Reblog: Living With A Religious Junkie

Hi diddley-do, there, neighbors. Ned Flanders, by way of theprodigalprophet.wordpress.com.

A blogger named Dylan Morrison posted this in an awesome blog called The Prodigal Prophet. This post stirred up some vivid, cringing flashbacks as I recalled my early college phase of “religious” zealotry. Let’s just say that Jesus-freakiness doesn’t make college-age nerds any less nerdy, and can indeed make them even more so.

Well worth a read. Excerpts:

“In this post I’d like to explore some of the difficulties encountered in attempting to relate to an extremely zealous believer, whether within marriage, family circle or workplace. Let me say that the task isn’t an easy one, not easy at all. Perhaps this is why so many divorces eventually occur in marriages where either one of the partners suddenly finds religion, or finally admits to agnosticism.”

They tend to have a one-track mind. The believer sees absolutely everything through their version of Truth. Nothing is seen as having being or value in itself but is always hooked up to their God agenda. A walk in nature ends up with a pietistic sermon, rather than a wondrous encounter with snow-filled trees or melodious birdsong.”

They perceive themselves to be closer to God than the non-believer. Sinners saved by grace tend to quickly forget that grace, believing that their belief somehow makes them a bosom buddy of the Divine; a member of His ‘In Group.’ The non believer easily senses this us-them dichotomy even in the closest of families.”

“When I was on my mission for God all those decades ago, folk were hurt by my fiery psyche and I wasn’t even aware of it. Such is the blindness of the zealot in their attempt to save the world whilst ignoring the relational pain of those around them. Hell indeed for those hauled along for the heady religious ride.”

 


Song of the night: “I Wanna Go To Hell!” by Taylor Ferrera

Take that, Westboro Baptist Church.

– –

There’s a certain church around, you know it well
They say a lot of people are going to hell
If you show any tolerance in hell you are put
You got a one way ticket that Westboro will foot

Hell is full of firemen, soldiers, and teachers
Philanthropists and activists and innocent preachers
Celebrities and deities that ask circumcision
Because of this I’ve come to an important decision

Hell! Hell! I wanna go to hell!
It seems a really fun place to play
But I gotta do what’s right and do it everyday
If I wanna go to hell someday.

Oh, Hell! I wanna go to hell!
So I gotta do what mom and dad say
I gotta love my neighbor even if they are gay
So I can go to hell someday.

Ellen’s really nice, but she enjoys other ladies
Hugh Jackman doesn’t mind, and so he’s going to Hades
Woody Allen obviously cause he’s a Jew
Also Princess Di, Mother Theresa, too

Washington and Jefferson and don’t forget Lincoln
I can tell you now that their souls are-a-sinkin
Johnny Depp because he wears too much eyeliner
And Reese Witherspoon and overweight Rob Reiner

Elizabeth the first cause staying single’s a sin
St. Maria Goretti cause she didn’t give in
Spiderman is hell bound because he is fiction
Marlon Brando’s also there because of his diction

Former Bush administrator Rice comma Condi
Tom Hanks, Will Smith, and don’t forget Gandhi!
Hell is for environmentalist Al Gore
Even Christ is bound for hell ’cause he defended a whore

Hell! Hell! I wanna go to hell!
It seems a really fun place to play
But I gotta do what’s right and do it everyday
If I wanna go to hell someday.

Oh, Hell! I wanna go to hell!
So I gotta do what mom and dad say
I gotta love my neighbor even if they are gay
So I can go to hell someday.

– –

Here is her awesome website. Here is her awesome YouTube channel.


Former Republican official: ‘You can’t be a Christian if you don’t own a gun’

Image from publicfrenemy.wordpress.com

Video here.

A former Executive Committee member of San Diego’s Republican Party, who now heads the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, recently told Texas churchgoers that “you can’t be a Christian if you don’t own a gun.”

Speaking to the “Deliver Us From Evil” conference at the Upper Room Church in Keller, Texas earlier this week, Dr. Gary Cass explained that America had a “broken moral compass” because it regularly elected “politicians who could justify killing babies made in the image of God” and “justify redefining God’s institution of marriage.”

“By the way, I’ve got a whole sermon, you can’t be a Christian if you don’t own a gun,” he added. “That preaches in Texas, don’t it?”

“You have not just a right not bear arms, you have a duty. How can you protect yourself, your family or your neighbor if you don’t have a gun? If I’m supposed to love my neighbor and I can’t protect him, what good am I?”

Yup. That’s exactly what Jesus said, all of the time.

“I was driving in Virginia, and I saw a bumper sticker that said ‘I support the NRA’ and right beside it one that said ‘What would Jesus do?’ Not have a fucking gun!” — D.L. Hughley

Image from Charlie H. via photobucket.com


Heaven: a place where nothing ever happens?

(A friend and I were talking about heaven today. She suggested I throw it all down on the blog. She thought I’d say no?! She knows me too well.)

I ain’t no theologian. Just a dude with a blog. Spiritually I’m a progressive Christian with Buddhism rising, who has all these deep thoughts on the loooooong.. drive.. to.. the.. office.

I’m confident of heaven. But I have a different view of heaven than many people do. I’m not sure I believe in a big cloud where we float around with wings and halos and harps. Talking Heads had a song where they sang, “Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.”

There is a party, everyone is there
Everyone will leave at exactly the same time
When this party’s over, it will start again
It will not be any different, it will be exactly the same
Heaven, heaven is a place
A place where nothing, nothing ever happens

I’d go nuts!

I think “heaven” is not the same as “the hereafter.” Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you,” and “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” So I’m pretty firm that there is a hereafter, a restoration of the world, and life after death.

But Jesus had a knack of honing in on the here and now. As He walked and talked, He was interested in displaying the kingdom of God on this earth. He said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” I’m starting to believe that heaven is a way of being with God, living in relationship with God and others, and being at peace with ourselves.

Heaven is experiencing God, in the here and now, on this earth. Hell is being separated from God, in the here and now, on this earth. Swimming in a pool that we’ve already peed in.

So yeah, I’m confident in the hereafter. And it’s up to all of us to experience heaven now.

Image from cheapskateintellectual.wordpress.com

And like Will Rogers said, if there are no dogs in “heaven,” then I want to go to the other place.


“Our God can kick your God’s ass.”

I work in local small-market radio, both weekends and weekdays. I just got done editing down a two-hour recording of a church service for a one-hour broadcast. This particular service featured the church’s Youth Ministry Team, who had just returned to small-town rural Minnesota from a ministry trip to a Big City (sorry, I didn’t catch which one).

The youth ministers were of course perky, peppy, and sloppin’ over with The Spirit. God bless them, I’m glad they are; I don’t have an issue with that. This was a performance, pure and simple; quite literally preaching to the already converted. I remember when similar youth ministry teams would visit our small-town church when I was a lad. I was always intimidated by their enthusiasm and disregard for embarrassing themselves with their zeal; I always came away feeling that my own faith was inferior to theirs because I didn’t feel compelled to be like “Joliet Jake” Blues and turn cartwheels down the aisle of the church. But to each their own.

Bearing in mind that their goal was to preach to the choir, what got to me after awhile is this song that they sang over and over. Can’t forget the lyrics:

Our God is greater
Our God is stronger
God, you are higher than any other
Our God is healer
Awesome in power
Our God! Our God!
And if our God is for us
Then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us
Then what could stand against?

I dunno.  There’s a whole rah-rah element to that song that troubles me. I found myself singing along, “Our God can kick your God’s ass.”

Am I too cynical? Or does this seem kind of like pro wrestling? The WWF approach to theology? Is it necessary to run down someone else’s God in order to worship your own?

To quote columnist Dr. Greg Smith in the excellent blog SoWhatFaith.com:

Do you believe your God or Gods  are greater, higher, and stronger than all other Gods? If so, what does this say about other religions?  How does this impact your attempts at interfaith dialog?  Given Christianity’s history of violence and American Christianity’s uneven (perhaps even unstable) acceptance of its current position in a pluralistic nation, what type of damage do you feel could result from these words? For those who sing them boldly? For how those of other faiths view Christians?

There’s just an over-the-top element to this that annoys me. True believers can be excused their zealotry, I guess; that fades away soon enough, and they’re left with having to carry their faith into day-to-day life – figuring out how to keep the gas bill paid and balancing the checkbook with the spouse. But when one’s faith requires a pro wrestler’s rant about how one’s God is the biggest, meanest, baddest mofo in town – sorry, that’s where I check out.

Actually it reminds me of this bit from “Monty Python’s Meaning Of Life”:

Chaplain: Let us praise God. O Lord…
Congregation: O Lord…
Chaplain: Ooh, You are so big…
Congregation: …Ooh, You are so big…
Chaplain: …So absolutely huge.
Congregation: …So absolutely huge.
Chaplain: Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell You.
Congregation: Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell You.
Chaplain: Forgive us, O Lord, for this, our dreadful toadying, and…
Congregation: And barefaced flattery.
Chaplain: But You are so strong and, well, just so super.
Congregation: Fantastic.
Chaplain: Amen.
Congregation: Amen.


“Wait, wut?! There are OTHER religions besides mine?! Are you sure?!”

Image from zdnet.com

From the awesome blog joe.my.god.

GOP legislators in Louisiana have realized to their horror that their bill to provide vouchers for private religious schools can actually be used by Muslims…Rep. Valarie Hodges, a Republican who represents East Baton Rouge and Livingston, now says she wishes she hadn’t voted for the Jindal voucher bill. “I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” Hodges told the Livingston Parish News. “I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,” Hodges added. The newspaper reported that she “mistakenly assumed that ‘religious’ meant ‘Christian.’”


The Episcopal Church in Mpls had this out as a poster about 10-12 years ago.

Image from ministryofhealing.org

I’ve been looking for it on line, could not find, so decided to recreate it myself.


Something that made me ponder. Maybe it will make you ponder also.

Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. – Attributed to both T.H. Thompson and John Watson

God, help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry, and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can’t make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, God, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

God, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy, and love.

http://www.beliefnet.com/Prayers/Protestant/Compassion/Help-Us-Remember.aspx?q=Money#ixzz1vEO8BAz0

Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies: God damn it, you’ve got to be kind. –  Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


“The Weight” by William Rivers Pitt

The Weight.

William Pitt is a writer I have followed for several years now. This column appeared today on truth-out.org. Worth a read.

“I am a Christian. I make no apologies for it. I’m not sure if I believe that Jesus turned that water into wine, or if He raised up Lazarus, or even if He rose from the dead. That all sounds like a lot of magic nonsense from two thousand years ago when you think about it, which is why they call it The Mystery of Faith.

But I believe that I am my brother’s keeper, that I should worship without bragging about it, that the poor will God-damned-right inherit the Earth, and that what you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me. I believe that the first four books of the New Testament are a wonderful blueprint for being a decent person on this planet, and that’s what I live by, as best I can.”


I have never liked the parable of the prodigal son.

Image from splitpease.wordpress.com – – – An excellent blog called “Lessons Learned”

“Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the best-loved stories in the entire Bible. Throughout the ages, Christians have viewed the tale as a profound allegory of God’s long-suffering and ever-compassionate nature, so willing to forgive an errant child who squanders life and resources in pursuit of selfish pleasures. It is such a beautiful story, so rich in theological meaning, so reassuring to all who have ever sought divine forgiveness. The parable of the Prodigal Son — I hate it.” – Professor Mark W. Muesse, explorefaith.org

I think I’m starting to understand it. But in my not-so-humble opinion big bro got a raw deal, Dad is a weenie and an enabler, and little bro should have had the snot beat out of him.

We will share from The Gospel of Luke, chapter 15, verses 11 through 32, New Century Version. Please read silently while I read aloud:

11 Then Jesus said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son said to his father, ‘Give me my share of the property.’ So the father divided the property between his two sons.

Wait, wut?! “Fork over my share of YOUR MONEY, pops, I’m gettin’ the hell out of Dodge.” Like a snotty college freshman home at break: “Screw you, Dad, I reject your middle-class values. By the way, I need to borrow the car…” Already I don’t like this kid.

According to New Testament professor Amy-Jill Levine from Georgetown, little bro’s demand for “his share” is flat-out rude. He’s acting as though Dad’s already dead, and treating the family’s wealth cavalierly. And according to Hamp Keathley at bible.org, most readers don’t appreciate the gravity of little bro’s request. He as much as tells Dad that he wishes he were dead. Dissing Dad AND the family name. And Dad shells out the dough anyway. No questions asked. Wow.

13 Then the younger son gathered up all that was his and traveled far away to another country. There he wasted his money in foolish living. 14 After he had spent everything, a time came when there was no food anywhere in the country, and the son was poor and hungry.15 So he got a job with one of the citizens there who sent the son into the fields to feed pigs.16 The son was so hungry that he wanted to eat the pods the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

Geez, there’s a shocker. You didn’t have to be Nostradamus to see that coming. Right down Broadway. Dude, karma’s a beeyotch. You buttered your bread, now lie in it. Actions, consequences. So presently little bro gets a flash of inspiration:

17 When he realized what he was doing, he thought, ‘All of my father’s servants have plenty of food. But I am here, almost dying with hunger. 18 I will leave and return to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against God and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son, but let me be like one of your servants.” ‘ 20 So the son left and went to his father.

See where this is going? Little bro, the screw-up, demands “his share” of dad’s dough, then goes out and spends it like a drunken sailor. Eventually has to feed pigs to survive, not exactly a primo gig in New Testament times. Figures out he can get three hots and a cot if he goes back and hits up the old man again. Wasn’t even planning to apologize or repent.

According to Irim in her excellent blog “The Night And Half-Light Of Dreams”:

“Every priest I’ve asked about this has told me that this is about real repentance. This isn’t real repentance; this is ‘how do I get food in my stomach because I was enough of a dumbass not to set some money aside to earn interest?’ If it were real repentance, occasioned when he was rich and in the midst of bounty, I’d have sympathy.”

So he drags his sorry butt home, to beg daddy to take him in as one of the help.

“While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt sorry for his son. So the father ran to him and hugged and kissed him. 21 The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Hurry! Bring the best clothes and put them on him. Also, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.23 And get our fat calf and kill it so we can have a feast and celebrate. 24 My son was dead, but now he is alive again! He was lost, but now he is found!’ So they began to celebrate.

Okay, that’s just swell. Instead of a boot in the ass, Daddy-o gives little bro a new wardrobe and throws a shindig for him. Reason? He was so overjoyed that little bro managed not to off himself. Really?! Seriously?! That’s the point system here?! That’s where the high-jump bar is set?! No apology, no repentance?! That’s a pretty forgiving dad. One might even say “enabling.”

But now the plot thickens:

25 “The older son was in the field, and as he came closer to the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. 26 So he called to one of the servants and asked what all this meant.27 The servant said, ‘Your brother has come back, and your father killed the fat calf, because your brother came home safely.’28 The older son was angry and would not go in to the feast.

I wouldn’t go in either. Since little bro blew his bankroll the slaughtered calf, beautiful robe, and other lovely accessories will come out of big bro’s share. Screw that.

So his father went out and begged him to come in.29 But the older son said to his father, ‘I have served you like a slave for many years and have always obeyed your commands. But you never gave me even a young goat to have at a feast with my friends.30 But your other son, who wasted all your money on prostitutes, comes home, and you kill the fat calf for him!’

See what I mean? Raw deal. Little bro demands “his share” of daddy’s bread, goes out and pisses it all away, then drags his bad self home begging for a handout. Outcome = new threads, big par-tay. Big bro sticks around, works like a rented mule to keep the home fires burning. Outcome = errr, notsomuch. And he even has to pony up for little bro’s lovely consolation prizes.

31 The father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate and be happy because your brother was dead, but now he is alive. He was lost, but now he is found.'”

Wait, wut?! Not exactly a stirring justification. From Prof. Muesse:

“No wonder he raises hell when the reprobate shows up one day seeking to get back into the father’s good graces. We dutiful older sons know it’s just not fair. What’s the point of always doing what you’re supposed to do if it doesn’t earn you a few advantages? … It might be nice to imagine that the father’s words console the elder brother and convince him to join the party, but I don’t think so. The little speech is pretty lame. It reflects a father’s point of view, not that of a dutiful son. Do our parents really expect us to love our siblings as much as they do? It is easy for me to imagine the elder’s anguish stretching into weeks, months, and maybe years, renewed every time he sees his worthless brother strutting around in his new robe and flashing his fancy ring.”

And from Irim again:

“Time after time, I see people like the eldest son get taken for granted – the people who are quiet, dependable, always there. The father can claim that ‘what’s mine is yours,’ blah blah, but he appears to have a very poor understanding of human nature. His eldest, the steady, dependable one, needs OVERT appreciation as much as the younger wayward son needs to be welcomed back to the family. And what does the younger son learn by this huge feast? Go squander your life and come back home – not only will Dad welcome you back, he’ll kill the most valuable animal for you… Welcome him back with a low-key family dinner, let his brother have a go, really bring him home. Then set him to work the next morning. He’s home and is always welcome there, but being high-maintenance and high-drama will get him no more attention than that.”

A friend’s take on it was that big bro didn’t have anything to bitch about. After all, my friend said, Dad divided his property between the two. Big bro could have done the same thing little bro did. My reply, though, is that he DIDN’T. He stuck around to hold down the fort. Little bro wouldn’t even have had a place to come back TO if big bro hadn’t hung in there with Dad. And yet, big bro gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop. The message seems to be, “Blessed are the screw-ups, the slackers, and the party animals, for they will be rewarded once they crawl back home.” See why I don’t like this story?

Like I said, I’m starting to understand this one better. I don’t see that it’s about repentance, because I don’t see where little bro did any actual repenting. Instead I’ve decided that partially it’s about doing something with what you’ve been given. Not sitting on your duff and letting opportunity go by. No matter what you think of little bro’s choices, you can’t deny that he made the most out of his share. Big bro got a share too, but chose to stay home instead. While that’s probably commendable and virtuous, and certainly safer, he didn’t take a chance with the windfall he’d been given. I believe part of the message is that God doesn’t want us to live timidly. I still think big bro got a raw deal, but I see where they’re going with that.

The other take on it came from Prof. Levine who agrees that it’s not about repentance. She points out that Jesus told this parable as the last of a set of three. He didn’t pick his set list by accident; if he told the three of them together, there was a lesson in common. The parable of the lost sheep, found in Luke 15:4-6, told of a shepherd who abandoned 99 sheep to search for one gone missing. The parable concludes with the shepherd calling his friends and inviting them to celebrate with him. (No word on whether lamb chops were on the dinner menu.) Then the parable of the lost coin, in Luke 15:8-9, tells of a woman who has 10 coins, loses one and devotes time to finding it, calling her friends to rejoice with her afterward. Prof. Levine concludes:

“If lost sheep and lost coin are about the coming together of a group that had been separated and is now whole, perhaps that should be the model by which we understand the prodigal son… That son may be no more repentant than a sheep and a coin. The important thing is that dad feels that somehow the family has become whole again and wants to bring that wholeness together.”

It’s interesting how even people who dislike this parable get something out of it. It’s a testament to the chord it strikes in us all. Again from Prof. Muesse:

“Forgiveness of a child comes fairly easy for a parent. What loving father would not forgive a wayward son who returns home penitential and humble, no matter how wasteful he has been? There is nothing remarkable in that. The real story of forgiveness in the parable comes into focus when we consider the older son. He too must forgive the younger son, and it will be far harder for him than for the father. And, what’s more, he may also have to forgive his father.”

From Michael Hidalgo’s excellent blog:

“It’s wonderful to be the younger son. However, we often find ourselves in the place of the older son, don’t we? It’s this twist that makes this story in all its simplicity very complex. That’s what makes this story so difficult and why I’m convinced so many of us just don’t like it very much. What we must never forget is this. When we are in the place of the older son, as terrible as it feels, the story is not over. The father is still there with his arm around us, filled with love for us, begging us to come to the party. The question we are left with as we stand outside is this: ‘Will you come in and party with the brother you don’t like very much?'”

And a different take from Irim:

“So let this be a lesson to us all: turn and thank those who are always there for you – dependable, strong, those you almost take for granted. They’re your real treasures, the ones who will always be there when you need them.”

So I still don’t like the parable, but have tumbled onto some takeaways:

  • Forgiveness doesn’t benefit the person we forgive; it’s for us. For-giving. Even when the person doesn’t deserve it, or doesn’t regret his actions.
  • Live boldly. Don’t waste your share in life by retreating from it, especially if it’s going to cause you to resent those who DO go out after it.
  • We are better together as a group. It is worth the effort to seek a loved one who is lost, to reach out, to welcome him back when he returns.
  • However: thank and appreciate the ones who don’t stray, the ones who stand by you and give of themselves through thick and thin.

I will never stop thinking big bro got a raw deal. This one’s been tumbling around in my head for a long time, though, and I’d appreciate your take on it.