Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

A boundary where scientists face a choice: invoke a deity or continue the quest for knowledge

Writing in centuries past, many scientists felt compelled to wax poetic about cosmic mysteries and God’s handiwork. Perhaps one should not be surprised at this: most scientists back then, as well as many scientists today, identify themselves as spiritually devout.

But a careful reading of older texts, particularly those concerned with the universe itself, shows that the authors invoke divinity only when they reach the boundaries of their understanding. They appeal to a higher power only when staring into the ocean of their own ignorance. They call on God only from the lonely and precarious edge of incomprehension. Where they feel certain about their explanations, however, God gets hardly a mention.

Let’s start at the top. Isaac Newton was one of the greatest intellects the world has ever seen. His laws of motion and his universal law of gravitation, conceived in the mid-seventeenth century, account for cosmic phenomena that had eluded philosophers for millennia. Through those laws, one could understand the gravitational attraction of bodies in a system, and thus come to understand orbits.

Newton’s law of gravity enables you to calculate the force of attraction between any two objects. If you introduce a third object, then each one attracts the other two, and the orbits they trace become much harder to compute. Add another object, and another, and another, and soon you have the planets in our solar system. Earth and the Sun pull on each other, but Jupiter also pulls on Earth, Saturn pulls on Earth, Mars pulls on Earth, Jupiter pulls on Saturn, Saturn pulls on Mars, and on and on.

Newton feared that all this pulling would render the orbits in the solar system unstable. His equations indicated that the planets should long ago have either fallen into the Sun or flown the coop—leaving the Sun, in either case, devoid of planets. Yet the solar system, as well as the larger cosmos, appeared to be the very model of order and durability. So Newton, in his greatest work, the Principia, concludes that God must occasionally step in and make things right:

The six primary Planets are revolv’d about the Sun, in circles concentric with the Sun, and with motions directed towards the same parts, and almost in the same plane. . . . But it is not to be conceived that mere mechanical causes could give birth to so many regular motions. . . . This most beautiful System of the Sun,

Planets, and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.

In the Principia, Newton distinguishes between hypotheses and experimental philosophy, and declares, Hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy. What he wants is data, inferr’d from the phænomena. But in the absence of data, at the border between what he could explain and what he could only honor—the causes he could identify and those he could not—Newton rapturously invokes God:

Eternal and Infinite, Omnipotent and Omniscient; . . . he governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done. . . . We know him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final causes; we admire him for his perfections; but we reverence and adore him on account of his dominion.

A century later, the French astronomer and mathematician Pierre-Simon de Laplace confronted Newton’s dilemma of unstable orbits head-on. Rather than view the mysterious stability of the solar system as the unknowable work of God, Laplace declared it a scientific challenge. In his multipart masterpiece, Mécanique Céleste, the first volume of which appeared in 1798, Laplace demonstrates that the solar system is stable over periods of time longer than Newton could predict. To do so, Laplace pioneered a new kind of mathematics called perturbation theory, which enabled him to examine the cumulative effects of many small forces. According to an oft-repeated but probably embellished account, when Laplace gave a copy of Mécanique Céleste to his physics-literate friend Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon asked him what role God played in the construction and regulation of the heavens. Sire, Laplace replied, I have no need of that hypothesis.

Laplace notwithstanding, plenty of scientists besides Newton have called on God—or the gods—wherever their comprehension fades to ignorance. Consider the second-century a.d. Alexandrian astronomer Ptolemy. Armed with a description, but no real understanding, of what the planets were doing up there, he could not contain his religious fervor:

I know that I am mortal by nature, and ephemeral; but when I trace, at my pleasure, the windings to and fro of the heavenly bodies, I no longer touch Earth with my feet: I stand in the presence of Zeus himself and take my fill of ambrosia.

Or consider the seventeenth-century Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, whose achievements include constructing the first working pendulum clock and discovering the rings of Saturn. In his charming book The Celestial Worlds Discover’d, posthumously published in 1696, most of the opening chapter celebrates all that was then known of planetary orbits, shapes, and sizes, as well as the planets’ relative brightness and presumed rockiness. The book even includes foldout charts illustrating the structure of the solar system. God is absent from this discussion—even though a mere century earlier, before Newton’s achievements, planetary orbits were supreme mysteries.

Celestial Worlds also brims with speculations about life in the solar system, and that’s where Huygens raises questions to which he has no answer. That’s where he mentions the biological conundrums of the day, such as the origin of life’s complexity. And sure enough, because seventeenth-century physics was more advanced than seventeenth-century biology, Huygens invokes the hand of God only when he talks about biology:

I suppose no body will deny but that there’s somewhat more of Contrivance, somewhat more of Miracle in the production and growth of Plants and Animals than in lifeless heaps of inanimate Bodies. . . . For the finger of God, and the Wisdom of Divine Providence, is in them much more clearly manifested than in the other.

Today secular philosophers call that kind of divine invocation God of the gaps—which comes in handy, because there has never been a shortage of gaps in people’s knowledge.

As reverent as Newton, Huygens, and other great scientists of earlier centuries may have been, they were also empiricists. They did not retreat from the conclusions their evidence forced them to draw, and when their discoveries conflicted with prevailing articles of faith, they upheld the discoveries. That doesn’t mean it was easy: sometimes they met fierce opposition, as did Galileo, who had to defend his telescopic evidence against formidable objections drawn from both scripture and common sense.

Galileo clearly distinguished the role of religion from the role of science. To him, religion was the service of God and the salvation of souls, whereas science was the source of exact observations and demonstrated truths. In a long, famous, bristly letter written in the summer of 1615 to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany (but, like so many epistles of the day, circulated among the literati), he quotes, in his own defense, an unnamed yet sympathetic church official saying that the Bible tells you how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.

The letter to the duchess leaves no doubt about where Galileo stood on the literal word of the Holy Writ:

In expounding the Bible if one were always to confine oneself to the unadorned grammatical meaning, one might fall into error. . . .

Nothing physical which . . . . demonstrations prove to us, ought to be called in question much less condemned) upon the testimony of biblical passages which may have some different meaning beneath their words. . . .

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

A rare exception among scientists, Galileo saw the unknown as a place to explore rather than as an eternal mystery controlled by the hand of God.

As long as the celestial sphere was generally regarded as the domain of the divine, the fact that mere mortals could not explain its workings could safely be cited as proof of the higher wisdom and power of God. But beginning in the sixteenth century, the work of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton—not to mention Maxwell, Heisenberg, Einstein, and everybody else who discovered fundamental laws of physics—provided rational explanations for an increasing range of phenomena. Little by little, the universe was subjected to the methods and tools of science, and became a demonstrably knowable place.

Then, in what amounts to a stunning yet unheralded philosophical inversion, throngs of ecclesiastics and scholars began to declare that it was the laws of physics themselves that served as proof of the wisdom and power of God.

One popular theme of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was the clockwork universe—an ordered, rational, predictable mechanism fashioned and run by God and his physical laws. The early telescopes, which all relied on visible light, did little to undercut that image of an ordered system. The Moon revolved around Earth. Earth and other planets rotated on their axes and revolved around the Sun. The stars shone. The nebulae floated freely in space.

Not until the nineteenth century was it evident that visible light is just one band of a broad spectrum of electromagnetic radiation—the band that human beings just happen to see. Infrared was discovered in 1800, ultraviolet in 1801, radio waves in 1888, X rays in 1895, and gamma rays in 1900. Decade by decade in the following century, new kinds of telescopes came into use, fitted with detectors that could see these formerly invisible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. Now astrophysicists began to unmask the true character of the universe.

Turns out that some celestial bodies give off more light in the invisible bands of the spectrum than in the visible. And the invisible light picked up by the new telescopes showed that mayhem abounds in the cosmos: monstrous gamma-ray bursts, deadly pulsars, matter-crushing gravitational fields, matter-hungry black holes that flay their bloated stellar neighbors, newborn stars igniting within pockets of collapsing gas. And as our ordinary, optical telescopes got bigger and better, more mayhem emerged: galaxies that collide and cannibalize each other, explosions of supermassive stars, chaotic stellar and planetary orbits. Our own cosmic neighborhood—the inner solar system—turned out to be a shooting gallery, full of rogue asteroids and comets that collide with planets from time to time. Occasionally they’ve even wiped out stupendous masses of Earth’s flora and fauna. The evidence all points to the fact that we occupy not a well-mannered clockwork universe, but a destructive, violent, and hostile zoo.

Of course, Earth can be bad for your health too. On land, grizzly bears want to maul you; in the oceans, sharks want to eat you. Snowdrifts can freeze you, deserts dehydrate you, earthquakes bury you, volcanoes incinerate you. Viruses can infect you, parasites suck your vital fluids, cancers take over your body, congenital diseases force an early death. And even if you have the good luck to be healthy, a swarm of locusts could devour your crops, a tsunami could wash away your family, or a hurricane could blow apart your town.

So the universe wants to kill us all. But let’s ignore that complication for the moment.

Many, perhaps countless, questions hover at the front lines of science. In some cases, answers have eluded the best minds of our species for decades or even centuries. And in contemporary America, the notion that a higher intelligence is the single answer to all enigmas has been enjoying a resurgence. This present-day version of God of the gaps goes by a fresh name: “intelligent design.” The term suggests that some entity, endowed with a mental capacity far greater than the human mind can muster, created or enabled all the things in the physical world that we cannot explain through scientific methods.

An interesting hypothesis.

But why confine ourselves to things too wondrous or intricate for us to understand, whose existence and attributes we then credit to a superintelligence? Instead, why not tally all those things whose design is so clunky, goofy, impractical, or unworkable that they reflect the absence of intelligence?

Take the human form. We eat, drink, and breathe through the same hole in the head, and so, despite Henry J. Heimlich’s eponymous maneuver, choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States. How about drowning, the fifth leading cause? Water covers almost three-quarters of Earth’s surface, yet we are land creatures—submerge your head for just a few minutes, and you die.

Or take our collection of useless body parts. What good is the pinky toenail? How about the appendix, which stops functioning after childhood and thereafter serves only as the source of appendicitis? Useful parts, too, can be problematic. I happen to like my knees, but nobody ever accused them of being well protected from bumps and bangs. These days, people with problem knees can get them surgically replaced. As for our pain-prone spine, it may be a while before someone finds a way to swap that out.

How about the silent killers? High blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes each cause tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. every year, but it’s possible not to know you’re afflicted until your coroner tells you so. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had built-in biogauges to warn us of such dangers well in advance? Even cheap cars, after all, have engine gauges.

And what comedian designer configured the region between our legs—an entertainment complex built around a sewage system?

The eye is often held up as a marvel of biological engineering. To the astrophysicist, though, it’s only a so-so detector. A better one would be much more sensitive to dark things in the sky and to all the invisible parts of the spectrum. How much more breathtaking sunsets would be if we could see ultraviolet and infrared. How useful it would be if, at a glance, we could see every source of microwaves in the environment, or know which radio station transmitters were active. How helpful it would be if we could spot police radar detectors at night.

Think how easy it would be to navigate an unfamiliar city if we, like birds, could always tell which way was north because of the magnetite in our heads. Think how much better off we’d be if we had gills as well as lungs, how much more productive if we had six arms instead of two. And if we had eight, we could safely drive a car while simultaneously talking on a cell phone, changing the radio station, applying makeup, sipping a drink, and scratching our left ear.

Stupid design could fuel a movement unto itself. It may not be nature’s default, but it’s ubiquitous. Yet people seem to enjoy thinking that our bodies, our minds, and even our universe represent pinnacles of form and reason. Maybe it’s a good antidepressant to think so. But it’s not science—not now, not in the past, not ever.

Another practice that isn’t science is embracing ignorance. Yet it’s fundamental to the philosophy of intelligent design: I don’t know what this is. I don’t know how it works. It’s too complicated for me to figure out. It’s too complicated for any human being to figure out. So it must be the product of a higher intelligence.

What do you do with that line of reasoning? Do you just cede the solving of problems to someone smarter than you, someone who’s not even human? Do you tell students to pursue only questions with easy answers?

There may be a limit to what the human mind can figure out about our universe. But how presumptuous it would be for me to claim that if I can’t solve a problem, neither can any other person who has ever lived or who will ever be born. Suppose Galileo and Laplace had felt that way? Better yet, what if Newton had not? He might then have solved Laplace’s problem a century earlier, making it possible for Laplace to cross the next frontier of ignorance.

Science is a philosophy of discovery. Intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance. You cannot build a program of discovery on the assumption that nobody is smart enough to figure out the answer to a problem. Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes. We know when and where they start. We know what drives them. We know what mitigates their destructive power. And anyone who has studied global warming can tell you what makes them worse. The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms.

To deny or erase the rich, colorful history of scientists and other thinkers who have invoked divinity in their work would be intellectually dishonest. Surely there’s an appropriate place for intelligent design to live in the academic landscape. How about the history of religion? How about philosophy or psychology? The one place it doesn’t belong is the science classroom.

If you’re not swayed by academic arguments, consider the financial consequences. Allow intelligent design into science textbooks, lecture halls, and laboratories, and the cost to the frontier of scientific discovery—the frontier that drives the economies of the future—would be incalculable. I don’t want students who could make the next major breakthrough in renewable energy sources or space travel to have been taught that anything they don’t understand, and that nobody yet understands, is divinely constructed and therefore beyond their intellectual capacity. The day that happens, Americans will just sit in awe of what we don’t understand, while we watch the rest of the world boldly go where no mortal has gone before.

BY NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON/NATURAL HISTORY MAGAZINE

Posted by John the Revelator

 

Evangelicals say Christians are being persecuted. They are. But not in the United States. In fact, the U.S. doesn’t even make the top 50 according to Open Doors’ World Watch List. Worldwide, persecution of Christians is rising, but evangelicals’ claims of persecution in the U.S. are unfounded and rooted in intersecting legacies of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and colonialism.

Much of recent U.S. evangelical history has assumed conservative Christianity’s preeminent place in U.S. policy, law, and practice. That assumption also presumes whiteness, maleness, heterosexuality, and U.S. citizenship as characteristics of U.S. Christianity and the dominant U.S. culture. It has also presumed God as white, male, heterosexual, and probably American.

To a great extent, theology ― even a great deal of progressive theology ― has affirmed that view of God and thereby reinforced notions of Christian expansion and dominance. As the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, Gay Liberation, Black Lives Matter, immigration, Queer and Trans movements, and other forces have challenged the dominance of white Christian heteropatriarchy, many evangelicals have experienced the progress of these groups as persecution as evangelicals have been expected to follow state and federal laws that have granted rights to various minorities. Now, for some evangelicals, expecting a conservative Christian bakery owner to provide a wedding cake for a lesbian couple gets framed as persecution.

Rooted in a theology that claims to know the “one right answer,” these evangelical Christians then cannot allow room for diverse, complex, and sometimes competing understandings of God or even more radical possibilities for God’s ongoing revelation ― the possibility, as the United Church of Christ puts it, that “God is still speaking.”

In academic theology, “outsider” voices have emerged in theologies of liberation, theologies that begin, not with a sacred text or a set of doctrines, but with the lived experiences of oppressed peoples. These theologies present new possibilities for imagining God from perspectives of the poor, people of color, women, queer and trans people, people from “the two-thirds world,” or the global South.

Unfortunately, these theologies rarely make it into the Sunday school lessons or sermons in most conservative Christian churches. Sometimes, these theologies themselves also neglect to examine the intersections that shape people’s experiences. Early Latin American liberation theologies were written by men and often ignored gender. Early feminist theologies were mostly written by white women who often overlooked race. Rarely did questions of the role of colonialism arise. And very seldom did straight white male theologians take into account the perspectives of the people at the margins of social power and theology.

And so we’ve mostly continued to have theologies that focus on questions of sin, redemption, the church, and social issues without reference to the diverse experiences and perspectives of the entirety of the human race.

When a theology can ignore all perspectives but its own, making the short jump from believing oneself to hold The Truth to claiming persecution for being expected to bake a wedding cake begins to make sense. It’s easier and much more comforting than dealing with the possibility that other perspectives may be equally or perhaps more valid.

The idea of intersectional thinking comes to us from a long tradition of Black feminist thought. The term “intersectionality” was coined by law professor Kimberle Crenshaw. Intersectionality takes note of how race, gender, social class, sexual identity, and other forms of difference shape one another within a matrix of social institutions that confer power differentially. An intersectional theology, as we have proposed, centers intersectional thinking in our doing of theology.

A truly intersectional theology is messy. It encompasses all the contradictions, differences, and difficulties of human experience, and that means that sometimes we won’t find a direct line from point A to point B to ultimate Truth. Instead, we will find questions, people who are nothing like us, ideas that terrify and challenge us.

An intersectional theology will not allow us to ignore human suffering, nor will it allow us to cause suffering in the name of God because it will underline the equal value of all of us toward our collective, contradictory, scary, and exhilarating understandings of God. It will compel us to speak out against real persecution—against Christians around the world, against Jews and Muslims in the US, who actually do suffer the most religious persecution in our country.

This kind of intersectional thinking is for all of us, not just those of us who are members of an oppressed group. In fact, the embrace of intersectional thinking by dominant groups is absolutely essential to progress for us all because dominant groups hold the social, economic, political, and religious power to make significant change. This means white, heterosexual men, for example, need to recognize that their race, gender, and sexual identity are part of the way they do theology. They cannot be objective and neutral; rather they express theology from their particular social locations.

If we Christians begin to think this way, to center questions of the role of the intersections of difference in our theological thinking and faith practice, then we can revolutionize the church, making it a leader in changing the world for good, rather than being a follower 25 years behind the rest of society. With intersectional thinking, evangelical Christians likely won’t see themselves as persecuted in the US because they’ll understand the ways power and privilege operate across social differences, and progressive Christians will remind themselves that they need to pay attention to all the differences, not just the ones that happen to affect them. Together, then, we take another step toward the kin-dom of God.

By Grace Ji-Sun Kim/HuffPost

Posted by John the Revelator

For a religion that touts the virtues of truth, large segments of American Christianity couldn’t care less about whether it’s found within the political system it helped put into power.

The bedrock of Christianity is founded upon pillars of truth — that God is real; that Jesus died and rose again; and that Christ saved us from our sins. Furthermore, Jesus himself claims to be the very embodiment of truth: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)

Truth is promoted within every facet of the Christian religion, and across denominations we use things from confession booths, accountability partners, and pastoral counseling, to small groups, prayer chains, discipleship programs, and “convicting” sermons in an effort to be honest and sincere — using a system of checks and balances to maintain our integrity.

So Christians shouldn’t be opposed to seeking accountability from their elected officials, especially from those who received votes under the guise of faith-based rhetoric and Christian morality.

The Bible says that “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight (Prov. 12:22),” and “Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool (Prov. 19:1).”

If we don’t hold our leaders to standards of truth and integrity, but continue to passively allow deceptive narratives to be preached, how can anyone take Christians seriously when we attempt to communicate our own version of the truth — the gospel of Christ?

You cannot be a Christian truth-bearer while simultaneously spewing political propaganda that contradicts the love of Jesus.

At the very least, Christians should pursue truth, defend it, then passionately promote it, because this is what it means to be a Christian: to abide in truth, to emulate Christ.

But truth isn’t always popular, and often comes from surprising sources. Within Scripture, Joshua and Caleb were condemned for speaking truth, the criminal on the cross was praised for discovering truth, the disciples scolded for not understanding truth, the Pharisees rebuked for pretending to communicate truth, and Jesus himself was ultimately crucified for claiming to be the divine representation of truth.

Unfortunately, the message of Christ — truth — is being tarnished by many Christians who would rather support a president and administration than seriously consider any forms of truth or facts that may contradict their preferred worldview.

To be honest and without blemish is an essential responsibility for followers of Christ to uphold, even if it means investigating our own president and government.

Unfortunately, political misdeeds and un-Christlike behavior is continually rationalized and theologically defended by various Christians for the purpose of propagating their own political opinions. Meanwhile, Jesus gets further alienated from the very principles he represents.

Because if we’re willing to compromise on what it means to be truthful and trustworthy, the very core doctrines of Christianity will themselves become muddled. Things that Jesus taught, commanded, and lived become corrupted by secular versions of truth and “alternative facts.”

For years, conservative Christians have warned against the dangers of postmodernism and moral relativism, but ironically, are now more than happy to apply these philosophies to their favorite political leaders. Facts are simply a matter of opinion. Morality and character are no longer important. Truth is meaningless.

When this erosion of truth happens, Jesus’ teachings of helping the poor, accepting the outcast, healing the sick, forgiving your enemies, loving your neighbor, and doing unto others and you would have them do unto you can become forsaken, and are exchanged for border walls, deportation programs, bombing campaigns, travel bans, and policies that make people’s lives worse — not better.

And when the truthful message of Jesus is sold out for the lies of political power, a transformative faith that is fueled by the Holy Spirit —exhibited by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control— gets quickly transformed into a civic religion managed by federal legislation — exhibited by corruption, deception, fear-mongering, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and greed.

For the sake of Christ, may we always seek truth, no matter the cost.

By Stephen Mattson/Sojourners

Posted by John the Revelator

Last Friday, Jerry Falwell, Jr. took to Fox News to proclaim that in Donald Trump, “evangelicals have found their dream president.” Two years ago, this statement would have made virtually no sense, at least on the surface. To many outside the white evangelical world, it seemed — and still seems — inconceivable that a thrice-married serial adulterer, ultimate materialist, casino owner, habitual liar, and unprincipled deal-maker could ever become the standard bearer for a group that professes to base their vote on “family values.”

How times have changed. In the two years since Trump announced his candidacy, we have seen a remarkable moral unmasking of white Americans who call themselves Christian, and in particular those who claim the “evangelical” label. Eighty-one percent of white evangelical voters cast their vote for Donald Trump, and the most recent Pew Research poll puts Trump’s support after his first 100 days in office at 78 percent among white evangelicals (and 80 percent among white evangelicals who attend church once a month).

So it makes sense that Falwell would be asked to rate the president on his first 100 days from an evangelical perspective: Falwell was essentially a surrogate for Trump during much of the campaign. And in late January, Trump asked Falwell to lead a taskforce on higher education policy, whose aim is to recommend changes that should be made to Department of Education policies and procedures. He has indicated in particular that he wants to curb or eliminate federal rules that he views as overly burdensome, including the requirement that schools must investigate campus sexual assault under Title IX, a federal law banning discrimination in education.

Given Falwell’s close relationship with Trump’s campaign and administration, it’s unsurprising that he spoke so glowingly about what he views as the Trump administration’s accomplishments so far. Here are some of the claims Falwell made for why Trump is a “dream president” for evangelicals:

  • Trump is more pro-Israel than Obama.
  • He appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
  • He has appointed people of faith to his Cabinet.
  • Trump will destroy ISIS, thereby saving the lives of many persecuted Christians in the region.
  • Trump supports secure borders (e.g. the wall).
  • Trump is bringing jobs back to America.
  • Trump is cracking down on “sanctuary cities.”

Falwell made a point to note that he felt “… evangelicals didn’t just vote on social issues this time, because the Republican establishment had lied to them over decades about those issues, and so instead, they went a different direction,” which was his explanation for why so many white evangelicals are “thrilled” about Trump’s hardline positions on immigration. In supporting Trump’s crackdowns and, in Trump’s words, “big” and “beautiful” wall that will keep immigrants out, Falwell is explicitly and proudly saying that white evangelicals voted for Trump not in spite of his racist and xenophobic rhetoric about undocumented immigrants, but because of this rhetoric. How that relates to Christians, including evangelicals, who are in direct relationship to the undocumented immigrants and refugees that Trump wants to deport or keep out of our country, Falwell didn’t say.

Falwell also didn’t mention that Trump’s agenda and proposed budget would brutally cut off vital support to all “the least of these” that Jesus asks us to protect in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel — or that a broad cross-section of leaders from all our Christian families, including the National Association of Evangelicals, have pleaded with this administration and Congress not to do so.

As in this latest interview, Jerry Falwell, Jr. has once again shown himself to be nothing more or less than a Republican political operative, interested in advancing his preferred policy agenda much more than examining what it means to be a Christian. Famously, when the Access Hollywood tape came out with Trump bragging his ability to commit sexual assault with impunity, Falwell stood by Trump, suggesting a “conspiracy” of GOP establishment leaders was to blame for the leak. Falwell also said that “we’re never going to have a perfect candidate unless Jesus Christ is on the ballot” and defended Trump as “a changed man,” saying, “We’re not electing a pastor. We’re electing a president.”

You can imagine how jarring it was and is to see the same religious right figures who (rightly) condemned Bill Clinton’s infidelity come to Trump’s defense. A startling poll in October 2016 showed the dramatic change in white evangelical attitudes: In 2011, only 30 percent of white evangelicals agreed with the idea that “an elected official can behave ethically even if they have committed immoral acts in their personal life.” By October 2016, that figure had jumped to 72 percent. This was the largest recorded change on the answer to this question of any racial, religious, or political demographic measured by this poll.

The issue here is not Christians voting differently from each other. That is normal and likely healthy given the independence that people of faith should show over partisan loyalties. This is about the moral hypocrisy of white American evangelical religious right leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr. causing a crisis in the church, dividing American Christians on racial lines, and astonishing the worldwide body of Christ — the international majority of evangelical Christians who are people of color — and whose leaders keep asking many of us what in the world is going on with white American evangelicals.

That number, 81 percent, has become an international symbol that tragically now represents what white American evangelicalism stands for. It dramatically and painfully symbolizes the white ethno-nationalism that Donald Trump appeals to and continues to draw support from among white American evangelicals. It is the most revealing and hurtful metric of what I will call the racial idolatry of white American evangelical Christianity, which clearly excludes American evangelicals of color and the global majority of evangelicals. The 81 percent number ultimately signifies a betrayal of the body of Christ — which is the most racially inclusive and diverse community in the world today.

Jerry Falwell, Jr. and I believe in different gospels. With Falwell, of course, this is also a like father like son history. Jerry Falwell, Sr. opposed the civil rights movement and the black churches who led it. On the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education that integrated public schools, Falwell, Sr. preached:

“If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made … The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line … The true Negro does not want integration …. He realizes his potential is far better among his own race … [integration] will destroy our race eventually. In one northern city, a pastor friend of mine tells me that a couple of opposite race live next door to his church as man and wife.”

In fact, he founded the Liberty Christian Academy in 1967, which the Lynchburg News at the time described as “a private school for white students.”

He also attacked Martin Luther King, Jr., saying:

“I must personally say that I do question the sincerity and nonviolent intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations … It is very obvious that the Communists, as they do in all parts of the world, are taking advantage of a tense situation in our land, and are exploiting every incident to bring about violence and bloodshed.”

As late as the 1980s, Falwell, Sr. personally attacked South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu by calling him a “phony” and campaigned against sanctioning the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Falwell, Sr. later distanced himself from these views, but they remain an important element explaining the origin of the religious right and the views of too many white evangelicals today.

Racism is not a gospel issue to the Falwells, and never has been. That Donald Trump began his political career with a racist lie about America’s first black president isn’t an issue for Falwell, Jr. That Trump opened his campaign by demonizing immigrants in calling them “rapists” and “criminal” doesn’t matter to Jr. either. And Trump’s xenophobic assaults on Muslims seems to be something that Falwell. also agrees with, as his comments at the Liberty University convocation in 2015 indicate. After the San Bernardino shootings, he told his audience that he had a gun in his back pocket ready to use against “those Muslims:” “I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in … let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”

It is important to remember that the majority of American evangelicals of color, and the 19 percent of us white evangelicals who voted with them — against Trump — did so because we are pro-life and pro-family. For all of us, Trump’s racial bigotry was a deal breaker and disqualifier of a Christian vote. That only a few conservative evangelical leaders, like Southern Baptist Russell Moore, took that stance was one of the saddest things about the 2016 election.

Racism and racial bigotry is a gospel issue, and overcoming our human divisions in a new multi-cultural community was at the center of the vocation of the early church. Last week, when I debated Eric Metaxas, an ally of Jerry Falwell, Jr., he said that raising the issue of race is not Christian — that talking about racism was racist. No. Unlike Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom he has written about, Metaxas — like Falwell — has gotten the gospel wrong. It’s time for other white evangelicals to call out the white American evangelical leaders who have yet to speak out against the racial politics of President Donald Trump in his campaign, in his first 100 days, and going forward. The integrity of the church is at stake, as is our relationship with our brothers and sisters of color in United States, and our loyalty to the global multi-color majority of the body of Christ.

Let’s go back to Falwell’s characterization of Trump as a “dream president” for evangelicals. He can only mean white evangelicals. I can testify to a legion of conversations with African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American evangelicals who would describe Donald Trump as a “nightmare” president. Ditto for almost all black parents and black pastors. Certainly Trump is a nightmare for Hispanic people in America, who are living under fear of their families being destroyed by the new president’s aggressive deportation policies.

That Trump is the dream president for people like Falwell and such a nightmare for the vast majority of evangelical, Pentecostal, and Catholic Christians around the world, and our brothers and sisters of color in the United States, really says it all.

This stark contrast reveals white evangelical Christianity in America as a bubble — a very destructive one, and one that is about to burst.

By Jim Wallis

Posted by The NON-Conformist

I’m so tired of lemmings like Franklin Graham who I consider a fraud, him and his cowardly pops. They’re always arguing about sin. what is sin? Show from your bible one scripture that defines sin…I’ll wait…still waiting. Since most won’t tell you or can’t tell you, I will. 1Jn3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. The second question, what is the law; his word. The 913 presets no one teaches and for good reason. You can begin to see the utter ridiculousness this is. What bothers me, Franklin comments on a movie he hasn’t seen. He trivializes the life of a young man name Chiron who has to deal with a drug addicted Mother and him being confused about why kids are picking on him calling him a faggot at around the age of 7.  In England a cigarette is known as a faggot(just saying). He moves on up through to his middle years to adult hood. As an adult he gets into the trap game(selling drugs) as transforming his body and mind to be strong in order to never be weak again. The story is somewhat of a true story, the parts about his mother and gayness. Blacks represent a certain sphere of gay men, we can’t hide from it. What I don’t understand is the weapon of the bible that is so regularly chosen to prove a point. Watch Moonlight for what it is, a complicated love story of people trying to figure out life and its meaning an how to maneuver and guard themselves.

We have confusing ideas about sex and what sex is. We have preferences, mine happens to be with a woman. I refuse to use ideas of not having a women to populate with. If you look to the bible and the gospel according to Paul, sex wasn’t for enjoyment, it was for the purpose of giving birth and populating. Again society has to be looked at for it dictates the morals, not the bible. The bible through high minded thinking can be a good thing. However it can’t be made to be superior to the people who don’t believe in it. Many people believe different things in many ways. If you look at it carefully, don’t all the Abrahamic religions believe pretty much the same thing? Also look at all other religions they have moral codes as well. Sorry but the bible can’t be looked to for sex, a first century standard compared to a twenty first century standard. Even if we look at their standard for homoeroticism , it is viewed differently. It was about dominance. When I say it was about dominance I’m speaking of sexual conquest either by the female or male. Sex within that culture was myopic centered. It was frowned upon to be weak. The dominate person has to always be on top. When it comes to women being viewed in a certain light. The fullness of that is for another day. Theirs a lot of inconsistencies where that is involved.

Within the bible people chose what they want to believe. As I’ve said in the past “people derive our values form scripture but live by the values they insert.” This is not an odd statement. People chose the lives they want to live and justify it by their personal convictions. They put personal interpolations instead of following the holy writ. Stop using the guise of the bible, we have no idea how/why people are the way they are. I accept you as you are and what you do in your bedroom is your private business, nothing more. In writing this only the surface is being scratched in which we can have a proper conversation. These differences will be debated till the sun turns cold. Allow me this caveat, differing views are a must to have proper dialogue, same with interracial relationships. All the same, just a different con.

We can’t contend without the homoerotic story of David and Jonathan. This story proves problematic, especially within the looking on ones nakedness. Scholars debate wether the story is a homoerotic act or not. All I will say is, if it took place in todays context it would be considered a relationship between two men. Except the story takes place during a different time when sexuality is viewed differently. Read 1Sam chapters 18, 19, 20 for yourself. I’ll leave with this to show my meaning of comparing something that was written for a different time for a different group, think on it and ponder it. 2Sam1:26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.

Written/Posted by John the Revelator

Its late in the night and sit at my keyboard and ponder. I ponder a thought, that thought is where we are as far as our point of view is concerned. In writing this I remember what my hero of the pen, James Baldwin said, “writing is the scariest thing a person can embark, you open yourself to criticism and vulnerability.” This rings so true, I remember writing my first book “God the Bible and Politics.” I look back on when I wrote it and I ask my self why, I’ve grown since the contents of the book. I will admit, I put myself out there, I stood in front of people with my point of view.

What I’m getting at or too, are we the same person 5 years ago? If you say yes, we have a problem. I can only speak of myself. When I wrote this book my mindset on life differed as it is today. I’ve grown as a human and as person. What I thought I knew then so I thought was balanced and accurate. I looked at things through the lens of spirituality with no practical experience, it was to only prove  Rom 3:4 to be true 4 By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,“So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.” This scripture alone has three different references or meanings, it is a part of David’s prayer from Psalms 119, or it could mean the justice of god requires the judgment of injustice. I’m looking at it verbatim, people of faith to defend their personal god at all cost. Since I have left the faith, I’ve studied the scriptures not from the eyes of faith but from an historical perspective. We have to read the bible according to its own historical context and not put ourselves within the context. People are awaiting the return of their King yet everyone has gotten it wrong; why! The book of Revelation was written in the context of 1st century Rome, are we suffering under the Emperor of Rome? Each generation who reads this book tries to interrelate to themselves; it doesn’t work that way. I understand people read the scriptures for different reasons, it answers somethings but doesn’t answer other things. If it give comfort…good.

The overreaching question is, are we growing, are we maturing, are we challenging our true selves. I’m currently working on the rewrite for “God the Bible and Politics,” and I can assure you, it will not be the same book. To me, that is a good thing, since the landscape has broadened so has my thinking evolved. The hot buttoned issues during my talks or lectures were abortion and homosexuality. As I speak of the “landscape” I hold to “my”core beliefs with the exception I have to bring race and historical context, without it the conversation becomes stale and muddled, its about the “POV.”I’m at the same time writing my memoir entitled “My journey till know:From nothingness to faith back to life.” This work is special for this reason. We grow, we change, we have a better grasp or understanding of how pieces fit. The most important thing we have is experience, without it you are empty. I now can write with the confidence that I know what I speak is accurate and true. In Africa in order to become a good drummer you have to practice until the age 50 or 60, they believe your not good enough or haven’t reached your full potential.

We all have talents to offer, but we must first endure. We have to enjoy the process. Take for instance the month of February black history month. Folks argue if it should be done away with, I don’t concur. What have you individually done with it, what books have you read to influence your thinking. Our minds are our most precious assets. Its how we communicate with the ancestors and people. Its how our ideas are birthed and bought to light. It also is how we look and make sense of the world. We must have a sharpened or renewed mind. Through meditation and thinking we rid ourselves of bad thinking and vestiges that hinder our furtherance. This black history month has been the most special and productive of my life. I will share two things that you should read and watch. First, all black, brown, white should read the great work of Dr. Carol Anderson “White Rage,” and watch the documentary by James Baldwin “I am not your Negro.” These two works alone will give you a look into the psyche of “state” in which you live and challenge you as an individual.

Continue to sharpen your swords, write, think, let your fingers search for keystrokes to your thoughts…

Lets have a dialogue, share your thoughts…

Written by John the Revelator

Lawmaker calls women “Hosts” 

SOMETHING UNEXPECTED HAPPENED in the Oklahoma Legislature on February 8 that had Karo Chowning feeling pretty optimistic. That morning, lawmakers in the House Public Health Committee blocked one anti-abortion bill and a second was tabled without discussion.

It was certainly unusual for a deeply conservative Republican government that over the years has distinguished itself by passing some of the strictest abortion regulations in the country — regardless of whether those measures are unconstitutional, which many certainly are. Since 2011, lawmakers in Oklahoma have passed 20 such measures, a number of which have been blocked by the courts or are tied up in litigation.

If passed as written, the two measures that were slated for consideration on February 8 would almost certainly end up in court as well.

So when the two bills on the meeting agenda didn’t sail out of committee, Chowning, past-president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, was pleased. Just the day before, she’d walked the Capitol corridors hoping to get face time with as many of the members of the committee as possible, and in particular, with its sizable contingent of freshmen, in an effort to convince them they should vote down the two measures.

The first, Rep. George Faught’s House Bill 1549, was returning for a second year. Under the measure, a woman would be blocked from aborting a fetus because it has — or is suspected of having — a genetic abnormality, regardless of how early she sought termination. Although the measure made it out of the House in 2016, it languished in the Senate.

The bill was taking a complicated and personal issue and turning it into a cut-and-dry measure that in part seemed intended to pit disability activists and reproductive rights advocates against each other, Chowning thought.

But to Chowning and other members of the coalition, it was the second bill, HB 1441, that was even more disturbing, devoid of any nuance and completely unconstitutional. Written by another of the chamber’s freshmen, Rep. Justin Humphrey, the legislation would require a woman seeking an abortion first to obtain written permission from her sexual partner. It would also require her to provide his name to her doctor and would forestall the procedure if the man wanted the opportunity to challenge paternity.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar provision in 1992.

It was with all this in mind that Chowning set off on her Capitol rounds. Five of the eight lawmakers sitting on the Public Health Committee are freshmen; only two members are Democrats and only one is a woman — a freshman Republican. Chowning was eager to talk, hoping the OCRJ might find new allies.

The next morning, the Public Health Committee session was brief, its outcome unanticipated. After a hearing on HB 1549, the measure came up for a vote. The committee paused, but the streaming audio feed remained live: “We’re going to get beat,” one lawmaker said in a hushed tone. Then, later, another: “This is going to be in the news.”

The bill failed to pass — particularly surprising considering that the vote coincided with the annual Rose Day, when pro-lifers converge on the Capitol. With one Democratic lawmaker absent, the vote had tied 4-4, with three of the Republican freshmen joining the lone Democratic freshman to block the bill from leaving committee.

But that wasn’t the only surprise to come; shortly after Faught’s bill failed to pass, Humphrey’s HB 1441 was tabled without comment.

“I’m beyond excited about the way the votes went this morning,” Chowning told The Intercept on Wednesday afternoon. “I mean, I’m not feeling so good that I don’t want all of my friends to call their legislators every single day, but, yeah, I’m feeling optimistic.”

But just as quickly as they were disposed of the first time around, both pieces of legislation have re-emerged: On Thursday afternoon the measures were put back on the committee agenda — slated for hearing on Valentine’s Day.

The perversity of the timing aside, for Chowning and others in the coalition the reversal of course is nowhere near as surprising as the bills being blocked the first time around. “I think it’s universally viewed that our state, Kansas, and a few others are really the worst out there” for reproductive rights, said Rev. Shannon Speidel, a minister in Enid, Oklahoma, and a current member of the coalition’s board.

Speidel has worked on issues of reproductive justice in Arkansas and on the national stage as a member of the Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute, which is sponsored by the Center for American Progress. “Especially with the institute I hear a lot about this work all over the country, and every single state has their fights — even the most progressive ones. Ours is recognized as one of the most hostile states in the nation.”

Indeed, it appears that HB 1549 will pass out of committee on February 14. Freshman Republican Rep. Mark Lawson told The Intercept that he initially voted no because he was concerned that as written the bill would face a successful legal challenge, which would be a fiscal drain on a state facing a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall.

At issue is the bill’s banning of abortion for any particular reason prior to the point of viability; courts have made clear that the government may not inquire about or impose upon a woman’s reason for seeking an abortion in earlier stages of pregnancy.

Lawson said he worked with Faught to amend the bill so that only abortions based on genetic abnormality past the point of viability outside the womb would be banned. He is now a co-sponsor of the measure. He said he suspects the bill will pass “with no problem” during the Tuesday hearing. “If we’re going to fight the pro-life fight, we have to do it the right way, and we are doing it the right way.”

If fiscal concerns and the potential for litigation prompted Lawson to vote no on HB 1549, one would definitely expect him to vote the same way on the bill requiring male permission for an abortion.

Though still posted to the committee agenda, the bill has yet to have any kind of amendment attached to it — and it’s hard to imagine one that would cure its defects, considering that the Supreme Court more than two decades ago ruled against a provision that would require a woman to notify her husband of her intention to get an abortion.

Of all the bills filed this session, HB 1441 has been most troubling to coalition members, said Speidel. “This one, by far, was the one that bothered us the most,” she said. “There were a lot of feelings about it. In a state that doesn’t really spend a lot of time on domestic violence issues it really just showed ignorance regarding what relationships can be for some women.”

Humphrey did not respond to an email seeking information on why the bill was so quickly reposted, though in a brief conversation on February 8 he tried to explain the logic and intent behind the measure.

“But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”
At first, Humphrey said that the original intention of the bill was to ensure that fathers are involved in supporting a child from conception. “I was wanting fathers to have to pay child support at the beginning,” he said, but that specific language was excised from the bill.

Ultimately, he said, his intent was to let men have a say. “I believe one of the breakdowns in our society is that we have excluded the man out of all of these types of decisions,” he said. “I understand that they feel like that is their body,” he said of women. “I feel like it is a separate — what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant,” he explained. “So that’s where I’m at. I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”

“I would say it’s certainly a new low for Oklahoma,” said Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, though she is hardly shocked that Oklahoma lawmakers would seek to pass such a regressive bill. “This is, to my mind, a fruitless effort to shame and stigmatize women who are seeking abortion care and it is completely and unequivocally unconstitutional.”

But Oklahoma does have a reputation as being one of a handful of states trying to “push the envelope,” she said. Last session, while staring down the more than $1 billion shortfall lawmakers nonetheless found the time to pass a complete ban on abortion, a bill that was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Mary Fallin — likely more as a practical matter than one rooted in a desire to champion reproductive autonomy.

Indeed, according to the Guttmacher Institute, Oklahoma ranks second behind Louisiana for the sheer number of abortion restrictions passed since 1973, the year the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. Since 2011, the CRR has taken the state to court eight times. Of the cases that have been resolved, the CRR has a 100 percent win record.

None of this is new to coalition members, of course, who have been the named plaintiffs on CRR’s legal actions. And while they’re disappointed that a bill like HB 1441 would even be proposed, they hope it will die before February 14.

And they know that there are plenty of battles to come, including fighting back a measure that again seeks to ban abortion outright and would see abortion doctors (and potentially the women in their care) charged with first-degree murder. (A version passed last year was the one Fallin vetoed.)

Such bills, said Chowning, are simply “absurd.” They waste taxpayer resources and take the focus off what lawmakers should be doing — focusing on the budget and passing legislation that actually helps Oklahomans, Chowning and Speidel said. They note that there are good bills pending that the coalition supports — like paid family leave, raising the minimum wage, ensuring sexual assault kits are tested, and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act — that would be immediately beneficial to women and their families.

When talking to lawmakers about issues of reproductive justice, Speidel grounds her arguments in her faith. “I say to them, it is immoral and anti-Christian to pass restriction after restriction after restriction and then to do nothing to support women and families in this state,” she said. “If you really want to make abortions be gone, then do everything possible to provide birth control, to have comprehensive sex education and, more importantly, to make sure there are programs in place that are going to help women and families.”

By Jordan Smith/Theintercept

Posted by John the Revelator

What was Kim Burrell thinking? Didn’t she know that we are living in an age characterized by the mythical Argos Panoptēs—an age where anything we do can be instantly available to billions through social media? Did she honestly believe that she could preach an offensive sermon and get away with it? Didn’t she know that many of the bigoted and outdated teachings in the Bible have no place in our enlightened society?

Let’s be honest. Although that ancient book still plays a prominent role in Judeo-Christian religious traditions, its content is seriously out of touch with modern American values. Yes, I am fully aware that “Christians” of both conservative and progressive ideologies often extract pet portions of the Bible to serve their politically expedient purposes. However, for a significant number, its teachings are a most meddlesome inconvenience that if embraced will place them in a permanent state of cognitive dissonance.

The Bible is a Relic of a Superstitious Past

Think about it. On January 20, 2017, the world will witness the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States of America. As did the majority of his predecessors, professed Christian, Donald J. Trump, will likely place his hand on a Bible and repeat the words of a presidential oath.

In the hyper-superstitious age in which the ceremony was first conceived, this act was supposed to evoke a preemptive fear in the president being sworn in. After touching that leather-bound talisman, he wouldn’t dare dishonor biblical principles less something bad happen to him!

Well, we’ve seen how well that’s worked! After taking their “solemn” oaths, American presidents have forcefully and repeatedly thrust their middle finger at the very Bible that was supposed to guide their ethics. They have had no problem enforcing laws that promote slavery, segregation and mass incarceration.

They have repeatedly reneged on treaties made with the tribal nations from whom this land had been stolen. They have demonstrated primary allegiance to the lucrative military industrial complex by continuously stoking the flames of global unrest with myths of WMDs and the liberal use of child killing drones.

The Bible is a Convenient Political Prop

Like his predecessors, when Donald J. Trump places his hand on the Bible on that fateful Friday, he will do so with the full knowledge that this is a meaningless ritual. For Trump, the inaugural Bible could very well be My New Order, a collection of Adolf Hitler’s speeches from which he is alleged to have drawn inspiration.

As far as he’s concerned, this revered book is nothing but an irrelevant, but convenient, prop! Its only purpose is to appease the gullible masses who are still beguiled by the myth of a “Christian” America.

The same is true for Vice President-elect Mike Pence. He will also take an oath on some noteworthy Bible with the full knowledge that he doesn’t embrace much of the social justice mandates contained therein. Like most of the cold-hearted “evangelicals” that voted for his ticket, he has chosen to identify with the thieves and callous clergy in the story of the Good Samaritan.

Forget this “love thy neighbor” foolishness. Hurry up and build the wall! Scrap the Affordable Care Act! Defund the government program that many women depend on for their unique healthcare needs! Siphon more money from the poor and middle class and deposit it in the portfolios of the wealthy!

And while Pence pushes his “conservative” agenda with the dogged tenacity of his mentor, Dick Cheney, tens of millions of Bible thumpers in the Bible Belt and beyond demonstrate their assent with a resounding, “Amen!”

The Bible is an Obstacle to American Freedom

Whereas the conservatives’ repulsion to the Bible is guarded by a conniving cloak of acceptance, progressives are more honest. As far as they are concerned, the socially liberating sections of so called “scripture” are not enough to redeem its bigoted and outdated parts.

A book that clearly promotes discrimination should not have a place of honor in a society where individual citizens are promised the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It is a dangerous book that—although protected by free speech—must be delegitimized, which brings us back to Pastor Kim Burrell.

This award-winning gospel singer and pastor has been under fire for the past week because she is apparently in agreement with the biblical teaching that homosexual behavior amounts to sin. This is definitely out of sync with twenty-first century American mores, when even the Supreme Court agrees that marriage should not be defined by gender.

In fact, there are several other biblical teachings that don’t fare well in our progressive society. For instance, did you know that sex before marriage, anal sex, pornography and even masturbation are also classified as sin?

Which brings me to another series of questions: Would the response to Kim Burrell’s “bigotry” have been as visceral had she described pre-marital sex or pornography as “sinful” and “perverted”? Would Pharell Williams and Janelle Monae have turned on her so quickly, as if they were genuinely shocked and surprised that an African American Christian minister held those beliefs?

In all their dealings with her, did they detect anything in her behavior that even suggested that she hated an entire category of people simply because of their sexual identity or lifestyle choices?

The Bible informs “Personal” Belief and Behavior

What many people don’t understand about biblical religion—and religion in general—is the fact that a person’s belief is supposed to influence their “personal” behavior. Those who are not a part of the institution are not expected to embrace the beliefs.

In a society that claims to cherish freedom of religion, it should be expected that some will hold personal beliefs that others will find offensive. The challenge in a pluralistic democracy is creating an environment in which people with contrary convictions can act civilly in the public sphere.

The test of civility is not whether a person believes a certain thing that may be deemed offensive, but how she behaves towards the person who does not share her beliefs. Demanding that a person discards what she believes is the “Word of God” is an immature response to the complex phenomenon we call “religion.”

The truth is, on one issue or another we are all ideological “bigots” in the eyes of those who feel discriminated against. I wonder how many of us support efforts to normalize sexual relationships between close kin? I wonder how many agree with the ACLU’s decision to defend NAMBLA, an organization that promotes pedophilia?

Since we are all subject to the “bigot” label, a person who adheres to the bigoted teachings of a book that clashes with popular societal mores should not be surprised when Ellen disinvites her from her show. They are operating under two irreconcilable world views. However, Ellen should realize that in disinviting Kim, she is behaving just as bigoted as the one whom she accuses of bigotry.

With a broad ideological brush, she has apparently chosen to lump Kim Burrell among the fanatics at the Westboro Baptist Church. In doing so, she has missed an opportunity to understand why a person who believes homosexual behavior is a sin has no problem befriending people in the LGBTQ community.

Like Trump, Pence and their crew of callous conservatives, Ellen, Williams, Monae and their well-meaning band of progressive activists have missed an opportunity to experience the true message of an ancient book that is so offensive to modern society: “If you truly love God, you must also love your neighbor even as you love yourself.”

By Keith Augustus Burton/Huffpost

Posted by John the Revelator

A bill filed by a Tennessee Republican aims to make children born through artificial insemination illegitimate.

WMC reported that state House Representative Terry Lynn Weaver is sponsoring HB 1406 to repeal Tennessee current statute, TCA 68-3-306, which declares that children born through artificial insemination are the “legitimate” child of the mother’s husband.

The text of the new bill says it immediately “repeals statute that deems a child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman’s husband, to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.”

Last year, Weaver was one of 53 GOP lawmakers who got involved in a same-sex marriage divorce that dealt with the custody of a child born through artificial insemination. Weaver and the other lawmakers asserted that the lesbian wife of the child’s mother should not be considered a “legitimate” parent under the current statute.

By David Edwards/Rawstory

Posted by John the Revelator

Imagine if we turned the Bible and Christianity’s highest values back on the Religious Right. This Saturday, February 11, the most conception-obsessed members of the Religious Right will be gathering at Evangelical and Catholic churches, loading teenagers into busses and cars, and surrounding Planned Parenthood with protest signs. Some will pray and sing church songs or shout Bible quotes or carry pictures of the Virgin Mary. But most will carry signs that say things like “abortion stops a beating heart” [so does oyster-eating] or “aren’t you glad your mother didn’t have an abortion?” [Yes; glad also that she didn’t have a headache that night] or “it’s a baby” [an acorn is an oak tree?] or “one life ended, one destroyed” [actually, factually not]. Some may carry “fetal squish” pictures—not images of common early abortions but of the rare fetus that dies or is aborted late in gestation. In other words, they will try to sway the rest of us by speaking our language—the language of science, human rights and secular ethical values; and they will appeal to our moral emotions: compassion, love of life, and disgust.

Those of us who cherish the freedom to choose our own lives and families—and to live by our own moral values—could learn a thing or two from the more sophisticated of these protestors, both what they say and what they want to hide.

They want us to think that it’s not about religion. Despite the smattering of non-religious opponents, it is. Ignoring this means we constantly fight a defensive battle on our turf, not theirs. Key take-away: Define this as a fight about theology, which is what it is. Use theological terms that are Christianity’s insider jargon and quote the Bible.
They want us to think that they are on the side of women, that their stance against abortion comes from a deep place of love and concern. It doesn’t. Their conception obsession is deeply rooted in misogyny, and concern for women is a thin veneer. Here is what the anti-abortion movement would look like if it were driven by love. Key take-away: Expose the deep underlying religiously-motivated disdain for women. Quote degrading Bible verses, church fathers and modern pastors.
By trademarking the term “pro-life,” abortion foes try to stake out the highest of the moral high ground. They don’t have it. Their crass indifference to the lives around them—to the wellbeing of both vulnerable people and even the whole web of life—shows their self-appointed title as defenders of “life” to be total bullshit. Key take-away: Shine a light on self-righteous hypocrisy. Expose the Religious Right’s indifference to Christianity’s own highest values, including compassion and reverence for life.
I said that abortion foes try to speak to us in language we understand, by appealing to our sources of authority, science and conscience. When we appeal to people who are on our side or neutral or secular, we should do the same. We must work to end abortion shame and stigma, to convey that abortion is normal and that family planning as a whole—including abortion until it becomes obsolete (we are headed that direction)—is a positive social good.

But when it comes to confronting and neutralizing abortion protests, we should attack the home turf of the abortion foes, not defend our own turf. We should speak in language of the protesters and convey that their position is a threat to their own core values. (Remember, this is what they do to move us.)

At the same time, they are playing to a broader audience, and we can, too. To outsiders, we can neutralize the tradition of incessant clinic protest by framing it as a theological dispute (most people want to keep theology out of healthcare), that is driven by archaic, ugly gender scripts (no thanks!), and that is being played out by people who have little moral credibility (everyone hates a mean-spirited, self-righteous hypocrite).

Here are a few examples of what the counter-protest signs might look like. *Some may make sense only to Christians and former Christians. **Thank you to all the former Bible-believers who offered suggestions on Facebook. ***If you have ideas of your own as you read the list, please add them in the comment section.

Define this as an insider dispute about theology

God aborts 60%. Who are you to judge the Almighty?
Fact checked: The Lord says he’s ok with it
God prescribes abortion potion – Numbers 5:22-27
Kill fetus, get fined – Kill woman, get death –Exodus 21:22-23
Infant becomes person after birth – Leviticus 27:6
Fetus fetish is idolatry
This is what bibliolatry does to people →
Conception obsession is a religious cult
Don’t say you follow Jesus if stopping abortion trumps love, truth, peacemaking, compassion, feeding the hungry, caring for the poor . . .
Life begins at ejaculation – Ask Onan
If the baby goes to heaven And the doctor goes to hell If the woman gets forgiveness What’s the problem pray tell!?
The Bible doesn’t define when life becomes “a living soul.” Don’t put your words in God’s mouth
Expose deep underlying misogyny

Wife is man’s property – Exodus 20:17
Girl babies twice as unclean as boys – Leviticus 12:1-8
Women should keep silent – 1 Cor. 14:34
Sell raped daughter to rapist – Deut. 22:28-29
Female? Cover your head or cut off your hair – I Cor. 11:6 [with picture of hijab]
Women will be saved through childbearing – 1 Tim. 2:15
Women make men dirty – Rev 14:4
Woman is a temple built over a sewer – Tertullian
Woman, you are the gate to hell – Tertullian
Man alone is the image of God – Saint Augustine
I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children. –Saint Augustine
Woman has a faulty and defective nature – Saint Albertus Magnus
The production of woman comes from a defect – Thomas Acquinas
Women were made to be either wives or prostitutes – Martin Luther
The second duty of the wife is constant obedience and subjection – John Dod, Puritan
Women are made to be led, and counseled, and directed – LDS Apostle Herber Kimball
Every single book in your Bible was written by a man – Mark Driscoll
Shine a light on self-righteous (religious) hypocrisy

Pro-guns, pro-greed, pro-Trump = “pro-life” Hmmm. Woe to you, Pharisees, hypocrites! Woe to you, Pharisees, hypocrites Woe to you, Pharisees, hypocrites Woe to you, Pharisees, hypocrites
”Pro-life” Trump Hypocrites =“False prophets, ravening wolves” – Jesus
Woe to you Pharisees, hypocrites! — Jesus
Pharisees →
Take the log out of your own eye –Jesus
Judge not that ye be not judged – Jesus
[picture of immigrant child] – Let the children come unto me—Jesus
Jesus focused on real people
Pro-fetus, against Child Protection
Pro-fetus, oppose rights for children
Pro-fetus, defend parent right to hit kids
Pro-fetus, against UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
I was hungry and you did not feed me – Jesus If a man says ‘I love God’ and hateth his brother, he is a liar- 1 John 4:20
Jesus supported healthcare for women
Jesus cared for women, no matter what [echoes Planned Parenthood motto]
The screwed-up priorities of “pro-life” Christians kill real children
Trump Voter? Don’t talk to me about choosing life
Voted for Trump? Maybe that’s not the voice of God you are hearing
Planned Parenthood doesn’t organize counter-protests, because they don’t want to escalate conflict and because they have a job to do providing contraceptives, cancer screenings, STI tests, abortions and other basic healthcare for their patients. They have no desire to get involved in theological disputes. But I think it’s time for the rest of America, meaning religious moderates and non-religious Americans, to go on the offense against the Religious Right. For decades now—really, ever since Roe v Wade–we’ve been playing way too nice.

At some point in the future, pregnancy almost always will happen by mutual consent of two people who want to co-create a child. But we’re not there yet, in large part because patriarchal religious conservatives have opposed sexual health literacy and better birth control every step of the way. Right now, we could make elective abortion virtually obsolete if the Religious Right had any interest in doing so. They don’t. That means, for now, the only way that young men and women can live the lives of their choosing and form the families of their choosing and stack the odds in favor of flourishing children—is to have access to abortion so they can end ill-conceived pregnancies.

The Left has been squishy and apologetic about abortion care—leaving providers unprotected, and allowing brave, prudent young women to be shamed for making the best decisions they could under difficult circumstances. We’ve let the Religious Right bully all of us, including moderate Christians, into doubting our own moral convictions.

Sometimes, the only way to stop a bully is to hit back. In the spirit of courageous, unflinching, nonviolent resistance, we need to figure out together what that means. So, don’t forget to share your thoughts.

Oh, and if you decide to counter-protest on Saturday, remember that while you are taking a stand on behalf of women and families, Planned Parenthood employees will be serving them. Don’t interfere with traffic, stay away from the entry, keep off private property, and silently let your sign do the talking for you. Don’t distract from the ugly behavior of the Religious Right by engaging in ugly behavior of your own. You are a role model for any children and teens who have been dragged along; be the change fundamentalist parents don’t want their kids to see in the world.

Written by Valerie Tarico

Posted by John the Revelator