I wish Glenn Beck wasn't worth the energy it takes to type this blog post...but he is. Not because what he says makes any sense, not because he gives a fair critique of Progressive Christianity, but because despite the fact that he acts like he is a few fries short of a Happy Meal...people are listening to him! That alone makes him worth the energy...but not a lot of energy.
Here's the thing folks. He is the king of hyperbole, manipulation and divisiveness. What makes him worth a post on a Progressive Christian blog, is that as Boehlet of Media Matters says, he's starting to sound like a store front preacher. It is one thing when a politician co-opts God
, but when a “journalist”\political wanna-be does it (and poorly at that), it is even more of a problem.
Mind you it shouldn't be. At this point, it should be easy to see that he has lost contact with reality, but for almost half the nation he's more than OK, for them he's a visionary! And that should worry us. On top of it, unlike the politicians, he has their ears for an hour a day.
That's the problem. He has now claimed (not earned) some prophetic crown and is acting like he is ordained by God, so much so that he even tried to stand in the shoes of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and found that he really couldn't even stand in his shadow...but that alone isn't really dangerous. What is dangerous is the way he ties his celebrity, air-time and hyperbole into some kind of godforsaken pulpit.
If the far right does not see that this self described clown is ruining their circus, well that's their problem. But as one of the thousands of voices for Progressive Christianity (and I'm Presbyterian, so boy-o-boy did I earn my ordination), I loudly renounce Beck's assumption as the Priest of FoxNews and ask him to show some small amount of respect to God and drop the pretend prophetic talk.
The Christian Lef
t is much more than a Facebook (FB) page, it is a growing movement
. It is the future hope of The Church and the only non-hypocritical way The Church stands any long term chance of being an effective Christian voice in politics. (Wow. I hope I didn't overstate that. Let's see, “ the future hope of The Church and the only non-hypocritical way The Church stands any long term chance of being a effective Christian voice in politics.” Nope, that's about right).
Let me say that while The Christian Left is much more than its FB page, if you want to participate in this very important dialogue, the FB page is a fantastic place to start. It engages head and heart, politics and religion, theology and contemporary topics...it's worth the read and the engagement it takes to be a part of the dialogue will do us all some good. I might just add, if you do decide to join the dialogue (and I hope you will), it'd be helpful if you were to check out our Code of Conduct
But let's get on with the whole “We Need The Christian Left, Now More Than Ever” title. Bit of a bold statement, isn't it? Well, not really.
Christianity, over the course of a few thousand years, has drifted away from the teachings of it's founder. That man was a walking Heath Care System. He wisely, gently and unapologeticly confronted hate at every turn. He always believed people could be better than they are and when he met someone, he asked them to change – toward the better person he knew they could be. He loved people and abhorred abuse of power (in both religions and politics). He walked quietly on this earth and yet made a loud impact. He was willing to lay down his life for the love of others.
In a world where big business seems to control everything, even the government; in a time when the Supreme Court is sometimes promoting businesses' rights over individual's rights; we need a guiding principle that reminds us that our Creator wants us to put people first. In an environment when news channels are formed around encouraging people to be afraid and fear people who are not like them or don't believe the things they believe, we need a point of light that beacons us toward acceptance and love. In a nation where businesses' bottom lines continue to be promoted over the health and welfare of the 'least of these,' we need the image of a healing hand that reached out, even to lepers, to heal without asking for or expecting anything in return...other than faith. In a world being devastated by our consumerist attitudes and privileged lifestyles, we need Jesus' life to remind us that we must walk gently on God's Creation. We need the man who hung on a cross for love, to teach us to live our lives for love.
You see, the reason we need the Christian Left now more than ever, is because it is not really 'the left.' If anything, what Christian 'leftist' stand for is just good theology. If anything, we should be the “Christians centrist” or the “Christian originalist.” Ultimately, we are 'left' only by comparison, relative to what the dominate voice of Christianity in the U.S. claims Christians stand for. The same voice that has left younger generations beleiving that Christians have become, well, unChristian
We need the Christian Left now more than ever, because we need to follow the teaching of Jesus more than ever.
With their ironically named “Pledge to America: The New Republican Agenda
,” the GOP continues to bang the gong that declares, “We are Christian mostly in name and not so much in action.”
While I certainly give them credit for wording much of their “new” pledge in a way that sounds...I don't know, nice?, the outcomes of what they are standing for strike me as particularly unChristian.
Their pledge is particularly focused on business, making it clear that the primary driver of the party is business, particularly big business, not Christian precepts. Business has one driving force – money, God has one driving force as well – love. You cannot serve God and money, you cannot serve two masters. They don't even seem to be ashamed of it either. The Director of their “Pledge to America” is a former lobbyist
for AIG, Exxon and Pfizer – it should probably be named, “Pledge to Big Business.”
The pledge, in more than one place, makes it clear that they desire to get rid of the new health care law, replacing it with...well, it's really hard to say from information in the pledge document. It is clear that while they will repeal the act, they also must like it because they are keeping 7 of its key elements
. As you might expect, their proposal also does not have any real indication of how to control health care spending or regulations designed to keep expenses affordable. Ultimately, it continues the pledge to big business and leaves the least of these (particularly the sick) to fin for themselves in a ocean of big business sharks (read health insurance companies, large medical corporations and the pharmaceutical industry). “... inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'” Matthew 25:40.
The GOP's pledge also states that it will be keeping the Bush tax cuts in place, including those for the wealthiest people in the US. It would seem that part of the solution to make this affordable in terms of the national debt is to also cancel all the unspent stimulus money. Basically, one focuses on the lifestyles of the rich, powerful and famous, and one focuses of the lifestyles of middle America. Jesus had some pretty condemning things to say about the rich and spent most of his time ministering with commoners.
The last piece of the pledge I'd like to address from a Christian point of view is the inexcusable absence of social justice issues. They are blatantly missing from the pledge. I realize this was done for political reasons...and that is exactly the problem. You do not get to imply that you are the party for Christians and not address the issue of social justice in your pledge for moving forward. If Jesus would have written the pledge, you best bet it would have been a recurring theme.
I do not mean to imply that the Democratic Part is by default the Christian party. They are not. While they do address issues of social justice more directly, they are a far cry from what a Christian party would look like. I am saying that claiming the Christian monicker for political gain and the manipulation of the every-day Christian is a game of falsehoods that both parties need to stop playing and those of us who claim to be Christians, much like Jesus confronted the Pharisees, need to step up consistently, confidently and boldly to say to our politicians, "stop making false claims in the name of God, stop taking God's name in vain."
Politicians co-opting God is killing the church; it's not the only reason the church is dying, but it sure is unknowingly playing to the Church's weaknesses. As I've mentioned in another blog post and a sermon at The God Article, politicians are playing The God Card now-a-days more than ever...and they are hurting the Church more than ever in doing it. I'm not saying they are the only thing that is killing the Church (far, far from it), but they are certainly doing their part.
While there are many ways this is happening, there are two in particular that I'd like to mention and as I said they unknowingly play on the weaknesses already present in the church. The first is related to one of the Church's primary problems; it still acts like it is important. Not that it's not important in the lives of it's members and (for the churches still actively practicing real outreach) in the lives of those they help, because for them it is very important. Rather, it acts like it is important in the overall life of the culture. More specifically, it acts like it is central to community.
The truth is, it used to be. The Church used to be the center point of life in many towns and cities, not to mention families. However, a long time ago the culture moved forward as world dynamics shifted and the church planted it's roots and was passed by. Now (with some exceptions), the Church has gone from being central to being on the margins, way back where it planted it's roots – it just isn't central to culture anymore. Yet, it insist (demands?) on being treated as if it were. It seems to believe that it can just go about being what it once was and demand that those who participate do it our way, the “right way.” And people are staying away in droves.
When politicians play The God Card to garnish a few votes, they remind the rest of the US about one of the things they dislike about the Church, it's sense of privilege, entitlement and “rightness” - and they do it on a national platform.
Which brings me to the second way that politicians co-copting God is killing the church. If you are a Christian and you haven't read unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons let me highly recommend it (book review coming this week). I have to say, I am not a fan of some of the theology, but the research and what it reveals about the general public's perception of the church is both astonishing and right-on-the-money. One of the top issues it reveals is the Church's problem with being perceived as hypocritical. (Ok, you have to see where I'm going with this at this point).
Politicians are going to break their promises (I don't know why...that's just what they do. Get a history book and look it up). All these politicians flashing their particular brand of The God Card every time they have the platform ultimately just serves to remind people of the existing perception that the Church is hypocritical...and let's face it, we really don't need any help with that...just get a history book and look it up.
Last night on “The Daily Show” former President Jimmy Carter had a little fun picking on The Tea Party's Christine O'Donnell about dabbling in witchcraft...oh, and on her stand on masturbation (can I say that on a Christian blog? I guess I just did). It seems that everyone is jumping on the Witchy-Poo (shout out to my H.R. Pufnstuff peeps!) bandwagon in yet another modern day witch hunt.
I have to say, as a Christian minister, I just don't care. No more than I would care if Obama were actually a “secret Muslim,” or the fact that Glenn Beck probably believes in three heavens and the ability to become a god in the afterlife. Besides, that was then and this is now. We have to stop holding political candidates hostage over something they once thought or believed. It is as if we don't want our leaders (and perspective leaders) to gain experience and knowledge and then learn from it.
What I do care about is the crazy stuff she believes in now that would directly impact how she would serve if elected. Things like: “America is now a socialist economy,” creationism, she hears “the audible voice of God,” being gay is an “identity disorder,” and a number of other questionable beliefs and statements.
What does all of this have to do with God, you ask? (After all this is “The God Article”). Simply this, too many politicians are playing The God Card and in doing so they seem to believe they can just co-opt the Christian church and it's beliefs as if we are one homogenous group. When they do, they always pick a fairly conservative bent on Christianity and project to the world that that particular take on Christianity is the only Christianity (or at least 'true' Christianity). Ultimately, this serves to minimize, in the minds of the world, the more progressive Christian movement. They are able to do this partially because those of us who fit into that category have had a tendency to sit by silently, presumably out of some false belief that Jesus was passive to the point of irrelevance.
The Progressive Christian movement must begin to stand up, even in the face of conservative Christians who will undoubtedly point fingers and try to shout us back down (sometimes literally), and overcome our reluctance to say what we believe with the same passion and vigor that our more traditional brothers and sisters do.
O'Donnell has said a lot of things that ring the crazy bell for many progressive Christians; we must stand up in one united voice when this happens and say, not all Christians believe that, not all Christians want that, not all Christians carry that particular brand of God Card.
Watch Jon Stewart's interview with former President
Our Tweeter, which art in CyberSpace,
retweeted be thy post;
Thy Followers come;
thy links be done,
on Facebook as they are in Twitter.
Give us this day our daily tweet.
And forgive us our posts as we forgive other posters.
Lead us not into a RickRoll;
but deliver us from blind links.
For thine is the homepage,
and the sticky site, and the blogpost.
For 140 characters.
Jon Stewart, born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, is holding a rally in Washington on October 30, 2010. The Rally To Restore Sanity, without just coming right out and saying it, it is a response to Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally - a rally held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of King's "I have a dream" speech. Beck's rally attempted to co-opt not only the civil rights movement, but Christianity as well.
The problem is, just under the surface of much of what was said, were some pretty ridiculous implications that fit in neither the realm of civil rights or Christianity. As seems to be the case at any Tea Party related rally, there was the ever present (yet unspoken) assumption of white privilege - definitely not part of the civil rights movement. Also unspoken (for the most part) and related to the former was a great deal of anger, hate and fear. All three of which, I would argue, the Bible encourages Christians to avoid.
Along with the things that were silently (for the most part) present, I'd also like to mention a very specific, and admittedly subjective, thing that was noticeably absent - rationality or any real attempt at wisdom. You know, that silly little thing that Proverbs tells us is the thing in which God delights daily.
Enter Jon, a Jew by birth (and by his own admission, just barely by practice). With a rally sign ready, reading "I do not agree with you but I do not think you are Hitler," Jon announced his Rally To Restore Sanity – a million moderate march – a rally to promote reasonableness, a rally to restore sanity...and he's doing it in WASHINGTON, DC! (Seriously Jon, admit it, trying to restore sanity in Washington... well, it's a little insane).Jon proposes to, in concert with Stephen Colbert's March to Keep Fear Alive , comically show the absurdity of what has become the tenor of the nation – divisiveness, anger, fear, judgment and doing it all in the name of God. As stations like FOX News (where Glenn Beck's show is hosted) seem hell bent on always kicking the bipartisan rhetoric up a notch, Jon purposes to “Take It Down A Notch For America.”Ultimately, the wisdom, forgiveness, acceptance and rationality to which Jon calls our nation, are (or at least should be) at the core of Christianity. Not that they aren't at the core of many other religions not to mention good old fashioned morality, because they are, but it is particularly interesting (and in my opinion fitting) that it took a Jew to stand up for what is biblically right (even though it isn't likely that the Bible is the impetus behind his call) in the face of a ramped-up and horribly deformed Christianity.
You can watch both announcements here:
Repost from http://sandskript.blogspot.com
on 9/11/2010Terry Jones, pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainsville, Fla., is holding a book burning on 9/11. He's burning Korans. I know, hard to believe - right?
The first question I asked myself is, does he really believe that the entire Islamic faith is responsible for 9/11? If so, he is either naive or misinformed. Then I thought, does he hate them that much? If so, he's missing the point of many of Jesus' teachings - love. Finally, I thought, does he really think that burning paper with words on it matters (unless of course you are burning all of them that exist). He probably thinks it's symbolic. If so, I'd like to point out that God is much bigger than his symbolic hatred.
Ultimately, I've decided to FedEx (to make sure it gets there in time)Rev. Jones my personal Bible. I've had it since I was 6 years old. It went with me to college when I left home and has always been with me. I'm asking him to include it in his book burning. Because my God is big enough to handle it and my God's love is large enough to stand with others who claim Abraham as a religious relative.
It is a shame that this one act of Christian hatred has recieved so much press. I think it would be a wonderful statement of love if the news also had to cover shipments of Bibles coming in to Rev. Jones with personal notes saying to burn this with the Korans, because the God of Abraham is big enough.
If you would like to do the same, the mailing information is readily available athttp://www.doveworld.org/contact : Dove World Outreach, 5805 NW 37th St., Gainsville, FL 32653 Attn: Rev. Terry Jones