The offense inherent in staking a claim

If you like this sort of thing, I’m engaged in an interesting dialogue on this thread with donniedarko, an orthodox Roman Catholic.  One of the questions it is raising for me is, to what extent do I bear the responsibility for my words which offend others?

On the one hand, on this post the other day, I initially referred to Glenn Beck as a “misty-eyed, Mormon moron.”  I subsequently removed the word “Mormon” because upon rereading it, I thought it could read as an attack on the Church of Latter Day Saints, and I don’t want to do that.  The potential for causing accidental offense seemed like a valid enough reason to change my initial rant post.

On the other hand, one of the things that donniedarko is upset about is that I am invoking the name of Jesus to defend gay people.  donniedarko also takes grave exception to my use of the word “McEucharist” (in a not-specifically Catholic context, but the offense is felt no matter what, simply because of the sacredness of the Eucharist).  Now, I don’t want to needlessly cause donniedarko offense, but at the same time, I am not about to censor my blog according to the sensibilities of Roman Catholicism.

In the meantime, what’s a peacemaker like me to do?

On Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck has a pretty sweet gig.  It must be nice not to be beholden to the truth.

This was going to be a post refuting some of the latest utter nonsense spewed forth by Glenn Beck, but writing that felt kind of like being sprayed in the face with seawater for an hour, then constructing an argument about how one particular mouthful tastes bad.  There’s just so much of it coming at you, all at once, that ducking out of the way might be a better form of resistance than deploying the tools of accuracy and logic.

My stepfather likes to say, “Never wrestle with a pig.  You both get dirty, but the pig likes it.”  Indeed.  I’d look like an idiot trying to fact-check Glenn Beck.  (Or, for that matter, a three year old.  Or a Golden Retriever.)

I’m not saying the man himself isn’t intelligent.  I have no idea whether he’s a fool or a liar, and I’m not sure it really matters.  What matters is that he commands an audience of millions of viewers, and he is beholden only to their viewership.  He is not beholden to truth, reason, or fairness, but rather to the numbers.  And truth, reason, and fairness are only useful insofar as captivate the masses and deliver the numbers, and can be dispensed with if they don’t.

It is lamentable that Glenn Beck’s viewers go along with his ride.  He bears the moral guilt for his careless and shameful information manipulation.  But what about the rest of us?  For those of us who understand that good theology is liberating, and who care about social justice because that is the work of God, we owe it to ourselves and our neighbors not to allow Glenn Beck to twist our faith into a tool to advance his conspiracy theories.

Glenn Beck is free to deny that Jesus cares about social justice if he wants to.  (I don’t know what Bible he’s reading, but hey, this is America.)  But Jesus is undeniably a liberator.  God always calls us to greater justice and mercy.  And not even a misty-eyed moron spewing seawater can overpower the reality of God.

An offensive depiction of Jesus?

Interesting problem with one of the icons in a Catholic church in Oklahoma.  Their main crucifix is in the style of a San Damiano cross, which depicts Christ with a distended stomach.  In this instance, a bunch of people are seeing a huge erection instead.  Some have even left the church over it.

The poor artist, an orthodox Catholic, sounds really torn up about it, and will alter the icon.  According to a fellow artist, sounds like it’s a problem of contrast when the art is viewed from a ways back – something which would have been very difficult to see upon painting it up close.

Regardless: does it seem crazy to anyone else that many are more easily offended by the notion of Jesus having an erection than of Jesus’ death by crucifixion?

Warr Acres Crucifix

The Warr Acres Crucifix, in the San Damiano style

San Damiano Crucifix

A traditional San Damiano Crucifix

Just thinking out loud

Jesus created a church out of the most marginalized people in society, while opposing to the end the entrenched civic and religious structures that would eventually collude to kill him. We find Jesus today, as with yesterday, among the most marginalized people in our midst. And for those of us who find ourselves among the most powerful civic and religious structures should never assume that the just God of the powerless is smiling down in assent to whatever we do.

Where does Jesus show up today? Who’s with him? And what is he saying to me, in the face of all of my squandered privilege?

Speak, Holy One!! I am listening as best I am able, but I do not often hear your voice over the calamity of my life.

Our world is careening into chaos, there is brokenness and suffering wherever people abide, and the most compelling religious discourse throughout America is whether or not two dudes can get married?? What utter fools we are.

Speak, Holy One!! I cannot say if we are listening, but we need your living Word.

When did the church of the “least of these” get fancy projector screens and glorious organs and gorgeous pianos and professional bands and huge gymnasiums and spacious parking lots and unnatural waterfalls and ornate plates and solid silver chalices and individually packaged McEucharists and high pulpits and low taxes? But more importantly, did we give up anything in return?

Speak…!!

Thanks.

Just got an email letting me know that this blog has been featured at onlinechristiancolleges.net, in a compilation of the “top 55 pastor bloggers”. I appreciate the inclusion among some great company. Check it out as a good annotated resource of some of what else is out there.

Waiting on Rev. Warren…

I’m coming to this late, but my friend and fellow CTS seminarian Adam Yates took Rev. Rick Warren to task for his silence on the Ugandan parliament’s proposed legislation to make homosexuality a capital offense.  It’s a good read:

…So Rev. Warren, which will it be? Will you be either cold or hot and renounce your tepidity? A person cannot be a Christian and a coward; the conviction of our faith in Jesus Christ compels us to speak out and stand by our beliefs even when there are consequences for doing so. As Christians, we cannot stand by and keep silence while great evil is underfoot.

Rev. Warren, who has considerable influence with the backers of the “kill gay people” legislation, has finally felt compelled to break his silence, and to his credit, he unequivocally condemns the proposed legislation as “unchristian.”  Whaddya say, Adam, did Rev. Warren end up hot or cold?

Neither your God nor your non-God are universal.

As usual, I leave some of my best efforts in other blogger’s comment sections.  What follows is adapted from a response to this post, in which the writer criticizes “progressive Christians” for cherry-picking from Christianity only that which we agree with. Ultimately, I take issue with her/his underlying assumptions.


…I don’t know if you read Christopher Hitchens or not, but you and he both seem to be under the same weird notion that in order to be authentically Christian, one must accept everything in the chosen holy books verbatim, and if one doesn’t, her beliefs don’t count. I defy anybody to subject himself to a similarly foolish standard in any other scientific or philosophical field: take all of Plato verbatim, or take none of Plato. Take all of Nietzsche, or none of him. Take all of Sartre, etc. This approach to anything – knowledge, belief, science, etc. – is clearly absurd.

Where did we get this idea that there is no validity to any body of work unless it is all literally true? From Christians? Maybe some of us, sure. But when others of us reject this paradigm, please don’t act as if religion is supposed to operate differently from any other human activity when it comes to how we form our beliefs.

As a progressive Christian, I am a pluralist, which means that one of my foundational beliefs is that God is too big to be fully understood by any humans. Ergo, to quote one of my professors, constructing theology means “groping toward the infinite with the tools of finitude.” Rather than provide a single, unified view of God, I think the Bible’s various narratives and themes instead reflect ongoing traditioning and theological changes and different emphases over a thousand years or more, and such traditioning and changes in interpretation have been ongoing ever since.

I don’t mind anybody calling into question any aspect of faith that is found to be problematic. But I do object to atheists or Christian fundamentalists alike who try to mandate universal definitions to what it means to be Christian, or who God is, or Christ, and so forth, whether for the purpose of rejecting or affirming such dogma. Neither camp is capable of defining the terms and forcing everyone else to adhere to them. So, militant atheists and frothing Christians alike, kindly knock it off already.