Dear Nadia Bolz-Weber ( ….and any other Christian Religious Leaders that would like to Chime In)

Nadia,

I grew up in an extremely conservative religious tradition known as the IFB (Independent Fundamental Baptists) and all my life I’ve felt sort of tethered to them in regard to the roots of my faith. I left that tradition, physically, over 15 years ago and never looked back.

Today, as a thirty-eight-year-old man, I’ve been on a quest for God and I am not sure where to turn. I’ve read your books, I’ve read books by Phylis Tickle, I recently bought Rachel Held Evan’s “Searching for Sunday”, and I’ve been looking around for a church to go to after all this time.

My husband is a devout Catholic – oddly enough, and his religious experience with his church I sort of envy.  He loves the saints (We never got any saints), the Eucharist, the ceremony of it all, and he goes to mass very often. I find myself envious of his faith to a point and I find it so hard not to address his conversation about it without snark and without criticism.

Church, for us growing up, was not an option. It was thrust upon us like this yolk that was too heavy for small necks to bear.  The firebrand preaching, the gospel singing (Which I enjoyed, to be honest), and the abusive cults of personality that emerged from all of that make me feel cynical, and cold toward Christianity – universally speaking.

In the world today, there seems to be so much going wrong, and right at the center of it, there’s fundamentalism rearing it’s ugly head once again. It sometimes feels like a tsunami that I can’t quite get far enough away from. Whether we’re talking about a woman’s fundamental right to self-determination, to the demonic practice of snatching babies at the border, to gun control (or the lack thereof), to the sex scandals rocking not only the Catholic Church but evangelical churches as well, it’s so hard not to just shrug my shoulders and say, “You know, by their fruit ye shall know them,” and not have anything to do with any of it. There have been times I’ve spoken publically against these organizations due to the abuse I went through at the hands of charismatic leaders and what their message did to our family.

And yet…

I want to know God. This world sucks without something else out there that I know for sure has his eye on the long game. Yet, the old adages of “God works in mysterious ways,” or “Love the sinner, not the sin,” nonsense makes my skin crawl with utter disdain.  I just see Christians doing things today that even the devil, in my mind, is like, “Dude, don’t you think that perhaps that’s a bit much?”

With so much chaos going on, I can’t help but feel like one of those Christians in the middle ages unsure of what to do because three different Popes were all declaring themselves to be Pope and condemning the other two as heretics. I feel frozen in place.

Am I just dealing with the last vestiges of Fundamentalism that has me scared to go “Christian Light” (all the ceremony, half the guilt) or do I have to come up with what’s important to me regarding faith (social justice, sound doctrine)?

I don’t’ recognize Christianity anymore.

Freddie

 

 

 

 

16 personal affirmations (all subject to change as I am growing).

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(Photo by the brilliant Ben White)

 

You know, I talk a great deal often times about things that I don’t like or things that upset me. Yet, I am not always vocal about the things that I believe.
Today is Sunday – and when I was a kid we went to church on this day as an appeasement to God of our faith in him as well as an affirmation of what we as a family believed. So, since I woke up this morning and started my day, with music playing in my head as always – I started thinking about who I am and what it is I believe.
I think a person has all the right to establish these things for themselves. I also think it’s surprising – when you sit down and take time to think about things – just exactly what it is you believe.
Often times we like to insert ourselves in other people’s lives, most the time without their permission, and start a running commentary not just on what it is they believe but who they are as people. It’s a really peculiar thing – as I see people who demand perfection from those who’s lives they invade and refuse to accept anything less when they themselves lack this sort of perfection in their own lives. It makes them hypocrites.
Yet I think – in the long run – just saying that makes me one because we all are.

1) Everyone is capable of everything. A few years ago I run across a statement made by a former slave of a Roman Senator by the name of Terence – homo sum humani nihil a me alienum puto or I am human, nothing human can be alien to me. This was an act of forgiveness toward his former master. It was an “I understand” statement. It was sage wisdom because if you think about it – given the right set of circumstances, pressure, sociopolitical, and social economic status – everyone is capable of anything for good and for evil. I believe that.
2) Everyone is also capable of redemption – I am a Christian. That is the foundation of our faith. Yet, these days I think there can be a great gulf fixed between those who call themselves that and those who are that. The difference between a noun and a verb. One is a title and one is a way of thinking and while the first is easy to label oneself with, and we see the effects of that title going out before them, its much much more difficult to live. Yet regardless of faith – I think people are capable of change, great change, and change for the better. You are not obligated to be the person you were five minutes ago. But that change, or that desire to change must come from within, for you and for no one else God or man.
3) I do not believe religiosity or the lack-thereof is a good indicator of goodness. (SEE Number 1)
4) I also do not believe religiosity or the lack-thereof is inherently bad either. (See number 1 and number 2)
5) Along with booze, drugs, sex, gambling, and social media – there lurks a far more deadly addiction out there and for me that is certainty addiction. Fundamentalists. True believers. Whether they are some crazy preacher, a crossfitter, a vegan, non vegan, atheists. etc. There are people out there who have found something that works for them and because of that – feel that others must be a part of it and if they don’t then they’re the worst of all humanity. There’s a franticness about them – and it makes one wonder if they really believe what they believe and if they have any faith at all in what they say they are. There lingers in them a doubt that they – nor the rest of the world – can shake off. There is virtue in the statement, ” I don’t know.” That’s knowledge seeking wisdom and I think the latter is extremely lacking in the world. No one runs into an abortion clinic to shoot the doctor shouting, ” I don’t know!”
6) I believe before every soul is born, they once existed with Truth, Beauty, Love, Justice, Wisdom, Compassion, in it’s truest form. These ambiguous terms are planted in our being so when we see an example of it – we know it. These things are a reflection of another time and another when. And I think our entire lives are revolved around, whether we are conscious of it or not, trying to reconnect to that in various ways. Whether you call that being God, Allah, Yahweh, the source, the universe -I think we are given glimpses of this ‘when and who’ when we see the beauty of a rose, when we hear the swell of an orchestra, when we feel the touch of a lover etc. That’s why I think drugs, booze, and other addictions are so terrible – because they are a distraction. They simulate but cannot duplicate that pure euphoria often to the detriment of themselves and everything and everyone around them.
7) I believe brilliance or the potential for brilliance exists in all people. I love to write – but there are those people who can take a car apart and put it back together and to me: that’s art, that’s a skill I will never have. But because they can’t sell their product on amazon or won’t be featured in a gallery – we lower them in terms of what they do.They are no less profound than someone who can sing the roof off a stadium. I think we disregard these creators, these laborers, to our own peril.
8) I believe people ought to earn a living wage. I think denying people one based on WHAT they do and not WHAT they need – is selfish. It’s a value judgment placed on people because certain things are deemed as lesser than what we do. It boggles my mind how an ambulance driver or EMT – the first responders, those who are often the difference between life and death for a person are paid so low. The moment they get you into that hospital suddenly the pay spikes happen for the nurses and doctors. Isn’t that a little backward? Or a cook, wait-staff- I mean, you eat what they give you.
9) I believe everyone should have access to the health-care the 21st century is capable of providing. There is no excuse for not allowing this other than greed. I find it ironic that noun Christians often have a problem with this. If you can send mission money to churches to send throughout the world you can take a tax increase in your paycheck to pay for it. And if everyone made a living wage – that wouldn’t be too much to ask for. And Charity – starts at home.
10) I believe if it looks racist or bigoted in anyway – it probably is. Since I became a disciple of sorts to the late Dr. Maya Angelou – I’ve learned to start taking people seriously in the ways they describe themselves. When someone shows you who they are, or tells you who they are, when they try to ‘whitesplain, mansplain, straightsplain, womansplain (See number 1), or cisplain something to you about anything you fundamentally know to be true – they’re a bigot or their words are at the very least. Believe them the first time. Especially in terms of race – people often hate it when race is brought into a subject not because it isn’t true – but because it hits too close to home for them. When the slave ship captains brought slaves to our shores for the first time not only did they bind the African to their skin color and all the grief that buys them, they bound us to our ignorance and if we as a society do not break this – it will break us. There is no inherent superiority in a skin color nor is there an inherent inferiority. Same goes for sexuality and gender. Seriously, watch a documentary, read a book, or at the very minimum keep quiet about it.
11) I believe in the power of love. I think that if love goes out in front of us, if it proceeds us in all we do, people see that. I think they feel it. And therefore I think that perhaps the hippies were right. I think love changes people. And I am not just talking about romantic love – that love is ego centric. I am talking Agape, Storge, Philia, types of love that English has a hard time describing but the Greek (the original language the Bible was written in ironically) understood. But also Self love – I think we often times are willing to be forgiven by a deity or community or family – but we have a hard time forgiving ourselves for our mistakes. We also have a hard time in establishing boundaries in our lives that we keep sacred to ourselves and ourselves alone. That pure place where we go to pray, to be still for a moment, that place set aside for introspection and reflection. That should be cultivated as I believe its necessary for our survival. It allows a person to stand up for themselves. And as such, I believe it comes from that space that allows a person to disregard other’s comments about their lives, faith, and whom they choose to love. Frankly, its no ones business. Furthermore, not everyone has the support of a loving family that can reinforce them in positive ways. I think a lot of ‘bad people’ in the world are that way because they’ve been told all their life that they have no value. So they go out and do things that would reflect that.
12) I believe personal responsibility is a catch phrase too often used as an excuse for people who have none or who lack the fundamental understanding that every action made has an equal yet opposite reaction. All our lives are interconnected as we hurtle through space and time. I believe that while individuality is important – it is also important to understand that you are also a part of a greater whole as a member of a family, community, state, nation, specie. In short – you are your brother’s keeper. Turning a blind eye to suffering, to need, to dire circumstances, or turning away from love – is irresponsible and while it may not affect you now – it will one day. As one Jacob Marley once declared before a trembling Ebenezer Scrooge, “Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” While the realization of just WHAT we are responsible for may be intimidating – I think there is virtue in understanding that.
13) People in relationships get to establish the parameters of those relationships and its dynamics. Other people’s running commentary on those dynamics are not wanted, butt out and mind your own damn business.
14) Art is an act of compassion not only for the consumer but for the artists as well. People who tell artists to sit down and, shut up and, go and – don’t seem to understand that those people extract their gifts, their words, etc from humanity overall. People often don’t like it when you hold a mirror up to them and say this is you as you’ve presented yourself to me. The artist is a truth speaker and truth often doesn’t take your feelings into consideration. Like it or not, like them or not, making them go away not only robs you of the truth but it also robs you of the chance to change and grow. (See number 2)
15) No man made institution is perfect as mankind itself is incapable of perfection. Demanding perfection from those who are fundamentally imperfect is not only self defeating, it’s irresponsible and flat out ignorant. Change comes slowly to an individual and it comes slower still to an institution. Those who call for revolutions should understand that in times past – these things have killed more revolutionaries than the institutions they attempted to destroy. If you’re really interested in overthrowing ‘the man’ start off with the Man in the Mirror and then take another look at the world before you go off all barricades and future subject matter for musical on Broadway.
16) Identity politics will destroy a country. Ideological purity is the product of over simplification. Human beings are a complex specie. Cultures, societies, etc. are all multifaceted. What works for one, may not work for another especially in the melting pot of our country. Those who champion this – while they may be smart, aren’t very wise as they lack the wherewithal to know compromise is key in solving most of societies problems. One must be willing to give a little to get a little. Anything less is asking for a disaster.

Trump, Andrew Jackson, Civil War, and White People. Jumping Jesus Christ deliver us from stupid!

 

 

 

Bleeding Kansas
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Slavery – moral issues (Thanks to Uncle Tom’s Cabin which exposed how slaves were treated/living/ dying) as well as economic issues (free labor).
Dred Scot v Sanford
Lincoln winning all the northern states
South threatened to succeed since beginning of union – no one believed their threats anymore because the’d cried wolf so often.

These are the reasons why The Civil War could not be stopped you ignorant fuck.
And Andrew Jackson – twenty dollar bills y’all – was a mass murdering fuckhead of Native American peoples and someone who ignored the Constitution of the United States as well as a Supreme Court Case written by Chief Justice John Marshall which led Jackson to being a mass murdering fuckhead when he said, “They made the ruling now let them enforce it.”

The end result: The Trail of Tears. 1027011_1_0209-Andrew-Jackson.jpg_standard

Whites are not superior because of their skin color. There is no inevitableness of white superiority. No great world religion has been founded by them, including Christianity. Whites HAVE been great – no doubt – but greatness does not denote goodness as HITLER was in fact, GREAT, but got himself and his entire country punched in their babymakers because they believed in their superiority and the rest of the world explained to them – in great detail – how full of shit they were.

But it wasn’t just whites in Germany who thought that whites were all that and a bag of chips.

Here in America we supported Eugenics – great figures like Henry Ford supported the sterilization of peoples whom he thought ‘inferior’.
We practiced eugenics up until a court case called Skinner v Oklahoma.

And for all of you out there who think the slaves need to ‘get over’ 400 years of bondage and maltreatment by their white peers – should probably ‘get over’ the fact that you got your ASS KICKED in the Civil War.

Which, by the way, granted your retarded asses access to the 1st Ten amendments you wouldn’t have otherwise had access to before the passing of the 14th Amendment because of it’s Due Process Clause. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments being called “THE CIVIL WAR” amendments.

See, you would know that if your teachers taught you History and Government instead of your mommy and daddy trying to put prayer and bibles back in school.

But they don’t that either – not really – because Jesus would sound like a Socialist. All that feeding the poor, taking care of the weakest among you, healing the sick. We ignore that Jesus so’s The Saved of the Saved can sit on their dead asses and collect on the religious equivalent of a welfare check.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to this as CHEAP GRACE – and did so for a reason.

The problem with our world today is not Christianity not being taught in school – the problem today is Christianity IS NOT TAUGHT IN CHURCH!

Why I’ve become a Militant Agnostic

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(Photo by Ben White)

 

What does that mean? To me, it means, very basically, “I don’t know and neither do you.”

I was raised in a Fundamental Baptist (IFB) house and growing up there were a lot of rules and stuff but our lives were built around Biblical literalism and legalism. These people believed they were the ‘saved of the saved’ and everyone else was bound for hell.

My time in these churches was not always bad, sometimes it was okay, but the doctrine often found its way into our home and for reasons that I won’t get into right now – made our lives hell.

But as an adult – who is still learning, who is still growing, who is still alive in the sense that I’ve recognized that asking questions is not a sign of ignorance but intelligence seeking wisdom – I’ve run into some problems.

And mostly, those problems revolved around others feeling that it is their duty to let another person know how it is they are supposed to lead their life. And – like always – it’s according to the scripture.

But what I’ve found out about these well-meaning individuals – as well as the scripture itself – is that people cherry picks out of the great holy texts anything and everything that supports THEIR world view.

If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many sects of Christianity – that’s the reason.

People have put the focus on one particular part of the Bible vs others – and that includes Biblical literalists, who in the end, aren’t really literalists at all.

They’re really really passionate about the parts of the Bible they covet – and dismiss the rest in its entirety.

 

My agnosticism isn’t directed toward God, however.

Just the Church(es).

Number one, I refuse to think God is a jerk. I mean think about it, if we were to ascribe all the horrific ways God is supposed to be and place that on a person. An individual. We wouldn’t have ANYTHING to do with that person. At all. As a matter of fact – hello my atheists out there – you’d get as far away from that person as you could.

Number two, I refuse to believe that after multitudes of retranslations by people (who they themselves lack perfection and who may themselves be politically motivated like King James) that a collection of oral traditions handed down generation to generation, is the 100 percent Word of God in its totality. Refuse. However, I do make a distinction between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, and even if some things got lost over the years – the spirit of it is alive and well. If you take the ARC of the Bible as a whole – God’s actually a pretty decent deity who wants to help.

Number three, I refuse to join in the cults of personality that organized religion has a really bad habit of creating. And I am not talking about The Catholic Pope. I actually think Francis is a pretty good guy mostly because he pisses off his own people as well as others. *cough Donald Trump cough*.  I am talking about American Protestantism where we don’t have one Pope. We have many. You can probably think of some right off the top of your head and just like ancient feudal lords they amass these huge followings and become idols themselves.

Number four, I refuse to dictate to a person how I think they should live their life. That was one major problem I had with fundamentalism, was the Dionne Warwicks out there who could divine in their heads why a person was who they were or why they did what they did and felt the need to sit in judgment over them. If God was as infallible and omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent as they claimed he was – he knew what he had going on when it came to others. He knew. He didn’t need help, Adam and Eve, he had, has, will have, this. Essentially, you have no idea what a person is going through or has been through – and unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, you should probably shut up because you’re making an ass of yourself. And sure, they’ll point at scripture …but so did the devil when Christ was in the wilderness. Christ was also persecuted according to the old testament (because he broke a plethora of rules of the old testament) and was even, according to the old testament, cursed because he was hung on a tree. So, yep, the Old Testament curses the son of God – let that stew a bit. These people are too busy BEING GOD they’ll never hear God speak to them. Ever.

Number five, I believe that when Christ gave the MANDATE to go outfeed, clothe, and care for the weakest among us he wasn’t talking to hear himself. This wasn’t a suggestion. This was a commandment that – especially in American Christianity – is ignored because it runs counter to this marriage of capitalism and faith. Jesus is not a republican, nor is he a democrat, what I think he’d be : Is Pissed at the money changers who have great big churches and homeless people sleeping on the steps. By their fruits, ye shall know them.

Number six, ignoring Christians is not persecution. At all. Having your head chopped off or stoned to death because of your beliefs – that’s persecution. Needing to control people’s bodies and their thoughts and their lives – that’s being a persecutor. Stop being an intellectual slob, stop justifying your hatred for other people by using God. That is not a sign of great faith. That’s a sign of a LACK OF FAITH.

I’ve met people with deep abiding faith – you know what they’re like? They’re calm.

Do I think all the churches out there are bad? No. Do I believe there is enough badness in those churches to keep them in a state of self-reflection before they go out and try to condemn or save the world? Yep. Because they’re human institutions. And as long as human beings are involved – there will ALWAYS be error and sin and failure. Always.

So in the end, they’re just as lost as the rest of us. They just can’t admit it. What matters, in the end, is what has mattered in the beginning – you do the best you can, however you can, and let God handle the rest. And QUESTION EVERYTHING!