Controversial Celebrities and Their Church’s Stance on LGBTQA Issues: Why It All Matters

I may be opening up a can of worms that I shouldn’t here. But I knew this day would come. Small towns in the South are sometimes thrust into the spotlight when a resident becomes a celebrity. Eventually, people begin to wonder where these people stand on various equality issues, especially since the South doesn’t have the best track record in that area. And eventually those concerns will turn to equality for those that are LGBTQA

I’m from a small Southern town with some celebrities that go to a church that I used to go to (even though I never met them). That church has come under scrutiny for their stance on LGBTQA issues. Since I used to be a very involved insider at that church (before moving to a different city and leaving the “evangelical” tag behind), I thought would comment on some of the issues that happens in almost all of these situations.

Usually these situations come about after an expose article looks at an online blog post or sermon video or what have you and brings certain views on LGBTQA issues to light. Then there is a confusing tornadic swirl of responses from all sides. Often it becomes difficult to figure out what the real problem is. But have you ever noticed that no matter what is said and done, every single article that looks into the issue in a way that might harm a church is automatically labeled as “bad journalism”, “a hit job”, “a witch hunt”, etc by members of the church, no matter what the article says? Every single bit of criticism is bad journalism, regardless of whether it really is bad or not. In general, the original pieces are pretty middle of the road explanations that present the church’s views in context with little commentary. Then many of the follow-up reaction pieces attack the original article for saying things it didn’t say, or even go as far as taking quotes out of contexts. Leaders and members of the church in questions echo that sentiment.

There are also accusations of “major liberal hateful backlash” that are hard to substantiate. Of course, there are usually a few fringe left-leaning websites that call for extreme responses, but they typically were doing that before any controversy breaks out. It is important to note that when ever any Christian becomes famous, there are also extreme right-leaning sources that attack them for not being “bold” enough with their faith. Attacks against Christian celebrities are usually always there from both sides, but people just latch onto the extreme ones from one side and use them as “proof” that there is a wave of new persecution when there really isn’t.

Of course, it is also somewhat unfair to hold the views of a church against the celebrities that go there. Yes, churches in the South do tend towards “believe one way or else” mentalities, and they tend to vet political attitudes before letting anyone on their stage (including celebrities in their midst). It is possible, although probably unlikely, that they hold a different view from their church. But until they say anything specific it is unfair to hold their churches stance against them.

At the same time, those that feel it is unwarranted to look into the beliefs of these churches are also misunderstanding the power and influence of the nondenominational evangelical movement, which holds millions of Americans under its sway. As a former insider at one of these churches (at least that is what some of the church leadership referred to me as once), I did want to shine a light on some of the problematic issues at play here.

First of all, most expose articles will characterize these churches as being “hard line” and “unmoving” around these issues. This might seem harsh, but is usually true. You will even find these churches boasting about their unwavering stances in their sermons. So I am not sure how something they once bragged about suddenly becomes an “attack,” but what can you do?

I used to bang my head against this unmovable wall when discussing creationism, evangelism, or the role of women in a marriage. I generally find that you either parrot what they want to hear from you and get accepted, or question things and get ostracized. This is nothing new – such is the case in many churches both conservative and liberal, as well as businesses and organizations of all kinds. I just bring this up in case anyone wants to say “why don’t you try talking to them about all this?” Believe me – myself and others have tried. We have even formed an unofficial support group on Facebook to process what we went through. Others have started blogs to chronicle their problems. I don’t want to dig into that any more as there is plenty online about that at many churches already.

Many will say that these expose articles are taking words out of context, even when they provide links to videos and articles to show they aren’t. But I can verify that these stances typically have been preached over and over again at these churches, with tens of thousands of people being influenced by them. So even if one specific article had taken words out of context (which they rarely do in these cases), I have sat through enough of these sermons to know what has been said. Then there are countless leadership development classes, missionary training programs, and other secondary outlets that I have also attended that dig deeper. What emerges once you have become enough of any insider is a deep layer of problematic issues that need to be brought to the Light. I will touch on these issues next.

Biblical Clarity on Marriage and Gender Definitions

First issue: the concept of the Bible being clear that marriage is only between a man and a woman, based on Genesis. The problem is, its not really that clear. If you take an honest look at Genesis 2:24, its not really a command from God as much as a commentary on a reason why people get married: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Even more problematic is that in Bibles that mark the words of God in red, this passage is rarely in red. That is because it is not a direct quote of God, again, but commentary from the writer of Genesis. Therefore, it is not necessarily true that “God defined marriage” as many preachers say, even if you believe that the Scriptures were literally written by God. Why? Because none of the scriptures used to back that statement up are in any way written as “definitions.” To say that they are “definitions” is for us to re-write the Bible based on our own feelings. Commentary is commentary, not a definition.

Additionally, pastors often talk about God clearly defining masculinity and femininity, which is another extreme oversimplification of what the Bible actually says. What it really says is “male and female he created them.” Well, of course: there were only two of them. So there were only two options for anything. Which also means that God could have only created, at max, two hair colors, two eye colors, two skin colors, and so on. Those details were irrelevant to the story of creation, so they weren’t mentioned, but it doesn’t mean that this wasn’t true (and if you don’t believe that Genesis is literal history, I understand – I am just writing this to those that do). Of course, now we have more that two hair colors, two eye colors, two skin colors, etc. The same DNA that produces hair color also produces our sex. Yes, that is a major oversimplification, but what I am trying to get at is that we should not confuse the way things were created with the way they have to be forever. God created (at most) two eye colors. We now have more. Same can be said for any other genetic trait, such as our sex.

Then, of course, there is the whole problem of saying anything in the Bible is “clear” at all.

Homosexuality as a Sin

On to the next issue: Stating that “homosexuality is a sin” is the truth while “homosexuality is not a sin” is a lie. The problem with statements like this one is that the word “homosexuality” does not appear in the Bible in the original languages. This is because the word was coined around 1869. It probably didn’t get used in English Bible translations until the 1950s. The history of what many incorrectly refer to as “homosexuality” now is problematic and confusing. While historically a few individuals saw it as a way they were born, most people saw it as deviant actions of heterosexuals or a temporary condition. In fact, the places where we tend to see “homosexual” now in our Bibles are all words based on this assumption in relation to sexual slavery of young boys, or rebellious heterosexual women that were performing in some weird religious sexual ritual. This is important because it means that there is no commentary in the Bible about committed, loving marriage between two normal, non-cultish people of the same gender. To say that the Bible is clear on modern “homosexuality” issues is not historically or Biblically honest. If you want more commentary on this issue, or to look at the difficulties of specific scriptures, I highly recommend looking into this series of blog posts by my friend Michelle.

Part of the problem here is the constant strategy of hiding real stances on these issues behind the ambiguous veil of “homosexuality.” Its a vague word that takes away any responsibility of really saying what one believes. Instead of saying things like “I don’t want to let gay people legally marry” or “we don’t let those that are openly LGBTQA attend our church” or “I want to be free to not bake cakes for lesbian weddings” or “I want to cause transgender people to use the bathroom that matches with their birth sex” you just say “sure we believe that homosexuality is sin, but we still accept all people at our church.” Typically churches mean all of what I spelled out in that sentence and more with that last vague sentence, but I will get to that more later.

A lot of these issues are often coupled with some weird picking and choosing of statistics to support these positions: 90% of “homosexuals” are abused and that caused their “homosexuality,” many people are lured into “homosexuality” through pornography, etc. There are many problems with this line of thinking, including how it ignores a lot of research, but I will just point to this article as a good summary into the problems with assuming that abuse causes people to change their sexual attractions. Additionally, the idea that people can be “lured” into “homosexuality” through pornography is a major misunderstanding of the roots of sexual addiction (as well as the shady attempts that criminals make to exploit those addictions to make money online). This article is a good source to start looking into that.

If you are seeing a pattern here of oversimplification and glossing over unclear realities in a manner that ignores the complexities of life, welcome to life in the evangelical nondenominational movement. Questions are only encouraged as long as you are moving in the direction of the leadership on the answers. You are only allowed to come to the conclusion that the leaders already have. Only one answer is allowed in the end for the whole church, no matter how unclear the scriptures are. And then a few token “unclear” issues such as “whether missionaries can drink a beer in countries with different views of alcohol” are touted as “proof” of their “theological diversity.”

Oversimplification of What Change Means

Now for the next issue: saying that someone is a homosexual in thought and action and cannot change is a lie. Of course, we all know we can change many things about ourselves. Others we can not. Even others are not so black and white. To be honest, sexuality is not as black and white as many would like it to be. Just look at this list of Seven Myths about Sexual Orientation. Its not very clear or straight forward for many. But ambiguity is a tough sell from the pulpit, so any gray areas that exist in reality are painted over in black and white “Biblical Clarity.” Additionally, churches love to take one or two stories of people that exist in this ambiguity (in other words, they had their sexual attractions change for reasons they don’t even understand) and lift them up as examples of everyone else to follow. They completely have no idea what really happened, but take a few random weird examples out of this person’s life as “steps” to “overcoming homosexuality.”

I know that at this points pastors always have their stories of hundreds of people that they have helped. They always do. All of heir beliefs are backed up by their stories as much as scripture. Some that can be corroborated, others that can’t. Its always hard to figure out which are which, but many people have spoken up through the years when they have veered off the verifiable path. Regardless, when pastors say “I have seen hundreds of people personally change their direction of same-sex attraction from a homosexual lifestyle to a heterosexual lifestyle”… I don’t buy it. First of all, statistically there are probably not that many people in any one city that would claim to have been gay and then changed their sexual orientation. Are we to believe that every single one of them ended up at any one church? Just look into the numbers of people that are or were LGBTQA and then how many of those claim they have changed it. Doubtful once you convert that to the population of most cities. But how does a pastor of a church of hundreds or thousands have time to “personally” work with hundreds of people with any one issue? My experience has been that these pastors are one busy dude and it takes a lot to get a little of their time.

Also, I know some of these people that pastors have “helped.” Many of them are currently not a member of any church and are openly LGBTQA. So, sorry, not quite all “success” stories (by the church in question’s standards or conversion). Others have privately disagreed with their church about being able to change and have told me horror stories about the “conversion” therapy they went through after being pressured by their church. Not to mention that they have also told me and others that they doubt there are “hundreds” of ex-gays helped by any one church. At best, I think pastors can say they know a couple of people that have had their sexual attractions change for unknown reasons and then have forced a good number of people that are LGBTQA to live celibate lifestyles based on this idea that people can change their attractions.

Public Response to Personal Beliefs

Two more issues rolled into one: when pastors talk about how educators in public schools should not accept same-sex marriage as normal, or how business owners should be willing to stand to lose business or even various deals or contracts over this issue. Which is weird, considering our job as Christians is to be in the world but not of the world. Treat every student you teach as weird unless they believe like you? Cause your business to go under unless everyone you deal with has the same religious beliefs as you? That is all just silly. People every where are not going to believe like you, but you can still do business with them or treat them like they are normal. That is the whole point of “be in the world but not of it.”

Of course, this stance often does does not apply to other issues, like the many people at church that are currently on their third marriage, or who had sex before marriage but still got married, or who are obviously not treating their bodies as a temple of God by the way they eat. You see, at many churches like these, it is okay to do business with people that violate some scriptures, just not others. They can even become leaders in the church (yep, I have personally known some leaders at various churches that are on their third marriage, or had sex before marriage, or committed a wide range of the “acceptable” evangelical sins).

Compassionate Christians?

Look, as I often say, I am not trying to convince anyone that they need to change their belief on what is sin. My concern is that many very complex and difficult issues are being glossed over and made to seem clear when they are not. People are going around saying that the Bible clearly says things that it does not. People are saying that most Christians believe something that they sometimes don’t (even though Christianity is not supposed to be about popularity anyways, but interesting how many will automatically turn “what we should believe” into a popularity contest if it helps their point). Many are going around saying that Christians at these churches are nice, caring people… which they are, as long as you agree with them. Try to take a different position and have a productive conversation about it? Not so much. I have had many in person and online conversations to prove it. I have been defriended by many former close friends over just raising questions. Then once the arguments start, I have had to block more than I can count once they go off the deep end of hate. People I used to be good friends with, pray with, walk with, eat with, etc. Once the hateful insults come out about how I want to kill babies (it always goes there for some reason) just because I want to acknowledge the difficulties on this issue, its time to block. Before someone wants to talk about the compassion of evangelicals, let me pull out some statements towards me that are not very compassionate: I’m worse than a pagan because I am too liberal (even though I never expressed that), hopeful God will strike me down in explicit graphic ways, how gay men will attack my family, etc.

You have to ask yourself: why does such extreme hatred come out of the mouths of people once they are confronted by one of their former insiders that now walks a different path? Maybe we can look back to the words of their pastors to see why: claims that if one is not clear, they will have no leg to stand on at some point in the future, or if they think they are going to get away with their beliefs in the short run, then they won’t in the long run, because the “spirit demands submission.” Skipping over the problematic idea that is “spirit demands submission,” just looking at the whole tone there is very telling: you either agree with me or God is gonna get you in the end. Its not grace, its beliefs. You have to get every point right or else there will be divine trouble.

It is the ultimate in works-based religion played out to its logical conclusion. Faith that God is still God even in the gray areas is not enough. You have to know for sure what you know, and get it correct right now or the big army boot of the Spirit in the sky is going to squash you. Of course, this is all because they care for you, even if that caring is wrapped up in a big ball of “God is abusive” theology.

Do They Really Hate Gays?

Finally, I would also like to address people saying that these Christians “hate gays” because of their beliefs. Look, the concept of “truth being more complex than easy, quick sound bites” goes both ways. Yes, conversion therapy is very hateful towards those that are LGBTQA. But many people, especially at these churches, just don’t understand that. Their pastors seems to refuse to understand that side of the issue. But they don’t hate gays in the ways they are accused of hating them. Or at least, in the ways that many conservative outlets say they are being attacked for (its always hard to know if that is true when conservative media won’t actually point to any real attacks or claim that certain articles are an attack when they really aren’t). Do these churches have abusive parts to their theology? Yes. Does that mean they are intentionally trying to be abusive? Not necessarily. They are just misguided in these areas. Part of that is the pastor’s fault, part of it is the evangelical leaders that they listens to, and part of it is the fault of the thousands that enable them by accepting what they preaches without critically analyzing it.

And I know what the typical response is: they aren’t anti-gay – they love all people and want them to be everything that God has for them. This sounds wonderful, but there is one big problem: when saying this they conveniently leave out the parenthetical statement after that: “be everything that God has for them (as long as it is not a gay Christian).” They like to selectively edit their response to seem like a loving, accepting church, specifically leaving out the part where you will be expected to not be LGBTQA if you want to stay there a long time, or that you will at best have to live a celibate lifestyle and never serve anywhere on the church leadership. Yes, it is dishonest and deceiving. Technically they are still anti-gay even after claiming not to be. That is because they are trying to take a “bold stand” in a way that will get them attacked the least.

Take Time to Listen

The biggest problem here is an evangelical movement that refuses to listen. You can go find many other sermons by these pastors on a wide range of topics where they speak so emphatically of things they clearly do not understand. I say this not because they have a different stance than I think they should, but because they can not accurately describe the side they are railing against. Such is the case when they speak about “homosexuality.” Just using that word demonstrates they are not listening or understanding or both. They do this because they follow the lead of many other problematic evangelical leaders like John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and Francis Chan. To these pastors and those that follow them I would say: try to listen more and rebuke less. Those of us that have left the evangelical tradition but still cling to Jesus are not any more ignorant or misled than anyone else is. Please try to understand our position before preaching more misguided sermons about us. I highly recommend the work of Justin Lee and the Gay Christian Network. They have many members who believe that “homosexuality is a sin” but are willing to be honest about the uncertainties about what the Bible actually says in this area.

And I know the response that many evangelicals give: I have lots of gay/liberal/homosexual friends/family/co-workers, so I have listened to and know their side well. Leaders and members at these churches do technically listen, but then respond in ways that reveal they didn’t listen to understand as much as correct. Look, you can disagree with someone all you want – its a free country. But if your words do not display an understanding of the side you are railing against, then it doesn’t matter how many people you talked to: you didn’t listen to understand. There is a difference.

metamodern-faith-avatarThen there is the response that I am saying all of this because I want to be “popular with the world.” Look, I’m not a famous person. I won’t gain popularity taking this stance in Texas. I will probably get defriended by at least 10 people for posting this. I will probably get a handful of likes and then a massive amount of argument and accusations from many others. And all of that is nothing compared to what people who are LGBTQA will face once all of those articles about “hit jobs” against popular celebrities circulate more and more. Yes, something for you to consider: someone you know that is LGBTQA could possibly get harassed and verbally attacked each time you post those articles “in support of This Famous Person.” Any negative feedback you or I face is nothing compared to the horrors that the LGBTQA community has to face every time they get accused of “overstepping their bounds” in response to some celebrity’s beliefs.

Actually, What If I Do Understand Trump Supporters – But Still Disagree?

We are now all being told that the biggest problem with with our national discourse on the election is that we don’t listen to each other. On the surface, this is a good point because listening is usually always a good idea. However, it seems that this good idea is being served with an unhealthy side dish of “if you are disagreeing, it is because you are not listening and understanding.”

We tend to accept this side dish because we are taught that our problems would all be solved if we just realized that we are more alike than we are different.

But what if we all start listening to each other right now and find that…. we are all still different on many key issues?

I have lived in Texas all my life. My parents are not very conservative, but probably 90%+ of all people that I have known are. I know and understand the conservative position as much as any conservative does (and sometimes even more so). And because I understand, I disagree. Bigly.

However, I don’t believe that the conservative viewpoint should be silenced or removed from the national discourse on and topic. Many conservatives feel like their viewpoint is not being heard because the liberal media and biased system is keeping it out. To advocate for those feelings to be ignored will just cause them to grow stronger.

But at the same time, I know that there are factual problems with that last paragraph. There is a conservative side of the media that tells their story and technically gets more viewers than the liberal side. The system is a mess that causes many problems with many people, not just conservatives. And even those two sentences are greatly oversimplifying some complex issues.

But the current drift of our national narrative is heading towards an attitude that will label me as not “listening” or “understanding” just because I disagree.

Its not really one way or the other. Sometimes listening leads us to realize we are more alike than we realize – on some issues. Sometimes listening leads us to realize we are really different on some issues and that can’t be changed.

The other side of this problem are those that say that all opinions on all issues are valid, and that we should stop telling anyone that they are wrong. This, of course, is followed by a long list of exceptions to this all inclusive declaration: except for racism, except for sexism, except for religion discrimination, except for heterosexism, except for ableism, etc. This whole package sounds good on the surface, until you dig in and find out that its not that people don’t want you calling out any of these exceptions as much as they want to re-assign everything to different categories so that nothing falls into any negative area. For instance, people will acknowledge that racism exists, but any specific instance of racism is labeled as something else – misunderstanding, social media hype, personal feelings, etc – and therefore moved into the category of “personal opinion” rather than societal problem. Racism exists, its just that there are no racists. Somehow, its magic.

I know people by name that have made racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, etc statements and jokes on social media. So I am not saying they are any of those because they voted for Trump – I knew that they were long before Trump was even considering running. I just didn’t see anyone that had inflammatory statements before the election posting on social media about how they voted for Clinton, Johnson, Stein, or no one after the election.

And so when I also saw people that never posted or said anything prejudiced declaring their support for Trump, you can maybe now see why it confused me. Did you know what you were voting for? Did you care? Why did you not point out that you disagreed with Trump’s sexist, racist, ableist, heterosexist rhetoric until after someone asked you how you could be okay with that? Before the election, I had one cousin that pointed out how much he hated Trump but as a Republican only wanted to vote Republican and felt trapped. I believe him. A few other connections that stated a general discomfort with “some” of Trump’s rhetoric. I believe them as well. These people are unfairly getting labeled many things they shouldn’t be.

I am not a huge fan of blanket statements. I try to avoid them even in the few cases where I suspect they might be true. But I also have listened to many Trump supporters enough to know where a majority of them come from, and I disagree with a majority of their reasoning for voting for Trump (and technically, all votes are for someone – the ballot did not say “against Hillary Clinton” on it). Additional listening on my part will not change my disagreements (even though I will still be listening because that is just who I am).

And for that matter, I don’t think getting Trump supporters to listen to me will get them to change their mind on many stances wither (even though it would be nice to stop being personally accused of killing millions of unborn babies with my own hands because I voted for Clinton).

metamodern-faith-avatarSo this is the challenge we are facing in America. Understanding each other is not going to solve all of our problems. Some, maybe, but not all. It will lead us to realize there are some things we just can’t agree on. We will need to find a way to agree to disagree and then work towards a system where everyone’s rights are protected. This will not be simple or easy. And the incoming administration seems to think there are simple one-solution-fits-all answers for every problem more so than not. I hope we don’t have to go through a large number of national tragedies and hardships for them to realize this is not the case.

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 family 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.

Musings on the Current Presidential Race

If you had asked me four years ago what I thought of the host of The Apprentice becoming a serious U.S. presidential candidate, I would have laughed and said he a racist, misogynist, divisive, unstable megalomaniac that has neither the temperament nor the skills to be taken seriously. Of course, fast forward to now and when one says the same thing, Trump fans accuse you of buying the media lies that the corporations are paying for to slander Trump because he is an outsider. Not sure how the media and corporations would have done that to an opinion of mine that would technically be unchanged for years before he even announced he was running, but whatever. Anyone that knows Trump’s history knows he is neither a Washington outsider nor anti-corporations. He is deeply entangled in both.

Everyone seems to be complaining about media bias. Trump, Sanders, Cruz, Rubio…. Clinton? Has she complained about it yet? I can’t remember. But the funny thing about her is that in the past week I have heard several of her opponents (DEM and GOP) say something about media deception and then follow that with some Clinton issue that they could only know about… from the media. Think about it: email scandal, Benghazi, you name the things dogging her now… the only way we know about these problems is through the media. So the media can accurately report Clinton’s problems, but not the other candidate’s? If the media can’t be trusted, then how do we know any of Clinton’s problems are real? Clinton is currently the only candidate not getting hammered by her opponents for things she said recently or policies she stated since running. That one thing about Sanders standing right behind her 23 years ago is about as bad as it gets… and that is a silly point at best. The attacks on Clinton are all about media-reported issues. That a dangerous place to be. Does anyone know anything about Clinton other than “she’s copying Bernie!!!” and “Benghazi / emails!!!”? That should concern people.

As far as Sanders, the real concern with him is who is voting for him. As in, mostly young rich white males. People of color are voting for Clinton big time. The reaction from the Sanders camp? “They are uninformed! They are buying into media hype!” I have a huge problem with that reaction. People of color voted Obama in as well. This was followed by the McCain and then the Romney supporters claiming “They are uninformed! They are buying into media hype!” Of course, it was racist back then, and its still racist today. Voting for a democratic socialist doesn’t suddenly change that. If the group that voted for Obama was well-informed and levelheaded just four years ago, how are they suddenly not today? People that voted for Obama and claimed one thing about people of color four years ago, but are now claiming the opposite message about the same group of people today, have a lot of explaining to do.

Thankfully, there are some Sanders supporters that are not saying those things. But… they aren’t really doing much to stand up to those who are. Silence is not always a good thing.

Also of concern are the liberals that say “Sanders or third party!” or “Clinton or third party!” Might as well go vote for Trump, because that is what you are doing. This is different from choosing not to vote (which is a choice I still support, because a freedom is not truly free if it is obligatory). Increasing voter turnout has never been found to change the percentages of who votes. “Republicans win in years when voter turnout is low” is an urban legend. What does change elections is when large swaths of voters that typically vote for one party switch votes and go for a third party candidate. They basically shoot their old party in the foot. Of course, that has never really happened for a presidential election, but Sanders and Clinton have enough support to change that this time if the supporters of which ever one loses do go through with the threat to go third party. I will vote for whoever is not Trump or Cruz no matter how much I don’t like them, because those two are miles beyond worse than anyone else left.

What do I have against Cruz? He twists the Constitution to fit his own warped ultra-right wing theology and then claims to be a constitutional scholar. Sorry, I have designed college classes with true constitutional scholars that are also conservative. They would agree with almost nothing Cruz stands for. And don’t get me started on his twisted version of Christianity.

What I personally want to see for the election is Kasich versus Clinton. They are both the most moderate candidate in their parties (but not by much), so if they go head to head the contest will pull them both more towards the moderate middle. This will change the conversation in the country to a message of coming together on middle ground, which will also usher in more moderate candidates in other elections. The overall effect will create more fertile ground for whoever wins out of the two to create the most real change in this country. People of color see that, and that is why they are voting for these two.

If Sanders and Trump go head to head for the election, it will be a different story: here you would have two people at the polar opposite ends of the spectrum from each other. Their campaigns will further pull people towards those poles, further dividing the nation. More radical people on both ends of the spectrum will be elected in other races as well. No matter which one gets elected, the division their stand-off will cause will create an atmosphere where neither one will be able to accomplish much while in office, meaning less real change. Just look at the last two elections – Obama and McCain/Romney are technically closer to each other than Sanders and Trump, but still far enough apart that their campaign caused major divisions in this country. Obama spent the first half of his presidency attempting to overcome that division, and then the second half doing a fraction of what he could have because the division was still there. It would have been the same for McCain or Romney of they had won. It will be the same, but worse, if Trump and Sanders go head to head.

metamodern-faith-avatarWhat most fans of any candidate most get wrong is thinking that their one candidate can make the changes this country needs. What we really need is a complex scenario of the right people running against each other at the right time starting early enough in the process to create the right atmosphere for real change. But I fear that it is too late on the Republican side to go down that road… no matter how you slice it, Trump does not fit into what this country needs in any way, shape, or form.

Do You Care More About Your Political Views Winning, or the Human Race Winning?

As a moderate, I miss the days when liberals and conservatives were equally clueless. But the right wing insanity regarding the recent issues surrounding gun violence, refugees, Islam, and immigrants has gone to such stupefying levels that I just can’t even deal with all of them with out becoming seriously depressed. An entire political party that no longer cares about reality – just fooling itself into believing it’s fantasies are reality. Its sad, really.

Reason: doesn’t matter
Logic: doesn’t matter
Research: doesn’t matter
What your own scriptures tell you: doesn’t matter
Historical trends: doesn’t matter.

All that matters is sticking it to liberals with idiotic memes. That is pathetic. Grown up people. Our fellow humans are dying and you post a meme that doesn’t even reflect reality – just your political view? Just yesterday, someone on Facebook flat out lied and said guns are illegal in France… just to try and prove me wrong. His actual quote was: “Guns are illegal in France and Mexico.” (they aren’t illegal in Mexico, either, FYI). This “good, Christian person” didn’t care one bit about saying truthful things – just in proving a political point. Let that sink in for a minute.

Look, none of us get out of here alive. But we can make it a good or bad place for each other for the limited time we are here. Do you care more about your political views winning, or the human race winning? You can’t have both. I seriously don’t see anything in the GOP that cares about the human race winning, just a set of political ideologies winning.

And if your first response is “but the liberals….” – I’ll have to deal with Democrats later. Maybe stop your praying to God and start listening to God? A little dose of reality for what God would say to you if you stopped to listen:

The GOP is lying to you.

The media has problems. but the GOP is still lying to you about the media.

Obamacare has problems, but the GOP is still lying to you about Obamacare.

Academia has big problems, but the GOP is still lying to you about academia.

Obama is not the perfect president that liberals make him out to be, but the GOP is still lying to you about Obama.

Islam has its problem, but the GOP is still lying to you about Islam.

Democrats have a lot of problems with their political ideology, but the GOP is still lying to you about the Democrats.

Democratic politicians are also lairs, but the GOP is still lying to you about the Democrat’s lies.

metamodern-faith-avatarYes, that is how bad it has become. You can’t even trust the GOP to correctly expose lies without lying about the lies. Maybe if we had a Republican in the White House right now, it would be the other way around for the Democrats. Who knows? But for now, it’s the GOP that is off the rails, and I don’t even know if they care to get back on.

Duped by Trump

Any student of history will tell you that the media and the politicians have had a long history of trying to control each other. This has usually led to a public show down with the media criticizing politicians and politicians returning the favor. However, I am wondering if that is all changing with the rise of Donald Trump.

Trump is more than a businessman. He is an integral part of the media system as well. From starring in several realty TV shows to sponsoring beauty pageants to appearing in TV commercials and so on, Trump is squarely on the media side of the equation. And if you really examine what he says, it shows. He can’t even keep his story straight over a 10 minute boardroom session on The Apprentice. Media interviews over time shows that his political alliances have shifted from liberal to conservative and back and forth again (basically following where ever the money was at the time). He knows that people won’t really criticize your words if you say enough of the correct buzz terms for one side. If you really listen to what he says on any given political topic today, he just can’t create a consistent stance beyond the top level, bullet point ideas he repeats over and over.

So, ever wondered why people like him so much? I read someone state that he is just telling it like it is. That’s not really true – most of his statements are truly relative – he is just stating one side’s opinion (and the side has changed over the years). Someone else said it is that he is rich, and people know he can’t be bought. Not true either: you can’t be a successful businessman unless you can be bought. How else will you make money? Trump has a long history of going for the money. Yet another person said its because he is dialing into a deep mistrust of Obama.

A-ha. There we have it. People don’t like Obama, Trump doesn’t like Obama, and so people connect with that. The problem is: people’s hatred of Obama is a state of mind bought and paid for by the same people that are putting Trump at the top of the presidential race.

Who are these people? The (right-wing) media. Trump’s own people.

I didn’t vote for Obama. I think there are many things he could have done better on. But the right wing media hatred spearheaded by Fox News is obviously so far over the line that its beyond belief to those that don’t buy it. Obama hates America? He’s a criminal? He’s trying to enslave us all? That’s just extremist talk, with no real proof. Not even close.

I was raised to give credit where credit is due, even to people that I don’t agree with. Obama deserves more credit than the right-wing media gives him.

But those of us that see through this right wing media smoke screen have always wondered: why so extreme? What is the end goal? Blind hatred without a clear end goal is just a waste of money. And the media is not really one to waste money without an end goal.

I think we have  an understanding of that end goal now: Donald Trump. He has been leading the media hatred of Obama for years. And now he is magically in the lead position in the GOP debates? Is anyone else disturbed that Fox News can determine who is in and out of the running with this debate?

metamodern-faith-avatarWhat I think we are seeing is a very well-planned and coordinated plan by the right-wing media to gain more control over the government. They spend years seeding hatred of Obama, slowly whipping it into a blazing (yes, I use that word intentionally there) inferno of blind rage. They find a few people that will do say and do whatever they want (how else can anyone explain The Celebrity Apprentice?). Then push the one that works out the most (Trump) to run. Trump shoots to the top of the polls – front and center at tonight’s debate. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear a bunch of questions tonight tailor-made to make Trump sound good.

I know this all sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory, and I hope that it is. Something isn’t adding up and I can’t just chalk it up to chance. I think America has been duped by the Trump.

America Has Always Gone Against Global and Historical Definitions of Marriage

Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see people distorting reality to support their narrative. You are free to believe what you want when it comes to any issue, regardless of what the rest of the world or history says about an issue. That is the beauty of living in a metamodernist age: you can believe something even if it is counter-intuitive to the dominant cultural narrative.

But at the same time, if you change the narrative of others to make your narrative seem like it is the one, correct, true narrative, you are doing more harm to your cause than good. With the recent Supreme Court marriage equality decisions, one area that concerns me is how conservative Christians are claiming that SCOTUS is trying to change the historical, global, and religious definitions of marriage. The reality is that the historical, global, and religious definitions of marriage are much more diverse than the revisionist idea of a global historical “one man, one woman” idea.

Global and historical definitions of marriage contain a major element of legal polygamy – especially when you want to bring Biblical definitions of marriage into the mix. Additionally, global and historical religious definitions of marriage typically contain a major stream of banning interracial and/or intercultural marriages. The United States redefined global and historical definitions of marriage when we made polygamy illegal in 1862. We also did so multiple points when we made woman equal to men in various marriage issues. And yet again in 1967 when we made interracial marriage legal across the nation.

What is even more ironic is that many conservative political leaders such as Greg Abbot and Ted Cruz are remaining silent about the 1967 Supreme Court decision that made their interracial marriages legal in their home state of Texas, while decrying the 2015 SCOTUS decision that is basically the same kind of decision.

metamodern-faith-avatarThe historical, global, and religious definition of marriage is a complex, often contradictory and paradoxical ideal. The United States has a long history of creating its own definition of marriage (along with many other concepts) based on the underlying ideal of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. Additionally, the Evangelical church owes the existence of their entire movement to their leaders disagreeing with the historical and global Protestant interpretations of scriptures (and the Protestant church is based on their leaders disagreeing with the historical and global Catholic interpretations of scriptures, and so on back in time).  The idea that there has been a consistent global, historical, or religious way of doing anything is revisionist at best, and dangerous to the true goal of the Church and the United States at its worst.

A Tale of Two Supreme Court Decisions

I try not to make current issues about myself, because they rarely are. As a heterosexual white male, I recognize my privilege and how making issues that touch on race, gender, or sexuality about me is just an extension of my privilege. However, the reaction to the recent supreme court decision legalizing same sex marriages in a way does touch on something that is close to me: my own marriage.

I am not gay or bisexual. However, my former wife was half Asian Indian and half white. To most people today, we were not really that much of an “interracial” marriage, and I would tend to agree. But go back in time to 1965, and that would be a different story in our home state of Texas. My former wife’s maiden name is very Indian, and mine is very white. Had we tried to get married in 1965, we would have been denied a license based on our last names alone.

That all changed in 1967 when the Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. Texas was one of several states forced to follow these laws after the decision. Opposition to this reaction were often based on religious beliefs. For example, Judge Leon M. Bazile wrote about his decision to send a couple that sought interracial marriage to jail by saying:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races show that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Bazile’s ruling was fought all the way to the Supreme Court in 1967. Equality won, and interracial marriage was formally legal in all 50 states (although some states ignored this until 2000). Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote about the court’s unanimous decision:

“Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Fifty years later, several conservative politicians are now trying to say that these kinds of individual decisions can be infringed upon by the State; that State rights out weighs individual rights in cases of individual conscious.

Even more ironically, Texas political leaders like Ted Cruz and Greg Abbot are protesting yesterday’s supreme court decision, despite being in interracial marriages themselves that would have been illegal in their home state of Texas without Supreme Court intervention. And they aren’t only disagreeing with the decision itself, but going so far as to say that the the the Supreme Court is “lawless” and “playing God” in how they made that decision.

Add that to the chorus of disagreement from evangelical Christians, such as John Piper who Tweeted that the U.S. is “institutionalizing suicidal commitments.” In light of the shockingly high suicide rates of those that are LGBTQ when compared to heterosexuals, this statement is without class and completely inappropriate. Can one claim to love God when they are also mocking “the least of these”?

I could go on and on quoting hateful and inappropriate responses from across the Conservative and Evangelical spectrum. Add to that those that refer to Christians such as myself that support marriage equality as “deceived” or flat out “evil.” It doesn’t matter that we came to this conclusion because we love God, respect His Word, and fear misrepresenting Both so much that we spent decades in Bible study, praying, and following the conviction of the Holy Spirit to come to these conclusions. We know the Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew underlying the pertinent scriptures backwards and forwards, as well as being well versed in ancient Jewish, Greek, and Roman cultural attitudes towards sexual issues. But all of that is not enough. We have a different opinion, so we are heretics (or worse).

metamodern-faith-avatarI realize that all of this is really nothing in comparison to the bullying, discrimination, and life-threatening situations that people with real problems face everyday. I’m not complaining about anything, just bringing to light a different facet of the conversation. Those that need to hear it most won’t listen, but “for those with an ear to hear….”

Why The Logic of “More Guns Decreases Crime” Doesn’t Add Up

Let me start off by saying that this is not an anti-gun post. Even though I say that, many people have already decided to hate it based on the title alone. But this post is a look at bad logic, not gun rights.

We have probably all seen a large number of articles, memes, and rants online about how the best way to curb crime is to increase gun ownership.  Usually this is in the form of a statistic that shows how some city, state, or country saw an increase in gun sales at the same time they saw a decrease in crimes committed with guns.

Of course, we all know that correlation does not equal causation, but we also kind of conveniently ignore that basic foundation of logic if the correlation happens to support our side. I do it all the time, and so do most people I know.

But have you ever really stopped to wonder how an increase in gun sales would lead to a decrease in crime? Basically, you have two real scenarios:

  1. Some criminals hear that more guns are being sold and then decide it is too risky to commit more crime.
  2. Criminals run into more people with guns while committing crime, and are either caught, shot, or scared into leaving a life of crime.

The problem is, reality just doesn’t support either scenario. Let’s look at the first one. The problem with this option is that most stories about gun numbers increasing accompany stories about crime dropping. Criminals can’t become scared about a story that hasn’t aired yet. When was the last time you saw a story that was just about the number of guns increasing? I never had, but I am sure there are some. But even when there are, you have to content with the fact that less than 10 percent of Americans watch the evening news. Cable news, internet news, and physical newspapers have slightly higher numbers, but access to those outlets decreases as poverty increases (which is where most violent criminals come from). So how many criminals are actually going to see a one minute story about gun sales increasing in the first place? The statistics would say very few.

So the chance that a criminal hears about increased gun sales is slim. But if they do, then what? Its not like there were no guns before the increase in sales. Yet criminals still committed crimes. “But a study found that criminals are afraid of armed citizens!” Well, no actually – it found they are concerned about running into an armed citizen and took steps to avoid that. But what you rarely read from these stats is if they stopped committing crime based on hearing there are more guns out there. I mean – think about it. A person wants to avoid getting into a conflict with another person that is armed. No. Way. Next you are going to tell me the sky is blue! “But it said they were more afraid of an armed citizen than the police!” You mean they are more afraid of a person with maybe a couple of days of training (with no guidance on emotional control) and no experience in tense situations than they are of a person with months of training and experience in tense situations? No. Way. If you haven’t figured out by now, most of those “studies” on criminals being more afraid of armed citizens are just poorly designed propaganda pieces that really tell us nothing.

But really, all scenario #1 really comes down to is assuming that criminals will hear about increased gun sales and then decide to stop committing crime because of that. The chances of that are so random and based on uncontrollable factors like popularity of the media outlet carrying that news, attitudes of criminals towards guns (I did go to a prison once and asked criminals about what they thought about armed citizens and none cared… it was actually an eye-opening experience), possible responses to news, etc. Randomness of that level make a correlation very unlikely, statistically speaking.

The second scenario is probably much more likely. It would make much more sense that criminals would run into more guns as they commit crimes and that ends up forcing them to decrease their activities (or they get shot and the actual number of criminals decreases). The problem is, while gun sales are increasing, the actual number of people that buy a gun for the first time is not keeping pace with the population growth.  What that means is that the percentage of people carrying a gun is decreasing overall, and it is less likely that a criminal will run into an armed citizen.

Currently, somewhere around 24-37% of Americans own a gun (depending on if you count people who say they own a gun or say they live with some that owns a gun; a confusing statistic). However, the percentage of gun owners and households with guns is going down. How is that so, when gun sales are increasing so rapidly? The population increase in the U.S. is between 0.74% and 0.97% depending on which index you look at. This translates to rough 3 million people – a mixture of babies and immigrants. So not a good stat to look at. From what I have found, between 4 and 8 million people turn 18 each year. There are around 2.4 million adult deaths in the U.S. each year. So between 1.6 and 5.6 people could become new gun owners each year. But apparently, less than that are, thus leading to the downward trend in gun ownership percentages.

What this basically means is that criminals are less likely to run into an armed citizen despite the soaring gun sales. Therefore, #2 just isn’t possible with the current stats, leading us back to the unlikely scenario #1 as the best bet.

So, basically you are saying that crime statistics are decreasing on the off-chance that a large number of criminals are seeing a news report on TV and getting scared out of committing at least some of the crime they were going to commit… even though they had still planned that crime before they saw the report when there were already guns out there.

So the logic of “increased gun sales equals decreased crime” just doesn’t add up, at least with the current statistics. As one police officer put it: “of course you see decreased crime where there are more legal guns – we have to patrol twice as much to make sure the hotheads don’t shoot each other more often!”

metamodern-faith-avatarCrime statistics are a complex stat to figure out. Sometimes it is a good thing when they go up – meaning more criminals are getting arrested. Sometimes it means that the police are catching fewer criminals due to being understaffed at a given time. All of this really means that we just need to take a more nuanced look at what is really happening, rather than co-opting random correlations for our own political cause.

God Will Not Be Mocked

You have probably heard this statement (or one like it) end many a religious debate on social media, usually spoken by a conservative evangelical fundamentalist to a liberal or progressive Christian they have been disagreeing with: “God will not be mocked, and those who substitute their own felt desires for God’s unchangeable Truth will not be found guiltless before a holy God.”

Other versions of this statement also include people being accused of being everything from a heretic to a false convert.

The biggest problem with this statement is that is true for both conservatives and liberals. Both sides do not want to mock God by misrepresenting His Words with their felt desires. The difference is not is dedication to Truth or honesty, but in what counts as “felt desires” and what counts as “unchangeable Truth.”

Whether the topic is marriage or Science or modesty or guns or abortion or you name it, both sides are intensely concerned with accurately representing Truth on the matter in a way that does not make a mockery of God. However, both sides have reached different conclusions as to what that accurate representation is.

metamodern-faith-avatarAnd that is the crux of the problem. We are not Truth. God is Truth. Our words are not Truth. His words are Truth. And even when we are quoting the red letters of the Bible, we are often still quoting words that are translated imperfectly from older languages that are sometimes difficult to translate into modern languages. So the next time you pick up the stones of “false convert” or “heretic” or “mocking God” or “giving in to felt desires”…. try to remember God’s position on those that pick up stones to use against others that they don’t agree with. And then take a good dose of humbling reality when realizing that Jesus defended the theologically incorrect person in that story.