To the Shepherd Afraid of His Flock, an Open Letter

Dear Pastor Anthony,

This post is in response to your article, your claim that some Christians are so scary they’d frighten Jesus, were it possible. You, for one, are frightened.

For the sake of understanding, I’m going to put your words in blue, since red is already taken. By Jesus. You’re peeved and grieved about two things: how the president is handling the transgender military issue, and how many conservative, evangelical Christians are celebrating. You then settle into a tour de force: Christians are a twisted, offensiveangry, and unmerciful bunch. Scary.

I too am grieved.

I’m grieved someone I love read this article and thought of me. I’m grieved at the possibility I am painted in these adjectives. But what most grieves me is something on which we agree: the tags Christian and conservative have become, for some segments of the population, interchangeable with expletives. Articles like yours are gasoline on that flame.

An email got under your skin– a conservative Christian group praised the President’s ban on transgender military personnel. I understand getting worked up. The very same thing happened when I read your article, which I consider a nebulous condemnation of Christianity and singularly interesting, considering you are a senior pastor of a fairly large church.

You begin your rhetoric with the Christian controversy over Bible versions. We (a loosely defined subset of Christians, but most certainly those who have not come out in opposition to the President) have been reading the Reversed Standard Version of the Bible. It has been poison kool aid, this version, guilty of reversing what the Bible clearly teaches, and someone on the inside needs to say so loud and clear.

Here’s my understanding, based on your article, why we frighten Jesus:

  1. Christians (among others) believe transgenderism may not be in the best interests of our military personnel and that perhaps the government shouldn’t pay for the surgeries that will settle their sexuality.
  2. Mega church leaders of various and sundry denominations, five of them, fell from grace or were disgraced by unethical practices. Thank you for calling to mind each specific sin in your article, for using their failures to prove Christians, more than the rest of humanity, are indeed scary. You forgot to mention King David, writer of the Psalms. He was a far worse fellow than your five examples.
  3. Christians believe in praying for the president. Someone shot a picture of it. How frightening. I hope no one ever sees me hunched over my Bible praying for the president. How can anyone know what motivates another human being to pray? I don’t, and neither do you.

Finally, we come to my favorite paragraph in your article, which begins: I get it.

Because, truly, you do. You understand: The military exists to destroy the enemy. Accordingly, it must have standards that potential recruits must meet in order to achieve its objectives. That’s common sense. And, I agree that the military should not pay for gender reassignment surgeries. You completely and totally, utterly agree with the very sentiment that so outraged you and was the impetus for your article– the email from a conservative Christian group to its own members, an internal group email. Not a press statement to Fox News. Not an op-ed to the Huffington Post. Whatever other Christian arrogance caused you to write the article, you don’t mention. I can only answer what you’ve brought up.

You ask: Must we bludgeon people in our disagreement? Is that what Jesus did? Is an email to a closed group of like-minded members bludgeoning people in our disagreement?

Your advice to the scary ones: Learn to express ourselves with compassion. That’s it. We’ve been given the green light to hold an opinion from Pastor Anthony, but we just need to be nicer about it. That’s the lesson. How do we throw off this scary Christian persona and don the garb of CNN-approved righteousness? For certainly you are keeper of the wardrobe.

Here is your solution to the problem of scary Christians: At the very time when America needs humble courage, aloof arrogance is running amuck. I think it’s time we put down the false RSV Bible and start reading one of the real translations. It’s not possible to follow Jesus otherwise.

Read the Bible. A good lesson. Except. In the name of kindness, gentleness, and the fact that a sermon on sexuality is not the scope of this letter, I’m going to refrain from quoting The Holy Bible, any version, on sexuality. I’ll just quote your church’s stance on it instead, in the hope that you agree– taking a communication meant for a closed group (in your case, people who would like to unite with your church) and using it as a tool of public argumentation can be misconstrued, misunderstood, and cause hurt feelings.

On the controversial subject of transgenderism your bylaws state:

We believe that God created the human race as male and female, and that
gender and sex are determined by God. Humans, therefore, must not attempt to
alter their own gender or sex or that of any other human being.

I humbly, and with grief in my heart, write this open letter because I believe too many of us hold our candles in a closet, for fear of exactly the retribution you deliver in your article: that we will be villainized. I love transgendered people, gay people, peoples of all ethnicity. However, I’m not going to apologize for my belief that not all lifestyles are equally advantageous, productive, meaningful, or abundant. And, based on your own admission, neither do you.

We don’t disagree that we ought to love. We disagree on what it looks like, this love. People disagree on what constitutes a human being (conception, breath, time). We disagree on what constitutes a marriage. On what constitutes gender. And when such plasticity is introduced into what ought to be tectonic, you get earthquakes. Should we be surprised?

Pastor Anthony, is it just that we don’t actively condemn our President that so offends you? Can that really be all there is to it? The antithesis of my enemy’s enemy is my friend? The way your article reads is this: a friend of my enemy is no friend of mine. In fact, he’s downright frightening. Even Jesus would say so, were it possible. But no. Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies.

I thought you might like to hear from another person on the inside, also a conservative Christian but not a senior-pastor-at-a-fairly-large-church, just someone who loves Jesus and does her best to follow Him.

 

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North Korea Ka-BOOM!

As if there’s not enough excitement in the world with DJT, President You’re-Fired of the United States, enter stage left-his-sanity-behind, Kim Jong-un.

Jong-un’s imminent promotion to world bully lurks just around the corner. Do a Google search and watch in fascinated horror his relentless pursuit of capability to deliver mass extermination to countries far and wide. And the man is clearly not moderate. Have you seen his chins? We all know power corrupts, but what of the hand already corrupted to the point of gangrenous evil? What of that?  Nuclear capability is the coveted mistress of every addled third world leader with ambitions bigger than his britches. And though Jong-un has a rather robust britch, his desire to be prom king outstrips even that.

Today all hundred senators will meet in a top-secret briefing on North Korea. Cue the menacing psycho music because this is some scary… chit. Have you found yourself thankful you don’t live in Hawaii or California? Or worse, South Korea. Most of us have only a hazy clue as to how we got here. The Talking Heads lyrics sum up the confusion rather nicely, whether we’re talking global scale or the 7 lbs of our own hearts:

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say yourself, “My God! What have I done?”

Incremental certainties. In my own life I’ve made many choices that have served to increase the temperature of the pot in which I find myself on a slow boil. The US has simmered for years in lobster soup, and now we face a nuclear North Korea, Our pot is about to boil over.

Remember when the Indians got their hands on those new fangled fire sticks? Didn’t bode well for Daniel Boone and friends. And who wouldn’t travel back in time and stop Egypt and the Soviet Union from providing nerve gas to Syria? (They promised to use it on the Israelis, see.) When madmen or even mad men get weaponry, we know the end of the story. And the more lethal the tool, well, let’s just say mother earth will swallow a monstrous birth control pill when a loon starts shooting off a sidearm full of plutonium.

All this to say, it’s a scary world. And a little insane too. How to navigate a world of looming mushroom clouds?

I’m not sure. I didn’t write this post because I have answers. I’ve always been more of an index-finger-wielding, problem-spotting sort of gal. Iceberg ahead.

My best suggestion and what I try to do: Pretend why-are-we-here is a math problem and we have to, on pain of death, solve it. Plumb where the highway goes. Whether the values and opinions we loosely hold are right or wrong. Listen with an open mind to people we hate. Don’t be like dumb, driven cattle, like open holes drinking in whatever koolaid happens to rain down. Be circumspect. And be willing to throw your opinion out there. It provokes conversation and therefore, learning. I’m no political expert, but I do my best to educate myself with what little discretionary time I have. If I vote that’s my bare bones duty.

Those of you who’d rather spend a buck on NPR than on Black Hawks, consider the money it costs to clean up the chaos after some trigger-happy country decides we’re militarily weak enough to take us on. Say, North Korea… How much does that cost the taxpayer? The ones who remain alive to work and contribute to Uncle Sam’s coffer?

Most of us are so busy grabbing our fistful of the American Dream we rarely, if ever, wake up to American Reality. North Korea’s Ka-BOOM! may just be our wake-up call. If not, there’s always a nuclear Iran around the corner as well.

What do you think of the North Korean threat? More saber-rattling or the real deal? What do you think about military spending?

 

 

Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t: Fake News

Remember Joseph, the one with the rainbow coat? Joseph had some old-fashioned ideas. Like: don’t sleep with other guys’ wives. Crazy old school, that Joseph. Remember Joseph’s big mistake? Being alone with the boss’s wife. She wanted him. He refused her advances. Hers. Potiphar’s wife was Sexy. Powerful. Arrogant. Not accustomed to being denied. When she made her advances, Joseph ran out of the room. She tore the clothing right off his back.

Whew. Near miss, right? Wrong. Just by being alone with Potiphar’s wife, Joseph put himself at the mercy of a her-story-vs.-his dynamic, and it didn’t play in his favor. A reasonable person might come up with the idea, the policy if you will, not to put himself in such a position. Enter Mike Pence.

Joseph and Mike Pence have this in common: both reap a flogging for their integrity. I’m trying not to throw up in my mouth as I type this, but it’s getting difficult. Do I actually live in a society that shells a man for putting up boundaries of purity in his marriage? To say you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t is the biggest understatement of our culture. I offer the following clip as proof:

Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.

Unknown: Whoa.

Trump: I did try and *&%# her. She was married.

Unknown: That’s huge news.

Huge. News. So is a man who won’t. The preceding is an actual tape. It’s not someone’s version of what happened. It’s what actually happened. But even when you’re being given what actually happened, it’s often cut and pasted, censored, sifted. You get the parts someone else thinks are important. Another example: The Diary of Anne Frank. Most of us read it as part of our school curriculum. But the diary I was given was cleaned up by Anne’s father, who decided some parts lacked decorum. I remember my jaw dropping when I read the unabridged version, which is delightful in its own right, but is not the same “truth” one gets from the abridged version. Anne is more complex, no angel. She’s not the Laura Ingalls Wilder dropped into WWII to whom I was introduced.

The idea of fake news is on everyone’s lips these days. I’d like to tell you a story, a story about fake news. Now, should you believe me? I mean, some of you don’t even know me. Of this you can be certain: I have an agenda, and it will find its way into my story. Be certain also that every other source from which you ever, ever get your information– also has an agenda. No one is pure. No one is entirely exempt. Everyone puts their own spin on the tale, and the most talented spinners get their versions published. Even if, like me, you get your fake news from opposite ends of the continuum (Fox News and MSNBC), the “facts” you’re given may not even be facts at all.

To wit. In Bob’s Cooker days he was asked by a local news station if he’d like to cook the tailgate fare for a demonstration. It was spring, and the Cleveland Indians were getting set for another season, and you know what that means? Or did mean.

Before the “C,” it meant the uprising of indignant Native Americans. The news story of disgruntled Native Americans was as cyclical as the leaves budding or the crocuses coming up. There’s a crocus. I wonder when the news story will come out about the angry Indians?

Bob cooked the tailgate food. He had to be downtown early. Like wee morning hours. I’m not sure why, but that’s because I don’t understand how to create fake news. Bob cooked for the single Indian who was summoned downtown, as Bob was, for the angry-Indian-demonstration complete with tailgate food. If you watched that news clip, you’d come away certain Cleveland was about to go up in flames of angst akin to the Irish-Protestant conflagrations of the 1970’s– Indians against white-suburbanites, war whoops be coming down your subdivisions, people, if you don’t depose that inflammatory red face.

It took 15+ years to complete the coup against our baseball mascot. If real Indians feel better about the move, super. If real Indians demonstrated for their cause, great. But that day, the day the cameras were rolling, it was a stage. There were actors. It was fake. It was news. But we got a real change. Our Chief Wahoo for a “C.” Oh… so personal, that “C.” So unique. So innovative.

Mike Pence loves his wife. Very old-fashioned of him, I know. Dinner dates, alone with the opposite sex– that’s a line he’s drawn in the sand. Some voices don’t respect his line. They’re churning out lots and lots of news about his line. What I see is a contest. The winner sways the public to believe their version of the news, to sculpt the world through the medium of public opinion.