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If My People April 29, 2020

 

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
– 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

Back when I was still in institutionalized religion this verse got quoted a lot. It didn’t get practiced a lot, but it got quoted a lot.  Sadly, what’s practiced today, and has been for some time now, is an alternate translation that goes something like this:
“If my people, who are called by my name, will exult themselves and scream, seek to control other peoples bodies and sex organs, and turn to the NRA, then from the White House will I hear, ignore all of MY sin, and take this land.”

For all the talk of a so-called “personal savior” (not in the Bible, FYI) this particular religious sect is often more interested in controlling “persons” other than themselves. More often it’s “YOU can’t do that,” than “I can’t do that.”
In my somewhat promiscuous life, I’ve rarely been with people more sex-obsessed than some of the right-wing fundamentalist evangelicals I know.
Moving on.

With COVID-19, as with almost every bad thing that happens, the psychos like Pat Robertson are blaming it on gays and abortion1.  But if the previously quoted verse is at all relevant, and if these folks will ever practice what they preach, it’s way past time for them to re-focus.
Chronicles is the final book in the Hebrew Bible2. But, the basic message of this passage is stated by Jesus in the New Testament.
He’s approached by a disciple who, in a nutshell is saying, “HEY! What about THAT guy?!?!”  To which Jesus replies, “What concern is that of yours? You follow me!” – John 21:22 (NET)

Oh what a better place the world would be if these folks could just get that one principle right! You don’t like abortion, DON’T GET ONE! You’re against gay marriage? DON’T GET GAY MARRIED!

“If MY people will humble themselves, and turn from their wicked ways…”
Now, to be clear, not right-wing fundamentalist evangelicals, not the Christian Left, not any religion has the corner on the god-market. But for those who believe they are “God’s people,” (and for those who believe in no god at all) this “YOU do the right thing” is, I believe, a good start. A kind of “do no harm” mentality where we can let others make decisions about their bodies and their love-life, while holding them accountable if their actions (like NOT wearing a mask during a friggin’ pandemic) are harmful to others.

The religious right is big on saying this Country needs repentance.
They are correct!
“If MY people will turn from their wicked ways.”
If those who are hell-bent on telling the rest of us how to live would…
Turn from the wickedness of trying to take away a woman’s right to choose…
Turn from the “sin” of keeping two consenting adults who love each other from getting married…
Forsake the anti-Christ practice of enabling a known lying, misogynistic, homophobic, frankly stupid narcissist,  simply so they can gain political power and marry church and state…
If they would value truth, facts and science. If they’d fight against putting kids in cages. If they’d stand for the poor and the outcast. If they would side with victims of gun violence instead of against them.  If they could possibly get it through their heads that “YOU follow me,” means Them, and if they would be more interested in actually following the example of Jesus than following their power-hungry quasi-Christian leaders (Graham, Falwell, Robertson, et al),
Then maybe our land could actually begin to heal.
It couldn’t hurt.

Now, let me acknowledge there are those who hold many right-wing fundamentalist attitudes who are otherwise good people. (I know. The whole “otherwise” good people can be used to defend a lot of ugliness, but…) And I don’t for one single second believe that COVID-19, or any other natural disaster, plague etc. is God’s punishment for anything, EVER! (And if this WAS God’s doing, and part of some end-time plan, why the hell would they be fighting against what they say they believe must happen, and what they’re praying for. Sheesh!)

Still. I keep hoping and praying for their repentance. That or their eventual complete insignificance.
I really do.
And, I know a lot of Christians around the world who are not a part of this very vocal group I’m talking about, are also hoping and praying for that kind of “revival”.  I so want to see some of these folks awaken from delusion, acknowledge the wicked ways I’ve talked about, and repent of trusting religious doctrine and “correct” beliefs over valuing this world and its inhabitants.
You know, like Jesus did.
I really believe, as the title of a Rob Bell book states, “Jesus Wants To Save Christians.”
If only they’d let him.

  1. This political association was a very intentional way to control evangelical voters. You can read a lot about the creation of the religious right in the Frank Schaeffer book, “Crazy For God.
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_of_Chronicles


    And now, here’s Derek Webb (formerly of Caedmon’s Call) with “What Matters More” (Lyrics below video)


    You say you always treat people like you’d like to be
    I guess you love being hated for your sexuality
    You love when people put words in your mouth
    About what you believe, make you sound like a freak

    ‘Cause if you really believe what you say you believe
    You wouldn’t be so damn reckless with the words you speak
    Wouldn’t silence your concern when the liars speak
    Denying all the dying of the remedy

    Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
    Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

    If I can tell what’s in your heart by what comes out of your mouth
    Then it sure looks to me like being straights is all it’s all about
    Yeah, it looks like being hated for all the wrong things
    And chasing the wind while the pendulum swings

    We can talk and debate it till we’re blue in the face
    About the language and tradition that He’s coming to save
    Meanwhile we sit just like we don’t give a shit
    About fifty-thousand people who are dying today

    Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
    Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

    Brother, what matters more to you?
    Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

    Tell me, what matters more to you?
    Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?

 

Persecuted? June 11, 2014

Great.
I just watched a trailer for a new film about “christians” being persecuted in America.
It’s imaginatively titled “Persecuted.”
As a person of faith in Jesus, I grow weary of this self-induced paranoia.

These extremist groups keep crying “Religious Freedom,” when that’s the last thing they want!
Most right-wing fundamentalist evangelicals have made it abundantly clear that they only want freedom for THEIR religious views.
They don’t want everyone to be saying Buddhist prayers in our schools.
They don’t want people swearing on the Quran in our courts.
They don’t want homage paid to Shiva during our sporting events.
They don’t even want to acknowledge the millions of Christians who disagree with them.
So let’s call their cry for religious freedom what it is:
Bullshit!
They’re not talking about freedom. They’re talking about privilege.
Privilege for a particular segment of a particular form of a particular religion.
What they actually want is a Dark Ages system of Church/State control and forced religious compliance.
They are as far from the heart of God as were the Pharisees.
There are Christians that suffer real persecution (including torture and death) for their faith, and these prophets-of-doom extremists are an insult to those truly suffering.

Michael Bussee puts things in perspective this way:

“I hear they won’t let Christians get married. And that gay bakers won’t make them cakes. And that they have special programs that can cure them of being Christians. And that there are lots of homeless Christian kids in America because their gay parents reject them when they come out as Christian…”

Movies like this cater to the lowest common denominators of elitism, religious superiority, quasi-faith and simple fear.
They are desperate calls to rally the troops of a dwindling and hopefully soon dead cultist belief system that’s scratching and clawing for it’s final breath.

persecutedThe makers of this celluloid dung should be ashamed of themselves for feeding these fires of self-importance, delusion, and devotion to a false and dangerous view of God. A view that is in direct contradiction to the teachings of Jesus.

Sadly, this ear-tickling movie will probably do well at the box office.  We can only hope and pray that more and more people of faith will speak out against this kind on nonsense, and toss it in the garbage along with the “Left Behind” movies and the propaganda of the Westboro Baptists.
– df



long_war

 

Love Is The Cure June 20, 2013

loveisthecure
Love Is the Cure: On Life, Loss, and the End of AIDS
– By Elton John

While there is certainly some very interesting autobiographical material here, this is not primarily an autobiography.  It is a book about AIDS.

Elton looks at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, and then brings us up to date.  From the science to societal reaction we’re given the facts, as well as many stories of lives directly impacted by AIDS.  Of course, all our lives are impacted by AIDS.

We start with a story of a small town in Indiana called Kokomo, as we look at the life of Ryan White.  Ryan was a teenage hemophiliac who became infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment. We see, as Elton John states, that Ryan and his family were “true Christians.”  The story also reveals the very non-Christian actions and attitudes of many of the church-goers and residents of Kokomo at that time.  The majority of the townsfolk ostracize this afflicted boy and his family.  “It seemed like a modern-day witch hunt, and Ryan was to be burned at the stake.” Adults were worse than the kids who teased and tormented him. His entire family suffered. This is some sad, sad commentary on the nature of fear, religion, and those who propose to represent God.  But even through being shunned by the town, his classmates and his “church,” Ryan said “There’s always hope with the Lord. I have a lot of trust in God.”
Eventually, Ryan and his family did have to leave town so Ryan wouldn’t have to be buried in such a place of evil hatred.  The town he moved to, only miles away, welcomed him with open arms.  In the end, Ryan reached the entire nation.
The faith, love, and Christ-likeness of Ryan and his mother forever changed the life of Elton John.  Elton is very honest about how his addictions, anger and ego were in control of his life.  “You can’t imagine how selfish I was at the time, what an asshole I had become.” Seeing Ryan give out so much love in the face of so much hate helped E.J. face his own demons.  Elton entered rehab in 1990 and has been sober ever since.  His interactions and friendship with Ryan White also led to the creation of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Elton shares stories of personal loss, as so many of his friends and acquaintances were suffering and dying from this pandemic. There are stories of people like Rock Hudson and Freddie Mercury.

We also see AIDS on more of a national level.  This, of course, includes people like Jerry Falwell, again on their religious high-horses proclaiming AIDS victims are just getting what they deserve.  Even some government leaders help spread the hate, fear, and misinformation that ads fuel to the fire of an already devastating crisis.

And we look at AIDS from a global perspective.
Over in Africa, we see that in addition to an extremely bad AIDS situation, there is also an epidemic of rape.  Someone is raped every 26 seconds.  The men and leaders seem to think this is normal behavior, and punish the women who attempt to report being raped.  These unreported atrocities give tremendous momentum to the spread of the disease.
Another disgusting story is about how the Bayer pharmaceutical company knowingly sold tainted, AIDS transmitting medication to other countries so they wouldn’t have to throw them out and lose money.

Throughout this book, we’re shown the many faces of AIDS.  The involvement of some famous warriors against this disease, like President Bill Clinton, Paul Michael Glaser, Princess Diana,  Elizabeth Taylor, and many others is discussed.  We examine what has been done, and where we need to go from here.

I would be remiss as a reviewer if I did not mention the book’s shortcomings.  They can be summed up by saying “Elton John is not an author.”  The writing stumbles from time to time, and there is much redundancy.
Having said that, the stories are far too interesting, and the information far too vital to miss reading “Love Is The Cure.”

I’ve always enjoyed Elton’s music.  At the same time, I sensed that he was pretty much a jerk.  Reading this book has helped me see a different side of Elton John:
A loving, helpful, mellowed-by-age-and-experience, redeemed Elton John.  When he speaks of his drug use, party-life, and “unprotected” multiple sexual encounters he says that it’s a “miracle” he never contracted AIDS.  I feel he does not use that word lightly.
His miracle is one with which I can totally identify.

“Love Is The Cure” is truly an eye-opener, and I thank God that Elton John has written it.


Buy the book. Click HERE.


[For years, now, my wife and I have been involved in raising funds for our local AIDS Task Force here in Fort Wayne, Indiana through  their annual “AIDS Walk.”  This year’s walk is over, but you can still donate.
If you’d like to do so, click: www.Aids-Walk.info.
Thanks! Dave.]

Buy the book. Click HERE.

Quotes:

– The bottom line is, we’re all human, and we all deserve to be helped and to be loved.
– I was consumed by cocaine, booze, and who knows what else. I apparently never got the memo that the “Me” Decade ended in 1979. The Elton ego train kept rolling right through the ‘8Os.
– Ryan White inspired a nation, changed the course of a deadly epidemic, and helped save millions of lives.
– As a child with hemophilia, Ryan had been treated with compassion. As a child with AIDS, many treated him with contempt.
– Many religious institutions, governments, and the general public sent an unmistakable message to people with AIDS: We do not care about you.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Falwell and his ilk helped guarantee the AIDS epidemic would get far worse.
– It still stings to recall the pure, unadulterated hatred that was spewed at gays and AIDS sufferers.
– What makes AIDS so frightening, so very lethal, is that it takes advantage of more than our biological weaknesses. It take advantage of our social weaknesses.
– Conservative religious and political leaders continue to stand in the way of implementing what we know for a hard fact will save millions upon millions of lives.
– Fighting stigma is difficult work. Instead of directing our animosity and fear at someone’s disease, we direct it at the person who is sick.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

– The discrimination that the LGBT community [in Haiti] faced after the earthquake is hard to stomach.
– Like many people, I deeply regretted much of what [George W. Bush] did in office, but [his] decision to take aggressive action [with his [President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] saved millions of lives.
– There are 2.5 million people infected with HIV in India, and their government has said essentially, “We don’t care about any of you because some of you are gay.”
– We certainly can’t do it without religious institutions on our side. Their power is too great, their influence too far-reaching. There is no excuse for furthering pain and injustice in the name of any god.
– For a small fraction of what was spent on the war in Iraq, America would forever be heralded as the country that won the war against AIDS.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

– The cure for AIDS is a matter of changing hearts and educating minds.
– The fight against AIDS comes down to compassion.

Buy the book. Click HERE.



WE ALL HAVE AIDS

 

What We Talk About When We Talk About God April 10, 2013

what we talk about

“There’s something in the air, we’re in the midst of a massive rethink. A moment in history is in the making. An entire mode of understanding and talking about God [is] dying as something new is being birthed.”
– Rob Bell


This is a book by Rob Bell.”
OK.
That’s probably all I really need to say.  (But I’ll go on.)


By now, everyone who actually reads books about Christianity and/or Spirituality has heard of Rob Bell.
Many who don’t read such books have still heard of Rob Bell.
For the most part, people either really, really like his work, or they think he’s a heretic.
They think of him as a prophet, or a demon.

In case you don’t already know,
I really,
really
like
his
work.

This particular book is my favorite of Rob’s since the potentially life-changing “Velvet Elvis.”  Mr. Bell is one of the handful of authors that have forever changed my life.

In this new work, Rob incorporates bits and pieces from some of his other works (both written and video).  That makes this book a great read for those who have not read his previous writings.  It can be a quick read, or a very slow one.  As someone else has said, Rob’s writings are as simple or as deep as you want them to be.
“With,” “Ahead,” “Open,” and “For” are just some of the chapter titles.

Mr. Bell has us look at our language.  At how it both helps and hinders us.  We see very easily that, even within Christianity, people can be using the same word, “God,” and be talking about radically different things.  (We also saw this on Jeff Chu’s cross-country journeys in “Does Jesus Really Love Me“.).  Of course, how we think about our God directly affects everything else in our lives, not the least of which is the way we deal with and treat others and our environment.

The chapter “Open” is filled with scientific musings.  There’s talk of the universe, the big-bang, neutron stars, the elasticity of time, matter, energy, atoms, sub-atomic particles, bosons, leptons, quarks and quantum theory (which “is responsible for everything from X-rays and MRI machines, to fiber optics and transistors).   We consider that “the line between matter and spirit may not be a line at all.”

As is often the case, talking about what it is we talk about when we talk about God leads to looking at “the church,” and the Bible.  Here we get more of a Rob Bell standard I so much enjoy:  Looking at scripture in the cultural and historical context in which it was written.  We examine “the arc, the story” of this wonderful library of holy writ.  We begin to understand how “radically progressive” the books of the Bible were; that they were “ahead of their time.”  Unfortunately, “it’s possible to take something that was a step forward at one point and still be clinging to it later on in the story, to the point where it becomes a step backward.”

“What We Talk About When We Talk About God” moves us, drawing us to (and into) the very Divine that we’re talking about.
We look at a God that is with us, for us, and calling us ahead.
What are the consequences of our talk of God?
What does it mean in the real flesh-and-blood world we live in?
How does my “faith” interact with others and with all of creation?

These and other issues are wonderfully explored within the pages of this very thought-provoking book.

At the end, after the “Acknowledgements” and the rest of the “End Notes,” Rob Bell does something that is just so,
so Rob Bell that when I told my wife, we both laughed out loud.
When you’re reading a Bell book, never stop at “The End.”

– df


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

QUOTES:

– First, I’m a Christian, and so Jesus is how I understand God.

How you believe and what you believe are two different things.

– What I experienced, over a long period of time, was a gradual awakening to new perspectives on God — specifically, the God Jesus talked about.  [Yeah.  Me, too. – df]

– We are waking up in new ways to the God who’s been here the whole time.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Words and images point us to God; they help us understand the divine, but they are not God.

– Imagine that — religious people quoting the Bible to defend actions that were the exact opposite of the intent and purpose of those very same scriptures. [e.g. “an eye for an eye.”]

– Fundamentalism shouldn’t surprise us.  Certainty is easier, faster, [and] awesome for fundraising.

– Choosing to trust that this life matters and we’re all connected and this is all headed somewhere has made my life way, way better.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Science does an excellent job of telling me why I don’t have a tail, but it can’t explain why I find that interesting.

– When we talk about God, we often find ourselves in the middle of one paradox after another.

– What we say about God always rests within the larger reality of what we can’t say.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Like a mirror, God appears to be more and more a reflection of whoever it is that happens to be talking about God at the moment.

– Love and care and compassion shown to others is love for [God].

– It’s one thing to stand there in a lab coat with a clipboard, recording data about lips.  It’s another thing to be kissed.

– the ruach of God.

– the reverence humming in us.

– the entire ball of God wax

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


Here’s the video promo.




.

 

Eyes, Teeth and Dolphins November 8, 2012



Recently, I was again reminded of the revolutionary nature of many of Jesus’ statements.
In particular, one in Matthew 5:38-39a.


“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’1 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person…” [NIV]

OK.  This passage is revolutionary for more than one reason, but here I’m focusing on what it has to say concerning our relationship with scripture.
More than one author has pointed out the anti-religious nature of what’s happening here.
Jesus is essentially saying “The scriptures say one thing, but I’m telling you otherwise.”
Or, more to our understanding, “The Bible says one thing, but I’m telling you things have changed!”

You know, I was taught (and taught others) that if you believed something was “of the Spirit,” but it contradicted the Bible, the Bible took precedence.   It took me most of my life to realize we were basically treating the Bible as a god.  Worse, actually, we placed (if not in word, certainly in practice) the Bible above God.

Jesus repeatedly turned the religious use and understanding of scripture on it’s head.  Scripture, after all, was to point us to Jesus, not the other way around.  (John 5:39-40)

This adherence to a literal, legalistic view of the Bible is what keeps getting so many people in a certain segment of our society (and in politics) in trouble.  They are still mistaking book-worship for God worship.

If everything God had to say was already in a book, then God would no longer need to speak.
But, the thing is, God is still speaking.
God is still speaking, and the Bible, a precious book indeed, still points us to Jesus who came, in part, to correct our misunderstandings of who God is. Many of these misunderstandings were rooted in the scriptures.

People “hear” God, if at all, in different ways (rarely anything resembling an audible voice, although I’d never rule that out completely).  More often a thought, an “inkling,” a meditation, nature, a baby’s cry, a gypsy dolphin2 or through a homeless man’s eyes.

I know.  I know.  “But if you say that, someone will say something crazy and say ‘God said so.'”
Well, they’re already doing that.  Always have. Always will.
AND they often quote the Bible when they do so.3  So that fear, while technically accurate, doesn’t stand as a valid argument.

So, when we hear God say “You’ve heard it said (even if in the Bible), BUT I’m telling you something different,” we have a choice to make. Will we let our holy book be “useful” (2 Timothy 3:16) or will we kill for what we perceive to be the literal interpretation (2 Corinthians 3:6)?
Will we let scripture point us to Christ, and hear God’s voice, or will we continue to let the Bible be the thing that keeps us from better knowing God?

– df

Notes:

1 As Rob Bell (I think) pointed out, the whole “eye for an eye” thing was not a sanction for revenge.  This was a “baby step” towards a more peaceful approach.  It was a limitation to ensure the punishment was more in keeping with the crime.

2 from “Calling Me Home” by Barry McGuire

3 Think of the very UN Christ-like statements of people like Pat Robertson, Todd Akin, etc.




Also read:

Velvet Elvis

A New Kind of Christianity

 

The Litmus Test October 25, 2012

“If you tell me I have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, I can tell you that you just have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy too. But I guess that’s why God invented highlighters, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest.”
– Rich Mullins


I recently read a quote from a preacher who was calling into question President Obama’s faith because Barack had never used “born again” to describe his own Christianity.  Calling oneself “Christian” was in no way sufficient, in this man’s eyes, to have a relationship with God.  One must consider oneself a “born-again” Christian to have one’s faith taken seriously.

In the Bible, in the 10th Chapter of Mark, a particular individual asks Jesus, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
The man is told to sell everything he has and give it to the poor.

In the Bible, in the 3rd Chapter of John, another man is conversing with Jesus about the kingdom of God. He is told by Jesus, “You must be born again.”

So in regards to being a part of God’s kingdom and/or inheriting eternal life, one time in one place, to one person Jesus says to sell everything and give it to the poor.
In regards to being a part of God’s kingdom and/or inheriting eternal life, one time in one place, to one personJesus says “You must be born again.”

Look people, we have no more “Biblical” bases (or put positively, “equal Biblical bases”) for telling people to be born again in order to be “saved” than we do in telling them to sell all their possessions to be “saved.”  Yet, somehow, one statement has been virtually ignored while the other has been made into a litmus test for one’s Christianity!

How can we not see the fallacy in our fundamentalist approach to scripture?!?!
Jesus was a master at using word pictures to make a point.  He certainly didn’t intend for these verbal flourishes to be made into infallible doctrines and qualifications to establish an “us vs. them” mentality.

If anyone says they believe you must be born again because “Jesus said so,” and doesn’t believe the same thing about selling all your possessions, well, we know they haven’t taken an honest look at their belief system.

One Wikipedia writer states:
“the phrase was not mentioned by the other Evangelists, nor by the Apostles except Peter. ‘It was not regarded by any of the Evangelists but John of sufficient importance to record.’ And, without John, ‘we should hardly have known that it was necessary for one to be born again.'”

Also according to Wikipedia, the widespread use of the term is relatively recent.  “Born again is a term that has been widely associated with the evangelical Christian renewal since the late 1960s.”

Look, I believe in being born again.  I believe I’ve been born again many times and in many ways.  I hope to be born again many more times in many more ways.  (FYI, this has nothing to do with my “after-life” destiny.)

Rich Mullins was a “Christian icon” for many evangelicals.  More and more, though, he ruffled the feathers of established religion with statements like the one above.  We sang his songs in our meetings, without realizing the full impact of where he was going with them.
Sometimes I catch myself shaking my head, wondering why people can’t see what’s right in front of them.
BUT, I must also wonder why I didn’t see what was right in front of me.  I must wonder how much more I do not yet see.  How much others see to which I am still blind.
All the more reason to limit these doctrinal litmus tests.  (Maybe more orthopraxy and less orthodoxy.)

I do think the time is long overdue to minimize the use of some of the christianeese that comes out of our mouths without thinking about it.
The time is long overdue to re-think our approach to our faith and our approach to the Bible.  (Those issues are repeatedly addressed in other posts on this blog.)
All this doesn’t mean a weakening of our Christian identity.  As Brian McLaren points out, this re-thinking should be the strengthening of a better Christian identity.**

It’s a struggle, sometimes, to not despond.
Instead, I must allow myself and others the grace to continue to grow.  The grace to learn.  The grace to not always need the answers.  The grace to continue to be born again…
And again.

– df

**Brian Mclaren talks about how we have chosen between a strong/hostile Christian identity and a weak/benign Christian identity, and then proposed a third way; a strong/benevolent Christian identity.  This is the theme of his wonderful book, “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?”

 

BLUE LIKE JAZZ on DVD August 8, 2012

Order The DVD From LIFEWALK! CLICK HERE!
(It’s also at Walmart, Netflix, Redbox, Amazon, and likely on Mars by now.)

[I got a call from Donald Miller thanking me for my support of “Blue Like Jazz.” Yeah, that’s kind of pretty cool. Here’s a brief review of the movie.]

I expected to enjoy “Blue Like Jazz.” Yet, I must admit, after all the promotion and high hopes, I had some fear [just a teeny tiny bit] the movie might not be something I would be able to “brag” about.
After seeing the film, all fears have been laid to rest. I thought it was a great movie. My wife and I both really enjoyed it [and not just because our names are in the closing credits].
Good writing. Good production values. Good performances all the way around.
AND a great message! One I can actually get behind.

If you’ve read “Blue Like Jazz,” and listened to some old Steve Taylor records, you’ll have some idea of the creative power behind the movie. It addresses the hypocrisy of religion, while remaining very pro-faith. It’s real, raw, and avoids the clichés and pitfalls that seem inherent with most movies dealing with faith.
I will be seeing this movie again and again. We traveled a couple of hours just to see it. It was more than worth it.
Do yourself a favor: See “Blue Like Jazz.” It’s not just a movie. The background of its making, and the execution make it a piece of cinematic history.

UPDATED TRAILER with quotes from movie reviews:

READ MORE. Click Here.


DVD Special Features Include:

Audio Commentary with Author Donald Miller, Cinematographer Ben Pearson and Director Steve Taylor
Making Blue Like Jazz
Master Class: Directing Actors on Set
Deleted Shots
Photo Gallery
“Save Blue Like Jazz” Featurette
“The Cast” Featurette
“The Animator” Featurette
“This Is My Story” Featurette
“The Music” Featurette

 

Holy Terror July 14, 2012


“Becoming an activist is simply a matter of putting love into action.”

Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right Tells Us to Deny Gay Equality
– Mel White
———–

Essential Reading!
This is another “I-wish-I-could-make-everyone-read-it” book.

“Holy Terror” contains vital recent past history, chronicling  and exposing the war on America by the religious right.  The material here isn’t conjecture, or hyped partial-truths.  This book is written by an “insider.”
Mr. White was a significant player in fundamentalist evangelical circles.  And for a time, he bought into the lies.
He knew, and worked with people like Billy Graham,  Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, and Pat Robertson.

Mel White knows of what he speaks!  And what he speaks of is some very, very scary stuff!
We learn of secret meetings, political agendas, manipulation of the masses, and very “un-Christ-like” power-plays of this sect that wishes to control and conform the entirety of America into their own image.

There’s a story of how Mel was hired to ghost-write a book for Pat Roberston, and Pat wouldn’t even take the time to read it. Yet, there he was at a book signing, autographing a book with his name on it, not knowing what was actually in it.

There’s also information about how President Bush actually sought approval from James Dobson on who to appoint to office!!

Part of the book descriptions have this to say:

—-
“The Reverend Mel White, a deeply religious man who sees fundamentalism as “evangelical Christian orthodoxy gone cultic,” believes that it is not a stretch to say that the true goal of today’s fundamentalists is to break down the wall that separates church and state, superimpose their “moral values” on the U.S. Constitution, replace democracy with theocratic rule, and ultimately create a new “Christian America” in their image. White’s new book, Holy Terror, is a wake-up call to all of us to take heed.

White is singularly qualified to write this exposé of the Christian Right because he himself was a true believer who served the evangelical movement as pastor, professor, filmmaker, television producer, author, and ghostwriter. As he writes, “These are not just Neocons dressed in religious drag. These men see themselves as gurus called by God to rescue America from unrighteousness. They believe this is a Christian nation that must be returned forcibly to its Christian roots.”
—-

The section “Idolatry:  The Religion Of Fundamentalism”  should be a “must-read” for Christians everywhere.
It covers “God As Idol” (some GREAT insights here), “The Bible As Idol” (which I’ve covered in a number of other posts), “The Family As Idol” (focus on the Dobson), and “The Nation As Idol” (also see “The Myth of a Christian Nation).

Later we look at “Fascism: The Politics Of Fundamentalism.”  We’re shown the frightening similarities between what’s going on in America, and the way religion and the Bible were used by Hitler to deceive the masses and rally the troops. The “14 identifying characteristics of fascism” are disturbingly similar to fundamentalist Christianity!

Then, in Part Four of the book, we discuss ways to resist fundamentalism. Chapter’s 8 and 9 analyze how to reclaim our progressive political and moral values.
In the section on moral values, we look at the Old Testament prophets and the teachings of Jesus. There’s lots of scripture in this section. We see again how fundamentalists, like the Pharisees, major on the minors, while ignoring or dismissing the real meat of the Bible and of Jesus’ teachings.
While fundamentalists want to “reclaim America,” what’s really needed is to reclaim Christianity from the fundamentalists.

Finally, there’s “Discovering Soul Force.” We look at the examples of Martin Luther King Jr., and Ghandi as we discover the power of non-violent resistance (also known as “Christian Love”) which Jesus taught and lived. It can be, or rather is, very hard to not hate the haters. I see a lot of hater hating these days. It is understandable. But this portion of Mel’s book really helped me remember that love conquers hate. We also see that loving one’s enemies doesn’t mean rolling over and playing dead. It’s not violence or passivity. It is a third way.
[In relationship to that, check out the last paragraph of this previous post: Click HERE. ]

As a gay Christian, Mr. White does focus on the dangers of the religious right in their war against homosexuals, BUT these dangers are a threat to us ALL! History has has shown us the horrific results of the marriage between church and state.
The torture.
The intimidation.
The outright murder.
All in the name of God. That is the direction to which many fundamentalists are trying to take us.
As the famous phrase goes, “The Christian right is often neither.”

The original version of this book came out (pun intended) in 2006, and we’ve seen this disease of religious control and manipulation spread even more since the book was written. Some of our current politicians think that their interpretation of the Bible should be the literal rule of the land for all of our blessedly diverse culture.

I echo the previous statement that this book sounds the alarm, and should be a wake-up call for those who value all American’s rights.

– df

[“Holy Terror is the paperback version of the previously released hard-cover “Religion Gone Bad.”  This book does have some new material, and is a great book to buy multiple copies of, and pass on to others!]

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Check out the organization SOULFORCE. Click HERE.

—-

Read another review at Canyonwalker Connections. Click HERE.

“I strongly encourage Christians who are befuddled as to why we seem to have lost the message of the Gospel and have witnessed the Good News twisted into a Declaration of War to read ‘Holy Terror.’”
– Kathy Baldock

“Many anti-gay Christians I know are good people. But too often good people do bad things. I think in the end we are in a fast-moving world. Just read Mel White’s “Holy Terror” and you’ll get a quick, full understanding what is really going on under the sugar coated veneers of the Tony Perkins/Maggie Gallagher’s smiles.”
– Mitchell Gold

“I think this may be one of the most important books I have ever read.”
– Sharon

“A demanding and documented account of what happens when fanatical religion and fascistic politics merge an provide religion that simply can only be called terrorism.”
– Ric

—-


QUOTES FROM “HOLY TERROR”:

– The Bible is not a book of magic. It’s a book of mystery. You can’t just quote verses that support your prejudices or guarantee your health, wealth, and happiness and demand that God “follow through” as promised. God is not limited to the words of Scripture. God is still speaking.

– Fundamentalist Christians are my sisters and brothers, my family and friends, my oldest colleagues and coworkers. But I fear their love for the nation has become an obsession to reshape it in their own image.

– Like the people of Israel who created a golden calf to represent God while Moses was away, fundamentalist Christians have built their own idols to represent God until Jesus returns.
The religion of fundamentalism is idolatry.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Fundamentalist Christianity is not just a threat to lesbians and gays, but to all Americans who cherish democracy and the rights and protections guaranteed us by the U.S. constitution.

– When Sally Williams asked her son Matthew why he killed “the two homos,” his answer was recorded by prison officials: “I had to obey God’s law rather than man’s law. I didn’t want to do this. I have followed a higher law. [I was] cleansing a sick society. I just plan to defend myself from the Scriptures.”

– “Fundamentalists are not happy when facts challenge their understanding. For biblical literalists, there is always an enemy to be defeated in mortal combat.” – John Shelby Spong [Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalists]

– Jerry Falwell turned gay bashing into a very successful art form. [He is] the first fundamentalist to exploit the fear and loathing of homosexuals to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and add millions of new donors to his mailing list.

– It’s beginning to feel like there is no room in America for anyone who is not a fundamentalist Christian.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Although He is regularly asked to do so, God does not take sides in American politics.” – Senator George Mitchell

– Gary Nixon and I have had a loving, committed, faithful relationship for twenty-five years (now over 30) yet we are denied more than a thousand rights and protections that go automatically with marriage.

– It would be catastrophic if one day these fundamentalists Christians gain enough political power to enforce their literal understanding of Mosaic Law.

– The Roman Catholic Church is without doubt the original source of suffering for gay and lesbian people.

– Because of their excessive commitment to a literal Bible, fundamentalist Christians have fallen into the trap of biblioltry.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Doing justice, loving mercy, seeking truth…these are the issues [the Bible] is clear on.

– There were families made up of Jewish soldiers and female prisoners of war; female rape victims forced by law to marry their attackers; and male slaves assigned to female slaves by their master. Jesus condemned divorce but did not condemn any of the family types common to his day.

– I am convinced that Christian fundamentalism is a far greater threat to this country than Muslim terrorists could ever be.

– “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”
[Article 11. Treaty of Tripoli. Signed into law by President John Adams. 1797.]

– The words “God is love” conclude a biblical warning, not a warm and fuzzy slogan. “He who doesn’t love [his neighbor] doesn’t love God, for God is love.”
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– My commitment to the Bible [is my] source of progressive values.

– Although I claim to be a Christian, I live at a moment in time when the Christian faith is being defined by fundamentalists who have dishonored Christ and are in the process of destroying His church. I refuse to wear the “Christian” label without redefining it.

– Without faith in God, man can have faith neither in himself nor in others. The finite cannot be understood unless we know it is rooted in the Infinite. – Gandhi

– When you stand with the outcasts, you stand with Jesus, and when you despise the outcast, you despise Jesus, as well. Becoming an activist is simply a matter of putting love into action.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Check out the organization SOULFORCE. Click HERE.

And be sure to check out Al Franken’s book,
“Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.” Click HERE.

 

Sick May 15, 2012

Some people are “sick” of hearing about marriage equality.

I imagine it would have been easy to say “I’m sick of hearing about freeing the slaves.”
Unless, of course, you were a slave.

It would have been easy to say “I’m sick of hearing about women getting the vote.”
Unless you were a woman.

Agree to disagree?
Sure.  I do that all the time.
But I can’t accept inequality and injustice under the guise of “loving those who disagree.”
Can I love them?
Of course I can.  But I believe the clear choice is that I must stand with the oppressed.
Not with the oppressor.
I truly believe that is the way of Christ.
Things can, though, get very strange when both the oppressed and the oppressors are your brothers and sisters.

You may be sick of any minority taking a stand for rights that you take for granted.
Tough!
They’re sick of having to fight for the rights denied them.

If you need to be sick of something, there’s plenty to be sick of.

It’s time to be sick of centuries of religious oppression in the name of God.
It’s time to be sick of blaming your hate on Jesus, when there are plenty of
God-fearing Jesus lovers who don’t hold your views.
It’s time to be sick of hearing “It’s not me.  It’s the Bible” when there are almost
forty-thousand  Christian denominations who disagree with each other, while
all claiming the Bible as their authority.
It’s time to be sick of people being bullied, tortured, and even killed because of their orientation.

I recently read something to the effect of
“You are free to have a gun.
You are not free to use it against whomever you please.
You are free to have a religion.
You are not free to impose your religious views on the rest of the country.”
If you believe it’s a sin (as some do) to drink beer, then don’t drink beer!
But don’t for one minute presume to inflict that belief on those who wish to drink beer.
You don’t believe in same-sex marriage?  Don’t marry someone of the same sex!

To borrow from a popular ad:
“That was easy.”
Why is it so hard to see that following your convictions is about how YOU act, and
not about controlling others?!?!?! (Of course, control and manipulation are major characteristics of religion in the first place.)

So, your’re sick of hearing about marriage equality.
Well, I guess the first step to recovery is to admit you’re sick.
Please get well soon.

– df

[Also see: FOOTNOTE.]

 

Don’t Ask. Don’t Sell. February 27, 2012

I had a “conversation” with a Greg McCaw, a former CCM insider (he was “no longer needed” after he came out). He estimates that as many as 35% of those in the Christian Music industry are closeted gay.
Based on his experience, Mr. McCaw suspects most who work alongside them within the industry know of their orientation. Just not the general public.
So in reality, people like Marsha Stevens-Pino (For Those Tears I Died), Clay Aiken, Jenifer Knapp, Tonéx, Ray Boltz, et al, were not outsted from the industry because they were gay, but because they admitted publicly they were gay.

According to Greg, “It is OK to be LGBT privately, as long as you don’t say that you’re LGBT.  This is especially true if you have a talent that is quite marketable.”
Privately pro-LGBT thinkers keep quiet because they know most of their buyers are fundies.  It’s easy to become victims of the hypocrisy of religion.

There are many who make their living from selling “Christian goods” who are sincere believers that do valid ministry.  But, as Greg also says, Christian events and “the Christian music industry and the Christian publishing industry… are not primarily about ministry, they are primarily about sales.”

That’s all good and fine, I suppose.  Most of us probably already know that anyway.  But when people become less than who they are, or must be somewhat decietful concerning their views just to ensure their paycheck…
well, that’s not very Christian at all.
Making your money “off the gospel” is usually a dangerous thing.  It’s easy to end up being an ear-tickler.  Especially, I believe, in fundamentalist circles.

You can justify your cowardice because, in the words of Frank Schaeffer, “there are bills to be paid, because you are booked up for a year, because this is what you do.”

Yes, the livelihood of many gay Christians, as well as their straight allies, is tied to the CCM industry’s “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” policy.
Thank God, the tide of public opinion is turning, brought about in part, by the many Christians and denominations who are taking a stand for equality, consequences be damned.  This has happened time and time again throughout history, in relationship to various issues of human rights.
These people are those to whom, in my opinion, true ministry is more important than the Christian Money Machine.

-df

 

 
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