Menu Close

Is Every Sin the Same, Regardless of What the Sin Is?

homosexuality is a sin

Christianity, especially in its fundamentalist expressions, teaches that every human is a sinner in need of redemption. Sin is the problem and Jesus is the solution. From Adam and Eve forward, we humans have faced the consequences of sin. Every problem the human race faces can be reduced to our sin against God. Calvinist. Arminian, Mormon, and Catholic, all agree that the stain of sin has ruined the human race and only the blood of Jesus can wash that stain away.

When asked if some sins are worse than other sins, Christians will likely say no. Sin is sin, in God’s eye, they say, but are they really being honest when they say this? Take David Lane, a political activist and founder of the American Renewal Project. In a recent Charisma interview, Lane stated:

“Sin is sin, whether it is homosexuality, adultery or stealing candy bars at the local 7-Eleven. God gave us the recipe in 2 Chronicles 7:14. We as Christians must understand that. He will forgive us and heal our land, but only if we humble ourselves, pray and turn back to Him. I wholeheartedly believe in prayer, and that’s what it’s going to take. Our only hope is in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

According to Lane, “homosexuality, adultery or stealing candy bars at the local 7-Eleven” are all the same in God’s eye. Really? If that is so, why haven’t I heard of any Christian outrage over adultery or stealing candy bars?  I checked out the American Renewal Project website, looking for action alerts, feature articles, or campaigns against the sin of stealing candy bars. I found none.

The truth is, Evangelicals, Mormons, and conservative Catholics, have raised the sin of homosexuality to a sin above all others. In their minds, it is the sin above all sins, the one sin that will destroy the United States and bring the judgment of God. These prophets of God, who seem to be profiting nicely off of America’s sin problem, need to stop with the “sin is sin” schtick. No one is buying it.

Look at the message of the above graphic. When’s the last time you’ve seen a graphic, read an Evangelical news article, or heard a sermon that said:  Stealing a Candy Bar is a Perversion! Repent or Burn, You Choose! I suspect your answer is never or not since Sister Judith’s Sunday school class in 1968.

I spent fifty years in the Christian church. As a child and youth, I never heard one sermon about the sin of homosexuality. Not one. In fact it was well into the 1980’s before I started hearing sermons about fags, queers, and sodomites. Why all the sermons and outrage now? Simple. Homosexuals, as a class, want the same civil protections and rights that heterosexuals have. They want equal protection under the law. They want to be treated fairly and justly. Most of all, they want to love who they want, without the government telling them they can’t.

And it is these demands that have Evangelicals, Mormons, and conservative Catholics upset. Why can’t the homos stay in the closet, they screech. Everything was fine, before THOSE PEOPLE wanted the same rights as everyone else, says the local Baptist preacher, forgetting that his ancestors made similar statements when opposing equal rights for blacks.  Fearing the gay horde, they express their outrage couched in Bible verses and pronouncements from God, but in doing so they unwittingly expose the homophobia and bigotry that lies just under the surface of much of American conservative and fundamentalist Christianity. The problem isn’t sin; it’s homophobia and bigotry. It’s preachers who are afraid to find out how many of their church members are actually gay or bat from both sides of the plate. It’s evangelists and conference speakers who are afraid that their supporters will find out that they have a man in every city. As scandal after scandal has reminded us, those who roar the loudest against a particular sin are often doing that which they condemn.

The next time some lying Evangelical like David Lane tells you “sin is sin, whether it is homosexuality, adultery or stealing candy bars at the local 7-Eleven”, ask them for proof of their claim. From my seat in the atheist pew, all I see is wild eye homophobia and bigotry and lots of candy bar thieves.

Understanding and Helping Those Who Live With Chronic Pain

garfield painRegular readers know that I live with chronic, unrelenting pain. No not Polly, the physical kind. There’s never a day that pain is not my close, personal friend. The last time I can remember a pain-free day was somewhere in the mid-1990’s. Every day, like the sun coming up in the morning, I have pain. Some days are less painful, other days are more painful, and then there are what I call the please let me die days where the pain, no matter what I swallow or do, is off the charts. From the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, I hurt. New pains come and go, often returning months or years later. Some pains move in and stay, just like an adult child who says, I just need to live here until I get back on my feet. This is my life. I accept it as it is, doing what I can, and embracing what I can’t.

Friends and family often have a hard time figuring out how to interact with me. Some avoid me, out of sight out of mind, I suppose. Some stand on the periphery of my life watching as chronic pain and illness destroy the man they love. Some dare to venture a little closer, perhaps even offering to help, but I often push them away not wanting to burden them with my problems. They have a life, I tell them, no need to be burdened with a dying old man.

Since November of last year, I’ve had to deal with new health problems that so far have doctors perplexed. First, they thought maybe it was pancreatic cancer or my gallbladder. After $25,000 of tests, procedures, and office visits, my symptoms remain unabated and the only thing I know is that I don’t know. In fact, they’ve gotten worse. For six weeks now, the left upper side of my chest/abdomen has throbbed with pain. I told my doctor that it feels like I have been hit in the ribs with an Aroldis Chapman fastball. For those who are not baseball fans, Chapman is a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. He throws the ball over 100 miles per hour.

This pain is not my lungs, and a set of back x-rays last week revealed arthritis, no shocker since I have osteoarthritis in many of my joints, but no fractures or compressed discs. Tomorrow, prior to going to the Dayton Dragons-Fort Wayne Tin Caps baseball game, I have an office visit with a colorectal doctor. The plan is for me to have a colonoscopy done as soon as possible. Sometimes,  colon cancer can cause the type of pain I am having. In the mean time, I try to deal with the pain the best I can, tasking extra medication and using moist heated pads. Since I can only sleep on my right side, this pain has turned my attempts at sleep into one long fight to find just the right spot to lie so the pain is less severe.

I know family and friends love me and want to be “there” for me, wherever “there” is. Some of the readers of this blog, dear folks who have over the years become my friends, offer up their love and support and I deeply appreciate their compassion. I know, as people watch the spectacle, they are frustrated and discouraged, knowing that this may not have a good outcome. I have resigned myself to this fact a long time ago. If not today, it will be some other day, sooner rather than later, that will be my last. Like you, I want to live until I die. While I may have moments when I contemplate the final solution, most days I try to live the best life possible.

A month or so ago, I read an wikihow.com article titled How to Understand Someone With Chronic Pain. I thought the points in the article might be helpful for my family and friends and for others who are intimately connected to someone with chronic pain. Here’s some of the points and a highlight quote from each. I encourage you to read the entire article.

Remember that being sick does not mean that the sufferer is no longer a human being.

Chronic pain sufferers spend the majority of their day in considerable pain. If one visits or lives with a chronic pain sufferer, the chronic pain sufferer may be unable to enjoy things they used to enjoy. The chronic pain sufferer remains aware, and desires to do what they used to perform. The chronic pain sufferer feels as if they are stuck inside a body in which they have little or no control. They still want to enjoy work, family, friends and leisure activities, however much pain puts that enjoyment out of reach.

Learn the code.

Chronic pain sufferers will often talk differently from people free of constant pain. A numeric pain scale is used as a quantitative measure for identification of intensity for pain so the health care providers can measure effects of treatments. The measure describes pain on a scale from 1 to 10; the 1 is “no pain at all, feel wonderful” and 10 is the “worst pain ever felt.” Do not assume the chronic pain sufferer is not experiencing pain when they say that they are fine. The chronic pain sufferer attempts to hide the pain due to lack of understanding in others.

 Recognize the difference between “happiness” and “healthy”.

When you have the flu, you probably have felt miserable. Chronic pain sufferers have experienced pain from 6 months to many years. Pain has caused them to adopt coping mechanisms that are not necessarily reflecting the real level of pain they feel.

 Listen.

The previous two steps made it clear that chronic pain sufferers can speak in code or make their pain seem lighter than the reality. The next best thing that you can do is to listen to them properly, and to make it clear that you both want to hear what they have to say and that you really have heard it. Use your listening skills to decode what they’re hiding or minimizing.

 Understand and respect the chronic pain sufferer’s physical limitations.

Being able to stand up for ten minutes doesn’t necessarily mean that the sufferer can stand up for twenty minutes, or an hour, or give you a repeat performance whenever. Just because the person managed to stand up for thirty minutes yesterday doesn’t imply that they will be able to do the same today…With chronic pain however, it is confusing to both the sufferer and the onlooker, and their ability to cope with movement can be like a yo-yo. The sufferer may not know, from day-to-day, how they are going to feel when they wake up, and each day has to be taken as it comes.

 Leave your “pep talk” for your kids and your gym buddies.

Realizing that chronic pain is variable, keep in mind that a pep talk can be aggravating and demoralizing for the chronic pain sufferer. As already noted, it’s quite possible (for many, it’s common) that one day they’re able to walk to the park and back, while the next day they’ll have trouble getting to the next room. Therefore, it’s vital that you don’t fall into the trap of saying: “But you did it before!” or “Oh, come on, I know you can do this!”

 Never use throwaway lines.

Assuming you know best by making such statements as “Ah well, that’s life, you’ll just have to deal with it”, or “You’ll get over it eventually. Until then, you’ll just have to do your best”, or worst of all, “Well, you look well enough”, etc., are lines that might make you feel done and dusted with the topic but they are both a form of distancing yourself from the person and making the sufferer feel worse and out of hope.

 Check your own patience.

If you’re impatient and want them to “just get on with it”, you risk laying a guilt trip on the person who is suffering from pain and undermining their determination to cope. They probably have the will to comply with your requests to go out and about with them but have neither the strength nor the coping capacity as a result of the pain.

 Be sensitive when suggesting medicines or alternative treatments

Some may not appreciate suggestions, and it’s not because they don’t want to get well. They may have heard of it or tried it already or some may not be ready to cope with new treatment that can create an additional burden on their already over-burdened lives. Treatments that haven’t worked carry the emotional pain of failure, which in and of itself can make the person feel even lower.

 Don’t be put off if the chronic pain sufferer seems touchy.

If that’s the appearance, it’s probably because they are. It’s not how they try to be. As a matter of fact, they try very hard to be normal. Just try to understand. They have been going through a lot. Chronic pain is hard to understand unless you have had it. It wreaks havoc on the body and the mind. It is exhausting and exasperating. Almost all the time, they do their best to cope with this, and live their lives to the best of their ability. Just accept them as they are.

 Be helpful.

The chronic pain sufferer depends a great deal on people who are not sick to support them at home or visit them when they’re too sick to go out. Sometimes they need help with shopping, cooking, or cleaning. Others may need help with their kids. They may need help getting to the doctor, or to the store. You can be their link to the “normality” of life.

The Homophobic Hysteria of Tim Wildmon and the American Family Association

gay marriage an abomination

Think for a moment about the history of the United States. Make a list of the Top Ten events in our history. My list would include:

  1. Revolutionary War
  2. Civil War
  3. World War 1
  4. World War II
  5. Civil Rights struggle
  6. Women gaining the right to vote
  7. Dropping nuclear weapons on Japan
  8. Vietnam War
  9. Watergate
  10. Assassinations of John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King

This reflects the period of history I grew up in. I could easily expand this list to a Top 25 list, and add events like The Great Depression, a black man being elected President, the various economic bubbles and collapses that have plagued our capitalistic system of economics, race riots, or the Cold War. Those of us who know the history of our Republic have no problem coming up with a long list of historic events, many of which altered our nation forever.

Tim Wildmon and the American Family Association think none of the above events are more important than the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision same-sex marriage. The Court will begin hearing arguments tomorrow and will likely render a decision sometime in June. Many of us are hopeful that the Court will rule in favor of same-sex marriage, invalidating every state marriage law that treats homosexuals as second-class citizens. It seems that the Court is leaning in that direction.

Here’s what Wildmon had to say in an action alert released today:

Tomorrow, April 28, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for and against redefining marriage in America. The very institution of God’s design for marriage as only between one man and one woman is on trial.

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’m urging you to do just one thing…Pray.

Here is a link to four prayers to help your prayer time.

Please, for the sake of our nation, Pray.

Let Wildmon’s words sink in, “This will be the most important decision in the history of America.” While I think the issue of same-sex marriage is very important and a step towards the United States becoming a fairer and more just society, if the Court rules against same-sex marriage, it’s not the end of the world. Yes, it will hurt gay friends of mine, many of whom are married. While they will be crushed over the decision, their lives will go on. The decision will let us know that we still have a lot of work to do to ensure fairness and justice for all. But, for Wildmon and other Evangelicals like him? This is the final curtain call for conservative/Evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity. This will mean that the millions of prayers uttered by anti-gay Christians to their anti-gay God will have failed. This will mean that what people like them think and believe about morality doesn’t matter, not that it should have ever mattered. If they are not uttering it now, they will afterwards: we are living in a post-Christian nation.

Even so come quickly Lord Secularism.

anti-gay marriage

Tony Miano Rejoices Over Earthquake in Nepal

tony miano
Tony Miano Preaching in the UK
Who is Tony Miano, you ask? Miano describes himself this way:

…a retired, twenty-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (1987-2007). During his time in law enforcement, Tony served as a gang investigator, field training officer, drug recognition expert, and a DUI enforcement specialist. Tony’s law enforcement experience includes three days of chaos, during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, as well as being on duty only a few miles away from the epicenter when the 1994 Northridge Earthquake devastated the greater Los Angeles area. During his career, Tony received more than 60 commendations and citations for meritorious service, arrests, criminal investigations, critical decision-making, and community service…

…From 2008 to mid-2012, Tony served as Living Waters’ Director of the Ambassadors’ Alliance, as well as the Director of Conferences and Special Projects. Tony’s service with Living Waters included the supervision of 20 Ambassador’s Academies (the ministry’s 3 1/2-day evangelism training program), conferences, State Representative system, and large-scale evangelism projects.  Tony also wrote and co-hosted almost 400 episodes of Living Waters’ live, web-based program, “On the Box, with Ray Comfort.”

Tony has authored the books “Take Up The Shield (Genesis Publishing Group, 2005) and“Should She Preach? – Biblical Evangelism for Women” (One Million Tracts, 2013).

Tony is a prolific writer, having maintained several personal blogs, as well as writing for several other ministry blogs, websites, and newsletters. Currently, Tony’s writing is featured on the Cross Encounters blog (www.CrossEncounters.us).

Tony has preached in many churches across the United States and in Canada.  He has served as the keynote speaker at several different conferences.  He is committed to expository preaching.  He frequently addresses topics such as biblical evangelism, spiritual growth and personal holiness, as well as the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Presently, Tony is serving the Lord as an itinerant preacher and open-air evangelist.

Like the banana man Ray Comfort, Miano is known for antagonizing and attacking anyone who doesn’t worship his version of the Christian God. Our paths briefly crossed paths a few years ago on Twitter. I found him to be an asshole then and he is an asshole now. I wouldn’t have been friends with him when I was a Christian street preacher. Like Comfort, Miano has a devoted flock of followers. They adore his in your face style, imagining that Jesus, Peter, James, John, and Paul were itinerant street preachers just like Brother Miano.

In a recent post titled Debating Dillahunty-A Review, Miano had this to say about atheist Matt Dillahunty:

No, I don’t hate Matt Dillahunty. I pity him. I pity him the way I pity every human being who denies the God they know exists (Romans 1:18-25). I pity Matt and people like him because the Dillahunty Delusion (an all-too-common malady) is simply a byproduct of an absurd worldview (one that searches for coherence and meaning without God), which is born out of a love of self, a love of sin, and a hatred of God (Romans 1:31-32).

I think it would be safe to say that Miano’s view of Matt is how he views all atheists.

somali child
In Tony Miano’s World, What This Child Needs is Jesus
Like many of his ilk who only care whether or not someone embraces their version of Jesus, Miano has little compassion for those who are suffering. Miana is a Calvinist, so any suffering in the world is according to God’s sovereign, unchangeable plan. No need to embrace the suffering of others. Just get them saved so they avoid the REAL suffering to come.

As many of you know, a massive earthquake hit Nepal, killing thousands and injuring thousands more. A compassionate, kind, loving human would attempt to empathize with the Nepalese and their horrific loss of life and home. Not Miano. Here’s what he had to say on Twitter:

miano twitter nepal

Most of the retweets were from people who condemned Miano’s tweet, but 96 people thought that tweet was wonderful. Some of those who clicked favorite were the same who condemned Miano’s tweet, but there were some Christians who thought Miano’s tweet reflected their view. People like Jessica Lam, Seth Dunn, and Kevin McDonald, and a host of other Christians who don’t want others to know their name. Like the raised hand and the unspoken prayer request, these Christians want Brother Miano to know that they support and approve of his tweet about Nepal.

Miano is followed by thousands of like-minded churches, parachurch ministries, and Christians. I looked in vain for one tweet that rebuked Miano. I wonder how they would respond if I tweeted this after a natural disaster leveled their home and church and killed their children:

Ha! Ha! Ha! You Christians in Toledo,Ohio got exactly what you deserved. Repent of your stupid beliefs. I hope that none of your churches are rebuilt! #mygodrulz

I can only imagine how Christians would respond to me, and rightly so. Why are Christians silent when people like Tony Miano, Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Ray Comfort, John Piper, Al Mohler, and a host of other miscreants, use the suffering and loss of others to remind them of their need to repent and believe in Jesus?

Why I Hate Jesus

american jesus 2

I don’t hate the flesh and blood Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Palestine, nor do I hate the Jesus found in the pages of the Bible. These Jesuses are relics of the past. I’ll leave it to historians to argue and debate whether these Jesuses were real or fiction. Over the centuries, Christians have created many Jesuses in their own image. This is the essence of Christianity, an ever-evolving religion bearing little resemblance to what it was even a century ago.

The Jesus I hate is the modern, Western Jesus, the American Jesus, the Jesus who has been a part of my life for almost fifty-eight years. The Jesuses of bygone eras have no power to harm me, but the modern Jesus – the Jesus of the three hundred thousand Christian churches that populate every community in America – he has the power to affect my life, hurt my family, and destroy my country.  And I, with a vengeance, hate him.

Over the years, I have had a number of people write me about how the modern Jesus was ruining their marriage. In many instances, the married couple started out in life as believers, and somewhere along the road of life one of them stopped believing. The still-believing spouse can’t or won’t understand why the other spouse no longer believes. They make it clear that Jesus is still very important to them and if forced to choose between their spouse and family, they would choose Jesus. Simply put, they love Jesus more than they love their families.

Sadly, these types of marriages usually fail. A husband or a wife simply cannot compete with Jesus. He is the perfect lover and perfect friend, one who is always there for the believing spouse. This Jesus hears the prayers of the believing spouse and answers them. This Jesus is the BFF of the believing spouse. This Jesus says to the believer, you must choose, me or your spouse. It is this Jesus I hate.

This Jesus cares nothing for the poor, the hungry, or the sick. This Jesus has no interest in poor immigrants or unwed mothers. This Jesus cares for Tim Tebow more than he does a starving girl in Ethiopia. He cares more about who wins a Grammy or ACM Award than he does poverty-stricken Africa having food and clean water. It is this Jesus I hate.

This Jesus is on the side of the culture warriors. This Jesus hates homosexuals and demands they be treated as second class citizens. This Jesus, no matter the circumstance, demands that a woman carry her fetus to term. Child of a rapist, afflicted with a serious birth defect, the product of incest or a one night stand?  It matters not. This Jesus is pro-life. Yet, this same Jesus supports the incarceration of poor young men of color, often for no other crime than trying to survive. This Jesus is so pro-life he encourages American presidents and politicians to slaughter innocent men, women, and children. This Jesus demands certain criminals be put to death by the state, even though the state has legally murdered innocent people. It is this Jesus I hate.

This Jesus drives fancy cars, has palaces and cathedrals, and followers who spare no expense to make his house the best mansion in town. This Jesus loves Rolexes, Lear jets, and expensive suits. This Jesus sees the multitude and turns his back on them, only concerned with those who say and believe “the right things.” It is this Jesus I hate.

This Jesus owns condominiums constructed just for those who believe in him. When they die, he gives them the keys. But, for the rest of humanity, billions of people, this Jesus says no keys for you. I have a special Hitler-like plan for you. To the ovens you go, only unlike the Jews, I plan to give you a special body that allows me to torture you with fire and brimstone forever. It is this Jesus I hate.

It is this Jesus who looks at Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, Deists, Universalists, Secularists, Humanists, and Skeptics, and says to them before you were born I made sure you could never be in the group that gets the condominiums when they die. This Jesus says, and it is your fault, sinner man. It is this Jesus who made sure billions of people were born into cultures that worshiped other Gods. It is this Jesus who then says it is their fault they were born at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Too bad, this Jesus says, burn forever in the Lake of Fire. It is this Jesus I hate.

This Jesus divides families, friends, communities, and nations. This Jesus is the means to an end. This Jesus is all about money, power and control. This Jesus subjugates women, tells widows it’s their fault, and ignores the cry of orphans. Everywhere one looks, this Jesus hurts, afflicts, and kills those we love. It is this Jesus I hate. What I can’t understand is why anyone loves this Jesus? Like a clown on a parade route, he throws a few candies towards those who worship him, promising them that a huge pile of candy awaits them when they die. He lets his followers hunger, thirst, and die, yet he tells them it is for their good, that he loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life. This Jesus is all talk, promising the moon and delivering a piece of gravel. Why can’t his followers see this?

Fear me, he tells his followers. I have the keys to life and death. I have the power to make you happy and I have the power to destroy your life. I have the power to take your children, health, and livelihood. I can do these things because I am the biggest, baddest Jesus ever. Fear me and oppress women, immigrants, orphans, homosexuals, and atheists. Refuse my demand and I will rain my judgment down upon your head. But, know that I love you and only want is best for you and yours. It is this Jesus I hate.

Perhaps there is a Jesus somewhere that I could respect, a Jesus who might merit my devotion. For now, all I see is a Jesus who is worthy of derision, mockery, and hate. Yes, hate. It is this Jesus I hate. When the Jesus who genuinely loves humanity and cares for the least of these shows up, let me know. In the meantime, I hate Jesus.

071316

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

 

facebook twitter youtube

Last week, I cleaned up my personal Facebook account and  inadvertently unfriended some of you. Please accept my apology for treating our friendship so carelessly. My intention was to remove those I have no meaningful interaction, not remove those who interact with me from time to time or on a regular basis. If you find that I have unfriended you, please send me a friend request again.

If you just want to FOLLOW me on Facebook, then you can LIKE my page. I post everything I write to my page and I try to respond to everyone who comments there. In fact, I’d appreciate it if readers and Facebook friends would let others know about my Facebook page. I have had recent posts read by thousands of Facebook members who have never been to this blog. While I am not a huge fan of social media, I do know that Facebook and Twitter drive a lot of traffic to this site. Like every writer, I want my wonderful, delightful, poetic prose read by one and all.

Recently, I surpassed 1,000 followers on Twitter. I am still trying to figure out how best to leverage Twitter, increase readership, and connect with readers at the same time. I have found Twitter to be a challenge, but I continue to work at being a better Twitterer. I find 140 character discussions frustrating, but I have met quite a few wonderful people on Twitter. Of course, I have also come in contact with people who remind me of jock itch.

In the near future, I plan to do some YouTube videos featuring some of my writing. I have all the necessary equipment to produce top-notch videos. I just need to carve out some time to get it done. I do worry about YouTube comments and whether I should enable them. My experience has been that YouTube comments are, the majority of the time, worthless. Is that your opinion too? If you have experience making videos, especially for YouTube, and have any expertise or advice you are willing to share with me, I’d appreciate it. I think this is an untapped resource and I want to see if I can use it to become, as the Apostle Paul said, all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.  Except, I want to save women too. 🙂

If you want to follow my YouTube channel, click here.

Bruce

Follow the Money: The American Family Association and their Support of the Gay Agenda

american family association

This post will reveal that the American Family Association supports homosexuality and same-sex marriage. It took a bit of digging and following the ever-winding Evangelical money trail, but I ended up with proof that AFA money has gone to support pro-homosexual causes. Not directly, of course, but if you follow the story I tell below, you will see that money from the homophobic AFA trickled down to two gay-friendly United Methodist churches. If you follow through to the end, you will also find out that One Million Dad’s and Mom’s are anything but, and the American Family Association is little more than a chihuahua with the bark of a doberman. By the end of this post, you also will be schooled in how Evangelical groups do business, all on the taxpayer’s dime.

The American Family Association (AFA) was started in 1976 by United Methodist pastor Don Wildmon. His son Tim currently runs the operation. AFA  is a fundamentalist parachurch organization, one of the many Evangelical groups at the heart of the American culture war. One Million Moms and One Million Dads are part of the grassroots outrage wing of the AFA. People often assume that One Million Moms and One Million Dads actually each have at least one million members. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is important to understand this because their group names give the illusion that they represent a large number of Americans. They don’t, as the following graphics will clearly show:

One Million Moms Facebook

one million moms facebook
Facebook Followers for One Million Moms April 25, 2015

One Million Moms Twitter

one million moms twitter
Twitter Followers One Million Moms  April 25, 2015

One Million Dads Facebook

one million dads facebook
Facebook Followers One Million Dads  April 25, 2015

One Million Dads Twitter

one million dads twitter
Twitter Followers One Million Dads April 25, 2015

American Family Association Facebook

afa facebook
Facebook Followers American Family Association April 25, 2015

In jest, I had to show that my friend Vyckie Garrison is the ONLY one of my Facebook friends who “like” the American Family Association. 🙂

American Family Association Twitter

afa twitter
Twitter Followers American Family Association April 25, 2015

As you can see, One Million Moms, One Million Dads, and the American Family Association are anything but what their names suggest.

In 2012, the American Family Association had $20,235,585 in income. They spent $958,609 on fundraising. They paid out $8,350,108 on salaries and compensation. They paid out $2,021,882 in office expenses.  Here’s some of their other expenses:

  • Radio Network $6,919,651
  • TV Network $586,960
  • President Tim Wildmon salary $175,063
  • Executive Vice President Casey Smith salary $106,989
  • Chief Financial Officer Keith Gann salary $70,742
  • Vice President Human Resources William Hayden Salary $70,738
  • Chairman Emeritus Don Wildmon salary $136,296
  • Director Dan Celia salary $64,083
  • Pension Contributions $297,599
  • Employee Benefits $1,426,538 (note: to keep reported salaries down, compensation is hidden by calling it a benefit)
  • Advertising $647,658
  • Legal Fees $160,383
  • Products and Premiums $1,855,975 (note:giveaways and stuff for sale)
  • Public Education $1,855,975
  • Utilities $1,039,103
  • Miscellaneous Expenses $3,948,827 (note: this is also known as the ministry slush fund)

According to current Federal law, the American Family Association is considered a public charity, a 501c3 non-profit.  The following chart shows the amount of money spent on lobbying from 2009 through 2012:

afa lobbying expenses
American Family Association Lobbying Expenses from 2012 Form 990

These numbers reflect what I call the Oh My God, there’s a Kenyan born socialist nigger in the White House, also known as Barack Obama, effect. Notice the huge bump in lobbying expenditures in 2011 and 2012.

All statistics taken from 2012 American Family Association 990 Form  (link no longer active)

The American Family Association publishes a monthly magazine titled The AFA Journal. Total expenditures claimed for this endeavor? $7,273,028. Here’s where we can get a true number of how many people support the hysteria, I mean the work, of AFA. Total average subscribers for 2012? 175,000. Now you understand why the social media numbers of One Million Moms and One Million Dads is so pathetic,

As can be seen by what I have presented here, most of AFA’s money goes for salaries/benefits and radio/TV/magazine. Should U.S. taxpayers be supporting a “charitable” institution like the American Family Association? Because, that is EXACTLY what we are doing. Excluding payroll taxes, AFA, in 2012, paid $154,237 in taxes and licenses and $33,441 in use tax. That’s it. On over $20,000,000 in income, AFA paid a grand total $187,678 in taxes. Since they are a “charity”, almost all of their income is tax exempt.

Since several of the AFA staff are ordained ministers, they are eligible for the clergy housing allowance. In 2012, AFA paid out $84,710 in income tax exempt housing allowance. If the recipients are exempt from Social Security, as many clergy are, they didn’t have to pay social security taxes either.

This post reflects why I think all religious institutions should be required to pay the same taxes as businesses do. As it stands now, U.S taxpayers are funding the AFA  and every other American religious sect and parachurch organization. What is especially egregious about the American Family Association is that almost all of their money goes to promote and advance their bigoted anti-abortion, anti-homosexual, anti-same-sex marriage, anti-secular agenda. Lest you doubt their objective, here’s their Mission Statement: (link no longer active)

The mission of the American Family Association is to inform, equip, and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture, and give aid to the church here and abroad in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission.

PHILOSOPHICAL STATEMENT
The American Family Association believes that God has communicated absolute truth to mankind, and that all people are subject to the authority of God’s Word at all times. Therefore AFA believes that a culture based on biblical truth best serves the well-being of our nation and our families, in accordance with the vision of our founding documents; and that personal transformation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest agent of biblical change in any culture.

ACTION STATEMENT
The American Family Association acts to:

  • restrain evil by exposing the works of darkness
  • promote virtue by upholding in culture that which is right, true and good according to Scripture
  • convince individuals of sin and challenge them to seek Christ’s grace and forgiveness
  • motivate people to take a stand on cultural and moral issues at the local, state and national level
  • encourage Christians to bear witness to the love of Jesus Christ as they live their lives before the world

To that end, AFA spurs activism directed to:

  • Preservation of Marriage and the Family
  • Decency and Morality
  • Sanctity of Human Life
  • Stewardship
  • Media Integrity

We believe in holding accountable companies that sponsor programs attacking traditional family values. We also believe in commending those companies that act responsibly regarding programs they support.

And last, but not least, the American Family Association sells coffee beans. Yes sir, “When you purchase Thomas Street Coffee, you’re supporting efforts to proclaim the gospel of Christ in countries where 40% of unreached people groups live, including Ethiopia, Uganda, Honduras, Indonesia, and other coffee growing regions. ” (AFA reference)

In 2012, the American Family Association took in over $20,000,000. On their Thomas Street Coffee page, this is what Tim Wildmon and AFA want you to know; by buying their super-duper, God blessed coffee:

You’re also contributing to efforts to build schools, libraries, medical facilities, and clean water wells; as well as underwriting women’s literacy, agricultural education, and micro-finance programs.

Finally, your support of Thomas Street Coffee supports our parent organization, American Family Association, whose goal is to restore a strong sense of biblical values to American public life.

Based on AFA’s 2012 990 form, I couldn’t find any money going for “schools, libraries, medical facilities, and clean water wells; as well as underwriting women’s literacy, agricultural education, and micro-finance programs.” Imagine if the Wildmon’s and AFA stopped being bigots and actually used their income to help the least of these? You know, like Jesus taught?

AFA sells coffee procured from a group called Dominion Trading, an Evangelical coffee business started by Mike Stemm & Craig Meredith. Dominion was started to “help” Evangelical Ethiopian farmers:

In 2001, two Christian, American businessmen, & Craig Meredith, were asked by the Kale Heywot Church, the largest evangelical denomination in Ethiopia with nearly 7.5 million members, to come to Ethiopia to assess and make recommendations how their people could become self-sufficient and independent of foreign aid.  During that trip, God changed the hearts and priorities of these two men, and the genesis for Dominion Trading, LLC. and a unique model for missions was realized.

Dominion Trading began developing extensive relationships with the Ethiopian coffee farmers to establish trust and mutual understanding.  From that came collaboration, a focus on coffee quality, and the process to provide direct trade specialty coffee to the United States on a consistent basis.  This commitment has created long-term sustainability for many Ethiopian coffee farmers.  Additionally, a unique “relational bridge” has been built between the American coffee consumer, who enjoys some of the world’s finest coffee, and the Ethiopian farmer who produces the coffee.

Net profits from Dominion Trading’s coffee sales go to fund New Covenant Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit corporation. According to the Thomas Street Coffee website (website no longer active):

Net income from Dominion Trading’s green and roasted coffee sales in the United States is donated to their ministry partner, New Covenant Foundation (NCF).  NCF is a registered 501c3, whose mission is to 1) proclaim Jesus Christ through indigenous people, 2) to break the bonds of dependency on foreign aid by empowering individuals and communities to be self-supportive and 3) to create mutual partnerships with people that enables long-term transformation of their economy, their environment and their community.

New Covenant’s primary strategy and focus in Ethiopia is 1) supporting indigenous church planters who to-date have lead more than 15,000 people to Christ and planted more than 120 new churches and 2) providing community health education (physical, mental and spiritual)  in rural areas.  To-date, nearly 800,000 people in 500 communities, in the coffee growing regions of Sidamo and Yirgacheffe, have received the training resulting in nearly a 50% reduction in infant mortality and malnutrition.   Additional programs for people with disabilities and women are being implemented.   Another similar project is underway in Western Ethiopia to reach 2.5 million people in 1,500 communities with this life saving and transforming training.

This statement would lead most people to think that the net proceeds from Dominion Trading’s coffee is going to do many wonderful things for poor, needy Ethiopians.  However, their 2011-2013 Federal Form 990 filings tell a different story.

New Covenant Foundation 2011 990 Form

New Covenant Foundation 2012 990 Form

New Covenant Foundation 2013 990 Form

(You will have to sign up for a FREE Guidestar account in order to look at these forms. If you do any writing or research on Evangelical “ministries”, it is well worth having an account.)

Based on the 990 filings of New Covenant Foundation, the overwhelming majority of the money that was spent went to people and religious organizations in the United States!  I say, “that was spent” because at the 2013 filing deadline, New Covenant Foundation had:

  • no cash on hand
  • $707,745 savings, short term investments
  • $1,807,950 investments (up from $1,044,896 at the start of 2013)

Does all of this shock you? It shouldn’t. All the above is standard operating procedure for American Evangelical churches, institutions, and parachurch organizations. Here’s the kicker, one that should cause every reader to be rolling on the floor laughing. Let me set the background for this joke.

You’d agree that the American Family Association, One Million Moms, and One Million Dads are vehemently against homosexuality and same-sex marriage? Of course you would.

You’d agree that these groups spend a significant amount of time going after corporations, businesses, and media outlets that support the “evil” gay agenda? Of course you would.

Based on what I shared above, you’d agree that AFA buys the coffee they sell under the Thomas Street Coffee brand name from Dominion Trading who then donates its net profits to New Covenant Foundation? Of course you would.

Then please, oh please, explain to me New Covenant Foundation giving money to Osterville United Methodist Church in Osterville, Massachusetts, a church, drum roll please, that:

Reconciling congregations are United Methodist Churches that publicly welcome all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, to participate fully in the life of the community. Our statement of reconciliation says, “All persons are recipients of God’s love and grace. We share a faith in Jesus Christ and a commitment in Christianity, and this is our bond. In the spirit of God’s love and witnessing Jesus Christ’s life in action, our church welcomes all people.  We acknowledge the diversity of God’s universe and open our hearts as Christ loved His children.  Whatever your sexual orientation is, we hope you will visit us and experience the warmth of our welcoming community.

That’s right, the American Family Association buys coffee from Covenant Trading who gives its net profits to New Covenant Foundation who gives funding or makes some sort of payment to Osterville United Methodist Church, a church that considers gay people Christian.

From 2011 through 2013, New Covenant Foundation gave gay-loving Osterville United Methodist Church almost $15,000.

Oh, it gets better. New Covenant Foundation gave $200,000 to the Floris United Methodist Church, Herndon, Virginia building fund. This was the largest single expenditure in 2011 and 2012. Here’s what Floris United Methodist pastor Tom Berlin had to say about homosexuality and the angst it is causing within the United Methodist denomination:

…I am a moderate on this issue. Dead center. I represent those delegates who will vote to maintain the historic stance of the church related to GLBT issues. This is a source of great frustration to many who would like to see change. Our reading of the Bible, especially passages that we cannot translate into positive or neutral statements about homosexual practices, leads to our traditional views. I am also a pragmatist. I cannot help but see the unintended consequences of the change. Right now, in my community in Virginia, there are three formerly Episcopal churches who are being evicted from their facilities by their denomination over these issues. When this happens in the UMC, it will be the poor who will suffer because our mission and outreach budget will go unfunded. It will be the poorest of the poor who suffer the most when the UMC is no longer able to build churches, schools, clinics or have the funds to engage in disaster response around the globe in the wake of a split.

I wanted to speak on this issue because I am a father of four daughters from a generation that by and large doesn’t get what all the fuss is about. They can respect and be gracious about my opinion on human sexuality, but not the church’s silence on disagreement. But the main reason that I wanted to speak is that I serve a church that has a broad range of ideology, with tea party Republicans on one end and liberal Democrats on the other. In my work to keep our loose confederation together in the unity of Christ, I have found truth-telling and candor to be essential qualities. If you want community that includes diversity of opinion, you must have a commitment to being candid with each other. We disagree.

There are gay men and women in my church. There are many who have family members in the GLBT community. There are an abundance of people who just don’t get what all the fuss is about. I wanted to be able to tell them that their beliefs and opinions were honored in their denomination along with those who disagree. I have found that when a gay person or someone with a gay family member comes to my office, and we discuss the matter openly, honestly, and lovingly, we emerge with deeper community and less division. As a gay man said to me after one of these conversations, we don’t agree on everything, but given what you have said, I can come to church here. And I don’t want a church that is defined by my views on sexuality. I want a church where I can feel included. And based on this conversation, I can do that here…

I wonder if Tim Wildmon and the American Family Association are open and affirming towards Pastor Berlin’s statement?  (that’s a rhetorical question, BTW)

Let me conclude by saying this, as you can see from the various data above, a lot of people are profiting off of “Jesus.” Does some of the money trickle down to the “least of these”? I am sure it does. But, its actually a very small amount compared to the total amount of income received. In the case of the American Family Association, they are an advocacy group for the homophobic wing of American Evangelicalism. They spend zero dollars on true charity work. While the Federal government considers them a charity, that doesn’t mean they actually do charitable work.

In the case of Mike Stemm  and Craig Meredith and Covenant Trading/New Covenant Foundation, it appears that most of the net profits benefit churches and parachurch groups in the United States. While I’m sure some of this money filters down to Ethiopia and other African countries, it is hard to take seriously New Covenant Foundation’s mission when they were, at the end of 2013, sitting on almost $2,000,000 in cash and securities. Perhaps things look differently for 2014, but something tells me it is more of the same.

Notes

Dominion Trading Facebook page

Dominion Trading Twitter

Thomas Street Coffee sells for over $16.00 a pound  for which the poor Ethiopian farmer gets $2.50

From the FAQ of Thomas Street Coffee (Site no longer active)

How much of the profits from your coffee actually goes to the growing regions? And how do your standards compare to organizations such as Fair Trade?

The profits from our roasted coffee sales go back to purchase more green coffee and to support the work of AFA. We purchase the green coffee directly through growers and importers working with the farmers. The farmers are receiving a substantial amount of money for their green, far above any amount that the Fair Trade organization has set. In other words, we pay a premium for our green coffee. Our importers and coffee farmers work with the growers to help them increase the quality and yield on their coffee. Our growers are Christian growers and importers, therefore our purchase of their coffee helps support their work. The dollar amount varies from each region. We are helping people economically. Other items such as water wells, medical clinics, birthing centers, and schools for children come through the profits made from the sale of green coffee. These benefits come directly through the growers and the importers, giving them a practical way to share the gospel. The farmers average income for their green coffee is around $2.50 a pound, compared to Fair Trade at $1.25 per pound Some of our growers such as Kabum in Uganda have worked with the locals to set up banks and educate them about personal savings accounts. Church plants are taking place and people are being taught the importance of tithing. We at TSC are giving a hand up rather than a hand out.

 

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.