There is Something Far More Important Than the Supreme Court at Stake in This Election

This has been some election year. The only reason I haven’t blogged more is that so much changes every day that I can never keep up with it all. One of the constants that I do see continually popping up about this election is that the future of the Supreme Court is the main concern for many voters. All sides of the political spectrum (because there are more than two) feel that the Supreme Court will intensely impact the future of our country.

I don’t disagree that the Supreme Court is very important in every election cycle. But I completely disagree that it is the most important issue in this election.

You only need to look into the eyes of the people around you to see what is the most important thing in this election. And what I am seeing is heart breaking.

I am seeing my own wife growing more and more disillusioned with America in general as an openly sexist woman-hater spouts out hatred and attacks against women while still gaining mass support from millions of people.

I am seeing people of color become more and more depressed over hateful white supremacy becoming the norm as people wish to “make America great again” (which to people of color means oppression, discrimination, and slavery – that was what happen back when “again” is referenced).

I am seeing Muslims growing fearful that next year they might become violently expelled out of this country, or that their family in another country might be mistaken for a terrorist family and bombed out of existence by someone that thinks they deserved it in the first place.

I am seeing people justify sexual assault-filled language as “normal” and “presidential.”

I am seeing a hate-filled man tearing this country apart by speaking his opinion as “truth”…. and people that call themselves “Christians” supporting this with things like (false) prophecies and (fake) words from the Lord.

These people – the ones that are being filled with disillusion, depression, fear, and hatred – they are the future of this country. We will reap what we sow. We will reap what our leaders sow.

Is having your political position represented on the Supreme Court really more important than the emotional well-being of over half the country?

Look, I remember in 1980 when one political side thought the country would fall apart if Reagan was elected and was able to appoint Supreme Court justices. Same thing in 1988 with Bush. Then the other political side thought the country would fall apart if Bill Clinton won in 1992. Then it flipped the other way for Bush in 2000, and the other way for Obama in 2008.

Guess what. The country never falls apart no matter which political side wins the election. The Supreme Court can only rule on issues that come before them, and that is a random collection of issues that is impossible to predict.

But the damage that can happen to the emotional well-being of our country if a guy that is on no one’s side but his own (as he has often stated) can not be under-estimated. We have already seen the rising level of hatred towards women, people of color, religious minorities, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQA community. All of which have been targeted by one party, more specifically their chosen candidate.

So while the Supreme Court may make a decision a few years from now that you don’t agree with, you will daily have to look into the eyes of women, people of color, religious minorities, people with disabilities, or someone from the LGBTQA community and acknowledge that you voted for a person to lead this country that has spoken harsh, hate-filled words about them.

Even if he loses.

Let that sink in a minute: Every. Day.

metamodern-faith-avatarTo me, the heart of the message of Jesus is that we care more about people than politics, more about their well-being than our political positions, more about the least of these than the loudest of these. The Supreme Court is not in the Bible. The people around you are. Make sure that if you consider yourself a Christian or a decent human being, that you get your priorities straight when it comes to the upcoming election. There is something far more important than the Supreme Court at stake in this election: the souls of the people all over this country that have felt the hate-filled wrath of Donald Trump through the actions of his followers. Always remember that words influence actions.


The False Gospel of the Counter Culture Church

If you have been at an evangelical church for more than a few sermons, you have probably run into some variation of the “counter culture” church narrative. This is basically the idea that 10-20 years ago, the church was the center of American culture. However, either the media or the government or both have been plotting against the church to move America away from Christian values. That has resulted in a Church that is now counter-cultural, in the midst of a culture that has different values than those at the Church.

If you are lucky it ends there. If not, you also get to hear about how a great persecution is coming, how churches will be shut down, and how Christians are soon to be going to jail for simply having faith.

Witness, for example, these recent articles:

Christianity’s Five Most Counter-Cultural Virtues

Three Lies Culture Tells Us About Being Single

There are many others like them. The problem is, these articles and the narrative that inspired them gets our “culture” all wrong.

Take some of these “most counter-cultural” values from the first article: patience, humility, hope, etc. How exactly are these “radically counter-cultural,” as the author says? The problem is, they aren’t. Go to the various values pages of most schools or colleges or community groups, or look at the values objectives in most state educational standards, or look at what characteristics are most valued on most TV shows, and you will find humility, hope, patience, etc explicitly listed. I know these specific characteristics are written into many state level educational standards, because I have studied those standards and read them for myself. They are not counter-cultural at all. They are being ingrained in our culture.

The second article about “dating lies” is so weird I don’t even know where to start. Nothing on TV or in our culture teaches this. Not at least any I have seen.

Which leads to the main problem with the “counter-cultural” church. Which culture does that refer to? America is a diverse place, full of different cultures that have different cultural norms. We all belong to slightly different sociocultural groupings. You can’t throw all of that into one box and call it “American Culture.” Its not that simple.

Another problem is the historical roots of the “counter-cultural church” narrative. You might think I quoted the first two paragraphs from a recent church sermon. However, I didn’t. Those ideas are from a interview in 1971 with early Jesus Music pioneer Larry Norman. Yes, that narrative is at least 40 years old (except Norman himself actually got it from sources that had been using it for over 20 years). Yet my first paragraph exactly describes a sermon I heard two weeks ago.

So if this “counter cultural church” narrative is over 60 years old, how is it that “culture” has suddenly moved away 10-20 years ago? Where is this great persecution that – 60 years ago and even today – is right around the corner? If people in 2016 thinks our “culture” has moved away from the Church in the past 20 years, but people 40 years ago said the same thing, what’s the deal?

The deal is that this whole “counter cultural church” narrative is a false gospel. To some people, it is good news that the culture is rejecting them, because that means they get to be mean back to the culture.

However, the reality is that the moral decay of America is a church myth.

But if our culture is a diverse thing that is hard to put in a box, and many facets of it value the same things we value as a church, then what is the real problem in churches? Why does the church seem to be on the decline in so many people’s minds?

In general, when looking at Protestant churches (where you will usually find these ideas in sermons), attendance is only down among… white people. When you look at people of color, whether Black, Latino, Asian, etc., you see that attendance trends are increasing.

The truth is, the Protestant church is becoming less white.

metamodern-faith-avatarNot necessarily declining, or losing ground to our culture, just shifting in ways that those that have enjoyed the position of power are probably uncomfortable with. Instead of acknowledging this trend, they decided to create the false gospel of the counter culture church.


America Doesn’t Need Unity. It Needs Marriage Counseling.

Has anyone else listened to the current political debates playing out on social media and feel that it all seems familiar? Not as is “this argument happened last time,” but some thing even closer to home than that? Am I the only one that thinks the two sides are beginning to resemble a couple in the midst of a divorce going at each other? And I’m not talking about the “oh, they are just drifting apart” kind, but the “should we get the police here before we have to call an ambulance” kind?

Yeah, America needs marriage counseling pronto.  And I say marriage counseling for a reason. When two people don’t get along, you don’t just tell them they need unity… they are already united whether they want to be or not (just like we are in America). You don’t let them blame external forces for dividing them. You tell them one thing: they need to sit down and listen to each other. And not just listen, but learn to practice what is called active listening:

According to experts in the field of communication, active listening means that you possess and have developed a specific kind of communication skill that allows you to fully hear what another person is trying to say.

There are many ways to do this, but the article that I quoted above lists five good places where America (aka “you reading this”) could start:

  1. Let your partner speak”This simply means that you should refrain from arguing your case until your partner finishes stating her or his position.”
  2. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes”During times of conflict, you should enter the conversation with specific goals of what you would like to learn from your mate – and not your talking points.”
  3. Don’t jump to conclusions”Even when folks are trying to listen, they sometimes assume that they know what their mate will say before the words can escape their mouth.”
  4. Ask questions”Avoid asking questions disguised as accusations. Instead, focus on knowledge that you truly need in order to better understand your partner’s position.
  5. Paraphrase what your partner says”Be aware there is a big difference between paraphrasing and parroting. In other words, don’t engage in a verbatim account or take on a litigious tone.”

Notice what this advice doesn’t say: “Quote Bible verses that say you should listen more than speak to the one you need to listen to” “Tell them that other factors are dividing you and there are the reasons why you can’t get along.” “Minimize their point of view by saying your point of view is just as important or more so than theirs.”

Look, I believe in unity. I believe in speaking in love and not hate. But too many times we use the ideas of unity, speaking in love, letting no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, we are all the same on the inside, the world is changed by your example and not your opinion, the media is dividing us so turn it off, etc to silence the other “side” rather than to actively listen to them.

To put this another way, even good responses can be the wrong responses when utilized at the wrong time or with the wrong intentions.

I hate to have to bring it up, but those in power usually use the concept of “unity” to force their political stance on those that they have power over. And even if you don’t buy that, any concept like “unity” has to be defined, and different people will have different definitions. If the goal is unity, then one definitive version of what that means will have to win out. And everyone else will be forced to follow the winner.

metamodern-faith-avatarTherefore, unity is not really a great goal at this point. Maybe someday, but not now. Besides, we have had unity forced upon us in America already. It hasn’t been working all that great, especially in recent years. We don’t need to ignore our differences, or even acknowledge them and then gloss over them in pursuit of one side’s view of unity. We need marriage counseling. We need to understand each other. We need to see each other as humans and not as sides to be opposed. To some reading this, that is unity. But to those that haven’t benefited from the majority’s view of “unity” so far in America, it is actually a much higher goal. Equality.


Narcigesis (and other obscure big words used to attack progressives) are all Relative

An older term (“narcigesis”) has popped up again – from the root word narcissus mixed with eisegesis. Typically, any word ending in -egesis usually just boils down to “you believe something I don’t, so you are wrong because BIG WORD says so!” That is also the case with narcigesis, which I will copy this definition here for those that don’t want to click over to the link:

  1. The reading of one’s own life experiences and/or that of another’s life experience into the text of Scripture; the need to make the Bible all about themselves.
  2. An interpretation of Scripture based on the interpreter’s self-authority, particularly driven by self-esteem, self-actualization, mystical experiences and/or the interpreter’s “felt needs.” (See Sola Experientia.)
  3. A personal and/or mystical interpretation of Scripture based on the interpreter’s own ideas, biases, opinions, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, experiences, impressions, dreams, revelations, or the like, rather than based upon the plain meaning of the text.
  4. The reading of one’s own doctrinal theories into Scripture (as opposed to exegesis, which is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of biblical text), particularly as a result of personal experience. (See Sola Experientia.)
  5. Self-centered, self-defined and self-authenticating biblical interpretation, application and counsel.
  6. The reading of one’s own interpretation into Scripture based upon the egotistic belief that all things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; and that only the learned, the elect, or the leadership elite (of which the interpreter considers himself), may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. (See Plura Scriptura.)
  7. The egotistical drive to invent new theologies, doctrines, revelations, applications and philosophies about Scripture, often manifested in self-aggrandizement activities such as book publishing, conferences, setting up organizations and websites, money-making schemes and publicity drives.

As a very conservative Assembly of God Bible teacher once said, “anyone that claims that there is a ‘plain meaning of the text’ is not being intellectually honest about the complexities of translation.” Now, to be clear, It is not about having to be “learned, the elect, or the leadership elite” to understand, it is just that everyone that is not fluent in Greek and Hebrew has to rely on translators to know what scripture says, and those translators frequently disagree with each other even on key passages. And therefore, even if you know the languages, you still have to pick which of the various sides of these debates to go with on many scriptures.

In reality, what that means is 1 – 7 above are all relative. For instance, after college I took #4 seriously and set aside all the things the evangelical church had taught me, took a long, hard, exegesis / critical examination of the whole Bible, and ended up rejecting several evangelical teachings because of it. I had no desire to go that way, but exegesis led me to those positions. Yet many of my church friends from that time claim that I am reading my own experiences, stroking my self-esteem, self-centered, inventing new theories, etc. Current church friends of mine disagree – they think I am following the clear text. We usually label what we agree with as clear, and reject anything else as narcigesis or heresy or what have you.

In other words, Christians usually have to rely on their own feelings, their own understandings, their own theories, their own ego, etc in order to claim that others are doing the same. In order to prove that someone else is doing so, one has to pick a translation of the Bible first – one that is going to reflect the bias and ego of its translators and the side of various linguistic arguments those translators chose to follow. Then you are going to filter that translation through your own bias and feelings. Its pretty naive to say that we can get through all of these barriers and claim “plain meaning” as if all of these choices don’t exist and we speak as a direct conduit straight from God’s mouth.

metamodern-faith-avatarIn many ways, this link is like an organized list of how many of us have been judged, misunderstood, and ostracized for thinking critically about and ultimately leaving the realm of evangelicalism. Narcigesis is not the word we are looking for, it is a word that represents the last bits of modernism left in churches trying to judge postmodernist scripture interpretation even though it sorely misses the mark in doing so.


How to Destroy a Nation

Capturing millions of people and selling them as property to support business through slavery will not destroy a nation.

Latter declaring that these people have no legal rights and therefore can not even be citizens of your nation will not destroy a nation.

Forcing native inhabitants to move from their homelands to horrible living conditions – killing thousands in the process – will not destroy a nation.

Sending hundreds of thousands of people into internment camps just because they are the same ethnicity as the country that you are fighting with will not destroy a nation.

Dropping bombs that instantly kill hundreds of thousands of people in an instance will not destroy the nation that dropped the bombs.

Denying equal rights, voting, pay, voice, and other basic aspects to over half of the population of a nation just because they are women will not destroy a nation.

Hundreds of years of atrocities, murders, lies, cover-ups, unethical experiments, hatred, greed, mistreatment of the poor, abuse of children, and many other sins will not destroy a nation.

What is finally going to get God mad enough to destroy America (or let America destroy itself)?

Marriage equality and transgender bathroom access.

Two issues not even directly mentioned in the Bible… unlike all of the things above. But sure, God is going to finally hit that smite button because we let people marry who they want, and go pee where they feel comfortable.



What if We are Just Starting to get Gender and Sex and Sexuality and All of that Right?

Many of my conservative friends are lamenting on Facebook this week how our world is becoming more confused about gender and sexuality issues, based mostly on marriage equality and transgender bathroom access. Their general point is that our children are losing their innocence because of the changes that our society is making regarding these issues. They feel that society is declining morally and calling what is evil good. They feel that our culture is out of control and getting everything wrong, because we had it so right in the past.

Or did we?

For hundreds of years, our society thought it was okay to look at people of color as less that human, leading to racism, slavery, hatred, and lynchings. We got that wrong for most of our time as a society, and are still struggling to get it right.

For hundreds of years, our society thought it was okay to look at women as property, leading to patriarchy, sex slavery, inequality, and gamergate. We got that wrong for most of our time as a society, and are still struggling to get it right.

We thought smoking was good for you for a long time, leading to cancer, death, and massive health problems.

We find out every year that the way we have eaten for years is wrong.

We find out every year that the way we teach our kids and ourselves is wrong.

We find out every year that we know less about the universe than we thought we did.

We are finding out that the way many of us sit and work all day is bad for us. That the way we treat our spouses is not healthy for them. That the materials we make our stuff with is killing us. That all kinds of ideas are not helpful but harmful.

And let’s not forget that almost all of these societal constructs we got wrong were adamantly supported by people claiming that the Bible was “clear” about these issues. Oh, and let’s also add in the problems caused by one religious interpretation forcing their beliefs on others, causing witch trials, inquisitions, and holy wars.

metamodern-faith-avatarSo suddenly certain parts of society can claim that what our culture has claimed is “normal” about sexuality and gender for centuries is completely okay, when it has a horrible history of getting so many other things wrong? Pretty much every time that a religious male forced their image as standard on others that were different, we see horrible things resulting: sexism, racism, slavery, religious cleansing, genocide, etc. But let’s also not forget that these men are also heterosexual cis males. What has been the result of the society that heterosexual cis males have created? Bullying, hate crimes, murder, and rising suicide rates among those that are LBGTQA. Have I made the pattern clear yet?

What if we are just now getting sexuality and gender right? What if the “right answers” are not as simple and clear cut as we would like them to be?


Trangender and the Garden of Eden

When dealing with the issue of transgender bathroom access, many people attempt to connect gender issues in general with various parts of the Bible. Probably one of the more common questions I read is something along the lines of: “if God created intersexual and transgender people, then why was there only a male and a female in the Garden of Eden?”

So let’s look at this question at face value, putting aside debates about whether Adam and Eve were real people or literary devices. Let’s look at this question from the side of a person that believes that Adam and Eve were real, and that all humans are descended from them.

Therefore the question is a valid one from that mindset, so lets take it to its logical conclusions. Two people meant there were only two sexes. That much we can read. But what else does that mean? Two people in the garden means that at most, there were also only two ethnicities, two hair colors, two eye colors, two adult heights, two personalities, etc. And this is all at most – Adam and Eve might have had the same hair color for instance, or might have both been introverts (wouldn’t that have ended the whole human race pretty fast, huh?). If our physical, mental, and emotion states were limited to only what was present in two people at creation, that means that every aspect of humanity is would still currently be limited to two possibilities.

But that is not what happened in reality. Now we have more than two possibilities for all physical, emotional, and mental characteristics in the world today. Think about it: whether you are born male or tall or black or cranky or genius is all coded in the same genetic strand. If you can have a different nose length than either Adam or Eve did, then you can also have a different sex or gender than either of them. Its all part of the exact same process.

metamodern-faith-avatarGod creating something in the garden means just that – God needed those parameters for creation. That does not necessarily mean that what God used for creation is what is also decreed as the only options for all times (basic genetics proves that). To say that what God used for creation is also a decree for what must be for all time is adding to what the Bible. God needed male and female for creation, and now creation is over.