On Taxes, Marriage, and the Poor: Lessons from Luke 3:7-11

“John the Baptist Preaching” by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. 1733. Fresco. Cappella Colleoni Gallery, Bergamo, Italy.

Verse of the day:
Luke 3:7-11:

7) “John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8) Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
9) Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’
10) And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’
11) In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.'”

First, I find it fascinating that John chastised people who came to be baptized.

Second, I find it all the more fascinating that his advice was to give of what you have to those who had nothing.

So let’s review:

1) Don’t come to church just for religious rites.
2) Give away what you have to the poor if you want to be a true child of God.

So tell me: which social, religious, or political party, group, or body best encapsulates this very fundamental, very ‘Christian’ teaching of not worrying about the details of religious rituals and rites and doctrines, and instead focuses on giving goods to and caring for the poor?

And if you’re going to argue that biblical Christian principles should not be legislated when it comes to giving your hard earned money away (i.e., taxes and welfare and health care), then why are you arguing that biblical Christian principles should be legislated on other social issues like same-sex marriage?

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Marriage Equality for All Americans

Even the Bible(s and dictionaries) support marriage equality for all Americans.

Hebrew Bibles and dictionaries form an equal sign in support of marriage equality for all Americans.

Hebrew Bibles and dictionaries form an equal sign in support of marriage equality for all Americans.

I AM ON RECORD for Marriage Equality for all Americans.

I AM ON RECORD for Marriage Equality for all Americans.

I AM ON RECORD in support of marriage equality for all Americans

I AM ON RECORD for Marriage Equality for all Americans.

I AM ON RECORD for Marriage Equality for all Americans.

Come on folks. It’s time to stand up and be heard on this issue. Marriage equality for same-sex couples is now before the Supreme Court.

Stand up and be counted.

PLEASE DO NOT stand idly by and hold the coats of those who would openly discriminate against the civil (not religious, civil) rights of other Americans!

 

I am ON RECORD as a professor of RELIGIOUS STUDIES at the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA in support of marriage equality for all Americans!


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Thoughts on the Reelection of President Obama

President Barack Obama visits the University of Iowa

President Barack Obama visits the University of Iowa in Sept, 2012.

This was a good night for Democrats. It was a good night for us moderates who voted for the President. It was a painful night for Republicans, who not only lost the Presidency in a bad economy, but actually LOST seats in the US Senate.

In fact, if the President wins Florida (where he is presently leading by approx 40K votes with 100% of the precincts reporting), the final electoral count will be 332-206. This means President Obama won every swing state: FL, OH, WI, VA, NV, IA, CO, & NH. He is also winning the popular vote by 2.6 million votes.

It was a great night for marriage equality, as Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota all passed voter-approved same-sex marriage laws that allow same sex marriage. Let us remember what has happened in just the past few years. First, Republicans tried to ban same-sex marriage, so the courts threw it out. Republicans then accused them of being “activist judges”, so legislatures began to pass it. Not liking that, Republicans tried to place it back on the ballots as initiatives. However, the tide has swung so much since 2008, states are now beginning to pass same-sex marriage in the voting booth. This is truly a testament to equality and perseverance on the part of those who seek to stamp out discrimination on the basis if sexual orientation.

Likewise, Americans witnessed the election of the first openly gay US Senator in Wisconsin.

The big losers of the night were Christian fundamentalist Republicans, who not only failed to stop President Obama from winning reelection, but who watched the self-inflicted wounds of Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin lose in Missouri and Richard “Rape pregnancy is God’s Will” Mourdock lose in Indiana, costing the Republicans the Senate. Then again, if they follow their own logic, since this happened, it must be God’s will, right?

I am proud that an African-American has won yet another election to the Presidency of the United States of America!

I am proud to have cast my first vote as an Iowan for President Obama and for our Iowa District 2 US Congressman, Dave Loebsack. I got to see the President when he came to the University of Iowa this fall. It was fun to hear a campaign speech, since California has only been an ATM machine for both parties for some time now.

(UPDATE) Women are also winners, as a record number of women were elected to the US Senate. (/UPDATE)

This is total vindication for nerd/genius Nate Silver at the Five Thirty Eight blog, who called this BIG for President Obama. (Did I say BIG? I meant PERFECTLY.)

It was also painful (and somewhat embarrassing) to watch Karl Rove argue (and chastise) the FoxNews anchors when they called Ohio (and the election) for President Obama. As

I’m waiting for the GOP to turn on GOP National Chair Reince Priebus who, in an economy THIS bad, not only watched the President win reelection, but watched the GOP actually lose seats in the Senate.

I will also be curious to see how President Obama did among Evangelical Christians. I remember reading that Obama won ~25% of Evangelicals in 2008. I’m curious to see if that number is up from 2008 and why. As a professor of Religious Studies, I’m curious to see if Evangelicals really did turn out to vote for a Mormon, a faith tradition that, up until Mitt Romney visited him just before the election, Evangelical godfather Billy Graham had designated as a cult on his own website.

I also see that Rick Santorum used election day to make a fool of himself one last time with this unfortunate tweet. (He apparently hasn’t Googled his name in a while, or still doesn’t understand double entendre.)

My favorite comments (most via Twitter) of the night were:

  • “Binders full of electoral votes” (@Hipster_Christ)
  • “Todd Akin lost. I guess when you’re a “legitimate religious fundy”, women’s bodies have a way of “shutting that down”. (@xkv8r)
  • “Legitimate loss” for Todd Akin in Missouri. (@xkv8r)
  • CNN pundit just said Romney’s stance on Latinos cost him: “Romney self-deported from the White House”. (@xkv8r)
  • Before it starts, I’m calling @BarackObama’s acceptance speech a failure if it doesn’t end with a mic drop. (@Hipster_Christ)
  • Claire McCaskill has won the MO senate seat over Todd Akin, dealing a serious blow to “legitimate rape”. #GodsWill (@xkv8r)
  • For those of you who do not like the outcome of the election, four states have legalized marijuana. (@eJoelWatts)

One positive for Republicans is that right-wing Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann barely win reelection. However, I count this as a victory as well, because if she had lost, FoxNews would have hired or her, or worse yet, she’d have gotten a reality show on some channel. As a congresswoman, I’ll have to listen to her much less.

So at the end of the day,

  • Obama wins re-election with over 300 electoral votes (My prediction was 290; I gave FL and VA to Romney.) Only 6.9% of respondents to my blog poll called this (although 65% had President Obama winning.)
  • Right wing Evangelical “legitimate rape” is “God’s will” fundys lost (and lost the senate for the GOP).
  • Same-sex marriage is beginning to be approved on ballots, and openly gay politicians are beginning to be elected, signalling a decline in discrimination against homosexuals.
  • FoxNews looked like idiots throughout yet another election cycle (especially Karl Rove on election night).
  • And Big Bird is safe.

To quote the venerable poet Ice Cube, “Damn it was a good day!” ;-)

mark driscoll responds after his elders ‘sit him down’, offers no apology

There was no apology, but neo-fundamentalist Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll responded to the backlash of criticism (including my own, Rachel, Joel, Jim, Scott, and others) about his general theology of men and women self-described “flippant” remarks made on Facebook:

Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll incites gossip about "effeminate" worship leaders and asks his followers to name names.

Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll incites gossip about "effeminate" worship leaders and asks his followers to tell their stories.

as well as a number of past comments about “effeminate” men. (Kudos, btw, to John Von Rader and Rick Allen (above) for immediately calling Mr. Driscoll on his incitement of gossip in this public forum. And conversely, I hereby offer the following Merriam-Webster.com link to Will and Virgil.)

Mr. Driscoll’s response wasn’t actually so much a response to the merits of the objections raised against his behavior as it was a mere acknowledgment that some people didn’t like his recent Facebook incitement of homophobic gossip comments. Glaringly absent, however, from his comments was any form of an apology whatsoever. Mr. Driscoll did acknowledge in a carefully worded statement that his executive elders “sat him down,” saying:

As a man under authority, my executive elders sat me down and said I need to do better by hitting real issues with real content in a real context.

I’m not sure whether to interpret this as an acknowledgment of disapproval by his superiors (methinks so?), or an attempt to deflect criticism by suggesting that what is really needed is a better venue to publish his unapologetic thoughts on the gender issue. I lean toward the latter because where the apology should have been, Mr. Driscoll instead promised to create a new website where he will attempt to better articulate his “complementarian” position of using “biblical authority” to continue to suppress discuss the roles of women in the the church. Not unexpectedly, Mr. Driscoll states that he will use the first post on the new website to hock a new book that he and his wife have written tentatively entitled, “Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together” (apparently differentiating real marriage from same-sex marriage, which Mr. Driscoll opposes) to be published by Thomas Nelson publishers.

Driscoll reasserted his position that King David was properly qualified to be the chief psalmist (the apparent equivalent of “worship leader” to Mr. Driscoll, who appears to have forgotten about the worship function of the Levitical priests in early Israelite religion) of the Bible because he still possessed the very “masculine” trait of being “a warrior king who started killing people as a boy.” (Driscoll’s actual quote is this:

I explained the main guy doing the music in the Bible was David, who was a warrior king who started killing people as a boy and who was also a songwriter and musician.)

So in the end, Mr. Driscoll appears not to be saying that he said something inappropriate, but by offering to create a new website to promote discussion of his views, he appears to be saying that we don’t understand him because he’s not saying it loud enough. Go figure.

Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.” 1 Corinthians 13:4ff defines love as “patient, kind,” etc. Nowhere in 1 Cor. 13, however, do I see the masculine love husbands are to show defined as “watchin’ football, makin’ money, climbin’ a mountain, shootin’ a gun, or working on a truck” (see the 2:50 mark here).

Don’t forget that Mr. Driscoll’s Mars Hill church sees its primary mission as the proselytization of 22-25-year old “young, single, non-Christian, perverted, educated, technological men” (see the 3:45 mark here). Mr. Driscoll made his name as a pastor by appealing to young men. He does a lot of consulting on the side and has achieved much success within Evangelical circles because of his strategies to appeal to young men. This means there is much potential personal and financial incentive for Mr. Driscoll to preach a gospel that appeals to “young, single, non-Christian, perverted” heterosexual men who like to “slaughter other men,” “win a fight,” and “punch you in the nose” (see the 2:20 mark here). Perhaps this is why we continue to hear and read repeated homophobic and gender-discriminatory comments from Mr. Driscoll: his “gospel” is designed to appeal to the “young, single, non-Christian, perverted” men from whom he gains his power.

Imagine if these men ever learned about the real Jesus presented in the Bible. I’m guessing that would be bad for business…

HT: Rachel Held Evans

a study in masculinity: comparing michael irvin and mark driscoll

Michael IrvinESPN is reporting that Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin will be appearing shirtless (well, abs-uncovered at least) on the cover of next month’s August issue of Out magazine. Why, you might ask, would a straight male appear on the cover of the world’s most widely-read gay magazine?

According to the article by Cyd Zeigler, Irvin is attempting to honor the life and struggles of his gay brother, Vaughn, who died in 2006, by speaking out:

Now, after working through some of his personal demons with his long-time bishop, T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House church in Dallas, Texas, Irvin is ready to talk about Vaughn. More than that, he’s become a passionate supporter of gay athletes and equal rights for same-sex couples.

Michael Irvin also has a pointed message for the African-American Christian community:

“I don’t see how any African-American with any inkling of history can say that you don’t have the right to live your life how you want to live your life. No one should be telling you who you should love, no one should be telling you who you should be spending the rest of your life with. When we start talking about equality and everybody being treated equally, I don’t want to know an African-American who will say everybody doesn’t deserve equality.”

[Note that 2008 California election exit polls indicated that an overwhelming 70% of the California African-American community supported Prop 8 (which sought to ban same-sex marriage), while the ballot initiative only passed with a slim 52.24% majority.]

Good for Michael Irvin. Irvin is now admitting that much of the womanizing he did in his younger years was, in part, due to the fact that he knew his brother was gay, and he didn’t want people to think he was gay. I applaud Irvin’s honesty, especially on a topic where many men are not honest. I firmly believe that many men oppose marriage equality for same-sex couples simply because they do not wish to be perceived as gay.

I know this from experience. Despite my wife and child, many of my “good ol’ boy” friends from back home in Madera and Fresno, CA (especially the Christians) and an even greater number of folks who only know me from appearances on TV or pieces I’ve written either assume I am gay, bisexual, or am no longer a Christian because I advocated so strongly against California’s Proposition 8 (here and here and here and here). They call me all the names you’d use to tease a gay man, as if I’d somehow be embarrassed or offended by names if I were. And while I don’t let petty name calling trouble me much, I do think that many other straight men (especially people of faith) are so afraid of the mere concept of homosexuality (i.e., that it might somehow “rub off” on them or, like Michael Irvin admitted, that it may be a genetic thing and they may carry a recessive “gay” gene that may present at any time), or are simply so afraid of being called gay, that they overemphasize their masculinity and vehemently oppose homosexuality, and even go so far as opposing equal rights for homosexuals. These men, who fear feelings and emotions they may or may not experience or understand, attempt to purge their minds of the perceived threat by condemning gays, opposing their civil rights, and insisting that men stick out their chests, work on their trucks, play football, cuss, suppress the roles of women, and “not act like a bunch of ‘chickified’ church dudes” who “wear sweater vests.”

Which brings us to Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll, who in this case study, must be viewed as the Christian antithesis of Michael Irvin and those of us fighting on behalf of social justice and civil rights for all persons.

Opposition to homosexuals, same-sex marriage, and what he calls “effeminate” men is nothing new to Mr. Driscoll. I’m referring to comments after comments he has made about both women and men he feels do not meet the Christian criterion for “dudes,” including “chickified church boys,” and “nice, soft, tender” men “walking around singing love songs to Jesus.” (see below. And, don’t miss the mash-up of the below video here.)

In the above interview (around the 1:50 mark), Mark Driscoll rants about “effeminate” men, saying they are:

“church boys wearing sweater vests and walking around singing love songs to Jesus…nice, soft, tender, ‘chickified’ church boys”

and arguing real Christian men should be characterized as:

“slaughter other men, heterosexual, win a fight, punch you in the nose, dudes”

Driscoll goes on to complain that:

“60% of Christians are chicks, and the 40% that are dudes are still sort of chicks…it’s just sad”

“You walk in and it’s sea foam green, and fuschia, and lemon yellow, and the whole architecture and the whole aesthetic is real feminine and the preacher’s kinda feminine, and the music’s kinda emotional and feminine…”

“and the innovative dudes are home watchin’ football, or they’re out makin’ money, or climbin’ a mountain or shootin’ a gun or working on their truck.”

Note that Mr. Driscoll is not specifically opposing gay men in the above clip, but “effeminate” men whom he feels are not real Christian men who, of course, punch people in the nose and climb mountains.

[Btw, I wonder how he’d feel about a 6’1″, 220 lb., free thinking, sharp tongued, former redneck from Fresno who ate something his father shot four nights a week for dinner growing up, who is still an equally good shot with a 7mm Remington Magnum or a .357 Magnum, who has climbed that mountain, fixed that truck, won that baseball championship, and took on that bully, and who, now as a Mensan with a formal graduate education in biblical studies and ancient languages, regularly advocates for social justice and the civil rights of those being oppressed by Christian neo-fundamentalists like Driscoll? I wonder how he’d feel about the kind of man who is actually comfortable enough with his own masculinity to wear Uggs and regularly wear a leather satchel which his daughter refers to as a “murse” (i.e., a man-purse) to a professional conference of his peers? Because, you know, they’re out there keeping people honest. Just a thought…]

And this isn’t a one-time thing for Mr. Driscoll. Just this past week, Pastor Mark Driscoll placed the following on his Facebook page. (And yes, since the public backlash best expressed by Rachel Held Evans and countless others), he’s since deleted it from his wall. But fear not, I always make screen shots ;-):

Mark Driscoll asks his Facebook followers to opine on "effeminate" men.

Mark Driscoll incites his Facebook followers to opine and name "effeminate" men.

And Mr. Driscoll is not “just kidding around” as so many of his numb-minded followers are quick to assert in his defense. His neo-fundamentalist pattern of behavior (which I define as a 1950’s fundamentalist in an edgy screen printed hoodie and a pair of designer jeans) is consistent and unapologetic.

Here, when questioned about whether or not he’s “just kidding,” he defines precisely what he’s asking:

driscoll_definition

Mark Driscoll articulates to his Facebook followers what he meant by "effeminate" when questioned by a respondent about what he was asking.

And, lest you think Mr. Driscoll felt he made a mistake, he defends his asking the question:

Unfortunately, bigotry like this is not limited to the (other) Mars Hill (the better, truer Mars Hill is here), and it is time for people of all faiths to stand up and combat racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and bigotry in all its forms.

This is what Michael Irvin and most sound Christian scholars, bloggers, advocates, and people of faith are combating. This is the bigotry and nonsense that has plagued the church for so long.

I may not understand the gay mind, but just because I do not understand something does not mean I should oppress the civil rights of those who do. In fact, when asked if I am gay, I always refuse to answer the question and usually reply with the classic “West Wing/CJ Cregg” response of, “It’s none of your damn business.” (See also this clip. And this one. And this one. West Wing said it best!) In a panel discussion at Pepperdine University on racism and homophobia, I explained that I say this because I believe that the sooner straight men stop answering the question, the sooner the question will stop being asked. It is not enough for straight men to say that they support same-sex marriage, but then when asked, “Are you gay,” respond with, “W/Hell no, I’m not gay!” as if there is something embarrassing about it. Straight men should speak out more often in support of marriage equality and we all should stop answering (and asking) the question “Are you gay?”

So I applaud Michael Irvin’s decision to face his fears, honor his brother, and speak out in favor of marriage equality. I’m not a Cowboys fan, and never have really been a Michael Irvin fan. But this decision has turned my opinion of Mr. Irvin to a favorable one, and I am now a fan. I applaud his decision, and I hope this is the beginning of yet another long and distinguished career of public advocacy on behalf of the oppressed for the heralded “Playmaker.”


P.S. If you’d like to contact Mark Driscoll’s church’s “elders,” you may do so here.

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