Tuesday, February 28, 2023

You Say You Want a Jesus Revolution

I’m marginally attached enough to evangelicalism through family that I’ve been hearing a lot of radio ads about the so-called “Jesus Revolution.” And sure, the Jesus Movement itself was pretty cool with all the communes and the actual, you know, living out of Jesus’ teachings (because, surprisingly enough, Jesus was a proto-hippy – I mean, “love your enemies?”).

But I’m reluctant to see the movie.

Because from what I’ve read online, it feels like another evangelical Trojan Horse. Greg Laurie, who apparently is the hero of the movie – and, fair enough, I guess if you write the book it’s okay to be the hero – even mentions that he hopes it’s a way to stuff Millennials and Zoomers back into the evangelical box start a new Jesus Movement among Millennials and Zoomers.

And that’s kind of the problem.

Because what the original Jesus Movement did was take a bunch of idealistic kids who saw Jesus and said “lets be like that,” and turned them into a bunch of culture warriors who decided that it was more important to be in power than it was to follow the hippy-dippy Jesus of their youth.

And then there’s the very troubling airbrushing out of the story of Lonnie Frisbee, a bisexual, theologically non-“evangelically orthodox” guy without whom much of evangelicalism’s late-20th century success probably would not have occurred. I mean, for the love of God, the guy was instrumental in launching not one, but two evangelical church movements.

Let that sink in. If you take evangelical theology seriously, which I don’t, but humor me here, God used a gay man who didn’t believe all the right things to start a revival among a group of disenchanted post-Christians.

And if you don’t have a particularly evangelical theology, you can still admire the fact that large numbers of people saw Christ through Lonnie Frisbee – did I mention he was gay and didn’t believe all the “right things” – and decided that Jesus’ way was a life they wanted to live.

It’s almost like you can be Christ-like and gay. You know, you don’t have to be something you aren’t to follow God? But that’s what all those backslidden Progressive Christians say so it can’t be right, amiright?

One would think that at some point that might cause some self-reflection among evangelicals, but fifty years of history would show that one would be mistaken.

But Kelsey Grammer is cool and I find it funny that he’s playing a 40-year old Chuck Smith and the 40-year-old Jesus guy is playing 20-year old Lonnie Frisbee so I may still see it.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Remember those “He Gets Us” ads? You know, the ones that assume that the problem is that Jesus needs a PR campaign? Never mind the fact that his bad PR basically comes from his most well-known followers. Well, it looks like the PR campaign boils down to the standard evangelical bait and switch*:

“He Gets Us is a subsidiary of the Servant Foundation, a Kansas-based charity also known as The Signatry that says it “exists to inspire and facilitate revolutionary, biblical generosity.”

Between 2018 and 2020, the Servant Foundation donated more than $50 million to the Alliance Defending Freedom — a nonprofit that’s led big policy fights over abortion and nondiscrimination laws at the Supreme Court and in states around the country. The nonprofit is designated as an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

One of the primary things that drove me out of evangelicalism was all of the fine print at the end of the contract:

  • God Loves You… so much that he will send you to a hell of eternal conscious torment if you don’t believe the doctrines I am teaching you.
  • For God so Loved the World… except the gays, you know, because The Bible Is Clear that they are an abomination.
  • There is neither Jew nor Greek, Slave nor Free, for all are one in Christ Jesus… except for those woke people. Why can’t they just accept that white Jesus loves them and just be more like us?
  • All Are Welcome… but only as long as you don’t ask too many questions, that you sign on to our statement of faith, and that you don’t speak up too much about ways you disagree with us.

I could go on, but I won’t. But my main point is that it’s totally unsurprising that an evangelical group would put forth a message of love and acceptance while at the same time working to exclude and other large numbers of people.

It’s kind of what they do.

* For those already saying, “Jacobin is just one of those leftist woke publications so what they have to say doesn’t count,” well, they have the receipts.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Circling the White Supremacist Wagons

I have three responses to the news that Florida is blocking the teaching of the AP African American Studies class in school.

  1. This is completely unsurprising. Of course a government that is overtly white supremacist would want to bury the teaching of the histories of BIPOC people. It’s a threat to their entire worldview that the only history is white history. This is the story we have lived in this country for most of our existence.
  2. We can’t let that lack of surprise steal our outrage at this.
  3. Florida schools do not teach history. They teach propaganda. This is Don’t Say Gay Part 2.

I was a history major in college, and the absolute best classes I took were in the Chicano Studies, Asian American Studies, and African American Studies departments. Why? Because this was all new information for a white kid who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. We were the generation that was taught that not all slave masters were cruel and that most of the time they were benevolent and the slaves were happy to be cared for; that the Indians and the settlers really mostly got along after the First Thanksgiving; and – nothing – about the internment of Japanese Americans and the racist exclusion acts that kept Asian immigration shut down for the first half of the 20th century.

And you know what? DeSantis is correct to be worried about how this will change the kids to whom it is taught. Because it explodes the myth of white American exceptionalism. It makes you re-evaluate what you have been taught and seek to make changes in your life because this shit is not okay (h/t Andre Henry). It makes you join the struggle to put Martin Luther King’s beloved community into practice.

Each of these things undermines the white supremacist power structure. So of course, like any good authoritarian ideology, they seek to ban it.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Color me skeptical, but I think Jesus needs more than a new PR campaign:

“Lee is one of the chief architects of the “He Gets Us” campaign, a $100 million effort to redeem Jesus’ brand from the damage done by his followers, especially those who say one thing and then do another.

Launched earlier this year, ads featuring black-and-white online videos about Jesus as a rebel, an activist or a host of a dinner party have been viewed more than 300 million times, according to organizers. Billboards with messages like “Jesus let his hair down, too” and “Jesus went all in, too,” have also been posted in major markets like New York City and Las Vegas.”

This all sounds fine and dandy, but I suppose like with everything else evangelical, the devil is in the details. Does the He Gets Us Jesus love queer people as they are? Do they believe Jesus loves you even when your theology isn’t up to evangelical muster? Can you be woke and still have Jesus get you? Can you believe that humans didn’t walk the earth alongside dinosaurs? That critical race theory is US history and not an abomination to “correct theology?”

What stands out as a red flag for me is this bit:

“Those who see the ads can contact the campaign and get connected with Bible study resources to check out the story of Jesus for themselves, he said.”

So the answer to Jesus’ PR problem is… Bible Study? It’s not getting people connected to people who are trying to live out the teachings of Jesus through service or activism. It’s – more doctrine. Which is just about the most evangelical thing ever.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Attention, Glenn Youngkin:

”For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the gentiles do the same?”

And, in a non-bizarro world, Christians, who in theory follow a messiah who spent his ministry caring for the outcast and oppressed, would see trans kids just trying to be who God made them to be not as enemies but as beloved.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

In the wake of two Republican governors dehumanizing asylum seekers as a means of scoring political points, I offer Psalm 14 as the appropriate prayer for the Christians who overwhelmingly support their party:

“Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt; they do abominable deeds;
there is no one who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind
to see if there are any who are wise,
who seek after God.
They have all gone astray; they are all alike perverse;
there is no one who does good,
no, not one.
Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread
and do not call upon the Lord?
There they shall be in great terror,
for God is with the company of the righteous.
You would confound the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is their refuge.
O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.

Who Was Jesus Today?

So, who was actually Jesus today? Ron DeSantis and his band of evangelicals cheering on his owning of the libs, or the people of Martha’s Vineyard, many of whom were probably not Christian at all, who stepped up to help? Who ends the day justified in the eyes of God?

The entire evangelical concept that you can pray a prayer and then live your life as a complete asshole and go to heaven while people who actually love and serve people but haven’t prayed that prayer go to hell is ludicrous on its face. And it’s not what Jesus taught either.

Don’t worry though, asshole Christians. My Jesus is going to make you new as well, although it may hurt a little bit when you find out you spent your entire life investing in things that won’t last.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Apparently, it’s Christians Behaving Badly Thursday here on the blog.

First up, we have the Kansas teacher who misgendered one of her transgender students, was suspended, and then was rewarded with a $95,000 ruling against the district. And then she had the audacity to blame Jesus:

“Ms. Ricard is a Christian and holds sincere religious beliefs consistent with the traditional Christian and biblical understanding of the human person and biological sex,” the lawsuit said. “Ms. Ricard believes that God created human beings as either male or female, that this sex is fixed in each person from the moment of conception, and that it cannot be changed, regardless of an individual person’s feelings, desires, or preferences.”

Apparently, holding “traditional Christian” beliefs is code for treating people like shit. No one asked you to change your theology, ma’am, although your theology does deny modern science as well as fail to read scripture in light of the context it was written. But what does it hurt you to call someone what they want to be called?

Also, Ms. Ricard, love your neighbor as yourself is a traditional Christian and biblical understanding, but apparently you don’t like that one.

Secondly, there’s this:

“The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that religious freedom rights protect the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis from being sued by a teacher who was fired from his job at a Catholic high school for being in a same-sex marriage.
Joshua Payne-Elliott argued in his lawsuit that archdiocese leaders wrongfully forced his firing in 2019 from his job of 13 years as a world language and social studies teacher at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis by mandating that all Catholic schools under its purview enforce a morality clause barring employees from entering into same-sex marriages.”

Traditionalists are going to continue to see their churches hemorrhage people until their theology catches up with the science. Families will continue to be forced to choose between their church and their gay kid, and increasingly will choose their kid (which is the correct answer, both from a human standpoint AND from a Jesus standpoint).

By the way, approximately 1 in 6 Zoomers (AKA Gen Z) identify as LGBTQIA+, which means that the average family will have at least one queer member in a few years. So you either end up with that LGBTQIA+ family member getting pushed out of the church, or the entire family deciding they’re going to support their kid and leave en masse. The math is not in the favor of the “traditional understanding.”

I have every confidence that in the end, when the church finally reads the scriptures through the lens of love rather than the lens of legalism and tribalism, it will finally come to the conclusion that like with geocentrism, the crusades, the Doctrine of Discover, slavery, patriarchy and so many other ways it was wrong, it was wrong on the issue of LGBTQIA+ inclusion and affirmation. I just wonder if there will be any people left in the church by the time it realizes that.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Once again, it’s Church Schism day on the blog. The next group of heretics that should be cast out into utter darkness: “rad-trad” Christian Nationalist Catholics:

“Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics. On this extremist fringe, rosary beads have been woven into a conspiratorial politics and absolutist gun culture. These armed radical traditionalists have taken up a spiritual notion that the rosary can be a weapon in the fight against evil and turned it into something dangerously literal.”

The True Church follows the crucified Christ who told his disciples that those who live by the sword die by the sword. Anything else is heresy and should be treated as such. It’s time for a good church schism.