Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

"My Uncle Kenny made me read an author named Wendell Berry. Here's what he says: 'The significance - and ultimately the quality - of the work we do is determined by our understanding of the story in which we are taking part.' For years I thought of the Bible not as a story but as a black-and-white photograph, something you could use in a court of law to prove that our doctrines and propositions were rational and true. Talk about trivializing and holding back the beauty of the Bible!

Now I see the Story more like a painting filled with glory, poetry, and even blurry lines. Paintings are trickier than photos. They're open to a wide variety of interpretation, depending on who's looking at them and the situations those viewers live in. Seeing the Bible this way could lead to things getting messy from time to time - but the Word is living, not static. Our job is to invite people to inhabit our story, to be part of what God's doing in history. And we don't need to feel constant pressure to defend it against its critics. Truth doesn't need defending. It is its own witness."

-Chase Falson in Chasing Francis, by Ian Morgan Cron
Here's to another year in the great Story that we find ourselves a part of.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Per my tradition, here is a Christmas light display synced to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Wish Liszt, specifically. I hope your holiday is a happy one, however you celebrate it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What He Said

10 Things Christians and Atheists Can (and Must) Agree On

We all have far more common ground than most people seem to realize, if we can set aside the "us vs. them" mentality that fundamentalists of all stripes (Christian, Muslim, Atheist, etc.) hold to everyone's detriment...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Strong Words

One of the tragic realities of modern American politics is that name-calling has largely replaced dialogue. When something does get accomplished in the current political climate it's more because one side had enough power to ram it through than because any worthwhile debate took place.

Name-calling may sometimes seem like the only way to be heard above the din, but it's also the quickest way to make your opponents tune you out entirely. At the same time, avoiding strong terms altogether isn't always feasible - take, for instance, the Southern Poverty Law Center's addition of five new religious right groups (some of them very prominent) to its list of anti-gay hate groups.

"Hate" is a strong term that shouldn't be hurled lightly, and predictably, the groups that have earned that label are playing the persecution card to rile up their supporters. Any objective observer can easily see, however, that the SPLC's criteria for designating an organization as a hate group are quite reasonable and even fairly conservative. Only a handful of anti-gay groups have earned this designation; merely being opposed to gay rights is not enough, regardless of the motivation (and regardless of what the Family Research Council disingenuously claims).

Indeed, a group must actively and repeatedly spread lies about LGBT individuals (or another minority group) to be labeled a hate group - and the organizations on the SPLC's list do so on an almost daily basis. In this case withholding the term "hate" for the sake of civility would be a disservice, given the bile that Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer and their fellow-travelers spit at the gay community nearly every time they open their mouths. We still need to take care to avoid overusing the word, but when dealing with those who very clearly do hate us, there's no substitute for telling it like it is.

An even stronger word that I've recently heard used in association with anti-gay activism is genocide. If a word like 'hate' needs to be used selectively, a word like 'genocide' can quickly become an even larger liability. It isn't without merit, when one considers that most conservative Christians would view the eradication of homosexuality as a good thing, but the second activists begin shouting "genocide" at rallies, we begin pushing away many of our more moderate opponents who might have been movable.

It also needs to be noted that the majority of those on the religious right envision a world free of homosexuality in terms of converting gay individuals back to their allegedly natural heterosexual state, rather than killing them. However blind their faith in the possibility of such conversion, and however superficial an understanding of sexuality that one must hold to believe that homosexuals are merely damaged heterosexuals, only the most extreme would actually endorse carrying out the mass executions that would be required to truly eradicate homosexuality (at least in the current generation).

That said, as we are able to educate such individuals about the immutability of sexual orientation (at least for the vast majority), there can be great value in helping them to recognize the parallels that exist between the religious right's treatment of LGBT individuals and historical acts of genocide. It's best done calmly and dispassionately, and without resorting to hyperbole, lest we validate the notion that we're the real haters.

The facts are on our side - the more we stick to them and reserve the use of strong labels for those that have truly earned them, the better equipped we are to help our opponents come to understand that we are not the enemies they've been conditioned to view us as.

Friday, December 10, 2010

'Tis the Season

The "War on Christmas" is one evangelical cause that I thankfully never fully bought into. The way the religious right carries on about the alleged conspiracy to remove Christ from Christmas with so much anger and hostility is so antithetical to the spirit of the event they're supposedly defending that it seems at times like they're the ones that have declared war on Christmas.

Along those lines, here are two perspectives on the "war," one from another evangelical and one from an atheist, that demonstrate just how counterproductive the whole brouhaha is.

One additional observation I would add to the mix is that this crusade, like virtually everything initiated by fundamentalists, is fueled by an emotion that's very much out of sync with the message of Christ's birth: fear. Fear of a brittle, easily offended god who plans to endlessly torture the vast majority of the human beings he created, a god who won't hesitate to destroy entire nations for any one of a long list of offenses.

Given such a mindset, it's little wonder that a season conceived as a celebration of joy could devolve into an angry shouting match. Thankfully the majority of Christians don't seem to be buying into that message of fear anymore. Unfortunately far too many still do.

Saturday, December 04, 2010