Murder, Justice, and Biblical Psychobabble

The murder of Botham Jean and the subsequent trial and conviction of Amber Guyger definitely has its share of conflicting narratives. First there was the murder itself. Then there was the cover up. Then there was the cover up of the cover up.

So many of my family and friends held our breaths trying to determine how the trial would turn out. In the words of Snoop Dogg, “Murder was the case,” was an easy call. What else would you call walking into a man’s apartment and shooting him dead while he was chilling in his drawers minding his own business? We know that common sense ain’t always common. Especially when it comes to Black people and the police.

I’m in an ongoing text group with people from the East to the West Coast. Two in particular live in Dallas. Minutes after the verdict, the Dallas guys quickly transitioned to the sentencing. The immediate suspicion was the amount of years Guyger received would be way closer to the minimum 5 year range than the maximum 99 years within the sentencing guidelines. It matched my suspicions after the September 11 attacks. When the second plane hit World Trade Center, I calmly got up from my office in St. Louis, went to my car and drove to the gas station to fill up. Sure our nation was under a terrorist attack. Still, I knew many would turn this attack into a money making opportunity. Sure enough, by the time I got off work many stations had gone from an average of $1.23 per gallon to upwards of $5.00.  America had trained me well. These men obviously received the same training. We understand the fact that most of the time cops get away with doing dirt to Black folk.

When the sentence of 10 years was revealed, the thoughts I and many of my brethren felt was familiar. “Dammit! One step forward two steps backwards!” We got the right verdict, but the jury (who were encouraged they could focus on a lighter sentence) made it so Officer Guyger received more compassion than her victim.

Immediately the media focused on the love showered upon Guyger by the brother of Botham Jean, Brandt, as well as the judge in the case Tammy Kemp. Photos of Jean and Kemp embracing a sobbing Guyger became a weird symbol of grace and mercy for a cold blooded murder in the spaces of what was supposed to be a righteous judgment. As those photos circulated the internet, reactions were strong. Many are bewildered at how a young man who lost his brother in a brutal and unjust shooting can ask to hug the woman who is responsible for taking his life. These questions deserve answers.

The reason is simple. Christianity; specifically black people’s version of Christianity. The following statements are going to seem sweeping. Those that understand nuance understand the context of sweeping terms when something is generally true without taking into account every single individual sample. Historically in America Christianity has had a dual sense of purpose and benefits. For White folk, ever since slavery, God, Jesus, the bible are all tools and symbols based in reinforcing their inherent belief that they are god’s chosen people on the earth. For Black folk, God, Jesus, the bible are tools symbolic of helping to survive being second class citizens on earth, waiting to receive the true citizenship and value they deserve in heaven. This was taught from the beginning on American soil. How else could one justify slavery and all the horrors that came with it in the first place? Slavery wasn’t just about forced labor, bloody violence, rape, splitting up of families, it was about a system of mental degradation and oppression. One wonders how you can have both the slave and enslaver share the same religion at the same time. The only way that’s possible is to emphasize a different form of core teachings as it relates to earthly vs. heavenly life. White folks taught Blacks, ‘Slaves obey your masters.’ They taught Blacks to accept; no EMBRACE their subservient place and endure whatever they had to endure. After all, the more meek, humble and docile you are, the better chance god will reward and let you into heaven where there would be no more slavery or violence forced upon you.  White folks never had to take on that perspective. They believed in receiving their benefits right here on earth as they lived. For enslavers, Jesus preserved the order. For slaves, Jesus would reward them in heaven for submissive and loving behavior towards the enslaver on earth. Black Christians spend their lives trying to get to heaven. White folk demand earth as its birthright. Heaven is a forgone conclusion.

In a way, Black folks embrace certain moral core principles of Christianity similar to how we believe in the moral core principles of The Constitution. It appears we believe in the ideas more than the ones who brought it and tout it the most. But those that gave us the constitution and to a large degree the bible never intended for Black folk to receive any of the benefits in the first place.

One key principle that black Christians embrace is that of forgiveness. We take seriously the principle that God will not forgive us unless we forgive others. As Brandt Jean took the stand to talk about how the murder of his brother affected him, he kept talking about how he hoped Guyger would receive Jesus. This is key for him because even as he attempts to grieve and process the loss of his loved one, he is told constantly to depend on his faith in god. While grappling with his pain, grief and anger, his faith tells him that god isn’t pleased with his anger. He must forgo it and give it to god. As a result there is a constant pressure or being pressed on two sides of harsh reality. On one side it’s watching this woman and her backers lie, cheat, and attempt to do everything in their power to escape justice. On the other, it’s Jesus looking down on him demanding he show compassion and mercy for the sake of his own soul. This isn’t unusual at all. When Dylan Roof took 9 Black lives at Mother Emmanuel Church, plenty of surviving members went out of their way to express forgiveness in tears and wailing to a man who detested the sight of them.  To be honest, I put myself in Brandt’s shoes. I was raised in the same kinds of churches he was. When I was his age I may have done the same thing.

Now contrast this to White people’s experiences, again they’re version of Jesus isn’t the same. So if the tables were turned, instead of touting grace and forgiveness looking to absolve the perpetrator of as much internal guilt as possible, they would simply lean in towards the calls of justice. “You reap what you sow. We have to be tough on crime and punish criminals harshly as a way to preserve order in society. The criminal must take personal responsibility for his actions. Where were his parents? Why are they as a people so violent? They must pay for what they’ve done.” This is the difference in the outlooks. Both sides were raised Christian. But Christianity and its emphasis in this area are polar opposites. Whites were never told to forgive Blacks for anything.

There are two basic camps among Black folk. One says, “I’m tired of Black folk doing all the damn forgiving toward Whites for the deadly shit they do. The other says, “You can’t tell Brandt Jean how to grieve. If he wants to hug his brother’s killer, then so be it.” I think the most important thing is to understand what is behind his motives and how he got there. The fact is, forgiveness is a personal decision and journey. Unfortunately, many of us feel we must display it publicly in order for it to be legitimate. I also believe we don’t really understand what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. In other words, it’s one thing to release someone from causing you pain and turning your grief into darkness. There are plenty of people I’ve had to forgive. But for some, the acts were so devious and damaging there is no way in hell we are going to be hugging it out. That is not the same as wishing harm on the person or seeking to ruin their lives. Forgiveness in this case is no less valuable or sound than Jean’s. In fact, it’s probably more sustainable.

Again, there was a time in my life I may have reacted the same way as Brandt. I grew up with his brand of faith. Now if someone took away my only sister, at worst the hounds of hell will be unleashed if I have anything to do with it. At the very least, I’m going to be like them White folks and be on the side of justice. But I digress.

What I cannot justify, however, is Judge Tammy Kemp’s behavior in also hugging the murderer in her courtroom. There is something to be said that the Fraternal Order of Police in Dallas support her. Take that how you like it. But it’s interesting that she chose to give Guyger a bible. In most cases if someone is about to do time, you give them a bible for comfort in a time of need. In this case, Guyger already received just about everything she needed. A dramatically short sentence, the forgiveness of the people she hurt in public, and oh this… she’s expected to appeal so who knows maybe the murder conviction is overturned altogether. Hell, according to the established rules of the game, she should have given the bible to Brandt.

 

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Of Michael Sam, Black Folk and the Deity Factor

When I was at Webster University I took a class called Religion and Political Conflict.  It was one of my favorite classes, as it inspired critical thinking. Our professor, Chris Parr assigned us a paper asking the question: Why do people threaten violence and wage war in the name of religion?  I titled my response paper, “The Deity Factor.’

The basic premise is that a person will do most anything no matter how heinous if they believe the orders are from their highest power.  As much good that is done in this world for the sake of the deity factor, there are just as many if not more evil done against mankind. This could range from feeding the poor, evangelism, or strapping a pack of C4 on their bodies and killing innocent people. Logic and self analysis fall to the deity.  This is because the follower believes his/her eternal state depends on pleasing the deity.  Frankly, when dogmatic belief is serious enough, one would do anything to satisfy that longing to be approved of by his god.

What is interesting about the deity factor, is that it’s easy for those to believe their own illogical ideologies, while thinking others are ridiculous.  For instance, I can’t understand how radical Muslim extremist believe that the reward for martyrdom is 72 virgins in the great by and by.  I mean, you blew your body to pieces, and dead people can’t have physical sex.  And what does that say about a female martyr?  She can’t have 72  fresh penises because the sexism that rules on earth carries over to heaven or paradise. Sounds like a raw deal for the sisters to me!

femalesuicidebombers-640x480

Unnamed female Islamic radical

There is a segment of the White Christians who inherently believe that they are superior to all others based on their color.  They have used their interpretations of the bible to justify slavery then, and status now.

As silly as that martyr/virgin sounds to most, many Christians, don’t see the similarities or hypocrisy they display when they openly discriminate against the gays and lesbians.  This seems especially true of the Black Christian community.  I’ve had a plethora of discussions with my Black  Christian socially conservative friends.  I am amazed at how they hand select scriptures that supports their discriminative beliefs, but turn an unapologetic blind eye to other scriptures that would make their own lives uncomfortable.  Many are otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people.  But once the dogma of the deity come into play, they turn into blind nincompoops.

I wasn’t always as passionate about supporting the LGBT community as I have been in recent years.  I had never been an all out bigoted idiot, but I certainly wasn’t a friend.  There are some elements within the gay community that still rub me the wrong way.  I still typically frown on what I view as an overly effeminate male who acts more girlish than the most girly girl I know.  I agreed with a former gay male friend of mine when he told me, “I’m gay, but I can’t stand a sissy!”  That’s on me and I’ve been working on growing above that judgment.

A more appropriate critique that I do challenge them on is wanting to be equal without embracing the ability to take a joke. I hate racism but I am able to critique black folk,  laugh at myself and my people.  No group can truly prosper and be taken seriously if its members take themselves too seriously. Some of my gay friends haven’t gotten there yet.

In a most recent conversation on social media, some black folks were asking the question, “Why does Michael Sam have to announce that he’s gay?  What is the big deal?  He’s gay…. I’m straight.  So what?”  I explained why Michal Sam made his announcement.  (As if it wasn’t obvious)  I further explained that these same people who resent Sam for making his ‘announcement,’ don’t bat an eye when a ball player is interviewed after a victory and they say, “I want to thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ who gave us the victory.”  When Kurt Warner played for the Rams, St. Louisans heard this every week.  (Unless the Rams lost and Kurt sucked)  When Tim Tebow talked about his faith 24-7, it never occurred to Christians who supported his rhetoric, that Jesus never threw a pass, never threw a block, made a devastating tackle or sacked the other team’s quarterback.  Public figures give credit to their deity thereby ‘announcing’ their religious beliefs every day.

Christians love it when famous people do it.  It confirms their own brand of faith.  On the flip side, they merely reject Sam because his gayness doesn’t jive with their brand of religion dogma.  I told my Christian friends that to reject this recognition in light of the original question they posed about Sam’s announcement is being intellectually dishonest.  Of course, neither logic, theory, nor the incredible amount of irony couldn’t crack that steel wall of dogma!

mizzou students sam

Michael Sam’s return to Mizzou Feb 15, 2014

I pointed out that… “the real issue for you wasn’t Sam making an announcement, it was what he announced.  To suggest otherwise when you applaud announcements that support their own beliefs  is hypocrisy and intellectually dishonest.  And while gays are catching hell every day, you lack empathy for their struggle while still getting pissed at white folk who are racist against you and people who look like you.”

Look, the LGBT community has been here since the beginning of civilization.   In 20 years, there may not be a such thing as a closeted gay person.  You won’t be able to pray them away… and they aren’t trying to change your minds about them.  Neither will I.  You are free to hold on to your prejudices.  Just keep in mind the flip side.

Every time you criticize them for asking for what is rightfully their’s, (which is to live and be allowed to live,) you sound just like White folk who say, “I’m tired of your black shit!  Trayvon Martin was a thug and deserved what he got!  And so did Jordan Davis. What are you crying about?  This isn’t 1964 anymore.  Don’t talk to me about disproportionate injustice and  mass incarceration rates.  You have Oprah, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.  Dammit you have a black president for godsakes.  I never owned slaves.  Shut the hell up about racism already!   

Many Christians I know say that homosexuality and gay rights are being forced down their throats.  And yet this is the same language used in Mississippi, Alabama, and so forth when it came to Black folk as it pertains to equality.

I am certainly not going to suggest that you change your mind about approving of homosexuals.  Just as I am not looking to convince a racist white person to appreciate me for who I am.  But what I am asking you to consider is the same thing I ask of the prejudice:  

You don’t have to love me.  You don’t have to like or approve of me.  But don’t attempt to stop me from prospering.  Don’t kill me advocate or excuse violence against me.  Don’t arrest me for unjust reasons.  Don’t deny me equal opportunities.  Don’t stand in my way as I look to create a decent life for myself and feed my family.  Don’t support legislation that denies me full equal rights that you support for yourself.  Keep your prejudices if you must, but don’t exploit my life and ruin my opportunities because of them.  And dammit don’t support or excuse those who do.

If you can do that, you won’t hear me say another word!

Relax, God has NOT left the room!

From a child I have been a person of deep faith.  When my mother took me to church unlike most my peers I actually wanted to sit towards the front instead of hiding in the balcony.   I wanted to be up close so I could especially hear what the minister was saying.  If I sat too far back, I would get lost and eventually fall asleep.  Learning about God and the characters in the bible was a fascinating thing to me.  I took those opportunities seriously.

My spiritual journey has taken me through many places.  One principle that has reinforced and remains with me is that my faith is a very personal journey.  The journey itself and the fruits thereof may be shared with the public at large.  But the beauty of it being a personal journey is that no one can prevent my soul from connecting or communing with my creator.

I thought about this when I came across an email recently that suggested (not the first time I’ve heard) that a major downfall of this country happened when the Supreme Court took corporate prayer out of public schools.  Since that time lack of prayer has been blamed for dropout rates, teen pregnancy, school violence etc.  Years ago I was lukewarm on the subject at best.  I remember having corporate prayer in school and the benefits of it was debatable.

There was still mischief, bullying, drugs and pregnancy.  Nowadays I have strong opinions that taking public prayer out of public schools was not the tragedy people made it out to be.  Especially considering the world we live in today.  I’ll make my case:

Religion is Polarizing

We live in a society that is more diverse than ever before.  With that comes faith with all sorts of flavors.  Who gets to decide what brand of faith is emphasized for public schools?  The general consensus among those desiring prayer in public schools is Christianity.  But which kind of Christian; Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist?  Of course not only would either of these choices leave out another Christian persuasion, it would also exclude and isolate people of other faiths that do not include Christianity.

The natural strife would distract from the original emphasis of primary education which is to teach the basics of reading, writing (typing) arithmetic, and now technology.  Remember we are talking about publically tax payer public schools.  This brings me to my next point.

This is what private schools are for

In any given metropolitan area, there are hundreds of private schools which in addition to academics emphasize their faith.  There is nothing wrong with a family choosing a school based on their own faith.  Some schools have struggled to remain solvent as the economy has suffered making it more difficult for parents to afford tuition.  And some have been vibrant enough to offer scholarships to those less fortunate.  I have several close friends who put their children in private school for both religious as well as academic purposes.  All of them are not coming straight out of pocket either.

Some live in public school districts known to be inferior.  Some seek Catholic institutions for their young though the parent’s faith is far from Catholicism.  They simply believe the quality of the Jesuit education will prepare their children for college better than the local public school will.  It is a beautiful thing to have educational choices for American families.  Still, I have never heard one parent tell me that they chose a school because there is corporate in it.

God has never left the building

While I never attended private school of any sort, it never stopped me from praying neither in school nor out.  I prayed for good grades on test before and after I took them.  I prayed to make it off school grounds fast and slick enough to avoid bullies and being jumped on.  I prayed not to get thrown out of school for fighting.  I prayed my team would hit the jump shot or score the touchdown against the cross town rival to win the big game.  Since I believed that God and prayer were within my grasp as surely as my own personal belief, nothing could prevent me from making a connection.  No politician, no school administrator, no teacher.  I didn’t need my relationship with God legislated to make it any more legitimate.

To believe that I don’t support God or prayer within the scope of society or youth would be the furthest thing from the truth.   As I’ve stated I have a strong faith in God and a deep appreciation for prayer.  When I go to some private schools as a sports official, some of them conduct pre-game prayers.  I participate in these prayers with the kids and coaches.  Not because I have to, but because I want to.  When a school is private, they have a unified point of view that everyone agrees to following before enrolling.  No one is singled out or ostracized in the midst of any of those prayers.  Prayer should be a unifying tool, not a dividing one.

I’ve heard it said many times that Christianity is under attack.  I believe that in the United States of America that sentiment has been greatly exaggerated.  It’s easy and historic for most all religions to claim victimization.  Certainly there is conflict and strife among people of faith vs. those that claim none.  The same can be said about differing Christian organizations/denominations etc.  I explained all of this in a previous article titled, “Why I Refuse to Join A Church Part 2”

The reason I say that Christian ‘martyrism’ has been overblown is because there are thousands of churches in any given metropolitan area.  Startup churches are being formed daily.  Nothing is stopping them.  There has always been a running joke about the city I’m from that on every block, there is a Rice House, (Chinese take-out restaurant) a liquor store, and a church.  I don’t call that an attack.

Faith is as American as our desire for freedom.

Finally, I’m not some ACLU honk.  While they have served a good purpose at times, they are also often more zealous and ridiculous as any raving mad TV evangelist.  I look at some of the causes they take up and just wish they would go away.

What I am saying is that at the end of the day prayer is a private and personal thing first.  And if we do well others will be attracted to our faith through our displays of character that reflect the love of our creator.  One doesn’t need religion to have character.  But without character, religion is tyranny.  There is a scripture that says “they shall know me by the love you show one another,” That carries more weight than a nativity scene on school property.

Meanwhile I’d just assume teachers and administrators do what it takes to make our schools better and prepare our youth to create and compete in this ever increasingly competitive market.  I don’t need James Dobson trying to ‘take my local school for Jesus.’

I’ll pass the concept of faith to my children at home.  I’m just saying.

‘Why I Refuse To Join A Church (Part 2)

Go to church but they tease us, with a picture of a blue-eyed Jesus!  –  Ice Cube

Well, sort of.  I don’t take these lyrics from Ice Cube’s rant from his classical African-American community critique “Us” as an issue of merely color; but rather ideology.

I tried to make this point in the last church I belonged to.  Our services were tailored in a fashion that allowed us to ask questions or make comments during the sermon.  As you can imagine, that made for some memorable experiences, both for the good and not so good.  At the time George W. Bush was campaigning for a  second term in the White House.  There was a heavy religious fervor regarding that election too.  Both Catholic and Protestant organizations were galvanized similarly (if not more) than they were in 2000.

My comment during the service was that I found the election season offered at least two different Jesuses.  Immediately when I said it there were cat calls from the other members.  “Oh no, there is only ONE Jesus.”  I think they thought I was being literal.  And I found it hard to explain, as I was cut off continuously.  My point was that while most Christian churches share the same basic bible for scripture references, Jesus’ points of emphasis and agenda seemed to go down racial, class, social and political divides.

I recall visiting a prominent church in South St. Louis when the subject of the election came up.  The pastor of the church said, “I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.  But I will say that I’m not voting for someone who is for killing babies.”

I thought to myself, “Wow, I can understand Jesus being bent about abortion, but he’s not bent about torture or bombings of civilian communities?  What about all of the other injustices and crimes against humanity out there perpetrated by men for political or ideological reasons?  Is that ultimately what this election is about?”  I’ll get back to that.

Later I attended a different church for a men’s breakfast.  As usual when the subject of men come up at such an event it’s natural for the meaning of manhood and how it’s manifested in society to be brought up.  Some of the speakers made a point of making sure that homosexuality and manhood had nothing in common.  In doing so words and phrases to describe gays or being gay were slung around.  They consisted of standards such as ‘sweet’ ‘sissies’ and ‘punks’ to name a few.  Then there was the usual reference to Adam and Steve.

While all of these black macho evangelical males “amen’d” and approved of this name calling, I raised my hand and asked a question:

(Paraphrasing)

“I hear all of this name and cat calling regarding the homosexual community.  And while I respect the fact that your brand of faith entitles you the right to have your own opinion that homosexuality is a sin, do you honestly believe that Jesus would endorse the name calling that some of you are using such as ‘sissy,’ ‘punk’ or even ‘fags?’ “ 

At that point the pastor was silent.  To speak boldly like this against the precepts of leadership in a powerful black church is not something grinned upon.  But one of the elders jumped in quickly to the rescue.  With anger he burst from his seat and started spouting off scriptures in Leviticus and how homosexuality was a sin and that God didn’t like it and neither should any Christian.  He was practically foaming at the mouth from the front of the sanctuary as he looked towards my way in the back.

I reiterated:

“I’m not discussing the validity or non validation of homosexuality as a sin.  What I am asking… is that if there were homosexuals in this congregation, (and chances are there one or more among this group of men) if I were a homosexual who was struggling with my sexual identity vs. what I believe my faith allows, would your words as well as your spiritual disposition attract me to you as a source of help, or would I be repulsed, insulted or put off by your tone?  Would Jesus address a person who happens to be a homosexual with the names you choose along with your mocking tone?”  

DEAD SILENCE in the congregation.  I think some thought a fight was about to ensue.

The elder grew more angry, then shouted something else before the pastor got up and addressed my question… sort of.

“I understand what you are saying brother.  And perhaps you are right that we can do better with the name calling.  But let me be clear, homosexuality is a sin.  Now let’s move on.” 

This, among other things at that time, drew me to the conclusion that as far as the evangelical community was concerned, all God/Jesus really cared about were what I called the ‘Big 3’  Abortion, Homosexuality, and Stem Cell Research- all of which He was against.

That’s right.  Let it be known henceforth that these are the bullet points on Jesus’ hit list.  But was it really? 

The question of Jesus and the identification of his agenda have been going on thousands of years, right?  In the scriptures he seemed to identify it himself:

Matthew 16:13-15

13 Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Who do men say that the Son of man is?

   14 And they said, Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.

   15 He saith unto them, But who say ye that I am?

   16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

In my estimation, this question is still the most divisive among Christian believers.  Who Jesus is- a direct result of what he endorses- stands for, evangelizes, and lives by.  As Christians (followers or Disciples of Christ) by very definition that agenda should translate into their own.  And this is where confusion and division has obviously settled in.

Let’s take it step by step.  While these are not absolute, I think we can agree that these are generally the focus, missions, and nature of Jesus, depending on the demographics and world view of the worshipper. 

During slavery a certain segment of the population believed that Jesus endorsed the enslavement of Africans which included selling, beating, raping and murdering people that Jesus/God created.  During this same period the slaves (often taught Christianity either from Catholics in Africa or Protestant enslaver in America) believed that Jesus would deliver them from their oppression. 

Similarly, during the Jim Crow and civil rights eras, The KKK (who defined themselves a Christian organization) believed as they do today that Jesus choose them to be superior, while other nationalities are inferior. Many churches, both black and white, believed that Jesus created, loves and values all men equally. 

These days we face many of the same challenges.  Some upwardly mobile church dogma believe that Jesus favors the wealthy while others believe Jesus is concerned for the poor.  

Let me give you a biblical example and how it may play out today:

John 6:5-14

5When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?

   6And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.

   7Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.

   8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him,

   9There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?

   10And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

   11And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.

   12When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.

  13Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

   14Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

 Newt Gingrich

If something like this were to happen, one side of the Christian agenda would report it this way:

Boy donates food, Jesus takes the little and performs a miracle to serve thousands.  The people rejoice.

Another Christian agenda would report it this way:

Unemployed multitude threaten to mug little righteous boy who has food.  Jesus the self-appointed welfare socialist takes the food away from the one who had in order to spread the wealth.  Claims of a miracle go unsubstantiated, but Newt Gingrich says that Jesus should face prosecution for robbery.  Sara Palin said Jesus is an illegal alien- “just look at his name”- (Pronounced Hey-Seuss) and bad for American values.  Finally, Rush Limbaugh called him “The Magic Hebrew.” 

Ok (chuckle) I’m having a little fun with this.  But you get my point.  This conversation has political ramifications, but in this context it’s not political at all. 

I have attended many of these churches during my lifetime so I speak with experience.

The evidence shows that our depiction of Jesus, given his world view, is something either given to us by others or something we decide upon ourselves- based on our own background- sociopolitical, socioeconomic and dogmatic vantage point.  Christians decide which Jesus to follow based on what they are comfortable with.  That’s right.  Believe it or not, Christians have pretty much picked their own Jesus to worship and follow based on their own accepted set of criteria.

For those living in inner cities, their Jesus cares about the poor; thought not exclusively.  For many living in upper class neighborhoods, Jesus wants you to have riches.   Many ministers I know believe and teach directly that the level that God shows his favor and blessings upon you, and the very proof of your own level of faith is a direct result of the believer’s financial status.

 Rev Ike

Some Christians promote charity and believe that government should help with social causes.  Other Christians are for cutting any and everything having to do with helping those less fortunate.  It’s happening in this country in a big way right now.  I’m not making a judgment one way or the other but more asking why is it that so-called liberal Christians believe one thing while conservative Christians believe something else entirely – while reading the same bible?

I’ve heard it said that it’s up to moderate Muslims to speak out against radical Muslims who are for violent and other unrighteous acts done in their name.  While I agree with that I rarely see Christians doing the same. 

When have you heard of moderate Christians speaking out against Pastor Steve Anderson and Rev. Wiley Drake  for praying that President Obama dies?  Have you ever been up late and night and seen those ministry programs where they offer to sell you God’s blessing for $500-$1000?

So why not just join a church that chooses a Jesus I am comfortable with?

On the one hand, that sounds kind of attractive, right?  But on the other, I’m not so sure about that.  My own personal evangelical bent lends me to believe that God, by virture of being the creator of the universe (which includes my very existence), has the authority to demand without question first and foremost that he be in charge.  If that is the case I certainly don’t need to align myself with a church that simply makes me comfortable.  Furthermore, I can’t fathom believing in a gospel that is not transferable to any and all communities in the world.   I can’t believe a message in College Park, Georgia that could not be preached in the slums of Calcutta, India just because the economic opportunities are not the same.

The bottom line in my view is that Jesus (as we know him) has been bastardized and transformed into a political football, tossed to and fro by whoever wields his name.  He’s been labeled like soup, and packaged for consumption like a Happy Meal or an Ipad too often for the purposes of manipulation, domination, or deceit.  That’s not to say all churches, ministers, or parishioners, liberal or conservative, are all bad or good.   But what is the difference in that or any other religious group that have segments that do good work?   The point for me is that following God as I want to know him is so profoundly vital to my own spiritual growth and well-being, dogmatic preferences and spiritual limitations cancel my mere desire to belong in such a  group.

Read Why I Refuse To Join A Church Part 1 here.



Christianity and Torture

Reading this article recently strikes me as yet another reason why I question the validity, dare I say the morality of Christianity.  At least in the fashion that it’s practiced in America.  It’s not that Christianity and Catholicism for instance have the market cornered on hypocrisy.  But because of the utter self righteous way in which many Christians paint themselves, believing that everyone should think and live as they do, I don’t understand how they can reconcile the Jesus in the bible as a savior who loves them and their agenda so much.  And so it is with a survey showing that 62% of White evangelical support torture.

Let’s examine just some of the opinions in this article for instance.  My response to these will be in bold:

Rev. Ronald Kuykendall, an evangelical pastor in Gainesville, Florida, says that the question is difficult to answer because everyone has a different definition of torture. He says he would support the torture of a terrorist if “the techniques used are lawful, necessary” and the ultimate purpose is to save lives.

Kuykendall says the New Testament (Romans 13:1-7) teaches Christians that “everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”

“The NT [New Testament] is clear that God grants the right of the ‘sword’ to the state to be used against wrongdoers,” Kuykendall says. “Just as I believe I don’t have a right to vengeance personally, I do believe that I can seek justice through the state and call the police on a robber, or a gunman threatening my life.”

Honestly I have no idea what he means or how this relates to torture.  But he really tried to get the scripture to endorse his support of it.  Is he saying that no matter what happens if it’s lawful then he supports it?  I would say that as a Christian he shouldn’t leave it to sinners to determine whether torture techniques are godly.  He doesn’t do that with abortion or gay rights.  Both have been lawful and yet people who share his beliefs are constantly on the fight to change the laws.  It’s as if he is complicit in support of torture but doesn’t want to get his hands dirty.  Let the “authorities” handle it.

Chuck Colson, the evangelical pastor who once served as an aide to President Nixon, answered the same question in an online discussion conducted by the Washington Post “On Faith” Web site.

Colson said that Christians are supposed to obey the law, but there may be times when there is a higher obligation, such as ignoring a “no trespassing” sign to rescue a drowning man.

“So it is with torture,” Colson wrote. “If a competent authority honestly believes that this was the only way to get information that might save the lives of thousands, I believe he would be justified.”

Again, does the comparison to saving a drowning man (saving a life) compare to torturing a man? And who defines competent?  Should it be a Christian who does the torturing?  And what if the beliefs the “authority” has are based in prejudice more than evidence?  He can “believe” the cow jumped over the moon but does that make it right?  Is this the foundation on which he is willing to stand in the face of Almighty God?

  

Charles Kammer, a religious studies professor, says he was not surprised to learn that a majority of evangelical Christians support the use of torture in certain circumstances.

Kammer says that despite Jesus’ own commitment to nonviolence, Christianity as a whole has never embraced nonviolence. He says some evangelicals also confuse patriotism with piety.

“What’s good for America has often been seen as God’s will,” says Kammer, who teaches at The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio.

“They think the torture of evil people is not bad, but may be morally required as a way of protecting the good people.”

Kammer said he is a Christian and does not support torture in any circumstances. He considers waterboarding torture.

This seems to make the most sense to me.  When I first thought to write on this topic, I thought to myself, “Since the days of Columbus and perhaps before, Christians have always killed, maimed, tortured, stole, and dominated people when it served their interest.  Why should 2009 be any different?  To say many confuse patriotism with piety is an understatement!  They believe, or at least say they believe that God is an American and that His focus is on preserving the American way of life that isolates and separates from everyone who do not share like beliefs. 

I talked to a co-worker of mine who told me that she didn’t believe that waterboarding was torture.  I asked her if she knew what waterboarding was and she said no.  I figured she had listened to Rush or Coulter.  (I swear Coulter is one of the most dangerous and sick thinkers I have ever heard.  She is definitely serial killer material.  Rush is a drug addict so I can’t take anything he says seriously.  But I digress)  Anyway, I gave her this link on waterboarding which show the lasting damage that it causes.  Read it for yourself and see.  Also, I said to her, “If it wasn’t so bad, why would the CIA bother doing it?  If one believes in torture, surely he wouldn’t do something that seems like a mere nuisance.”  She agreed, but admitted that she likes the feeling of feeling safe.  She liked the tough talk of Dick Cheney and felt that her protection was more secure with the mobster like approach.  In other words it’s better for your neighbors to fear you more than respect you.  

But she wanted my opinion as well.  So I explained to this person who has an  Assemblies of God background the virtues of neighbors this way:

You, your husband and children live in a home which resides in a neighborhood.  You have neighbors.  Perhaps you can get along ok if you held every one of your neighbors at bay with a gun.  Let’s say no one will bother you.  Everyone fears you and you feel safe. 

But let’s say you’re away from the house and someone is snooping around your property.  Well the neighbor to your right would perhaps alert you or the authorities, but they are mostly indifferent because you aren’t friendly neighbors and have no respect for one another. 

Let’s say you go out of town.  You can tell a good neighbor, “Look I’m going to be away for a couple weeks.  Please keep an eye out for my stuff.  Get my mail for me.”  Well a neighbor who likes and respects you will go the extra mile to secure your property and personal safety.  Which of these two neighbor situations make you feel safer? 

I said it’s the same with other nations.  When Bush and Cheney drew the line in the sand and said, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” (meaning if you don’t agree with everything we do the hell with you) it put us in a position of alienating nations/neighbors.  Perhaps that nation/neighbor wouldn’t be as excited to share information that they may have obtained about our nation’s safety that our own intelligence didn’t pick up.

I don’t want to give the appearance that war is not necessary at times.  Nor that I don’t believe a strong military is a vital part of national security.  But there are other areas that are important to.  And it takes wisdom to deliver balance and righteousness.  I simply can’t reconcile the beliefs of the Christian leadership to bear witness with my own spirit.  And this is one of the reason why it’s difficult to subscribe to believing and worshipping as they do.  Worst of all, (or not) it causes me to question and doubt the very foundations of their beliefs.