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.”

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