Civil Religion Is Back

Civil religion is back.  With a vengeance.

Feast your eyes on this announcement from the website of First Baptist Dallas.  Their pastor, Robert Jeffress, has been one of American evangelicalism’s most vociferous supporters of Donald Trump.

People, this is not Christianity.  Never has been, and never will be.

I get it.  Well, I’m trying to, at any rate.  Many of you are longing for a return to what you see as a more stable, moral, and prosperous period of our history back in the mid-20th century.  You think back on those times as the “good old days”.  But there were no good old days.  There were, however, times when certain expressions of Christian culture and morality held sway in the halls of power and in the cultural imagination.  So when you say you long for the “good old days”, it’s just a thinly veiled way of saying you long for the days when we white Christian males were in charge.

Not a very Christian attitude, people.

You see, the so-called “good old days” had a seamy underbelly, and many who were not straight white Christian males experienced the full brunt of it.  Segregation was the order of the day.  The KKK was rampant.  A woman’s place was, by and large, in the home.  And all of this was considered part and parcel of the Christian message and witness.

What we had back then was a Christianity that basically wiped its ass with the very people for whom Jesus Christ came to earth and died on a Roman cross.  As long as they were not straight Christian white males.

People, our calling as Christians is to love God, love our neighbors, and even to love our enemies.  These elements are notoriously lacking in the civil religion that now holds sway in much of evangelicalism.

Our calling as Christians is not to promote the civil religion of any nation or political party, to seek power at any and all possible cost, and then to wave the flag and/or the cross in the face of any and all who hold dissenting views.  Such behaviors fly in the face of loving God, loving our neighbors, and loving our enemies.

I find it appalling that so many prominent evangelical leaders like Robert Jeffress are falling all over themselves to support this…I don’t know how to call him.  Though he is courting white evangelicals as part of his power base, it is perfectly clear that he shares nothing whatsoever in common with us except the lust for power and control.

This is not going to end well, people.

I’ve said this before and will say it again:  Think of it through the grid of “What does love require of me?”  I refuse to accept that what love requires of me is to support a candidate whose message consists entirely of sheer, unbridled hatred and anger directed against those who are not straight white Christian males.  No one can convince me otherwise.  Not even Robert Jeffress.

Mister Rogers Is The New Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris.  Remember him?

Guns carried him for protection.  Cars looked both ways to make sure he wasn’t crossing the street.  Sasquatch claimed he once saw him.  The monsters under your bed would always check under their beds to make sure he wasn’t hiding there.

When Chuck Norris was born he drove his mom to the hospital.  He was once bitten by a cobra and after five days of excruciating pain the cobra died.  He could strangle you with a cordless phone.  He could play Russian Roulette with a fully loaded revolver and win every time.  When the zombie apocalypse came it would be the zombies trying to survive.

Chuck Norris, erstwhile star of “Walker Texas Ranger”, exploded into our collective consciousness a little over a decade ago.  Thanks to a running gag on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and a joke website looking for a replacement Vin Diesel, the Chuck Norris legend was born.  “Chuck Norris Facts” were all over the place on social media, which back then was in its infancy.

In those days, we as a nation were reeling from 9/11, the Great Recession, and the unexpected aftermath of the Iraq War.  We desperately needed a hero who was invincible and who never made a mistake, to be both our savior and our representative.  Chuck Norris fit the bill perfectly.

But times changed, as they are wont to do.  The Recession passed (sort of), and we have now put 9/11 and the Iraq War behind us (for the most part).  And so, like every internet meme, Chuck Norris dropped off the radar screen of our collective consciousness after he had run his course.

Now here we are in 2017 and we find ourselves facing a completely different set of challenges.  Donald Trump has ascended to the presidency on the strength of a message of unmitigated anger and hatred for all who are not privileged straight Christian white males, with the backing of his jacked-up Neo-Nazi thug supporters and an evangelicalism that has sold itself out to join them.  Liberals are now perfectly OK with shooting up Republican congressmen.  (So not a good look for the tradition of Voltaire’s “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.)  Police shootings, racially-motivated terror attacks, and protests dominate the news.  Social media is now a shitshow of outrage and rancorousness.  Hatred, prejudice, and misunderstanding seem to be reaching epidemic levels.

In this day and age, we need a different kind of hero.  Into the void steps Mister Rogers, paragon of undeniable goodness in a world gone batshit crazy.

Who is Mister Rogers?  you ask.  Some things should never have to be said yet here we are.  If you grew up watching PBS at any point during the last half century or longer, you know who Mister Rogers is.  Chill dude who always wore cardigans and went on for a half-hour or thereabouts about wanting to be your neighbor.

Recently a story from last year of how Mister Rogers challenged racist assumptions by asking Officer Clemmons, a black police officer, to share a wading pool with him to cool off their feet, has been making the rounds of the internet.  After last month’s attacks in Manchester, writer Anthony Breznican tweeted his story of meeting Mister Rogers in the flesh and it went viral.

Now it’s come to making up facts about Mister Rogers:

Mjolnir was Thor’s hammer in the Marvel comics and films, and it could only be lifted by one who was worthy.  In this day and age, that person is Mister Rogers.

A decade ago we were reeling from 9/11 and the Great Recession, and we needed Chuck Norris to singlehandedly take down all the bad guys with his bare hands and inspire us to keep fighting no matter how bad it got.  But now we live in an age where everything is politicized and polarized and if you won’t shut up and get in line and support our Donald Trump then get over there with Hillary and Bernie and all the devils of hell.  We don’t need a hero who is unstoppable in his strength, we need a hero who is undeniable in his goodness.  We don’t need someone who will take out all the bad guys and never make a mistake, we need someone who will bring comfort and challenge misconceptions.  We don’t need someone to inspire us to keep fighting, we need someone to inspire us to believe that love is worth fighting for and that love will win in the end.

Are You a Wealthy Professional? Gateway Church Wants You!!!!!

In today’s news of Megachurch Pastors Behaving Badly, we turn our attention to Gateway Church in the north Dallas area.

It is no secret that most of American evangelicalism looks to the wealthy upper/middle professional class as the engine that drives its growth, and has shaped itself around the priorities, needs, interests, and desires of this class.  Yet few if any churches would ever state this intention as baldly as associate pastor Bobby Bogard of Gateway Church did when addressing a conference of church leaders earlier this year.  Courtesy of Warren Throckmorton, you can watch his speech or read a transcript of his remarks.  Here is a money quote:

We’re always asking ourself, who is are target? Who’s our bullseye? Do you know who your bullseye is? Your bullseye, not that you’re not gonna reach all people, because we’re gonna reach all people. We’re gonna be all things to all people, to reach all people. But there’s something that God has gifted you with. There’s a Grace Lane that you have. And that Grace Lane is directed to a bullseye. And who is your bullseye? Who are the people God’s called you to reach?

And so, as we look at our bullseye, God has called us, to reach professional people. That’s our bullseye. We’re still gonna help the down and out. We do it every week. We’re still gonna help single moms. We do it every week. We-we’re still going to uh, look and help marriages and blended families. We’re gonna work through their issues. But our bullseye is the business professionals. Matter fact, in one of our depart- we have a whole department that’s built towards reaching business people. I’m talking about people with influence and large capacities of wealth. That’s our bullseye because we feel like that’s something God’s graced us to do. And if we can reach our bullseye, it will create a ripple, if you will, so that we can reach the others more effectively.

Bogard mentions that Gateway has a whole department dedicated to reaching business people.  This post, also from Warren Throckmorton, provides more detail on those efforts.

Are Genital Preferences Bigoted?

And today we move from the absurd and outlandish to the just plain wack.

Question, which you have probably never considered before in your life:  If you are attracted to women but not to women with penises, are you bigoted?  More to the point, are you transphobic, or as this person would say, “cissexist”?  Take a gander at this, if you dare.  If you can make it through the whole thing and follow the logic here, you have my undying admiration.

Also along this vein (sort of):  Allow me to direct your attention to Skeptic Magazine, which recently got a hoax article published in a peer-reviewed academic journal.  The article was entitled “The conceptual penis as a social construct”.  The authors stuffed it chock full of complete nonsense and left-wing academic jargon and then proceeded to get it published in the journal Cogent Social Sciences.  One can only hope that the authors are successful in their stated goals of reining in the excesses of left-wing, postmodernist academia, especially in areas like gender studies.

Look At Jim Bakker Go!!!!!

Today we move from the repulsive and bigoted to the absurd and outlandish.

Jim Bakker was a big-time televangelist back in the 80’s who wound up going to jail for screwing his followers on bad real estate deals and getting it on with a church secretary.  ICYMI (that’s “In Case You Missed It” for those of you who are not millennials or otherwise familiar with the ways millennials express themselves via texting/social media):  Bakker is now back in active ministry.  That is, if selling prepper food and survivalist gear to suckers who can easily be convinced that the world is going to shit any day now is what you fancy as active ministry.  Feast your eyes on a clip from his show this past week, courtesy of the good people over at Right Wing Watch, in which he oh-so-creatively connects the dots between attacks on the Lord and His anointed Donald Trump, the closing of Barnum & Bailey’s circus, the Manchester bombings, and the collapse of the “Hillary Steps” at the peak of Mount Everest.

Thank you so much, Jim Bakker, for returning to active ministry.  Now my blog will all but write itself.

Pastor Keith Gomez on Slavery

If you’re looking for more evidence as to why Christianity and evangelicalism are now on America’s shit list, I am more than happy to oblige.

Pastor Keith Gomez of Northwest Bible Baptist Church in Elgin, Illinois, argued in a recent sermon that, basically, black people are better off now because of slavery:  if not for slavery they “would still be in Africa with a bone in their nose fighting lions”.  Feast your eyes on this video clip of the sermon in question:

There are no words.  Just sit with that, people.  And if it doesn’t break your heart, then get alone with God, get on your face before God, until it does.

Dave Daubenmire Calls For “A More Violent Christianity”

Dave Daubenmire, a Religious Right webcaster known to his fans/followers as “Coach”, did a webcast this past week in which he said that the only thing that can save Western civilization is a “more violent” brand of Christianity.  He showed a video clip of Donald Trump at a recent NATO summit shoving other world leaders out of the way so he could stand at the front of the gathering and praised him to the sky for showing himself as “large and in charge”.  He then cited congressional candidate Greg Gianforte from Montana, who won a special election just two days after being charged with assault for pushing a reporter to the ground.  I give this to you courtesy of the good people over at Right Wing Watch, where you can even watch the webcast at issue in all its sordid glory.

Translation:  The only thing that can save Western civilization is a Christianity that wipes its ass with the very people for whom Jesus Christ came to earth and died on a Roman cross.

If you want to know why Christianity, and evangelicalism in particular, are now on America’s shit list, this is it right here.

People:  Think about this through the lens of “What does love require of me?”  To think that what love requires of me is to embrace a Christianity that wipes its ass with the very people for whom Christ died because this is supposedly the authority that God has called us to walk in…there is a disconnect here and I will just let you sit with it.