Methodism=Socialism?

December 21, 2010


Today, while I was looking for some muck to rake, I saw Kimberly Knight posted an interesting link.  Before I get to that, I want to tell you a little about Kimberly.  I met her a the Big Tent Xtianity conference here in Raleigh, where she spoke about sexuality and Christianity.  Actually, she spoke about homosexuality and Christianity, something she’s intimately familiar with, since she herself is gay and works in the UCC with the LGBT community.  She’s smart, funny, compelling and while I don’t know her well enough to call her “friend”, I’m certainly glad to know her.  That said, the link she posted was from TPMmuckraker about a blog post from Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation.  From there, I went to the Phillips’ blog post that the TPM article was based on.  I thought the stuff from TPM was bad, but Phillips own blog was really something.  Phillips said he recently walked past a Methodist Church whose sign read “Pass the DREAM Act”.  Then, he said “I have a DREAM.  That is, no more United Methodist Church.”  Phillips went on to say he grew up in the UMC, but left as a teen “because the Methodist Church is little more than the first Church of Karl Marx”.  I, too, grew up in the UMC and even at my most hardcore, conservative, cold-warrior days, I never saw any church as  being related to anything Marxist.  Mostly, because I took the time to learn a bit about communism; something Phillips should’ve done before making such an asinine statement.  Here are a few of Mr. Phillips criticisms of the UMC:

  • It’s pro-illegal immigration.  I suppose that’s because the church is in favor of the DREAM Act, as stated above.  In case you don’t know the DREAM Act allows illegal alien students (who meet certain requirements) to earn citizenship if they complete 2 years in the military or 4 years at an institute of higher learning.  Heaven forbid a church be in favor of treating people decently.
  • It’s “in the bag for socialist health care”.  Evidently, Mr. Phillips hasn’t been the recipient of our wonderful health care system’s largesse (said with a heavy dose of sarcasm).  If he had, he might feel differently about the situation.  But, again, he seems to think it’s a bad thing for a church to be concerned about the welfare of others.  He’s also upset that the UMC sent out “emails to their membership ‘debunking’ the myths of Obamacare.”  Guess he’s not a fan of folks getting enough information to make an informed decision.
  • “The Methodists joined the Socialists, Communists and Marxists for the “One Nation” March”.  Uh, no they didn’t.  They were going to, but the General Board on Church and Society backed out saying “The ‘One Nation Working Together’ rally began with a clean, clear message consistent with the social teachings of The United Methodist Church”, then  “devolved into nothing more than a gathering organized in opposition to the Restoring Honor rally. It also denounced the “un-Christ-like tone” of discourse in the country, including within the church itself.” (latter quote from Wikipedia) 
  • “Say, where are the liberal complaints on the separation of church and state?  I guess their outrage is selective.”  No, it’s not.  The subjects listed above are basic social justice issues and social justice has always been a major part of Methodist theology.  We’re merely carrying on a tradition set by our founding fathers (of Methodism) of working to improve the lives of all God’s children.  That, to me, seems to be a laudable goal for any church.

Personally, I don’t think the UMC goes far enough.  I’ve made no secret of my disdain for their policy on homosexuality .  If I had my way, sexual preference would play no part in anything the UMC did.  Of course, Phillips would say we’ve strayed even further from American values and patriotism.  Funny thing, though.  I don’t recall Jesus mentioning either one of those.  What I do recall is the injunction to love God and love my neighbor as myself.  If that makes me a socialist, color me red.


“He’s a loser”.

I’m loving this!!!

Credit where credit is due to Christian Nightmares.


It’s not just for Christians, it’s for all the boys and girls!

Is it just me, or she way to white to be singing Cameo?

Thanks to Christian Nightmares.

Merry CHRIST-mas

December 16, 2010


 

Recently, I saw what must be the most absolutely awesome Christmas tree ever.  Thanks to Matt Turner of Jesus Needs New PR who posted this:

But it’s bare.  In one of the comments to Matt’s post, someone said it needed Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh ornaments and great big Sarah Palin on top.  I tried, but I couldn’t find any of those.  But I did find these:

I mean seriously, what’s more patriotic than a red, white and blue elephant?

Look, you can celebrate Christmas and make a statement about the sanctity of human life!

I know it’s not a tree topper, but give them time.  Next year, they’ll have a bunch.

I can think of no better way to top off a CHRIST-mas tree than with a patriotic messenger of the Lord.  Maybe it’s the same one that came to Mary and Joseph!

Remember, “It’s not just a tree, it’s a movement!”

 

Fetus ornament courtesy of  weburbanist

Are We “Exceptional”?

December 15, 2010


There’s a lot of talk going on about American Exceptionalism these days.  But, it’s not the version that caused de Tocqueville to coin that phrase.  He referred to us as exceptional because the United States was a society and a nation founded on principles of equality and individualism, one that was of, for and by the people (de Tocqueville didn’t say it that way but it sounds good).  No, what I’m hearing today is that America has been granted a special role in history by no less than God himself.  It’s become quite the battle cry among the conservative set.  Strangely, I don’t hear them say what that role is.   What you will hear folks say that America is a “Christian Nation”, that we were founded on Christian principles and that the First Amendment has nothing to do with the separation of church and state.  Like more than a few others of a more liberal bent, I’m more than a little uncomfortable with this.  Why?  Well, for starters, let’s take a look at some of the things our conservative brethren are saying about the founding of this great nation. 

  1. “America is a Christian Nation”_ No, it’s not.  I say that with all certainty because the United States government said it wasn’t way back in 1797.  In the Treaty of Tripoli, it specifically states “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;”.  It doesn’t get much plainer than that.
  2. “The United States was founded on Christian Principles”_ Not exactly.  The United States was founded on Enlightenment principles, some of which happened to be Christian.  But, to say that the foundations of our system of government are Christian is disingenuous at best and an out-and-out lie at worst. 
  3. “The First Amendment has nothing to do with the separation of church and state.”_ While it is true that the phrase “separation of church and state” never appears in anywhere in the Constitution, that is certainly what the author meant.  How do I know that, you ask?  Simple; he said so after he wrote it.  James Madison, said author, wrote “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion & Govt in the Constitution of the United States”.  Again, seems pretty cut-and-dried to me.  The actual phrase was first used by Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptists, who were worried about the lack of protection in their state constitution against government intervention into religion.  Jefferson assured them that the First Amendment’s proscription against state-sponsored religion built a “wall of separation” between the church and the state. 

Okay, I’ve listed my opposition to some arguments about our founding, but how does that relate to the topic at hand?  Well, some folks believe (erroneously) that because we were founded on Christian principles, we are specially favored by God; even to the point of being a new “chosen people”.  Evidently, they also believe that this special status allows us to justify all manner of what can only be called evil behavior.  Behavior we have never tolerated from other nations, such as torture, rendition, the suspension of habeas corpus, invasion of privacy…, I could go on, but you get the point.  These are the actions of a Christian Nation?

I think the whole idea of our “special place in history” stems from a desire to feel good about ourselves as a people and a  nation.  I’m old enough to remember the malaise that infected this country in the 70’s.  We’d gotten out of an unpopular war and the regime we backed eventually crumbled; the government was revealed as corrupt; our main intelligence gathering service had been found to be involved in all manner of things they shouldn’t be and we’d been humiliated by a little Podunk country who captured our embassy and held our people hostage.  It wasn’t a good time to be an American.  Enter Ronald Reagan in 1980.  As my brother once said the best thing about Reagan was the way he made you feel about your country again.  The thing is, he didn’t really do anything to accomplish that, outside of a few speeches and the like; it wasn’t real.  That’s what the idea of American Exceptionalism does.  Instead of doing things that we can be proud of, like feeding the hungry and protecting the weak, it creates a “feel-good” sensation that’s ultimately hollow.  And, what’s the point of that?

In closing, I say that America, while it isn’t exceptional in and of itself, has exceptional potential.  It’s about time we started living up to it.

Compromise vs Idealism

December 10, 2010


This week, President Obama announced that he’d reached a compromise with Republicans on the Bush tax cuts.  The current tax rate will remain the same for at least 2 more years.  In return, the Republicans agreed to a 13 month extension of emergency unemployment benefits.  As far as compromises go, it’s not great, but it’s not bad either.  I mean, as my father said today as we discussed it, unemployment benefits should be extended for 2 years if the tax cuts are going to last that long.  But, you take what you can get.  Personally, I’m surprised the Republicans gave as much as they did.  I fully expect them, once ensconced in power to tell the President to “suck it” on almost everything he tries to do until the elections in 2012.  But, the lack of cooperation in Washington isn’t on my list tonight.  What is, is the response of some of the President’s “supporters”.

The far left, which has an inordinate amount of power in the Democratic Party, has been unhappy with President Obama for a while.  The basic problem is that they feel he’s not done enough.  One group, and one man in particular, have been on my mind for quite a while and their response to this compromise has pushed them to the forefront once again.  The man is Jim Wallis and the group is the folks at Soujourners magazine.  On Tuesday, the day after the President announced the deal, Wallis wrote on his God’s Politics blog that Obama should have fought harder and Jennifer Kottler weighed in the estate tax (or lack of it).  Both of them say that this is class warfare against everyone but the wealthy and these tax breaks need to go away whatever the cost.  Tell you what, why don’t you guys ask those folks who are out of work and don’t see that changing any time soon if they’d rather the President held the line on the tax cuts or if they like the current deal.  You know, the one that’s going to help them keep their families going a little longer.  Maybe even long enough for them to find work.  Where do you think they come down on this one?

Don’t get me wrong, I admire Wallis and the people at Sojourners.  I love their dedication to social justice and the fact that they’re living out their faith the best way they know how.  The only problem I have is that they’re too political.  And, this episode is an example of why religion and politics don’t mix well.  Politics is, perhaps, one the most cynical and pragmatic exercises on the planet.  It’s also one of the nastiest, dirtiest, corrupting things a person can be involved in.  Christianity (when practiced correctly) is just the opposite.  It’s all about taking the high road and doing what’s right regardless of the cost, while politics is about doing what’s necessary to get things done.  Both are needed aspects of our society, they’re just not compatible ones.

Should Obama have fought harder and possibly gotten a deal that would have extended unemployment benefits and rescinded the tax cuts for the ultra-rich?  Maybe; and, in a perfect world he might have.  Was that ever in the cards in this imperfect, broken world we live in?  I seriously doubt it.


Last Sunday, one the youth at church pulled me aside and said, “I love the John Calvin bobblehead.  Now, you need a Martin Luther” (I had included the Calvin doll in an earlier post).  That stirred my creative juices and, with the help of Google, I found Luther and a few others besides. 

In an interesting side note, Luther may have come to understand grace on the can.  He suffered from terrible constipation most of his life.  One day, while reading the 1st chapter of Romans, he had an epiphany, coming to a different understanding of that grace than the church held.  Supposedly, when he finally got it, his constipation cleared up.  Thus, Protestantism may have been born on the john.  He also may have believed a demon lived in the toilet vault below him and said, “Demon, I’ll give you what goes down and I’ll give God what goes up”.  I can’t verify that, however, so it’s just hearsay.

Here’s the Calvin bobblehead again, in case you missed it.  I don’t have any fun little ditties about him.  If you do, please let me know.

Also, if you know of bobbleheads of John Wesley and Jacobus Arminius, please, please, please let me know where to find them. 

A John the Baptist bobblehead.  He’s got honey, but no locusts.  Where’s the protein?

Lest you think it’s only figures from antiquity who get a one of these, here’s good old Billy Graham.

Not being Reformed, I have no trouble giving the Catholics equal time.  John Paul may not be saint, but he is immortalized in bobblehead form. 

A Jesus action figure.  Several years ago, the creator of G. I. Joe launched a line of Christian action figures called Almighty Heroes.  Not sure if they’re still available.

This isn’t a bobble head or an action figure, but the text with the ad was just good to pass up.  This is directly from the website:

Six piece plastic playset is White with Red accents.The boxed playset includes:
*Helmet of Salvation
*Breastplate of Righteousness
*Belt of Truth
*Sword of the Spirit
*Shield of Faith
*Shin Guards of the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace (what?)
Also comes with a Parents Guide to help parents teach Eph 6:11-17 (put on the full armor of God) to their children.Can be worn by Boys or Girls ages 3 and up.However, this color scheme will probably appeal to Boys.

In closing, I’ll relate an exchange I had with my brother when I told him about the Luther bobblehead.  He’s the one who told me the Luther on the john story and after that he asked “What if we’re wrong and God really is vengeful?  We’re gonna get up to heaven and St. Peter’s gonna look at us and say ‘Martin Luther on the shitter?  Are you kidding me?  Get the hell out of here!”  I told him “I prefer to think we’re right and when we get there, St. Peter’s gonna say “Martin Luther on the shitter?  Man, that’s some funny stuff, come on in!”

Jesus pictures

December 6, 2010


 One of my inspirations when I write this blog is a gentleman named Matthew Paul Turner.  As I’ve said before, Matt’s blog is called Jesus Needs New PR.  What I haven’t told you is that he’s also written several books on life and faith and, from what I’ve seen so far they all have they same delicious snark he delivers on his website.  I’ve borrowed from him in the past and I’m about to again.  One of Matt’s things is digging up weird Christian pictures, especially of Jesus.  And, that’s what you get from me today: weird Jesus pictures.

For a starting point, I thought I’d use the image that everyone (in these parts, anyway) thinks of when they think of a picture of Jesus.  This one has to have icon status.

However, he probably looked more like this.  Discovery or the History Channel aired a documentary about what Jesus probably looked like and the facial reconstruction artist they used came up with this image.  A little different, huh?

Talk about different.  I’m not sure what the hell this is all about.

A Jesus Pez…, wow.

 

What would Republican Jesus do?

Several times, I’ve made smart-ass comments about Jesus carrying an assault rifle every where he went.  I never expected to find a picture of that.

This is oh-so-wrong, but oh-so-funny.

And, because one these picture posts wouldn’t be complete without some cheesy rip-off of popular culture, here you go:

 

Many thanks to Matt Turner and Sister Mary Martha for several of the pictures.


A friend and co-worker said that once.  Not to me, to another friend and co-worker.  He said when he saw a car that looked like this:

I can’t help thinking he’d say the same thing about this guy:

I have a few questions about Mr. Tapley.  First, if he’s the Third Eagle of the Apocalypse, who are the other two?  Also, who is Prophet of the End Times if he’s the Co-Prophet.  He’s big on numerology and, in another video, said that 11 was a homosexual number.  Homosexual number???  I’d love to know how.  I’m not necessarily disputing it…, okay I am, but I still want to know how it’s a gay number.  In fact, I’d love to understand the mental gymnastics required to believe or even comprehend the convoluted mess this guy “teaches”.   All I can say about all this is wow…, just, wow.

Thanks to Matthew Turner of Jesus Needs New PR and Christian Nightmares.  If it weren’t for you guys, I’d have never known about the Third Eagle of the Apocalypse.

Who is My Neighbor?

November 29, 2010


One day, Jesus was talking to group of his followers when a lawyer asks “Hey man, I like this ‘live forever’ idea you’ve been talking about. How does a fellow do that?” Jesus looked at him for a minute, then said “Well, you’re a lawyer. What does the law say?” The lawyer answers “Love God with everything you’ve got. And, love your neighbor just like you love yourself.” Jesus nodded and said, “Dude, you just answered your own question.” But, being a lawyer, a simple answer wasn’t enough for this cat. So, he says “Well, that sounds easy enough. But, when you say neighbor, are you talking about the joker that lives next door to me?” Some of the apostles, (mainly Peter, James and John) started muttering about what a doofus this guy was. Jesus just smiled and shook his head. Then he started telling a story. “One day, this guy was on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Now, ya’ll know how rough that road can be. Sure enough, as he was walking by some bushes, a bunch of dudes jumped out and mugged him. Oh, it was bad. Beat him up, took everything he had, even his clothes, and left him laying there on the side of the road. Now, this brother was in bad shape. I’m talking about-to-die bad. After a while, a preacher came by and saw him laying there in his underwear. Man, he thought to himself, ain’t no telling what’s going on over there. I’m not getting involved, so he crossed to the other side of the road to avoid the poor guy. A little bit later, a deacon in the local church was passing by. He saw the fellow lying on the side of the road and said to himself “What a freak, laying in the road-ditch in his underwear like that. Somebody ought to do something”. But, he wasn’t about to get involved with a character like that and he hurried on by. Next, a Samaritan”, Jesus paused at this point, because almost as one the crowd drew an audible breath at the mere mention of the name “Samaritan”. “That’s right, one of those nasty, disgusting Samaritans came along. Guess what this cat did? He went straight over to the man, got out his first aid kit and went to work, mending the fellow’s wounds as best he could. Then, he picked him up and carried him to the nearest hotel. Checked in and spent the next day looking after our poor, beat up friend. In the morning, he had to get on the road since he was traveling for business. But, he stopped in the office, paid for another couple of days and told his friend, the manager, “Look, man, there’s a dude up in 202 that got beat up and robbed the other day. How about looking after him for few days and I’ll make it right with you when come back through. You know I’m good for it”. Now, if you were the dude laying in the road, who was your neighbor?” Without hesitating, the lawyer said “The fellow that looked after him”. “There you go” said Jesus, “do the same and you’ll be all right”.

I told that story with the language I did to make a little easier to understand. Okay, I also did it because it was fun imaging Jesus sitting in the corner at Paul’s Grocery on Poole Road in Knightdale NC, holding forth for the usual crowd. But, I like this story. In fact, it’s one of my favorites. Everyone always focuses on the Samaritan doing the right thing for the guy. But, what gets me is that it’s a Samaritan that commits the act of love. Nowadays, that would be akin to a fundamental Muslim doing the same for a Christian. And, at the end, he tells this highly religious lawyer, a guy that did nothing but study the Torah all the time, to be like the Samaritan! That would be like telling Billy Graham to follow the example of a drug addict or an alcoholic. The point, here, is that we not supposed to just love those we’re comfortable with. No, Jesus said to love your enemies, because if you only love those that love you, what have you really accomplished? The other thing to be gleaned from this story is that everyone is our neighbor. Everyone. Not just those in our neighborhood, or town, or state. Or even country. Whenever there’s a natural disaster outside the United States, you’ll hear a lot of voices complaining about helping folks who aren’t Americans.  The thing that gets me is that some of the loudest of these voices are the same ones that tout the United States as a “Christian” nation. Makes me wish I was a Samaritan sometimes.