmful to women
  • Neuter the military-industrial complex
  • Reign in the security-industrial complex
  • Provide a living wage for all
  • End the assault on evidence-based science
  • Shore up the wall of separation and church
  • Drastically reduce our global environmental footprint
  • Provide young adults with educational opportunities that do not saddle them with decades of debt
  • Rebuild infrastructure before the United States turns into one big pothole
  • End the war on drugs
  • Decriminalize and legalize marijuana use
  • Reestablish law enforcement as peacemakers
  • Empty the prisons of nonviolent offenders, especially those convicted of petty drug crimes
  • End capital punishment
  • Strip corporations of their power and influence over local, state, and federal government

The culture warriors, who overwhelmingly vote Republican, seem to have little interest in the things I’ve mentioned above. Guided by their literalistic interpretation of the Bible and the Constitution, they work to undo the social progress of the last 100 years. In their world, if women returned to the kitchen, gays to the closet, undocumented workers to the country they came from, all would be well. What they want is 1950. They want to return to the era of  McCarthy, a period of time when fundamentalist patriotism and Christianity ruled the roost. They want to return women to the days when they feared pregnancy and feared their husband. They want to return to the days when the hegemony of whites had no challenge. They want to return to the days when the United States had no equal and used its military and economic power to advance an imperialistic agenda.

For these reasons, and many others, I rarely can find common ground to work with Republicans. Their Party is overrun by nuts, cranks, corporate CEO’s, lobbyists and conspiracy theorists. While sane voices can be found on the left fringe of the Republican Party, their numbers are few and they seem unable to make their voice heard. When Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Jon Huntsman are your party’s voice of reason, you have a big problem on your hands. While I am willing to compromise and work towards a common good, I find it impossible to work with people who think that every social and political change is a threat to America, Christianity, and the American way of life. When the discussions starts with abortion is murder or America is nation chosen by God, it’s hard to find common ground. Truth is, I’d probably find more common ground in an insane asylum than I would some corners of the Republican Party.

The issues I have mentioned in this post provide readers with a glimpse into my politics and how I view the world. The aforementioned positions are not a complete list, but it does show readers the issues that I think are most important.

This post should not be taken as an endorsement of the Democratic Party. I am increasingly unhappy with Party and President Obama. Some days, I think both political parties are the same, especially when it comes to how corporations and money influence their decisions.

Same-Sex Marriage: Will God Answer the Prayers of the American Family Association?

protecting the sanctity of marriage

 Warning! You may feel nauseous after reading this.

The American Family Association (AFA) sent out a newsletter today reminding pastors and church members of the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court deliberations on same sex marriage. Here’s an excerpt from the newsletter:

As hard as it is to believe, nine people will decide if our nation will honor God and obey Him, or turn its back on the most fundamental building block of society and on God himself.

This will be the most important decision in the history of America.

I don’t have to tell you, the consequences this decision could have on people of faith is staggering. As you know, private business owners have already come under great pressure to surrender their religious liberty and provide services to same-sex marriages. It would only be a matter of time before pastors and churches would be coerced to do the same.

As Christians, we know that prayer has changed the hearts of leaders and the course of nations. Never before has the need to pray been so critical to the future of our country.

Sign the I Will Pray pledge right now and let us know you will be praying with us.

Join me and millions of others in prayer, starting today.

I thought the Supreme Court’s job was to determine the constitutionality of our laws? Evidently, AFA sees the Court as the legal wing of the Evangelical party.

same sex marriage

The AFA newsletter includes a sermon for pastors to preach this Sunday:

TWO Becoming ONE:  What a Journey!
Genesis 2:19-25

Introduction: Adrian Rogers– “Man is far superior than woman, at being a man.  Woman is far superior than man, at being a woman.”  The differences are amazing and natural.

  • Adam didn’t find a mate suitable for him when he named all the animals.
  • Beastiality (sp) is not God’s Design
  • God made a woman for Adam, not another man.
  • Homosexuality is not God’s design.
  • God made one woman for Adam, not two women.
  • Polygamy is not God’s design.

I.  The Position of Two Ephesians 5:23 “….the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the Church…”

A.  Physically (I Peter 3:7) “Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor….

  1. Men are the provider and the protector (Physically stronger)
  2. Women are the nurturers (Physically softer)

B.  Forcefulness

  1. He has more energy.  (Hare)  “Pointman” “Trailblazer”
  2. She has more durability.  (Tortoise)  “Support”  “Supply”

II.  The Disposition of the TWO Song of Solomon (3:1-4, 4:1-5)

A.  In the Relationship

  1. The man is the gardener.
  2. The woman is the nurturer.
  3. Men respond to physical sight.
  4. Women respond to romance.

B. In the Reception (of information)

  1. Men primarily use the left hemisphere of the brain, Which controls logic, reasoning, and calculation. Women use both hemispheres (right side deals with Feeling, emotion, sympathy, love, intuition.)
  2. Women are spider-web thinkers–thinking like a Radar.  Men are step-by-step thinkers–thinking like a computer.

III. The Communication of the TWO

A.  With Information

  1. Women speak in code.  (I Peter 3:7)  “understanding”
  2. Men speak in reports.

B. With Passion Eph. 5:33–“To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as Himself, and the wife is to respect her husband”

  1. The deepest need of the woman is romance. “cherished” (to be loved)
  2. The deepest need of a man is admiration. (respect)

Conclusion:

  • God made us different that He might makes us one.
  • God made both man and woman in need of a Saviour.  We are not only husband and wife, but because of the blood of Christ we can be forgiven and spiritually cleansed and because of that we can also be brother and sister in Christ.

same sex marriage 2

The newsletter also includes four prayers for churches to use. Here’s two of the prayers:

PRAYER ONE

Heavenly Father, we know that you designed marriage. You created it and you defined it as the union of one man and one woman. You are the one who said, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” As our Supreme Court deliberates over the issue of marriage, we pray that you will cause your truth about marriage to resonate in their hearts and minds. We pray that you, by your Spirit, will remind them of your truth, guide them in their thinking, and warn them of the danger of turning their backs on your eternal word.We pray that you, by your Spirit, will remind every elected official and every man, woman and child in our land of your standard for marriage. Cause us all to tremble at the thought that we might reject you and your word to our own harm. Please prompt the justices of our Supreme Court to reflect on your word and to align their ruling with your abiding truth. This we pray in the name of Jesus, amen.

PRAYER TWO

Heavenly Father, we are reminded of what your Son taught us about marriage, when he said,“He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said,‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’” We pray together that as the justices of the Supreme Court consider the issue of marriage, your Spirit will be at work to cause the words of your Son to penetrate deeply into their hearts and minds, so that their deliberations will be guided  not just by the Constitution and the law but by your abiding standards of right and wrong. Grant them a deep awareness that you and you alone are God.Our Founders sought to conform our public policy as a nation to the “laws of nature and nature’s God.” We know, Father, that man-woman marriage is prescribed by the laws of nature and even more importantly is prescribed by your eternal law. Please guide the deliberations of our Supreme Court so that they will be prompted by your Spirit to conform the law of our land to your law as our God. In the name of Jesus, amen.

As you can see, the AFA sermon and prayers are laced with fundamentalist and theocratic verbiage. It will be interesting to see how the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue of same-sex marriage. It will even be more interesting to see how Evangelicals and Catholics respond if the Court rejects their demands for biblical law and instead affirms that same-sex couples have the right to marry. Think of all the sermons that will be preached and prayers that will be prayed. If God doesn’t come through, groups like the AFA will blame the liberals on the Court, atheists, secularists, and Satan. Surely their God is bigger than all of these, yes?  Here’s what they’ll never do; they will never look inward and consider that maybe God didn’t answer their prayers because they are bigoted, hateful people who want to deny gays the same civil rights they have.

Songs of Sacrilege: I Am Going to Hell for This One by NOFX

This is the twentieth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is I Am Going to Hell for This One by NOFX, “an American punk rock band from Berkeley, California.”

Video Link

Lyrics

Jesus Christ will resurrect
He’s got his BMI royalty to collect
He’s not the white
Fragile hippie
He looks and acts more like
an indignant Ice-T

Jesus Christ is coming back
He wants to kick Mel Gibsons ass
Superstar, The Passion of
He wants his money not your love

He’s been kickin 2000 years
He’s fixed a lot sports
And drank a million beers

Some x-tasy, A thin white line
He says designer drugs
Beat the hell out of wine

Jesus Christ on vacation
Spreading massive religion
“Sex and drugs, we abstain”

He thinks Christians are insane
They don’t know love,
they know fear and moral hauteur
Scare tactics I never taught
“If you’re gonna look to me,
better get rose coloured shades,
Cuz what you see is what you get”

Songs of Sacrilege: First Baptist Bar and Grill by Tim Wilson

This is the nineteenth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is First Baptist Bar and Grill  by the late Tim Wilson, “an American stand-up comedian and country music artist, whose act combined stand-up comedy and original songs.

Video Link

Lyrics

what Pentecost Baptist was gonna do
the Sunday brimstone got so dadgum hot
it burned up a church bus in the parkin’ lot

In a panic the reverend Dr. White
called up an ex-member that hadn’t lived right
he owned Joe’s beer joint right across the fence
it’s the same Joe’s he’d preached against…

He said, “I don’t really want to be a hypocrite,
but I got a Sunday school class about to have fits.
We’re all excited about revival week,
and moved by the spirit, so to speak.

With all the souls we saved and money we spent,
we thought God told us to sell that tent…
I got a famous evangelist supposed to come
and done run out of chairs, will you loan us some?”

Joe says, “Well you can just use the whole dang place…
A-9 on the jukebox is “Amazing Grace”
I ain’t supposed to open because of them ‘blue laws’
but I’ll open tonight if it’s alright with y’all.”

Preacher said, “Well, I reckon it’d be OK,
the good Lord works in mysterious ways.
I was gonna talk about Joshua, Judges and Ruth
and I reckon I could do it from the DJ booth.”

At the First Baptist Bar and Grill
it’s the only church in the bible belt
that smells like a whiskey still…
when the sinners finish one more round,
we’ll have dinner on the ground,
then go inside and pray we don’t get killed.

The evangelist came with a well-dressed choir,
they showed up around happy hour,
looked around the joint and didn’t take it real well…
said, “The White ministry has gone to hell”

Ms. Mills that taught youth Sunday school
and two deacons in the back room shootin’ pool
were sharin’ the Lord with a Jim Beam rep
who was teachin’ Ms. Mills some line dance steps…

Reverend White was readin’ from the book of Luke
to a tall, drunk trucker about to puke
he had John 3:16 memorized
tryin’ to dry him out to get him baptized…

The evangelist yelled about the lights and the beer
said, “White, you can’t save any souls in here…
this place ain’t nothin’ but a den of sin…
ain’t the kind of place Baptists ought to be in!”

Preacher said, “Well we don’t really need y’all here
You didn’t do a very good job last year,
you only saved one sinner, that’s Todd McGuire,
the little SOB that set my church on fire!”

“Joe’s beer joint has done been revived,
only been here an hour, and I done saved five.
Sure, it’s got mirrors and a big dance floor,
but I finally found the flock God called me for.”

They’re at the First Baptist Bar and Grill
it’s the only church in the bible belt that smells like a whisky still not a stained glass window anywhere in site,
just a blood-stained floor and neon lights,
and the communion wine in here is always chilled.

We’re here every Sunday; we’re livin’ large;
We’re the only church with a cover charge.
And if you don’t like our doctrine and think we ain’t devout,
we’ll have our bouncer throw your butt out …
of the First Baptist Bar and Grill

(amen sister!)

Songs of Sacrilege: Church League Softball Fist Fight by Tim Wilson

This is the eighteenth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Church League Softball Fist Fight  by the late Tim Wilson, “an American stand-up comedian and country music artist, whose act combined stand-up comedy and original songs.”

Video Link

Lyrics

Chorus 1:
Church League, Softball, Fist Fight
Gettin washed in the blood on a Tuesday night
What would Jesus do, lord he wouldn’t do that
Knock hell outta the preacher with a softball bat

Well the swinging Sheppard’s from the Sheep of the Savoir
were tied with the sourwood church of Christ
An example of some highly unholy behavior
in a game that had already been protested twice
Something unbiblical must have been said
for them to be aimin’ heat at the minister’s head
Clockin the clergy ain’t the thing to do
But neither’s the high hard one on the 0-2

Chorus 2:
Church League, Softball, Fist Fight
A body layin’ on the hands ‘neath the left field lights
Knockin out four teeth, gettin a busted lip
Aint exactly my idea of Christian Fellership

Church League, Softball, Fist Fight
Rollin round the pitchers mound it just don’t look right
where the nice people from the church and the Sunday school class
To trade a cup of brotherhood for a can of whoop-ass

Question: Was My Deconversion Gradual or Instantaneous?

atheist dan piraro

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Suzanne asked:

What was the thing or moment where it all started to unravel horribly, the pulling the first thread away moment, when you said ‘screw all of this’ and walked away? Was it one thing or a gradual buildup of stuff?

This is a great question, one that is not easy to answer.

My story drives Evangelicals crazy, especially those who are hardcore, never change their beliefs, fundamentalists. What they see in my story is a lifetime of theological change, and this is a sure sign to them that I never had a surefooted theological foundation. After all, the Bible does say that the double minded man is unstable in all his ways.  In their mind, it’s no wonder I deconverted. Look at my ever-evolving theology.

However, I view my change of beliefs in a different light. For those of us raised in the Evangelical church, we grew up with a borrowed theology. Our theology was that of our parents, pastor, and church. When I enrolled at Midwestern Baptist College, I had a borrowed theology and when I left three years later I still had a borrowed theology. I believed what I had been taught.

Over the course of 25 years in the ministry, I diligently studied the Bible. I read over a thousand theological books and prided myself in working hard to give parishioners with exactly what the Bible taught. Over time, I encountered teachings and beliefs that were new to me, and after thoroughly studying the matter my beliefs either stayed the same or changed. Over  the years, my soteriology and eschatology changed, as did my view on inerrancy the law of God, faith vs works, and Bible translations. These new beliefs led to changes in practice. I like to think that my changing beliefs were simply an intellectual response to new information.

Over this same 25 year period my politics evolved and changed. I entered the ministry as a right-wing Republican culture warrior. I left the ministry as a progressive/liberal Democrat.  It is likely that my changing political beliefs affected how I read and interpreted the Bible.

I left the ministry in 2005 and left Christianity in 2008.  In the three years between these two events, I went back to the Bible and restudied what I believed about God, Jesus, creation, salvation, and the Bible. I read numerous books written by authors like Bart Ehrman, Robert Price, Robert Wright, Jerry Coyne, John Loftus, Rob Bell, Wendell Berry, Thomas Merton, Brian McLaren, John Shelby Spong, Henri Nouwen, Marcus Borg, Elaine Pagels, Hector Avalos, Soren Kierkegaard, John Dominic Crossan, N.T. Wright, Paul Tillich, and a number of other authors. I was doing everything I could to hang on to some sort of faith.

I went through what I call the stages of deconversion: Evangelical Christianity to Liberal/Progressive Christianity to Universalism to Agnosticism to Atheism. This path was painful, arduous, contradictory, and tiring. I spent many a day and night not only reading and studying, but having long discussions with Polly about what I had read. In November of 2008, I concluded, based on my beliefs, that I could no longer honestly call myself a Christian. Since I no longer believed the Bible was an inspired, inerrant, infallible text, nor did I believe that Jesus was God, rose again from the dead or worked miracles, there was no possible way for me to remain a Christian.  At that moment, I went from believer to unbeliever. I call this my born again atheist experience.

Evangelicals will read this post and point out what they see as a fatal flaw in my deconversion; I didn’t read any Evangelical theologians. I didn’t read any of the shallow apologetic works that are bandied about as surefire faith fixers. The reason I didn’t is because I had already read them. I can recite Christian theology, in all its forms, frontwards and backwards. Since there hasn’t been an original thought in Christianity since Moses got off the ark, I had no need of rereading Christian theological books. The few Christian authors I did read, were new authors that I hoped would tell me something I had not heard before.  I read their books in hopes of getting a new perspective on Christianity, hoping that they would knot a rope and throw it to me so I could hang on. In the end, the rope had no knot, and down the slippery slope I slid until I hit bottom.

So, my deconversion took a long time, but there was also a moment in time when I went from believer to nonbeliever.

If I had to point to one thing that most affected my deconversion,  it would be learning that the Bible was not an inspired, infallible, inerrant text. I suspect this is the case for many Evangelicals turned atheist. Bart Ehrman is a good example of this.  The belief that the Bible was a perfect text written by God and absolute truth from the hand of God himself, was the foundation of my system of belief. Remove this foundation and the whole house comes tumbling down.

One unanswered question remains; if I had started out as a progressive/liberal Christian would I have still deconverted? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. Since I have a pastor’s heart and I love help people, I might have found a home in progressive/liberal Christianity. This is one of those would of/could of/should of questions. That’s not the path I took, so here I am. Unless a deity of some sort reveals itself to us, I remain a convinced atheist.