April 3rd, 2013 · No Comments · Category:
“Y did u delete me?” you ask, former classmate? The short answer is, of course, that you told me to. Something to the gist of, “Unfriend me if you want, I think gay marriage is wrong!” Since I wasn’t in the mood to write what amounts to this at the time, I left a simple, “Fair enough” and clicked the unfriend button. It’s not that I don’t get where you’re coming from, after all we were classmates for what? 12 years? 13? I come from the same place as you did… the 2 minute hate in Bible class where we learned about the gay agenda? Remember? Good times. Funny story though, it turns out that “The Gay Agenda” is simply them wanting the same rights that you or I enjoy. Also, that, “Law of Abiogenesis” thing we learned about in science class that proves evolution couldn’t possibly be true? Doesn’t actually exist. Oh, and the tooth fairy is a lie. Harsh truths, I know.
Now, you may ask yourself, “Self, why does he care?” or more probably, “Self, y duz he caer?” It could happen, so to cover that eventuality, I will tell you. It is because, and this may come as a shock to you, in spite of my upbringing in church and Christian school, I am a Christian. And as someone who seeks to emulate Christ, I cannot simply sit back while people, human beings beloved by God, are being systematically (as in, by the system) marginalized and persecuted. Maybe it’s because I never really had a place in school. Never really fitting in to any of the many cliques we had gave me a small inkling of what it’s like to be ostracized and ignored, to be on the outside looking in. (I used to pretend I was an anthropologist to try and stay sane in the halls during high school. I was just an observer, look at all these interesting people. They don’t know I’m here… It helped me not feel the loneliness. As much.) Thankfully, I went on to college where I got to choose the people I was hanging out with, met some awesome friends who introduced me to a wonderful woman that I eventually married, and now I don’t feel so lonely. I found the place I belong.
Marriage is awesome. Sure, we’ve watered down it’s meaning with quickie weddings and reality TV shows where you can win thousands of dollars and a husband, but it’s still great no matter what we do to it. It’s the ultimate expression of belonging, two becoming one. My wife is totally my other, I would say better, half. To hold that joy over the heads of people you don’t approve of and say, “You can’t have this, you’re not worthy of this, you’d only get it dirty” is about the stupidest, most unchristian thing to say, provided that, by Christian, you meant actual Christ-like people and not American Christians. Jesus came to save the lost and the broken, the marginalized and the powerless. He went to tax collectors (despised by the religious of his day), the drunks, and the prostitutes. His message was simple, good news: God is on your side. God loves you, God seeks you out like a shepherd looking for a lost lamb. God, in fact, cares more about you than he cares about those other sheep who never strayed far from the fold (us!) Those who are well, he said, do not need a doctor. Jesus died harder for them than he did for us.
And that’s one of many reasons why I can’t oppose gay marriage: we, and by ‘we’ I mean American Christians, have used our political power to marginalize, ostracize, and demonize gays to the point where it would take an act of God to reach any of them with the good news if any of the ACs would even want to do so. Another reason is that allowing gays to marry is the right thing to freaking do! It is justice, and I serve a God of justice and truth. Even if homosexuality is a sin against the American Christian God, why should that matter when it comes to our judicial system? We’re not a theocracy, there are people here from every tribe and tongue and every religious background. I don’t want there to be Sharia law, (or, as the Muslims call it, “law”) any more than I want Catholic law, or Reformed law, or non-denominational mega-church law. There is the law, we are (or should be) equal before it.
I can count on zero hands the number of ways that gays being allowed to marry will affect me, but I’ll be damned if I don’t at least speak up when their rights are being casually denied by people like you. The rocks would cry out. Terry Pratchett defines evil as treating things like they’re more important than people. This rings true with Jesus’ teaching that, “The love of money (things) is the root of all kinds of evil.” Right now you are fighting to protect a thing, the definition of marriage, which is only even a thing by the loosest definitions, against the rights and wellness of human beings you find, “Icky.” That is wrong. It is wrong and God hates it. He hates that it’s being done in His name. Everything I have read in his word tells me so, and even if homosexuality is a sin, it is a sin between God and the homosexual, and has jack all to do with us. The persecution of homosexuals by Christians tells me that those so-called Christians do not understand God. Even if they’re right and homosexuality is a sin, it proves that they don’t trust God enough to handle it. They’re like Jonah sitting in the shade worrying that God might show mercy to the people of Nineveh. At what point does loving your neighbor, or hell just loving your enemy, take the form of ostracizing people and opposing their rights?
Furthermore, when Jesus ascended to Heaven he gave us authority such that wherever two or more of us gathered in his name, God is there and what laws we bind ourselves to, God will hold us accountable for, and the laws we loose ourselves from, He will not. We do it all the time. What we eat was a big deal to the Jews of Jesus’ day, yet we regularly eat things forbidden by God’s law: Bacon, Shellfish, etc. We’ve loosed ourselves from the dietary parts of the law. God’s okay with that. Some Christians have loosed themselves from the law against homosexuality. God’s okay with that too. Basically, by binding yourself to a law, and especially trying to bind other people to it, the only thing you are doing is making it so you will be judged by God should you fail to live up to it. (Do not judge, for in the manner in which you judge others, you yourselves will be judged.) We see that all the time too, where anti-gay pastors are forced, with tearful admission, to having had one of those “Inappropriate relationships” with a person of the same sex, and the world justly judges them for it. I spent most of my time in school looking down on people for not living up to my impossible standards and hating myself for not living up to them either. Then I discovered God’s grace, which is sufficient for me and everyone else, and now I can just let people be people and work on trying to love them, because they’re awesome. God made them that way.
So yeah, that is why I unfriended you on Facebook, though what you did to my good friend, the English Language, is why you will likely remain so.
December 8th, 2011 · No Comments · Category:
Alright, jeez! I’m coming, you don’t have to tell me twice. And what’s with my name? Jeannette Isabella? What, is this the lesser known nativity that took place in 19th century France? Is this Steampunk Jesus? Cause when I think of the big book of Jewish names from the 1st Century, Jeannette Isabella is-a right there at the top of the list, alongside such strongly Jewish names as ‘Brigitte’ and ‘Evelyn.’ And do you think it’s safe to bring a torch into a stable filled with straw, dust, and all this other flammable stuff? Wouldn’t it be better if I brought a lantern? Or are you using torch the European way to mean “Flashlight”. Wouldn’t be any more anachronistic than the rest of it.
Alright, just got back from telling all the villagers like you asked… and now you’re yelling at them to be quiet? You’re not exactly making for a ‘Silent Night’ yourself, mother! I mean, you had me wake them up in the middle of the night, come all the way out here, and they even brought cake! We want to party! Fine, fine. I’ll shut up. Yes, the baby is adorable, we’ll all be quiet. You do realize your running commentary on how asleep he is and how rosy his cheeks are is technically making noise yoursel… fine.
It wouldn’t kill you to say thank you for bringing a torch and running into town in the middle of the night, and in the middle of winter, just to rouse the villagers and rush them all over here so we can all hush together. Well, maybe it would kill you, the way you avoid saying ‘Please’ and “Thank You’. Gratitude, I tell you. Probably going to get coal for Christmas again. I do everything you ask, but that’s not enough. I have to be HAPPY about slaving away at my chores. Well, screw this. I’m going to eat some cake and go to bed. ”Thank you for the cake, kind sir.” See, was that so hard?! Steampunk Jesus is asleep, guess I’ll follow his example. Anything else I can get you while I’m up? More torches? Coffee? Tea? Various liqueurs that we all pretend we don’t have? Yes mother! I’m going to bed! Good night!
July 22nd, 2011 · No Comments · Category:
So, I’ve kind of turned this into a religion blog, to go along with America Is Purple, my politics blog, but I think I’d like to turn this back into what it was originally envisioned to be, just a collection of my thoughts on any subject that pops to mind. Here goes.
I’m not much of a comic-book reader. I’ve read Watchmen (right before the movie came out) and I remember reading, and being very confused by an X-Men comic that was on the news stand when I worked at the grocery store on a particularly slow night when I was in high-school. Which would have been about 12 years ago. That makes me feel old. At any rate, while I don’t read comic books themselves, I do like to be at least conversant in all manner of geekery, so I tend to keep up with at least the basics of comic lore and current plot points. Batman died, but he wasn’t really dead and has come back and started franchising, Wonder Woman got a new costume that everyone hates, Peter Parker sold his marriage to Satan so his octogenarian aunt could live, that sort of thing. And I’ve been watching Linkara’s reviews, so I’m filling in a bit of background on the really horrible comics. Probably not a great introduction for someone who doesn’t really follow comics as much as other areas of geekery, but at least I get the references now. (Bees. My God.)
My main geek obsession, the thing I get geeked about the most, is story. And comic book are stories. Stories can be good or bad, well-told or schlocky. (Odd use of word since Schlock Mercenary is one of the better-told stories I’ve been reading lately. Go figure.) What interests me about comic book stories is that they are serial: ongoing, interconnected stories that go on for years. That very history causes insane amounts of headaches for new readers (like me when I tried to read that X-men comic. The only character I recognized was Shadow Cat and I had no idea what was going on). But that very density is what gives comic book characters so much depth. Characters evolve over time, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse, and sometimes so much so it amounts to Character Assassination on the part of the writers. Much to the constant annoyance of comic book geeks, the same character in different (the wrong) hands, can behave completely differently because some writers understand the importance of characters and their characteristics more than others.
Nowhere is that clearer than in the near constant attempts at reinventing of Superman, the latest coming after this much-talked about reboot of the entire DC line-up where Superman spent his formative year under government lock-and-key, erasing his marriage to Lois Lane and making him angsty. Apparently since Batman is popular (and angsty), everyone needs to be angsty, even the boyscout that is Superman. I’m sorry, angst has its place and Superman is not that place. Maybe the writers will do something with this reboot and turn it into something interesting and worthwhile, I’l be over here not holding my breath.
But really, it’s not just with Superman. Everything is angsty these days. I loved the first Ironman movie because it had *gasp* HUMOR in it. The Dark Knight is technically a better movie than Ironman or Thor, but I like Thor and Ironman more because the characters were not gloom-holes. It might be a Marvel vs DC thing, at least in the movies released recently (Marvel has had its share of angsty stupidity, see One More Day. Actually don’t.), but Marvel seems to have a better grasp on heroism. Again, just looking at the recent Avengers lead-up movies you have an alcoholic A-hole donning a suit of armor to fight… okay so the enemies he’s fighting aren’t that memorable, but he’s got some real handicaps and he works to overcome them. Thor is a god, and despite being stripped of those powers still manages to kick ass in a way that is believable and not annoying. (Well, as believable as anything Kenneth Branagh has been associated with.) I’m looking forward to seeing Captain America this weekend because I want to see a hero. And really, that’s what all of these angsty, depressing super hero movies are lacking. They have the super, but not the hero. (I’m looking at you, angsty Spiderman.)
Judging by the previews, Captain America is a hero first. And isn’t that what comics are all about? The scrawny nerd gets super powers that match their already strong inner character and they use their new found strength to defeat bullies and bad-guys? They gain the power to be awesome? Please, Hollywood and comic publishers let our super-heroes be awesome! Not just able to do awesome things, we want their characters to be awesome. Put them through hell, that’s fine, but stop making them whine about it. The opening line from the first Tobey Maguire Spiderman still makes me cringe. ”You think this is fun, having super powers and swinging around the city? This is a curse! Listen to me whine about it.” I loved the old Spiderman cartoon because Peter Parker was a socially awkward genius who got superpowers and his alter-ego let him release his inner snarky bastard. I loved watching him swing around town quipping. I liked the Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman, not the whiny, douchebag Spiderman.
Really, Batman is the only character who has any right to angst, he practically is the death of his parents, yet Batman doesn’t whine about it. (Outside of the “My parents are dead!” parodies.) He’s determined to not have it happen to anyone else and has gone on a completely insane quixotic quest to rid Gotham of crime, but he doesn’t whine about it! And he doesn’t even have superpowers! (Although gadgets do count to some degree.) Yes it might get tedious and boring if the good guys always win, Superman is hard to write because he’s too powerful, stories get boring without conflict, I know. The point of a story is that a character wants something and overcomes adversity to achieve it. Overcomes Adversity. Too many of our purported heroes these days do nothing but whine about the adversity. Which is why the Superman reboot might possibly work. They’ve given him Adversity to overcome. But more likely it will completely suck when they bog the character down in angsting about the adversity the way so many other characters do lately. It’s why I have high hopes for the Captain America movie, we see him fight back BEFORE he gains super-human strength. Superheroes need to get back to being heroes first, having that strength of character that rises above adversity, before we talk about abilities. That strength of character is why, despite the re-writes and reboots, false starts and character assassinations, the best heroes are still with us and we’re still making movies and comics about them.
October 5th, 2009 · No Comments · Category: Love
For thousands of years, there was an argument amongst the followers of the Jewish faith. The Torah proscribes over 600 commandments that need to be followed and some of these commands conflict with each other. So people argued over which of the commandments should take precedence. In all the time spent discussing this problem, they only managed to come to agreement on the first commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. The second was not so easy, as the majority, the Pharisees, believed the second should be “Be holy as God is holy.” When Jesus enters the scene, he affirms the greatest commandment but sides with the minority on the second: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” However, being Jesus, he does not leave it there. He takes it a step beyond and declares, “On these two hang all the laws and the prophets.”
So Jesus is saying that all the laws in the Torah can be broken down eventually to these two simple commands. Everything the Prophets were talking about also comes down to this. So the Bible is really a book about Love. Loving God, Loving each other, Loving ourselves. And while that is cool and all, what exactly does it mean? It’s so simple, Love God and Love each other, and yet that simplicity belies a wonderful complexity. By unpacking these two commands, we will eventually reach all the law and the prophets. By living according to these commands, we will fulfill the law. If presented with a moral quandary, the correct answer is whichever one is more loving.
So Love is all you need. Unfortunately, our culture does not readily understand the concept of Love. Love is a feeling, something you fall into. Love is a strong like, something that can as easily refer to a pair of shoes as to a person. Love is a marketing ploy, something full of pink hearts and red balloons, cards and chocolates. Love is an excuse, something to justify leaving a wife and children to run off with someone else. Love is sex, something to make you feel good. Love is temporary insanity, something that afflicts you and then fades away leaving you stuck and miserable. Love is a cliche, something that moves plots along in our literature and movies regardless of its believability: Character A falls in love with Character B because that’s just how stories work. Love is volatile, something that starts off well and then fades away or explodes violently. Love is desire, something that wants this and if it can’t have it nobody will.
So what is love? When we are instructed to love God, do we desire to possess Him? Is it a romantic call? When we are instructed to love each other, is that a call to promiscuity? Obviously not. Scripture must be calling for some other form of Love. The apostle Paul speaks about a love that is patient and kind. A love that is forgiving and welcoming and inviting and trusting and pure. A love that lasts, a love that does not fail. How different this is from the love we think about in our culture. In fact, anyone pushing this kind of love today would be called whipped, a pussy, a wimp.
There is such a difference between the biblical version of love and what we think of when we talk about love in our culture that the two could be called opposites. I have taken to calling the love our culture encourages “Inlove.”
Love is patient. Inlove can’t wait.
Love is kind. Inlove can be completely cruel.
Love does not envy, Inlove is characterized by it. Can you think of a single romantic comedy that didn’t use “Trying to make the other person jealous” as a plot point?
Love does not boast, inlove yells it from the rooftops and brags about it in the locker room.
Love is not proud, inlove flaunts itself. Inlove bagged a hot one, but would dump them in a second for someone further up the social ladder.
Love is not self-seeking, inlove is trying to get everything it can out of this relationship.
Love is not easily angered, inlove explodes at the least provocation.
Love forgives, inlove keeps a record to take out and beat the other person with when they eventually screw up.
Love is truthful and honest, inlove keeps spinning the web of lies bigger and bigger in a vain attempt to save face.
Love trusts, inlove takes any negative rumor as truth.
Love perseveres, inlove calls it quits at the first sign of trouble.
So what we are talking about here is different kind of love, a kind of love that is counter to our culture’s selfish way of life. The implications are immense and brings up all sorts of questions. What does it mean to love God? What does it mean to Love another as you love yourself? What does that say about loving yourself? If being holy is not in Jesus’ top two, where does it fit in? How does all the murder, adultery, hatred, and general unpleasantness in the Bible relate to Love? How about all those laws? How do we behave in our current culture in a way that shows God’s love? What does the God kind of Love have to do with romantic love or friendship? What about hate?
Loving God and Loving each other encapsulates the law and the prophets in one easy to swallow sound-bite but it seems to also encompass ever more questions. If you start to ponder the meanings and the implications, it will work its way into the entirety of your life. It complicates things. Pouring a glass of water may suddenly take on a moral component. You might suddenly find yourself wishing well a person you previously detested. You might be forced to rethink your political views or join people you previously disagreed with. If you start down the path, if you start pulling on the threads, you will find the pursuit of Love, God’s kind of Love, a life-changing journey.
June 26th, 2009 · No Comments · Category:
I get it, he was a popular entertainer. But does his death really warrant 2 days straight of 24 hour wall-to-wall coverage?