Musings of an Ist

TW on this post for a racial slur

When I was a high school student, I walked into a local pastor’s home and was immediately assaulted by the sight of a large confederate flag hanging on the wall. I gasped and asked them why they had a confederate flag. With disarming matter-of-factness, they told me that they liked the colors, the aesthetic and the “rebel” image that it projected. I tried to explain (as best I could as a frazzled teen) that the flag invokes painful images of black oppression but they remained committed to their blissful ignorance. Ultimately, they shoo-ed me away, telling me that I was making a big deal out of nothing and that I focused too much on negative events that were resolved long ago. The flag remained mounted on the wall for years.

The church taught me that my perspective is invalid and that the pain of my people is unimportant.

Dear White Christians of Florida:

  Far be it that I, a white clergyman who is not a lawyer, instruct you as to the illogical nature of your “stand your ground” license to kill but let us note something that is apparent now after two cases where your predominantly white juries could not agree to convict a man who admitted he killed an unarmed teen-ager:  if you convict a person for attempting to murder ten teens but fail to convict the killer for actually killing a teen, then you have incentivized killing since, not only on the face of it but in actuality, you have told the person we will not convict you for killing a black, unarmed teen-ager but we will imprison you for attempting it.
  The stench from your houses of worship is wafting its way across this country, polluting citizenship, demoralizing parents and families, mocking accountability and blaspheming the Holy God whom you say you love and worship.  If that offends you, try reading Amos.

Does anyone know of Christian blogs or comment sections talking about materialism (attachment to physical possessions, not the philosophy) or excess or having too much stuff or a minimalist life?

I know there are some books, but I’m wondering if anyone’s talking about it in real-time. (And if not, it’s kind of a sad commentary on the church.) Google’s not turning up much; has anyone seen something like that?

Author’s Note: As an exercise, I re-wrote the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) in “socially acceptable” language–a sort of modern version. I was surprised at how convicted I was (and which parts were the most damning of my actual life). This probably shouldn’t have surprised me, since Jesus rarely left the religious people like myself feeling comfortable.

… If someone is needy, there is surely someone else who will see to it. In the small chance that you find yourself in a position to give to the poor, make sure you only give to the deserving—those who are humble and contrite and good, who have done nothing in order to justify their fate. When you give, go to faraway countries and bring your camera; you might want to blog about it, after all.

When you pray, make sure it is about you, and that it sounds beautiful and fancy and full of theological depth. Hide your fears that you are talking to thin air by repeating the names of God, over and over again, like a mantra you can cling to. Father God, Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit, I just want to ask you to bless us all, but only with the blessings of my choice.

I will say it again: don’t forgive those who aren’t worthy, who never said sorry, who don’t deserve it.

If you feel like it, every once in awhile do something extremely spiritual (like giving up chocolate  or social media, or starting a missional community). Express how hard it is to follow God, preferably on the internet.

Be wise, be good stewards of your money. Save for yourself, your kids, your grandkids—you and yours. Live in a safe neighborhood, have a garage to house your bargains, use your reliable vehicles to get you where you need to go, the job that pays comfortably so you can provide for yourself. Invest responsibly, save for retirement, start a college fund now. This is what good Christians do.

This is fantastic.

Now think about Jesus announcing the arrival of God’s kingdom with the proclamation of his counterintuitive Beatitudes. When Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” how was that received? Well, it depends on who is hearing it. The poor Galilean peasant would hear it as good news (gospel), while the Roman in his villa would hear it with deep suspicion. (I know it’s an anachronism, but I can imagine Claudius saying something like, “sounds like socialism to me!”)

And that’s the challenge I face in reading the Bible. I’m not the Galilean peasant. Who am I kidding! I’m the Roman in his villa and I need to be honest about it. I too can hear the gospel of the kingdom as good news (because it is!), but first I need to admit its radical nature and not try to tame it to endorse my inherited entitlement.

I am a (relatively) wealthy white American male. Which is fine, but it means I have to work hard at reading the Bible right. I have to see myself basically as aligned with Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and Caesar. In that case, what does the Bible ask of me? Voluntary poverty? Not necessarily. But certainly the Bible calls me to deep humility — a humility demonstrated in hospitality and generosity. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being a relatively well-off white American male, but I better be humble, hospitable, and generous!

I enjoyed this article as I’d thought about it in these terms before: “I’m Dives, not Lazarus.”



#sigh#christian#christianity#this speaks truth#which is so freaking tragic

It should be scandalous to Christians that poor people cannot survive in our society without working to such a degree that they do not have time to spend with God or their families. We should support whatever macroeconomic changes would support a world where working class people can have a basic level of economic stability and still have time for meaningful pursuits.

I am adding that this is from a Christian blogger probably expecting to engage mostly Christians, so he is not implying that everyone should have to spend time with God (or any god) but that they should be able to if they want to.

These are acts that involve a personal choice or a choice that two (or more) people make consensually.  Though some of these things (like sex and drinking) can carry risk (like nearly EVERYTHING we do in life) and should be practiced responsibly, they are not inherently acts of harm. They are not inherently hurtful, unloving acts.

Yet these are the “sins” that the evangelical church seems most preoccupied with.

By focusing on these “sins” that don’t hurt anyone (except GOD apparently), these Christians effectively take the focus off of the real sins. The sins that actually do harm to fellow humans and the image of God that is in them.


When Hana died, she became one of at least dozens of adoptees alleged to have been killed at their adoptive parents’ hands in the past 20 years, and part of a far larger group of children who become estranged from their adoptive families—frequently, as it turns out, large families with fundamentalist beliefs about child rearing. Just within the Seattle area, and just among Ethiopian adoptees who came from the same orphanage and adoption agency as Hana, there has been an unreported crisis of “forever families” that fail. These are adoptions that, in an absence of any real oversight and in environments of harsh discipline, began with good intentions but went profoundly wrong.