It’s Easter. Is Jesus Alive?

It is Sunday morning.

Jesus, so far as we know, is dead. Death is a constant. It tends not to change. When people die, they stay dead. This is not on our minds, at least not until some women arrive proclaiming an empty tomb and visions of angels and some wishful thinking nonsense about Jesus being risen.

Peter and John run and find the tomb empty. Mary says she saw Jesus but thought he was the gardener.

But you and I know how the world works. We’ve been around to know the sad realities of our world. When the 10 see Jesus in an upper room, we shrug and roll our eyes and attribute it to a mass hallucination. We side with Thomas. We won’t buy it until we can put our hands through the holes in Jesus’ hands and feet.

But then Thomas sees Jesus too. “My lord and my God.”

And 500 others at another point.

And it slowly starts to feel like we’re the only ones who haven’t seen Jesus – or maybe as though the risen Jesus is like Joseph Smith’s golden plates: attested to by many wishful liars.

The two from Emmaus come back announcing that they walked home with Jesus and he explained how all the scriptures point to his resurrection, and our modern apologists write books about how the resurrection of the Messiah has been foretold since time immemorial.

But we have read the prophecies that everyone says are about the resurrection of the Messiah. And you and I are good exegetes. We know this is a load of crap.

And then he’s gone. 40 days later, like Joseph Smith’s golden plates, Jesus is taken back up into heaven, never to be seen again.

There’s no proof of the resurrection. It’s just hearsay from gullible first-century peasants.

But something has happened.

The world has somehow changed in a fundamental way.

Peasants become powerful preachers. A man like us, who knows it’s all a lie, does a 180 and then takes beatings and does time in prison and risks his life to announce that Jesus was executed and raised from the dead – like he believes it with everything he has. Of course, he expects that Jesus will be back within his lifetime, but he expects those who believed in Jesus will also rise, like he believes Jesus did.

Centuries march on. Rome falls, but the church of Jesus Christ lives on. It is everywhere attacked. People try to destroy it from without and from within, but it lives on – sometimes strong, sometimes weak, sometimes in obedience to Jesus, sometimes in cowardly conformity to the world and the sad realities of the world. The church fights for slavery, for discrimination, for killings, but somehow slowly through the centuries, the church lives a little more and a little more into the trajectory of Jesus. It takes 1500 years for Luther and Calvin to discover and be overwhelmed by the radical grace of God, and when they do they write pages upon pages but still do not quite live into it.

Almost as though Jesus was alive.

We can’t prove it, of course. We are good children of the enlightenment, and we know people do not rise from the dead as a general rule.

But what if this one did?

What if, that Sunday morning two millennia ago, the women did in fact meet the risen Jesus? What if he did appear in the upper room, and offered his hands and feet to Thomas a second time? What if the law and the prophets really were about Jesus in a way that the original authors never intended?

What if Jesus has been alive ever since, invisibly pulling his church along, helping us live more and more in line with the trajectory his life set the world on?

And what if you and I believed it?

We couldn’t prove it, of course.

But our lives, like the lives of those before us, could be signs along the way, that not only did Jesus rise that Sunday morning two thousand years ago, but that Jesus is alive and with us today.

Starbucks & the Spirit of Rome

Joshua Feuerstein has done it again.

He made a video about Starbucks’ red coffee cups. It was so ridiculous and ignorant I can’t even be angry about it. It was almost even funny.Feuerstein_Starbucks

He was piping mad (is he ever not?) because Starbucks removed the secular symbols of Christmas from their red and green (Christmas-colored) coffee cups. So he went to Starbucks and told the barista his name was Merry Christmas, to “force Starbucks” to write “Merry Christmas” on his cup.

His video comment described his actions thusly: “SO I PRANKED THEM … and they HATE IT!!!!”

No, Josh. You did not “prank” Starbucks by asking them to write “Merry Christmas” on your cup. And you bought a cup of Starbucks coffee. They do not hate it. They probably would’ve been delighted to write your name on the cup as “F**k you Richard Dawkins, God’s not dead!” as long as you keep buying their coffee.

What we have here is a classic case of projection: He is furious because he feels that Starbucks is excluding his religion, and he assumes that Starbucks would reflect that rage because he “tricked them” into recognizing it. They don’t. I’m sure of it. Continue reading

Christians, Stop Lying and Fearmongering about Gays

Sigh.

It bothers me that I’m even writing this. Like bothers me to no end. I don’t want to write a single post about how my fellow Christians are lying about GLBTQ people, let alone a 2-part series. You know why? Because I don’t want them to do it.

But they’re doing it. You guys, for the love of God, knock it off.

Please?


Okay, looks like nobody’s taken me up on that.

I’m going to start with a video by Dr. Michael Brown. [Edit: he says it was actually posted by one of his staff member. No comment about it having been removed.

You would think a guy with his credentials (he has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures) would be able to tell the difference between the truth and convenient mis-tellings of the truth.

You would think a guy who talks as much about truth as he does would have the slightest amount of respect for it.

But no. Judging by his facebook page with his name on it, he (or his staff?) is all about fanning that flame of fear for Christians who think being gay is a sin and gays shouldn’t have equal protection under the laws of the United states.

So while I’m upset (furious, really) about the overload of misleading and blatantly false content in this video, on the other hand, it’s really convenient for me. He has compiled all the worst fearmongering lies in one place.

I’m not even going to touch the lies he tells about gays and lesbians because I did that in a previous post. Right now I’m just going to focus on the supposed “news articles” in the video. I’ll screencap them for you, then give you the full story.

The video: https://www.facebook.com/AskDrBrown/videos/1188501104508823/

The first screen cap:

"Clashes pit parents vs gay-friendly curriculums"

“Where homosexuality is promoted, schools subject your kids to mandatory homosexual currciula. ‘Clashes pit parents vs gay-friendly curriculums'”

This is real. It’s from the New York Times in 2011. But the headline is deceiving by way of its description. “Mandatory homosexual curricula” sounds (to me) like kids are going to be forced to sit through depictions of… gosh, something terrible. Probably going to try to convert them to being gay. But what’s it actually about? Maybe if we read the article…

After a lesbian student at Jesse Bethel High School in Vallejo joined with the American Civil Liberties Union in 2008 to accuse the local school district of discrimination, district officials agreed as part of a settlement to show films and assign homework depicting same-sex families, beginning in elementary school.

Why do they want this? In the words of California state senator Mark Leno later in the article,

“People oppose and fear the unfamiliar,” Mr. Leno said in an interview. “When grade-school students understand the arc of the L.G.B.T. movement over 40 years, that otherness begins to dissipate. That’s desperately needed right now.”

The conservative groups don’t want their children to know gays and lesbians can have families, too. “Gay-friendly curriculums” just means curriculums that show families with same-sex parents. The horror!

Verdict: The headline is clickbait, and the way this video describes it as “mandatory homosexual curricula” is misleading at best. One part overblown, one part plain false. Continue reading

The Myth of “Biblical Christianity”

Brandan Robertson is a brave, articulate, passionate, and intelligent queer Christian who, on the basis of having met him once, I am proud to call a friend. He recently participated in a debate with Michael Brown, Justin Lee, and Anne Paulk on “In the Market with Janet Parshall.” The program hour was titled “Gay Christian or Biblical Christian.”

That title is both fascinating and disturbing.

Similarly, the Facebook page “Kissing Fish: Christianity for People Who Don’t Like Christianity” recently shared an image of a banner for a series being done by a group of eight churches in Phoenix, Arizona.

"Progressive" Christianity: Fact or Fiction?

 

In their letter to the editor in a local paper, the pastors of these churches celebrate their “healthy unity” as they stand as Christian pastors against… another church. Which one? A quote from this article from Phoenix’s Fox affiliate describes The Fountains United Methodist Church as “the only progressive church in Fountain Hills.”

Their objective is to answer three questions, the first of which is this:

What is the difference between “Progressive” Christianity and Biblical Christianity?

The quotation marks around the word “Biblical” are conspicuous in their absence.

Another blogger from the Evangelical channel on Patheos wrote a post titled What Is Progressive Christianity? What Do They Believe? Is It Biblical? As you may have guessed, the answers are “Heresy,” “Lies,” and “Absolutely not,” though not in those words.


“Biblical Christians,” as they call themselves, assume that the Bible is flat like a textbook, each word and each verse containing ultimate truth from God. If any of it is anything less than perfect for every reason, then all of it is. If the Genesis accounts are myths, then we have no reason to believe in the resurrection. The Bible is Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. It contains everything we need for life and godliness, and principles of wisdom we can extrapolate into helping with just about anything.

The “Biblical view,” as it is called, has several serious problems. Continue reading

Todd the Obedient

Rated PG.

Todd’s mother disappeared when he was three.

Todd’s father tried to always be there for him. He did everything he could to love Todd and keep him safe. “Never cross the street without a grown-up around,” he said. “Always eat your vegetables.” “Be a good boy.” “Don’t take candy from strangers.” “Be nice to everyone.” “If somebody’s hurting you, or touches you down here, hurt them and then run away.” “Always respect women and girls.” “Make sure you’re always in bed by ten.” “You’re too young to drive a car.” “It’s okay to be seen as weird.” “Don’t watch TV shows meant for grown-ups.”

Excellent advice for a young man, that.

Todd’s father died in a tragic video gaming accident when Todd was ten. Todd found himself in foster care. His foster parents were, well, lenient. They told Todd he could do whatever he wanted and stay up as late as he wanted. But children need boundaries. So late one night, he hopped on his foster parents’ computer and typed up as many of the things his father had told him to do as best as he could remember them and printed them out. The sound of the printer startled him, but his foster parents didn’t wake up. He folded it up and kept it with him all the time. Continue reading

7 Lies Churches Tell

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* Only authorized questions. As long as you’re looking for information about what the right thing to believe is, and if you’re just confused, your questions are always welcome here.

If you have questions that challenge what we believe, or questions we can’t easily answer, or if you don’t believe our answers, then your questions should probably hitch a ride with you back to hell where they belong. Continue reading

How to argue with (and like) a fundamentalist

I lived long enough in the fundamentalist world that I became well-versed in how they argue. Sometimes it’s fun to flip the script. It may not be right, but it’s fun.

1. Know your Bible well. Like really well. Or at least know the important verses that make your point. Fundamentalists know their Bible freakishly well – or at least the important verses that make their point.

2. Proof-text. Context doesn’t matter to your fundamentalist friend. He or she believes the words in the Bible are all equally true, except for the parts that are metaphorical. So quote lots of verses.

3. Question their belief in the Bible if they don’t agree with you, because, for fundamentalists, not taking literally every verse that isn’t obviously metaphorical means not believing in the Bible. And as every fundamentalist knows, if you don’t believe in the Bible, you’re not a Christian.

4. Force them to choose between your perspective and “not believing in the Bible.” There’s a beautiful scene in Mark 11 where the chief priests, scribes, and elders try to trap Jesus by asking by what authority he’s doing what he’s doing. Jesus replies, “Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Tell me, and I’ll tell you.” This is checkmate.

5. Strike first. Your fundamentalist friend will launch every single one of these attacks on you, if given the chance, and if they find out you’re not a Biblical literalist before you trap them into not being a Biblical literalist, they’ll accuse you of not being a Christian and discredit anything else you have to say about God and the Bible.


A sample conversation between you and a fundamentalist to demonstrate:

You: I think something fundamentalists believe is a lie.

Fundamentalist: How dare you think that! The Bible —

You: Yes, the Bible! Why, in chapter X verse Y, it says Z.

Fundamentalist: Now wait just a minute!

You: And in another place, it says this.

Fundamentalist: You’re misusing that verse.

You: And of course, in Romans 4:27…

Fundamentalist: You’re cherry-picking.

You: I’m just telling you what the Bible says. Don’t you believe in the Bible?


Proof-text. Question their belief in the Bible. Strike first.

I’ve been on the receiving end of this conversation so many times it’s not even funny, so every now and then it’s fun to flip the script.

But there’s something you should know: this will never work. It may leave you feeling smug and self-justified, and it may leave them speechless, but it will no sooner convince a fundamentalist to change his beliefs than quoting Dawkins will.


Roger Wolsey has apparently repeatedly said,

Atheists and fundamentalists each tend to read the Bible in the same wooden, overly literalistic manner. The difference is that atheists reject what they read in that manner, while fundamentalists believe it.

While some atheists have denied this, at least the part about how fundamentalists read the Bible is largely true. If you’re aware of that when you’re talking to fundamentalists and don’t share that view, you can take the conversation to some pretty interesting places.

The sad part of this? “Strike first” is rule #5 because if you don’t strike first, hardcore fundamentalists usually will.

I’ve found that arguments with fundamentalists are un-winnable. The best you can hope for is a stalemate, but on the bright side, fundamentalists take anything other than absolute victory as defeat.

On the not-so-bright-side, fundamentalists hate losing, so as fun as it can be to flip the script, it might ruin a relationship.

Another Post on Why Millennial Culture Warriors Surrendered

Facebook felt I should know that one of my friends, a friend I expected would know better, liked this Charisma Magazine post, titled with a click-baity “Here’s How the New Christian Left Is Twisting the Gospel.”

It starts out with the usual “Here’s why millennials are leaving the church” thing, and it’s filled with wave after wave of traditional nonsense about how we millennials adore compromising with The World™ and we’ve dropped out of the culture war because it’s just too damn hard or uncomfortable. Like this, paragraph 3:

Somehow the blame for this chasm is being heaped on traditional churches. They are accused of having too many rules as well as being homophobic and bigoted. Yes, we’ve heard those false claims from popular culture in its desperate attempt to keep Christianity imprisoned within the sanctuary walls. But now popular culture is being aided by Christ-professing bedfellows whose message to “coexist,” “tolerate” and “keep out of it” is more marketable to the rising generation of evangelicals. [Emphasis mine]

Yup. We’re just preaching tolerance and coexistence and keeping out of it.

Oh wait. No we’re not. Continue reading

Ode to United Healthcare

A Bad Poem About a Worse Company

You trick us into premiums
And refuse yourselves to send
payment for the bills those premiums
we paid so you would end.

You gave me quite the runaround
A month, then two, then three
“The lab was out of network.”
and then “Send us an appeal.” Continue reading

Why Doubt is my Nuclear Option

When Love Wins came out in 2011, I read it. I cried. I thought it was beautiful.

A lot of other people read it (or just watched the trailer for it). They cried too, but not for the same reasons. They thought Rob Bell had denied central tenets of Christianity and were saddened to see him leave the fold.

I researched Universalism and slowly became convinced of it. This was not Rob Bell’s goal.

Then I found another post arguing against Penal Substitution. I thought it was beautiful. I thought it made a compelling and beautiful picture of God, centering on God’s cruciform and self-sacrificial love. Though everything else was shaking, this cross-centered love, love alone, for all, with no caveats, exclusions, or liabilities, became the core of my faith.


During the Universalism debate, everyone was worried because my doctrine was wrong, and dangerously so.

During the Penal Substitution debate, everyone was worried about me because they thought it meant I wasn’t a Christian – which, for me, wouldn’t have mattered because I considered myself a hopeful Christian Universalist, which is to say, God is saving everybody.

In one debate, I argued that God was good and loving to everyone, even to the enemies of God, and the cross proved this.

In response, they reminded me of passages where God commanded genocide. This did not convince me that God was angry and violent. Because God had become for me, at the core, this enemy-loving God, and because my Philosophy of Religion class had given me lots of room to doubt, this made me wonder if God was there at all.

I was an atheist for a good fifteen minutes. Continue reading