Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Like all members of the secret gay conspiracy to destroy everything, I plan to fully indulge in my sinful gay lifestyle over the four-day weekend. In fact, as soon as I'm done posting this I will be heading down to my parents' house for Thanksgiving dinner. I'll be bringing the pie (unpatriotically sweetened with agave instead of good old-fashioned sugar). My mom also asked me to bring a DVD to watch after dinner, so I've pulled out my copy of Lord, Save Us From Your Followers to corrupt her with.

I'll be spending tomorrow at a board game day being hosted by some friends who, like me, think that sounds like a lot more fun than endless hours fighting the frenzied crowds at the mall. So if the economy doesn't recover in 2011, you'll know who's really to blame.

Saturday, after helping put up the advent decorations at church, I plan to see the new Harry Potter movie with my sister, after which we'll no doubt cast a few Imperius curses on unsuspecting Muggles in the name of the dark lord before grabbing some dinner.

After church on Sunday I'll be helping my parents put up that grand symbol of Paganism, the Christmas tree. A couple of the ornaments even depict Santa Claus. And then I'll cap off the weekend by watching the Amazing Race, which just spent the last two legs boosting the economies of Muslim countries.

In all seriousness, I do have much to be thankful for - a loving family, a great church, a stable job, reasonably good health and the freedom to enjoy them all. God is indeed good. Have a blessed holiday.

Friday, November 12, 2010


A thoughtful piece on the value of doubt, a topic I've explored more than once. It's all the more timely in the wake of the recent election and the biennial spectacle of true believers on both sides of the aisle touting, with absolute conviction, the pure goodness of their candidates and the sheer evil of their opponents (I exaggerate, but only slightly).

I find my own political convictions run along lines similar to those outlined by the author - with the added caveat that the corrupting nature of power should be remembered and highlighted whenever somebody (of any political persuasion) proposes to wield large amounts of it for our benefit...

Friday, November 05, 2010


[I]f we were studying the Bible together over a period of time, we could trace the maturation process among biblical writers regarding God's character. In some passages, God appears violent, retaliatory, given to favoritism, and careless of human life. But over time, the image of God that predominates is gentle rather than cruel, compassionate rather than violent, fair to all rather than biased toward some, forgiving rather than retaliatory. In this more mature view, God is not capricious, bloodthirsty, hateful, or prone to fits of vengeful rage. Rather, God loves justice, kindness, reconciliation, and pace; God's grace gets the final word.

People who are part of what is often called fundamentalism today, whether Christians, Muslims, or Jews, often find it difficult to acknowledge this kind of progression in understanding across the centuries. If anything, they feel obliged to defend and give priority to the early, raw, more primal, less-tested and -developed views of God, minimizing or marginalizing what I am calling the more mature and nuanced understandings.

So the God of the fundamentalists is a competitive warrior - always jealous of rivals and determined to drive them into defeat and disgrace. And the God of the fundamentalists is superficially exacting - demanding technical perfection in regard to ceremonial and legal matters while minimizing deeper concerns about social justice - especially where outsiders and outcasts are concerned. Similarly, the fundamentalist God is exclusive, faithfully loving one in-group and rejecting - perhaps even hating - all others.

The fundamentalist God is also deterministic - controlling rather than interacting, a mover of events but never moved by them. And finally, though the fundamentalist God may be patient for a while, he (fundamentalist versions of God tend to be very male) is ultimately violent, eventually destined to explode with unquenchable rage, condemnation, punishment, torture, and vengeance if you push him too far.

-Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity, pages 101-102
The fundamentalist God is also a being that can ultimately only be feared, not loved. Under such a deity every activity of the Christian life - worship, evangelism, charity, etc. - is an act of appeasement, driven by the need to escape unspeakable punishment (or to rescue others from that doom). Even the most conservative Christian would never verbalize it in that way, but when Hell is defined as an eternal state and salvation is viewed as the "fire insurance" that must be obtained to avoid it, declaring one's love for God becomes first and foremost an act of survival and only secondarily one of devotion.

In most evangelical churches the reality lies somewhere in between; the New Testament is given enough weight that God's love can sometimes be understood. But the Old Testament's God of wrath still lurks just beneath the surface, unwilling (or unable) to show any mercy to anyone who doesn't offer verbal assent to the correct creed. The perceived need for an inerrant Bible precludes the possibility that its early books might be the product of a more primitive understanding of God, rather than a timeless portrait to be placed on an equal plane with the example set by Christ.

If perfect love casts out fear, then perhaps any doctrines that lead to fear need to be reconsidered. Such growth in our theology need not suggest that God has changed, merely that our understanding of God has matured.