Jesus’ Wife! Yeehaw!

Dedicated to Bart Ehrman and all who are making a buck off twisting and misrepresenting historical data to their own ends. This spoof is for you! I had brought up there very same example in jesus outed (that pointing to the Gnostic gospels as historical data over New Testament documents is like quoting from the film Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter as a reliable historical source than Lincoln’s own Gettysburg Address).

I love these Lutheran Satire guys! They nail it!

Franchising has Disenfranchised

christcoAn increasing number of Christians are leaving the church, even though they grew up in church. According to the Barna Group, more than 50% of young Christians drop out of church after attending regularly due to  internal politics or disunity, or simply being utterly unprepared to live out their young faith in a secular context. They were the result of churches which prioritized  programs over its congregation; and immediate attendance over depth of spiritual growth?

The attempt to “Franchise” the Church has simply left a generation or more dis-enfranchised, cynical and unreached. What has awakened the Church at large to this? Sadly, that giving is plummeting.  Be that as it may, whatever rings your bell.

Why?

Human beings are essentially relational and they hunger for meaning and real connection in relationship. You  cannot get that from passively watching the show for an hour once a week. Oh…and when the real trials and questions of life show up? They will crush infantile made-up faith.

Who is to blame? Church leaders for sure. They went for cheap fixes, big numbers and fancy toys instead of the real work of discipleship and teaching. Now their espresso bar lines are getting shorter and they’ve cut back services. Giving is down, so staff is down.

You are asking the wrong questions people.

Start asking what it really means to be a human being;then ask what the core of the Gospel is.

******

jesus outed is now available at Amazon via Kindle at

http://www.amazon.com/jesus-outed-Farcical-Explorations-Post-Christian-ebook/dp/B00GUSU0LU

For information on a speaking engagement at your church, or a teaching series, contact Christopher MacDonald at jesusouted@azotusarts.com

Kierkegaard’s Xmas (book excerpt)

Kierkegaard“O Lord Jesus Christ, I long to live in your presence, to see your human form and to watch you walking on earth. I do not want to see you through the darkened glass of tradition, nor through the eyes of today’s values and prejudices. I want to see you as you were, as you are, and as you always will be. I want to see you as an offense to human pride, as a man of humility, walking amongst the lowliest of humanity, and yet as the savior and redeemer of the human race.”

~Soren Kierkegaard

(Note: Written in 2000 you might think this piece dated. It is no more dated than Kierkegaard’s Attack on Christendom which I highly recommend about now.)

Let me give you an example of what Kierkegaard is suggesting.

For the last 25 years I have heard Christians say, “Two thousand years ago..blah blah blah…” And, of course, they were rounding up or down time-wise.

But today is December 25, in the Year of our Lord 2000.

It is the ONE and only day we can say, “Two Thousand years ago TODAY, God…”

Yes, 2,000 years ago, today, the Creator of the Universe decided to crash the Human Party, which had turned damned ugly. If you listen, those who were there, they claim that God Himself, came bumping and birthing out of a young girl’s womb and spilled into the riot that is this world.

But it is right here that the folk Kierkegaard is talking about start to shout, “But Jesus wasn’t born in December! That was the way Christians appropriated the pagan holiday..blah blah blah…”

Or, gasbag scholars (with tenure) will go on and on about how Jesus was “more likely born 4 years prior to the date that was used in the formation of our current calendar” (thus Jesus was probably born in the spring of 4 B.C. …yea, yea…he was born four years before he was born.)

But when they go this route they are missing the whole point.

What about what happened when Jesus was born somewhere between the spring of 4 BC and our “traditional” (read “darkened glass”) date?

Kierkegaard says elsewhere that even if no historical records had survived about Jesus, he would still be the most important and central figure of human history.

Why?

Because he was God, and he willfully and deliberately dove into our mire for love’s sake. (Could it be that reality is more real than history?)

I mean, c’mon, what kind of God allows himself to become a human baby?

It’s either the most asinine notion

or the most beautiful thing

you’ve every heard your whole life.

The coming of Jesus, as God into our riot, is the radical opposite of religion–all of it, “Christian” or otherwise.

So, what do many churches do with this incredible miracle, this challenge to the whole way we view ourselves, our human history and our ultimate destiny and meaning?

They make a “religious service” out of it. And this is done in the most visual, audience, and entertainment-oriented culture in human history (“Damn Jim, I got 168 new channels on my new satellite dish…it’s unreal”) the Church with all its radical vision and devotion to Jesus does what?

The “Christmas services” many churches prepare serve to transform the naked amniotic reality of Jesus’ birth into an ethereal place of simple, rustic, “Country Home” beauty. In creating a visual and entertainment-oriented service, we are invited to sit and passively watch just like we do Family Guy or last week’s episode of NCIS.

If, as Kierkegaard suggests, we should see Jesus for what he was, is, and will always be, then that would apply to his birth in Bethlehem.

So let’s strip away the “darkened glass of tradition and the current cultural prejudices” and ask, what should be up on the church stage for these Christmas productions?

The answer is obvious. Go visit a barn.

dung2Go visit an American barn which is, by the way, a half a world away from a Bethlehem barn, and ask that simple question again: what should our Christmas productions look and feel like if we are to see Jesus for who he was, is and always will be?

To start with, how about manure, and lots of it?

There must be a great deal of it and stench.

Then we must add slop for the animals and dirty water troughs on the sides of the church stage to maintain any accuracy at all.

In other words, the whole church should reek of dank poverty, or, at the very least, to make a legitimate cultural bridge, reflect a modern American barn (which has turds and piss and is cold and is a good, but dirty, business).

And instead of whitewashing the event into something about us, and our sentiments at Christmastime, how about talking about the real deal and asking good questions like “Why did God choose to come this way?” “What does it mean that there was no room available for God when he came? What does it mean that he was placed in a feeding trough after birth? (that’s what a “manger” is). What does it means that instead of lying quietly in a sweet designer/manger bed, the baby Jesus was screeching his head off like every other baby..EXACTLY like every other baby…laying inside a hard and putrid feeding trough and surrounded by the dank smell of animal dung?

This is what would be needed.

But no.

We have this clean and completely nonfunctional “manger”, and then a big production which is all about us and our artistic gifts, then a short message relating the beautifully decorated Christmas tree to show how Christ needs to be in our homes. And on it goes.

It’s a show. We are the audience, God is an idea, and the performers are worried about how they will perform in the show, not about the glory of God or his incomprehensible love.

Kierkegaard said elsewhere, that our worshipers/audience are really supposed to be the performers, and that the audience is not us at all, it is God.

Wow!

Imagine if more modern American churches took that seriously! (And if you know of any, please email me the information and WE will go!)

And we’re not talking performing to “appease” God. We’re talking performing for the sheer enjoyment of God and his glory and out of gratitude that this God has such love and such a passion to be known that he would do this radical thing (and we are not even talking about the exit yet, just the intro).

So, if the audience are really meant to be the performers, who then are the people on stage?

They are the “conductors,” says Kierkegaard, as is the preacher.

God is the audience on such a day, not us. (And heck, let’s just keep doing it all year long. It’s a Theocentric (“God-centered”) universe, so why not keep acting accordingly?)

How are we supposed to feel when the greatest event in human history, and one which is deeply personal for each of us mortals, is so utterly lost and covered up with layers of denial that the very crash of God breaking into human history is made into something like the sound of a digital watch alarm going off under a pile of thick blankets?

Well, it’s about 9:30 PST on Christmas, year 2000. Philosophically, an interesting historical night, right?

But I’ve been tending four kids all day long, alone, because my wife is racked with a severe flu and is bedridden.

And in the meantime, our toilets are all clogged up (it started Christmas eve) and so the bathrooms are plunged hourly.

This, in very obvious ways, hourly bilges up all kinds of flu-invested crap, vomit and piss. This Christmas, our normal “Country Home” existence stinks just a little like a barn.

It’s a perfect Gospel night. Just like 2,000 years ago, give or take, when God…

Bully Pulpit

ScreenHunter_48 Dec. 14 00.40

Well known pastors often tweet and I got a disturbing one from a popular West Coast pastor recently that lead me to a blog/Ad citing Natalie Angier’s New York Times article on the changing American family with the above BOOMING headline.

He noted from the article:

  • “The rise of the cohabiting couples is another striking feature of the evolving American family: From 1996 to 2012, the number jumped almost 170 percent, to 7.8 million from 2.9 million.”
  • “We lavish $70 billion a year on weddings, more than we spend on pets, coffee, toothpaste and toilet paper combined.”
  • “The facts have voted, the issue is settled, and Paycheck Mommy is now a central organizing principle of the modern American family.” [Remember the huge heading above.]
  • “Sixty-two percent of the public, and 72 percent of adults under 30, view the ideal marriage as one in which husband and wife both work and share child care and household duties; back when Jimmy Carter was president, less than half of the population approved of the dual-income family, and less than half of 1 percent of husbands knew how to operate a sponge mop.”
  • “Gay parents are four times as likely as straight ones to be raising adoptees, and six times as likely to be caring for foster children, whom they often end up adopting.” [Remember the huge heading above.]
  • “American families are outliers in their fixation on children’s needs and children’s success.”
  • “In a telling sign, ‘Sesame Street’ recently introduced a Muppet named Alex, who looks as glum as Eeyore and is ashamed to admit why only his mother shows up at school events: Dad is in prison.”

Then comes the inevitable “challenge to the Church,” the assumption being that all of this is very bad as he fears cohabiting couples, lavish weddings, under-spending on toilet paper, toothpaste and pets, paycheck mommies, dual-income families, gay-parents of foster kids, outlier kids, men who now operate sponge mops and a depressed Muppet named Alex whose dad is incarcerated. I dunno what to make of that in general except to say his view is specifically based in fear and will result in nothing but bad things happening to real people except to him with an increase in his book sales.

Will any of the actual culprits be identified and named here? The monied interests of the Military Industrial Complex; the Incarceration System; the Romantic Myth upon which our marriages are built and which the Church has never addressed but simply sanctifies; Mysogeny and violence against women; the Culture of Denial via Television; etc…?

Never.

Oh…but here is his solution: “I am certain the church must be for strengthening marriages and families.”

Then he tries to sell his new book which is not ostensibly about marriages and families at all. But oh well.

Why am I not naming this guy? It doesn’t matter who it is. Truly. There are 10 other guys out there just like him (that big and Fundie), and maybe 500, just not with his clout doing the same thing. They are just bullies.

So why write? Because his solutions are all wrong and un-Jesus. And nobody talks openly about these bullies. They just look the other way for reasons which are unfathomable.

So first, where in the heck do you get this myopic call to  strengthen marriages and families  from the Bible? (For that matter, where do you get “and pastors, be sure and write bestselling books as a major part of your ministry…but don’t actually write them yourself, have someone else (uncredited) behind the scenes write most of it and just slap your name on it later as your the “brand”?)

Answer? You don’t. St. Paul was concerned about discipleship on so much deeper a level, and when he did mention marriage it was as a metaphor for  Christ and the Church. If this guy was hunting duck he would have shot out his own tires.

And it would all be really funny if not for where all bullying leads. Make no mistake, real people will get hurt. The pulpit gets banged and pastors rail against what they fear in their own anger. From there it just gets Fundamentalist ugly.

Ernest Becker, in his Pulitzer Prize winning book The Denial of Death unpacked the nature of scapegoating other groups and people. Becker argued that groups, in order to consolidate their identity and heroic enterprises need to identify an outside “evil” to be eradicated.

So, for example, we have our  “war on drugs” which has effectively incarcerated a massive number of young Black and Hispanic men. As Angier’s article says, ” the United States is the world’s leading jailer by far, housing more of its citizens behind bars than the top 35 European countries combined. And of the estimated 2.3 million inmates serving time, more than half are parents of children under age 18. That translates into 2.7 million affected children nationwide, or one of every 28, up from one in 125 in 1990.”

That is criminal, and it breaks the heart of God.

And (I speak only to believers here) regardless of how you shake out theologically on homosexuality, you are still required to love and respect those who are homosexual.

So while this pastor may not like it, same sex couples are providing HOMES for foster kids that would otherwise not have them. Does that matter to him? Is his church going to provide them instead? No? Then keep your mouth shut.

These are not really other groups at all though. These are just people who have been clumped together as statistical groupings and it is those that our pastor finds fearful and wants to fix with his “Christian Families” (which, by the way,  have the exact same divorce rate as those outside “the Faith”…so how is that exactly going to work?)

But it’s all gonna be okay if we read his book?

Well,  I read his book and there is nothing in there that’s gonna be any help at all. In fact, it was fairly innocuous. I had not thought of this pastor as fully fundamentalist until now, so I did not see this fastball coming down the plate until the last few seconds.  Just enough time to go “wha-tha!” and swing.

Here is help when it comes to  scapegoating. We all do it to some extent or another. We blame others; sometimes other people, sometimes a general group (OMG…the Government, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Liberals, the Conservatives, the Tea party, hey even Fundamentalists!!)

Becker said the dynamic is simple: we identify the other group as “the evil” and then eradicate them and we feel cleansed and heroic! (Sounds like every “Just War” doesn’t it?). See for yourself! Look at your self-identified “group” (if you have one) and it’s own scapegoated groups.  Don’t we blame them?

And who do we blame more than God?

Let’s be honest. No one.*

See even when people (maybe you) are looking at this horse’s ass from his Bully pulpit, you are really most probably blaming God because you are worried that God is just like this bully. I mean, he represents God, right?

Well God isn’t like him at all and I can prove it.

Jesus, God’s Son, said “If you have seen me you have seen the Father,” (John chapter 14 deserves a really good read). Jesus made himself the ultimate scapegoat for all of us. He said “I’ll take your blame and your shame, all of it; and I’ll take all of your jeering and your insults too. But in order for any of it to mean anything, you’re gonna have to own the Truth that it was you who deserved to pay for your own sins and lostness, not Me.”

He’s done that for you because he loves us that much, and wants to break us out of the endless circle of Karma into the freedom of Grace.

Unlike the bully who blames and shames, when Jesus preached it was grace and truth, not condemnation; and it was hope and not fear.

Which is why you listen to Jesus and his Word and forget the bully. He’s just running on anger and fear…and sooner or later, like all bullies, he will just burn out.

How can I be confident of this? Well Fundamentalists are fueled by fear and anger. Fear is the opposite of faith and all real meaning; and anger is self-devouring.

Do I think we need to stand up to bullies? Yes. But just stand up; not strike back. We shine the light in their eyes and expose them for who and what they are, but we do not become their mirror image by striking back.

And yes, we make take a blow to the face…but didn’t Jesus say…

*******

* Just a fun note. It’s a particular double-standard of ours as a species that we often say say “God doesn’t exist” then follow it with “but I am very upset with God’s actions/non-actions.”

You Don’t Have to be a Theologian

I’m Trinitarian, and no I can’t explain the Trinity. No one can.

Can you explain how consciousness works to your dog? Yeah? Well God had the same problem when it came to explaining His nature to us and the disparity was a lot larger let me tell you.

So, no whining about the Trinity.

Do you have to believe it to be a Christian?

No way. Shut up! (Molly always says that to me…makes me laugh).

The various New Testament writers? They didn’t touch it. They talked cleverly about Jesus being God, and quietly about the Spirit being God, and more loudly about the Father being God. Then they reaffirmed there was only One God. Hear O’ Israel! (and all of that ruck-ass).

And not a single word of explanation.

They wanted us to experience God in Christ, not talk a lot of nonsense about it. Now, bring up the Trinity in a chat room and watch them GO!

Me? Not so much.  Here’s a good book by my friend, and mentor, Darrell Johnson called Experiencing the Trinity. I highly recommend it and anything else written by him.