Monday, June 30, 2014

And don't call me a Christian.....


I'm really opening up a can o' worms here.  After all, I was raised in "the church", spent all my youth singing around campfires during the summer, and attending Bible studies.  I sang in church choirs for decades, and still do.  My family and I are involved in a good church right now, and have found great pleasure in the fact that all three of our kids like being involved in the youth group and their activities.  But to paraphrase a line from "Airplane", don't call me a Christian.

Now, I have to be careful here, because I am about to say something about those Christians who I see as being self-righteous almost to the point of arrogance, and yet, my diatribe here might seem equally self-righteous.  

But when I saw some of my Christian friends on Facebook this morning gleefully announcing how much they were pleased at the Supreme Court's "correct" decision on the Hobby Lobby verdict, and that it was a momentous decision for "freedom of religion", I just about barfed.  Add to that the USA Today article which had a running Twitter feed, most of which was "yay for #SCOTUS!" or "freedom of religion has triumphed" or some insipid statements similar to that.  And all I could do was be angry.  And here's where my self-righteousness comes in, so please forgive me in advance.

First of all, do any of these people actually read and understand the 1st Amendment to the Constitution?  Let me 'splain, no, lemme sum up.  

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"
That's the first line of the amendment.  It is not freedom OF religion: it is freedom FROM religion.  These people must have slept through their history classes, or really decided only to pay attention to the 2nd amendment and the right to bear arms.  I can hear it now "I'm sorry, Mr. Tanner.  I skipped the 1st amendment and went right on to the 2nd, since I am a hunter who thinks teenage boys should have AR-15's to hunt".  Sorry, I digressed there.  But the 1st amendment was written with the recent history of the colonial United States in mind.  Many of the original colonists left England during the English Civil War, when a specific religion was being forced upon them.  The Puritans were the ones who settled what is now Massachusetts.  Eventually the Quakers settled Pennsylvania, the Dutch Reformed settled what is now Manhattan and New York, and the Presbyterians settled New Jersey.  At that time, each colony was separate and even had it's own sovereignty, so the freedom to worship as the culture of that colony chose was important.  The Colonies, and what became the first United States, determined to avoid a hint of being a theocracy controlled by a specific church (the Church of England, or what we now call Anglican or Episcopal, was the official church of England then, and the Monarch was the head of the Church).  They chose to avoid that with this 1st amendment.  That allowed for a tolerance that we have today: The Mormon church, Buddhist temples, even churches that seem to have odd "theology" like Christian Scientist or Scientology, would not be able to flourish without the protection of an established religion.  What is disturbing is these Christians who interpret today's decision as a "victory" for Freedom of Religion.  Again, the decision has NOTHING to do with religious freedom.  But they choose to make the ruling about just that.  

The second thing that upsets me and makes me hesitant to call myself Christian is all those who are seeking more and more to make certain social advances "illegal" through legislation.  As more and more states are granting the civil rights for same-sex couples to marry, many of these Christians are vehemently opposed to that based on their so-called Biblical beliefs.  But the very vocal minority is doing all they can to denounce the states that allow this, or even criticize other religious institutions (such as the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches) that have allowed for gay clergy or even gay marriage ceremonies.  They place this "sin" as one that is so abhorrent, that they get themselves all in a tizzy.  What I find is odd is how selective they are in their rhetoric.  For example, divorce is just as much of a sin in the Bible.  In fact, Our Lord spoke several times in the Gospel accounts about divorce, and never ONCE about homosexuality.  Matthew 5:31-32; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; Matthew 19:6-9.  In Leviticus 18, verses 6-23, the Bible gives a whole laundry list of sexual sins, and homosexuality is the least among them.  Divorce is seen as a more heinous sin.  So these Christians choose to ignore a common "sin" that Biblically requires punishment, and in what Leviticus considered certain areas of divorce, stoning was called for.

Finally, and this is where the self-righteousness on my part might show through, I find that so many so-called Christians spend SO MUCH time working on these areas that have nothing to do with what Christ commands us to do.  This really hit me hard 6 years ago during the big Proposition 8 fight here in California. I was aware that one of the larger evangelical churches was mobilizing both capital and personnel to go door-to-door in various neighborhoods to make sure people got out to vote "yes" on Proposition 8.  Even the pastor of the church we were attending at the time, while not telling the congregation how to vote, said during a sermon that "good Christians will know how to vote on that one", essentially telling us the congregation that in order to be good Christians, we MUST vote "yes" on 8.  Then, one evening during that heated campaign as I drove through the Plaza in downtown Orange, I saw a homeless woman pushing all her belongings in a Target shopping cart.  And then it hit me: all of these people spending so much time and money on this "Yes on 8" campaign are totally ignoring what Christ said: feed the poor; heal the sick; visit those in prison; and when you've done it to THESE, the LEAST of my brothers and sisters, you have done it to ME!  

There is a vast disconnect between what the Lord said in the Gospels, and what Christians say and do. Unfortunately, there are those who actually have the balls to say that the letters of Paul predate the gospel accounts, which is true.  As if THAT means they are more valid that the Words attributed to Christ himself. To justify their self-righteousness by saying "well, Paul wrote his letters first" is unbelievable.  For myself, I have great difficulty with the Pauline Epistles, and take them with a grain of salt.  After all, Paul was a Jewish Lawyer, and when you read the letters, there are a great deal of "don't do this, do that" in them.  I know that I am a minority in this viewpoint.  But sometimes, I wonder if the enemy, in his desire to focus us away from the Love of God, makes many Christians cite and follow Pauline teachings, rather than Christ's teachings, as a way to distract us.  Yet we feel good.  We're preventing the spread of homoexuality.  We're standing up for "traditional marriage", we're keeping America safe from the spread of Islam and their terrorist goals.  

And so that's why I don't call myself Christian anymore, and I would respectfully ask that you don't call me one either.  

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