The Superior Losers

I was privileged to preach this sermon on January 22, 2017, at Waverly Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our scripture comes from I Corinthians 1:9-18.

God is faithful; by whom you were called into the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.

For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.

What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”

Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The word of the Lord.

“I want you all to be in agreement.” This scripture comes to us after a weekend that showed more painfully than many that our country, and even the church, could not be more visibly divided.

Franklin Graham, the son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, spent the last few days celebrating the inauguration of our new president.

Famous Lutheran minister Nadia Bolz-Weber marched in the women’s march in Denver, my wife Kristen marched in DC, and I marched in Pittsburgh.

So what does it mean for Paul to say he wants all the Corinthian Christians to be in agreement? Does he want Stepford Christians, who all smile politely and agree with each other on literally everything? Granted, that would be kinda nice, but the entire history of the church is opposite of that.

So is Paul being unrealistic here? Or is there something more going on? Continue reading

Hymns & Verses Corrected; Homophobia Restored

Those liberals are always saying there are only six or seven anti-gay verses in the Bible, but they’re wrong.

I was digging through the Fundamentalist’s Hymnbook the other day and discovered that some of our modern liberal Bible translations seem to have erased words and phrases from some of the more popular Bible verses and hymns.

I present some samples from the correct and original 1610 edition (before the 1611 KJV came along and corrupted it).


John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life, unless they’re gay, in which case they shall surely perish.

Amazing Grace

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was gay, but now am straight,
Was wrong, but now am right.

John 3:17

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him, except for LGBTQ people, whom God did send the Son into the world to condemn. [Emphasis from the original Hebrew]

Romans 11:32

For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all, except for transgendered people, who are abominations. Continue reading

Charity is not a Substitute for Justice

It was the same summer that Trust and Obedience Landed Me in Hell – and the same camp.

I’d worked out in the sun that summer with my little sister to make enough money to pay for all that was to be had at Camp Kanesatake.

The day of the lesson about charity, my fellow campers and my sister and I trudged up the ridiculously steep hill and lined up outside the dining hall after a long day of… whatever it was we did there. Probably going to chapel and learning to sing “Hallelu Hallelujah” in another language.

Normally, they would say a blessing and let us in. Today was different: the leaders handed out little slips of paper with numbers on them as we went in.

When we reached the food line, the servers asked for our slips. I flashed my slip with “1,” scrawled on it, and they gave me plenty of everything. Others weren’t so lucky. Those with twos got only beans and rice. Those with threes got only rice. My sister, who had worked just as hard as I had to pay to come to camp, received a two or a three.

My eleven-year-old brain was not happy about the situation, but the powers that be had decided that I was to get more food while others didn’t. I trusted and obeyed, and I ate my dinner, but I felt guilty about it.

Suddenly, from halfway across the dining hall, a girl with a “1” asked, “Are we allowed to share?” They said yes. There was a whirlwind of activity as ones rushed the counter to get more food to distribute to their friends with twos and threes.

Before the end of dinner, the camp leadership said everybody could come up and get whatever they needed. They had taught their object lesson.

The point, of course, was that some people are born in first-world countries like the US, some in second-world countries like Russia, and some in third-world countries, like places in Africa, and those of us who had it best had a responsibility to give up some of our food so the people who weren’t well-off would have enough.

And I felt guilty. Horribly guilty. Why hadn’t I thought of sharing my food?

I’ve carried that story around in my heart for the past twenty years. I’ve hated it since the moment it happened.

Then today while I was doing dishes, two things clicked.

  1. There was enough food for everybody the whole time.
  2. Everybody deserved a whole meal.

Everyone had paid to come to camp. This included all the meals. But the people running the camp had decided to arbitrarily and randomly select some of us to receive a decent meal, and some of us not to, and they expected those of us who did to patch the injustice by sharing with those who didn’t.

These grown-ups expected us 9-12-year-olds to fix the injustice they created with our private charity.

And their counterparts in America are still doing it.

We’re expected to donate money and goods to food pantries to help people who work minimum-wage jobs so the owners and stockholders can get rich.

People working minimum wage jobs have paid for a full meal at the camp of America, and they’re getting beans and rice. And there’s enough for everybody, but the people in the front of the dining hall are hoarding it.

We’re expected to front taxes for social services for people who are already working 40 hours a week – that is, people who deserve to have a place to live and enough to eat, but can’t because the people at the top need more money. As President Obama has said, “Nobody who works full-time should have to live in poverty.”

We have to give money to help starving children in Africa while we share a country with people who have generational wealth because those children don’t have enough to eat.

We can – and should – share with those who were born with twos and threes.

But it’s long past time to overrun the dining hall and demand that the people in charge give everyone the food they’ve worked for.

The Hypocrisy of the Other

Liberals are hypocrites.

They complain about how climate change is manmade, but then they still ride in planes and drive cars, and Leonardo diCaprio flies around in a private jet to lecture people on being more environmentally friendly.

Conservatives are hypocrites.

They say they care about babies, but the second those babies get born, they don’t want to pay taxes so all children will have access to food or healthcare, or pay medical bills for moms for whom abortions are the oh-so-much-more-affordable option.

Liberals are hypocrites.

They say they care about babies, but they don’t care about them at all until they’re born. They’re just an excuse to expand government, which is all liberals care about (if I’m reading the conservative websites correctly).

Conservatives are hypocrites.

They say they’re the party of small government, but they want the government to regulate your sexuality and women’s bodies and where which people can pee.

Liberals are hypocrites.

They say they believe in civil liberties but they won’t even let teachers pray in schools.

Conservatives are hypocrites.

They say they want America to stop shipping jobs overseas, but they nominated a guy for president who got rich(er) by shipping jobs overseas!

Liberals are hypocrites.

They say they want everyone to get paid a fair wage, and then they buy things that are made by underpaid labor under awful conditions in other countries. Because those things are cheap.

Conservatives are hypocrites.

They say they believe in sexual morals and biblical standards, and then nominate a thrice-divorced man to lead their party.

Liberals are hypocrites.

They say they don’t want money in politics, but that WikiLeaks email leak exposed the DNC as having offered positions to people who donated lots of money!

Conservatives are hypocrites.

They say “All Lives Matter,” but only when they’re trying to silence people of color who feel like their lives don’t matter in American society.

Liberals are hypocrites.

They claim black lives matter, but only when those black lives aren’t wearing blue.

Conservatives are hypocrites.

They worry about women being raped, but only by transgender people in bathrooms.

Liberals are hypocrites.

They worry about making sure everyone has equal protection under law, but don’t worry about perverts in bathrooms.

Conservative Christians are hypocrites.

They say they believe in the Bible, but they cherry-pick and ignore everything it says about social justice and taking care of the earth.

Liberal Christians are hypocrites.

Some of them say they believe in the Bible, but they cherry-pick and don’t listen to what it says about ordaining women, homosexuality, and eternal damnation.


And on, and on, and on it goes.

Naturally, both sides will want to explain their positions, and nuance them, and neither would agree with my phrasing… about themselves. I nailed The Hypocrisy of the Other, though, I bet. Just nailed it.

And that’s it, isn’t it? We’re all delighted to see hypocrisy exposed, but only the hypocrisy of people with whom we don’t agree.

I’m as guilty as anyone in being one-sided. I hope I’m guilty in being one-sided on behalf of the marginalized, but I’m definitely one of those liberals who wears clothing that was probably made by overworked and underpaid folks in Bangladesh because it was cheap. I meditate on the evils of capitalism, but at the end of the day, if it’s cheap, I’ll buy it, and I prefer restaurants where I don’t have to tip. I want everyone paid a livable wage, but I don’t want that wage to come out of my pocket directly.

Maybe we all have blind spots.

Maybe that verse that says “There is none righteous, no not one” is about how even those of us who have the best of intentions, and I like to think that’s most of us, are capable of ignoring how certain things we do perpetuate things we don’t believe in.

Maybe we shared that link about how people on the opposing end of the political spectrum are hypocrites because maybe one of them will read it and realize their hypocrisy and change to our way of thinking. (Has that ever happened?)

Or maybe we did it because if they’re so ridiculous and awful, maybe we can feel a little better about our own duplicity.


God of truth, guide us into faithfully following you with our whole hearts, not just our words and aspirations. Save us from our own self-righteousness. Help us to live with more integrity, and remind us to attribute good intentions to those with whom we disagree. …And help us be just a little bit less delighted by the hypocrisy of the Other.

Amen.