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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.

 

Introducing Southern Discomfort

The past couple of months I’ve been working with my friend Jordy on a new Podcast project called Southern Discomfort and after quite a lot of work we have our first episode up.  This, of course, is a growing process – but I’m pretty damn proud of it and I think that if you like what I do here you’ll appreciate the podcast.  You can subscribe via RSS here.

 

So, check it out please!

 

Welcome to Episode 1 of the Southern Discomfort Show – in this show we introduce the show, ourselves and our religious and political backgrounds, plus we prove how nerdy we are. In addition to all that we get into a long talk about same sex relationships, how your grandpappy’s idea of “race mixing” was probably wrong and why Christians aren’t actually being persecuted here in the USA.

PLUS  we talk about Black Lives Matter and whether or not that means that police are all terrible people.

 

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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.

Georgia’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act and the Right to Discriminate

By now many of you have heard about Arizona S.B. 1062, which essentially grants any business or individual the right to deny services to any person based solely on their religious convictions (This bill was vetoed by AZ governor Jan Brewer just before publishing this article). In lock step with Arizona the poor marginalized Christians of the Georgia House and Senate have found it necessary to propose their own bill – Georgia H. B. 1023 – dubbed ” Georgia’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act” – aptly titled considering the long list of religious freedoms being threatened and/or taken away from people of faith currently. For reference I’ve compiled a comprehensive list below:

 

Oppressed Religious Freedoms

A comprehensive list of all the freedoms Christians and other people of faith are currently losing, lost, or at risk of losing.

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Much Ado About Ducks, the Church,…and Anuses?

Phil Robertson from A&E's Duck Dynasty

As usual I’ll be late to the party in my writing about Phil Robertson’s recent interview with GQ, in which he discussed homosexuality and race in not so PC terms, and his subsequent suspension from A&E show Duck Dynasty.

 

If you live under some sort of rock or don’t have any social network accounts whatsoever and you don’t know what Phil said I’ll give you a refresher:

 

Regarding Homosexuality:

 

It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

 

and

Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

And regarding African-Americans prior to Civil Rights:

 

I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

To me the offensiveness behind these comments is fairly obvious. I mean – Phil is making arguments that many of us in the South hear rather frequently from homoantagonists (a word I’m using for people that I don’t believe are fearful of homosexuals or homosexuality, but antagonize them just the same. Morgan Freeman once tweeted something to the effect of “You aren’t a homophobe, you are just an asshole” and I think homoantagonist is a word that covers that.) regarding the perceived slippery slope that is homosexuality. I have to wonder how many homosexuals Phil Robertson knows, and furthermore how many he knows that also have sex with dogs, cats, and sheep. A local Christian blogger has a take on this I really thought was insightful – over at Square Watermelons.
I don’t know that I even need to touch on his comments regarding “blacks”…to me its even worse and its pretty embarrassing as a Southerner.
Robertson’s defenders were quick to rush to Facebook and other social media outlets to praise him as “Standing up for the Bible and Christianity”  or to claim that he was being persecuted because he was expressing his freedom of speech. Now, I’m no expert on Constitutional Law…but the last time I checked – while the Constitution does indeed guarantee the right to free speech it does NOT guarantee the right to a multi-year reality TV contract. I think we call what A&E did to Phil Robertson “business”, not persecution.

I still haven’t fully figured out why the persecution complex amongst Christians is so serious, especially this day and age – and especially over the right to say things that can be absolutely devastating to people – and this is where I get into the meat of this post.

 

Grasp, for a moment, what people are defending here:

 

A straight white male is claiming that homosexuality is illogical because vaginas look better to him and then he is claiming that homosexuality inevitably leads to bestiality because…just…because.  Oh, then he tops it off by telling homosexuals plus a bunch of other sinners they won’t make it to heaven because of something Paul said.

Dear Church,

Put yourself in the position, Dear Church, as I’ve asked you to do before – of the LGBT community – especially here in the South – and as I appeal to you I’m going to put on my Christian hat do to so:

 

LGBT people are often alone in their communities with few people who understand their daily struggles and who care deeply about what they go through or have been through since they recognized that they were “different” than everyone else. They’ve asked god to take this away from them, to purge from them what they don’t know how to control.   Imagine sitting in the church Youth Group as a young pastor talks about how the inclinations you feel toward the same sex are disgusting and immoral and vile leading  you to believe that you are evil and hell-bound…and nothing you do, nothing you say, no prayer you recite can change the way you feel. This doesn’t just go on for a week or a day – this goes on for a lifetime for many.  Try to stand in that place. Try to be that broken, hurting person. Empathize.

Then answer these questions:

 

Do the words of Phil Robertson and your defense of them exhibit love to that person?

 

Do the words of Phil Robertson and your defense of them exhibit grace to that person?

 

or

 

Do the words of Phil Robertson and your defense of them further alienate that person?

 

Do the words of Phil Robertson and your defense of them feel like hate to that person?

 

 

Answering these questions should lead you to a fairly simple conclusion, a revelation maybe:

That the common Christian response to this whole thing hasn’t been at all what it should, and that rather than crying “Persecution!” every time people disagree with your opinion on something that doesn’t concern you in the least you should attempt to understand why it is that people don’t agree with your opinion. Maybe, just maybe – these words cut deeply. Maybe what you believe about homosexuality doesn’t matter and exposing the world to your  malformed and hurtful opinion is doing more harm than good.

 

Most importantly, what you should be recognizing is that what the Phil camp is so upset about is the wrong thing entirely – they should be upset that this stanchion of Christianity led such a terrible example of how to be a loving person in word and deed. The critique from the Church should be directed at Phil, not A&E and not the LGBT community – they should be examining their own as they are instructed to do in the Bible – they should be telling Phil that  when he speaks in disgust he can’t possibly speak in love too because you can’t love someone who’s life and deeds you are examining closely enough to be disgusted by.

 

Phil Robertson’s mistake isn’t having his convictions, it’s thinking that they are more important than loving people exactly where they are.

 

Taking up the cross on the “gay issue” is almost like the Church’s soup du jour for believers that don’t want to live it the rest of the time. They’ll flail their arms around anytime a deeply offensive opinion gets someone in trouble like the rest of us are supposed to believe like they love Jesus every other day of the week.  I think most of us know better by now. You can stop pretending to love Jesus when homosexuality comes up, when the atheists are taking Christ out of Christmas (where you never put him in the first place), and when “Freedom of Speech” is threatened because Jesus – from the Gospels I’ve read, had bigger fish to fry – and he wasn’t into religions of convenience…assuming he did exist of course.

 

In the end of all this I just want my Christian friends to not say hateful things that hurt my gay friends. I hate seeing them hurt. I feel like they’ve hurt enough and it drives me insane that somehow it’s still OK to stomp all over their emotions because of the perception that someone tried to silence an unpopular opinion. If your words are potentially harmful to someone – stop talking. Censor yourself because you want to be a beacon of love, then no one will need to do it for you when you ruin their platform.

 

 

 

Gay Marriage: A Cause for All!

GayMarriageflagThe Iowa Supreme Court recently struck down a ban on same sex or gay marriage. I personally could not be happier for the homosexual constituents of Iowa and am glad to see that many are now getting married to their loved ones. Some, however, cannot leave well enough alone… There were already people lined up ready to protest this decision just hours after it was made. Some Christians are currently in outrage, and I really want to know why…What will it harm the “family” to expand it’s definition to same sex couples? Will it in any way affect the way you guide and lead your own family?

I may have been really liberal as a Christian (I wasn’t on any other issue), but this is one of those issues I just couldn’t

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