On Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck has a pretty sweet gig.  It must be nice not to be beholden to the truth.

This was going to be a post refuting some of the latest utter nonsense spewed forth by Glenn Beck, but writing that felt kind of like being sprayed in the face with seawater for an hour, then constructing an argument about how one particular mouthful tastes bad.  There’s just so much of it coming at you, all at once, that ducking out of the way might be a better form of resistance than deploying the tools of accuracy and logic.

My stepfather likes to say, “Never wrestle with a pig.  You both get dirty, but the pig likes it.”  Indeed.  I’d look like an idiot trying to fact-check Glenn Beck.  (Or, for that matter, a three year old.  Or a Golden Retriever.)

I’m not saying the man himself isn’t intelligent.  I have no idea whether he’s a fool or a liar, and I’m not sure it really matters.  What matters is that he commands an audience of millions of viewers, and he is beholden only to their viewership.  He is not beholden to truth, reason, or fairness, but rather to the numbers.  And truth, reason, and fairness are only useful insofar as captivate the masses and deliver the numbers, and can be dispensed with if they don’t.

It is lamentable that Glenn Beck’s viewers go along with his ride.  He bears the moral guilt for his careless and shameful information manipulation.  But what about the rest of us?  For those of us who understand that good theology is liberating, and who care about social justice because that is the work of God, we owe it to ourselves and our neighbors not to allow Glenn Beck to twist our faith into a tool to advance his conspiracy theories.

Glenn Beck is free to deny that Jesus cares about social justice if he wants to.  (I don’t know what Bible he’s reading, but hey, this is America.)  But Jesus is undeniably a liberator.  God always calls us to greater justice and mercy.  And not even a misty-eyed moron spewing seawater can overpower the reality of God.

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An offensive depiction of Jesus?

Interesting problem with one of the icons in a Catholic church in Oklahoma.  Their main crucifix is in the style of a San Damiano cross, which depicts Christ with a distended stomach.  In this instance, a bunch of people are seeing a huge erection instead.  Some have even left the church over it.

The poor artist, an orthodox Catholic, sounds really torn up about it, and will alter the icon.  According to a fellow artist, sounds like it’s a problem of contrast when the art is viewed from a ways back – something which would have been very difficult to see upon painting it up close.

Regardless: does it seem crazy to anyone else that many are more easily offended by the notion of Jesus having an erection than of Jesus’ death by crucifixion?

Warr Acres Crucifix

The Warr Acres Crucifix, in the San Damiano style

San Damiano Crucifix

A traditional San Damiano Crucifix

Just thinking out loud

Jesus created a church out of the most marginalized people in society, while opposing to the end the entrenched civic and religious structures that would eventually collude to kill him. We find Jesus today, as with yesterday, among the most marginalized people in our midst. And for those of us who find ourselves among the most powerful civic and religious structures should never assume that the just God of the powerless is smiling down in assent to whatever we do.

Where does Jesus show up today? Who’s with him? And what is he saying to me, in the face of all of my squandered privilege?

Speak, Holy One!! I am listening as best I am able, but I do not often hear your voice over the calamity of my life.

Our world is careening into chaos, there is brokenness and suffering wherever people abide, and the most compelling religious discourse throughout America is whether or not two dudes can get married?? What utter fools we are.

Speak, Holy One!! I cannot say if we are listening, but we need your living Word.

When did the church of the “least of these” get fancy projector screens and glorious organs and gorgeous pianos and professional bands and huge gymnasiums and spacious parking lots and unnatural waterfalls and ornate plates and solid silver chalices and individually packaged McEucharists and high pulpits and low taxes? But more importantly, did we give up anything in return?

Speak…!!

Neither your God nor your non-God are universal.

As usual, I leave some of my best efforts in other blogger’s comment sections.  What follows is adapted from a response to this post, in which the writer criticizes “progressive Christians” for cherry-picking from Christianity only that which we agree with. Ultimately, I take issue with her/his underlying assumptions.


…I don’t know if you read Christopher Hitchens or not, but you and he both seem to be under the same weird notion that in order to be authentically Christian, one must accept everything in the chosen holy books verbatim, and if one doesn’t, her beliefs don’t count. I defy anybody to subject himself to a similarly foolish standard in any other scientific or philosophical field: take all of Plato verbatim, or take none of Plato. Take all of Nietzsche, or none of him. Take all of Sartre, etc. This approach to anything – knowledge, belief, science, etc. – is clearly absurd.

Where did we get this idea that there is no validity to any body of work unless it is all literally true? From Christians? Maybe some of us, sure. But when others of us reject this paradigm, please don’t act as if religion is supposed to operate differently from any other human activity when it comes to how we form our beliefs.

As a progressive Christian, I am a pluralist, which means that one of my foundational beliefs is that God is too big to be fully understood by any humans. Ergo, to quote one of my professors, constructing theology means “groping toward the infinite with the tools of finitude.” Rather than provide a single, unified view of God, I think the Bible’s various narratives and themes instead reflect ongoing traditioning and theological changes and different emphases over a thousand years or more, and such traditioning and changes in interpretation have been ongoing ever since.

I don’t mind anybody calling into question any aspect of faith that is found to be problematic. But I do object to atheists or Christian fundamentalists alike who try to mandate universal definitions to what it means to be Christian, or who God is, or Christ, and so forth, whether for the purpose of rejecting or affirming such dogma. Neither camp is capable of defining the terms and forcing everyone else to adhere to them. So, militant atheists and frothing Christians alike, kindly knock it off already.

Happy National Coming Out Day!

Thank you, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered folks, and all otherwise-queer people who are among my closest friends and parental figures, most awesome mentors and professors, and all those who’ve helped mold and nurture me into the queer-loving straight guy I am today!  Would that I might develop a similar courage and conviction to fully COME OUT in my own right, the born-again child of God I was created to be.

Socialist Apostles

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.  They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35)

Barack Obama and certain Democrats want there to be a public option for health insurance, so that more people will have better access to health care.  For this they are called “Socialists.”

In a word:  hardly.  Now Acts 4 – this is what socialism looks like.

I wonder how Paul and the apostles would be received today by contemporary Christians?  They’re certainly far too radical for even most of us liberals, much less the conservatives, who would run these Reds out of town on a rail.  Pooling our resources so that everyone can have all that they need?  Reigning in unfettered corporate profits so that all may receive health care?  Whatever, hippies.

“…for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me…”  (Matthew 25:42-43)

Whatever, Jesus.

Swords to plowshares?

How shall we build God’s beloved community?  What shall God’s church look like?  This?

Ken Pagano, the pastor of the New Bethel Church here, is passionate about gun rights. He shoots regularly at the local firing range, and his sermon two weeks ago was on “God, Guns, Gospel, and Geometry.” And on Saturday night, he is inviting his congregation of 150 and others to wear or carry their firearms into the sanctuary to “celebrate our rights as Americans!” as a promotional flier for the “open carry celebration” puts it.

God and guns were part of the foundation of this country,” Mr. Pagano, 49, said Wednesday as he sat in the small brick Assembly of God house of worship, where a large wooden cross hung over the altar and two American flags jutted from the side walls. “I don’t see any contradiction in this. Not every Christian denomination is pacifist.”

The bring-your-gun-to-church day, which will include a $1-raffle of a handgun, firearms safety lessons and a picnic, is another sign that the gun culture in the United States is thriving despite, or perhaps because of, President Obama’s election in November…

NYT

Or this?

He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

– Isaiah 2:4

How shall we build God’s beloved community?

…the fear remains that Mr. Obama, and his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., will crack down on guns sooner or later. That — along with the faltering economy, which gun sellers say has spurred purchases for self-defense — has fueled a record surge in gun sales…

NYT, cont.

While some preach the Gospel of More Swords, Another preached otherwise:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.”

Matthew 5:38-42

And he didn’t only preach it:

…[T]hen they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword…”

Matthew 26:50-52

…When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him…

Luke 22:49-51

While some preach the Gospel of More Swords, a 9 year old girl was gunned down in Chicago’s backyard:

…[Chastity Turner] was shot in the neck and taken in extremely critical condition to the U. of C. Medical Center, said Larry Langford, a spokesman for the Fire Department. Her father and a 17-year-old boy were taken in critical condition to Stroger Hospital, he said…

– Chicago Tribune

How shall we build God’s beloved community?  How long must God’s people be cut down by the instruments of death and devastation?

Come, O Jesus, our healer.  Show us how to follow in Your way.  Help us to put our trust in You, as we lay down our swords and shields.