Kentucky Laws and the Right to Service

Seems that certain segments of our society are up in arms about the recent laws in Kentucky that would basically allow business owners to deny service to gay people because… well, just because they feel threatened by what may or may not happen in a gay person’s bedroom that night.

(kind of creepy when you use a bit of truth in advertising, huh?)

I’m not really referring to the liberal segments that are (understandably) upset about these laws. I am referring to the conservative sides that are coming out of the woodwork with the “What right does the government have telling any business who they can and can’t serve? We’re giving up too many freedoms to the government! These new laws are right and just!”

Government has every right to tell any business who to serve. And here is why. Every single business in America uses roads built by government funds to get supplies to sell. Every single business in America takes advantage of safe roads watched over by government-connected Police forces that keeps the supplies on those roads moving smoothly. Every single business in America uses phone and optic lines that the government regulates to conduct all kinds of business. Every single business in America takes advantage of governmental commerce laws to seamlessly conduct business across city borders, state borders, and international borders. There are so many more examples that I can’t go into here.

But does the government providing these services give them a right to tell business how to run their business? Not really. But where does the money come from to fund these governmental benefits for all businesses big and small?

Taxes.

Every single person in the U.S. pays for these services that businesses take advantage of. Legal citizens, legal immigrants, and even illegal immigrants (oh, what was that about taxation without representation? Whoops.). Since every single person in the U.S. is paying for these businesses to operate, the only fair thing is to require them to serve everyone. Don’t want to play fair like that? Then leave your toys in the sandbox and go play in another one.

metamodern-faith-avatarSo, yes, the U.S. government does have the right to require the businesses built on the backs of every single tax paying person in America to actually serve every single person that funded the infrastructure that allows them to even operate as a business. Is it really just to tell a gay person that they can not eat at restaurant, when their tax dollars are tied up into almost every aspect of making that business successful? No, it is down right morally reprehensible.

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John Piper and Distorted Reality

I will admit that John Piper lost me a long time ago. He writes one good book and then everyone seemed to start giving him a free pass on everything else he started churning out. If you haven’t read Piper, I can sum up all of his points in one sentence: “your argument against Calvinism is invalid because you are secretly a closet Calvinist and just won’t admit it.”

Piper really tries hard, but he just can’t seem to really understand how anybody that thinks differently than he does sees the world. He really just can’t see things through any other lens than his own. And this blind spot has spread among his cronies, everyone from Jared Wilson to John Ensor all fall into the same fallacy.

Recent proof of this is Ensor’s article “An Olympic Lesson for Husbands and Wives” (published on Piper’s website, and also tweeted about by Piper). The basic idea is that ice skating is an example of men leading women, and women submitting to men.

Huh?

I mean, really – was he watching the same Olympic broadcast I was? The one were the women looked more in charge than men by a long shot? I guess because it looked like the men were grunting like cavemen during the lifts… that implied headship or dominance?

First, let’s talk about the childish swipe Ensor made at egalitarians. Take out the immaturity aspect of it, and it still displays a complete misunderstanding of the egalitarian viewpoint. Its not even close by a long shot. However, it is very common idea expressed in Piper’s circles. Oh, and if someone like Rachel Held Evans had made comments like that? You would bet all of her Piper-loving critics would be all over it like the plague.

Second, let’s talk about Ensor’s completely inaccurate description of how ice skating works. I don’t even really like ice skating that much, and I still did several face palms at his ignorance. All I know is what I learn from the announcers at the Winter Olympics every four years. So how did Ensor listen to the same announcers and completely miss the statements about the woman leading this segment or that segment that the announcers made every other minute?

Distorted Reality.

You can read plenty of take downs of Ensor’s logic by other dancers and ice skaters (well, at least movies kind of about ice skaters). I want to focus on the complete distortion of what any average person should have obviously noticed about ice skating. I have always assumed the woman was the leader in ice skating. I have never met anyone that thinks a man is the leader in pairs figure skating. Piper and Ensor and other’s like them see it that way simply because they want to. They don’t let reality shape their views, they distort reality around their own views.

metamodern-faith-avatarLook, if you want to interpret scriptures the way you want, and then completely distort reality around those interpretations… its a free country. Just quit being a prick to those that see it a different way. Which means quit lobbing stones at others accusing them of the exact same distortions and logical fallacies that you and your cronies are committing.

The Privilege of Fitting In: A Tale of Two Churches

Is it just me, or does it seem like there are articles about why people shouldn’t leave church coming out every week? Most of them boil down to pretty much the same argument: quit being so narcissistic, get over yourself, and stop being so selfish. Suck it up and take it or get off your lazy rear and start doing something to change your church rather than just complain about it.

This kind of remind me of a scene from The Big Bang Theory, in an episode that deals with adults confronting their past with bullying. Penny seems to be convinced that she wasn’t a bully. The girls she picked on where just in on the joke and were having just as much fun as everyone else.

When you are the one that fits in, that is part of the main group, that never has to try and connect, your view of the group is usually vastly different from the outsider, the weirdo, the one that doesn’t fit in so well. It may be really easy to call someone a narcissist when you rarely have to consider your own needs because they are already being met. But you have friends, you have connections, you have community. The whole idea of “not being fed” seems weird to you, because you have rarely ever gone without spiritual nourishment.

Would you tell a starving beggar not to be a glutton? Because that is what you do when you call someone a narcissist when they leave a church for “not being fed.” Narcissism is usually defined as “inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity,” or “pursuit of gratification from vanity, or egotistic admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, that derive from arrogant pride.” Do you see the extreme words there? Narcissism is an extreme issue that is about as far away from “wanting to be fed” as starving is from gluttony.

Look, Jesus just said to “think of others before you think of yourself.” How did we turn that into “think of others and never think of yourself“? because we put the cool kids in charge of everything and left the weirdos on the fringes, silently hoping they will go away and leave us alone. And then calling them narcissists when they leave so they will feel guilty about leaving… but not guilty enough to come back.

Because, let’s face it – it is a lot easier to lob guilt bombs at those on the outside than it is to actually leave our comfort zones to draw them in.

Whether someone fits in with a church is not just a matter of whiny teenage angst. It is an emotional health issue that can severely affect physical health if not resolved. So if you are going to tell them to stay and tough it out, you also might as well just buy them a lifetime supply of Twinkies and eat those for the rest of their lives.

And telling them to stick around and change the church? Really? Have you ever tried to change a church? I mean, really affect change and not just enhance the direction it was already going? Probably not. Usually, those that benefit from the privilege of fitting in think that it is easy to change a church because they think were able to affect changes. But what they were really doing was just furthering their church in the direction it was already going. Those hairline changes they made seemed huge to them because they were so close to home to begin with. To those on the outside, the changes that need to happen are massive tectonic shifts that are impossible to affect outside of an “act of God.” I know, I have tried in many churches. It is impossible to do so as someone that doesn’t fit in, no matter how much time, effort, and love you put into it.

This is one of many “tale of two churches” in America, albeit one that is just now starting to come into focus. Its usually the tale of the same church, from two sides with different views. The one side with those that fit in, who think everything is great and people just need to quit being so narcissistic, and the other side that doesn’t fit in because it sees issues that makes them want to bail.

Pick a sport you don’t like – like say, golf. If you love golf, pick another sport that you hate. What if the church you went to suddenly became all about golf. Golf was mentioned in every sermon, every Facebook post, every thing the church did. It even started being a part of the music that they sung. Soon, the church starts meeting at a golf course. They may even rename their church meetings to have golf themes. To someone that loves golf, this all seems great, and they can’t see why people who don’t like golf can’t just get over it and ignore these “minor” issues and worship God. But for those that despise golf, it is everywhere. They can’t get away from it. It is everywhere they look and a part of every conversation. How can it be healthy to tell someone to even be in a situation like that?

Look, I’m not talking golf here – the real issue may be speaking in tongues, or gay rights issues, or political leanings, or the nature of Genesis, or the safety of vaccines, or a hundred other topics that divide us in the Church. Every church has certain topics that everyone has differing opinions on. So this is not just about differences that naturally occur. This is when a church creates a major focus on certain issues, big or small, and thinks that everyone in the church should get on board or get over it. For those that fit in with that stance, those who are “on board”, its no big deal. And they have a hard time seeing why others find it a big deal. Kind of in the same way people who aren’t allergic to peanuts don’t often seem to care much about those who are; even when they find out they still eat peanut M&Ms right next to them. Certain things may be small to you, but they could be a huge deal to others because we are all individuals that are wired differently.

Maybe instead of always pointing fingers at people for the “bad reasons” they use for leaving church, we could actually use it as a time for self-reflection to consider what we may be doing wrong as church? Maybe even make some compelling arguments for coming back? Or even yet, try to reach out  with no strings attached to the people that left? I have tried that before, and I was shocked to find very few people actually leave churches for any of the reasons anyone is writing about. Their reasons are usually pretty compounded and complex.

metamodern-faith-avatarLet’s face it – compounded and complex is more than most people want to deal with. And it won’t make you a popular writer by writing about it. Just lump everyone into five categories and bask in the glow of all the yes-people that will agree with your column without even really reading it. It is past time to get real about the reasons people leave church and stop with the :Sunday School” answers to everything

Literal History Versus Objective History

I did not watch the debate between Ken Hamm and Bill Nye. At this point, I have witnessed or listened to a dozen debates between these two sides and they all come out the same. Both sides claim victory, everyone that paid attention only sees what they want to see, and those of us that don’t fit neatly into one of two extremes get left out of the conversation.

At some point, I need to write my blog post about why the Bible does not confirm nor deny the possibility of evolution if you read what it says literally and don’t add anything to it. But that will have to wait for another day.

The debate has made me very uncomfortable identifying as one that reads the Bible literally, because as I have examined before, you have to add a lot to the Bible to come to a young earth creationist (YEC) belief. To me, there has always been something… off… about those that describe themselves as Biblical literalists yet come to a YEC belief. They never seemed quite truly… literal… to me.

Reading an interview with William Dever, Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona finally shed light on where my discomfort lies:

We want to make the Bible history. Many people think it has to be history or nothing. But there is no word for history in the Hebrew Bible. In other words, what did the biblical writers think they were doing? Writing objective history? No. That’s a modern discipline. They were telling stories. They wanted you to know what these purported events mean.

There you have it – people that call themselves Biblical literalists are actually not that at all. When defining the word literal, the second most common definition is usually attributed to translations: “representing the exact words of the original text.”

The exact words of the original text of Genesis or any other section of the Hebrew parts of the Bible were never meant to be objective history, since that concept did not exist in the minds of the people writing them. “Biblical literalists” are actually “objective historians,” seeking to pull a concept out of a text that was not written that way in a culture that didn’t understand that idea. Denver continues by saying:

The Bible is didactic literature; it wants to teach, not just to describe. We try to make the Bible something it is not, and that’s doing an injustice to the biblical writers. They were good historians, and they could tell it the way it was when they wanted to, but their objective was always something far beyond that.

Reading the Bible literally would mean representing the words in the Bible exactly as they were written, and they were written to tell a story. So it really doesn’t matter if Genesis is proto-poetry or historical narrative. Either style would have been used to tell a story, not record exact historically objective events. Modern minds are interested in objective histories; ancient minds were not.

The great Achilles Heel of old earth creationists is that even when reading Genesis as proto-poetry, that still doesn’t nullify the term “yom” used for day. Proto-poetry could have still been used to describe a real 7-day creation week. The Achilles Heel of young earth creationism is that the creation order is full of logical holes and contradictions from an objective history standpoint. Some YE Creationists attempt to fill those holes with concepts about Gap theories and two floods and two separate creation of man – all of which require one to add a massive amount of thought to the Bible that is not there to make it all work. Didactic literature means that neither side really matters in the “Big Picture.” Genesis is true and literal and poetic and it did happen but the details were left out because they didn’t matter to the story.

While we are at it, can we just acknowledge that there is no way ancient man would have understood a 14 billion year old universe… or even what a universe was for that matter. So at best you can prove that God simplified the creation story so that ancient man would understand it. Kind of in the same way we simplify and cut down all kinds of facts to help our children understand them as they grow and mature. This idea would have been fine in Hebrew thought.

metamodern-faith-avatarBut to say that the Earth has to be 6000 or 10,000 years old because Genesis says so, when there was no option at all for God to even explain the concept of a big bang 14 billion years ago? Come one – its not even fair to make such absolute claims like that. That’s kind of like saying no one in the world was having sex the first years of your life, based solely on the “proof” that you had no idea what it was, and therefore it must not have happened anywhere at all.