The Cult of Community: White Men and American Evangelicalism

15 08 2019

Ivanwald.jpgCommunity is at the heart of the Gospel!  The Book of Genesis teaches that “it is not good for us to be alone”; and the New Testament is all about God’s ‘kin’dom being fully realized when we understand our connectedness to God, to one another, and to all creation.  The incarnation story – which sets Christianity apart from so many of the world’s other great religions – is about God ‘moving into the neighborhood’ and living among us.  And that is Gospel!  The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus confirm the reality that God is here and that we are never alone. If the Christian faith is about anything it is about relationships!  They matter; and community is essential to our lives.

I became most powerfully aware of this reality in college!  I pledged the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity my first semester, was elected ‘Master’ my sophomore year, and found my closest relationships to be among the men who quickly became my new brothers!  All-night road-trips, induction ceremonies, intramural football games, and the “Good and Welfare” portion of our weekly Sunday might meetings (where we all shared some of the most intimate details of our lives) all profoundly influenced my college years.  I will never forget the guys who so powerfully shaped and enriched my life; and while my daughter jokingly tells me that fraternities are just about men buying their friends, my experience was far more genuine and authentic!

I’ve experienced this kind of community at other times in my life: on my freshman football team in high school, with a bunch of guys I took golf lessons with when I was in my 30s, in a couple of different book groups that I’ve been part of over the years, AND in groups that were not just limited to men!  Each of these experiences left an indelible mark upon my soul, and I have not forgotten the men, AND WOMEN who shaped the person that I am today!

Unfortunately, we still live in a world where latent homophobia haunts the male psyche, and inhibits many men from becoming the relational beings we were created to be.  Too many of us have been raised to believe that any longing for male relationships is a threat to our heterosexuality, and as a result many men continue to live isolated lives, with few male friends, and even fewer opportunities for non-sexual intimacy.  We wallow in emotional immaturity; and persist in relational ineptitude!

In some situations, sports teams, fraternities, and other forms of male groupings provide opportunities for us to flex our relational muscles; but sadly, too often, the testosterone in such situations appears to perpetuate thinking, and lead to behavior, that can only be labeled as sexist, misogynistic, and patronizing.  In other situations, men are drawn to religious groups designed to satisfy men’s longings for friendship and acceptance, but too often these groups also fail to move men toward relational and spiritual  wholeness.  They DO offer male friendships, but in ways that are relationally shallow and spiritually superficial.  And no where is this more evident than in the world of American Evangelicalism.

While the cult of community can be provocatively destructive to men of any faith, the new Netflix series “The Family” reveals that when coupled with the powerfully privileged class of white men that dominate the American Evangelical Church, community can become extremely harmful and hurtful. On the surface, the evangelical church may appear to ‘do relationships’ well!  But any in depth study of their community will reveal that the friendships being fostered and the community being developed, particularly among men, is falling short of God’s ‘kin’dom goals.  Their literalistic approach to Scripture – which far too often leads to the most selfish and legalistic aspects of extreme, right-wing, political conservatism – quickly becomes seductively arrogant, rigid, and patriarchal.  And in my experience, in the end, despite the stated goals of such groups, men actually become less and less like Jesus, and more and more like traditional ‘bros,’ living hipster lives, in college frat houses across America!

I attended several of the Bible Studies at the Ivanwald House, in Arlington, VA, when I was a college student at The American University in Washington, DC.  I attended one of their ‘retreats’ in Norfolk, VA in 1982, and even had a one-on-one meeting with Doug Coe when I was struggling with my call to ministry in the early 90s.  And in spite of what may have been their best intentions, something just wasn’t right in . . . ‘the family!’  I knew it in my bones.

In the 30 years that followed I remained involved with the plethora of men’s groups that are part of the evangelical world.  I wrote my dissertation on Male Spirituality more than 20 years ago, at the height of my involvement with the Promise Keepers movement in America.  I spent 15 years in a national, all-male, evangelical pastors covenant group; and I have been part of  various “men’s groups” for most of my 33 years in ordained ministry.  Needless to say I remain extremely grateful for the many ways these experiences and groups have helped to me to learn what it means to be a man, and how to best participate in the creation and cultivation of the ‘kin’dom of God that is at the heart of the Gospel.  

But guys – we need to be careful!  For while we DO need relationships with other men – deep, meaningful, and yes intimate relationships – those relationships can not be permitted to lead us into the cult of community.  If such relationships are not making us more like Jesus, something is wrong.  If the groups of which we are a part are only helping us grab more power, in order to convert more people to our way of living and being in the world, so that we might garner more control over our own lives as well as the lives of the people around us, then these groups are failing us!  If they are making us louder and brasher, and filling us with more pride in ourselves and a deeper prejudice towards those not ‘lucky’ enough to be like us, then our groups are leading us astray.  And just because they allow us to experience things that we may have never felt before, doesn’t mean that they are necessarily healthy, or leading us to more Godly lives.

The community Jesus came to create, that which we know to be the living body of Christ in the world today, was designed to help us love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves.  But too many of the men’s groups in so much of American Evangelicalism are all about “making disciples of all nations.”  And this is generally understood to be convincing everyone to think the way we think, and to believe the way we believe.  They are about promoting a purity culture for women; while at the same time dismissing male promiscuity and sexual aggression as little more than a forgivable aspect of our ‘fallen nature’ that simply needs to be confessed.  And they claim to want reconciliation between the races; and yet remain so fragile, and so frightened at the possible implications, that such groups never really get around to considering how to participate in the dismantling of systemic racism in the Church or the world!  So instead of seeking these ‘kin’dom goals, they instead settle for memorizing verses of Scripture, as the way to write God’s word upon their hearts, and that then allows them avoid truly experiencing the transforming and conforming power of God’s Spirit.

Ironically, I started this blog in a Starbucks several days ago, with a men’s small group meeting right beside me!  At the same time I was both envious of, and repelled by, what they were doing.  When done well, men’s groups have the capacity to teach us about the best of what it means to be masculine because we are men; as well as the best of what it means to feminine because we are also human!  They have the capacity to mold and shape our hearts to become more and more like Jesus; and to move us closer to the Holy so that we might become forces for good in our world.

But when done poorly; when led by spiritually immature and emotionally shallow leaders, who are simply looking to teach men to feel, cry, and talk about things that men don’t normally talk about, then such groups become nothing less than cult-like.  When they simply teach men how to become comfortable hugging other men, or help us to cultivate friendships that simply reinforce traditional male machismo, then such groups have lost their Christ-centeredness, and wind up hurting and harming both men, as well as the world men inhabit!  And that is NOT the Gospel.

The Church and the world do not need any more men like the the men in ‘the family!’  We need strong men, with passion and commitment.  We need men who are emotionally secure and relationally skilled.  We need men who take a genuine interest in raising other men, and who are eager to become ambassadors for the Gospel in our world.  We need kind and compassionate men, who model both the humility AND the convictions of Jesus.  But we do NOT need any more arrogant men: men who think they have all the answers, to all of life’s questions.  We do NOT need any more men who don’t know when to stop talking; and whose only goal in life is to amass as much power and prestige as possible, so they can escort us back to the days when they had complete control over . . . everything!

No, we do NOT need any more men like the men in ‘the family!’  Rather, we need men who can resist the cult of community; and who instead, simply want to learn to live like Jesus.  It’s that simple; and that hard!

 

 





Tulip Calvinism and Total Depravity (And this is not about the American President!)

7 08 2019

TulipBecause the tulip is my wife’s favorite flower, she loves to come home with bouquets of  them to brighten up our townhouse: yellow bunches in the spring, purple double-petal blooms in the summer, and even red ones mixed with boughs of green pine in December.  And they always do their job – boldly transporting the beauty of God’s creation from the outdoors, to the indoors.

But they also do something else.  They bring a bit of redemption to one of the church’s most misunderstood theological doctrines: Tulip Calvinism!  For the past 500 years this belief system, conceived in a world burdened by the harshness of life and born in the heart of a Church obsessed with purity, has marred the national flower of the Netherlands.  So it’s time for the Church to finally grow some bulbs that will give rise to a new way of thinking about Tulip, and let a few of the old beliefs whither and die.  And this is particularly true of the “T” in Tulip, which stands for “Total Depravity.”

I heard mention of Total Depravity far too many times at a recent Presbyterian conference.  And while I understand the tendency to want to emphasize the depth of human sin when talking about things like racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, I fear it does more harm than good, and radically distorts the truth of God’s creation.

Building upon the Roman Catholic understanding of creation’s fall, Calvin purported that the brokenness of humanity means that every aspect of human nature is touched, tainted, and enslaved by sin.  As a result, people are not only never able to freely choose to follow God, or to live the way of Jesus, but we are too broken, too evil, too . . . depraved . . . to experience the oneness that exists between Creator and creation!

Now it has been said that the one theological doctrines that requires the least proof of it’s existence is the doctrine of sin.  It’s consequences abound: from the destructive nature of hatred and war, to the traumatic injuries of poverty and injustice.  Most of us are more than willing to acknowledge sin’s presence and power in the world because it is all around us.  It brings harm and hurt to our lives all the time.  However the doctrines of original sin and total depravity often blind people to another more important doctrine: the Doctrine of Original Blessing.

Matthew Fox — expelled from the Dominican order of Roman Catholicism because of his ‘protests’ against ancient Christian teachings which he believes to be flawed, and who is now ministering in the Episcopal Church — has been attempting to deconstruct AND reconstruct Christian teaching about sin for decades.  And his concept of “Original Blessing” is the doctrine that deserves more of our attention and focus.  For before any mention of sin, brokenness, a fall, or eternal separation, Scripture references human beings as the ‘very good’ creation of God.  And nothing has, will, or can, ever change that reality!  Not even sin.

This was the message of Jesus, and it is what makes the grace he came to reveal so amazing.  In spite of the Church’s centuries-old teaching about original sin, God is a God of love and mercy.  And the Spirit of God dwells in each one of us.  There is a “Divine Spark” in all humanity, and Jesus reveals that when fanned, that spark has the capacity to burn brightly within us.  It is a spark that can fuel the making of choices and decisions that eradicate racism, that reject misogyny, and that refuse to embrace xenophobia.

The human race is not a broken, eternally lost species, that has the capacity to do good on occasion: when widows and orphans, when the blind and the lost, when prisoners and refugees just happen to get lucky.  The human race is the very good creation of a loving and grace-filled God, that has the capacity to evil when we deny or reject the movement of the Spirit.  We are not bad people with the capacity to do good.  We are good people with the capacity to do bad.  And the sooner we realize this, the better we will be able to live into our identity as members of the great human family.

Why is this important?  Because humanity has spent far too much time living up to the belief that we are nothing more than “sinners in the hands of an angry God.”  And if this is what we truly believe about others and ourselves, then is it any wonder that we live so fearfully, and angrily, and violently?  We have lived into this identity and well for more than 2000 years! We have given into fear and greed because we have believed that we are nothing more than fearful and greedy people.

But what if we shifted out thinking a little bit?  What if we began to understand ourselves and others as the very good creation of a gracious and loving God?  Could that change us?  Might that begin to change the world?  Is it possible that a shift away from original sin and toward original blessing might alter the way we live our lives, and give way to a little more kindness and compassion?

Well how about we give it a try?  The centuries we’re spent talking about original sin and total depravity have not helped us.  So maybe Calvin got it wrong!  Maybe the Church still has a little more reforming ahead of us.  Maybe, the Spirit isn’t done with you just yet!  I know she’s not done with me.  For the more I understand myself as the very good, and dearly loved creation of a merciful God, the more faithful I become!  Am I perfect?  Of course not!  But I live more like Jesus when I nurture the seeds of original blessing before original sin.

How about you?  Give it a try.  See what happens. Perhaps the Spirit of God might truly be able to do with us, and in us, more than we hope, dream, or even dare to imagine.

 

 





The Gospel According to Trump

18 07 2019

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Most people who know me well know that I am a huge fan of Amy Grant.  A friend introduced me to her albums when I was in college almost 40 years ago, and since that time she and her music have ministered to me in important and meaningful ways.  I know that sounds cheesy — like a grown man who still has a crush on his childhood babysitter — but Amy’s music has always spoken to my soul.  Her lyrics are raw and real, and parts of her faith journey have been very similar to my own.  So yes!  I have all of her CDs, and I’ve seen her in concert almost two dozen times, including a concert just last month in Alexandria, VA. This last concert was particularly enjoyable; and as I listened to songs that I know by heart, and that I have sung in the car over and over and over again, I found myself wondering how my congregation might respond to a “Gospel According to Amy Grant” sermon series.

Too much?

Perhaps!  But the notion of such a series has gotten me thinking about all the different versions of the Gospel that exist in our nation today, and how many of them do not bear much resemblance to the Good News that Jesus proclaimed.  Many versions seem way off track; and some, the ones whose adherents seem to be the most vocal right now, are downright frightening!  They seem to be lacking in anything that could even be considered close to the “good news” found in Christian Scripture.  And this is  particularly true of the version being offered to us by Donald Trump.

Our president claims to be a Christian: and a Presbyterian at that.  So naturally he would like us all to believe that he has a worldview that is rooted and grounded in the Gospel.  There is little evidence that Trump is a very religious person: he is neither a weekly church-goes nor a daily Bible-reader!  And I’ve never heard him refer to himself as a Christ-follower: that kind of a declaration would likely involve him thinking a little too theologically.  And thinking too deeply about anything doesn’t seem to be his strong suit.  So for the sake of this blog, let’s just accept his claim to be a ‘Christian.’  And let’s also remain open to the possibility that if this is indeed the case, that his faith will be evident in his worldview and revealed in his politics.

But is it?  Is his faith evident in the work of this administration?  Such questions have me wondering what exactly is the Gospel according to Donald Trump?  The Gospel according to Amy Grant reveals adherence to way of life that is full of grace and mercy, and that surrounds all people with divine love and forgiveness.  If someone were to look at my life, I would hope they would discover that the Gospel according to Bob Melone embraces the goodness of creation, calls us into community with one another, and encourages us to always side with the lost and the least.  But what about the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?  What is . . . the Gospel according to Donald Trump?

My answer is “I’m not sure there is one” — at least not if we understand the Gospel (big ‘G’) to be about the Good News of Jesus Christ!  Trump might indeed have a gospel (small ‘g’) — a guiding principle that shapes his life — but it is nothing at all like the big “G”  Gospel proclaimed by Jesus.  Which is why so many of us are so confused about his support among Evangelical Christians: women and men who believe that siding with him is like siding with the “Good News.”

Some might easily be deceived into believing that the Gospel is all about things like growing the economy; and since Donald Trump appears to be doing that, he is in line with the ways of Jesus.  But is growing the economy really a Gospel value?  Is strengthening an economy in which approximately 1/10th of the population will always be living under the poverty level really reflective of the ways of Christ?  Is encouraging economic policies that only serve to deepen the wealth gap in our country in any way reflective of the teachings of Jesus?

Others appear to have been led to believe that adherence to the Gospel involves taking a strong stance on behalf of America around the world — for after all, America is God’s ‘city on a hill,’ and a ‘beacon of light’ to all the nations.  Trump is certainly attempting to do that!  But once again, is that really a Gospel value?  How is cozying up to dictators, and failing to condemn the evil practices of tyrants in places like North Korea and the Philippines, in any way reflective of the teachings of Jesus?   How is anything that even smacks of an “America-first” ideology reflective of a Christ who came for ALL people, and who calls his followers to make disciples of ALL nations?   And how does the notion of American exceptionalism stand alongside the anti-empire message that is so central to the Christian Gospel?

Still others might say that Trump’s stance on immigration reflects a commitment to a faith that respects the rule of law and that honors governing authorities.  Surely those are Gospel values, aren’t they?  And in normal times the answer would certainly be yes!  But these are not normal times; and those Gospel values are in direct conflict with another set of Gospel values, namely those calling us to care for immigrants and aliens.  So when this happens, a good theology teaches us that we are to always err on the side of love.  Therefore followers of Jesus have no choice but to reject any law or Executive Order that seeks to do anything but call us to care for and show hospitality to immigrants.  Christ-followers can and will have differences of opinions on a variety of issues, but the treatment of immigrants is not one of them.  Scripture is very clear on that subject, and there’s really not much room for debate.

Finally, there is yet another group of people, perhaps the most outspoken of all, who will say that Donald Trump’s pro-life policies reveal his commitment to the Gospel. But while Donald Trump may be pro-birth, he is NOT pro-life . . . not by a long-shot!  Last year, there were approximately 650,000 abortions in America, and the Trump administration wants to reduce that number by making abortions illegal.  But is that all it means to be pro-life?  In 2018 there were also more than 690,000 children who spent at least a portion of the year in foster care; and it is estimated that more than 15 million children in America live in poverty.  More than 3.9 million children in America do not have health care, and 1 in 5 American children go to be bed hungry on a regular basis.  Surely a “pro-life” president would be concerned about these matters as well, and would be attempting to do something to reduce those statistics too!  But Trump is doing nothing to address any of them.  How can a President of the United States who wants to wear the “Pro-Life” label continue to avoid addressing all these other important matters of life, and death?

So what exactly is the Gospel According to President Trump?  There isn’t one.  At least not one having to do with the Gospel that Jesus came to proclaim.  Donald Trump doesn’t know that Gospel, and he apparently has no desire to get to know it.  In fact, if his administration has revealed anything to the American people over the past two years, it is that he has rejected that Gospel. His language, his treatment of people who disagree with him, his attitude towards women and people of color: they all reveal Trump’s cluelessness when it comes to faith, the way of Jesus, and the heart of Christianity.  Donald Trump’s only gospel is a small “g” gospel, and it is the gospel of greatness.  And his version of greatness has nothing at all to do with the way of Jesus.

As a result, Trump’s spiritual bankruptcy needs to be named; and his version of the Christian faith needs to be questioned, challenged, and ultimately declared to be the heresy that it is!  And this is true of the gospel of his followers as well. There is NO Gospel according to Donald Trump — at least not for anyone who understands the Gospel to be the good news of Jesus Christ.

So if by chance you’re a church-goer, and you are either not hearing your pastor challenge the gospel of Trump, or not hearing your pastor offer a different gospel than the one being proclaim by this administration, then you need to find a new church!  And if you don’t believe me, might I suggest you simply reread the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Because it’s all right there: clear as day.  See for yourself: the Gospel of Jesus is nothing at all like the gospel according to Trump!

 

 





Whatever happened to decency?

15 07 2019

decency“Whatever happened to . . .” books abound!

“Whatever happened to faith?”  “Whatever happened to truth?”  “Whatever happened to justice?”  “Whatever happened to worship?”  “Whatever happened to the human race?”  Some people even want to know “whatever happened to penny candy?”

But as for me, I want to know whatever happened to decency?

Author and cultural commentator David Brooks recently wrote that a “decent society rests on a bed of manners, habits, traditions and institutions.”  But today, it appears as though the goal of a “decent” society is all but gone.  Manners are labeled ‘old school’ and seem to have been discarded with the all those big ‘ol cathode ray tube television sets; and traditions appear to have been forgotten, only to be replaced by whatever is easy, practical, and convenient.  Respect is nothing more than a 1967 song by Aretha Franklin; and a courtesy is merely that which we can get for free.

In considering the state of decency today, Brooks quickly references our current president, proclaiming “Trump is a disrupter. He rips to shreds the codes of politeness, decency, honesty and fidelity, and so renders society a savage world of dog eat dog.”  And I agree!  Wholeheartedly!  But as true as his words may be, Donald Trump is at the same time both the problem, and a symptom of the problem.  He continues to lie, cheat, and even in the eyes of many of his supporters, behave in ways that are unbefitting of the President of the United States.  But the absence of morality and respectability is overlooked by far too many, as they deem other objectives and agendas to be more important.  Which is why America’s problem is far greater than Donald Trump!  America’s problem is all the people that continue to support him– those who fail to condemn his lies, his treatment of those who disagree with him, and his mockery of the Christian life.

America’s problem is that we are becoming a nation willing to sacrifice morality and respectability on the altars of partisan power. And when a culture or society does that, decency is threatened. Standards are lowered and expectations are forgotten, and behavior becomes so personal and privatized that goodness and rightness become secondary matters.

But sadly, few people seem to be talking about this today! There are those who are ready to impeach the president because of his obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation; and others are quick to proclaim the ineptness of his countless cabinet appointments, many of whom are unfit for their respective positions.   Some of us are quick to speak out against his positions on child separation at our southern boarder, abortion rights, gays in the military, climate change, Obamacare, the Iran deal, the emoluments clause in the constitution, the role of a free press, and on and on and on.

But as important as all of those issues are, no one seems very interested in talking about decency. No one seems to have found the courage to address the issues of morality and respectability. Of all the political issues dividing our nation today, nothing is more disconcerting than the divide over the importance of decency; and yet no one seems to be willing to tackle it: not even the Church – the very community gifted with the task of growing a more decent world. So I’m encouraging Presbyterians to change this reality!

I’ll likely continue to speak out against the politics of the current administration.  But more than being one to PROTEST, I also want to ATTEST!  I want to attest to the value of decency.  I want to lift up the importance of honesty and truthfulness.  I want to call us back to ways of living that are respectful, and courteous, and polite!  I want to stand not just on the side of love, but on the side integrity as well. We need not stoop to the level of 45, and can at the same time promote both whatever political philosophy we espouse, AND decency!  It is possible to do both; and people on both sides of the aisle can replace Trump’s politics of hate with a politics of love, and in so doing bring decency back to our country.

Some values are higher than political values; and decency is one of them.  As the very good creation of God, decency is a mark of the Spirit on every human soul; for if I might dare quote Christopher Hitchens, “human decency is not derived from religion.  It precedes it.”  So let’s tap into that part of our created nature.  Let’s become more mindful of the Spirit’s mark upon each one of our lives. And let’s remember that being a great society, begins when we learn to be a decent society!

 

 

 





No! There are NOT two sides to every story!

20 06 2019

when-they-see-usPeople say it all the time, particularly when they are attempting to display an openness to other people’s perspective on something.  In an attempt to acknowledge that one person’s impression is just that — ONE person’s impression — and to make room for other opinions, they are quick to proclaim that there are always . . . “two sides to every story.”

But there are NOT two sides to every story!  There are MANY sides to every story.  In fact, there are likely as many sides to a story as there are people recounting the story.  Because we all see things differently, what we remember and recount and how we interpret and translate events, will vary from person to person.  And so sometimes, perhaps often, this phrase is needed to remind us that we do not live in a ‘black and white’ world, and that differences abound.

But lately, this phrase is being used to excuse, justify, and condone perspectives that are not just different, but that are downright wrong!  And no where is this more evident that in conversations about the new Netflix series “When they see us.”

Too many people have begun to claim that Ava Duvernay’s account of what happened only gives . . . one side of the story.  The young boys who were accused of the rape in Central Park in 1989 were NOT questioned without their parents.  They were NOT coerced into making false statements or confessions.  DNA evidence that exonerated the boys was NOT overlooked.  And they were NOT targeted, arrested, and charged because of the color of their skin.

Fortunately, over and over again these statements are being refuted, and evidence is revealing them to be nothing but lies!  So while the prosecutor in the case, Linda Fairstein, continues to try and offer  a ‘second side’ to the story, her ‘side’ is wrong!  It’s not another perspective.  It’s not another way to view what happened.  It’s simply wrong!  The systemic racism that led to the imprisonment of five innocent boys cannot be denied or dismissed simply because someone believes that there is “another side to the story.”

“The Civil War was not about slavery, it was about states’ rights.”  “Hitler’s reign was not about exterminating the Jewish people, it was about uniting all the Germanic people of the world and restoring Germany’s greatness on the world stage.”  “There were good people on both sides of Charlottesville’s “Unite the Right” riot of 2018.”

None of these statements are accurate ‘sides’ to any of the stories they are referencing.  And just because people hold to them, passionately and vociferously, doesn’t make them true or acceptable.  In the words of Booker T. Washington, “A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good,” just because someone claims it to be an acceptable perspective.

Just as love is love is love; so too wrong is wrong is wrong.

In her book, “The Death of Truth,” former New York Times Book Critic Michiko Kakutani writes “the ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, and the distinction between true and false no longer exist.”

We are living in dangerous days;  where truth is regularly being exchanged for lies, and where where there being many sides to a story is leading people to blindly accept the unacceptable!  In my version of Romans 1: 29-32: “we’ve embraced evil: by thinking the Civil War and Civil Rights legislation have repaired America’s systemic racism; and we have hated God, by hating — by lynching, by profiling, by redlining, by criminalizing — siblings who do not look like us.  We’ve been foolishly led astray; and our faithlessness deserves to die!”

No!  There are NOT two sides to every story.  There are many sides.  And some of them are wrong.  And wrong, is wrong, is wrong.





Will the real pro-lifers please stand up!

30 05 2019

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I’ve been working on this abortion blog for months now, but in light of recent actions in Alabama and Missouri I’ve decided to start over . . . again.  My goal when I began was to encourage dialogue on the issue, and to offer words that would challenge people on both sides to engage in respectful and meaningful conversation.  But as has become the case so often in recent years, the extremism that has resurfaced on the Right is only legitimized when we credit it as worthy of discussion and debate.  And that I will not do.  Recent talk of ‘human rights’ and ‘heartbeat’ bills are so radically frightening that I refuse to engage in any kind of conversation that will in any way condone or legitimize the absurd!

The Alabama bill bans all abortion except “to prevent a serious health risk” to the woman; and makes performing an abortion a Class A felony, punishable by up to 99 years in prison.  It was approved by 25 white, male, state senators, and sets the stage for a Supreme Court battle to reverse the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision which declared that until the “age of viability” a fetus does not have the same rights as you and I.  The Missouri bill also criminalizes any and every abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected – which is somewhere between 6-8 weeks.  That bill provides for absolutely no exceptions, and was approved in the House by a vote of 110 to 44.

Advocates for both of these bills would have Americans believe that they are “pro” life, standing on the side of morality and upholding the sacredness of human life.  But any in-depth study of the pro-life movement reveals great hypocrisy over both what it means to care for the lives of infants, children, and women; and which ‘heartbeats’ are considered to be sacred.

In fact, there are people on all sides of this issue who value human life, and we all acknowledge the significance of the human heart beat.  The difference however is that we in the pro-choice movement believe that beyond a woman’s ability to have control over her own body, the rights of a fetus and the heartbeat of an embryo are not the same as the rights and heartbeat of those who have been born.  Until a fetus can survive on it’s own, outside of a woman’s body, it is part of a woman, completely dependent upon her, and therefore subject to all the rights and decisions of that woman!  She controls the fetus, and because it does not have it’s own individual identity, while it is indeed living, it’s life is not the same as the life of it’s mother, and thus it is not entitled to the same rights.  It’s really as simple as that.  When it can survive on it’s own, that is a completely different story, as Roe vs. Wade made clear.

Similarly, this notion that the beating heart of an embryo is the same as the heartbeat of you and me, is simply not true.  And it’s not true because we do not have the same hearts.  We will one day, but at six or eight weeks, that is simply not the case.  The ‘heart’ of an embryo has not yet even developed chambers, and thus is not the same as the heartbeat of us who are born.  Again, we pro-choicers acknowledge that one day it will — but that is not the case in the early stages of a woman’s pregnancy.  It’s heart is simply not like the heart of an living adult, and thus it’s heartbeat cannot be equated with the heartbeat of a living adult.

And herein is the issue!  No one disagrees that life begins at the moment of conception!  The question is whether or not that life — a life that has not once taken a breath, that very breath that God used to call humanity into being — is different from yours and mine.  And it is!  In fact it is very different.  Life is NOT life!  The life of a puppy is valuable.  But if I accidentally hit that puppy with my car on my way home from work, I am not going to be thrown in jail for murder.  The value that we place on a puppy’s life is different than the value placed on mine.

Sperm are living.  The plant in my office that I forgot to water last week WAS living.  But those ‘lives’ are not worth the same as mine.  And while neither a puppy, nor sperm, nor potted plants are the equivalent of human beings, the point is that there are different forms of life, with differing value and worth.

Further, because the life of a fetus is not only directly dependent upon, but actually part of the body of another living being, it simply cannot be granted the same rights a living and breathing human being.  The woman in whom the life was conceived has her own rights – rights granted to her by both God AND by our constitution – and her rights must always supersede the rights of an embryo or fetus that is unable to survive apart from her.  She alone is the only one who should be permitted to decide what is done to, in, and with her body.  For while human life may begin at conception, human beings are not human beings until they are able to survive apart from their mother. So until at least until some point in the second trimester, women need to be left alone with decisions that are theirs alone to make.  And to believe otherwise is neither moral, nor ethical.  Those are actually standards that the ‘Right’ gave up several years ago.

All life is from God.  All life is sacred, and good, and beautiful.  But all life is NOT equal.  And abortion must not be used as a rallying cry for those seeking to unite a political party that has lost any sense of cohesion, or for a political party that has lost all sense of morality.

 





I’m with her

13 05 2019

White House

The time has come for America to put a woman in the White House.

No, we should not elect people to the highest office in the land on the basis of their gender, but neither should we fail to elect people on the basis of their gender!  And that is what has happened in our country for the past 230 years.  Americans have refused to send a woman to the White House simply because she was a woman: and that must change!  So it’s time to elect a woman.

But what if she’s not the most qualified candidate?

First off, let’s stop kidding ourselves into believing that we only elect the ‘most qualified’ candidates to the presidency.  If we learned nothing from the election of 2016, we learned that!  Never the less, as of May 2019, each and every woman who has declared her candidacy for the presidency is as qualified as anyone else.  All of the leading contenders have enough legislative, administrative, international, political, and relational experience to qualify them for the office.  They are visionary, knowledgeable, and charismatic leaders, capable of moving one of the world’s greatest democracies into the next chapter of the American story.  So qualifications are simply not an issue.

But what if she’s not able to handle the pressure of the position?

To this question, I have one response!  They give birth!  My wife and I have begun watching “Call the Midwife” on Netflix, and episode after episode I see women doing the unimaginable — that which women have been doing since the beginning of time — giving birth!  When it comes to dealing with pressure: the pressures of life, of challenges and struggles, of issues facing both local families and the various nations of our world, women are no less or no more capable than men!  And if the women in your life have not revealed this to be the case, then you need to get out and get to know more women!  While I’m tempted to lift up countless studies that reveal this to be true, most people asking this question are likely people who do not want to to believe ‘studies’ – so I won’t go there.  Suffice it to say that fear of women not being able to handle the pressure of the presidency is also a non-issue!

But what if I prefer one of the men who are running?

Mayor Pete is no doubt an attractive candidate; and as a gay man his election would break all kinds of barriers.  Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are about as appealing a candidate as an old White guy can hope to be these days.  And Cory Booker’s “Obamaesque” personality makes him a tempting option as well.  But none of these men, or any of the others running, are any more attractive or appealing than any of the woman running.  Their proposed programs and platforms are not all that different than those of Kristen Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, or Kamala Harris; and each of them would likely surround themselves with some of the very same qualified and capable underlings.  While the American President is certainly more than a mere figurehead, in the end, Presidents can only accomplish what their party allows them to accomplish.  A Democrat is a Democrat!  And so who we prefer, or who we “like”, needs to become secondary to a more important message that needs to be sent to our nation, and to our world.

But what if you I just don’t think a woman can handle the responsibilities of the position?

If you’re honestly asking that question, then all I can say it you shouldn’t even be voting!

“Buts” abound.  I know.  But never the less, the time has come.  And considering the misogyny of the White House these days, who better to take HIS place, than HER!  So that is who I will be standing with — HER!  Whoever SHE is!  The time has come for us to put a woman in the White House.