We’re LDS and We’re Normal

Has anyone else seen the LDS ads running on television?  Well, actually I haven’t seen them but I’ve heard them (while I was doing something else).  I’m going to have to pay attention next time.

Two ads ran back-to-back during the 10:00 p.m. local news.  Each one featured a man who talked about his values (work, family, church, etc.) and ended with “My name is ____ and I’m a Mormon.”

My guess is that these are somehow sponsored by Mitt Romney or one of his PACs.  There’s so much blather among fundamentalist Christians about how members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS, aka Mormons) are not “true” Christians because their beliefs differ in some ways from mainstream (mainline?) Protestant Evangelical dogma.  And that doesn’t even get into the whole Book of Mormon thing.

Let’s all pay attention, people.

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Would You Harbor Me? Would I Harbor You?

One of my favorite cuts from Sweet Honey in the Rock:

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Chick-Fil-A and the Gay Protest

Did you get one of those emails about how the fast-food chain Chick-Fil-A is being hounded by a whole bunch of rainbow-touting liberals because Chick-Fil-A catered a meal for some homophobic rednecks?

No?

As with all stuff like this, it will get to you eventually.

I don’t hold much with this on either issue.  If the owners of Chick-Fil-A are fundamentalist Christians who get queasy at the thought of same-sex marriage, that’s fine.  I don’t have to eat there if I’m really upset about it (which I’m not).

Now, if the owners of Chick-Fil-A are actively protesting against the rights of homosexuals to marry, adopt, etc., then I’m joining the protest.

Here’s the thing:  You can believe what you want.  You just can’t act the way you want, especially every time you encounter a civil law that is at odds with your religious tenets.

Grow up, people!  And that means everyone, not just the people you disagree with at the moment!

(And please stop sending me these stupid emails.  I don’t forward them on; I delete them.)

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Jesus is Watching You

A burglar is in a house and prowling around for loot.  He finds a few things and puts them into his bag.  Then he hears, “Jesus is watching you.”

He is startled, of course.  He looks around but sees no one.  He waits a few moments.  No one comes and no one speaks again, so he shrugs and goes about his business.

Then he hears the voice again:  “Jesus is near.”

The burglar looks around and this time he sees a parrot in a cage.  He says, “Hey, was that you?”

The parrot says, “Yes. My name is Moses.”

“Who in the world would name a parrot Moses?” he asks.

To which the parrot replies, “The same people who name their rottweiler Jesus.”

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It’s not over

Some people are cheering the demise of Osama bin Laden.  I understand that.  I understand that it’s a release of tension that’s been held for nearly 10 years.  I understand that it’s pride in our armed forces.  I understand that some people see it as payback, justice, etc.

Inasmuch as I’m happy that this chapter of the story has ended, I’m sorry that it had to be done at all. From all accounts, bin Laden was an intelligent person with leadership skills who decided the best use of his talents was to blow up people and things. I can’t celebrate that a person decided to choose such a destructive path and that he/she had to be killed in order to be stopped.

I’m sorry that there are people who are so afraid of that-which-is-different that they feel the need to condemn and even to carry out their summary judgment. Not everyone went as far as bin Laden, but just think of all of the people whose narrow viewpoints contributed to the nurturing of such a monster:  the religious leaders, the people who supported the religious leaders, the communities that applauded the actions of these groups. Osama bin Laden didn’t wake up one morning and decide to commit terrible acts; he was well-schooled in his ideology, then led a group of people on the same path.

In this country we have people who are celebrated for burning a copy of the Qu’ran, who preach that homosexuals are evil, and who protest at the funerals of fallen soldiers because they believe the death of these men and women is God’s judgment on us. These Christian fundamentalists are present and accounted for when it comes to condemning that-which-is-different but when the ideology produces a nut-case who believes it’s right to torture his/her children in the name of God’s plan, or a cold-blooded murderer who takes down a doctor in the midst of a church service, the Christian fundamentalists insist they had nothing to do with it.

Yes, we still have terrorism in this world. We will have it as long as people believe that rigid fundamentalism isn’t dangerous to society.

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Who Owns Jesus?

The “God-Talkers” would like to convince us that they are the only ones who can show us the “straight and narrow path” into heaven.

If your bullshit0meter [accent on the middle syllable] isn’t in the red zone when they get on this subject, well, allow me to help attune your sensibilities on this subject:  most Christian religions can’t agree on who is “saved,” let alone the niggling details of why one Christian (usually themselves) is better than another (usually anyone else).

Christians like to argue about whether Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter-Day Saints, and Catholics are “truly” Christian.  Talk to some and they’ll tell you that the JWs don’t make the cut because they don’t believe that Jesus was an incarnation of Jehovah/God (which also cuts out all that doctrine of a triune God).  Talk to others and they’ll tell you that LDS folks aren’t Christian because they “added to the Bible” by saying that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus.  Talk to nearly anyone who isn’t Catholic and they’ll tell you Catholics won’t make it because “they worship Mary” or “they worship saints” which is to the minds of some Protestants a form of idol worship.

Do you see the problem here?  All of these Christians believe there is a Creator/God and they believe there lived a man (whether or not God incarnate) named Jesus whose death was the means by which all people are forgiven and therefore “saved.”  (Skip the credibility of the doctrinal belief in general for a moment; we’ll address that another time.)  It should be so simple, shouldn’t it?  There is a God who created everything; there was another guy who atoned for all people for all time.  End of story.  They all agree on these essential points.

And yet they are still arguing and bad-mouthing each other.  I even found a web site in which an evangelical Christian claims that JWs are satanic (no, I won’t post the link; all you need to do is a web search and I’m sure you’ll find zillions more).

If evangelical Christians really and truly believed their basic doctrine — that core on which they all agree for the most part — they wouldn’t care how you believed or where you went to church.  If they really and truly believed that Jesus’ sacrifice was the atonement for all, then they wouldn’t keep trying to scare you into joining their congregation lest you somehow don’t get your invitation to heaven.

The fear mongering “true believers” want you to believe that only in their church will you find the one and only, the one true path to heaven.  They want you to believe that the love of God is capricious, that God will dump you as soon as you utter a swear word or read a secular poem.  They want you to believe that the atonement of Jesus is for members only instead of for everyone, that in order to qualify for this great gift of forgiveness you have to follow the rules of their church to the exclusion of all others.

You see, if these fear mongering believers concede that the love of God and the forgiveness of sins is truly available to everyone, then no one will be able to claim exclusive ownership of the “one road” they tout as the only way to heaven, spiritual enlightenment, peace of mind, etc.  They have put a sort of toll booth on their road, you see, and they were counting on you believing you needed to take their road and therefore pay your tithe (toll) to their church.

Nobody owns Jesus.  Nobody owns the love of God.  It’s present even if you don’t believe you deserve it.  It’s available to everyone.

Matthew 11:28 (NIV, c. 2007)

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Notice that it doesn’t say, “Come to me …. but only if you’re heterosexual, your wife is submissive, your job isn’t something we’re ashamed to discuss, and your tithe is up to date.”

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A Christian and an agnostic walk into a bar . . .

The atheist ducks.

Here’s another one:

A Christian, an agnostic, and an atheist visit the Grand Canyon for the first time.
The Christian says, “Jesus Christ!”
The agnostic says, “Oh my gawd!”
The atheist says, “I don’t see anyone. Magnificent view, though.”

While we’re at it:

A priest, a rabbi, an atheist, and a giraffe go into a bar.
The bartender says, “What is this, a joke?”

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A voice crying out in the wilderness

Isaiah 40:1-5 (Douay-Rheims Bible)

Be comforted, be comforted, my people, saith your God. Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her: for her evil is come to an end, her iniquity is forgiven: she hath received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins. The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see, that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken.

The above-referenced verses are cited in each of the Gospel accounts of John the Baptist (see Matt 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; and John 1:23) .  Supposedly JtB quoted a portion of this passage when people asked who he was and it certainly ties up neatly the story line of Jesus being the long-hoped-for Messiah who was supposed to put all things right.

I don’t claim to be a prophet, a Biblical scholar, an expert in textual criticism, or even a pastor.  I’m a progressive Christian who is burned out by all of the nastiness — overt and passive — that is committed in the name of “saving” people.  I don’t use my Bible as a legal reference; I use it as a source of inspiration and meditation.

So, here’s a fresh look at this passage in Isaiah:  Be comforted.  You are forgiven.  You are loved.  And so is everyone else.

To my mind, the core message of Christianity is that we are no longer slaves to the traditional (fundamentalist) beliefs and values.  We don’t have to fear God.  We don’t have to make sure we’re pleasing God every second of every day.  We don’t have to be fearful of people who believe differently from us.  We don’t need to erect barriers to protect ourselves from external influences.  We are able to live and believe and worship in a way that allows us to relax.

Fundamentalism is, at its core, fear-mongering.  Fundamentalism is the belief that we must return to the basics (the fundamentals) of our traditions and beliefs because God is angry with us for progressing and adapting.  Fundamentalism is the belief that completely natural events such as hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc., are evidence of God’s wrath for our sins.

Thus, fundamentalism negates the very words they attribute to God:  Be comforted.  You are forgiven.  You are loved.  And so is everyone else.

If we can acknowledge that the love of God is big enough and strong enough to love and forgive everyone (i.e., not just ourselves and the people we like, but everyone), then we no longer need to go about preaching fear of God.  We no longer need to scare people into joining one religion or another.  We no longer need to spew condemnation.  We are free to come together to build up our communities in the name of a God of love instead of building fences that keep out people-not-like-us in the name of a God of wrath.

Yeah, I feel like a tiny voice in the wilderness, crying out for sanity.  But when tiny voices join together they can be heard.  Let’s not let the fundamentalist blather get any louder.

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