The Powerful Men of Evangelicalism Suddenly Care about Sexual Abuse of Children? Prove it.

*All opinions are my own and in no way represent those of my employer.

For years now, activist bloggers, including the Wartburg Watch, Boz Tchividian of G.R.A.C.E., and I have posted again and again about the rampant sex abuse of children in churches and church leaders horrific responses to sexual abuse of children in their congregation.

See these posts for examples:

Here are some of my posts that I have written on the topic:

However there is little evidence that the powerful in the church (and shouldn’t that phrase be an oxymoron?) take sex abuse of minors seriously. In fact, many of the most heard voices in the Evangelical community continue to cover sex abuse and even make jokes about the cover-ups. Recently, while SNAP (Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests) protested CJ Mahaney’s inclusion as a speaker in the 2016 Together for the Gospel Conference , Al Mohler, the head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and regarded as one of Evangelicalism’s most influential people, took the podium and used the opportunity to make a joke at the victim’s expense. He stated “I told C.J. that in getting ready to introduce him I decided I would Google to see if there was anything on the Internet about him.”, referring to the activism online calling out Mahaney for years of covering up sex abuse. There are far too many  cases to list here of powerful men in Evangelicalism who have attempted to cover up the crime of child sex abuse or rape or who have sided with the perpetrator showing little to no concern with the victim, but here are just a few:

  1. CJ Mahaney’s cover up of the widespread sexual abuse of numerous minors
  2. Doug Wilson’s victim blaming and siding with a child rapist and presiding over the marriage of a known pedophile to a church member and asked for leniency after the conviction of the pedophile and then presided over the pedophile’s marriage to a church member.
  3. Ken Ramey’s insistence that a mother of a developmentally delayed youth who had been raped so severely he required medical attention keep quiet about the situation and to submit to a church mediated reconciliation process and put her under discipline when she refused. See  sources here and here and here. (This has been updated for accuracy. The child is not developmentally disabled but is delayed and the mother had already contacted authorities/medical attention by the time they met with Ken Ramsey as opposed to him requiring her not to call).

In fact the number one reason that churches end up in court is because of sexual abuse of a child. (Credit Church Law and Tax)

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However despite all their covering of their own behinds, patting each others backs and  recklessly disregarding victims to the point of making jokes at their expense, suddenly all these people seem to care about is the SAFETY of CHILDREN from sexual assault. I should be happy about this right? Isn’t that what I have been asking them to care about all along? Except the way they are going to protect children is to not allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choosing.

Seriously.

Although transgender people, especially transgender women, were far more likely to be victimized than the general population, at a rate of as high of 66% being victims of sexual assault in their lifetimes, they feel that further putting transgender people in danger will help to make children somehow safer. They used the argument while transgender people wouldn’t be perpetrating the abuse, cisgender males would take advantage of dressing like women to perpetrate on women and children in women’s bathrooms. This point was made especially clear with Libby Ann’s blog Conservative Rhetoric and Transgender Bathroom Battles. (As a side note the emphasis is on a fear of transgender females rather than transgender males, who would, under the South Carolina law would be forced to use the women’s restroom. Most likely this is due to the predominate patriarchal culture’s belief that a male having feminine traits is horrible while a female having male traits is accepted, since male traits are seen as superior or naturally desirable).It is especially ironic that many in the far right, who traditionally believe in less government control are asking for more laws and more government control in regards to this issue. For years, transgender people have been using bathrooms that correlate with their gender and nothing happened. Suddenly, in the far right there is an outcry for states to make new laws, even though videotaping, spying, and any form of sex abuse in a bathroom is already against the law. It seems those in the far right want the government out of their private business unless it’s someone else’s business and then it’s ok, especially if they are a minority. Since when does one have to carry a birth certificate to go pee? And what if one is born with genitals that are not easily classified as either male or female, which is fairly common. For instance, Nate Sparks points out that the rate of people who are born intersex is more common than being born with red hair.

This clearly isn’t about protecting children. It’s just not. It’s about fear of other people and about those in power (READ: white, cis, Christian men) marginalizing other people even more. The reality is, is while it does rarely occur, statistically very few child sexual assaults are committed by strangers. At least ninety percent of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child and I suspect the number is much higher than that, due to the far greater likelihood that a child would report against a stranger rather than someone he or she knew and who had been actively grooming them. I have worked in child protection for eight and a half years. Our office receives around 50-100 reports of suspected child abuse and neglect every month and I can’t remember even one of them being perpetrated by a stranger in a bathroom. Most sexual abuse is perpetrated in the child’s home, school or church. In fact, the very cultures that these powerful men of Evangelicalism create, makes it more likely that children will be sexually abuse. For instance, according to the CDC it is more likely that sexual abuse of children will take place in environments with hostility towards women, adherence to traditional gender role norms and hyper-masculinity.  The people we should be concerned about are people that the child knows and trusts such as relatives, teachers, neighbors, and pastors.
So what can people actually do to help?

  • Teach children body autonomy. Make sure the child knows that their body is theirs and no one else. Allow your children to say no to physical touch starting from a very young age.  See some really great tips in starting to teach this are found in 5 Phrases That Can Help Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse and starting conversations in When Kristoff asks Anna for Consent in Frozen
  • Listen and believe victims. I can’t stress this enough. Our entire culture is primed to believe adults over children especially when it comes to sexual assault and most often churches and pastors take the side of the perpetrator rather than the victim.
  • Report to proper authority immediately. This includes the police and CPS. Do not let this be handled “in-house” in churches. Sexual abuse of a child is a crime  not just a sin. And in many places, not reporting it is also a crime.
  • Stop victim blaming. Sexual abuse of children is 100% the perpetrators fault. Full stop. No matter what the victim was doing, wearing, or drinking. If there is no consent (and there can’t be with children due to their age) it’s rape.
  • When there is doubt, over protect. Even if the accused is innocent, there is absolutely no harm in putting additional safe guards in place. There is no reason for anyone who has been accused of sexual assault to be alone with a child at any time, even if that person is thought to be innocent. Most people who are not predators actively try to make sure they aren’t put in a position where they are alone with a child. If someone tries to isolate children, then is defensive of their position, the community should be on high alert and should never allow that person alone or in a position of power over children.

If you really want to stop sexual abuse, start the conversations at the top, call out those who are protecting perpetrators or covering up abuse, call for longer sentences, over protect, believe victims and teach consent and body autonomy. However marginalizing transgender people and making it more unsafe for them in a public restroom is not in away safeguarding children. It’s just another way the powerful have twisted information to make it seem like they care, when they are actually just using it as an excuse to discriminate.

 

 

 

 

 

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Politics, Christianity, and the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Today I was planning on writing about foster care. I was going to extol the importance of families opening up homes to the “least of these”, welcoming the little children into their homes and hearts for as long as as they are with them, then either supporting them as they return to their home of origin, go to another forever family, or adopting the children themselves. This is an extremely important subject, I spend my working hours every day dedicated to creating permanency for children and as another person in my job said, “I wake up and the first thing I think about is permanency for children.” Most days that is true, and I will write about foster care this month, but today, my heart is somewhere else.

This morning, I woke up and the first thought on my mind was the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

I began mentally plan on how to get to Europe to start helping people, what agency to contact, how to get leave from work, obtaining a passport… and realized that perhaps I was not the best equipped person to go (or at least go quickly). Plus, if I go, who would do my job of finding permanency for children in foster care, people also in need of safe homes? While I am not discounting going myself, at least for a short trip, I realized a more immediate way of helping was to use my voice to speak out and my wallet to help fund those who can go now and are equipped to serve well (you know, young or retired people with time and energy, who travel well and have passports).

I hadn’t planned to write about the Syrian Refugee Crisis. I had liked other people’s posts supporting the refugees, but I was afraid to write or even share a post myself. As I have shared before, my biggest roadblock to writing is fear: fear of exposing too much, fear of offending someone, fear of multiple grammatical and spelling errors. This time the fear was different. I started to think about why I was afraid of writing about the refugee crisis. I generally am not afraid of people disagreeing with me. I am a pro-life feminist, LGBTQ ally, Evangelical, creationist. Seriously, no one agrees with me about everything and a lot of people are pretty vocal about it.  But when I started to explore that fear this morning, I realized that I felt so strongly about this issue, I was actually afraid that someone close to me, someone that I loved and respected, would speak hatefully about the refugees and I would lose respect for that person. I decided to face that fear and write anyway. If someone seriously responds with hatred, perhaps a natural consequence is a loss of respect.

I scrolled through my Facebook this morning and saw that what feels like the majority of this country is slamming the door shut on people in danger, in need, who are fleeing for their lives. I am angry about the reaction of this country, but I don’t have much sway over what the government of this country does. What truly made my heart sink, what made me feel sick to my stomach, and what made me burst into tears of frustration was my fellow sisters and brothers in Christ using their Christian platforms to say we shouldn’t welcome or care for refugees.

It is one thing to say that politically, it might be unsafe (although statistics highly dispute that).

It is another to use a Christian platform to state that we should not care for refugees.

The more experience I have with politics, the more I am absolutely convinced that the goals  of the political are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Christianity.

Politics are about power about protecting the interest of the country.

Christianity is about becoming a servant and taking up a cross and following Christ.

Politics are about gaining and keeping wealth.

Christianity is about sharing what you have and giving up to everything you have to the poor.

Politics are about gaining popularity.

Jesus said the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

Politics are about having bigger guns and a bigger army than the other guy.

Jesus said to love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you, and turn the other cheek.

Politics are about protecting the status quo.

Christianity is about an upside-down kingdom of heaven where the meek shall inherit the earth, the peacemakers are called the children of God, and those who mourn are comforted.

What really fucks up Christianity is when we mix it with politics.It is then that we see Christianity used to support hatred, fear, bigotry, violence, power, wealth, and privilege.

I don’t care about individual politics and what may or may not be right politically.

What I know is that if you are a Christian, you already have your marching orders, straight from the mouth of Jesus, who was once a refugee, when his life was threatened by a King, his family fled to Egypt.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40 NIV)

 

For ways you can provide practical help to the refugees:

Five Ways to Stand up & Be the Church in the World’s Worst Refugee Crisis Since World War II

 

The First Step To Orphan Care is Family Preservation

November is Adoption Month and many churches remember Orphan Sunday (this year it was November 8) during the month. In the Old Testament, God is often described as a father and defender of the fatherless and many commandments ensure justice and care for those who do not have parents, such as Isaiah 1:17 which states “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”  In the New Testament, James states, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”(1:27)

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There is not many things closer to my heart than foster care and adoption and this month, I will be doing posts on both of those topics in honor of Adoption month, however the very first thing we can do as Christians is prevent children from becoming orphans, whether legally or by poverty.

Most children that are adopted out of foster care in the United States are not true orphans; one or both of their parents are generally still alive. However, because of the parent’s inability to care for the children due to a variety of reasons such as substance abuse, mental health issues, poverty, developmental disabilities, and domestic violence, they are unable to safely care for their children. Many of these problems are generational and parents have not been safely parented themselves as children, so have no idea how to be a safe, healthy parent.

Internationally, many children are true orphans due to preventable diseases, lack of clean water or food, AIDSwars, and women dying in childbirth. Many more parents internationally feel they cannot care for their children due to extreme poverty, lack of resources, and cultural concerns.

As a church, we have the resources and the command to preserve families by providing the care both locally and internationally to prevent parents from having their children removed or from being forced to give them up for adoption because of the lack of resources.

Here are specific ways the church can help prevent children from becoming either legal or true orphans. Locally, Christians can provide a space for NA/AA meetings, reach out to people who are struggling with addictions, create spaces where it is safe to ask for professional help for mental illness, speaking positively about necessary psychotropic medications, help people with transportation to and from mental health and substance abuse treatment appointments, provide food and volunteer at food banks and pantries, volunteer to teach parenting (ABC Pregnancy Care Center has a peer parenting program), come alongside a young mother or father and mentor them regarding healthy child care, create a space where non-violent parenting is taught, validate father’s raising children, teach child development, teach budgeting skills, teach youth bystander skills to prevent rape and domestic violence, teach employment skills, teach sexual education including topics such as consent and contraceptive use, offer free contraceptives, offer affordable child care, teach that domestic violence is not to be tolerated, offer or support a safe space for victims of domestic violence to stay with their children, pet sitting for victims of domestic violence (often abusers will threaten children and animals of the victim and shelters often don’t accept animals), offer healthy relationship classes and marriage counseling, allow a parent with a developmental disability and their child/ren to reside with your family to care for both the parent and the child, and create a homeless shelter or housing network.

Internationally, the church can provide communities with wells for access to clean water, sustainable horticultural skills for families to grow and raise food; micro loans with financial education for families to start small businesses; hygiene, nutrition and basic health training; disease prevention; educating girls and women; providing vaccinations; providing  quality prenatal and childbirth health care including training local midwives; providing access contraceptive; providing sexual education including topics of consent and contraceptive use; prevent child marriages; and education to men to prevent domestic violence and rape.

Some of these these things are pretty huge but some are fairly simple and wouldn’t cost much in the amount of time or money. If the church works to prevent children from becoming orphans, more families could safely and healthily care for their own children. There would be less trauma to children and less broken hearts of parents and there would be more resources and families to adopt true orphans. We could be doing so much more to create healthy families and communities. Until we get there, we will have many legal orphans that need homes. I will be discussing that next week.

What are other specific ways the church could prevent children from becoming orphans?

An Answer to a 2:00 am Facebook question that was deleted: “What is sin and why does God tell us not to sin?”

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At 2:00 am a question popped up on a Facebook discussion on a book review that I had posted about the changing Evangelical view of marriage equality. The question, which was unfortunately promptly deleted by the poster, was “What is sin and why does God tell us not to sin?”
I was disappointed that the person deleted the question (although I am guessing they didn’t want to get in the middle of Veldstra family debate and I don’t blame them), because that question is the heart of the issue. Is same sex marriage encouraging two people to engage in sin or is it the blessing of a healthy, loving committed relationship? I have often stated my opinion and it directly related on how I interpret the definition of sin.
For the first question part of the question, what is sin, one could have multitude of answers. One answer could be a sin is disobeying a Biblical command. This list would include things mentioned in both the Old and New Testament such as not eating pork, circumcising male children, not getting tattoos, not mixing fabric types, not trimming your beard, not eating blood, covering a woman’s head while praying or prophesying, not wearing gold jewelry and not braiding one’s hair. While there are a (very) few people who do believe that a Christian should follow both the Old Testament Law and the New Testament, most Evangelical Christians would say that this was a very legalistic standpoint and that Jesus came to give us freedom.
But what about the New Testament Laws that most churches don’t follow and why do we follow some Old Testament Laws and not others? Many Christians believe that the dietary restrictions were lifted when Peter had the vision where he is commanded to eat previously unclean animals and a voice spoke to him saying “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:9-16) however, even after Peter’s vision, there is a apostolic command to all Christians not to consume food sacrificed to idols, from blood, and from the meat of strangled animals (Acts 15:23-29) however this commandment is rarely followed by Christians today, even though it is stated more often than commandments against gay sex, and blood has just as much symbolism in the Bible as marriage. (I haven’t seen a lot of blogs condemning the blood sausage industry, or Franklin Graham or John Piper tweeting about how Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods, who frequently eats foods made with blood, is living an abominable lifestyle). Conversely, many Old Testament Laws are still followed by Christians who classify them as moral teachings. For example, the prohibition against finding lost property and lying about it (Lev 6:3) and giving your children to be sacrificed (Lev 18:21) and cursing the deaf and abusing the blind (Lev 19:14) are still seen as important teachings that should still be followed today. So why do we follow some commands and not others. Many Christians believe that head coverings and prohibitions against eating blood are “cultural” and prohibitions about sacrificing, children, lying about found property, and abusing blind and deaf people are “moral” commands.
That raises the question however, how does one distinguish a “moral” teaching and a “cultural” one? After all, Leviticus doesn’t delineate between “moral” and “cultural” edicts. Laws about mixing fabrics in clothing (19:19) are right next to seeking revenge or bearing a grudge (19:18). Why would most Christians call one moral and one a cultural edict? In the New Testament, the prohibition against eating blood, food polluted by idols, and meat from strangled animals, which most would consider cultural is in the same verse as what most would consider a moral prohibition from sexual immortality (Acts 15:20). But how should we discern the difference?
While I was never taught this in Sunday School or even at my Christian College, most Christians seem to uses Jesus’ words when asked what the greatest commandment was “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. “Love your neighbor as yourself’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” Matthew 22:37-40. Jesus showed throughout his ministry that breaking rules in order to show love to someone was not sinful, such as when he healed on the Sabbath and touching the leper when he healed him (both break Old Testament Laws).
Paul later confirms that the law of love is what we are to follow. When there was a controversy about whether Gentile believers should be circumcised to follow the law, Paul didn’t mince words in Galatians 5 when he stated “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” One of my favorite Paulisms comes in this chapter when he wishes the agitators who are trying to force others to be justified by law would go “emasculate themselves” Galatians 5:12.
If we look at a moral dilemma in light of whether it is loving toward God or loving toward our neighbor, all the morality laws fall into place. Laws that prohibit idolatry are moral because they separate us from a right relationship to God by putting an object in the place of God. Laws that prohibit us to lie to or mistreat our neighbor are moral laws because they are not loving to our neighbor. Laws that prohibit mixing of fibers don’t seem to fall under either category, so they are seen as “cultural” or as part of the Levitical Law that was meant to create an obvious strikingly visual separation between God’s chosen people and the people in the surrounding areas.
That brings us to the question “Why does God tell us not to sin?” In the Old Testament there seems to be further layers. In the Levitical law, some of the laws seem to be moral laws (still apply today because are about loving neighbor/loving God), some appear to be laws that were health based (which tend not to apply today, because of modern sanitation and cooking), and some appear to only to exists to separate the Israelites from their surrounding neighbors. For example “thou shalt not kill, that shall love the Lord your God” are moral laws. Prohibitions against touching dead animals, bodies, not eating animals that tend to carry parasites, and hygiene laws, kept the Israelites healthy, but most Christians would say it wasn’t a sin to eat pork, and modern meat processing and cooking methods tend to eliminate trichinosis. There is a layer of further commandments that separated the Israelites that didn’t seem to apply to either but caused them to look very different and be obvious as a people set apart. This included not shaving, not cutting the sides of their hair, not getting tattoos, and circumcision (though both of those have some health implications as well) not wearing mixed fiber clothing, and adding tassels on the four corners of their coat (Deuteronomy 22:12) These things serve to set the people apart as a Holy chosen people.
Thus it appears in the Old Testament, laws seem to have three purposes: 1. to create and maintain a healthy relationship between a person and God and a person and other people 2. to keep people physically safe and healthy 3. to set the Jewish people apart from their neighbors. If one broke a law, it was a sin. If one broke a law against loving one’s neighbor, it caused hurt to that neighbor. If someone elevated a thing above God, the whole system broke down (why should a person listen or want to obey God if something else is more important?).
In the New Testament, the reasons that God doesn’t want us are similar, however they are simplified, giving Christians freedom to express God’s love without legalistic restrictions. Jesus said that the two greatest commandants were to love God and love people. The church in Acts dropped restrictions that made it difficult to evangelize and to socialize with Gentile Christians and kept rules that made it difficult for Jewish people to socialize with Gentiles . The rules regarding meat and blood that seem to change throughout the New Testament, from do not eat blood, strangled animals, or animals offered to idols in Acts 15, to eat anything sold in the meat market in I Corinthians 10, were a call to be culturally sensitive, since the first instruction in Acts was made to a church in Jerusalem that was primarily Jewish and the second was to the Corinthians which was primarily Gentile. The instruction easily fell under the command to love your neighbor enough to be sensitive to his conscience regarding dietary restrictions. The same would be true today if one was to serve a Muslim family, it would not be loving to serve pork nor meat to a vegetarian Hindu Family. However in Christianity, we are given the freedom to eat whatever is served to us, without the specific food itself being sinful. The same was true of other commands that were deemed cultural throughout most of Christianity, such covering a woman’s head when praying or prophesying in church, or the command to be silent in church (these seeming to be contradictory commands were actually given to different cultures the first to the Corinthians, the second to the Ephesians, who previously had a female dominated religion). While it is not often explicitly stated, the commands in the Bible that are most often deemed cultural do not harm a person’s relationship with God or with other people, outside specific cultural contexts. It is also why things that aren’t specifically prohibited in the Bible, such as slavery, are deemed today as immoral because they do negatively affect people’s relationship to each other.
So to summarize a very long blog, a sin is anything that harms one’s relationship to God or to other humans. We are created for relationship and one of the main ways we express love to God is by showing love to others. Whatever harms our relationship with another person or prioritizes a created thing above God is therefore sinful. Because God loves us and sin harms our relationship with him or with other people, he commands us not to sin.

It Smells Like Jesus.

A person is standing in the back of your church, clearly intoxicated. They reek of cheap beer and whiskey, their eyes aren’t focusing, and they are swaying slightly but they aren’t making noise or a scene. What does your church do?
In the case of one local church, they asked the person to leave. When I was told about it, I was completely shocked and dismayed. Isn’t this the person that Christians should be welcoming the most? Isn’t this the reason why we are here, to show love to those who need it? I could understand if the person was yelling, swearing and interrupting the sermon, that perhaps a congregant could invite the person to the lobby for some coffee or even better, offer to have lunch at a local restaurant and spend time building a relationship, but to ask a person to leave because they were intoxicated seems like the direct opposite of Christianity.
It seems that the Church has always struggled with excluding the very people Jesus included. We want people to clean up and  present a pretty, put together, 1950’s, faux Christian life before we will even considering accepting them. Kicking them out the door or not letting them in to begin with seems to be a common reaction to people the church deems “not good enough”. Libby Anne from Love, Joy, Feminism recently wrote in Jesus the Enabler about Pat Robertson’s praise of a grandfather who told his gay grandson that his friend was not welcome at their home for Thanksgiving because his friend was likely from “that so-called lifestyle”. Robertson said that if the grandfather let his grandson bring his friend to eat with the family, he would become an “enabler”. If a family believes that gay sex is a sin[1][2], then in fact, the best way to imitate Jesus would be to welcome their grandson’s friend with open arms, sitting with him, and eating with him as Jesus did. As it says in Mark 2:13-17 “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners where eating with him and his disciples, for they were eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” NIV

Instead of loving people where they are and accepting them for who they are, we expect people to “play the game of church” and make sure that their appearance is upholding the “reputation of Christ”.  Really this is only about appearances, since we all have things in our lives, that if exposed, would probably get us kicked out of that church or family Thanksgiving. The person who has had five shots of vodka before they could enter the church because it was so triggering to them because of past abuse, can politely sit in a pew and suck on mints, and be every bit as intoxicated as the person in back, but because they know how to “behave” in church because they were taught how to since infancy, they can sit there and be accepted but the person standing in the back gets kicked out because they haven’t learned that appearances are what matters. Should the person in the pew start speaking up about the abuse, they would likely be kicked out as well, as that isn’t playing church nicely and might damage the church’s reputation.
A friend said that he frequently thinks about the song lyric by Todd Agnew, in which he states “Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church/The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet”. How true is that of our churches and if it is true, how can we change it?
Shouldn’t the church be a place where those who are outcasts and marginalized by society be accepted with open arms? Shouldn’t it be a place where AA/NA/SA meetings are regularly held? Where the homeless can find food and take a hot shower? Where skateboarding kids can ride in the parking lot and be offered snack and a soda? Where parents who have had their children removed due to abuse and neglect can find healthy parenting classes? Where LGBTQ couples who have been disowned by their family can find a new family in the body of Christ?
My favorite time of the year at my church is when we have the Share the Love Christmas Store, where local families with few resources can shop for their children for free. When I walk in to the church it smells of cheap beer, stale cigarettes, and body odor. It smells like church should. It smells like the people who Jesus would have ate with and associated with. It smells like Jesus.

I wish it smelled like this all year long instead of just once, around Christmas. As a church we can do better at accepting those who are marginalized and outcast, at not turning away imperfect people, not focusing on appearances, and eating with and associating with those who do not conform to “church standards”.  What ideas do you have to be more accepting and inclusive of people who have previously been excluded from the church?

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[1] I do not hold the belief that homosexual sex in a conventional, respectful, and loving relationship is sinful. See my blog Now it Gets Personal for the reason.

[2] If they believe the orientation of being gay is a sin without the person ever engaging in any behavior or dwelling on lustful thoughts, to be consistent, they would also have to believe that any orientation is a sin. For instance, a person with a biological predilection for becoming an alcoholic would be living in sin, even though they have never touched alcohol, or a person who is heterosexual has a biological response to engage in sex with people they are not married to, yet does not dwell on the thought nor engage in extramarital sex, would also be living in sin.

Real Christians Don’t Wear Mixed Fibers

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Yesterday, I woke up before dawn since I felt led to read the Scriptures early in the morning. Reading before you are quite awake and cognizant is clearly the most holy time. I am really praying for those poor souls who have coffee before their devotional, or, heaven forbid, read the Bible after 7:00 am.

I flipped open my big red letter, gold gilt edged, King James Version, closed my eyes, and let my finger fall on the page, because how else would you know God is speaking to you. It was Deuteronomy 22:11 “Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woolen and linen together.”

Oh no! I exclaimed. I looked towards my closet, full of poly blend blouses, cotton and spandex jeans, and a pair of pants actually made from a linen and wool mix. Before I panicked too much though, I woke up my sleeping husband to ask him to explain the verse, because I, as a woman, couldn’t interpret the Bible myself. He groggily looked at the verse and said “I think it means you can’t wear clothes with mixed fibers” and went back to sleep.

I felt convicted and I knew I had to act, after all, the Bible said it; I believed it; that settles it. I got out of bed, searched through my clothing and finally found an outfit that matched the biblical requirements: a jean skirt made out of 100% cotton and a 100% wool sweater. I pulled these on and considered the rest of my closet. That many clothes would be expensive to replace, plus I had some really cute things I loved in there. I had learned my lesson after burning all my secular CDs after church camp, then replacing them when I backslid, and having to burn them all again after the fiery tent revival pastor screamed that AC/DC meant “Anti-Christian/Devil’s Children”. Plus my closet was still pretty sparse from the time that I burned everything made from GAP since that meant “Gay American Pride.” I decided to just close my closet doors. After all, appearance is what matters. I wouldn’t be “causing anyone to stumble” if they only saw what I was wearing and ignored what was in my closet.

I posted on Facebook that “Real Christians shouldn’t wear mixed fiber clothes” and grabbed the cake that I had made for the potluck at work. When I got to work, I couldn’t help noticing all the mixed fibers. I mean, I would have to check tags to be positive, but I was pretty sure that the secretary was wearing a wool/acrylic blend cardigan. I shook my head. She was a missionary’s wife but she still flaunted her mixed fiber wearing in my face.

Lunch was a little awkward since I would only serve cake to those who were not wearing blends. I made them all show me their tags before giving them a slice. It was their fault if they didn’t get cake, since they chose the mixed fiber lifestyle after all. They should know better, even the ones who say they are not Christians. This is America after all. I told them that I loved the sinner, but hated the sin, so they couldn’t have the cake I made and I told them I would pray for them. Only one other person had 100% cotton on, and it was fluke, but she and I got to spend some quality time judging, I mean, praying for, the others. Really, I felt like that was what Jesus would do. He didn’t hang out with sinners after all; he wouldn’t want me to.

When I got home, I checked my Facebook and some of my so called Christian friends actually questioned my post.  They asked about the version of the Bible I was referencing, and I told them that I was reading the King James Version, which was good enough for Jesus, so it was good enough for me. They asked me about context and meaning and I responded that “The Bible clearly states, don’t wear mixed fibers.” Really! I couldn’t believe the nerve of these people to question my interpretation. What kind of leftist questions are those? They must be progressives, which everyone knows is just as bad as being an athiest.

After eating a nice appetizer of shrimp cocktail, then a main course of ham, mashed potatoes made with creamy butter and milk for dinner, I went to sleep soundly, dreaming of what verse my finger might fall on tomorrow and what new things I could judge people for.

In other news, Katie Hopkins was right. It is super easy to lose weight with just a bit fewer calories and some exercise. A month into her diet program, I am a svelte 125lbs, super happy, and fabulously healthy.

Giving Damning Tracts to Strangers Doesn’t Show You Care

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The day before Christmas Eve, a man came into a local shop with his wife. She showed him some items that she liked, asking for his opinion while his attention was focused on his phone. He mostly ignored her, except when he deigned to look her way skeptically, shaking his head in disdain at each item she suggested.

He was back the next day to purchase something and was rude to the clerks who helped  him. As he left, he handed the young clerk this tract, titled “Are You Good Enough to Go To Heaven” by Ray Comfort¹.  On the back of the tract, after 27 tiny print paragraphs mentioning hell, death, punishment and judgement 22 times,  it stated “By the way, someone cared enough about you to give you this tract”. I call bullshit. Luckily, someone cared enough about the store clerk to make sure to immediately relieve her of the tract and gave it to me to write about.

If this person actually cared about the clerk (or his wife) a better way to show it would be treating them with respect and as a fellow human, deserving as his attention, respect, and kindness. Instead, he ignored and belittled them. If he believed the theology that was presented in the tract, his actions make sense.

The tract  lists the Ten Commandments and all the possible ways the person reading the tract has probably broken them and is going to hell. It then it compares Jesus to a “parachute” stating “In the same way, the reason you should ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ shouldn’t be to find peace, joy, true happiness, to have your marriage healed or your problems fixed, etc. (to have your flight improved) but it should be to escape the jump to come– because of the fact you have to pass through the door of death.” (emphasis mine). Basically, the tract says Jesus is fire insurance.

In fact, the overall conclusion I drew from this tract was 1). You are a terrible, no good, awful person who is going to hell. 2.) Don’t try to do good things because, as Comfort states “… the worst thing you could do at this point of time is to try and clean up your lifestyle” 3.)  You should trust Jesus  only as your “parachute” to save you from hell.  So the person who handed tract to the clerk, likely believes that trusting in Jesus is only to save him from Hell. Forget all the stuff about growing in grace, feeding the poor, loving your neighbor or “Thy Kingdon come on Earth as it is in heaven”. He was “saved”, so why worry about loving someone enough to be respectful. He just needed her to read the tract and “get saved” too. unfortunately, this man isn’t alone in his attitudes.

My friend tells the story of an entitled, demanding and rude couple who brought in an incredibly nasty car to be detailed. When my friend couldn’t get all the stains out, the couple complained over and over until the car had been cleaned multiple times. At the end of that horrible experience, by friend was handed a tract as a tip.  Wait staff anecdotally say that Sunday after church is the worst time to serve because the Christian crowd is rude, leaves measly tips, or worse yet, no tip and a tract.

Jesus doesn’t call his followers to give out tracts. He calls us to love our neighbor.  When he gave an example of loving our neighbor, he told the story of a person from a hated religious minority having compassion on a stranger who was probably  bigoted against him. He bound up his wounds, spent money on him, and made sure he was cared for. He didn’t hand him a tract that said the wounded man was probably going to hell and walk off whistling, thinking what a good person he was.

In Matthew 25, Jesus talks to his disciples about those who followed him feeding, clothing, visiting and inviting in  “the least of these” as knowing who is his followers and who is not. Yes, it is by grace we are saved and there is nothing we can do to earn that grace, but to follow Jesus is to meet the needs of the least of these. Showing you care about someone takes work. You might have to interact with someone respectfully who doesn’t like you. You might get dirty. You might have to spend money. Don’t be the lazy guy that thinks that being rude and handing out tracts means you care. It doesn’t.

 

1. “Are You Good Enough to Go to Heaven?” condensed from Hell’s Best Kept Secret by Ray Comfort published by Whitaker House