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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stand up, stand up for Jesus

 Just when you think it can't get any worse, it does.

I'm not exactly sure why the subject of Marriage Equality brings out so much hatred and venom. I only know that it does.  And, almost always, in the name of Jesus.

Four pastors from North Carolina have, in the past four weeks, used their pulpits in their churches to spew prejudice and hatred. It's really quite astonishing when it isn't shocking and sad.

Pastor Ron Baity - no doubt, speaking only for himself - reportedly said, "For three hundred years, we have had laws that prosecute that lifestyle. We haven't got any smarter in the last few years than we have in the past three hundred years."

Pastor Tim Rabon preached from the book of the Chicken Little ("The Sky Is Falling") School of Theology: "What is stopping them from redefining marriage as between a person and a beast? We're not far from that."

Pastor Sean Harris, preaching from the "Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child" School of Family Values said, "The second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist."

And then, there is the Grand Prize Winner of Homiletical Hate-Speech, Pastor Charles Worley, who preached, "I figured a way out....a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers, but it wouldn't pass congress. Build a great big large fence, 50-100 miles long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and homosexuals. Electrify the fence so they can't get out. Pretty soon, they'll all die out. They can't reproduce."

I don't know if he was stating that as a scientific fact or the fact that separating lesbians from "queers and homosexuals" and electrifying the fence means that we can't reproduce.

And you thought ignorance was to simple to figure out.
Ah, see how these Christians love one another! Well, maybe they do, but they sure do hate "lesbians, queers and homosexuals".

Whoever said "ignorance is bliss" sure never met any of these guys.

If you have the stomach for it and want to hear it for yourself, Martin Bashir reported on them last night on MSNBC's "The Last Word". You can see a clip here

For years, good liberal, progressive and moderate Christians have simply groaned and moved on with their lives, largely ignoring these purveyors of hate and ignorance who pervert the Gospel message, all in the Name of Jeeeee-sussss. I suspect we've all comforted ourselves in the thought that they will reap exactly what they sow. 

I think it's time for the real Jesus to stand up. Or, more aptly, for those who have actually read scriptures to stand up for Jesus.

I don't think that means "fighting fire and brimstone with fire and brimstone". Fighting these guys on the turf they define is to lower ourselves to their level. No one wants that. Furthermore, I don't think it does any good. In fact, I think it's harmful to the soul.

Trying to educate or re-educate those who choose to remain ignorant is an exercise in futility. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see. Or, as Mark Twain famously said, "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It will only frustrate you and annoy the pig."

So, what to do?

Well, Presbyterian Pastor Ken Locke of Nashville, TN has outlined some points about what many, many moderate, liberal and progressive Christians believe. I think he's made an excellent start. He writes:
• The Earth is the Lord’s, and when we pollute it, we are destroying God’s property. Issues of global warming aside, we desperately need to radically reduce our pollution.

• Science and Christianity are perfectly compatible. Evolution is real. The world was not created in 144 hours.

• Marriage between consenting adults should be perfectly legal regardless of sexual orientation. Legal protections for both heterosexual and same-sex couples should be equal.

• Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus et al must be treated with respect and consideration. They are God’s children just as much as Christians. Their salvation is in God’s hands, not ours.

• Young people have sex. Young women get pregnant. Abstinence is preferable, but birth control is sensible.

• No one has an abortion on a whim. Legally defining the beginning of life at conception is an act of power against the powerless. The decision to abort should be between the (mother) pregnant woman, the care-provider and God.

• No single branch of Christianity has a complete and pure understanding of God’s will for humanity.

• Faith has a role in every aspect of life, but often that role is more informative than prescriptive. The Bible says nothing about gun control, capital gains taxes or the U.S. Department of Education per sé. Anyone claiming it does is cherry-picking the text.

• God cares desperately for the poor, the immigrant and the powerless. We neglect them at our peril.

• Life belongs to God, not to the state. Capital punishment is not only failed policy, it is also usurpation of God’s prerogative by the state.

• God does not love any one country more, or less, than any other.
It's good, isn't it?  I think it's an excellent start to something that might lead to more.
I'm wondering: What if a "Moderate, Progressive, Liberal Christian Manifesto" were to be produced? Something that would fit nicely on, say a bookmark sized paper? Something one could pick up at the back of the church or in the supermarket or cafe and tuck into a pocket, a purse, or a book? 

I can see local ecumenical groups gathering together to produce these little tracts, put their names on the bottom or back, and make them widely available.

Perhaps we also "go viral," creating a FaceBook page where people of all ages can find us.  

Everybody knows what "those" Christians believe. Who do YOU say that Jesus is?  

How do YOU define Christianity? What are the important markers of what it means to be Christian in the Third Millennium?

It's time to Stand up, Stand up for Jesus, people.  He's gotten a pretty bad rap of late. The "branding" of Christianity has taken a beating. 

Rather than playing "dueling soundbites" or stooping to their level, why not say what it is we DO believe about Jesus and what He would think of the 'hot button' issues of today? Clearly. Plainly. 

No, the media won't give us too much attention. In fact, they are part of the problem. The Whack-a-doodles sell papers and air time.  We don't. But, when they do grab the headlines or the news clips or are the topic du jour of talk show hosts, we can simply whip out our "Manifesto" and say, "This is what we believe. This is what Christianity is really all about." And move on from there.

What do you think? What do you believe?

I think we've got a good message. An important message. A message of life and love and hope. Let's not let the message of hysteria and hyperbole and hatred drown it out.

Stand up, Stand up for Jesus, so the real Jesus can please stand up.


Marie Alford-Harkey said...

Sharing this on the Religious Institute Facebook page. (

Well said, Elizabeth and Ken, well said.

Matthew Ciszek said...

Thanks for a though provoking post and the link to Rev. Locke's op-ed piece in the Tennesseean. does a great job of capturing the spirit of this type of "manifesto" in its 8 Points of Progressive Christianity. The organization makes fliers, study guides, and other resources available. I would hope that all congregations, denominations, and individuals who espouse these beliefs would get behind the good folks at and support their further good work.

Jackie said...

The Manhattan Declaration got a huge (disproportionate) amount of press coverage. The whack-a-dooddles, alas, have the oodles of money that they are willing to burn in the fire of self-promotion in major media outlets. If the sensiible folks had the money to begin with (and we don't, because we don't--thank goodness--apply the techniques of spiritual extortion that scares people into sending money they can scare spare to fatten the coffers of hate) we would not spend it on that sort of shameful self-promotion.
Maybe we should re-think that stategy. If a little well-crafted, craftily-placed publicity could offer hope to those who have been abused by the evil co-opters of Christianity (note: there are conservative Christians--people of good will, who do not share my understanding of the faith. I speak here of those who activily spew hate), maybe it would be a worthy investment. I do know, however, that being "tasteful" and expecting our mesage of light and love and hope to win the world is not really working...

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Marie. I hope they take it to the next level. Would love to see some bookmarks from RI at General Convention.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Matthew - I think this needs to be more a grassroots effort. Lots of ecumenical clergy associations sitting round, making their own statements and getting some press.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Jackie - Again, I think a grassroots movement is whats needed. Think: OWS. It's still going strong. Not grabbing the headlines but definitely influencing public policy.