nashville-statement

The Nashville Statement – revealing the chaff among you

If you are a longtime reader of this blog, then you know that I’ve long believed that the Christian church in it’s many forms was on the way out. It’s death throws being sung by the disgruntled generations which cannot stomach theological ideas that are misaligned with their Jerry Falwell inspired version of the American Christian Gospel.  If you don’t know what I mean by that, then you are the subject of this post. The Nashville Statement, which you can read here is a cementing of the trend toward obscurity. Perhaps, and I hope this is true, it will be replaced with a better church.

The Nashville Statement is in no way new. We’ve been watching mainline protestant denominations vote on and endorse similar statements and doctrines for ages. Somehow, this statement feels different because it crosses the borders of denominations – it’s original signers include pastors and ministers from across the board. It sends what seems to be a unified message to the world and to those who are LGBT and specifically calls out Transgender people with the notion that, “you are wrong about what you think you are, and we have all the answers.” It manages to say, to the most marginalized and endangered people in our country and our world that they don’t have a safe haven, even with Jesus.

The Nashville Statement says to the LGBT community that, while the church in all it’s denominational strife and confusion – in all that disagreement, the one thing they can agree on is you. That you are a problem.

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White guy, unsure why everyone is so upset.

Is our society more easily offended?

Over the last several years, actually going back into the 90’s, certain groups have decried “Political Correctness” and what some call a culture of being easily offended. If you happen to be one of my followers or friends on Facebook you already know that I have a massive variety of people that come to my personal page to engage in discussions about practically every hot topic imaginable. My little corner of the internet is one of the few places, next to 4chan, where there is practically no censorship or filtering going on – I let people reveal themselves for who they are and display even the most outrageous points of view.  Doing so is really important to me as I value freedom of speech and the safety of that space above all else, and I think that despite not having hard-line rules the extremes tend to equal each other out so that the middle can be more easily heard.

That said, if you spend much time on my personal Facebook page you are guaranteed to get offended. If not by me, then by

The Rules of Engagement for my personal Facebook wall - posted recently.

The Rules of Engagement for my personal Facebook wall – posted recently.

some of my friends or followers, that’s one of those disclaimers I wish I had the ability to put somewhere on the page,  – that I take the time to state every now and again in some fashion for people that might be new to my virtual forum (example included to the right.)

I honestly can’t think of many times where I’ve actually been offended in any serious way. I might find certain views to be simply atrocious, but they don’t offend me – I think the main reason for that is because I’ve been born into a great deal of privilege and I’ve long recognized it – so I just don’t let peoples words and beliefs get to me so much. Sometimes the things people say or do will  prompt a response from me, but not because I’m offended or hurt, because I think it’s important that we engage with bad ideas.

There are those that assert that society as a whole is more easily offended than in years past, citing movements like #BlackLivesMatter, the push for safe spaces on college campuses, and LGBT acceptance – movements which often use social media to lash out those who wish to remain a part of the status quo. Are these movements and these reactions evidence of a more easily offended society?

I don’t think so.

The segments of society who hold the most power have always tended toward a prejudice against the “other”, which is why those you are most likely to hear complaining about the “sensitivity of our times” are by and large white straight males (on Fox News) – as it’s usually they who are saying things that are most readily offensive or hurtful to people who are on the outskirts of modern power structures.

We do, today, live in a society where you hear a lot more about offensiveness though – so, what does that say about modern people and the changes that living in a technologically smaller world (ie: a world made smaller by the advent of technology which brings more people together) has wrought?

It says that we are a (somewhat) more caring society:

I know it seems like the opposite – and there are certainly times when the opposite is true, but we are by and large heading toward a more humanistic society who’s citizens care for the “other” and who consider with empathy the effects of their words and actions.

If you think back to the 70’s and before, it was practically unthinkable for a straight male to be an ally of the LGBTQ community unless that ally had experienced some sort of discrimination on his own, today – however, we are seeing more and more allies for every marginalized part of society today and while some of those allies may be hopping on the bandwagon of popular morality, the roots of this shift in thought are surely empathetic and if empathy is a bandwagon people are jumping on that’s a better bandwagon than others I could think of.

There are, of course, those who try their damnedest to prove me wrong here, bent on the idea that privilege is non-existent or even OK – but I believe and can see in my community and in the US that those people are becoming the louder but more fringe voices rather than a rumbling cacophonous majority that agrees in these old ways of thinking.

We have avenues to express anger that we didn’t have before:

It’s easy to forget, especially if you are around my age or younger (29 as of this writing) the impact of the internet and social networks. I practically grew up with some sort of connectivity to a world of online friends and enemies.  With the advent of social media sites like Facebook and a generation of people who are accustomed to sharing their frustrations online it is easier than ever to express frustration and anger at some injustice or bigotry we witness or experience in every day life and for that experience to become a viral, mimetic cause du jour.

The nature of our social network beast makes it easier for people who wouldn’t have been exposed to social justice issues any other way (many of us live in very sheltered worlds, I am among those people) – and so it’s easier for us to care about things that we know about because of this exposure.

The landscape of the world has changed so drastically because of the internet that we often mistake those virtual interactions with real life interactions, forgetting that people on the internet are often unfiltered caricatures of themselves. While one generation of users may be well aware of the “keyboard warrior” affect – another generation may not be, and while both express anger in their own ways, one tends to believe that the others anger is the result of over-pacification and coddling – the idea that their opponents are too easily offended is almost always a hypocritical failure to view one’s very own leanings toward offense when exposed to a litany of new ideas.

Whether it be by a trending hashtag or a photo that gets turned into a meme and shared millions of times, we’ve got ways to express our anger at injustices that didn’t exist just 15 years ago – and unbelievably those things can lead to actual change. Public outcry via social media makes a difference in the world and in when someone in an authority position does something immoral the outcry can have them fired within days – rather than the weeks or months or never of previous years.

The offended are simply more aware and more vocal:

I think it can only be considered a matter of privilege if you find yourself inconvenienced by the outcry of a marginalized group, and the fact of the matter is that people from all walks of life are fed up with privilege as the status quo and are therefore more vocal about it than in years past.

It’s easy for a straight white male to complain about the constant tenor that “things need to change” because to the straight white male that’s an idea that means a loss of power, privilege, comfort, and often class and when you fail to see your own privilege you’ll be far less likely to empathize with those who aren’t benefiting from it or who are victims of some sort of neo-classism, sexism, racism, or other -ism and yet this is the landscape of our country and largely our world simply because the victims of old world mentalities are waking up to their oppression and speaking out about it with less fear.

Are these people more victimized today than they were 10-50 years ago?  Arguments can be made for and against. While the consciousness of the world is slowly moving toward more equality there are those who are, in more extreme ways, lashing out at communities of color, transgender people, the LGBT community, and even the poor (who we often forget about when discussing this sort of thing).  The most deadly mass murders against a racial group of the last 75 years in the US happened this year, in 2015, in Charleston – so it’s not difficult to see the extremists pushing against the broader narrative of brotherhood and humanism.

The fact of the matter is simple:  When black people, women, or the LGBT community react to something it’s easy to say “I don’t want to hear it, stop making a big deal of of this” when you aren’t the victim of an institutional bias – but these people are getting louder and they’ve got damn good reasons for it, I recommend anyone and everyone of the aforementioned mentality to shut up and listen to see if perhaps you can learn something.

Moralizing Political Correctness

I like to define Political Correctness as follows:  The ability to communicate with empathy for the marginalized.

There are those that want to compare Political Correctness to a police state or some invention of politicians, as if having a society of people who want to avoid offending their fellow citizen is a bad thing. Political Correctness, even if many don’t see it this way, is an attempt to neutralize harsh language and action toward marginalized groups, I’m not sure how that can be considered a bad thing unless of course you have a problem with empathetic behaviors.

Being more PC has certainly become a little more extreme, with the advent of social media (as previously discussed) using the wrong term can land one in a media firestorm and if you don’t know how to properly apologize properly for a failure to communicate with empathy you can easily be dismissed forever.

I think it’s clear that those who stand against a more politically correct world are in the wrong as it’s truly a more moral world they are standing against – a world where people have to hear epithets and cat calls walking down the street rather than our continual progression toward a world where that doesn’t happen and where those behaviors become overwhelmingly unacceptable social abnormalities. What many don’t know is that this memetic is how things change – societal morality slowly changes because society stops being OK with the way things are and polices those who continue operating with the same old and tired ways of thinking that have allowed people to be so marginalized for so long.

Offended?

I’m not the type of guy that cares a whole lot when certain groups are offended by something I say. When others are offended I agonize over it. You probably know which category you belong in by your reaction to most of my writing.

One day, the outcry from those who are just now getting the opportunity and wherewithal to stand up to microaggressions won’t be necessary – we won’t have to talk about who’s offended and by what, we’ll just live in a better society and it will be because people were willing to say “You know what, your viewpoint is shitty” and make a bigger deal of it than some might think is necessary.  If you happen to be the type of person that makes a lot of social faux pas, now is the time to brush up on your apology skills and your ability to be sincere because you will be called on it one day and hopefully you’ll use it as an opportunity to learn something about yourself and those whom you’ve transgressed against. I hope you will, and I hope we’ll all learn to extend a little grace to those that do screw this up.

 

The Pastors on Ashley Madison

If you’ve been living under a rock then you may not know that the popular infidelity site known as Ashley Madison was recently hacked by a group of moralist hackers with the intention of exposing those who were using the site to find people to have affairs with.   So far over 400 of the exposed have been Christian pastors on Ashley Madison – many with paid accounts (paid accounts allow a person to send messages to others).

This news comes as no surprise to any of us, Christian and unbeliever alike – we all expect hypocrisy from the Christian elite. Josh Duggar – stanchion of fundamentalist morality, vitriolic anti-lgbt hate, and former spokesman for the Family Research Council had multiple accounts, affairs, and participated in both prostitution and had a past littered with child molestation cover-ups is a shining example of what that hypocrisy looks like in one of it’s most dangerous and vile forms. This post isn’t about Josh Duggar though, it’s about better people.

We know that Christianity is full of hypocrites. Christians know it. I know it. This is reality.

 

How then should we respond?

 

I, obviously, am not in the position to prescribe to my atheist friends the best approach for this but I do think I have a Humanist approach and I think that’s how we should look at this whole thing. I know many of you are reveling in this revelation as if it’s some beautiful day, “we’ve finally exposed the Christians!”  But I don’t think that’s a fair assessment, I don’t think that Christianity needed any more exposure than it already had and I don’t revel in the fact that hundreds of men were deceptive to their wives and congregations. I can’t find joy in that, I can’t find joy in seeing people who want to be one thing fail at that thing and be altogether another. I think that’s what these pastors represent in large part is a desire to earn god’s favor and an utter inability to do so. They represent the futility of Christianity, and the pain of it’s failure.

This is not a good time for these men, many of whom have spit fire from their pulpits about what marriage is and isn’t. I’m saddened for the pain they and their families will endure because it isn’t so unlike the pain they’ve been in large part responsible for among the LGBT community for decades and it is grievous. They will be judged, hated, mocked, and invalidated – and that’s not good for anyone.

On August 24th, 2015, John Gibson, a 56-year-old pastor who taught at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was found dead by his own hand. He was exposed in the Ashley Madison hack and his suicide note contained a great deal of shame and remorse.

I don’t know if Gibson was a bigot, I don’t know if he was the sort of man to preach hate and condemnation or if he truly believed in grace and lived his life in a way that made that evident. I cannot know and I don’t care – but I do know that he was a human being with a life and a family and that he experienced the depths of depression to the point that he was willing to take his own life.  As one who has been there, as one who has held a gun in his mouth pleading for the end – I don’t think anyone deserves that. I’m therefore, saddened, deeply.

We cannot be happy that these men have been exposed. That mankind is likely to pursue sexual urges is no surprise, that pastors are humans is no surprise.

We cannot be happy that Josh Duggar has a trail of victims in his wake, including his poor brainwashed wife Anna and 3 of his sisters.

We cannot be happy that a man killed himself and left his family to pick up the pieces, either because he didn’t know how to handle the pressure of guilt and exposure or because he didn’t feel like he would receive love and grace from the church.

This is a time for Christianity to come to terms with the reality that it is not the shining white tower it so often portrays itself as; in the wake of the exposure of these pastors on Ashley Madison and of bigots like Kim Davis the church has an opportunity to self examine and to recognize that the perfection  is a guise for inadequate people who are failing to reach the standards they use their pulpits to preach about. This is an opportunity for the Church to show grace to those inside it’s walls, and maybe apply that lesson to those outside – where it has so often failed.

So, I’m asking for us not to revel in the pain of others – simply. Let’s be better than that.

 

 

 

On Abortion

hanger

I go into this subject with some trepidation and great fear – because I believe so strongly in women’s rights and their rights to make decisions about their own bodies I do support a woman’s right to access to abortion and I’ve even counseled close friends of mine to do so.  I do consider myself to be a feminist, after this I may be drug up to a cross and not have any hope of coming down but I have to address this now – I have to talk abortion right now, as a man.

 

Caution: reading beyond this point may be difficult for some readers, and young readers. Please use your own discretion before you click through.

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Fred Phelps: In Memoriam

Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr. (November 13, 1929 – March 19, 2014)

Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr. (November 13, 1929 – March 19, 2014)

On March 19, 2014 Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist Church – owners of domains like godhatesfags.com, godhatesamerica.com, and godkillssoldiers.com and infamous for their protests at over 54,000 funerals of soldiers, gay activists, and child victims of massacres – died.

Phelps has long represented to me and many others just how dangerous unbridled religious fervor, manifested in hateful words on neon signs directed at societies outcasts, could be. His words hurt, and they infected people deep down – especially those sitting directly under his thundering voice, evidenced by his legacy in the continuation of Westboro.

Fred Phelps proved to us that words hurt; especially when sung loud enough, long enough, and with enough conviction behind them.

Phelps also proved that, when confronted with long and loud and convinced words of hate – it must be met by an equal or greater force. Fred showed us how to love the disenfranchised in ways that he couldn’t by forcing us to examine ourselves through his eyes and the eyes of his god.

I think Fred Phelps and his church and his family, for the fact that they have shown us how ugly we can be and in turn drive our desire to be better, are an invaluable part of the last two decades – despite the pain they’ve caused, the words they’ve used, and the passion with which their angered hatred burns.

Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church haven’t been successful in spreading their message. They’ve been successful in ensuring that it’s the most hated message in the country – they’ve been able to bring people together from all walks of life to shout louder, longer, and with deeper conviction a better message in opposition to that of Westboro:  Love.

That’s the real legacy of Fred Phelps – he’s unified a great portion of the country against his message, and the results of that unity have been beautiful.

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I’m not sure that the LGBT community would have the support it does without Phelps and Westboro. That’s a legacy Phelps may not have been proud of, but it is his – and I’m thankful for his life because of it.

In closing, I’m not going to give you platitudes about how you should react to Phelps death. I will remind you that, as the old saying goes, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” and that perhaps during the Phelp’s families time of grief the rest of us ought to show the grace they haven’t.

The Burdens of Doubt

Many times when discussing the path of doubt with those that have yet to experience or embrace it they come to the conclusion that it is easy, simple, or even that it was an escape from having to live with and face a life of faith. The burdens of doubt, however, cannot and should not be minimized.

Fear

Fear is the most immediate result of doubt. Even mentioning the word “doubt” can send the believer into a panic gripping his or her rational mind and wreaking havoc on their emotions and mental stability. This is because the believer who approaches doubt does so with great risks assuming that all that they believe to be true is indeed true.

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Haitus

I’ve ran into some internet connection issues that will keep me from updating both Twitter and this post for the rest of the week if not a little longer, be back soon.

I can be reached at revoxley501 at gmail dot com

Christian Neglect of the Bible

In an October 2000 Gallup Poll it was determined that, out of those polled, only 37% read the Bible on a daily or weekly basis. In my own personal experience, less than half of the professing Christians I know have ever read the entire Bible from cover to cover and don’t ever intend on doing so.

These statistics are not new to me though. This information bugged me deeply when I was a Christian and even more-so now. In this post I intend to show you why.

Christians, by and large, believe that the Bible is “The Word of God”…or at least most of them will make that claim. In fact it is considered by most Christian denominations to be a cardinal doctrine of their faith, that the Bible is the infallible ‘Word of God’ and is without error. It absolutely amazes me that many people that identify as Christians who have not read the full text of the Bible or even spent a large amount of time in study of it often make this same claim. Why is that a problem? Shouldn’t this news make me, as an atheist, very happy?

It doesn’t make me happy at all for a number of reasons:

For one, it tells me that Christians are believing things without even knowing what those things are. One might believe that the Bible is 100% authoritative in all things, yet may not understand that this belief entails justifications of god’s prophets sending bears to slaughter children (2 Kings 2:23–24), mass racial genocides (Joshua 6:20–21, Deuteronomy 2:32–35, Deuteronomy 3:3–7, Numbers 31:7–18, 1 Samuel15:1–9), condoning of rape (Judges 21:1–23), and child sacrifice (Judges 11:30–39). I know that the majority of Christians have never heard of most of these stories from the Bible, yet they still hold to the idea that it is perfection and breathed from god’s lips — would knowledge of these stories and supposed “Truths” change their view of the Bible?  For some it would have to.

Keep reading:

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Zao-Awake?: Interviewed & Reviewed

RagingRev is not generally a music blog, but when a band that has influenced me as much as this one has gives me an opportunity to interview them it isn’t an opportunity I can easily pass up. The band in question is the one and only Zao. Originally hailing from Greenburg, PA; Zao was one of the first bands onto the Hardcore/Metalcore scene way back in 1993…many of the newer bands are listing Zao as influences in their music today, making Zao one of the most influential Metalcore bands still kicking it today. Far removed from their original lineup, the band currently consists of Dan Weyandt (brutal vocals), Scott Mellinger (Guitar shredder), Jeff Gretz (Drum destroyer), and Marty Lunn (Ace of Bass).

Zao has influenced me for many reasons, one of the more prevalent being that the band started off as a very hardcore Christian, evangelical band. They were often looked down upon in churches because of the way they sounded or looked, much like I was and eventually faded away from the church and the faith all together. Zao is no longer a Christian band and the change from one to the other is very visible in their music. Their ninth full length album entitled Awake? will be available in a limited release 8000 CD pressing and digital format through Ferret Records on 5/5/09.

I want to thank the guys, and especially Jeff (he helped me get the guys together for this) for making this possible, for giving me the opportunity to ask these questions and for their answers as well. Following the interview there will be a short review of the album and information on buying it.

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Two Important Birthdays!

birthdaymonkeyToday I turned 23. Was a good birthday too because Mellissa @ Blackbird Coffee(the best little coffee shop in the world) gave me free coffee all day, I ended up with 3 Quad shot skinny cappuccinos and a sugar rush from the cinnamon roll she bought me for lunch (lunch of champions). I was wired all day, still am. I also had about 20 people say Happy Birthday on facebook…makes me feel loved just a little.

Tommorow is another important persons (you guys do know I am important right?) birthday, one Charles Darwin would be 200 years old tommorow, and Origin of Species turns 150 this year. In honor of Darwin this year I intened to purchase a copy of Origin of Species and read through it entirely…sadly I am too ignorant of evolution to defend it  well enough…I understand the premise, and it certainly makes sense and even seems to me to be obvious…but I have a lot to learn.

 

Tommorow I am going to try for an extensive rebuttal to Guy’s response to my last couple of posts….before he loses his mind (…nevermind). I will also try to fix the issues i have had with the WordPress upgrade if time allows.