this week’s example of bigoted child abuse in the church: child sings ‘ain’t no homo gonna make it to heaven’ in church

Some people ask me why I spend so much time debating the issue of the legalization of same-sex marriage. Apart from the academic side of the intellectual argument, and the textual/theological argument, we often forget that the outcome of this debate and the charges and claims made during the debate itself hurt real people and adversely affects their lives. And I’m not just speaking about those gay individuals who are discriminated against on a daily basis, but I’m also referring to the children who are taught to mock and even hate by their parents from a very young age in church!

For example, watch this latest video taken from the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, Indiana, the same town where a gay high school student at Greensburg Community High School in Greensburg IN, Billy (William) Lucas, recently took his own life apparently due to the anti-gay bullying he was receiving from his peers.

Listen to the lyrics of the song sung by the child, and watch the reaction of the adults in the audience.

The child sings the following lyrics:

I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong.
I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong.
Romans one and twenty-seven (Rom 1:27)
Ain’t no homo going to make it to heaven.

Watch the room full of white adults stand and cheer and laugh in approval. The pastor nods and laughs. They are celebrating bigotry. They are celebrating their belief that gay Americans are going to burn in hell. One person is even heard to yell proudly, “That’s my boy!” And toward the end of the video, they have the child sing it again. Note that in the first performance, there is another child standing with the boy, and they boy ends after one verse, but in the second performance (see the 1:07 mark in the video), there is no second child, and the little boy sings the verse multiple times. This was no accident or lapse in judgment, it was an encore performance!!!

And what’s worse, from this point on, this child knows that every time he calls a gay individual a “homo,” he’ll have the cheering support of his church behind him. Remember, he’s a child: someone taught him this song! Every time he condemns a gay individual to hell, his parents will applaud. They might even invite him up in front of the church to sing of the gay individual’s condemnation to the church, who will shower him with applause and laughter.

This is child abuse. It is hateful indoctrination at its worst.

The pastor in the video is Jeff Sangl of the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle at 1114 Westridge Parkway W in Greensburg, IN 47240. You can email Pastor Sangl at jsangl@tds.net or call him at the church office at (812) 662-8224. You can also contact him at his family business (I kid you not), the Flatrock Whitetail Deer Farm, where they raise whitetail deer to hunt them at (765) 525-9488.

Apparently, shortly after this video was posted online, and the public outrage began, the pastor abruptly left on vacation. The church immediately posted a statement on its website, stating among other things:

The Pastor and members of Apostolic Truth Tabernacle do not condone, teach, or practice hate of any person for any reason. We believe and hope that every person can find true Bible salvation and the mercy and grace of God in their lives.

We are a strong advocate of the family unit according to the teachings and precepts found in the Holy Bible. We believe the Holy Bible is the Divinely-inspired Word of God and we will continue to uphold and preach that which is found in scripture.

So once again, while the church simply denies that they teach hate, the video shows otherwise. AND, we see that the church is quick to excuse and dismiss its abhorrent behavior by invoking religious freedom stating that “we will continue to uphold and preach that which is found in scripture.” Once again, even in their non-apology, “religious freedom” is used to excuse hatred taught to children.

THIS is why I take this issue so seriously. What “thoughtful conservatives” see as the simple upholding of “traditional marriage” is all too often manifest as teaching children to mock and hate their neighbor…in church. It has to end, and I for one as a scholar of religious studies, will stand with the oppressed on this one.

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scott bailey on acts 1:9-11 (astronaut jesus’ ascencion into heaven) and why it’s important

Scott Bailey recently had a good post on the ascension episode in Acts 1:9-11. Scott pointed out an aspect of this story that has been largely debunked by modern science, but has received less scrutiny as a story lacking any possible historical viability. Scott’s post is as follows:

For those not down with the liturgical calendar Ascension Day is traditionally celebrated on a Thursday, forty days after Easter Sunday. Then, 10 days after Ascension Day is Pentecost, when the disciples were the first to be en fuego.

As James pointed out earlier this week, Ascension Day and the story which inspires it challenges the claims of any person to read the Bible literally.

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

There’s two aspects to this story I’d like to comment on. First, if we were to take the story literally then the two men in white clothing ask perhaps one of the silliest questions in the Bible. I can just imagine one of the disciples turning around and sarcastically replying, “Well, Jesus came back to life and started walking through walls and stuff, and now he just floated to heaven on a cloud… so yeah, I’m trying to get my head around this for a minute if you don’t mind.”

Second, and more importantly, we can’t really take this story literally for a variety of reasons. Literally, Jesus goes up to heaven in the story. This ‘perspective’ is built on the cosmology of first century persons:

However, as we all now know, heaven is not ‘up’, and if everyone on earth were to be raptured ‘up’ to heaven they would go in a variety of different directions in our solar system as we are on a planet orbiting the sun, while rotating at 23.5 degrees. Which one of these persons would fly ‘up’ to heaven?

So according to the story, astronaut Jesus flies his cloud up, and I assume we are to believe that he no longer needs oxygen in his resurrected body and that he is impervious to the vacuum of space. But, where would Jesus be traveling to if we know that it’s not just a short trip ‘up’ to get to heaven?

This is a picture of our galaxy:

Our galaxy is 100,000 light years across, so that means if traveling at the speed of light, “We now know that, if [Jesus] began ascending two thousand years ago, he would not yet have left the Milky Way (unless he attained warp speed).” ~ Keith Ward (The Big Questions in Science and Religion p.107, via James McGrath].

On the one hand it surprises me looking back at my earlier cognitive categories for reading and understanding biblical narratives that I could hear and read this story with absolutely no skepticism whatsoever. Jesus flew to heaven. Check. Flip the page to the Upper Room story without even considering some of the problematic issues in the ascension narrative.

Now of course there are theological ‘explanations’ for the story, but what I am referring to in this post is the material difficulties, simply put: it cannot be read literally and made to cohere with what we now know about our planet, solar system, and galaxy.

Scott brings to mind something I have been kicking around in my mind for some time (and touched upon here at the FRDB).

Modern Christianity is presently crippled by the fact that in the first few centuries of the faith, those who allegorized many of the Bible’s claims lost out to the literalists and those who claimed textual (and therefore historical) inerrancy. (See Tatian’s attack on allegorizing Christianity’s stories in chapter 21 of his Address to the Greeks: “Believe me now, O Greeks, and do not resolve your myths and gods into allegory…”) Today, many Christians are attempting to return to allegorical explanations as solutions to the increasing number of textual discrepancies and refutations brought to light by literary criticism and modern science. Again, if heaven is a real, physical place, and Jesus physically ascended there (so say the two men in white in Acts 1:11) in a real, human, resurrected body, and not simply a spirit (cf. the Corinthian heresy in 1 Cor. 15 and the Apostles’ Creed), then even if Jesus were to travel at the speed of light (the physical maximum of our universe for a physical, fully-human body not in a Star Wars or Star Trek movie), given the size of our universe, he’d still be on his way there today! But, attempts to allegorize this and other stories are held hostage by the earliest of Christian authors, who condemned the practice. Early Christian apologists won out (Constantine and his armies may have had something to do with it) precisely because they argued for the historical accuracy and inerrancy of the text – the very two ideals (historical accuracy and textual inerrancy/infallibility) that are causing the majority of problems for fundamentalist Christians today.

So we are left with three options: 1) denying logic and science and adhering to Christian fundamentalism (which claims historical accuracy and textual inerrancy/infallibility), 2) abandoning Christianity altogether because of the belief that the stories must be factual/historical or else the entire Bible must be discarded, or 3) finding a middle ground that acknowledges that the earliest Christian writers (i.e., the “Church Fathers”) may have screwed up a thing or two, upon which later Christian scholars (with the benefit of the advent of modern science) can improve. Of course, this would lead to a rethinking of every sacred Christian doctrine, which in turn would make church leaders in every denomination very uncomfortable (not to mention would undermine their powerful positions of “keepers of the(ir particular brand of) faith”), but the alternative is to watch Christianity continue with obviously irreconcilable errors.

This is what critical biblical scholarship is trying to do.

Instead of relying on the thoughts of men who lived in a pre-scientific age and saw their purpose as one of an apologetic defense of the historicity of all biblical claims and the harmonization of these oft contradictory claims into what we today refer to as “systematic theology,” why not rethink Christianity from the formation of the text forward (that is, pre-canon), abandoning obviously incompatible claims of early Christian authors (even if they were influential for their time), and approach Christianity from a modern perspective of critical analysis. Why can’t Christianity be relevant to modern society and compatible with a modern scientific understanding of the universe? Why hold Christianity hostage to ancient, obviously errant opinions and doctrines?

Can we at least ask the questions?

Or, must Christian scholars continue to sign confessional statements of faith and/or attend particular denominations in their private lives  in order to get the jobs that allow them to teach and study religion? If you force scholars to sign confessional statements in order to teach at a university, don’t be surprised if the results of their “research” continue to perpetuate the errant doctrines of old. (And don’t be surprised if state universities and private colleges that do not require such confessional statements continue to outperform and outrank confessional schools.)

It is only a matter of time before many Americans (including many Christians) realize there is little difference between Islamic fundamentalists who believe that their “inerrant” religious text (the Qur’an) should be the law of the land, and fundamentalist Christians who believe that their “inerrant” religious text (the Bible) should determine and guide our secular laws. Until there comes a time when rational thought, removed from fundamentalist, literal interpretations of a so-thought “inerrant” text, comes to guide and inform our nation’s laws, our nation (and Christianity itself) will continue to suffer.

via: Ascension Day and Astronaut Jesus.

apparently ‘hello’ is a bad word

Get A Brainapparently ‘hello’ is a bad word, and these dorks aim to remedy the situation.

In this friendly little ranching town, “hello” is wearing out its welcome. And Leonso Canales Jr. is happy as heck.

At his urging, the Kleberg County commissioners on Monday unanimously designated “heaven-o” as the county’s official greeting. The reason: “hello” contains the word “hell.”

“When you go to school and church, they tell you ‘hell’ is negative and ‘heaven’ is positive,'” said the 56-year-old Canales, who owns the Kingsville Flea Market. “I think it’s time that we set a new precedent, to tell our kids that we are positive adults.”

ahahahahhhahahhaa! kleberg texas. making texas and christians proud every day.

what’s next? removing all the ‘astroturf’ from stadiums? renaming ‘cocktails’? looking up words in something other than a ‘dictionary’? chasing an abstinence-cat through a field of abstinence-willows? changing the hebrew word for ‘acacia’? (shittim in hebrew)

(with thanx to daniel florien.)

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