Friday, September 11, 2015

We are not a Christian nation. We're not even very Christian.

The United States is not now, and never has been, a "Christian nation."  This is a good thing. 

We are a secular nation, not a theocracy. This is a really good thing.

But if we ever needed proof that the people who make the loudest claims that we are a Christian nation aren't very Christian themselves, we are seeing it right now.

Today, this headline appeared in newspapers and in news broadcasts nation wide. 

Unless you've been in a cave, you must be aware of the refugees flooding into Europe as they flee the violence in Syria. You may have even wept over the heartbreaking photo of Aylan Kurdi, the  three-year-old child who was swept out of his father's arms and drowned. There are hundreds of thousands of children, women, and men in desperate need of succor.

And yet we, the richest nation in the world, decides to take in only 10,000 refugees? We should be ashamed of ourselves.

But where is the outcry of protest from the right wing Christian extremists that it's not near enough? 

Why are no Republican presidential candidates calling for a protest march on Washington? Why is there no House or Senate committee calling for an investigation of why we aren't taking in hundred of thousands of refugees?

Why isn't Kim Davis using her new found fame as a Christian martyr to join with Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz to demand more aid for these refugees, clearly the "least among us"?

I ask because if there is one thing the bible is VERY clear about, it's God's call to welcome the stranger. It's even in Leviticus -- the only book of the Bible many of these folks appear to have read.

Leviticus 19:34 says The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

There is no mincing of words here. This is very clear. But Leviticus isn't the only place where Christians are commanded to welcome the stranger -- it's in several places in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures:
  • Deuteronomy 10: 19 You shall love the stranger, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.
  • Luke 10:27 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. 
  •  Matt. 5:43-44 You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.
  • Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 
  • Romans 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor,    therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
  • Romans 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
  • Acts 10:34 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
  • Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.”
  • 3 John 1:5 Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you; they have testified to your love before the church. You do well to send them on in a manner worthy of God; for they began their journey for the sake of Christ, accepting no support from non-believers. Therefore we ought to support such people, so that they may become co-workers with the truth.
  • Hebrews 13: 1 Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
  • Colossians 3:11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.
  • Matthew 25: 35 I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
  • Matt. 25:40 Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren you did it to me.
And yet, there is no outcry. 

The right wing Christians are too busy oppressing their gay neighbors and despising the aliens among them who happen to be from Mexico, or even look as if they are from Mexico, or attacking their Muslim neighbors, or those who even look as if they might be Muslim, to care about some strangers in Europe.

So let's be clear. These are not the actions of Christians. These are the actions of people using the name and word of God as instruments of hatred and fear. 

And here's the bible verse that comes to mind as I watch and listen to them:

John 11:35: Jesus wept. 

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The "judge not lest you be judged" thingie

I am a Christian and I am sick to death of people using their "Christian" faith as a weapon of mass discrimination. People of all faiths are welcome to worship and live out their faith as they please, but they are not entitled to impose their religious beliefs on others -- not even recently famous would-be Christian martyr County Clerk Kim Davis.

Apparently Davis is fairly new to Christianity and apparently she is involved in an evangelical branch of the faith, which tends to be heavy on biblical literalism and light on theological study.

What disturbs me is that she clearly is being taught a Christianity based in fear, not love. Hence her overwrought claim that the act of issuing a marriage license to same-sex couples would endanger her immortal soul. She overlooks the whole "judge not lest you be judged" thingie.

According to news reports, Davis was pregnant with twins by her third husband before she was divorced from her first husband. Her second husband then adopted the twins. She later divorced the second husband and married her third husband, who she also later divorced to marry her fourth husband.

Are you following this so far?

According to her attorneys, her divorces and remarriages happened before she became a Christian, and now all those past mistakes are forgiven and thus not relevant. But Jesus doesn't offer "get out of jail free" cards.

Being forgiven doesn't mean there are no consequences for one's behavior. Some measure of humility is called for, not smugness. Self-examination is good. Examination of the faults of others, not so much.

Jesus' forgiveness doesn't come with a license to judge others. In fact, Jesus is pretty clear about who gets to judge others, and it ain't Kim Davis. Just read Matthew 7:

7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

And there's that inconvenient thing Jesus says about looking at the speck in your brother's eye while ignoring the log in your own.
Still, while I think she should either do her job or resign, I also feel compassion for her. The faith that should be bringing her peace is instead clearly terrorizing her. Hence her talk of this being a "life or death matter."

But dear Ms. Davis, you don't have to make this so hard. You don't have to be so afraid.

See, here's the thing. God loves us all. No exceptions.

The Jesus you follow said that the two great commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. In these two commandments lie all the law and the prophets.

God loves you. God loves you now. God loved you when you were getting divorced and remarried. God loved you when you had your twins. And God will love you even if you issue those marriage licenses.

Because God also loves those same-sex couples who are coming to your office seeking to get a license that will allow them to seal their commitment and mutual love in a marriage.

God IS love. Jesus taught that, again and again. So do not be afraid. It's not all on your shoulders.

God loves who God will love. You aren't on God's selection committee. 

Indeed, you're supposed to be part of the welcoming committee.